THE PLANK PROFILES

THE PLANK PROFILES

With Marissa Jurmark

Top five things people should know about you?

1. I love garden gnomes
In high school I would collect them. In fact, my bedroom had a corner dedicated to my collection. I have a replica of a traveling gnome that comes with me wherever I go. I just think they’re cute and reliable!!!! I feel like they take care of you, as silly as that sounds….

2. I used to train to be an opera singer
I went to Fordham for English but was involved with music. I would be asked to perform at different events around campus i.e. the Ave Maria at Xmas concerts. I ended up sidestepping into a more financially viable pastime: namely, finance. But I would like to get back to it at some point.

3. I try to educate people about healthy eating
At work, people often complain about fatigue. I suggest that instead of caffeine, they try eating a kiwi or another super food for extra energy. My mother passed away from cancer. Being part of that experience inspired me to learn more about how to take care of my health and be responsible for it without depending on western medicine exclusively. It helps me feel empowered.

4. I volunteer for an expat community (Internations)
I put together events at tapas bars that our Latin culture inspired. It’s fun and brings different people together. The last thing I organized was a salsa lesson: People attended from Germany, France, India and the US. It was great to have all these different people coming together for a unique experience.

5. I love to travel
I am very curious about the world. I want to see how different cultures live. I’ve already made my way through most of Europe, but I’m interested in seeing all the other continents. Ultimately I would like to be able to one day say I’ve seen it all….Next on my wish list is Thailand.

Why Plank Pilates?
I was trying to find a really good studio downtown and I was having issues. I came across PLANK online and went in. It was love at first class. I’ve never gone to a bad one. Pilates is known as the rich man’s exercise, but at PLANK, anyone can do it. It’s affordable and amazing. Also, different studios really vary in terms of difficulty, friendliness, expertise… All the teachers at PLANK are not only experts but really understand women’s bodies. Even if you feel like you’re not being pushed in class, afterwards you feel worked!!! I don’t feel the classes at other studios really understand women’s particular needs and that’s something that is important to me.

Top Tips for staying slim
I try to go to PLANK at least twice a week. I walk everywhere. I try not to take life too seriously: if you’re stressed, at least for me, you balloon up. Eat badly, you know, all that stuff. I’ve tried all these other types of exercise but I find Pilates is the most comprehensive. It works your muscles more specifically than anything else I’ve ever tried.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
Chocolate. I can’t live without chocolate. I love Nutella crepes. I love the rich milky texture. If I’ve had a hard day chocolate tends to make things feel better….but only good chocolate. From a specialty store. Now all I need is for Godiva to start making chocolate gnomes!!!!

Marissa has been a member at Plank Pilates since January 2014.

THE BACK STORY….

THE BACK STORY....

“Does anyone have any injuries? How are you feeling today?” These words have become my cue that class is starting….
On Saturday morning, several people at PLANK were talking about back injuries (namely herniated disks) and it got me thinking about my own back story.

Four years ago, I was teaching spin part time and loving it. I knew the technique and was feeling strong, but had no awareness about my core. In fact, my legs and lower back were doing all the work. Cut to me waking up one morning, paralyzed from the waist down: I literally could not sit up without electric bolts of pain rocketing down the left side of my body. When I was finally able to mobilize, see a doctor, and get an MRI, the prognosis was clear: I had herniated my L4/L5 and L5/6 disks. At the time, the recommendation was a half a million dollar spinal surgery and discotomy. No big surprise when I tell you: I got a second opinion.

After reviewing my test results, my back specialist concluded the following: NO SURGERY WAS NEEDED. If I went down that path I would be signing up for not just one, but a lifetime of operations. His number one recommendation was to strengthen my core and support my back more efficiently. In fact his specific recommendation was to start doing a consistent regime of PILATES!!!

My story is not unique. After speaking to PLANK member, Mae-Lily Cohen (who injured herself during Bikram yoga class when she was feeling especially “strong”!) I realized that many of us not only have lower back problems due to overexertion, poor alignment, etc. but are looking for ways to be pain free and stronger all around. Of course in some extreme cases, medication and therapy are required. Mae-Lily said “The only reason I am able to get up and do things after my injury is because of Pilates. Just doing the exercises at home made a huge difference in my recovery.”
One thing is clear, with the help of consistent Pilates practice, it is possible to overcome lower back issues and embark on previous (and new) activities while remaining virtually pain free!

Below are three at home Pilates exercises you can do to both relax and strengthen your lower back muscles.

