life

Prenatal Pilates Guidelines

Many of my friends are getting pregnant this year and I think Pilates is a great form of exercise to stay strong during pregnancy. Not only am I a Pilates instructor with advanced training in prenatal exercise, but I have also done pilates through my pregnancy! Here are my guidelines for doing Prenatal Pilates and what modifications you should make if you are pregnant.
DSC00220
The first recommendation I would make is to talk to your doctor and ask him/her what you can and cannot do. Different doctors have different recommendations. your doctor will also know your specific situation and whether or not there are any contraindications you should be aware of.
The second thing I would do would be to read through the ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) guidelines here: http://www.acog.org/-/media/For-Patients/faq119.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20141230T1538388118
This is pretty much the gold standard, which most doctors follow. The general guidelines are as follows:“The changes in your body can make certain positions and activities risky for you and your baby. While exercising, try to avoid activities that call for jumping, jarring motions, or quick changes in direction that may strain your joints and cause injury.

There are some risks from becoming overheated during pregnancy. This may cause loss of fluids and lead to dehydration and problems during pregnancy.

When you exercise, follow these general guidelines for a safe and healthy exercise program:

  • After the first trimester of pregnancy, avoid doing any exercises on your back.
  • If it has been some time since you have exercised, start slowly. Begin with as little as 5 minutes of exercise a day and add 5 minutes each week until you can stay active for 30 minutes a day.
  • Avoid brisk exercise in hot, humid weather or when you have a fever.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that will help you to remain cool.
  • Wear a bra that fits well and gives lots of support to help protect your breasts.
  • Drink plenty of water to help keep you from overheating and dehydrating.
  • Make sure you consume the daily extra calories you need during pregnancy.”
Finally, in my personal experience, for back lying exercises after the 2nd trimester use towels or pillows to prop you up. This is to avoid having your uterus compress the vena cava, which provides blood to your baby. You can also buy a support pillow  like this one to help prop you up comfortably. Lying on yours stomach will also be uncomfortable, so you can kneel angling your chest down toward the floor instead.
For any ab work you will want to make sure you are pulling your abs in, you should not see a ridge on your belly. If you are not engaging your core properly, this can result in a separation of the ab muscles called rectus diastasis. A good resource to avoid this is the Lose Your Mummy Tummy book by Julie Tupler, creator of the Tupler Technique. This is also how you should be using your core in pilates. Check out my post on The Tupler Technique here. You may want to stop doing crunches or other exercises that work your rectus abdominus to help prevent this.
Aditionally, during pregnancy your body releases a hormone called “relaxin” which softens your connective tissue creating more flexibility and less stability in your joints. This means during classes, you will want to focus on controlling your movement and moving more slowly to stabilize and avoid injury.
Lastly, I think it is important to mention that pregnancy is an especially important time to listen to your body: Take it easier when you feel like you need to, change the position or ask for a modification if something feels uncomfortable.
Good Luck and CONGRATULATIONS!!
Advertisements

Gift Ideas for Fit Chicks

The Holidays are quickly approaching and if you haven’t finished shopping yet, here are some great gift ideas for fit girls (or guys) in your life.

1. Shaker – Bonus points if you throw in their favorite protein powder or pre-workout ($5-$10)

 

2. Yoga Mat – Even if she doesn’t do Yoga, an exercise mat can be used for stretching, abs and tons of other things. ($8-$40)

3. Workout Gloves – No girl wants alligator hands. Protect your fit princess’s paws with a new pair of workout gloves. Chances are, even if she already has a pair they are smelly and gross and need an upgrade.($15-$40)

4. Arm Band – If your fit girl NEEDS music to get through her workout, she definitely NEEDS a good way to transport it. An arm band is a great gift because even if she already has one, just like workout gloves, arm bands tend to get sweaty and gross quickly so a new one is always welcomed! ($10-$40)

5. Beats By Dre – These headphones are “life-changingly” good. I’ve been crushing on this pair with no cords to get tangled up while you work out. ($79-$379)

6. Fancy Foam Roller – What girl doesn’t need a good massage? Fancy foam rollers with pressure points for myofascial release act like a deep tissue massage. Check out this one, which you can customize with a picture or writing. ($75)

7. Jacket From LuluLemon- I love Lululemon but I especially love their jackets. Not only are they super warm and practical, but they also seem to be universally flattering. I have a couple, but they change each season and I have been eyeing this one. ($198)

Fluff Off Jacket

8. Gift Certificate to Favorite Fitness Place- Does your girl have a passion for a particular pilates place or is she a committed cross fit community member? A gift certificate to her favorite fitness studio is sure to be a hit.

