Why Don’t More Men do Pilates?

Usually, I’m the one who is writing the blog posts on here about my experiences and knowledge but Bryan and I have been talking about him doing a post for a little on his personal experience with Pilates and how it has affected him. So now that he has been doing Pilates for over a year here is his opinion on Pilates and the benifits he has seen.

Until about a year ago, I never fathomed the possibility of ever taking a group fitness class. I was your typical former high-school athlete, way less limber and flexible than I was a decade ago in my glory days. My typical workout routine consisted of stationary weight lifting, with a few bouts of cardio throughout the week, occasionally mixing in a run or hike. This type of working out was a way for me to ‘maintain’ my muscle, stay fairly trim and still feel like I was putting in the time and work to my physical fitness.

Who knew that some of the best and most elite male athletes utilize Pilates as a way to master their craft? Steelers All-Pro receive Antonio Brown and Phillies pitcher Jake Arietta are two star-studded athletes just to name a few. Both of these athletes employ Pilates as a way to maintain both physical and mental well-being. Perhaps this can help remove the ‘stigmas’ that surround Pilates and its efficacy.

Fast forward to today… I am 10 years post back surgery. In 2009, I had a minimally invasive back surgery consisting of a lumbar discectomy, which in layman’s terms essentially meant I had two herniated disks in my lower back (L4, L5, S1) that were pressing on my sciatic nerve. I used to make excuses about not being able to run, my inflexibility and lack or core strength to support my back. Enter Pilates. I had never taken Pilates before, let alone even really understand the basic principles and concepts. Add in the fact that my workouts, like most, got stale over time. My body was used to the same movements, even if I switched up exercises, and I knew it was time for something new. I also had no need to keep the bulky upper body muscle that I once used in sports. What started out as a simple date idea with my current girlfriend, turned into a lifestyle alteration.

Over this past year, what I once thought was a workout meant for ‘woman’, has turned out to have more benefits than I could have imagined. Sure, the majority of my mat and reformer classes have been female-dominated, but I now have a new appreciation for the art of functional movements, flexibility, and core strength. I have developed a real affinity for the different types of Pilates I have been able to experience recently. Maybe Men just do not like being told what to do…

In my opinion, Mat Pilates is probably the most underrated form of Pilates. It requires balance, body awareness and the ability to utilize your own body weight. Most folks think you need a ‘machine’ in order to work out, but truth be told, I personally think Mat can be more of a balance challenge. The core principal relay on core strength (no pun intended), where basically every move requires some type of abdominal engagement. This engagement has been particularly useful to someone like myself, who would rather find different ways to work my core (to support my back) in ways other than your standard sit-up, which can cause back pain. The movements of Pilates are very mindful and the flows are meant to limit compromising positions and allow for modifications if need be. It isn’t just about having abs and a six-pack, but rather a strong core to support my upper body strength and back needs.

Mixing in one or two Pilates classes a week has really helped out in many aspects of my life, both mentally and physically. There are the obvious benefits, such as increased hamstring flexibility, a stronger core, as well as more toned legs. The intangible benefits for me have been less daily back pain, and the ability to run and sprint at places such as Barry’s Bootcamp (11.5! what what). Though, I still try and steer clear of intense jumping movements, I’m able to jump squat, do jumping jacks and jack squats no issue! I have been able to perform more HIIT-focused workouts, helping build more lean muscle and provide valuable fat loss.

The other major benefit for me has come in the form of snowboarding. Snowboarding has long been my favorite athletic activity. I began skiing when I was 3 years old and have been skiing/snowboarding consistently ever since, including living in Colorado for 5 years where I racked up over 100 days. The 2009 winter was the first and only winter I had missed due to injury. This was a major blow to me, as my surgery recovery spanned about 7 months from Sept- April of that year. Post-surgery. I was limited to only being able to go one day and not feeling up to going a second day in a row due to back pain. However, Pilates has changed that and allowed me to shred back to back days, without the effects I used to feel after a hard day.

Having a strong grasp of these basic Pilates principals allows me to practice flows anywhere I have a mat and some time, even without professional instruction or a studio. Hopefully, I have inspired some of the men out there or at least informed their significant others that there are amazing benefits for your male counterpart. Remember, it’s not just about the physical result, there is a strong mental component to Pilates. Whether working on your breathing, letting go of real-world stresses or just needing to ‘sweat it out’, exercising in general is a great release and way to keep you strong mentally. Pilates is a great form of exercise, something I will continue to do as I get older, plus it is a great way to get a couples workout in. You know what they say, “Couples who work out together, stay together”. My regular workouts now consist of gym workouts (3-4 times), with Pilates and HIIT workouts weaved in once a week, keeping things fun and interesting for myself.