1. CLAM SHELL

Be sure to keep your hips aligned on top of one another. You can place your hand on the ground in front of you for extra support. Repeat for three sets of 10 reps each (on both sides.)

2. MINI COBRA

Make sure your hands are aligned with your shoulders. The hands should not be used to push yourself up, but as a stabilizer. Use your lower back to lift yourself gently up and down. Repeat for three sets of 10 reps each.

3. TOE TAPS

You do not need to maintain a neutral spine if you have lower back issues, but always make sure your core is engaged. The toe may tap the mat, if your back doesn’t hurt. Alternatively, you can just lower and lift halfway. Exhale and engage your core when coming back up through the movement. Alternate legs lifting and lowering for 12 reps.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR BACK, AND IT WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU!

UP PLANK AND PERSONAL

UP PLANK AND PERSONAL

With Evgenia Ilienko
(Evgenia Ilienko is an instructor at Plank Pilates)

Top 5 things we should know about you?

1. Cats are my favorite animals. But, unfortunately I’m allergic. It’s super unfair. They are so graceful and independent and I find them very feminine in their inherent nature. My mother has called me a kitten ever since I was little so I suppose I identify with them in some way.

2. I was not accepted to ballet school because of my height. I still take a lot of classes and train as a dancer. Dance really helped my discipline with regards to how I treat my body and what I do. But also, I learned how to keep commitments. No matter how you feel, you need to keep your word: whether it’s making it to a class or an event in your everyday life.

3. Languages come easily to me. I speak six languages: don’t worry, not all of them equally well. Knowing how to communicate in many languages makes it easier to travel but also gives you the opportunity to connect with other people and cultures in their native tongue. You connect on a different level when you can speak the same language.

4. I never intended to live in NYC. I grew up in Prague and when I decided I needed to see more of the world, I was going to move to Hawaii. Somehow, that didn’t end up coming to pass but I did find myself coming to NYC to go school, fell in love with the place and have been here now for six years! (Hawaii is still on my bucket list.)

5. I went to four different colleges (2 in Prague, 2 in NYC.) I’ve had four different majors (psychology, roman languages, media studies and communications/design.) When I graduated, I decided to leave it all behind and become a Pilates instructor. I’m happiest when I’m active.

How long have you been practicing and/or teaching Pilates?
I did Pilates for a few months in Prague because a friend said it was a great way to get into shape, then took a long break from it. I started up again two years ago when I was getting mat certified and became completely committed to it. I followed up with getting my comprehensive certification.

What brought you to Pilates?
I’ve seen people who are already in good shape, like dancers, become leaner and stronger because of Pilates. That inspired me to want to do the same for my body.
The knowledge I gathered from my experiences and training inspired me to want to share it with others.

Top 5 exercises to do between classes?
AB SERIES!!!! Be sure to take your time with each exercise. Speed is not important. Articulation and keeping the abs engaged with correct form is KEY.
For a challenge, do all five exercises remaining curled up and flow through. If not, take a rest with head down on the floor in between each exercise.

Lie on your back. Bring knees in to the chest and curl up to the tips of your shoulder blades. Place both hands on your right knee. Extend the left leg out as long as possible. TAIL BONE HEAVY. Then switch hands to the other knee and opposite leg lengthens out. Repeat five times on each side.

Start with the hands on shins, knees curled in, head as well. Extend legs out together at a high forty five, arms out by ears. Circle the arms around as you draw in the knees. Repeat eight times.

Curl up head and shoulders. Legs are at ninety degrees. Tail bone heavy. Depending on flexibility, grab the right thigh, calf, or ankle. Lower the left leg to high forty. Pull the right leg towards you twice, then switch the hands and leg. Abs are working, not thighs!!!! Repeat four times on each side.

Hands go beneath the sacrum. Elbows lifted. Legs up to ninety in Pilates stance. Curl the chin and shoulders up. Lower the legs slowly to a count of three and pull up on one. Then reverse: lower on one, then lift to a count of three. Four times each.

Curl up head with hands behind the head, supporting the neck. Curl up off the tips of your shoulder blades. Extend your left leg out, right knee in. Curl left armpit to the right knee, elbows stay wide!!! Then reverse. Repeat eight times each.

What do you always have in your refrigerator?
I used to have a practically empty fridge until I decided to eat at home more. I always have almond milk: for granola, smoothies, etc. I have seeds and salad ingredients and avocado. I LOVE AVOCADO!!!!

