Our First Run Club is a Winner!

Our first Run Club was a success! We were nervous all day that the weather would force us to cancel, but we decided to just do it regardless. A little rain never hurt anyone.

The weather did deter some people, so our original count of about ten was brought down to four: Julia, Anna, Luisa and me.

Sara D. Roosevelt Park across the street from Plank was the perfect place for our Club. I’m glad it’ll be our home. The Rivington walking path was where we started. Walking quad stretches, hamstring stretches, high knees and jumping jacks were our starting active stretches. Just warm enough, we started our first lap around the park, a 0.5 mile loop. We ran two by two with Julia setting a Goldilocks pace (not too fast, not too slow, just right), and I could immediately see that my stride was faster than I thought. The damp evening made the park pretty deserted, so we practically owned the place. No dodging kids or homeless people.

With Loop #1 done, we went back to our Rivington walkway where we relayed. Julia and I started off with a sprint down the walkway then karaoke or grapevine side stepping back. We capped it off with static backwards lunges in place followed by some jumping jacks, then we on our way again for the second loop. Loop #2 ended with some side stepping and shuffling, then we were back onto our Loop #3. We went the opposite way around the park this time and picked up the pace going around the last bend. A little cool down along the walk way settled our pace and our muscles, and we headed back to Plank. With the loop running and the relay drills in between we ran about 2 miles!

The four of us decided that the Run Club is wonderful. In thirty minutes we had successfully completed a fun cardio work out. I felt pushed by the group dynamic, engaged by the park and the conversations, distracted from all the work I was doing by the constant change of pace and inspired by the fun way to raise money for charity. I wish I had learned how to run like this.

Here’s what I learned from Julia in those 30 minutes:

  • Don’t over stretch before you run. Your muscles will warm up just from doing the activity.
  • With your running stride, keep the weight mostly pressing off of your toes.
  • Keep the arms at a casual 90 degree bend.
  • If you ever get a cramp, try to shorten your stride to work through it.
  • With your breathing, have your exhale mimic the action of blowing out a candle. (Don’t think 50th birthday cake candles, but more a single flame at the dinner table type thing.)
  • Push yourself at the end of your run. Don’t feel like you need to sprint, but definitely pick up the pace.
  • You don’t necessarily have to cool down after a run. It just feels nice to settle into your muscles.
  • You don’t necessarily have to stretch after a run. As long as you make stretching a part of your weekly work out routine, then you’re fine.

What I learned about myself as a runner:

  • My pace is faster than I thought. I can cool it sometimes, and my endurance will probably increase.
  • I liked running in a park a lot more than on city streets. There are healthy distractions (unlike dodging oncoming traffic) and pretty floral smells.
  • I like running with people. I’m not sure I would do it all the time, since it’s nice to have running as an activity that’s solely for myself. I did really enjoy the social aspect of it though!
  • My dancing skills make me a fast and furious grapevine-r.
  • I’m already anxiously awaiting the next one!!

We loved it so much that our next Run Club session is Tuesday, May 1st at 6:10pm! Email julia@plankpilates.com to join us!

Very happy running,

The Run Around Girl

That’s Right! I Ran Two Miles

Boo. Yeah. I ran two miles! *Happy dance* But don’t let my new found confidence fool you. It wasn’t as easy as I’m making it sound.

I started off the week extremely motivated. As I wrote in my last post, I was determined to run at least two miles this week to make up for my slacker ways the past two weeks and be on track for my 4-miles-by-June goal.

I went for a run Tuesday morning, and when I woke up I felt like the stars were aligned for me to accomplish my two-mile goal. My body felt rested yet energized, I had the perfect small breakfast and enough time to digest it, the weather was overcast and cool, and I had plenty of time for the work out.

I started running and within a couple of strides I could feel my airway constricting a bit. This wasn’t normal labored breathing from cardio work, but rather my asthma acting up. My asthma was exercised induced and pretty severe as a child, but these days it only bothers me seasonally. When the weather changes (which it’s done a lot since last week—sunny and warm, rainy and cold, windy and damp) and I exercise, that’s what makes me asthmatic these days. So the second I asked more from my lungs than just the normal inhale and exhale, they started constricting. I was audibly wheezing; I couldn’t run more than a mile.

I had a sad and annoyed walk home. Gulping for air the whole time, I was frustrated that I only ran half my goal and that I didn’t have any immediate remedy for my asthma. I could take my inhaler when I got back to my apartment, but then there was no way I was climbing back down my six flights of stairs to try again. I’d save it for another day.

