Archive | September, 2016

Spotlight on Core Fitness

26 Sep

We talk about it all the time in our Pilates classes, but what does “core fitness” really mean?  What does it do?  How can we improve it?   We’ll answer those questions and more in this week’s Spotlight on Core Fitness!

First of all, the basics:  What is the core?   

Your core is a complex series of muscles, extending far beyond your abs, including everything besides your arms and legs. It is incorporated in almost every movement of the human body.  The core is actually made up of three sheaths of muscles: The upper abs, the side muscles, which are called the obliques, and then this very deep layer of muscle. Those deep muscles are the ones that do all the good stuff, like support your spine and act as a natural corset—so when you work them not only do you get a flatter stomach but a tighter stomach.

core-muscles-small

Secondly:  What does the core actually do?

The role of the core is to stabilize the spine.  Your core most often acts as a stabilizer and force transfer center rather than a prime mover.  This group of muscles is where much of the body’s strength comes from; you use it to kick a ball, lift a heavy box, and even stand up straight.

Third:  Why is that important?

Research has shown that individuals with higher core stability have a lower risk of injury.  Researchers continue to study the various ways core strength improves health and well-being.  A few of the proven benefits of having a strong center include:  alleviating back pain, improving posture, improving athletic performance, improving balance, and perhaps the most important of all, 

  • Safer Everyday Movement: Daily tasks—such as maintaining balance on an icy sidewalk, carrying groceries, hoisting children and walking up a steep flight of stairs—are easier and less likely to result in an injury when you core is strong. Not only do you have better control of your muscles, but you can more easily find your center if you’re caught off-balance. In addition, being able to rely on a strong core will make it less likely that you’ll overtax other muscles.

I noticed when I started doing Pilates, which includes a lot of core engagement, that it got easier to snowboard, surf and do complicated yoga poses.  It also has the added benefit of making you look thinner.  Those core muscles are connected to your legs, to the way you stand, squat, sit. It’s not just about the abdominal muscles, but also training your back, your glutes, and the entire area that connects to your spinal cord and helps your body support your spine, so that the burden of supporting your body weight isn’t just placed on your bones.

Lastly:  How do I work it?

If people want to really improve their core strength, introducing instability into workouts they’re already doing (for example:  standing on a bosu, using a fitness ball or a foam roller) and Pilates are both really great ways.  If you’re looking for one exercise that does get results in your core, definitely Pilates. By doing exercises that are a mix of Pilates and yoga — like doing superman or Hundreds – you’re forcing the muscles to work together, instead of just isolating a specific muscle like you do in strength training.  Specific core exercises including plank and side plank, bicycle crunches, bridge, and back extensions on a fitness ball are all amazing ways to get your core into shape!

See you at the Studio!

~Dayna
PX Studio

 

REFERENCE(S) 
American Council on Exercise
Mayo Clinic
Huffington Post
Breaking Muscle.com
Health.com

 

 

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Fitness Myths and Surprising Facts!

19 Sep

fitness101

Every day we get more and more information on health trends, new exercises, and fitness advice – but how do you know what’s accurate and what’s not?   Never fear, new scientific research is overturning some of our long-held beliefs about the best ways to become fit and maintain that fitness.   Below are just a few of the many debunked myths as well as some “fit facts” that might surprise you!

Myth: Crunches are the key to flat abs

TRUTH: They may be one of the most iconic abdominal exercises, but doing crunches is not the best way to slim your midsection. And while crunches do tone a small portion of your abs, moves involving your distal trunk—which includes your shoulders and butt—more effectively engage your entire core. So you’ll shrink your waist far more dramatically by doing planks and bridge, but if you are doing crunches, make sure to use proper form.

Myth: The more you sweat, the more you burn.

TRUTH: Especially drenched after your regular afternoon run? That doesn’t mean you necessarily burned any more calories than usual (sorry!). Sweat is a biological response that cools your skin and regulates internal body temperature.  It’s just as likely to be the result of an warm studio, the weather, or your personal physiology as it is due to an intense fitness session.

Myth: No Pain, No Gain

TRUTH:  Of all the fitness rumors ever to have surfaced, experts agree that the “no pain-no gain” holds the most potential for harm. While you should expect to have some degree of soreness a day or two after working out that’s very different from feeling pain while you are working out.  As for “working through the pain,” experts don’t advise it. They say that if it hurts, stop, rest, and see if the pain goes away.

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FIT FACT: Skipping sleep CAN cause weight gain!

Women in an American Journal of Epidemiology study who slept less than seven hours were more likely to gain weight; other research has shown that even partial sleep deprivation ups production of the hormone “ghrelin”, which triggers hunger, and subsequently, over-eating.

FIT FACT: Lifting weights WON’T bulk you up!