My goal is to help break down stigmas and educate my male counterparts on this unique type of fitness platform. Young, old, short, or tall, there is some type of mindful movement for everyone.


Things to Know for all Barre Newbies

As someone who has been teaching barre for 3 years, it amazes me when I meet someone who has never taken a barre class. It seems like a lot of people are mainly just scared about trying something new, trust me I know that the unknown is scary. I’m someone who usually sticks to a routine and hates changes.

But the reason for this post is to give you some insight on what you can expect for your first barre class, so you can feel comfortable to get your booty into a class asap. I love barre classes especially at MNTSTUDIO, I always leave feeling like I got a full body and well-rounded workout. As someone who was a dancer from a young age, I love the aspect of using the music for the movement and staying on the beat. However don’t be intimated if you’ve never danced before, my boyfriend who has no rhythm(Sorry Bryan) loves these classes too.

Barre classes are focused on strength, balance, and flexibility making them great for cross-training. Within a few minutes of class, you will find yourself shaking and using muscles you’ve never used before. Generally, when we work out on our own we work on the things we’re good at and like to do. So these classes are great to work on those areas that you’re not focusing on otherwise and it will make you stronger overall and less prone to injuries.

Wear Appropriate Attire

Photo: MNTSTUDIO

You should wear tight-fitted clothing so your instructor can see your form, to ensure you’re doing the movement correctly and avoid injury. I recommend wearing full-length pants or capris because you might be doing some movements where you hold a ball with your leg so the bare skin would make it slippery. Also, wear grippy socks to your class, these will help you from slipping and give you traction when making sudden movements. Even if the studio you’re going to doesn’t require them I recommend having them. Think about all of the germs on the studio floor from people sweating and all the barefeet everywhere. For socks my favorite brand is ToeSox,  they are great for when you’re moving quickly during barre classes because with each individual toe separated they stay on your feet and don’t move around like other brands. 

Show Up Early

Usually, when you’re attending a studio for the first time, you should arrive at least 10 minutes early. They might need to have you sign a waiver and also may give you a tour of the studio. Showing up early is also a good idea so you can get set up with any props you may need for the class, or change into your workout clothes without feeling rushed. You should also try to get set up near the instructor, this will help when you need to see what movements you’re supposed to do. This is also very important if you have an injury. Your instructor needs to know what is going on with your body and how they can help keep you safe and get the best out of your workout.

Embrace Those Shakes

For your first class, you may not be the most graceful person, but this isn’t a dance class so don’t let that get to you. Everyone will be struggling just the same even if they come every week, so they won’t be paying attention even if you’re going the opposite direction. Most people in their first class see the weights and usually go for the heaviest ones. However, don’t be fooled! Those little 2 lbs and 3 lb weights get very heavy during class. A lot of exercises in barre are small isometric movements that work your muscles in a targeted area. So your muscles will burn and you might even be shaking uncontrollably during the class. However, always be sure to listen to your body and take breaks whenever needed. All instructors should be able to give you any modifications you may need to help with any injuries you have.

HAVE FUN!

Don’t get discouraged during your first few barre classes, it might take a few classes to get the moves down. No matter if it is your first or hundredth class, it’s going to be a great workout so just try to enjoy the class and music. Even as an instructor I still have to come out of some exercises during a class because my legs and butt are burning! I’m someone that is motivated by music so I like to sing the songs to myself a little while taking a class maybe do a little wiggly dance. 😉

I hope this helps to give you a little insight on how to prepare and feel ready for your first barre class. I would love to see you in one of my barre classes soon, you can check out my schedule here! If you’ve never been to MNTSTUDIO before I have a special surprise for you. 🙂 Message me and your first barre class will be free.  

If you have any tips to share please comment below! I would love to hear from you.

Easy Stretches to Avoid Muscle Aches When Traveling

Summertime is here, which means long road trips, and plane rides. Vacations are always a fun and exciting part of summer. However, the muscle aches and tightness that follow from sitting for hours can have a negative impact on your body!

