Getting older carries with it many, many joys (wisdom, experience, humility to name a few!) but it also carries with it challenges. Queue menopause! Menopause is sometimes called 'the change of life' as it marks the end of a woman's reproductive life. At menopause, ovulation no longer occurs and production of estrogen and progesterone ceases. The word “menopause” refers to the last or final menstrual period a woman experiences.
Although many women might find relief in saying goodbye to periods, tampons, pads and the joy that is PMS, for most women, the rapid decrease in hormones will mean experiencing some or all of the following symptoms:
Are we having fun yet?
In addition to the above, menopausal women also experience changes such as loss of muscle strength and flexibility, and joint pain. These impacts can contribute to musculoskeletal disorders such as osteoporosis.
Why Pilates Works So Well During Menopause
Pilates can significantly reduce the impact of menopause because it helps to build strength and increase flexibility and mobility, which then decreases joint pain. Pilates is low-impact, there’s no lifting heavy weights in the gym, so it’s considered a safe option. Pilates also works on core control which helps with dynamic postural balance. This is important because as we age, balance and proprioception tend to suffer the most.
Pilates can also help with the increased anxiety women tend to feel during this stage of life. Pilates focuses on how we use the breath to get the most out of the movements we’re making. When you can use the Pilates breath to its full potential during exercises, breath has the ability to calm your nervous system down, which helps reduce anxiety. Simultaneously, with a calmer nervous system, you can reduce your cortisol levels which makes it easier to lose weight and improves the quality of your sleep.
I’ve worked with women between the ages of 45-80 for many years now. And these women often describe Pilates as gentle on their body, but strong in its benefits. Knee problems? Shoulder problems? Back problems? No worries, Pilates can accommodate, and in most circumstances improve the muscle imbalances causing these problems.
Menopause can be incredibly challenging to navigate. Pilates can help you journey through those stormy waters calmer, stronger, and with less pain.
Here at The Pilates Center, we have a lot to be grateful for. We’ve successfully weathered (and are weathering) the pandemic, we’ve got an amazing team of passionate instructors, and our Pilates community is growing stronger by the day. It can be easy as we come into the Thanksgiving season to relegate this season of gratitude just to a holiday, but we shouldn’t! Focusing on what we’re grateful for is actually a scientifically proven way to improve your life year round! A growing body of research is showing that expressing gratitude--even going through the motions of it if you don’t feel it--can make almost every aspect of our lives better--physically and mentally.
Like Pilates, Gratitude is a Practice
Don’t get me wrong. These times we’re all going through right now are really tough. But if you’re worried that there’s too much going on in the world right now that makes you feel worried, stressed, or unhappy, it’s important to remember that gratitude is a choice. We can choose to be grateful even when we are experiencing hurt, resentment, or anger; even when our circumstances or life situations are challenging or difficult. Gratitude doesn’t have to be something that just wells up inside us, and you don’t necessarily need to feel it to practice it. Choosing to focus on what we can be grateful for is a choice we can make at any moment. And if you can make that choice, the benefits are enormous:
So what are YOU grateful for? Next time you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed this holiday season, take a step back and think of three things that you are thankful for. Have you tried this practice? Share your comments on our Facebook page!
Superfood Focus: The Sweet Potato
Fall is upon us: the season of red and yellow leaves, cooler weather, and all things pumpkin spice! It’s also the season when people go nuts for a food I like to incorporate into my diet year round: the sweet potato. Guys, let me tell you- this baby is the unsung hero of the vegetable group-- she’s full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy carbs! A true a staple in a healthy diet, which is important to see the full benefits of a Pilates life. Pilates and nutrition go hand in hand!
Sweet Potato Nutrition Highlights
You’ll be amazed at all the vitamins and minerals in these bad boys. 1 large sweet potato (baked, skin on, about 200 grams) contains just 200 calories and is a powerhouse of the following nutrients:
Healthy Carbs: 41g
Vitamin A: 769% of your daily value (DV)
Vitamin C: 65% of the DV
Manganese: 50% of the DV
Vitamin B6: 29% of the DV
Potassium: 27% of the DV
Pantothenic acid: 18% of the DV
Copper: 16% of the DV
Niacin: 15% of the DV
The Sweet Health Benefits
Protection against free radicals
Sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidants that protect our bodies from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage DNA and trigger inflammation in our bodies. Free radicals speed up our aging process, and have also been linked to chronic illnesses like cancer and heart disease, so antioxidant-rich foods are very good for our health.
