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Exercise Spotlight: The Benefits of Side-Lying

When it comes to Pilates exercises, side-lying is a bit of a secret weapon. There’s a common misconception that side-lying is all about aesthetics. In reality, side-lying series have incredible benefits for flexibility and strength in the lower body. It works small muscle groups that have a huge effect.

In a side-lying series, you will work on:

  • Glute and hamstring extension
  • Stability & control
  • Range of motion
  • Creating flexibility in the hamstring
  • Toning the glute

All of these factors will help with injury prevention and more flexible hamstrings, which help the whole body.

💡 Fun fact: Did you know? The side-lying series originated as a modification for footwork for pregnant women who couldn’t lie on their back. However, it quickly developed into its own separate series of exercises as men and women saw the benefits.

Why side-lying is so important – especially for men

We constantly tighten our hamstrings throughout the day, just by working at a desk and commuting to work. But tight hamstrings can have broader impacts on the body, including lower back pain, knee pain, bad posture, and muscle imbalance. Tight hamstrings are more susceptible to injury and reduce blood flow, which decreases muscle performance in the lower limbs. It is critical that we practice hamstring flexibility to support our whole body’s health.

“Side lying is primarily a glute-focused exercise, but it also requires a lot of core work to keep the upper body still and to maintain a neutral spine while independently moving the lower body. It’s easy to forget about the core and upper body when you are feeling the glutes and hamstrings fire on – clients will notice we always cue specific breath patterns during this exercise. This helps you to maintain breath-core-movement coordination that keeps the core active.” – RTR Instructor Sarah G.

While side-lying is sometimes seen as a more effeminate exercise, it’s important for everyone – especially men.

Research shows that on average, men experience higher rates of passive hamstring stiffness and lower hamstring flexibility compared to women. While we’re not sure why that happens, we do know that side-lying exercises have huge benefits to anyone with tight hamstrings.

Side-lying variations

We have several ways to change the focus of side-lying exercises in class – both for variety’s sake, and to work different muscle groups.

Different spring loads will change what part of the muscles are working. The lighter the spring, the more we work on stability. On the other hand, middle spring loads will work the center glute, while heavier spring loads will activate the hamstring where it meets the glutes.

Because we vary the spring loads, side-lying will offer a challenge no matter your fitness level.

Footbar versus foot-in-strap

Another variation is using a foot-in-strap for side-lying or swapping it for the footbar. Side-lying series with the foot-in-strap is more challenging because you are less stable and use a larger range of motion.

With the footbar, you’ll have a bit more stability and control, and you can handle a bit more weight. It’s a great way to focus on the movement itself, or as a modification for anyone concerned about an injury.

“Motorcycle presses are my favorite side-lying variation. It is a bit harder to find and maintain your form during this variation, especially hip stability. However, once you do, motorcycle presses target the glutes and challenge the rotators, while requiring you to use your core to stabilize your body so the lower body can move independently from the rest of the body. The glutes are always happy the next day!” – RTR Instructor Sarah G.

Always let an instructor know if you have any aches or pains that may affect your experience in class. They can help evaluate your form, provide suggestions, or help you modify exercises to alleviate any pain. That said, if you’re concerned about an injury, always discuss with your doctor before you start a new exercise regimen.

Join us for a class and try out side-lying today

Join our community at RTR Pilates and experience the benefits of side lying firsthand! Get your first month of unlimited classes for just $129.

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Planks and Pilates: Why We Love What Planks Can Do For Your Body

Planks can sometimes inspire a love-hate relationship. Holding a plank for a full minute can be intimidating for beginners, let alone a side plank or twisted plank. On the other hand, more advanced fitness enthusiasts can get bored planking in mat Pilates classes or standard workouts, with only your body weight acting as your resistance.

Lucky for us, reformer Pilates takes the best of static and dynamic plank exercises with modifications to suit every ability. No matter your fitness level, our instructors can modify planks to provide a challenging, but doable, workout that strengthens a ton of important muscle groups all at once.

So why are planks so good for you, and what does reformer Pilates add to the exercise? Let’s talk about it.

The benefits of planking

Planks are one of the best exercises for your body, hands down. Planks are a functional exercise that can activate and work out multiple muscle groups at once, including the core, back, glutes, hamstrings, shoulders, and triceps.

“Planks are a great full body exercise with an emphasis on the core. Our core is the main source of stability and power in our bodies. Planks also target the posterior chain of the body which helps to alleviate back pain and discomfort. There are so many variations and modifications for planks that make them accessible to just about everyone.” – RTR Instructor Lindsay D.

Regular planking can provide a whole host of benefits, including:

1. Improved sports performance

A body with well-rounded muscle development will see increased performance in any sport. Whether you ski, golf, play tennis, or chase around a 2-year-old (which any parent can tell you requires a similar athletic prowess), a strong core will improve your capacity for jumping, twisting, bending, and everything else you need to do in the sports you love.

2. Better posture throughout the day

If you sit for most of the day, you can probably see it in your posture. Muscles can grow used to hunching over a computer screen, and we can find ourselves out of alignment. Planking can build up your muscles to create a more neutral spine. This protects our bones, joints, and muscles, which can go a long way toward feeling better throughout the day.

3. Injury prevention

When our core is underdeveloped, our back can end up taking on a lot more effort than it can handle. By building up the core, glutes, and hamstrings, planks can build a stronger foundation for your body and give your lower back a break.

