Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trick or Treat? Franklin Method

Props Gini uses to teach FM.
"To change your body, one must change their mind"

I had the privilege of participating in two Franklin Method workshops lead by the fabulous Gini Martinez of Pilate Your Body. Gini is intelligent, witty, passionate, and creative about movement and her teaching. I highly recommend that anyone who teaches any sort of movement treat yourself to some Franklin Method. You won't regret it. I learned a lot about how my body actually works, how much my thoughts can affect and change my movements, and how to better cue movement for myself and my clients. I came out of the weekend very inspired and also very overwhelmed. How do I take all of this new insight into my Pilates teachings?

Franklin Method is based on four steps:

  1. Feedback - Check in on how and where you are now. What do you like? What do you not like? (Try to focus on the positive, as it really does change the outcome. For instance: If you notice your shoulders are tense, instead of focusing on the tension think about the openness and lightness you would like to feel in them.)
  2. Make a plan - What are you going to work on changing and how are you going to go about it? (I am going to send breath into my shoulders and imagine my shoulder blades sliding downward like a chocolate fondue fountain)
  3. Feed Forward - Put the plan into action.
  4. Compare New Status Quo to the Old - Was there a positive change? Even if it is the littlest bit.
It is a cycle. So repeat until the desired affect occurs. Maybe a new plan is necessary.

What I realized during this weekend was how important it is to really know what is happening in the body during movement. I know my anatomy and the cuing of movement within Pilates. However, many times the cuing contradicted what was actually happening with the bone rhythms. Once I could imagine the movement of the bones in certain actions I could facilitate movement in a much more organic way. 
"Embodying function, Improves function".
I realized that I had been tricking my body into performing certain movements with contraction instead of treating my body to efficient movement with ease. As Gini says:
"If your muscles are tense, they are contracted. If your muscles are contracted, they aren't available for movement."
Give your body a treat and incorporate some Franklin Method into your body and teaching.

Here is a link to a video of Eric Franklin releasing Shoulder Tension.
And just added here is a podcast of Gini discussing Franklin Method on air with Karena Lineback. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

No Shoes....BETTER Service

The other day I spontaneously decided to take off my shoes on the Elliptical. I had my running shoes on and was feeling uncomfortable through the arches of my feet and my left knee. I decided to pause the elliptical and continue in my socks. I immediately felt better through my feet. There was a little bit of friction with my socks and the machine, but it still felt better than what I was experiencing with my running shoes on. Taking my shoes off gave me more efficient movement.

Later that evening and the next morning, I was amazed at how sore my inner thighs were and I associated this to taking off my shoes. I feel that my running shoes were artificially pulling my feet into alignment. They weren't actually allowing my feet and muscles to do the job. I had been toying with the idea of going barefoot for awhile. After all in Pilates and Yoga I feel more connected to the earth and my alignment with my bare feet. Why not transfer that over to my Cardio philosophy as well? I personally don't own an Elliptical or Treadmill and the idea of going barefoot in a public gym seemed gross to me. Also living in an Urban area, outside running in bare feet seemed dangerous with rock, glass, and other foreign objects waiting to pierce the soles of my feet. So I ventured out to try on and buy a pair of Vibram Five Fingers or Barefoot shoes. I tried on three different styles of the Vibrams and ended up settling on the Bikila style as they fit my foot the best. This is definitely a shoe that you decide on based on function and fit, versus style or color. No matter what color these shoes are they are going to draw attention to your footsies. They are definitely not stylish or flattering to any foot on the outside. However, knowing the positive changes that are going to happen internally I will put my fashion and vanity aside.

Stay tuned as I take this barefoot journey to more efficient and healthy movement one step at a time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

TRX vs. ActivCore

First let's discuss how these two very similar systems describe themselves.

TRX is described as:
" Suspension training"
 "a revolutionary method of leveraged body weight system"
"Safely perform hundreds of exercises that build power, strength, flexibility, balance, mobility, and prevent injuries, all at the intensity you choose." 

ActivCore is described as:
"Functional exercise"
"facilitates strength development, balance enhancement and improved coordination all of which improve movements of daily living, injury prevention and performance enhancement."
"Comprehensive knowledge of physical medicine and exercise science underlies the Redcord solution, which utilizes these five principles: controlled instability, functional exercise,  pain free positioning of movements, precise control of exercise intensity, and freedom of movement in all planes."