Promotion of gut health & a healthy immune system
These days you REALLY don’t want to be getting sick. The sweet potato is awesome for promoting gut health and a health immune system. The fiber and beta-carotene in sweet potatoes is very advantageous to gut health (our “microbiome”), a topic that is getting a lot of coverage these days. An imbalanced microbiome--or dysbiosis, as it is scientifically called-- is being linked to all sorts of things: depression, anxiety, eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autoimmune diseases, allergies, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and osteoarthritis!
Sweet potatoes have both soluble and insoluble fiber, and these fibers are fermented by the bacteria in our colon, creating compounds called short-chain fatty acids. Short-chain fatty acids fuel the cells in our intestinal lining to keep it healthy and strong. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adult females age 31-50 get 25.2g of fiber per day (22.4g for females age 51+), and adult males consume 30.8g (28g for males age 51+).
Sweet potatoes are one of the richest sources of beta-carotene, a plant-based compound that our bodies convert into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is critical to a healthy immune system and the maintenance of healthy mucous membranes-- especially the lining in our gut. Recent studies have shown that vitamin A deficiency increases gut inflammation and reduces the ability of our immune systems to respond properly to potential threats.
Support healthy vision
Beta-carotene is also used by our bodies to form light-detecting receptors in our eyes. One cup of sweet potato with the skin provides more than seven times the amount of beta-carotene needed by the average adult!
Ways to incorporate sweet potatoes into your diet
How do YOU love to incorporate these into your healthy diet?
In honor of Halloween, which is just around the corner, I’m going to dispel four of the spookiest myths surrounding Pilates that I’ve heard lately.
Spooky Myth # 1- Pilates is Easy
There are some exercises in Pilates where if you were to walk by the studio and look in the window you might think- they’re barely even moving, or- they’re moving so slowly, that can’t be hard!! But looks can be deceiving. Pilates requires a precise coordination between your limbs, torso, and breath, and strong concentration from the mind for specific muscle engagement. Because of this, a seemingly “simple” move can require a lot of effort and work, and that “simple” move has immense impact! Pilates is always working your whole body throughout a movement, and when you slow this movement down, it requires incredible amounts of core control. While Pilates can be modified to suit all different body types and needs, this doesn’t mean it’s a simple or easy form of exercise. A good instructor will teach to the body in front of them, and the version of an exercise that one person does might not be the version another does. Rest assured whatever variation, though, you’ll be working hard!
Spooky Myth #2- Pilates is just for Women
Let’s face it, Pilates is popular with women but this changing! After all, the person who developed the Pilates movement was a man--Joseph Pilates. Joseph was a solid and intense man who enjoyed boxing, drinking, and smoking (I know, a bit contradictory to overall health, but it was the 1930’s- things were different back then!), who made some of the earlier small props out of beer keg tops! When you consider the origin of Pilates, it’s easy to see that the intentions of the method very much included men.
Most men that I work with in the studio NEED to be there: they are sore, tight, and misaligned. Pilates helps men in every area of their lives, whether they are tight football players who need agility to be able to make quick movements on the field, or sore golfers who want a better golf swing, or misaligned dads who want to be able to play more or better with their kids. I love teaching men in the studio because there is so much for them to gain, and progress can be seen and attained each and every week.
Spooky Myth #3- Pilates is a bunch of stretching
Pilates has the well deserved reputation for producing long, lean, and toned muscles, which is absolutely true! But I think there is a bit of a misconception out there that the ‘long’ is achieved because Pilates involves a bunch of “stretching”.
While stretching in Pilates happens throughout each and every exercise, it’s not like a stretch session you would do after a workout or during yoga. Pilates is strength and stretching together. Romana, one of Joseph Pilates’ original students, famously said ‘Pilates is stretch and strength with control- control is what is most important because it uses your mind’. We don’t passively stretch and ‘hangout’ in a stretch by pulling a limb as close to us as possible, we actively stretch, resist, and reach away at the same time through the limb being stretched. In Pilates we are always trying to achieve a ‘two way stretch’ eg, if one part of my body is reaching one way, how can I send more effort and more energy to send the other part of my body the other way. While a stretching session after your workout will leave you feeling limber, Pilates will leave you feeling limber and STRONG.