4. Better coordination & balance

While it might not always seem this way, your core provides the majority of the effort to maintain stability in the body. When you strengthen your whole core, your muscles are better equipped for coordination and balance throughout the day.

Best of all, planks are super efficient. By targeting multiple muscle groups at once, you’re getting a more effective workout in less time. And with a reformer Pilates class, you can adjust your exercise to fit your body’s needs.

Planking modifications on the reformer

Planking on a Pilates reformer opens up a whole host of modifications you can use to create added challenges or support in your planks.

The spring load on your reformer can change which muscle groups are challenged in a plank. With a heavier spring load, planks will be more shoulder-intensive. On the other hand, a lighter spring load decreases stability. This means that you’ll engage your abs more to hold the plank in place for a more challenging exercise. Lighter spring loads are more challenging for balance and control. Even if you’ve done planks before, reformer Pilates’ dynamic planks create challenging movements for any fitness level as you push and pull against the reformer.

“My favorite plank series is a twisted plank. I LOVE working the obliques and nothing gets those obliques better than a twisted plank. I love all variations such as hip lifts, hip dips, catfish, French twist, twisted wheel barrel or a combo move! I usually teach them facing the back of the reformer with forearms on the box and feet on the footplate or foot bar, but I also enjoy them facing forward or with the box next to the carriage.” – RTR Instructor Lindsay D.

Modifications

In addition to being such an effective exercise, we love that planks can be easily modified depending on what your body needs. A forearm plank can protect the wrists while, dropping to a knee plank can provide added support to your core as you build strength to do a plank on your feet.

That said, always let an instructor know if you have any specific concerns before class, so they can help you find the right adjustments and form throughout the class.

If do you have injuries, it’s important to consult with a qualified medical professional before you attend a Pilates class to ensure you can participate safely.

See the results for yourself!

We love planks so much that we include plank variations in almost every class. Join our community at RTR Pilates and try planking on the reformer today! Get your first month of unlimited classes for just $129.

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Why So Many Athletes Love Pilates

When Joseph Pilates created Contrology – what would eventually become Pilates – he developed his program for male wrestlers and boxers who were recovering from hospital stays. Since its inception to its skyrocket to injury recovery and mitigation with New York City Ballet dancers, athletes have come to Pilates studios and found amazing results.

Now, more and more athletes across all disciplines are using Pilates to cross-train their bodies with noticeable results. Don’t take our word for it – just listen to the New York Giant’s Dexter Lawrence!

We’re glad to hear that Lawrence has seen increased flexibility from his Pilates regimen! Many other professional football players include Pilates in their training, including Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. And for soccer fans, Cristiano Ronaldo combines cardio workouts with running, rowing, and Pilates to complement his game.

So why do so many athletes gravitate towards Pilates?

Pilates exercises protect the body and help it age without aches and pains

For pro athletes, their body is their livelihood. It is their source of income, their biggest asset, and also their biggest risk. After all, serious injuries not only end a season – they can end entire careers. With so much pressure on the body, it’s critical to care for it and give it the tools to operate at peak performance.

This is true for more than the pros. No matter what sport you love, Pilates functions as a fun and effective cross-training exercise that can reduce and prevent injury while also improving performance.

“I started at RTR as a client in 2017. At that time, I was playing and coaching soccer and basketball. I developed some nagging issues with my low back, hip flexors, and hamstrings. At my physical therapist’s suggestion, I tried pilates. Right away, my body and I both fell in love.” – RTR Instructor Quintus

Balance and flexibility improve performance in every sport

Athletes who gravitate towards one sport typically build muscles by performing repetitive movements. This process overdevelops some muscles, underdevelops others, and typically emphasizes movement on your body’s dominant side. This imbalance can lead to an increased risk for stress injuries, while also hindering the body’s overall balance.

That’s where Pilates comes in. Pilates builds balance and flexibility by developing the entire body and muscle system. By building overall core strength, aligning the spine, improving posture, and balancing muscle development from the feet up through the shoulders, athletes find their bodies are better prepared for peak performance.

Many of our clients experience a number of benefits from regular Pilates, including:

  • Better control and awareness of the body
  • Improved flexibility
  • Less muscle tension
  • Improved hip mobility
  • Increased range of motion
  • Less lower back pain
  • Better results at game time

“With my background in sports coaching, I want my classes to feel like a team. While in the studio, I want everyone to feel like we are all in this together. I hope clients leave class with a strong mind-body connection. I try to make sure that I am offering as many variations as possible so that clients can take what is the best fit for them.” – RTR Instructor Quintus

Weight lifting versus Pilates

A lot of people who come from weight lifting as a cross-training exercise will find that Pilates works their muscles in entirely new ways. Many weight lifters focus on building a muscle’s mid-range, because it creates visible results quickly. As a result, the muscles closest to the joints can become underdeveloped, which can be especially problematic around the knee joint.

In Pilates, we focus on lengthening the muscles and activating them throughout their entire length, not just at the muscle’s midrange. But focusing on the entire length of the muscle protects the joints, which leads to a better overall musculoskeletal system, and a longer, happier fitness life.

Keep doing the activities you love

If you love weight-lifting, amazing! If you love football, soccer, or golf, that’s fantastic! If your sport is chasing around a four-year-old, well, that’s a lot of cardio, but that’s awesome too! Regular exercise is critical to our health as we age, but the ability to do what we love – what brings us joy – is also important to our long-term health.