9. Resistance Bands- Resistance bands are my favorite “portable torture devices.” They are great for a quick workout at home or while travelling. ($7-$20)

10. Fitness Tracker- Fitness trackers are popping up like crazy lately. You can check out my review of the FitBit, which I loved or try one of the other devices out there. These are great for your fit check who is also into technology! ($40-$99)

Any other suggestions? What do you want for Christmas?

Staying Creative in Your Workouts

I like to think of myself as a creative person. Back before I had my son I loved drawing and painting. Now, however, since there is little time for my creative juices to flow in traditional ways I have to find other outlets. My fitness classes and programs have become that outlet.

Even if you don’t consider yourself creative there is value in being creative with your workout. For one thing, there is evidence that your body will “learn” how to use as little energy as possible when doing a familiar routine. Thus, for maximal calorie burn and to force your body to further adapt and change you need to change what you are doing. In addition, I really believe that a well rounded exercise program is the best way to have life-long health and well being. For example, if you only lift weights in a certain way, some smaller muscle groups may be neglected causing you to be weaker in some areas, which may lead to injury. You will also sacrifice flexibility and cardio health. In my opinion the optimal fitness program is one that changes with your body and incorporates strength, flexibility and cardiovascular training.

In this way I sort of look at my workouts and the classes I teach as a puzzle. Each experience is new and exciting to me with something else to be learned or gained.

So how can you incorporate creativity into your workouts? Here are my top 5 tips:

1. Take other people’s fitness classes- Even if it is not your thing you may learn something new. It’s especially good to take classes focused on something you don’t usually do. If you usually lift weights try a zumba or a spinning class. If you are all about cardio, try body pump or yoga. I have learned a lot over the years from working with different instructors. Sometimes just hearing cues in a different way can be really enlightening.

2. Go Beyond the Movement- In pilates we have 6 main principles: centering, concentration, coordination, breathing, precision and smooth and flowing movement. Sometimes, without even changing the exercises in a class I can create an entirely different experience just by focusing on different principles. You can do the same thing in whatever type of exercise you do or teach. Think of a goal or a purpose for your workout and try to achieve it.

3. Listen to Your Body- Some of the best workouts I have had are when I am listening to my body and just doing the things that feel right. For example, if it’s not a leg day and I feel like doing squats, I will throw some in. If I have a lot of energy one day I might do plyometrics between sets, if I feel like I need to take it back a notch, I might lift lighter weights really focusing on form.

4. Imagery- Did you know that the most effective cues are external. For example in squatting “drive your heels through the floor” is more effective than “flex your thighs.” I believe that this is imagery at work. By using imagery you can get clients (and yourself) to engage more muscle groups with fewer words. You can also create a new experience in the exercise by focusing on different images, thereby challenging your body in a new way. Imagery forces your mind to be engaged in the movement, which also helps you recruit more neuro-muscular connections.

5. Be a Life-long Learner- You tube makes this super easy! If you are curious about something all you have to do is plug it into youtube and BAM you have hundreds of video explanations at your finger tips. That said, don’t believe everything you see on the internet. Journal articles, books and workshops with experts are great too. One of my favorite fitness podcasts that discusses research articles  can be found here. The point is to make sure that you are constantly learning and not stagnating. Push yourself out of your comfort zone occasionally.

Do you consider yourself to be creative? What are some ways you bring your creativity into your workouts?

Tips to Resist Halloween Candy

You know the scariest thing about Halloween? The average trick-or-treater consumes 3 cups of sugar and up to 7000 calories on Halloween night! It’s hard, as adults waiting around with big bowls of candy, to resist nibbling on a Reese’s cup here and a KitKat there. And, even worse, if you don’t get many trick-or-treaters you may fall victim to the left over candy for weeks to come. Now that’s spooky!

But, don’t fear because I have a few tricks up my sleeve for helping you resist the candy temptation and keep your health and fitness goals on track.

1. Buy candy you don’t like- Don’t want to be tempted? Don’t buy candy you like. If you are a sucker for chocolate but hate hard candy,  buy jolly ranchers. Hard candy also tends to have fewer calories and takes a longer to consume– which leads to less consumption over all. If you can’t stand chocolate, load up on Hershey’s bars. That way it won’t be hard to resist your treats.

2. Discard or Donate candy after the last trick-or-treater: I know, I know “you don’t want to waste the candy” but seriously, all those calories will be wasted in your body anyway. If you really can’t bring yourself to throw it away and/or if you are feeling philanthropic donate your candy to troops over seas. If you have kids of trick or treating age you can have them donate their candy as well.

