What is Valentine’s Day, anyway….?

What is Valentine's Day, anyway....?

Along with a bout of walking pneumonia, Valentine’s Day came upon me like a sucker punch. I woke up in the morning, chest heavy, discouraged at the thought of dragging myself through a day of overt PDA and many a gentleman scurrying past me on the streets, hands filled with last minute purchases of flowers and red street bought stuffed animals. (SEE ABOVE!)
On the subway, on my way to work, I got to thinking: what is this day really about?
The origins of St. Valentine are unclear but the most common story tells the tale of a prisoner who fell in love with his jailor’s daughter. Upon the day of his death, he wrote to her expressing his love and signed it “From your Valentine.” Not the most romantic of origins (and certainly no dinner reservations involved either!!!)
In fact, a lot couples I’ve spoken to had mostly negative comments about the pressure that day encourages for forced romance and appreciation….shouldn’t every day be the perfect one to bring someone flowers? Make them feel like they hold a special place in our hearts (be it with chocolate or otherwise!!!)
If the origins of the day are about making someone else feel loved, then I was completely missing the point!!!
For the rest of the day, I asked everyone I ran into if they could tell me the person they feel loved by most. I then asked them to focus on that person for the next minute. It’s no big surprise that as they sat in front of me, imaging that person, everyone smiled. And I thought: now THAT is the spirit of Valentine’s Day.
The best part of that exercise is that you don’t have to wait till February 14th to remember that love that surrounds you.
And even better: you can buy yourself chocolate, flowers and an ugly teddy bear if you really want to.
YOU. ARE. LOVED.

Making Friends with the Foam Roller

Making Friends with the Foam Roller

I don’t know about you, but if you’re anything like me, you rely on Pilates to stretch out the tension you’ve been building in certain places for days (read: months, years!!!) My IT bands are constantly begging me for more attention, which I dutifully ignore. For others, it can commonly be your butt, quads, hamstrings, just about anywhere.
Recently, I was introduced to the extremely useful foam roller. I had used it in class but I had never really explored its other possibilities. Upon further research I found out that foam rollers are a very effective way of not only massaging those sore parts of your body but stretching them as well AND is EQUALLY effective both BEFORE and AFTER your workout! It is also an excellent tool for injury rehabilitation. Below I have outlined a couple of my favorites. Give them a try before or after class and you should feel a difference in your next workout!

For IT bands (especially you runners!)

Lie on your side with your hip on top of the foam roller and pointed straight up to the ceiling. Place your forearm on the ground on the same side to support you and your other arm on that mat in front of you. Drape your top leg forward onto the ground and use it to propel you forwards and back. MAKE SURE THAT YOUR BOTTOM LEG ALWAYS STAYS RELAXED. (This will be difficult. Especially if you carry a lot of tension in that area and it’s tender.) Roll slowly backwards and forwards several times from hip down to the TOP of the knee and back again. If there is a spot that is particularly painful, hold there and wait for the ache to subside somewhat then continue on. Then switch sides.

For Butts (Glutts. Especially for those with sciatic pain.)

Sit on top of the foam roller with both cheeks. Cross one leg over the other brining the top leg’s ankle up to rest on the opposite knee. Lean over to the side of the crossed over leg. Rotate IN the knee of the leg which is planted. Place one arm behind you for support and roll back and forth. You can also roll side to side careful to hit a different part of the muscle. Then switch sides. If there is a tender spot, be sure to hold there, relax and breathe for a moment before moving on.

The key to both these exercises is to RELAX into the motion. It may feel more tender but is the only way for the exercise to be truly effective.

Here’s to a stronger, longer, tension free YOU!!!

UP PLANK AND PERSONAL

UP PLANK AND PERSONAL

with Carolyn Coombs
(Carolyn Coombs is an instructor at Plank Pilates)

Top 5 things we should know about you?