What’s Your Guilty Pleasure?
Chocolate. That one was easy. Dark chocolate. It keeps me from feeling guilty about it. I treat myself quite often. I even use unsweetened cocoa powder for a sweet addition to things I’m eating.

Be sure to check out Evgenia’s classes on Tuesdays afternoons at 12 and 1 pm! She is always up for a giggle between sets…it’s important to both work and laugh hard! She is also available for private sessions.

ANOTHER SNOWFALL’S A COMIN’…. (Ways to keep your spirits and immune system boosted!)

ANOTHER SNOWFALL’S A COMIN'.... (Ways to keep your spirits and immune system boosted!)

I KNOW! I can’t believe it either. It seems like this winter has been a relentless parade of snow, grey days and bone chilling temperatures. With the holiday season so far behind us, we are hitting a point where it gets tough to keep from feeling beaten down: both physically and mentally. For me, all of February was spent battling walking pneumonia. March brought with it a bladder infection, more antibiotics and a desire to find out how to improve my general health and face whatever the winter had left in store with a super positive attitude. Below are some helpful winter blues busting tips for the body and soul.

1. The importance of sleep
I don’t know about you, but when I don’t get enough sleep I can burst into tears if someone looks at me funny! Also, after several bad nights in a row, I am prone to migraines, colds and not surprisingly, low energy and sluggishness. There is no hard and fast proof for why lack of sleep affects the system so dramatically but research has shown that between seven to nine hours of sleep is required regularly in order to maintain good health and mental stability. Cozy up and indulge in some healing zzzzz’s.

2. Meditation
There is no doubt that after waking up to months of grey (or black!) mornings; the cumulative effect can be, at the very least, a downer. I have started a five-minute practice, which has turned my mornings, perhaps even days, around. When you wake up, lie still. You can even keep your eyes closed. Picture a place that makes you feel happy and safe: mine is the beach at my family’s vacation home. (See picture above!) Then think about five things you have to be grateful for in your life i.e. great friends, living NYC, a new scarf (no judgments!!!), whatever inspires you. ALLOW YOURSELF TO SMILE! Then think of five things you would like to happen that day and visualize them happening. You will have started your day on a positive and inspirational note.

3. Treat yourself
This can be anything really…in my case it was buying a new scarf. This may seem like a surface solution but there is method behind my madness. This Tuesday when it snows out, I’m going to wrap myself in softness and warmth and face the flakes with style and a huge smile! Other alternatives: a facial, tennis lessons (my personal treat for April), dinner at your favorite sushi joint…you get the picture.

4. Working out
After shivering through day after day, it is definitely hard to motivate to go and work out. When my alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. last Monday for Kristen’s 7 a.m. class at PLANK, my first thought was “NO…. IT’S STILL DARK OUT, FOR THE LOVE OF CRUNCHES!!!” But I went, and the week kicked off in the most positive of ways. Not only does working out boost hormones that make you feel better and more relaxed, but also cleanses the system of toxins. It has been proven to help fight infections not to mention make your body look great.

5. Sugar reduction (or elimination if you have a will of steel!)
Processed sugar lowers the body’s ability to fight bacteria for the hours proceeding consumption. It is also suspected to compromise the immune system, especially if already weakened. Simply put: even though a cupcake is comforting when you feel low, its impact is actually bringing you even lower. I am in no way saying not to indulge: we all need that bit of chocolate (or margarita in my case) from time to time. The key is to be aware of what its possible side effects can be.

So. Bundle up. Boots on. And trudge through this Tuesday’s storm with a snow-melting attitude. Spring is on its way…promise.

TINDER FINGER….is that a thing?

TINDER FINGER....is that a thing?

If it isn’t, then I propose this new expression to describe a syndrome many single New Yorkers are suffering from.
To be honest, I had not even heard of Tinder before brunch three weeks ago.
“You’re single, right CMP?” Asked one of my coupled friends.
“Yes!” I replied enthusiastically, feigning pride, or, at the very least, trying to cover up feeling self conscious.
“Are you on tinder?”, he asked, leaning in, knowingly.
“Um….what’s tinder?”
By the end of the meal not only had the Tinder up been downloaded, but my photos chosen, witty quip mustered, and the table had been taking turns swiping back and forth.
Now for those of you who don’t know: Tinder is a dating site based on photos alone. There is no section in which to share your embarrassing moments or boast about your trip to Machu Picchu. You upload pictures, write a snappy line or two underneath, and hope for the best.