I took a group class on both the TRX and ActivCore at local studios. Here is what I found. TRX class was very upbeat, energetic, and cardio infused. It included lots of lunges and exercises similar to what gym equipment provides with the added instability of the straps using your own body weight. It allows for movements in all planes and has both handles and straps as one with the unit. Each side of the strap is adjustable with a riser in the center to check for balanced movement. Both straps are attached at one center point that is then anchored. ActivCore was much more of a mind/body class. Functional movement in sets of 4x4 or 6x4 with rests built in to help trigger neurological/muscle activation connection. These movements were more Pilates and Physical Therapy like. Each strap is attached to a separate anchor, which allows for more instability in an asymmetrical way. The straps, handles and slings can be removed and added for different exercises.  Think the difference of doing Hundreds on the Reformer, where the springs are attached to the carriage underneath versus doing Hundreds on the Cadillac with arms in the springs, where each arm is responsible for the movement/stability of each spring. Imbalances are easier to see and work on at the Cadillac, where on the Reformer a stronger side can dominate and cheat for a weaker side.

I thoroughly enjoyed both classes and feel that I was able to make some new connections of movement. Personally, I feel the ActivCore is a better fit for myself and my clients given my focus on Pilates, rehabilitation, and mind/body styles of exercise. TRX I felt is more geared towards a gym clientele mentality as was developed by Navy Seals. Regardless of whether you chose to try ActivCore, TRX, or both I am confident that you will get a great workout. I know I sure did.

If you have used either TRX, ActivCore or both would love your thoughts on the two sytems. Please post your comments below.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Yoga Marathon

The Chicago Marathon took place this year on Sunday, 10.10.10. I saw the winning men place on television before heading off to my normal Sunday Yoga class at Nature Yoga Sanctuary. As we entered class and began to set up our mats the Marathon was on everyone's mind. With the street closures that happen due to the marathon it can make getting around Chicago on that morning a little like a game of Frogger for some. We joked about finishing the marathon in time to get to class.

My teacher Wade usually begins with thoughts before class. Today he spoke about the supportive community of people cheering these marathon runners on their journey. Wouldn't it be nice in Yoga class to have that same positive support. "Come on you can hold that pose one more breath" or applauding the completion of a difficult posture or vinyasa series. 

It got me to thinking about how I approach my Yoga practice. My Sunday class is an hour and forty-five minutes long.  So much like a marathon it is about pacing yourself.  If you start out too strongly at the beginning of class you won't have the strength for the more vigorous series and difficult postures. You have to know yourself and the course so you don't hit the wall before mile 20. Focusing and riding the breath are true for both the Marathon and yoga. When you mentally hit those moments of doubt, fear, pain or fatigue tuning into your breath can get you over the edge and moving forward. It's about visualizing yourself crossing that finish line or getting into that difficult pose that you have been struggling with.

While I didn't complete 26.2 miles of Chicago pavement on Sunday 10.10.10. I did complete 105 minutes of vigorous yoga. I breathed, challenged, and cheered myself through the longer vinyasas and more difficult postures. And by the time I reached the finish line of Savasana I felt completely blissed out and proud of my accomplishment. The Marathon of Yoga complete.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Xtend Barre

Bar classes are all the rage from Bar Method, Dailey Method, Barre Bee Fit, etc. Everyone from Drew Barrymore to Madonna with Barre3 are taking Bar style classes.

I've taken these Bar Style classes at few different locations now. With my background in Pilates and Yoga I find some of the cuing and exercises in most of these Bar style classes to overuse certain muscle groups and place the body is some poor postural patterns of movement.  Also many of these schools of Bar lack the proper training to instructors and teach a choreography that is repetitive with very little anatomical knowledge.

Xtend Barre is not one of these. "The Xtend workout combines the amazing results of dance with the principles of strength and safety in Pilates." In order to take the training course to teach Xtend you must already hold a Pilates Certification and the classes can only be held in a licensed studio or workout facility.

Out of the many styles of Bar classes I found this style to be the most thorough class. The class moved through all parts of the body from light arm weights, plies, Pilates style ab work, thigh work, and stretching. The cuing was precise and form driven. It was a small class (only 6 people at the location I took class) versus the 20-30 people that are usually in a Bar class. This Bar style also seemed to have a little more of the dance class feel to it instead of the aerobic class feel.

I found Xtend Barre at Harmony Mind Body Fitness in Lincoln Park neighborhood. Definitely the best Bar style class I have found yet. Try it for yourself and Xtend your Bar horizons.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

I love Fall. I love all the colors of the leaves and the flavors of the food like butternut squash and pumpkin. Not only is pumpkin low fat naturally, it is full of beta-carotene which the body converts to Vitamin A.  Fall and all the holidays that come with it wouldn't be complete in my mind without some Pumpkin Pie.  Here is a healthy smoothie that tastes just like the pie. The yogurt gives the whip cream like flavor and no crust means less calories. Drink up and give Thanks without the guilt.