No matter what sport speaks to you, Pilates can keep you in the game and turn you into a star player. So keep doing what you love, and give your body the tools it needs to support a long-term active lifestyle.

Ready to give Pilates a try? Get your first month of unlimited classes for just $129.

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5 Reasons Why Pilates is Great for Dancers

There’s a reason dancers have gravitated towards Pilates since its first studio opened in New York City. Pilates is the perfect complement to a dancer’s demanding fitness regimen. It supports overall muscle development, injury prevention, and control in an effective low-impact workout.

Many dancers face incredibly high standards and pressure to perform. Their body is their livelihood, and their tool. It makes sense that dancers want to hone their body and protect it in a sport that is incredibly prone to injury.

Here’s why so many dancers love Pilates, and what it can do for you!

“As a dancer, I wish I started Pilates years ago. Pilates is a great exercise for dancers (or anyone!) because it has you take the time to focus on developing and using your muscles in a correct and safe form. Since starting Pilates, I feel stronger when I dance, have less pain/injuries, my balance is better, and I feel more confident.” – RTR Instructor Mikayla

1. Building self-awareness and control

Pilates focuses on building greater control and awareness over the body. By synchronizing breathing and movement, practitioners experience greater self-awareness. This control is crucial for dancers, who push their bodies to the limit, but it really benefits everyone. As a mindful practice, Pilates provides a sense of calm, control, and accomplishment that people can carry with them throughout their daily lives.

2. Alignment & posture

Many people experienced improved posture from Pilates, and dancers are no different! By strengthening the entire core and back, Pilates can help align the spine and reduce tension in the body. In addition to the aesthetic benefits of an aligned posture, the health benefits include reduced neck pain, back pain, and muscle stiffness.

3. Low-impact joint protection

Dancers often place significant stress on the joints. This can cause serious injuries in the long term. Pilates is a low-impact exercise that strengthens the entire length of a muscle, rather than just the middle. By strengthening the ends of the muscle, close to the joints, the joints themselves are protected and supported. This makes Pilates a fantastic cross-training tool, even for someone already exercising most days of the week.

4. Injury prevention

Dancers train their bodies for hours on end. They bend in crazy ways, overbuild certain muscle groups, and engage in repetitive movements for years. Injuries are often part and parcel of being a dancer. But as we age, injuries can slowly accumulate, especially for professional dancers who don’t always have time to fully recover. As dancers perform with injuries, they overcompensate with other parts of the body, which can lead to greater issues.

That’s where Pilates comes in. Pilates helps safeguard the body from injuries by strengthening underdeveloped muscles, bringing a greater level of balance to the body, and improving balance and flexibility. All of these things are critical to injury prevention, so dancers can continue doing what they love for far longer.

“As a dancer and Pilates instructor, I love exercises like donkey/spider kicks on the long box and planks. I also “love to hate” exercises that help build inner thigh muscles like frog circles. It was not until I started Pilates did I realize, and feel, how much building inner thigh muscles can assist your core and reduce lower back pain.” – RTR Instructor Mikayla

5. A place to unwind

For dancers and non-dancers alike, many people come to a Pilates studio and find more than just an effective workout. Many dancers cite their Pilates studio as a place to center themselves, clear their minds, and connect to their bodies. Feeling more present in your body can improve your confidence, mood, and outlook on other areas of life. So whether you’re a dancer or an office worker, anyone can benefit from stepping into a Pilates studio.

Join the RTR community today!

Whether you’re a dancer or just looking to feel better in your body, Pilates is a great exercise to add to your fitness routine. Join our community at RTR Pilates and see the results for yourself! Get your first month of unlimited classes for just $129.

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Pilates and Knee Pain: How to Prevent and Minimize Knee Pain

Many of our clients find us because an injury or ailment keeps them from doing the things they love, whether it’s running, skiing, cycling, or playing tag with their children. Pilates can help you build back strength and get back to doing the things you love.

Knee problems in particular are incredibly common, for a variety of reasons. Many people associate aches and pains as a natural part of aging, but we disagree. You don’t have to age in pain, and aches and pains shouldn’t preclude you from your favorite activities.

The knee joints are some of the most important joints in the body, and reformer Pilates strengthens the surrounding muscle groups to protect the knee. As a low-impact exercise, Pilates can support your fitness goals and minimize common aches and pains.

Quick disclaimer: for any injury or serious pain, always consult with a qualified medical professional before undergoing any exercise plan.

How reformer Pilates strengthens the knee

Happy, pain-free knees are protected by all of the surrounding muscles. Our bodies are an interconnected system, and your body will let you know when the system falls out of balance. While the source of knee pain changes, the fundamental reasons tend to be tightness, weak surrounding muscles, or poor alignment (in the absence of injury or preexisting conditions).

“Pilates is a low-impact form of exercise, which makes it ideal for people with knee pain. Pilates also helps improve balance and promotes proper alignment, which can help alleviate knee discomfort.” – RTR Instructor Tiffany L.

Even muscle development

Knee pain is often a result of underdeveloped muscles, which put undue pressure on the knee joint. This includes the hamstrings, quads, glutes, IT band, and core. Building up these muscle groups will go a long way toward reducing any knee pain.