3. Make a deal with yourself- I’m all about moderation and sometimes allowing yourself to have just one or two pieces of candy can help you resist mindlessly eating the left overs. After all, one fun size candy bar is not going to derail your goals and the fact that you are not completely denying yourself may make it easier for you to stay on track. However, limit yourself to one or two small pieces of your FAVORITE candy and then keep your hand out of the candy bowl for the rest of the night. If you know one candy is likely to lead to a binge of more, it may be better to skip this tip

4. Get some exercise in- Whether you go to the gym or spend time running or walking around your neighborhood, burning a few extra calories will help you set the tone of your day as a healthy one. Not to mention that vigorous exercise has been shown to suppress appetite.

5. Chew gum- Chewing gum is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth with few calories. Also chances are, if you have gum in your mouth you will be less likely to cram other Halloween goodies in it!

Hope you like these tips have a safe, happy and healthy Halloween!

6 Healthy Japanese Foods You Must Try

Back in college I spent about a year in Japan. To me, one of the most intriguing parts about Japan is the food. The Japanese have been renowned world wide for their diet which supports not only a healthy weight, but a long healthy life.

Here is my list of nutritious Japanese foods that you can use to add variety to your diet while still retaining flavor and health. These foods (in conjuction with healthy eating and exercise) will help you lose weight and gain overall health!

1. Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin)- If you are a sucker for everything pumpkin in the fall, you have got to try kabocha! Kabocha is denser than butternut squash and has a very sweet, almost cake-like flavor and texture. A one cup serving of Kabocha has only 40 calories and 70% of your daily value of vitamin A. I like to roast 1-2 Kabocha at the beginning of the week for my meal prep and eat a serving as my source of carbohydrates for the meal.

2. Satsuma Imo (Japanese Sweet Potato)- Satsuma Imo is similar in taste and texture to the Kabocha, it is drier,denser and milder than the American sweet potato. You can recognize a Satsuma Imo because it has purple skin and yellow flesh. Satsuma Imo is a great source of fiber and Vitamin C. Since Sweet Potatoes are a staple in many physique athlete’s diets, this Japanese version can be swapped out to add variety. I also bake these weekly with my meal prep when I can find them.

3. Konnyaku- Made from the Konjac plant has close to zero calories. Konnyaku became sort of main stream with Shirataki noodles (a combination of tofu and shirataki). But you can find plain konnyaku and cook it up for a filling fibrous meal with even fewer calories. Konnyaku can smell fishy and feel slimy when you take it out of the package but don’t let that scare you away, with proper cooking and a good recipe you have a tasty, filling, almost calorie free food.

4. Seaweed- Packs of seaweed have also reached mainstream markets in the US. I have seen “seaweed snacks” in Trader Joes, Costco, & Wegmanns. Seaweed is another food that has barely any calories- around 25 per serving.

A 2011 review of  100 studies on the health benefits of seaweed found that seaweed had more bioactive peptides, which aid in heart health and blood pressure reduction. Additionally, seaweed is a good source of other micronutrients like iodine, Vitamin A, B-6 and C.

Sashimi

5. Sashimi- Most people are familiar with sushi but many people don’t know the difference between sushi and sashimi. Whereas sushi includes rice and other ingredients, sashimi is just the raw fish. This way you get protein, omega three fatty acids and fewer calories and carbohydrates than sushi rolls. After all, with toppings like mayonnaise and fried noodles you didn’t really expect your average sushi roll to be a healthy choice did you?

6. Green Tea- Green Tea is full of antioxidants which are powerful free radical fighters. Green Tea also helps boost your metabolism so you burn more calories even while at rest. I love drinking green tea with my breakfast or as I am teaching classes to give me a little boost of energy and soothe my dry throat.

While Japan has many other foods to explore, this is my top list of healthy go-tos that have been favorites of mine throughout the years.

Making Progress

Hi Guys! Hope you are having a great week! I have been feeling awesome lately! Facing my fears by creating my facebook page gave me courage to try to face other fears in my life:

I posted my first video to You Tube:

Please check it out and let me know what you think. I think that it is good enough for a first try, right?

I like challenging myself and I feel so much better about myself now that I am taking real steps toward my goals.

Guess what? You can do the same thing!

What’s holding you back?

Have you always wanted to do a bikini competition, start a You Tube channel, do a photo shoot, start your own business or is there something else? Try facing your fears and demolishing your excuses and in no time, you will be on your way to achieving your goals.