1. I have a bachelor’s in business administration
I came to NYC ten years ago to go to Parsons. After graduation I worked in environmental engineering and luxury hardware before I decided I had had enough. That’s when I found Pilates. Or perhaps, Pilates found me.

2. I got married in September 2013
I met my husband, Matt, when we were 14 in Baltimore and reconnected when he moved up to NYC. As teenagers we worked at a café together: he was the sandwich boy and I, the cashier. It was already a match made in heaven.

3. The love of my life is actually my dog, Xavi
He is named after Xavi Hernandez who plays soccer for Barcelona. We got him when we lived in Atlanta from the SPCA. He is definitely a mutt but the wisest being we know. That dog has seen some things…

4. I’m Chilean
I was adopted from Chile when I was three months old. I’ve been back to Chile twice since. I’m very proud of my heritage (and it doesn’t hurt that I look tanned all the time.)

5. I am obsessed with TOP 40 pop music
But in secret, of course. I sing my lungs out but only when no one is around. I really love Pitbull…LOVE HIM, Ke$ha and Miley Cyrus. I would normally turn my nose up at them but their music has infiltrated my life. I blame it on working at Lululemon. They had a party play list and I got hooked on listening to these people.

How long have you been practicing and/or teaching Pilates?
I have been practicing Pilates since 2009 (and that was just at the gym and a couple of studios.) In 2010, I found a classical studio in Atlanta and became obsessed with the practice. That was when I decided to become an instructor.

What brought you to Pilates?
I have always loved working out but it’s very easy for me to get bored. I need to mentally engage and, in Pilates, it’s a body/mind connection. I also discovered muscles I never knew I had before!!! I no longer have to use my inhaler when I run and really, all aspects of my life have changed for the better.

Top 5 exercises to do between classes?
I always to the series of five at home.

1. To begin, lie flat on your back. Curl the head, neck and shoulders up. Bring the right knee into your chest. Place both of your hands on your right leg. The left leg goes out to 45 degrees. Pull in the right leg and then switch legs and move hands over to the other leg. Repeat five times.

2. Stay lifted. Both knees into the chest. Bring right hand onto right ankle, left onto left, legs go out to a high forty-five, arms go back to the ears. Keep the shoulder blades lifted off the mat and bring everything back in. Repeat five times.

3. Staying lifted, right leg goes straight to the ceiling, both hands on the calf, left leg out to forty-five. Hold that right leg in, then scissor legs back and forth five times.

4. Stay lifted. Hands behind the head (or under the tail bone) Legs are straight up to 90, heels together, toes apart, lower the legs and then lift them back up. Make sure you end with the toes over the navel. Repeat five times.

5. STAY LIFTED!!! Hands behind the head, knees into chest. Twist the left elbow to the right knee, extend the left leg out. Lift up and over and twist to the other side, extending the right leg out and left elbow to that right knee. Repeat five times.

What do you always have in your refrigerator?
Green apples. Lemons. Kale. Broccoli and green juice. And cheese. I ALWAYS have cheese.

What’s Your Guilty Pleasure?
PIZZA. PIZZA. PIZZA. And all original programming on Bravo. Just give me pizza and Bravo all day and I would be the happiest person in the world.

Be sure to check out Carolyn’s classes on Sunday at 9, 10 and 11 am, Tuesdays 12 and 1 pm.!! Carolyn uses her classical background to give you an unforgettable full body workout. She is also available for private sessions.

THE PLANK PROFILES

THE PLANK PROFILES

with Kelley Nugent

Top five things people should know about you?

1. I’m really sarcastic.
People don’t get my humor sometimes. I was actually voted most sarcastic in my high school’s “most likely” list. My family is all that way so they get it, but when I’m out meeting new people, I think it can maybe come across as a little rude. I try to pay attention to it, of course. But my friends get it, and love that about me.