“Build the butt, save the knee!” – RTR Founder & CEO Reina Offutt

Thankfully, reformer Pilates works all of these muscle groups through low-impact exercises that protect the knee. Some of our favorite exercises for knee pain include:

  • Planks (with optional modifications for knee pain)
  • Footwork
  • Side-lying
  • Assisted lunges

Tension & misalignment

The knees are not an isolated body part, and knee pain can often start in other places in the lower body. Poor alignment in the foot, such as excessive supination, can cause stress higher up in the body, especially for runners. Footwork in Pilates helps develop the foot muscles evenly, which helps distribute weight up the leg evenly to reduce knee pain.

Another common source of knee pain is a tight iliotibial band (IT band). The IT band is a bunch of fibers that run down the outside of your legs, and it tends to get really tight in office workers. Improved IT band flexibility, alongside hamstring flexibility, can significantly decrease knee pain. Our side-lying exercises reduce tension in the legs, which goes a long way for knee pain.

Modification options for knee pain

If you experience knee pain in class, always let an instructor know! They can evaluate your form, provide suggestions, or help you modify exercises to alleviate any pain. For many people, this will involve changing knee alignment or hip rotation.

“Bridging is one of the best exercises since it helps strengthen the back of the legs, including the hamstring and glute muscles. Adding the ball in between the knees for bridging allows the inner thighs (ADDuctors) to be challenged. The inner thigh muscles also help support the knee. Clamshells help to build up leg muscles (glutes and ABductors) while putting little stress on the knee.” – RTR Instructor Tiffany L.

Different modifications will feel better for different people. Depending on the source of your knee pain, you might find that parallel, internal, or external leg rotations will feel best for your body. Based on which of these rotations works for you, your instructor can provide the best modifications during class.

Your instructor can also help you find the best spring load on the reformer to protect your knees. With the reformer, there are plenty of modifications to make things harder or easier based on what your body needs.

Start reducing your knee pain today

Our ultimate goal is to make aches and pains asymptomatic. Pilates is a great tool to build an overall stronger, more supported body. You don’t have to age in pain or resign yourself to knee pain.

Join our community at RTR Pilates and experience the power of Pilates firsthand! Get your first month of unlimited classes for just $129.

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How the Jump Board Can Add Fun Cardio to your Pilates Routine!

When you think of Pilates, you don’t typically think of cardio. Which is fair enough! In general, Pilates is a great whole-body workout focused on strength, flexibility, and alignment in the body, so many of our exercises don’t stem from the goal of an elevated heart rate.

But cardiovascular exercise is an important component of your overall wellness routine, especially for heart health. On top of that, sometimes it’s fun to switch things up – especially in the winter months, when we all need a little jump start.

Enter the jump board!

The jump board is a fantastic addition to any Pilates class to integrate cardio and elevate that heart rate. It can even be used as a central component of classes to balance out strength and conditioning exercises with cardio.

So let’s discuss what the jump board is, exactly, why it’s so great for you, what jump board exercises might look like in a class setting, and how you can try it out with RTR Pilates this winter.

What the jump board is

The jump board is a padded plate that replaces the foot bar on the reformer. Placed at the end of the reformer, it creates a soft platform with some give, which you can then use to “jump” against spring resistance while laying down.

Overall, the jump board is a great non-weight bearing method to increase heart rate. It’s safe, and much easier on the joints than running – no jarring of the knee joints here!

When integrated into a class, the jump board is a fun cardio exercise that challenges your core, elevates the heart rate, and improves coordination.

Jump board exercises and what they do

During jump board exercises in class, the plate allows you to simulate the cardio of jumping, without the impact of actually jumping up and down.

It’s a low-impact exercise that provides an aerobic exercise while protecting your body from the impact of landing. You are “jumping” while lying down. The low impact exercise gives you the aerobic benefit of a rebounder while protecting your knees and back from the jarring impact of landing.

In addition to elevating your heart rate, the jump board can work different muscle groups, depending on your reformer’s settings and your instructors intentions. The spring settings themselves control how quickly you return to the jump board, which will alter its effects.

When using a light spring setting, the jump board can be a fun abdominal workout, because your abs need to work overtime. On a lighter resistance, your abs have to hold your legs up. Typically a light spring setting has a greater focus on endurance, and clients will experience more static holds, hovering in place, and pushing through exercises for a longer period of time.

On the other hand, a heavier spring setting is great for your lower muscle groups. With a heavier resistance setting, you will return to the board faster, which places more emphasis on your quads and the associated muscle groups, while still acting as a low-impact cardio exercise.

Circuit classes featuring the jump board

In the winter months, when running or biking outdoors can become uncomfortable, it’s fun to switch up classes and integrate cardio into your Pilates routine.

At RTR Pilates, we will integrate the jump board into our regular classes for variety. For these regular classes, the jump board exercises will typically take up just 5 minutes of class to increase your heart rate.

For anyone interested in a fuller jump board experience, we also offer our circuit classes throughout the week at our studios.

Our circuit classes utilize the jump board throughout the entire class, alternating regular exercises on the reformer with jump board-specific exercises to keep your heart rate up throughout class. This is a really fun way to switch up your workout routine and integrate some heart-healthy cardio exercise!

If you are interested in attending a circuit class, we typically offer them at each studio, with the class time varying at each location. So if you can’t find a circuit class at a preferred time in your typical studio, be sure to look at the schedules for our other studio locations in the DMV.