 

Fit Bit: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

A line of new activity trackers have popped up– these trackers will tell you, how many miles and steps you walked, how many calories you burned, how many times you passed the “active” threshold and even how well you slept. Fit bit, Jawbone, and Body Media are a few brands that offer these devices.

I recently purchased the fit bit for myself. Since I am in off season, I am trying to bulk and I thought the fit bit would be a good way to track approximately how many calories I was burning so I could eat at a small surplus.

I had purchased a body media a few years before but it died after a few months and so did the replacement so I decided to try something new this time.

I was super excited to get my fit bit in the mail I even posted to my instagram @valeriewiest

054

The first couple of days were really neat– there was a big difference in the number of steps I walked and calories burned on days when I taught classes vs. just working at the office or staying at home. It was great for setting a baseline to see how many calories I burned each day. I also found out that I burn lots more calories when I am on vacation even when I am not intentionally working out. In the past I have always felt that I have to cut way back on my eating when I am not officially “working out” so it was nice to realize that I could relax a little about that aspect. The sleep tracking feature is also really cool, you have to make sure you set it to sleep mode when you are going to bed, but it lets you know how many total hours you slept as well as how many minutes your were restless or awake. My favorite feature of all  is the silent alarm, which buzzes on your wrist waking you up gently each morning or discretely reminding you of tasks throughout the day.

Overall I think that most of the information you need to know can be gained from wearing the fit bit a week or two and noticing patterns in your activity level. Then using this information to adjust your eating and exercise habits to meet your goals. For example, since I am trying to build muscle, I need to eat at a surplus so it is important for me to know that on the days I teach classes I need to eat a little more because I am burning more calories. But once I know this, tracking everything daily didn’t matter that much since my schedule is pretty regular so I could expect the same patterns in activity to repeat.

After a few weeks with the fit bit, though, I was singing its praises. It has lasted longer that my body media, even though there are a few things I liked about my Body Media better (please leave a comment if you would like a comparison of the two devices). I felt like it was exactly what most people need to find out how many calories they are burning and avoid eating too much or too little. I think it also helps encourage people to be more active– take the stairs, walk vs. drive etc.

That is, until I started talking with one of my clients who is a therapist. She told me that a lot of people become addicted to the device in a bad way. They obsess over the numbers the fit bit displays and it can actually make them feel bad about themselves. Users may try to increase their steps or their calories burned each day forcing themselves to set higher and higher limits. Others, who can’t or won’t change their lifestyle start to feel bad about the numbers and feel that they are not good enough.

Once she said this I immediately realized how using a fit bit this way could be a problem for some. I wanted to throw it out there in case any of you have started noticing this with the use of this type of device. If you do, the therapist recommends leaving the device with a friend who you can trust for a week and seeing how it makes you feel.

What are your thoughts? Have you tried one of these devices? Did you like it?

Write Things Down to Succeed.

Things happen when you write stuff down. It’s as if the simple act of putting pen to paper gets the ball rolling. Here are four simple ways writing things down can help you succeed:

1. Write down your goals- putting your goals on paper helps bring clarity to what it is you want to achieve. It also holds you accountable, because it is no longer just in your head, it’s on paper. Coming back to a goal list can help remind you to get started and thus help you succeed.

2. Make lists of tasks you need to do– By simply writing things down you help de-clutter your mind by organizing your tasks and taking the pressure off your memory. Also, the act of crossing things off your list makes you feel accomplished and productive and encourages you to achieve more.

3. Write down your thoughts, troubles and feelings– Sometimes the act of writing things down on paper can illuminate a situation or problem and help you come up with a solution. Also, putting your problems on paper can be cathartic and help you release some of your negative energy.

4. Start a gratitude journal– Each day write down something you are grateful for and be specific. The act of focusing on positive things throughout your day will help boost your mood and getting you in the habit of focusing on the positive more often.

You can start writing things down in a way that is convenient for you. I’ve used my “notes” on my iphone and I also carry around a small notebook in my purse. Of course, blogging is a great idea too! Try making a commitment to writing down your goals and then creating a task list and a gratitude journal everyday for a month. You will be on your way to success in no time!

What Excuses Are Standing in Your Way?

We all have excuses, some excuses are valid and some are not, but did you know you could have subconscious excuses too?

Subconscious excuses are the ones that you don’t really think about explicitly, but they stop you from doing something anyway. I think this type of excuse is particularly challenging because you may not even realize that you are making it!