Spooky Myth #4- Pilates is only for your abs or core
There is SO much more to Pilates than ab work. There is ab work involved, but, Pilates’ main priority with the ‘abdominals’ is to work them ALL. This means, not just the Rectus Abdominals aka, those 6 pack abs everyone is after, but everything else too. Pilates aims to engage from the inside out, that is, from the muscles in your deep center to stabilise the spine. Your core muscles include
Once we find this connection, everything in our bodies is impacted, from the way we stand and sit, to the way we breathe and even how we utilize breath to aid and support us in the exercises. Our ultimate goal for every client is for the Pilates principles to be applied outside the studio as they move about their everyday lives. The more Pilates I do, the more I realize just how impactful the method is to every part of our body (and lives!), and the more I love it.
What about you? What spooky myths have YOU heard about Pilates that you want to know the truth about?
What You’re Missing About Macros
You might’ve heard people talking about it on social media or when you’re out with friends: are you counting your macros? Counting or tracking macronutrients might be all the rage these days- but what is this trend really, and is it helpful or is it just a fad?
What are Macros?
Macronutrients, or “macros” as they are more often called, are nutrients that the body requires in large amounts: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Macros are in contrast to another type of nutrient our body needs: micronutrients, the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need in small amounts. Notice here that I said that macros are nutrients that your body requires. Fad diets might encourage you to cut out whole food groups, but true nutrition is really about a balance of all three of these groups (yes, even carbs!!)
Whole books have been written on macronutrients, but a high level overview here will give you the quick and dirty you need to know hype from nutrition.
First up, the long loathed Carbohydrate. Carbs are possibly the most hotly debated and misunderstood macro. This is because carbs are actually our body’s main source of energy. These molecules made up of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen fuel both our our brain (affecting mood, memory, and decision making) and our muscles (used as a quick energy source, they also enable fat metabolism). They are the sugars, starches, and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables, and milk products.
Next up, the also feared Fats: Feared and avoided by people for decades (especially in the low fat craze of the late 80’s and early 90’s- do you all remember??), fats are things like triglycerides, cholesterols, and other essential fatty acids that are necessary for a multitude of functions in our bodies. They store energy, insulate us, protect our vital organs, act as messengers, and help proteins do their jobs. They also are key in growth, immune function, reproduction, and help the body stockpile vitamins A, D, E, and K.
The always lauded Protein: There are many different types of protein, but they all help us grow, build muscle, fight off infection, and repair injuries. Proteins are molecules built of amino acids. Our bodies need 20 different amino acids to survive and thrive, 9 of which we have to obtain from food (these are called essential amino acids, because our body cannot make them). Protein is found naturally in poultry, beef, yogurt, cheese, legumes, and yes-- even vegetables!
How to Calculate Your Macros the Right Way
The idea with tracking your macros is that you aren’t depriving yourself, you’re fueling your body in the most efficient way possible. Counting your macros involves understanding what your unique needs are for carbs, fat, and protein, and then eatin in a way that supports that ratio.
Everybody is different, and every body is different, so there isn’t just one recommendation out there for what your ratio of carbohydrates to fats to proteins should be.
Trying to sift through all the misinformation can also be confusing. Are you getting enough protein? What percentage of complex carbs should you be eating? The other problem with online calculators is that they can’t take into account your truly unique situation. They might ask if you workout, but not what type of workout, for example. All of this matters.
If you’re just starting out, it may be helpful to get in touch with a registered dietitian who can talk with you about your specific needs and goals, and calculate your ratio for you. Another option would be to try one of the meal planning apps out there, many of which will calculate and help you track what your ratio should be:
Pilates and nutrition go hand in hand, and tracking your macronutrient intake (as opposed to calorie intake) can be one excellent way to stay on top of your health.
These times of the COVID pandemic have been eye opening, heart breaking, but also encouraging. Wait- encouraging!? Before you think I’m crazy, hear me out. One of the bonuses of this pandemic is that my family has been able to spend more time together. More quality time together. Without as many places to go, we spend time together unhurried, unrushed. And more than ever, it’s made me value face to face time with my friends and loved ones.
We all felt it during the height of the pandemic- not being able to spend time with family and friends was really rough. But now that things are opening up more, I’m encouraged to see more and more people bringing friends with them to their Pilates classes! Not only is this a fun time for everyone, working out with your friends or significant other can actually improve your relationship- BONUS!
Whether you choose to workout with us in-studio or virtually, bringing your partner along can boost your physical health, mental health, AND relationship health! Book a duet session with us today.
One of the questions that I get a lot is “Can I do Pilates while I’m pregnant?” or “My daughter is making me a Grandma for the first time! Should she do Pilates?” The answer is- YES!