💡 “When it comes to Jump Board I often think of it like a puzzle. I like to give my clients the pieces – jump combinations like the Pilates v, mogul, parallel, and split – one at a time. Then, I give the overall picture, like doing certain variations in a certain order and at a certain pace. This actively engages both the mind and the body. Plus, constantly mixing it up is just straight-up fun.” – RTR Instructor Christopher B.

Can I use the jump board if I have back/knee/ankle pain?

Absolutely – with a doctor’s permission, and depending on the severity of your issue.

The non-weight bearing method of the jump board is excellent for those who have knee and ankle issues. With proper positioning, you should not experience any additional impact on these areas.

Plus, one of the great things about the reformer is that its springs act as a spectrum of support, while still providing an efficient whole-body workout. More springs provide more support, so we can always start with more support and adjust spring settings as you continue to build strength. Clients can always add or take away spring weights to provide additional support or challenge the muscles further.

As always, it’s important to work with your instructor to find the right spring settings that align with your body and your specific fitness goals.

Sign up for a circuit class today!

If you’re ready to try something new and add some fun variety to your workout routine, then our circuit class is for you!

Sign up for a circuit class today.

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How Pilates Can Support Your Changing Body Throughout Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a lot – your whole body changes dramatically over the course of nine months in preparation to bring a tiny human into this world, and even when you know your body is going to change, it’s still strange to experience it firsthand.

It can be exhausting, physically taxing, and a little weird.

When it comes to the pregnancy process, there are a number of things you can do to feel at home in a constantly changing body. Pilates specifically is a fantastic exercise to support your body with low-impact training that can be modified throughout your pregnancy.

A regular Pilates routine during your pregnancy can:

  • Minimize aches and pains (we’re looking at you, lower back pain)
  • Strengthen your body in preparation for birth
  • Help you practice deep breathing for the birthing process
  • Help you feel good in your body, regardless of the completely normal aesthetic changes that happen when your body is supporting a whole other person.

At the end of the day, it’s about helping you prepare your body, while also helping you feel at home in your body, too.

Note: Every pregnancy is different – even healthy pregnancies. Consult with your prenatal healthcare professional to discuss what exercise programs are healthy and safe for your body.

How Pilates can support a pregnant body

First, it’s important to emphasize that multiple studies have found that physical exercise in general carries minimal risk during a healthy pregnancy.

Pilates specifically has been found to minimize many pregnancy-related aches and pains while improving the birthing process and postpartum recovery period.

During pregnancy

Throughout your pregnancy, Pilates can provide a ton of benefits to strengthen your body and minimize pressure on your legs, back, and shoulders. A regular pilates routine can:

  • Improve posture. During pregnancy, your shoulders typically pull forward to help carry the extra weight in your body, By opening the chest and keeping the neck aligned with the spine, you can release tension from your shoulders, neck and upper back.
  • Prevent and minimize lower back pain. Lower back pain is incredibly common during pregnancy. Due to the changes in your body’s distribution of weight, your lower back can take on a disproportionate amount of pressure. Pilates will help you build strength in the low spine and obliques safely to support your lower back and mitigate pain.
  • Help you sleep better. A randomized control study found that regular Pilates resulted in significant improvements in sleep quality and an overall reduction of sleep problems for pregnant practitioners.
  • Calm your nervous system. When you’re pregnant, your body experiences increased blood volume, heart rate, and cardiac output, which can cause you to feel short of breath. Pilates breathing helps calm the nervous system, which can lower blood pressure and the probability of preeclampsia, as well as general stress levels.

During childbirth

Giving birth is like running a marathon. Pilates is like the cross-training you do to prepare for a marathon. By practicing Pilates regularly leading up to your due date, you can:

  • Increase body awareness and control: Pilates requires a degree of control over your body, which can help you mentally and physically prepare for childbirth.
  • Lower rates of episiotomies and C-sections during the birthing process.
  • Help you breathe better: The deep breathing techniques emphasized in our classes is similar to the Lamaze breathing emphasized during childbirth, which can enhance relaxation and decrease the perception of pain.
  • Strengthens your pelvic floor: Studies show that Pilates can significantly strengthen your pelvic floor muscles and reduce labor pain intensity.
  • Shorten the labor period: Regular pilates exercise reduces “the length of the active phase and second stage of labor and increases maternal satisfaction of the labor process.”

Postnatal

There is always going to be a recovery period following childbirth. From your hormones and emotions to physical changes in your body, everything is all over the place.

That said, studies show that Pilates during and after a pregnancy aid postpartum recovery for your pelvic floor and core muscles, and can also reduce postpartum mental and physical fatigue.

As always, consult with your doctor to discuss the right exercises for your body postpartum.

Incorporating pilates into my most recent pregnancy made all the difference in the world! I had less joint pain, was able to stay much more active (which is completely necessary with 2 toddlers at home!), and felt this was overall, the quickest recovery out of my 3 pregnancies. Both practicing and teaching Pilates while pregnant made me feel strong and more confident. – Jillian D., RTR Instructor

How to modify Pilates throughout your body

As your body changes throughout pregnancy, you can adjust your Pilates exercises to support your body and respect its limits.

No matter where you are in your pregnancy, if something hurts, feels uncomfortable, or causes you to become lightheaded, stop the exercise in question. Now is the time to listen and be kind to your body (and ask instructors for help if you need it!).