Wednesday the stars didn’t feel as aligned for a great run, but they were going to have to be. I needed to accomplish this two-mile goal. Later on Tuesday, the client that reserved the private session during Thursday’s Run Club time cancelled. That hour was free for me…to run with the Run Club. I had to have two miles under my belt so I felt confident that I could get through the Club. I made sure to bring my inhaler with me on Wednesday’s run just in case my asthma started acting up again. I ran a mile, started wheezing, stopped to take a puff of the inhaler and a couple more deep breaths, and I powered through another mile. Just like that! It was easier than I thought! I was sweating like a beast and felt my butt cramping a bit, but I was accomplished and proud. Another amazing realization—no side cramps! Hallelujah! A shout out to Matt—The sneaks make me feel so aligned and supported. A shout out to Julia—You’re right. I just had to push myself. Words to live by.

My MapMyRun app has been so helpful, by the way. I’ve updated it once, so it now talks to me when I hit a new mile, telling me my time, distance, and minutes per mile. I started beaming when the robot woman said, “You have run two point zero miles.” Thanks, gal. The photo from my two-mile run is above.

I’ll let you know how the Run Club goes!

So happy to be running around again,

The Run Around Girl


Introducing Plank Pilates Studio Director Julia Fouts’ monthly 5F blog post. Enjoy her expertise!

 5 F’s: Fouts’ Five Fun Fitness Facts

Every month we face an overwhelming variety of health magazines, ranging in topic from nutrition, fitness, body image, etc.  The list goes on. When each publication costs at least $3.99 a pop, it feels wasteful and disappointing when you choose the wrong one (especially when they’re filled with advertisements galore).

To solve this dilemma, I’ll read through all the good, bad and ugly articles so you no longer spend time sifting through the crap. Every month I’ll post a list of my five favorite tidbits or articles from a variety of magazines and expand upon each topic.  The magazine selection will usually include Fitness, Self, Women’s Health, and Running.

Without further delay the 5 F’s this month are (and in no particular order):

1. The importance of coffee: 

Like many of you, I love and unfortunately rely on coffee. So whenever I come across ANY benefit from coffee, I practically tattoo it to my forehead.

Studies have shown that pre-workout coffee signals the brain, picks up the metabolism and sets us up for a more intense workout. Whether it’s a jog, yoga or pilates, our pre-workout addiction has great effects on our efficiency. Also, coffee improves our agility. Agility is more about our first step and quickness, rather than speed. This piece of information is very important as it directly relates to balance! When we improve our agility we strengthen and sharpen our “go” muscles, the same muscles we use for ankle, knee and hip support. Thank you coffee! I’ll take another.

(Women’s Health)

2. New research: Hello, Irisin.

Irisin is a hormone that replicates some of the positive effects of exercise. Currently only researched by scientists at the Harvard Medical School, they’ve found that muscles produce this hormone when they’re worked. Why should we know about it? This is a belly-fat-burning hormone (ding-ding jackpot) that switches on when we exercise.

When this hormone releases into the bloodstream, it then causes our bodies to burn more energy because of our heightened respiratory rate of fat cells. It targets subcutaneous fat (just beneath the skin) and turns this bad fat into a better fat. Better fat, or brown fat, burns faster and is more susceptible to change. The fat will change and our guts will slim! So if you work out frequently and incorporate the entire body, you’ll get maximum toning effects.


3. Take a break. No, seriously.

A whopping 70% of workers fail to use all their vacation days. Come on people! Ever heard of a little siesta?

Getting away even a night or two can improve your mood and your work efficiency for the following two weeks. For me, even thinking about a long vacation stresses me out. Even in a hypothetical scenario, I’m immediately consumed with the tasks waiting for me when I return. So, I say start small.

Pick a weekend in the next two months and plan to take a full two days and one night off. It could even be in the same city, but do touristy and relaxing things. Save work emails, calls or assignments for when the weekend’s over. Block off at least 24 hours of no tasks. That “vacation” will be enough to get prepared to take your next real one. We all need a little R and R.


4. Best snack bars.

This is important because many of us are forced at times, because of no time, to have a meal supplement or energy bar to help us get through the day. Fitness Magazine compared a bunch of bars, and ThinkThin bars, a Plank favorite, was the winner. They are lower than most in sugar content and have twice as much protein. All of the bars are between 150 and 210 calories, so you’re not consuming an entire meal’s worth of calories but are still satiated.

A rule of thumb for fitness bars: you want the grams of protein to be about half the carbohydrates. For example, if there are 30 grams of carbs and 4 grams of protein, you’ll be completely unbalanced and likely hungry again in 20 minutes. Be smart, and read the wrapper!