It’s almost as if Pilates was made for pregnancy. The thing is, pregnancy and childbearing can do a number on the body, especially the muscles that support the pelvic floor. The weight and strain of carrying a growing baby plus the hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy can weaken the pelvic floor muscles. This is important once you understand a bit more about the anatomy of this area:
The Pelvic Floor
Our pelvic floor is a “sling” of muscles at the base of our core, a bit like a small muscle hammock, that runs between the pubic bone in the front and the tailbone at the back. In women, these muscles support the bladder, bowel and uterus (womb). The urethra, anus, and vagina all pass through the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor muscles normally wrap quite firmly around these passages to help keep them shut, which helps to control bladder and bowel function and assists with sexual function (pleasure). When you contract the pelvic floor muscles, they lift the internal organs of the pelvis and tighten the openings of the vagina, anus and urethra. Relaxing the pelvic floor allows passage of urine and feces, and is important during childbirth to allow the baby to emerge.
Still with me? Bottom line: these muscles are important for controlling our restroom activities, keeping our organs where they should be, and for better pleasure during sex.
Pregnancy can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, which may lead to:
Sound like fun? I don’t think so!
Fortunately, Pilates works wonders for your pelvic floor. The whole aim of Pilates is to make your body (and especially your core) strong, flexible, and balanced. Keeping your pelvic floor strong during pregnancy can:
While we have pregnant clients in our small group classes, many of our pregnant clients find our private sessions are perfect for them: you get the studio all to yourself, and you and your instructor can focus just that bit more on the pelvic floor. In a private session we can completely customise your workout to work around--and with--your pregnancy.
There’s never been a better time to do Pilates with us-- especially while you are pregnant! Don’t feel comfortable coming into the studio? We offer virtual classes as well.
The psychological benefits of PilatesResearch has found that adolescent and young adult males tend to have an elevated risk of certain mental health issues than their female counterparts. For instance, one study notes that this demographic has higher rates of conduct order, substance use, interpersonal violence, and suicide.
Men are also at risk of developing other mental health issues, such as depression. The Mayo Clinic shares that this condition may appear in men via “escapist behaviors,” or spending an excessive amount of time doing one thing in order to avoid another.
Men who are depressed may also present with physical issues such as headaches, digestive upset, and pain. To make matters worse, research also reveals that boys in their teens tend to disconnect from and, therefore, choose not to engage with healthcare services.
Young Men More Disengaged with Mental Health Care
The reasons for this avoidance are varied, ranging from these males not getting the clinical response they desire to the stigma associated with obtaining and receiving mental health care. Regardless of the cause, the end result is that they are left to suffer alone.
For those that do seek care, medication, therapy, or some other type of behavioral treatment may be recommended. Research has found that Pilates—an option that doesn’t even involve accessing the healthcare system—may help boost mood as well.
Pilates and Mood
In March 2020, the Complementary Therapies in Medicine journal published a study involving 87 male university students in their late teens and early twenties. Prior to engaging in a single session of Pilates, each participant completed a series of inventories and questionnaires to assess their worry, anxiety, and mood. They were also assessed 10 minutes after the Pilates session ended.
Based on their own self-reports, engaging in Pilates lowered the young men’s anxiety, reduced their feelings of fatigue, and improved their overall mood. While this particular study only looked at their responses after one session of Pilates, these findings are similar to other studies which have found that this type of physical activity is good for making people feel better mentally.
Previous Pilates Studies Relating to Mood
For example, in January 2013, a study was published involving 30 elderly females. After 12 weeks of Pilates, their levels of depression decreased. On a side note, their balance improved as well.
Another Pilates study was conducted in 2016 on young and healthy, but sedentary women. After 10 weeks of Pilates training which occurred once a week, the intervention group showed more mental health improvements than the women in the control.
So, while this new 2020 study is one of the first to look at the psychological benefits that Pilates provides for men specifically, the fact that this same effect has been shown time and time again is encouraging for those who struggle with mood-related disorders but aren’t comfortable seeking medical care.
Fleming KM, Campbell M, Herring MP. Acute effects of Pilates on mood states among young adult males. Complement Ther Med. 2020 Mar;49:102313. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102313. Epub 2020 Jan 25. PubMed PMID: 32147061.
I'm a BASI Certified Pilates Instructor by day, somewhat competent housewife by night. I used to have hobbies but then CHILDRENS. I am married to the love of my life and somewhat charismatic Rustin Gradke. I have 4 kids that are wonderful sometimes but mostly they just eat a lot. I'm a lover of God and movement and the occasional bowl of queso.