Even if you’re using heavy dumbbells, you’re not going to turn into a female bodybuilder. Women typically have less muscle tissue and produce lower levels of testosterone than men, meaning we’re less physiologically prone to becoming brawny.

FIT FACT: Exercise Lets You Eat MORE!

Pound for pound, muscle burns more calories at rest than body fat. So the more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate. And, of course, you also burn calories while you’re actually exercising.  This means that “cheating” with a cookie once in a while isn’t going to take you back 10 steps. Can you eat anything at any time? No.  But you can afford to enjoy some of the things you really like when you exercise regularly. You can better get away with those things in moderation than you can when you’re not working out.  Of course, a healthy balanced diet is always recommended in conjunction with your fitness routine.

Remember:  The only bad workout  is the one you DIDN’T do.  

~Dayna
PX Studio

 

Article Sources
WebMD (www.webmd.com)
Health (www.health.com)

 

Why Pilates? WHY NOT!?

12 Sep

“I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They’d be happier.” — Joseph Hubertus Pilates, in 1965, age 86.

Pilates can make a huge difference in your health without taking a toll on your body.  In Pilates, the QUALITY of movement is valued over quantity of repetitions. Proper breathing is essential, and helps you execute movements with maximum power and efficiency.  In turn,  learning how to breathe properly can reduce stress!

Pilates is gentle, but it’s also challenging.  Many of the exercises are performed in reclining or sitting positions, and most are low impact and partially weight bearing. Pilates is so safe, it is used in physical therapy facilities to rehabilitate injuries.  It is also an extremely flexible exercise system. Modifications to the exercises allow for a range of difficulty from beginning to advanced, so you get the workout that best suits you NOW, and you can increase the intensity as your body conditioning improves.

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!  Check out the rest of these tremendous Pilates benefits:

  • Amazing Abs |  Develop a strong core – flat abdominals and a strong back:  Pilates exercises develop a strong “core,” or center of the body. The core consists of the deep abdominal muscles along with the muscles closest to the spine. Control of the core is achieved by integrating the trunk, pelvis and shoulder girdle.
  • Long and Lean | Gain long, lean muscles and flexibility:  More conventional or traditional workouts are weight bearing and tend to build short, bulky muscles – the type most prone to injury. Pilates elongates and strengthens, improving muscle elasticity and joint mobility. A body with balanced strength and flexibility is less likely to be injured.
  • Whole Body Conditioning | Create an evenly conditioned body:  Pilates conditions the whole body, even the ankles and feet. No muscle group is over trained or under trained. Your entire musculature is evenly balanced and conditioned, helping you enjoy daily activities and sports with greater ease, better performance and less chance of injury.
  • Total Body Awareness | Train your mind and build symmetry and coordination in the body:  By emphasizing proper breathing, correct spinal and pelvic alignment, and concentration on smooth, flowing movement, you become acutely in tune with your body. You actually learn how to control its movement.

Remember:  The best project you’ll ever work on is YOU!  SEE YOU AT THE STUDIO!

~Dayna
PX Studio

Article Sources
WebMD (www.webmd.com)
Balanced Body (www.pilates.com)

 

 

 

 

Black Bean Salad w/ Chipotle-Honey Vinaigrette

5 Sep

Happy Labor Day!  It’s time to say goodbye to the summer and what better way to do it than with a Labor Day party!  Whether you’re hosting or simply attending, this crowd-pleasing, quick and easy recipe that everyone loves, will make your summer send-off one to remember!

Black Bean & Corn Salad with Chipotle-Honey Vinaigrette
Black-Bean-Corn-Salad-with-Chipotle-Honey-Vinaigrette

Ingredients

For the Salad

  • 2 ears fresh corn
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can black beans
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh chopped cilantro (plus a bit more for garnish, if desired)
  • 1 avocado

For the Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, from 1-2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 canned chipotle peppers (2 peppers, not 2 cans)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the corn, cover, and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the corn from the water and let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, place the chopped red onions in a small bowl and cover with water. Let sit about ten minutes, then drain completely in a sieve and set aside.
  3. Place the beans in a sieve; run under cold water to rinse well. Let drain completely and set aside.
  4. Holding the cooled corn upright in a large bowl, cut the kernels off the cob in strips. Add the beans, red onion, red bell pepper and cilantro.
  5. Make the dressing by combining all of the ingredients in a blender or mini food processor; process until smooth.
  6. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or, preferably, overnight.
  7. Right before serving, slice the avocado in half. Remove the pit; using a butter knife, cut a grid in each half. Holding the avocado halves over the salad, use a spoon to scoop out the diced flesh. Toss the salad gently, then taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (I usually add a squeeze of fresh lime to freshen it up). Garnish with a bit of fresh chopped cilantro if desired. Serve cold.  Serves 6 (as a side dish)

Have a safe, healthy, and happy holiday!  🙂

~Dayna
PX Studio