Positive: it’s fast. Negative: it’s fast.

In milliseconds you swipe either left or right to eliminate potential people partners and move onto the next item…I mean picture in the queue.
I’m not going to lie to you…it is beyond addictive. And there’s this delightful payoff when a person you’ve “liked” has done the same to you. Your pictures glide by each other in a cyber dance and underneath Tinder exclaims, “You’re a match!”
Ahhhh. My ego has been tickled. Some guy whose pictures I thought were attractive thought the same of me. Immediate Validation intoxication.

But what does it all amount to?

We have whittled down meeting people to its most primal. And for hooking up, this app makes total sense. But is it possible my Tinder finger left swiped my potential dream boyfriend?

THE PLANK PROFILES

THE PLANK PROFILES

With Trevor Stahelski
(Shauna’s handsome fiance. Shauna was featured in last week’s blog.)

Top five things people should know about you?

1. I take Pilates seriously on many levels.
I put a lot of thought into it and what it means to my body and me. How it makes me feel….I think about how good I feel after every session and what makes it so rewarding. It’s such a restorative experience. And I always walk away feeling like I’ve done something good for myself. I can’t help wanting to share that with people in depth whenever I’m asked the usual questions.

2. My dog Coco and I take a walk every day to the East River Park
We go for walks for up to 2 hours….this isn’t just a little stroll around the block. It’s a combination of meditation and someone to listen to me (like therapy.) Coco is a captive audience and a terrific listener. Hourly rates are negotiable if anyone is interested!!

3. I went to my first Broadway show this year
Sort of sad after living in NYC for 20 years but it was AMAZING!!!! The emotion, the ride, the feeling of being swept away by the story. I was completely captivated and having fun the entire time. Might sounds silly…especially a play like the Lion King but the quality was outstanding. It was an incredible experience.

4. The most fun thing I have ever done in my life is plan my wedding
I know it may sound sappy but it’s true. The only thing that will be more fun is the actual day. I have always imagined what it may be like but it’s unbelievable to have it materialize with the love of your life as a shared dream. It is really exciting. (CUE GROUP SIGH HERE!!!!)

5. I am a lactard (lactose intolerant)
I can’t eat lactose and have to look for new foods that are non dairy and still delicious!!! Living with a nutritionist you can always look forward to learning fun facts about non GMO products, quinoa and the like. I would never in a million years think I would’ve liked quinoa and I have to say…I actually like it. It’s not pizza (which I LOVE LOVE LOVE) but my insides are thanking me for it. And I do love not feeling ill, that’s for sure.

What brought you to Pilates?
My fiancé, actually. She says I brought her to Pilates but that’s not exactly true. We had gone for our first couple’s trip and decided to do a little beach workout. Shauna was doing moves that I had never heard of (and frankly, I could barely keep up.) I was immediately inspired to up my game and start exploring another side of working out.

Why Plank Pilates?
I am serial neighborhood guy. I have been living on the LES for 15 years…not only do I think it’s the greatest neighborhood, but it also happens to be in the greatest city. PLANK being a boutique neighborhood studio was an obvious choice. I wanted to support a business close to me and it was a great fit. Once you’re at PLANK, it’s so much more than just proximity: it’s an intimate, personal experience, which I value a lot. I also appreciate the core group of instructors who really know the members and watch out for their well-being and respect their limits.

Top Tips for staying slim
On Wednesdays and Sundays I do a tower class followed by a private session at PLANK. I do three more classes on top of that on average. Being so active helps me consider what I eat. The simple answer is Pilates. As much as you can.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
There are so many. I have a vast suit collection. I try to justify it because there are times that I need to wear one for work. But I definitely don’t need to have as many as I do. I also like to drink red wine on school nights. More than one glass. Nuff said.

Trevor has been a member at Plank Pilates since March 2012.

UP PLANK AND PERSONAL

UP PLANK AND PERSONAL

with Shauna Hull
(Shauna Hull is an instructor at Plank Pilates)

Top 5 things we should know about you?

1. I love dancing. My classes are always super upbeat, especially my Plank 360. I pump up the music and usually do the class alongside everyone else. Sometimes I burst into song (which I probably shouldn’t) but I don’t care. I even do dance parties at home with my dog and myself.

2. I am a pescatarian. It’s not that I’m against meat, it’s that I’m simply concerned about the hormones and antibiotics involved with food production. Also, the sustainability of food is something I think about: genetically modified foods have particular effects that should be looked more seriously.

