Effective Stretching

Why Pilates is the Safest and Most Effective Method of Stretching the Body 

Pilates is hands down the most effective, controlled and safe way to manage proper range of motion at all of the joints within a practitioner’s body.  Because Pilates is practiced with control and places strength behind the controlled movement into a stretch, it is an extremely effective way of managing the proper amount of flexibility within the body. Using a couple examples from traditional fitness, yoga and Pilates, we can see that the ability of the body to hold the shape of the stretch is imperative in the Pilates practice, while the stretch itself is more the focus in the other regimes.

 Let’s take a look at the Pilates Rollup, Seated Forward Fold yoga asana and a traditional hamstring seated stretch performed as a warm-up or cool-down post exercise. They may look very much the same, but the ways of entering the poses or exercises are very different as are the eventual outcomes. A little bit of abdominal control makes a lot of difference in a person’s physique and flexibility- the more strength, the better!

The Rollup from Classical Authentic Pilates 

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The Rollup is a basic Pilates Mat exercise that is actually very challenging to execute properly! Every moment of the exercise should be a full body movement, including the start position, lying down on the floor. By focusing on the abdominal control to move the spine and the torso, the Rollup teaches the body to move into and out of torso and spinal flexion with support, over time increasing the mobility in the back and at the hips and hamstrings with the proper amount of support from the abdominal muscles. No flinging or use of the shoulders and hip flexors to lift allowed! Let’s give it a try!

  • From supine (lying on your back) position: Stretch arms behind head, engaging all of the muscles in the body to lengthen along the mat. 
  • Lift the arms toward the ceiling, then the head, shoulders up between the frame of the arms. 
  • Reach the fingertips long toward the hips feeling the lats kick in to draw shoulders down and feel the entire length of the rectus abdominus kick in to lift the torso away from the mat, maintaining the spine in a long and lengthened c-curve. 
  • Continue to lengthen up and over the legs while pulling the belly back in opposition to the arms and legs reaching forward. 
  • Keep the abs in control as you lower the torso back to the mat pelvis first, maintaining the long c-curve of the spine and continuing to keep the abs engaged all the way back to the start position

Seated Forward Fold from Yoga (Paschomatiasana)

Beautiful woman practicing yoga, Seated forward bend pose, paschimottanasana

A seated forward fold is a traditional Hatha yoga posture or asana that appears in different places during a yoga sequence depending on the tradition. It is likely to follow a fairly lengthy movement sequence of vinyasa and standing postures which depend on the legs for movement and support. When a practitioner reaches the seated postures, many times it is an “ahh” moment of release without a focus on the strength to accomplish the stretch. The focus is on bringing the upper body toward the thighs, without mention of abdominal connection or support for the lower back and the hamstrings. For every movement, there is an opposing counter-movement. When the hamstrings and lower back are being stretched, the abdominals must be the opposing muscle group, otherwise, the newly found flexibility does not have a safe or stable base to provide support for the greater length at the joints and this can lead to injuries over time. A simple cue to pull the abdominals in and up could make the difference between a safe stretch for the back and hamstrings and overdoing the movement without the proper structure.  

To learn how to properly execute this pose step-by-step, check out this great “how to” article from Yoga Journal. 

Traditional Hamstring Stretch from post-Exercise

Fit fitness woman doing stretching exercises outdoors at park

In the 90’s, when I was training to be a Group Exercise instructor (prior to being introduced to the fitness world as a mainstream form of movement) we were instructed that “unsupported forward flexion of the torso was always contra-indicated” and should never be taught in an exercise class. Somewhere around the mid 90’s, the large certifying agencies changed their tune and informed us that yes; flexion was ok, as long as it was supported by the abdominals. I certainly applaud the effort to bring awareness that yes, the abdominals are the key to supporting the back, yet looking around at any group stretching pre- or post-run and some of the instruction was lost in translation! Nowadays, we see tucked pelvises, rounded and compressed spines all achieved in the process of reaching for the toes. Forget the toes, straighten the back and use the abdominals to safely reach the torso over the legs, creating length in the spine and when appropriate, a controlled flexion of the spine in order to create length through the vertebrae. By moving safely into the stretch, a student can create length through the entire back line of the body safely- hamstrings, calf muscles, back extensors and protect all of the moving parts into and out of the stretch! Use the abs to stretch your hamstrings and back!

