Did you know? Pilates was developed by a man, originally for men! I’ll let you do your own research on the father of Pilates if you are so interested, but just know this : this is no sissy sport! Thanks to TonePilates in Canada (who did the homework for me), you can see just WHO […]

Never been an athlete? Maybe you WERE an athlete..um…20 years ago. Or maybe it’s been more like 40. Age does not define us; our mobility does. Did you know that life expectency can be estimated based on a person’s ability to get up and down from the ground unassisted? Do the test! Sit down and […]

Mat class does not always give us the opportunity to really feel where we start and end in space. Often our hands or feet are in the air, ungrounded from the earth that confirms our presence. Closed chain exercises are exercises where the hand or foot is fixed on a surface such as the ground, wall, or other small apparatus like a pilates ring or ball. This immobility of the joints creates more load and stimulates more muscles than open chain exercises do. What I appreciate most however, is how these exercises improve the proprioceptive system and teach us to visualize how to engage muscles once the ‘help’ of the closed chain is removed. Personally, had I never worked on the Cadillac or Reformer, I’m not sure I could have ever understood how to keep my shoulders out of my neck in Swan, Roll-up or even the 100. It’s not an easy road to make the connection, but often these ‘Magic’ rings or apparatus help that light bulb go on!

There are quite ferverent opinions about the use of small apparatus such as rings and balls in the Pilates studio. Many will argue that if Joseph Pilates didn’t do it then neither should we. It’s just not Pilates otherwise. Then there’s me. I belong to the other crowd. I believe in the principles – one such being ‘centering’. Last week I talked about how being off-center (literally) can sometimes help us find the center we hadn’t realized that we’d even lost. This week I’m using the Pilates ring to help students evaluate how they execute classic exercices with and without the help/hinderance of the ring.

As a teacher, I’m not looking for perfect execution; I’m looking for body awareness; I’m looking for the lightbulb to go on. And yes, nothing is nicer than being helped up into a Teaser by the ring, but what was truly rewarding was to see students start to understand the balance and control involved in the exercise, replacing the belief that it was all about abdominal strength. 

One of my favorite ways to work in Pilates is asymetrically. It is often very difficult to judge how strong or weak we are without some sort of benchmark or comparison. However, when I ask clients to compare right and left side strength during an exercice, eyes open wide and mouths drop. Working obliques is definitely a way to get my client’s attention and to help them on their way to body awareness.

So how do I get those oblique muscles fired up? I prefer to avoid the classic criss-cross exercise which has been slaughtered by gyms and is so hard to unlearn by many, convinced they must have large, fast movements. I prefer to load one side of the body and do simple slow movements, like ‘Dead Bug’ or ‘Bridge’. I will often use the foam roller and/or hand weights to accentuate the load difference.

Can a woman begin an exercise program while pregnant even though she has not exercised prior to her pregnancy?

Pre-natal exercise is highly recommended for any healthy pregnant woman cleared by her doctor at any point during her pregnancy. The repertoire is not designed for weight loss; it is aimed at increasing core strength and flexibility in preparation for birth with particular attention to the pelvic floor and abdominals.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) along with the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) “…encourage women with uncomplicated pregnancies in ANY trimester to begin an exercise routine.”

How much exercise is recommended??

The SOGC/CSEP recommend up to 30 minute of cardiovascular fitness up to 4 days a week.

Pilates, Pregnancy and Risks

The SOCG and CSEP state that “recent investigations, focusing on both aerobic and strength conditioning
exercise regimes in pregnancy, have shown no increase in early pregnancy loss, late pregnancy complications,
abnormal fetal growth, or adverse neonatal outcomes…”
In fact, the risk is in NOT exercising.

SOGC/CSEP :  Women and their care providers should consider the risks of NOT
participating in exercise activities during pregnancy, including loss of
muscular and cardiovascular fitness, excessive maternal weight gain,
higher risk of gestational diabetes or pregnancy induced hypertension,
development of varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis, a higher
incidence of physical complaints such as dyspnea or low back pain, and
poor psychological adjustment to the physical changes of pregnancy.

However, there are some contraindications that should never be ignored. Some of these include :

  • Ruptured membranes, premature labour
  • Persistent second or third trimester bleeding/placenta previa
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension or pre-eclampsia
  • Incompetent cervix
  • Evidence of intrauterine growth restriction
  • High-order pregnancy (e.g., triplets)
  • Uncontrolled Type I diabetes, hypertension or thyroid disease, other serious cardiovascular,respiratory or systemic disorder

Other concerns worth evaluating include :

  • History of spontaneous abortion or premature labour in previous pregnancies
  • Mild/moderate cardiovascular or respiratory disease (e.g., chronic hypertension, asthma)
  • Anemia or iron deficiency? (Hb < 100 g/L)
  • Malnutrition or eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia)
  • Twin pregnancy after 28th week
  • Other significant medical condition

Before starting an exercise program, pregnant woman are requested to fill out the ‘PARmed-X for PREGNANCY’ medical form together will her doctor.