Have you ever felt envious of someone’s success or achievements and felt like they were just lucky? This is a key sign that you may be making subconscious excuses standing in the way of your own success. After all, it’s easy to look at a picture of someone receiving their doctorate or on their dream vacation (especially with social media) but did you ever stop to think about what steps and struggles that person made to achieve those things?

I have found myself feeling this way several times throughout my life so I will give you an example. One of my dreams has been to open my own Pilates studio. I look on at successful studio owners with envy, however I had never even bothered to start looking at what steps I would need to take to get there. You know why? Because I was so sure I wouldn’t be able to reach my goal– I didn’t have enough money, I’m not outgoing enough, I’m not a good enough teacher, I don’t know how to market my business. Once I started to actually look at these excuses I realized that they were serving no purpose and that they were actually standing in the way of me even getting started.

What I should have been doing is looking for ways to overcome my excuses– no money? look for investors or get a loan, not outgoing? find someone who is to help me promote my studio, not good enough? take some continuing education classes.

Instead of finding solutions I was creating imaginary problems for myself, which destroyed my confidence to be able to pursue one of my dreams.

If you find yourself in the same boat of envy and excuses, take a hard look at those excuses and come up with contradictions or solutions for them. Then, take the first step toward you goal by turning those solutions into an action plan.

For me, this simply meant googling “How to start a pilates studio” and there are tons of resources out there! Now I have an idea of what I need to do to be able to reach my goal, and it is a lot more manageable than I imagined.

Remember nothing is going to happen if you are just wishing and making excuses, you have to take action to move forward. I encourage you to try this for your own internal excuses, whether they are about fitness, a lifestyle or a career goal, the same process holds true!

What are your subconscious excuses?

Finiding Inspiration (For Fitness Instructors)

Hey guys! Hope you have been having a great week! I just got back from vacation (re-cap posts to follow). I wanted to write a little about finding inspiration and staying motivated.

As a group fitness instructor I am constantly looking for inspiration to keep my classes fresh and interesting. Same goes for my regular workouts. I am the type of person who easily falls into patterns so if I don’t consciously try to switch things up I get stuck doing the same routine over and over again.

Finding what inspires you is a process and what inspires one person may not necessarily inspire another person. Additionally, just finding the inspiration is not enough! It takes thought and effort to convert the inspiration into tangible action.

Here are some ways I find inspiration and how I put it into action:

1. Vacation- For some reason, taking a vacation always gets my creative juices flowing. Whether I am working out on different equipment or taking a class I wouldn’t normally take, I always come back from vacation refreshed and ready to share new ideas. This past vacation I took classes from a yoga instructor who was really into cuing breath. I can’t wait to focus on breathing this week with my clients!

2. Continuing Education- Never stop learning. I am always inspired by the knowledge and ideas I receive from passionate teachers. Anytime I feel like I am falling into a rut, I take a continuing education class. Even if the subject is (and sometimes especially because it is) completely unrelated to Pilates, I always find ways to relate what I learned back to my classes and even find ways to use the information to mix up my own workouts.

3. Go Back to Basics- During my training for my personal training certification I learned that there are three main ways to change an exercise- weight, tempo and range of motion. Whenever I feel like I am stuck in a rut I go back to the basics to find ways to change up my routine. Even something as simple as counting in a different way can make a huge difference.

4. Motivational/Informational articles, podcasts and videos- The internet provides a wealth of free information. Instead of browsing pictures of cats, check out some videos or podcasts with a positive message. You can also search for videos or articles on a particular subject that you are interested in. Some of my favorites are: Everyday is Saturday, Muscle Science and Application, Jillian Michaels’s Podcast

5. Taking Fitness Classes from Others- You can learn new things from every instructor, even the bad ones. Taking lots of classes and finding what you like or don’t like. Finding new exercises, new ways of doing an exercise or new ways of explaining and cuing exercises can be a great way to refresh and find inspiration. Feel free to “steal” other instructors information and make it your own!

6. Themes- No, I’m not talking Disco, Disney or Halloween, The themes I am talking about are more fitness related. I have done themes like focusing on flow, breathing or unilateral movement. For me, identifying a theme, gives my creativity a structure in which to flow. It helps me think of the exercises in a new way and helps me structure a  well designed plan.

As you can see from my examples, I get a lot of inspiration from gaining knowledge. For me expanding my mind helps me feel more inspired and creative. This may or may not work for you but feel free to explore these ideas as you try to find your own inspiration.

Although many of these Ideas are targeted to other fitness instructors you can apply them to other areas where you may need inspiration as well.

What inspires you?

XOXOX

FitVal