Otherwise, we suggest a few general guidelines to support your Pilates routine during pregnancy:

  • Up until 20 weeks and with a doctor’s permission, there are typically no modifications needed, and you are free to partake in all aspects of the class
  • Somewhere between the end of your first trimester and after 20 weeks, it’s encouraged to stop lying on the stomach.
  • We encourage pregnant clients to keep their hips below their rib cage to avoid inversions, so as to keep the baby below your heart.
  • The heavier the baby, the harder it is to maintain circulation, so as you progress during your pregnancy you will want to avoid laying on your back.
  • The top layer of your abs becomes distended during pregnancy, and we want to avoid working against the way your body wants to grow. So rather than straightforward crunches, pregnant practitioners can focus on building obliques and transverse abs through diagonal crunches and planking.

Your third trimester

As your pregnancy progresses, it’s important to be aware of your limits, and to meet your body where it is. We generally recommend that pregnant clients stick to level 1 and level 1+ classes.

Additionally, towards the last 4-6 weeks of your pregnancy, we encourage clients to avoid pushing to edge of a stretching exercise. As your body prepares for birth, it releases a host of hormones that cause your body to become extra flexible. As a result, you may not be aware of your body’s normal limitations, so we advise cautious stretching.

Exercises we love for pregnant bodies (from personal experience)

As our clients and instructors practice Pilates through their pregnancies, here are a few of the exercises they LOVED (and we think you’ll love them too)!

  • Side lying: exercises on your side will naturally feel amazing during pregnancy. Our side lying series releases the lower back and hamstrings, all while strengthening the glutes. Additionally, it can feel like a very supportive position for your growing baby.
  • Planks: planks are a great way to engage all of your abs, pulling them in to your core. One client said it felt like they were hugging their baby, which we absolutely love and agree with.

Pregnant or not, I love teaching side lying. Working the glutes (inner and outer) helped relieve some of the lower back pain and pressure associated with pregnancy and the positioning is safe for woman at any stage during pregnancy. Forward seated arm work is another favorite, and strong arms are a must when that newborn wants to be held 24/7! An articulated bridge was my go-to stretch for my lower stiffness. By tucking the pelvis and lifting one vertebra at a time I was able to decompress the pressure associated with pregnancy. This is safe throughout pregnancy in moderation. – Jillian D., RTR instructor

Work with your instructor to tailor classes to your needs

Most of our classes can be modified to support a pregnant body. In order to experience a safe, effective workout, discuss your concerns with instructors before class and review any necessary modifications to protect you and your baby.

Experience the power of Pilates today!

As you navigate your pregnancy, it’s important to find the activities that help you feel comfortable in your changing body, as well as mentally and physically prepared for the marathon of childbirth.

Whether you’re looking to reduce labor pain, sleep better, get rid of lower back pain, or just feel more at home in your body, Pilates is a great exercise to add to your fitness routine.

Join our community at RTR Pilates and see the results for yourself! Get your first month of unlimited classes for just $129.

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The RTR Pilates Story: An Accidental Expansion
by Reina Offutt

RTR Pilates started as a single location in 2006 in the Potomac area of Washington, D.C. After 6 years, I began plans to expand into a second studio.

What I didn’t expect was to go from 1 to 3 studios in the course of seven months. That was…a bit of an accident.

2012 was an exciting year, to say the least!

An accidental opportunity

I wish I could say my expansion from 1 to 3 studios in just 7 months was a strategic decision thought out years in advance. In reality, it was more of an accidental opportunity. Because sometimes business is about seeing the potential and running with it.

Back in summer 2012, we were in the works to open our second location in Chevy Chase, in the shopping center above Whole Foods. I had 11 reformers purchased and set to arrive that September. The lease was signed and we were all set to move forward on the renovation process…or so we thought.

While we were working through the drawings and permitting process, it was determined that the plumbing for our studio would have to go through the ceiling above the meat department in Whole Foods. There was no way around it.

Obviously, Whole Foods was not thrilled.

As a result of the meat department/plumbing conflict, our renovations were put on hold while the landlord negotiated with Whole Foods. We soon found out that this would go on for a while. In the meantime, I still had 11 brand new reformers set to arrive, and no space in my house to put them.

So when it became apparent that the Whole Foods negotiations would take longer than we planned, I decided to pivot.

In August 2012, I decided to open a third studio.

The Palisades

I already knew that I wanted a third studio location in the Palisades to create the most convenient network of studio locations. After a bit of research, I approached the landlord of a shell commercial space that had formally been an H&R block. It was August, when half of D.C. went on vacation and no one got anything done. But I told the landlord that if we could finalize the lease negotiations in just 2 weeks, then I would take the space as-is.

Somehow, with a lot of elbow grease and persistence, it worked! Of course, we hadn’t prepared to pay rent on 3 studio locations. We negotiated 6 months of free rent for the Palisades location, which allowed us the grace period to set up the space and begin taking in revenue for the location, which could then be used to fund further renovations at the Chevy Chase location.

In what was a completely insane project timeline, we signed the lease, added a new coat of paint, slapped mirrors on the wall, installed our beautiful new reformers, and opened our Palisades location on September 6, 2012.

Chevy Chase

While we opened our Palisades studio, things finally began to move again in the Chevy Chase location in late fall 2012. Whole Foods agreed to let the plumbing go through the ceiling, but there were still a few speed bumps.

In order to move our plumbing through the ceiling, we had to drill through 3 feet of concrete and make sure that we wouldn’t hit any rebar or essential building elements. Unfortunately, in order to run the scans we needed, we had to bring a special x-ray into Whole Foods…and we couldn’t let anyone within 100 feet of it.