(Fitness and Women’s Running)

5. Speaking of snacking…How do we fight those  “snack attacks”? 

It depends what and when you snack, but many studies demonstrate effective strategies to curb your snacking. One study showed that people who walked or exercised before work were 50% less likely to eat a chocolate treat later that day. So whether it’s a Pilates class in the morning or a two-mile walk to work, that counts!

Also, timing your snack can lead to healthy eating and weight loss. In a study focused on dieters, those that had a small snack between breakfast and lunch lost less then 7% of their weight in the course of a year. Conversely, those that didn’t snack in the morning hours lost more than 11%. This is a time that we are probably snacking out of boredom rather than hunger. Eating a good, healthy breakfast should sustain us until our lunchtime! If you find you are indeed hungry between the two meals, start looking at what you’re choosing for breakfast — it might not be a balanced meal or enough calories.


Be on the look out for May’s 5F! Thanks, Julia!

Plank’s New Run Club & My Not-Really-Running-Around Status

I hate to say it’s been another slow running week. Because I’ve been so busy, running hasn’t been the priority. I’ve been putting running into my schedule as I see it eventually fitting into my life—a quick and inexpensive way to exercise. I only ran twice this week, three times if you count coming home from the bar on Saturday night. (It was raining, and there were no cabs!) But, I felt very comfortable every time that I ran this week (yes, even sloshing around in my ballet flats.) I never broke my 1.5 miles, but I didn’t expect to since I was just running to fit in a quick, sweaty work out. What bothers me is that I’m not quite on track for my goal of 4 miles by June, and I’m certainly not ready for Plank’s Run Club. Which brings me to my next very important point…

Plank’s Run Club is starting this week! It’s been highly anticipated by a lot of Plank students, and it’s one of the main reasons I started running. It’ll start on Thursday, April 26th at 7:10pm. We’ll meet at Plank then go across the street to Sara D. Roosevelt Park. If you’re a new runner like me, you can feel even better about this workout knowing that you’re running for charity. You only pay $5 to join us, and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to Wellness in the Schools, a wonderful NYC based charity that promotes healthy lifestyles for children.

Unfortunately (or fortunately), I scheduled private sessions during the Run Club before we hammered out the specifics of date and time, so I won’t be able to participate this week. This is working in my favor though. They’ll be running and relaying 2-3 miles, and if I were joining I’d seriously hope the run was on the 2-mile side. I could push myself to get to that 2 mile mark, but going a whole extra mile in a half, doubling my work out, would be a real struggle. I’ll be at the next one though!

Regardless, my goal for this coming week: run at least two miles before next Monday. It will be as if I did the Run Club mileage (on the short end), and I’ll have another two miles to accomplish in the month of May to reach my overall goal. Oy. I think I can do it though.

If you’re interested in joining the Plank Run Club, email Julia@plankpilates.com. Let me know how it goes! Leave your stories and tips here or on Facebook or Twitter.

Happy running!

The Run Around Girl

You Want Me To Engage My What?

By now we know that the bellybutton and spine should always be in close contact during a Pilates class (and in every day life for that matter), but let’s get real about what else you should be engaging in your Pilates classes. There are many ways to say it, but probably only one word that will resonate. You need to engage your kegel muscle. For those with more delicate ears, we could also say the pelvic floor, the lower powerhouse, the pubococcygeus, or the PC muscle. Men, you’re involved in this discussion. Guys can do kegel exercises, too. Regardless, that muscles should be engaged along with the core.

The pubococcygeus is the muscle that connects from the pubic bone to the coccyx (tailbone) and supports the pelvic organs like the bladder and reproductive system. The pelvis is talked about a lot in Pilates classes—initiating from it, tucking it, curling it, etc—so using that PC muscle will help to isolate the movement of the pelvis. You’ll feel a deeper core engagement since you’ll effectively be using the muscles that usually start movements. Engaging the PC muscle to send the pubic bone towards the ceiling before imprinting the spine and coming to a shoulder bridge is great example. It sounds a bit tedious and specific, but isn’t that kind of what Pilates is all about? Finding those tiny muscles that you’ve never felt before to dig deeper and get the best workout possible.

Doing kegel exercises will help you find these muscles and subsequently engage them in class. You’ll find some of the true benefits of Pilates in no time. “Bellybutton to spine” will have a whole new meaning, you’ll have more supported internal organs, and better sex. To spare me further embarrassment, here are some links to learn how to do kegel exercises.