*I have listed ingredients for both a Vegetarian and a Vegan version based off of your choice of Yogurt and milk.


  • 1/4 can of Pumpkin Pie filling
  • 3oz of Greek Style Plain yogurt (like Chobani) or Vegan Yogurt (like Nogurt or Silk)
  • 1 tblspoon Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Almond milk or milk of choice 
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice
  • nutmeg and cinnamon

Combine Pumpkin Pie, yogurt, brown sugar, and crushed ice into blender. Begin to blend. Add almond milk (or milk of your choice) slowly until you have the desired consistency. Less milk will make a thicker smoothie and more milk a little creamier. Once completely blended pour into glass and sprinkle with a little nutmeg and cinnamon to garnish and spice up. Stick a straw in it and give thanks.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Equinox Health clubs is known for their innovative Group Exercise classes like Tabata, Intensati, and now Parkour.  I participated in a demo class of Parkour at Equinox Chicago's 900 North Michigan location.

To say this class was out of my element is an understatement.  We were lead through a warm up of conditioning exercises by Group Fitness Managers Tonya Dugger and Jen Hogg. In the 30 minute workout many were already gasping for air and sweating it up.  Then we were lead by Alex through a Parkour workout. We vaulted over highly stacked steps, army crawled through hurdles, precision jumped over steps (and eventually people), and grapevined around hurdles creating a circuit like feel. My heart rate was up and at one point when checking my heart rate monitor was at 92%.  By the end of the hour long class I had burned almost 800 calories and had a ton of fun.  Did I do everything like the instructor? By no means. But I attempted it and laughed at myself in good humor.

According to the website Parkour US
"Parkour or l'art du d├ęplacement is NOT a extreme sport, rather it is a physical discipline that allow one to overcome their obstacles to get from point a to point b in the most efficient using the possibility of human body. Such movement may contain running, jumping, climbing, vaulting and other movements that may help the efficiency. 
One who trains and practice the discipline is called a “traceur” or “traceuses” for women practitioners. The goal of parkour is to allow a traceur adopt to his or her environment by using the surrounding structure. Whether the environment is in the rural or urban area, a traceur is trained to be able to face the obstacles at any given time. 
Movements are often trained by repetitions, building ground up from the basics. Parkour is often confused with freerunning. Freerunning, a distant cousin of parkour, contains movements that are not efficient, such as flips. Parkour originated in France, founded by David Belle and many others. Along with the physical movements, parkour contains philosophy which enhances a traceur’s ability to solve problems and their awareness of surroundings. 
Furthermore, there are NO COMPETITIONS in parkour; the only competition is you, and yourself."

Some Parkour moves that you will see in a class.

Check your local Equinox to see when and where Parkour classes are available.  Definitely a challenge and a lot of fun. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tex-Mex Veggie Burger

All the flavor. No animal products. Loads of protein and low in fat. What more could you ask for?

Set conventional or toaster oven to Broil. Heat Veggie patty 10-12 minutes until cooked throughout. Spread Veganaise and spinach onto the bottom of bun. Place cooked Veggie Patty on top of spinach. Place sliced avocado and Daiya cheese on top of Veggie Patty. Finish with the top bun.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rock-n-Roll with Pilates

Rolling like a Ball (ex:Rolling)
Pilates was Rocking-n-Rolling before Elvis or the Beatles.

Granted I am talking about movement and not music. This Rock-n-Roll is admired by all ages young and old and was born before it's musical genre.

The Pilates system has many rolling exercises (supine) and rocking exercises (prone) built into it's series. The rocking and the rolling takes place in the "powerhouse" of the body, between the shoulder blades and hips.  

In the Pilates Mat series the Rolling exercises (supine or on your back) include Rolling like a Ball, Open Leg Rocker, Boomerang, Seal and Crab. Rocking exercises (prone or on your belly) include Swan Dive and Rocking. Rolling is meant to allow breath into the body to it's fullest deepest potential, the spine to stretch and lengthen, and massage the spine against the mat and the internal organs with breath. 

Rocking (ex:Rocking)
Rocking strengthens the muscles along the spine, stretches the front of the chest, shoulders, and abdominals. Rocking and rolling should be light and playful, like a beach ball blowing in the wind. It will teach your body that strength and flexibility can be (and need to be) relaxed and flexible on the outside of the body, while engaged and supported from inside the body. That proper and purposeful breathing can carry movement more effortless than tensed up muscles.

So turn it on, turn it up and play with some Old time Rock-n-Roll.