2. I’m a huge foodie.
I LOVE FOOD. There’s nothing I won’t eat, and I will always try different things. I’m constantly looking for new places to go in NYC. My favorite restaurant in the world is in San Francisco: it’s called Gary Danko. The atmosphere’s great and you can spend four hours experiencing the food. I think food should not just be about nourishment but about a shared adventure. And the more out of my comfort zone, the better.

3. I suffer from anxiety.
I’m a worrywart: anything from school to friends to family to what’s gonna happen the next day….I worry about everything!!! It’s hard because it can cause insomnia and I am always sharing my worries with my friends. They are the opposite of me (which is a helpful balance.) I work out every day and try and focus my energy on something positive and that tends to, at least, temporarily alleviate the stress.

4. I love traveling.
I’m a world traveler. My parents have always made seeing new things a huge priority. I lived in Paris for a month and also Hawaii. It was incredible to be somewhere totally different and experience new culture, different food and the lifestyle that is so different in both those places. I’ve traveled to Italy, Mexico, Venezuela, all the Virgin islands, a lot of tropical destinations. My family loves the warm weather. Next on my travel wish list: FIJI.

5. I’m very outgoing
I love meeting new people. I never worry about going to different places because I always connect to someone. New York is fantastic for that: you just never know whom you’re going to meet at any given moment.

What brought you to Pilates?
I’ve always been a big cardio person, but I really wanted to be able to sculpt my body. I’m an extremely body conscious person. I think about the way my arms look, etc. and want to be able to focus on parts of myself, specifically. Pilates is also relaxing and peaceful and best of all, it’s challenging.

Why Plank Pilates?
Before going to Plank, I went to a bunch of other places. I had heard great reviews about Plank so I checked it out. The staff at Plank was super welcoming and I felt immediately at home. I mostly go to Sky’s classes and think she’s amazing. Also, the intimate atmosphere is a unique aspect I really enjoy.

Top Tips for staying slim
I try to eat mostly protein and vegetables. I stay away from white flour products and find it really helps. Whole foods are important, nothing processed. I try not to eat anything where I can’t pronounce the words on the box!!!! I walk a lot…it burns extra calories and is fun in a city like NYC, so why not? I always eat breakfast: it jump starts your metabolism and makes me feel like I have energy to do more things with my day. I find that people who skip that meal tend to binge on unhealthy things later on. I used to eat a huge meal for dinner and wake up feeling like a lump in my bed. Now, I eat slightly less at dinner and in the morning, enjoy being hungry and filling up on healthy morning foods I love.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
I LOVE ICE CREAM. I just love it!!! Any flavor…soft serve is the best. Nothing can top a good ice cream. I have a sweet tooth, which is my downfall, but I treat myself to a few servings a week because I deserve it. I work out hard and am very careful about everything else I eat, so why not indulge in a little something naughty.

Kelley has been a member at Plank Pilates since October 2013.

Top 5 PLANK Resolutions (for 2014)

Top 5 PLANK Resolutions (for 2014)

Hi. I’d like to introduce myself. I’m the girl behind this blog, the woman on the next mat to yours in class, the person who struggles with her body image, life in NYC and, of course, the never ending pursuit of happiness. My name is CMP and I’m a Plank Pilates addict.
In the spirit of the New Year, I’m going to share my health and wellness resolutions for 2014 and, once monthly, discuss my revelations and discoveries.
Happy New Year to you and let’s rock this 2014….hard.

#1. COMMIT TO THREE PLANK CLASSES A WEEK
Our NYC lives are a constant race and the winter months leave us feeling sun deprived and beat. Some weeks it’s hard to motivate to leave from beneath our comforters much less get to class. But here’s the rub: the less we stretch and work our muscles, the worse we feel (both mentally and physically.) Add winter carbo loading and the destruction of our self esteem is complete. I vow to make sure that I can look back on these dark winter weeks and know one thing for certain: I came to class three times/week, fought the winter blues battle and WON.

