Pilates: Empowering Yourself for a Lifetime

I have been exercising most of my life. As a former athlete, dancer and current Pilates Instructor, my physical abilities always have been front and center in my focus. For most of my life, I have needed to stay in performance shape. Formerly I worked toward this goal by spending hours a day in a dance studio, gym or on a practice field. Now, as a fitness instructor, I am no longer performing or competing but I continue to set fitness goals for myself. I want to set a good example and motivate my students as my teachers have motivated and inspired me.

Pilates at 57I am dedicated to being physically fit, to being in the best possible shape I can be. I do this not just for appearances, but also for my overall health, mental well-being and safety. As I rapidly approach my mid-fifties, I no longer need to be in peak performance shape, but I do want and need to be ready for all the things I want to accomplish or anything that comes my way. I want and need to remain active and moving for a lifetime. I want to not only live with “spontaneous zest and pleasure,” but to be ready to jump out of the way of an oncoming bus if needed. Pilates has given me endless ways to stay on that path.

My quest to remain active has given me the confidence to try and allowed me to still be able to slalom water ski (got up first try this summer), achieve level one in a Parkour class, learn to surf, take kite surfing lessons, keep up with my 12-year-old, and fly on silks in an aerial class. I credit my Pilates practice for keeping my body agile and strong enough to try and enjoy all of these activities in my fifties. The one event that I feel has most proven to me that I’ve maintained my fitness in my fifties is a specific day when I needed to call on my body in an emergency.

The summer I turned 50 my husband was undergoing chemotherapy for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The treatment left him fatigued and queasy most of the time but he was determined to enjoy a bit of summer. We took an afternoon dinghy ride up the Choptank River to one of our favorite spots, a somewhat isolated shoreline and sandbar. With us were my son and step-grandson (both age 8 at the time) and my stepson (age 30). We beached the boat and went exploring. A few minutes into our walk I looked back at the boat, which was now drifting from the beach and floating about 100 yards into the Choptank River.

If that boat got away we were stranded. Cell phones were on board. My husband did not have the energy, and the two eight-year-olds looked to the adults to rectify the situation.

My stepson and I ran. I passed him, (I am not a runner). I ran into the water until it was too deep to run. I swam (I am not the best swimmer) as fast as I could and caught up to the drifting boat.

pilates_82I called on my body in an emergency and it came through. While a bit of adrenaline helped, I totally credit my Pilates practice for getting me to that dinghy.

It has been years since spending those hours in the gym, on the field or in a dance studio. But I do practice Pilates daily. If my schedule doesn’t permit me to do a full work out, I always make it a priority, first thing in the morning, to do at least a 15-minute Pilates mat.

It is inevitable as we age that our bodies and abilities change, but knowing I can do something physically challenging in an emergency motivates me. It also gives me a sense of responsibility to maintain that ability as long as possible. My practice of Pilates is my path to doing so. It is an empowering method of exercise for a lifetime.
I also still want to water ski when I am 80…

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“To achieve the highest accomplishments within the scope of our capabilities in all walks of life we must constantly strive to acquire strong, healthy bodies and develop our minds to the limits of our ability.”  -Joseph H. Pilates

~Author Lesa McLaughlin is the owner of Excel Pilates DC, the first Pilates studio in Washington, DC. Lesa’s experience is that of a Master teacher.  She has worked with clients for 20 years in The Pilates Method Of Body Conditioning. She was certified as a teacher in The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning by The Pilates Studio in New York in 1995 under the tutelage of Romana Krowsanavska.

Stretch: Making Movement Look Easy, Even if it’s Not

It’s not a mystery… working out is and should be hard work. It’s how we gain strength, muscle mass and definition. But ultimately it should feel good and movement should come with a sense of ease. Muscle tightness and stiff joints can create an additional challenge that generates tension in a workout rather than the “zest and pleasure” of an invigorating session of exercise. When you find the balance of stretch and strength it creates a sense of efficiency that will make you say “that was easier!”

As a teacher of Pilates I often am asked by students, “can you recommend some stretches to help me gain flexibility in my ________________?” My answer is Pilates.

I believe one of the many reasons that the Pilates Method is so ingenious is that each Pilates exercise incorporates stretch components as well as strength components. Participants gain range of motion by what is referred to as active stretch. Active stretch means that you contract a muscle directly across from the one you stretch. One muscle relaxes while the opposing muscle initiates the stretch. In Pilates it is most often a dynamic active stretch, which means the muscles and body are in motion. Through this dynamic active stretch, you gradually increase range of motion to maximize the contraction potential of a muscle. You are simultaneously working on one to help gain the other.

A few examples of this in action are the Roll Up, during which you strengthen the abdominals while you stretch the lower back through the sequencing of the spine; Double Leg Kick, which strengthens the muscles of the back and hamstrings while stretching the pectoral muscles and quadriceps; and Chest Expansion, which strengthens the muscles of the upper back and triceps while it stretches the shoulders and chest.

The harder you work on an exercise, the more flexibility you gain. As you gain flexibility, you are able to access your muscles with more depth and intensity.

Stretching is a vital component of any fitness regiment because supple muscles and joints allow the body to move with more ease. A healthy range of motion allows the skeleton to be in proper functional alignment with the muscles to create efficiency of movement. Efficient movement helps the body gain strength with balance. Balance in movement reduces the potential for pain and injury. Stretching makes you feel more comfortable when you move; the more comfortable you feel moving your body, the more you will want to move it and the better you will be at moving it.

If you would like to learn more about stretching through Pilates, please come to Excel Pilates’ Stretch with Pilates  Workshop: Maximizing the stretch potential of your Pilates workout.  This hour long workshop will be taught by Lesa McLaughlin, on Thursday, May 8th, from 7:00-8:00pm — $20 or use your Mat class package.

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Holiday Time!

Happy Holidays from Excel Pilates DC! 

As the year comes to a close there’s no better time to start making decisions about how you’d like to see your life change in the coming year. We’ve already given you reasons why you and your body would love Pilates, but here are just a few quick announcements from us you may want to know as you get started.

Thanksgiving Schedule
Closing early on Wednesday 11.27.
Closed Thursday through Sunday 11.28-12.1.
Back to regular schedule Monday, December 2.
Black Friday Sale
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Purchase and book on Nov 29 ONLINE ONLY
Mega Combo Pack are valid until 5/1/14
Private Session 5 Card Deal valid until 2/28/14

Christmas Schedule
Closed Sunday through Wednesday 12.22-12.25.
Modified Schedule Thursday through Monday 12.26-12.30
Closing Early Tuesday 12.31
Closed Wednesday 01.01.2014
Modified Schedule 01.02-01.04
Please call for additional information on the holiday schedule. We will do our best to make proper accommodations.

Gift Cards
Just in time for the Holidays, Excel Pilates is now offering GIFT CARDS!

Gift Cards are available for purchase in studio.
You can purchase as many as you’d like for any dollar amount.
They can be used on any item, sale or service offered.
Be sure to get them early before we are closed for the holiday schedule above!

Be sure to stay tuned for more holiday sales and events coming in the future! We are excited to see you and be a part of your Pilates journey! Before you go take a second to answer our poll below so that we know what you would like to see us have more of in the future!