Here are 3 great stretches for you to do before, during and even after your trip to get your body moving again. Traveling no longer has to be a pain in the neck, shoulders, and back! Try each of these exercises and hold for about 20-30 seconds. Doing these should help loosen your muscles and get your circulation moving again so you can get out there and have fun.  🙂

1.Quad Stretch

When you’re sitting for a long period of time, your hip flexors, hamstrings, low back….in fact most of the muscles connected to your hips are all compressed. And when your muscles are compressed for a long period of time, it can make them tight when you stand up again and maybe even difficult to walk. Doing a quadriceps stretch is perfect to help stretch out the front of your thighs again.

Stand with your feet hip distance.

Shift your weight into your left leg, then lift your right heel towards your butt. Grasp your ankle with your right hand and lightly pull the ankle closer towards your butt

Safely release your ankle and lower the right leg down then repeat on the other leg.

2.  Piriformis Stretch or Figure 4

This stretch is perfect if you tend to get tightness or pain in your back. This is also great to help keep your hip and knee joints properly aligned especially during exercise. This stretch can also be done sitting in your chair on the plane, train or car if you have poor balance I recommend sitting for this.

Plant both feet on the floor shoulder width apart.

Shift your weight into your right leg, and lift your left. Turn out the left leg so that your ankle is resting just above your right knee.

Bend your right knee so that you are in single leg squat and gently push down on your left knee using your left hand or elbow. 

Repeat with your other leg.

3. Chest Stretch

This one is great because the longer we sit our posture tends to get worst. This will help to open your chest and keep those pesky shoulders back!

Claps your hand behind your body and interlock your fingers.

Gently pull your hands away from your body. Causing your shoulders to squeeze together and open up your chest.

These stretches are pretty easy to do even while on the plane or train. You won’t draw too much attention, so stretch away and take care of yourself. Safe traveling!

4 Tips to Stay Motivated this Summer

Don’t let BBQ’s, music festivals, or travel plans get in the way of staying healthy this summer. So many of us work hard to get in shape so we can feel confident at the beach or in our crop top and shorts. However, once summer is here our hard work goes out the window with all the ballpark hot dogs, beer and ice cream!

So I’m sharing some tips and tricks to help you stick with your workout routine and not lose the motivation to stay healthy all summer! Here are my favorite tips to keep you moving.

1. Keep it Fresh
Many of us tend to plateau or get bored with our workout routine. My first tip when it comes to staying motivated is finding something that you actually enjoy doing. When it comes to fitness, you need to remember that the same routine won’t work for everyone. It’s not “one size fits all”. Nowadays there are so many different ways you can workout, you just need to find one that makes you get up and move. Whatever it is, it should make you excited to keep going and motivated to work towards reaching your goals!

Recent Barry’s Bootcamp class in SoMa, with some new friends.

I personally love group classes! Not just because I teach them, this has been a love of mine for many years they have variety, providing fresh and fun workouts while still challenging you. In a group class, you have an instructor that has created a full workout for you. All you have to do is show up, be nice (my personal preference) and do what the instructor says! SUPER EASY, well kinda…..the workout will be hard but it will be less mental work. You just need to find a class style you like, Barre, Spin, Pilates, Yoga, Zumba, Bootcamp, your options are endless.

I teach classes at MNTSTUDIO in SF, I would love to have you join me for some Barre or Pilates. However, if you’re not in my area, I recommend checking out ClassPass to find a group class that fits your style. They have different types of classes, so you can try different studios until you find one that you really enjoy.

 2. Recruit a Buddy
Having a workout buddy makes it difficult to cancel your workout since your friend is relying on you to show up. Also, your friend is more likely to call you out if you do cancel which no one likes being a flake. If you’re that flaky friend be careful to not ditch them too often, they have a busy life just like you!

Personally, I find that having a workout buddy keeps me honest with myself on how hard I’m actually working, but it is also fun. When I find something is super hard during class I tend to laugh, so having a friend to laugh with is always a plus for me. I also feel like I work harder when I know my friend might be watching.

3. Join a Race
By joining a race you will have a deadline for you to prepare for the event. So you won’t be able to steer off your training pass or else you won’t be ready. Plus these event style races are so much FUN. Think of getting a little cardio in by running through blue, pink, purple and yellow powder!! My hair had a light tint of purple for a couple of days, so don’t do it around any big events if you’re blonde. Another option if you’re a total badass….you can crawl through some mud or climb over a wall. Having a race or event is a nice way to keep you moving because it gives you a set date you have to be prepared by. Whereas with just trying to stay healthy you might lose motivation with no specific goal or dates in mind.