#2. TAKE AN HONEST LOOK AT MY FOOD/BEVERAGE CONSUMPTION
What? Snacking at 11:30 pm? I would NEVER do that. Do these words sound familiar to you? Personally, I don’t know if there’s any great harm in doing that (depending on what you’re inhaling, of course.) But I have a feeling most of us eat and drink without even realizing what we are actually putting in our bodies. Food should be enjoyed. But honesty about how much we are indulging ourselves is KEY to not getting too carried away. If you’re disciplined, keep tabs. If you’re not (like me), write down your intake at the end of each day so you can see it in front of you. (I treated myself to a cute food/drink journal to sweeten the deal.) I vow to keep a daily tally my consumption.

#3. UP. MY. CARDIO.
So I went snowshoeing in Canada on New Year’s day. An amazing and super fun way to ring in 2014. For the first 20 minutes I was hoofing it up and down the hills like a full fledged Olympian, but then we started climbing the next hill. Half way up, red cheeked and unzipped, I needed to take a break. My breath was short, my heart pounding and I thought to myself (as children flew by me): it’s not enough to be strong muscularly. I need to make sure to stay on top of my cardio vascular health. In the summer months it’s easier, but the winter is no time to let it go. I vow to do at least 20 minutes of cardio, three times a week.

#4. ONCE A WEEK GUILT FREE TREATS
Somehow we’ve come to believe that self improvement has to feel hard or be a punishment in order to be effective. But rewards are essential. Feeling great after a week of working out and eating right is its own reward, of course. But I vow to spoil myself once a week is a congratulatory treat for my hard work and discipline. It can be anything: a cheap mani/pedi, a massage, even a piece of cake if I really want it. The point is to be proud and push myself towards another week of equal success!

#5. LOVE THE SKIN I’M IN.
I’m someone who’s struggled with her weight for her entire life. My body type could be described as “looks at cake. Gains 10 pounds. Immediately.” It’s been a fight to keep from getting discouraged by how hard I have to work (and how carefully I have to eat) in order to keep my weight in check. Good news: I’m the slimmest ever. Bad news: I still have a small way to go till I’m at my ultimate goal. But regardless, this year I’m going to look at that girl in her birthday suit and be grateful for continued progress (and give her a big smile back in that mirror of mine.) This year I vow to fall in love with my body.

So, here’s to 2014 everyone. I look forward to sharing my discoveries with you and may this year simply….kick ass.
I’m already feeling pretty good about it.

UP PLANK AND PERSONAL

UP PLANK AND PERSONAL

with Sky Spallone
(Sky is an instructor at Plank Pilates)

Top five things we should know about you:
I love bluegrass. The Greyfox festival is one of the favorite things in the world. It’s heaven on earth: it’s in a field and everyone is wonderful. There’s music, games and camping. Bluegrass music is connected to so many happy memories of great times…and being free.

I did beauty pageants for sixteen years. I had to travel all over the country to compete, especially the south. It was pretty fun. I was first runner up for Miss Teen New York, twice. I learned a lot of things while competing: sportsmanship, social grace, and most importantly: always to be honest with yourself. Don’t try to fit yourself into someone else’s box: be comfortable and confident with the person you are, instead of who you think someone else wants you to be. Take the time to get to know yourself.

The outdoors is amazing….especially the smell of grass. Sometimes I just want to smash my face into the ground! I am a huge fan of greens like kale and sprouts. Camping, hiking and swimming are just a few of the great things to do. And being barefoot is the best!

I have a bit of hippy in my blood. I often dream about how great it would be to live in a self-sufficient community, being off the grid for a bit. It would be amazing to know where my food is coming from and be with my friends and family all the time, without having to travel by car to see them.

Bike riding rocks. I love the feeling of being on a quiet road with the wind in your hair (and even closing your eyes…obviously not in NYC!) I am very against cars so public transport in the city is very handy. The fluorescent lighting on the subway is not my favorite, though.