Now, during the holiday season, Whole Foods runs as a 24/7 operation, from accepting deliveries to stocking shelves. Understandably, Whole Foods did not want us to section off their entire meat department during the holidays.

As a result, we set up a time to scan the concrete ceiling after the holidays, on January 5. At 4:00am, with a hired security team (I wish I was joking).

But luckily, after an interesting all-nighter in the Whole Foods meat department, we were able to core drill through the concrete and get our plumbing in order.

Finally, in March 2013, more than 18 months after we negotiated the lease for our Chevy Chase location, we opened our third studio location.

Lessons learned

Opening our Palisades location was a bit of an accident. The Chevy Chase delay was a giant rock that landed in the middle of the path I planned for my business. But instead of slamming into the rock over and over again, I decided to go around it, and move forward on a slightly different road.

Hacking the learning curve

As a business owner, scaling from 1 to 3 studio locations came with a big learning curve. I went from being present at 1 location, 100% of the time, to splitting my attention across 3 locations. It wasn’t a straight line of success. At first, I felt spread thin.

In order to manage my business efficiently, I had to systemize the way I worked. As an engineer, I knew that systems and automation were key to increasing output. So, just like we focus on efficient systems in our classes, I created as many systems as possible in our studio operations.

To keep our reformers and studios running, we brought on Bill, our amazing handyman and unsung hero who cares for 58 reformers across our (now 5) studio locations.

To bring on the instructors we needed for all three studios, we created our in-house instructor training program, to foster expert instructors who were ready to hit the ground running.

In the end

Opening Palisades ended up being the best thing ever for RTR and its clients. We created a triangulated footprint in the area, which made our classes accessible and convenient for a wider client base. We were able to leverage the revenue from Palisades to fund the Chevy Chase renovation, and scale exponentially.

It served as a huge challenge and opportunity for me as a business owner, and I am so proud of how the team moved forward to make it happen. And of course, it was only possible because of our amazing community.

Here’s to finding new ways to navigate the challenges that comes your way, and making the most of every opportunity!

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Pilates for Neck Pain: Exercises that Support and Protect the Spine

Neck pain is a common issue that can stem from any number of causes. From sleep, stress, or posture, there are a wide variety of culprits.

Luckily, depending on the cause – and with a doctor’s approval – Pilates can help prevent and alleviate neck pain, so you can return to feeling your best.

Instructor modifications

If you are experiencing neck pain and are interested in taking a Pilates class, you definitely can. Again, this depends on the source of the issue, i.e. if it’s from sleeping poorly or some sort of injury. If you experience moderate or severe neck pain or have any concerns, we always recommend consulting with a doctor and following their recommendations.

If you have light to moderate neck pain and limited range of motion from the daily wear and tear of life, then Pilates could be a great way to alleviate symptoms and prevent further aches and pains.

If you come to a class with any sort of injury or pain, it’s important to discuss these issues with the instructor before class.

Our instructors are trained to modify exercises for anyone who needs it, but they can’t help you if they don’t know about it! So always discuss any limitations with instructors before class. They’ll help you modify exercises to protect your body, while still providing you with a great workout.

“If a client comes to me with neck pain, I usually recommend lighter weights for arm work and a decreased range of motion (hands stay below shoulders). I advise against crunches while we focus on the client’s core getting stronger to avoid any neck straining. I’ll also pay closer attention to the client’s form throughout class, making sure their shoulders stay relaxed and away from the ears and find proper core engagement. Most importantly, I encourage clients to listen to their bodies and to take breaks!” – Alex G.M., RTR instructor

How Pilates can alleviate neck pain

Increased tension and fatigue on the neck and shoulder muscles can happen for several reasons, but we are seeing an increasing number of issues related to the neck due to poor posture and hunching over computer screens. Working a desk job, in addition to being stressful, can create a number of posture-related issues.

Neck pain can also lead to shoulder pain, tight muscles, and headaches. That said, multiple studies have found that regular Pilates exercises can significantly decrease neck pain in a relatively short period of time.

Strengthening the muscles that support an upright and aligned posture can promote improved spinal stability, which decreases neck tension and pain.

Supporting the spine

Pilates focuses on building core strength, flexibility, and stability in the body. By strengthening the core, lower back, pelvis, and glutes, a regular Pilates routine can build foundational muscle groups that are instrumental in supporting the spine. Over time, these exercises can improve posture and alignment and decrease neck pain.

Posture and alignment

Your abs and back muscles work together to support your spine and neck. If these muscles are underdeveloped, then your neck and scapula take on additional pressure, which can make it difficult to experience a full range of motion without pain.

In reformer Pilates, we target the muscles in the neck and upper back that help keep your spine upright, which can improve posture. We help bring the spine back to its natural, neutral position, with your head and neck in line with your shoulders.

I’d say the most common complaints we have from clients are neck and low back pain. Most clients note that they see significant improvements once their cores and backs get stronger and they stretch out their chest muscles.” – Alex G.M., RTR Instructor

Breath work

Many people experiencing neck pain hold increased tension in their bodies. Pilates’ focus on deep breathing promotes healthy habits that release unwanted tension around the neck.

