Pilates Water Exercises : Water Workouts

Erika Bloom Pilates Water Mill

Cooking for the holidays is a labor of love. While the emphasis is on the “love,” it’s the “labor” part that can take a toll on the body. I start my holiday cooking at least three days ahead by stockpiling my ingredients. I order from local organic farms so the groceries are left in boxes by the door for me to pick up, sort through and put away.

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The next day, I work on the dishes that can be made ahead of time, so I’m typically chopping and stirring all day. Then, I lift my big enamel iron pots from stove to oven to fridge and back again. The last day, I search for the perfect place settings, and continue to bend, stretch, chop and stir. Without my Pilates work, I know I’d feel the ache from head to toe, with the biggest pain in my feet and my shoulders.

To keep me feeling good so I can enjoy the meal with friends and family—I always take some “me time” for my Pilates practice. The following exercises draw on the threefold effectiveness of Pilates. First, they improve alignment and movement patterns to help the body function in a more efficient and correct way.

This prevents aches and pains, and keeps you healthy and feeling good throughout your work. Second, they strengthen the muscles necessary for the task at hand so you don’t reach fatigue that can lead to soreness or compensation. Last, when we simply must do what needs to get done, they help to relieve the resulting pain by lengthening or releasing the muscles and fascia and realigning the body. This series can be done a few times a week—do 10 reps of each exercise, breathing deeply from the diaphragm throughout leading up to the big holiday cook-a-thon, and stick with them afterward for continued relief.

Foot Rohng

Prop: small, hard ball (like a pinky ball or one for squash/ racquet ball)

Purpose: relieves tension in the muscles of the feet and the superficial back-line fascia

SETUP: Place the ball under the arch of one foot.

1. Slowly roll your foot along the ball, from your heel to the ball of your foot, applying pressure as desired.

2. Repeat on your other foot.

TiPS: This exercise will allow for better mechanics in standing to prevent issues resulting from being on your feet all day, and can also be used after the fact to relieve aches and pains. While it directly releases the foot, it also helps with pain in the legs and back because of their fascial relationship to the sole of the foot.

Pilates Water Exercises : Water Workouts

PROP: none

PURPOSE: counters the rounding of the spine associated with improper posture and bending

SETUP: Lie facedown, with your legs sit bone-width apart and arms by your sides, palms up.

1. Reach your arms back as you engage your deep core and float up into a small upper-back arch while maintaining a long, supported lower back.

2. Return to the starting position, keeping your collarbones wide and your arms reaching long.

TiP: Imagine that you’re diving your upper back into the back of your sternum as you lengthen and open your upper-front ribs and shine your chest forward.

Pilates Water Exercises : Water Workouts

PROP: resistance band PUrPOSE: teaches biomechanics of the shoulder girdle; strengthens the serratus anterior, lower trapezius and deltoid to prevent shoulder fatigue while cooking SETUP: Kneel sit bone-width apart, with the band wrapped around your back, holding the ends in your hands. Bend your elbows by your sides, reducing the slack of the band so it has a light tension, palms up.

1. Reach your fingertips forward, lengthening your arms to about shoulder height.

2. Feel your shoulder blades draw down and widen on your back as your collarbones open. Recruit the support of your deep core, including the spine-lengthening engagement of the multifidi (deep spinal muscles).

3. Bend your elbows, returning to the starting position.

TiP: Think of the mechanics of this exercise as you are stirring, chopping, lifting and serving.

STEP 1

How to Have a Pain-Free Holiday

• Bend at your hips and knees with a neutral spine as you lift groceries, take things out of the oven, or take pots from a low cupboard.

• Drape your shoulder blades on your back ribs, and float your collarbones wide as you chop vegetables and stir sauces.

Pilates Water Exercises : Water Workouts

• When spending a long time standing at the stove, stay centered between your two feet with your spine long and lifted.

• Take breaks to walk, move, stretch and do your Pilates throughout the day.

DON’T

• Lock your knees and sit your hips forward in standing. Instead, center your pelvis over your feet and draw up through your midline while maintaining the neutral curve of your low back.

• Overwork your shoulders by ignoring natural mechanics. Instead, allow your bones to feel heavy—without over-pulling your shoulders down.

Pilates Water Exercises : Water Workouts

• Round your back to bend over. Instead, keep your core strong and use your leg muscles. If you don’t have the mobility or strength to bend low enough at your hips and knees, then step one leg back to lower down, as though you’re doing a split squat.

Double-Knee Fold

PROP: none

PurPOSE: teaches biomechanics of hip flexion to reinforce proper form during bending and lifting; strengthens the deep core, including the psoas and transverse to help support proper posture

SETUP: Lie on your back in a neutral spine, with your knees bent, feet flat and heels in line with your sit bones. Press your palms down by your sides. Exhale, engaging your deep abdominals as you lift one leg at a time to tabletop.

Pilates Water Exercises : Water Workouts

1. Lower both legs toward the floor, maintaining the 90 degree angle; only go as low as you can keep your belly engaged, pelvis stable and spine neutral.

2. Deepen your leg bones into their sockets and fold at your hip joint to return to the starting position.

TiPS: Imagine the wheel-like motion of your femur head rolling in the socket as you lower and lift your legs with a completely still pelvis. Think of this exercise when you’re retrieving dishes from the oven or lifting things from low cabinets. Focus on maintaining a neutral spine and flexing/ extending at the hip joint rather than rounding the spine.

Erika Bloom has been teaching Pilates for more than 15 years. She is the founder and owner of Erika Bloom Pilates, with five studios and a renowned certification school. For more information, visit www.erikabloompilates.com.

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