How long have you been practicing and/or teaching Pilates?
I have been practicing for four years and teaching for slightly less. I was certified at Core Pilates NYC and have specialized in pre natal and advanced mat.

What brought you to Pilates?
I was a gym fanatic for a while but I never really liked it. My mind would go crazy and I found it boring. Someone suggested I try Pilates and, because I had to focus on the movement so specifically, I was finally able to lose myself in the activity and get out of my head. My love for Pilates continues and grows all the time. Pilates is always a challenge no matter what level you’re at. You’re always discovering different parts of your body: Pilates “aha” moments. My first big moment was noticing my core engage fully for the first time when I was standing up during a class. It blew my mind.

Top 5 exercises to do between classes?
Planks.
They work the whole body. Start standing in Pilates stance (heels together, toes apart). Take an inhale and exhale as you roll down through one vertebra at a time. Touch your hands to the ground and walk yourself to a plank position: hands right under the shoulders, heels right over the toes. Hold this position for ten breaths and repeat the series three times.

Roll ups.
Lie down on your back. Bring your arms up towards the ceiling then continue rolling through each vertebra aiming beyond the toes. Then slowly reverse the exercise. Repeat three to five times.

Rolling like a ball.
Take a seat right behind your sitz bones. Pull your heels together, toes apart as close to your butt as possible. Pull your abs in and hover your heels off the mat. Hold firmly onto outside of the ankles. Take an inhale rock back to the tips of the shoulder blades and exhale rock back up and hover. Repeat three to five times.

Shoulder bridge.
Lie on your back on the mat. Bend knees, feet flat. Bring your heels in as close to your butt as you can, arms long by your sides. Take an inhale, exhale lift your hips up towards the ceiling. Extend your right leg out keeping your knees glued together. Point the toe bringing the leg towards the ceiling, flex the foot and come back knee-to-knee. Repeat twice on that leg and then switch sides. Repeat the whole series three times.

Lower/Lift.
Hands on top of one another behind the head. Curl your head, neck and shoulders up to the tip of the shoulder blades. Bend the knees into the chest then extend them straight up to the ceiling. Heels together, toes apart. Inhale: lower legs to a high diagonal. Exhale and use the abs to lift the legs back to ninety degrees. Repeat six times.

What do you always have in your refrigerator?
Eggs, kale, broccoli, and some kind of bean: usually black, pinto or chickpea. Lemons, avocadoes. I pretty much always have lentil soup in my fridge. It’s my lifeblood, my staple. Ezekiel bread. Apples. I always have apples. I wish I always had watermelon as well but it’s not worth eating if it’s not in season.

What’s Your Guilty Pleasure?
I have a lot. But noodles are definitely one of them. I love to carbo load even though I know I shouldn’t!!!!

Be sure to check out Sky’s classes on Wednesdays 7 am-2 pm and Thursdays 7-10 am. She’s a quirky little ball of fire (that will make your abs burn!!!!)
Sky is also available for private sessions.

HOLIDAY TURKEY BUSTER #3 (butt)

In the last of our Turkey Busters, we present to you the butt workout. It is the final piece in our holiday home workout series.
Hope you’ve enjoyed it and here’s to a planktastic new year in 2014….

Lie on your right side. Legs one on top of the other making a straight line. Lift and send both legs to a 45-degree angle. Place back down on the ground. Lift top leg up at hip height, flex both feet (especially the bottom leg) and make circles the size of a PLUM. FIVE CIRCLES FORWARD. FIVE CIRCLES BACKWARD. Pause. Lengthen out from the hip trying to get that top leg longer. Without putting the top leg down, make circles the size of a GRAPEFRUIT. Same amount of repetitions. Don’t forget to lengthen. Still without putting the top leg down, make circles the size of a BEACH BALL. Same amount of repetitions. Hang in there. Lengthen. AND STILL without putting the top leg down, make circles the size of a HOOLA HOOP. Top leg comes back down to rest on top of the bottom. Switch sides and repeat.