Stress release

Neck pain is often the result of significant stress. In general, a regular exercise routine decreases stress and anxiety to improve overall mood and well-being. Pilates specifically is great for stress release because of the focus on centered alignment, breathing, and control over the body. These moments of stillness and inward focus promote stress relief that will follow you outside the studio and into your daily life.

If you experience neck pain during class

Always let an instructor know if you are experiencing pain in your neck during class. They can evaluate your form, provide suggestions, or help you modify exercises to alleviate any pain.

Similarly, it’s important to let your instructor know if you are new to Pilates. They can help keep an eye on your form in order to provide additional instructions as necessary, so you can get the most out of your workout and prevent injuries.

Remember: our instructors are here to help you get the most out of your time in our class. If you have any questions, ask!

Start reducing your neck pain today

Join our community at RTR Pilates and experience the power of Pilates firsthand! Get your first month of unlimited classes for just $129.

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Pilates for Skiing: How to Train Off the Slopes for Your Best Ski Season Yet

Pilates is a great way to cross-train for almost any sport. As an efficient, whole-body workout focused on strength, flexibility, and balance, it’s the perfect compliment to a well-rounded exercise routine. For many of us this winter, that means hitting the slopes!

Whether you’re focused on injury prevention or beating your PR on that black diamond, regular Pilates can help you reach your goals this ski season.

Your body on the slopes

Skiing is a full-body workout that tests your mobility, flexibility, core strength, balance, and control (not to mention – it’s a fantastic leg workout). It can also put your body to the test, and push you to your limits. It’s physically demanding, and particularly injury-prone as a sport.

Winter sports like skiing and snowboarding work most of the major muscle groups, with particular pressure on the back, abs, glutes, and hamstrings, as well as the knee and ankle joints.

Common injuries during ski season include knee and ankle sprains, shoulder dislocations, fractured wrists, and spinal injuries. Obviously, wearing proper equipment (especially a helmet) are critical components of injury prevention. But many of these injuries are caused by overextension, and improper form.

Prepare your body before you hit the slopes to improve performance and avoid injuries and falls. Regular Pilates practice in the weeks before a ski vacation can improve your form, muscle control, and overall performance, while decreasing the risk of injury.*

*You should 100% still wear a helmet at all times. Please.

“Pilates is a great exercise for skiers! Through spine strengthening exercises as well as ab/oblique exercises, your body can more easily transfer force from the lower limbs to create better movement and rotation in the torso, without putting too much pressure on one joint.” – RTR Instructor Gina D.

Mobility and flexibility

A wide range of motion for the spine, hip, and ankle are essential for skiing and snowboarding. This need for mobility and flexibility is critical for your form on the slopes, and it’s not a static ability.

Our reformer Pilates classes focus on moving from the core and using abdominals to stabilize the spine. This focus on spinal rotation helps our students maneuver on skis, while balance disk exercises imitate the transfer of weight you’ll need to race down the slopes.

A stable, mobile spine will help skiers avoid the stress and fatigue that comes from a long day on the mountain, while spinal rotation emphasizes the correct form to pivot during turns.

Plus, a mobile and flexible body has another advantage: it can protect you from injury if (and let’s be honest, when) you do fall. A good range of motion will help you recover if you fall, or if you twist suddenly to avoid another skier.

Building strength = more time on the mountain

Pilates is a great way for skiers to strengthen their abdominals, obliques, glutes, and hamstrings, all essential components of your form.

A strong and stable core is absolutely vital for a skier’s endurance because when you ski, your core needs to stay relatively still, with the majority of movement concentrated in the legs. Unnecessary upper body movement can hinder form, which consumes unnecessary energy and makes you more injury-prone.

For all that lower-body movement, Pilates exercises like bridging will build strength in the glutes and hamstrings. Because the classic ski squat stance puts so much pressure on the quads, our lower muscle groups can become unbalanced and more injury-prone, especially in our hamstrings. Pilates exercises will strengthen the hamstrings to balance the body, protecting your knees and the surrounding muscle groups.

Overall, skiing can put disproportionate pressure on one side of the body on your dominant side, putting your body off-balance and under-developing critical muscle groups. Pilates’ single leg work exercises help even out your muscle development, so both sides of your body are equally strong and capable.

Legwork & Footwork

In our Pilates classes, we often focus on exercises in parallel, external, and internal rotations, all of which help build strength in the muscles supporting the ankles, knees, and hips. These exercises improve mobility, so you can move your body with confidence.

Footwork is another critical Pilates component for skiers of all skill levels. Footwork will strengthen your feet and ankles, and ensure that you use your entire foot while skiing, not just one part. The foot is the foundation of all movement, so the stronger and more balanced you are in the foot, the more that balance and control will extend through all other movements.

Good Pilates exercises for skiers will help with alignment, strengthening the core, and improving flexibility. Some great moves include footwork, bridging, short box abs, side box abs, long stretch, feet in straps- focusing on the hamstrings, adductor stretches, and piriformis stretching. – RTR Instructor Gina D.

Perfecting your form

Proper alignment and form are so important for skiing. Knees should be aligned correctly with ankles and feet for stability and injury prevention, while all those side-to-side hip movements need some seriously strong lateral muscles and control.

Again, Pilates is a perfect way to increase your ability and awareness to control your body movements. Pilates improves alignment from head to toe and fosters an awareness of the body that will improve your performance as a skier.

See the results for yourself

Sign up for RTR Pilates and experience the results for yourself – on and off the slopes! Get your first month of unlimited classes for just $129.