Everybody’s Working for the Wedding

Wedding season is upon us! We know that you’re hard at work planning the wedding of your dreams, so why not let Endurance take care of getting you in the best shape of your life for the big walk down the aisle?

 

This month, Endurance will be participating in two amazing events aimed at making the wedding planning experience as stress-free as possible:

 

Boston Magazine’s Bubbly Brunch

Sunday, May 5th 11am-2pm

The Four Seasons Boston

 

Come meet the team at Boston Magazine’s first ever Bubbly Brunch! Enjoy a fabulous brunch, sip champagne, meet some of the city’s best wedding professionals and learn how Endurance can get you in tip top shape for your wedding day.

 

South End Bridal Block Party

Sunday, May 19th 11am-1pm

Endurance Pilates and Yoga

 

Endurance is excited to be hosting a free block party for all of our neighborhood brides & grooms. The event will begin and end with a free 30-minute intro to bridal boot camp class with the opportunity to network with some of the South Ends’ top wedding vendors. Space is limited, so be sure to register HERE.

 

Can’t make it to these events? You can still learn more about our amazing Wedding Boot Camps, available in 3-, 6,- or 12-month packages HERE or by contacting the studio at info@endurancepilates.com

 

The Final Stretch

Whether you’re a novice runner or a multi-marathon veteranyou’ve heard the importance of a post-run stretch, but do you know what to lengthen and what needs to stay strong?  Pilates is a specialized regimen that properly stretches the muscles of the body with the strength and control necessary to help joints maintain a proper range of motion. Without specialized stretching and the opposing strength to hold the newly found range of motions, muscles can become tight and leave you susceptible to pain or injury. 

So, what muscles need stretching? Any physical activity utilizes a whole range of different muscles, but targeting the ones that are being used the most during your runs will be most effective and help you improve in the long run

1. The Quadriceps

Quadriceps_3D

Your Quadriceps, or “Quads” are comprised of four separate muscles on the front of your thigh. This area can be overused during running and may be one of the first areas you feel soreness in, especially in a marathon like Boston that starts off downhill!   If not lengthened out properly, tight quads can cause a misalignment in the leg joints.

2. The Calves

Calf Muscle

Courtesy of lumen learning

Made up of two separate muscles on the back of your lower leg, the calves are an often overlooked, but essential piece of your running anatomy. If weakened or tightened, the calves can affect the movement at both the knee and the ankle joint.

3. The Hamstrings 

Hamstrings

You might not know exactly what or where your hamstrings are, but chances are you’ve felt them. The hamstring is a grouping of three muscles that run the length of the back of your upper leg. Although the hamstring is important for knee and hip movements, runners often forget or neglect to stretch them out. The hamstrings are important hip mobilizers and they also help to stabilize the pelvis.  Maintaining the right flexibility for a runner can help with muscle fatigue, overuse, and even lower back pain!

4. The Iliotibial (IT) Band

Tensor fasciae latae

While the Iliotibial band is not a muscle it plays a vital role in your body’s mechanics for running. The IT Band is a fascial band that spans the outer knee and thigh. It is part of a system that contributes to hip movement and knee stabilization and is used constantly during a run. The IT band is meant to be tight in order to control the position of the leg, yet becomes overly tight and overused when the glutes and inner thighs are weak.

5. The Gluteal MusclesGluteus_all.gif

Did you know that your Gluteus Maximus (aka your backside) is the largest and heaviest muscle in your body? It is also one of the laziest!  Your glutes are made up of three main muscles and several smaller ones that make many of your lower body movements possible. Sitting all day and general inactivity leads to these muscles becoming underutilized and weak, so it’s important to give them the attention they deserve. On the flip side, overuse of the Gluteal muscles can affect hip flexibility and overall pelvic stability.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of which muscles need stretching, you still need to know HOW to stretch them! Endurance is excited to announce two FREE upcoming seminars for runners of all skill levels: 

Runners Relax and Renew

Tuesday, April 16th at 10 AM: 

For our friends running the Boston Marathon, we are hosting a 45-minute post-run stretch and meditation session to help rejuvenate the muscles and embrace your amazing accomplishment!

Sign up HERE.

Saturday, April 20th at 1 PM: 

Inspired by your friends running the marathon? If you’re interested in running next year or just looking to jump head first into the sport, join us for an Intro to Running class where we’ll cover injury prevention, scheduling, nutrition, and cross-training. Learn how to run with the Endurance Method, the safest way to run with your butt and gut! 

Sign up HERE.