3. I teach high school biology and have been for the last nine years. My mother is a teacher and my father is a forensic toxicologist. Science was always an interest and I graduated with my BS in biology followed by my masters in teaching. I now am on faculty at the Food and Finance High School. It’s actually a culinary high school where they learn to cook! It’s a super cool program.

4. I’m getting married in September. It’s happening at the Bowery Hotel. We met in NYC so we wanted to get married here as well. We’ve both lived here for 10 years and thought it would be meaningful to share our life and what we’ve experienced here with our families.

5. My fiancé is the one who got me into Pilates. He encouraged me to come to class then bought me the package to become an instructor.

How long have you been practicing and/or teaching Pilates?
It all started at once. My fiancé had gone to Plank and loved it then encouraged me to check it out. It was love at plank. I decided to become certified almost immediately after my first class. That was two years ago now.

What brought you to Pilates?
I’ve been working out since I was twelve and have done running, triathlons, etc. When I started out with Pilates I realized this should have been my foundation. With Pilates, you learn how to use your body properly, working on each layer of muscle. You strengthen, tone and build flexibility so that you prevent injury. It’s amazing to do as a workout on its own or as a supplement to other kinds exercise. I think it should be included in everyone’s routine.

Top 5 exercises to do between classes?

1. Plank With Knee Pull-ins: Start off in a plank wrist directly under your shoulders the crown of your head reaching in front of you, pelvis tucked under, legs reaching out behind you parallel, engaging your hamstrings so you are in one long line head to toe. Next bring your right knee in towards your chest using your abs to hover your knee off the ground, send the leg back to the original plank position. Be sure to hold your upper body still ( not shifting forward or backward) focusing on your lower abs. Switch sides, pull your left leg in to your chest, keep alternating starting off slowly then slowly increasing the pace until you are almost at a jog. Start off doing this for 15 seconds slowly increasing to 30 seconds and possibly a minute!!!!

2. Forearm Plank with Knee Jogs: Begin planking on your forearms, elbows directly under your shoulders, hands in fists clasped together in front of you, crown of head reaching towards the wall in front of you. Send your right and left leg back to plank, keep your legs parallel with hamstrings engaged, pelvis tucking under engaging your transverse abdominals. Bend your right knee down then straighten it, alternate bending and extending your left leg, toes stay glued to the floor. Make sure you keep your butt down, pelvis tucked. You should feel your belly button pulling in toward your spine as you bend your knees. Continue at a slow steady pace for 10 seconds. Zip your knees together, bend your knees simultaneously towards the mat then send them straight, keep the butt down, pelvis tucked nothing is moving except the knees. Bend and extend for 10 seconds.

3. Forearm Plank With Side Dips: start off in your forearm plank as mentioned previously. Keep your toes grounded as you lift your hips and dip them from right to left, being sure to lift through the center as if you were lifting your hips over a ball. This really targets your obliques!

4. Forearm Side Plank With Pulses: Start in your forearm plank as mentioned previously this time rotate your left forearm so it is perpendicular to your body and lunged up under your shoulder. Then rotate your body so your legs are stacked right on top of left ( you can also modify this by bringing your right foot in front of your left) you are being held up by your forearms and abs. Pull the belly button in and tuck your pelvis so you are in one straight line head to heels. Send your right arm straight up to the ceiling pulse your hips up by engaging and lifting with your obliques repeat 5-8 times. Rotate to the other side and repeat.

5. Child’s Pose: If you did the previous exercises correctly you are probably read for a stretch. Start in a kneeling position. Drop your butt toward your heels as you stretch the rest of your body down and forward. In the fully stretched position, rest your arms in a relaxed position along the floor, rest your stomach comfortably on top of your thighs, and rest your forehead on the mat. Bend your elbows on the mat and place your hands on your shoulders to stretch your arms.

What do you always have in your refrigerator?
I’m obsessed with mushrooms….tons of funghi. Avocados, organic non gmo eggs, spinach. Whole wheat tortillas to put anything on.

What’s Your Guilty Pleasure?
Red Wine. I’m very into Bordeaux. And I like to go out for a nice dinner. Dinner and nice wine has my heart…

Be sure to check out Shauna’s classes on Tuesday nights at 6, 7 and 8 pm.!! You can always count on a super peppy, challenging and musically upbeat class when Shauna’s teaching! She is also available for private sessions.