For men 

For women

Welp, that was awkward, but it needed to be said! I guarantee you’ll think about it the next time you’re on the mat.

Wave Inspire-d

This past week was a bit pathetic run-wise. I had a more active week than normal with extra dance rehearsals and pilates self practice. I was extremely sore and busy, so I only fit in one run at the beginning of the week. It was so terrible that it wasn’t even worthy of its own blog post. My cramps started within a couple strides, and I just felt helpless against them. Once again, it was a late afternoon run. I know my cramping mostly stems from my lack of cardio endurance, but it always feel worse when I run at that time of day. There’s more in my stomach and on my mind, so it’s not a good fit for me. I ran 1.13 miles, and it was an unbelievable struggle.

On Saturday, I had my first experience at Jack Rabbit. Matt, Plank’s owner, treated me to a new pair of running shoes for my work on the blog but also as a kick in the pants to continue my running adventures. Positive reinforcement. I’ve been running in Reebok RealFlex sneakers simply because they’re the only sneakers I have. The whole reason I got them was for the lightweight, thin design, but I quickly learned how damaging they could be to my body in the long run (no pun intended.) They’re great gym and walking sneakers, but I realized that true running shoes were a whole different ball game when I tried on my first pair.

I tried on my “starter shoe” and took a quick jog on one of their three camera-equipped treadmills. Just as I could’ve predicted from the observations and corrections of my past ballet teachers, my ankles were rolling in. It was visible to the point where it looked like most of my outer foot wasn’t even making contact with the treadmill. I tried on three different pairs of sneakers, all with greater instep support and structure, and saw my alignment increase with each shoe. Finally the Mizuno Wave Inspire 8 was the perfect match. Here they are!

I also learned that it’s best to run in non-cotton socks. Since cotton absorbs sweat, the damp fabric can then cause blisters. My marathon-runner friend warned me about cotton for my running clothes, but I didn’t apply that same piece of advice to socks. Though I don’t think I’m running long enough to have chaffing feet, I did get a sleek pair of sweat-wicking socks to go with my new kicks. Thanks, Matt!

Yesterday morning I tried out the shoes. They felt so comfortable and supportive!  Finally, I fit in a morning run, so my cramping was manageable and my distance was a solid 1.5 miles. I felt a slight twinge in my right ankle from my new, healthier alignment, but it immediately went away once the sneakers were off. Something to get used to I suppose.

The best part of the run—I felt like a runner. My distance goals felt tangible, and the new shoes made me want to keep running. I’m looking forward to having a little more pavement time this week and seeing how far I get!

Share your tips with me here or on Facebook or Twitter!

Happy Running!
The Run Around Girl

Bellybutton, Meet Spine

“Pull the bellybutton down to the spine.” It’s a common phrase we Pilates instructors use during our classes and sessions. When this technical cue resonates, the student usually feels a deeper engagement in the abdominals. This action scoops the belly in, engaging all four layers of the abdominals, making it a deep muscle contraction. You of course can find this engagement outside of your Pilates classes, and you’d be encouraged to do so. The Hundred isn’t the only time your bellybutton and spine should be hanging out together.

The core, often called the abdominal wrap, does just that–wraps from the back of the body to the front to keep the internal organs tightly protected and the spine in healthy alignment. Weak abdominals can lead to lower back pain; the core isn’t strong enough to support the spine in its upright state. This can also be called Lower Crossed Syndrome, and it usually has many other physical ailments that come along with it.

Apply your Pilates class training to your other activities by pulling that bellybutton to the spine and keeping your body in alignment.

Sitting, standing or walking
You’ll automatically add length to your appearance not to mention look more attentive and confident in your actions. Don’t think about sucking in the stomach or puffing out the chest, but rather isolating the abs. Pull in from the lower abs all the way to the ribs and funnel the ribs down. Think about all the extra hours of the day you’ll be using your core! Your vertebrae with thank you for the extra help.

In your cross training
This concept can really apply to almost any other exercise activity. Running, spinning, yoga, etc. In any kinds of cardio, the abs pull in to keep the upper body straight and the spine long. In yoga, think about pulling the bellybutton to the spine as well. It’s an action that’s not frequently cued by yoga instructors, and you’ll be happy you know this tidbit in the long run. From a simple Cat/Cow stretch to a more advanced Full Wheel, going into any kind of back extension exercise needs to be done with the abs pulled in to support the spine rather than losing that engagement and subsequently crunching the vertebrae. Ouch!

And, of course, the bellybutton and the spine get a lot of quality time together in your Pilates classes. But you already knew that (and felt it, too)!