After my first color run in 2013 at Candlestick Park.

I did the Color Run with some friends and had such a great time. I’m not a big fan of running so it was nice that it was only a 5k (3.1 miles). Also, a lot of people do walk so if you’re not yet able to run 3 miles take a little walking break, you’re still outside and getting your cardio in and that’s what matters!

A couple of my friends have done the Spartan races. They have three different levels Sprint (3miles), Super (10miles) and Beast (13 miles). These races are definitely difficult and require training. You will need to have a lot of upper body, and core strength for the obstacles along with long endurance cardio to make it through the entire course.

4.  Pump Up the Jams
Music always makes me want to move. Listening to the right playlist can make a big difference in the outcome of your workout. Studies have shown that playing music while working out can uplift your mood and even make exercise seem easier. Try to find songs that have strong, energizing rhythms, uplifting melodies, and motivating lyrics. For me, music makes working out so much more enjoyable. Some songs just make me feel good, even during a tough class!

In order for a song to be motivating the beat per minute (bpm) is very important. Having songs that are above 120bpm help to get you pumped and motivated to keep going. I prefer songs with a bmp between 120 – 155. I recommend getting Spotify, I love being able to create my own playlist for different workouts and find new songs.

I hope these four tips help you stay motivated and healthy this summer! Please share below if you find something else that works for you, who knows it might work for someone else too. 🙂

My “BACK” Story

Everyone has their own unique story about how they started their journey towards living a healthy lifestyle. Asking someone about their fitness journey is honestly is one of my favorite conversation starters because it really shows how different everyone is. Plus the different paths we can all take to end up at the same place, working towards feeling good and being our best self.

My story started when I was 16 years old, I danced competitively throughout middle school and into high school. Around my sophomore year, I started having persistent pain in my hips and lower back. After many doctor visits with my parents, we kept getting the same reasons, “It’s just growing pains” (now if you’ve never met me, I’m 5’2 so clearly this wasn’t the issue) Some actually mentioned that my muscles are just tight from dancing for several hours each day, but I was freakishly flexible so once again I knew that wasn’t it. This kept going on until one day at school I the pain was so unbearable I just sad down walking to class and started crying. I will never forget sitting down and not even being able to explain the amount of pain I was in, I knew something just wasn’t right. 

I started getting X-rays, and MRI’s done to see where the pain was coming from. After several visits I saw a spine specialist and was diagnosed with Spondylolisthesis. Basically, my spine was separating from itself in my lower back (for my anatomy lovers L5-S1). 

After speaking with a few orthopedic surgeons, it was determined that as long as I could handle the pain we could put off the surgery for a little while longer, so I can finish up school and not have any issues. The vertebrae slipping would continue to move at a slow rate, so I would have warning signs before it got to the point of paralyzing me. So I decided to put off surgery until after I graduated high school. Regrettably, I spent two years causing more damage to my spine and taking large amounts of pain medication just to help ease the pain so I could continue dancing. (We did win two national titles during that time so I guess it wasn’t all bad.)

I went in for surgery 5 days after I graduated and 4 days after turning 18 years old. The surgery took 6 hours, the doctors started with a 5-inch incision on my stomach and push my vertebra back into place the screwed in a metal plate to stabilize my spine. After they flip me over to finish the surgery with screw more incisions and 4 screws to hold the vertebras in place. I now have 6 two-inch titanium screws, a metal plate, and a replacement disk, but I can still go through a metal detector with no issues. 😉

After the surgery, I was in the hospital for a week. I was on so much medication I don’t really remember the first few days at all! It almost felt like one of those movie scenes, where the person tries to open their eyes but they don’t open all the way and they can just see their eyelids and a little light and make out people in the room. After a few days, they had me doing “exercises” which was just me trying to sit up, stand and using a walker to take a few steps. I had to actually learn how to walk up the stairs again, which at age 18 felt crazy!

Once I was cleared to start physical activity again I started doing some private Pilates sessions at Pilates Collective in Sebastopol, CA. Quickly I began to notice the benefits of Pilates beyond just for rehabilitation and I fell in love with the method. I knew I wanted to be an instructor and share this new found passion with others. I started my certification training back in 2010, I now am able to teach Pilates and Barre. It’s because of Pilates that I can now walk pain-free without any medication!