My Top Nine Wellness Apps

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I often use wellness apps in different ways to help keep me focused on my health and fitness goals and general overall wellbeing. I thought I would share them with you in today’s blog.

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Fitbit keeps me motivated to achieve my steps and to keep moving throughout the day because I believe that while you can work out for that one hour during a workout, if you’re not moving the rest of the day it kind of almost defeats the purpose.

I like that Fitbit gives me notifications to keep moving throughout the day, so every hour it will remind me to get up, move and get in my steps. I also like the community aspect of Fitbit.  A group of friends and I do weekly challenges so we can motivate each other to get in our steps for the day.

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My Fitness Pal is a good one for tracking nutrition as well as your exercise. If I want to keep kind of a nutritional diary, I can track what I’m eating. There is a great community aspect to this one do. I have a few friends on there and we support and motivate each other towards our wellness goals.

It’s also very user friendly, it’s simple to track your macros if that is an approach you like to take. If you’re someone who’s more into Keto and you’re trying to not have some any carbs or whatever you can adjust those goals in My Fitness Pal to better track them.

As far as apps that are available that do what this one does, it is my favorite app for this.

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Strava is one that I used quite a bit when I was cycling more. I started this one again because I’ve been using it to track my runs as I train for the Disney Princess Half Marathon that I’ll be running in February.

This one uses GPS to log your runs, giving you the time, pace, map route and more. It’s great for tracking outside runs and bike rides. Fitbit does this as well, so I like to use both of them and compare the input.

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We just joined the LA Fitness in our area and their app is very useful. I can use it to check in at the gym (instead of using a key tag), track my workouts, schedule classes and even find gyms to hit when I’m out of town.

I like that wherever I am I can pull up the schedule and see what’s going on and if there are any classes I want to go to.

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This app really helps you to find some focus and clarity in the moment. I love this one for the whole mind/body connection.

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Five Minute Journal is a great app if you want to start a gratitude journal. You can take time each evening to add a few words or sentences on what you were grateful for that day. I’ve used this one in the past a lot and really helps you to get in a positive frame of mind.

I like that you can also add affirmations and pictures to your posts. And each day it will give you an inspirational quote when you log in.

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Affirmations is just that. Log in and a new daily affirmation appears. I like to use this one in the morning to set a positive mood for the day. It gives me something to think about and refer back to during the day.

I’m a big believer in affirmations and that they can help us frame our day in a positive mindset.

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Oracle Cards might be a little woo-woo but I’ve used them for years. It’s kind of like reading your horoscope or getting a tarot reading. I like to draw a single card everyday and again this helps me set a mood for the day. I have found that these can give me some great clarity around a situation I’m contemplating.

The one I’m using now is the Oracle of the Avalon from Hay House and I like a few of the others they have, especially the ones from Doreen Virtue.

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Focus Keeper works off of the Pomodoro Method. If you are someone easily distracted by cat memes on Facebook and find yourself wasting away hours at the computer, then this is the app for you.

It sets a 25 minute timer for you to focus on one single task at a time. Then you take a 5 minute break to complete the cycle. You can do as many cycles as you want in order to finish your task. It’s great at keeping yourself focused while working on a project.

What is your favorite health and wellness apps? Let me know in the comments below.

What To Expect From A Pilates Private Session

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Perhaps part of your fitness goals has been to try Pilates? Maybe you have always wanted to try a Pilates equipment class/session. However, you are a little timid and maybe even scared of taking that first step. You have no idea what to expect and you are a little unsure of what this Reformer thing is that looks like a medieval torture device.

WHAT IS THE PILATES REFORMER?

The Reformer is the most recognized and popular piece of equipment or apparatus in the Pilates studio. This is the central piece of equipment used in most Pilates classes and studios. The Universal Reformer, so called because it is used for “universally reforming the body”, creates a balanced workout that is great for everyone regardless of fitness level. Auxiliary equipment you might find in the studio include the Chair, Cadillac or Tower; these pieces are often used at the end of a Pilates session to focus on the personal needs of the individual.

Invented by Joseph Pilates himself, the Reformer is a bed like piece of equipment with a moving carriage. The carriage is attached to springs that give resistance to the exercises performed on the Reformer. The Reformer has straps that both the hands and feet can be placed in for various exercises. Exercises on the Reformer are done laying down, sitting and even standing.

The Reformer offers all of the Pilates benefits including: overall strength, flexibility, coordination and balance.

WHAT TO WEAR OR BRING TO YOUR FIRST PILATES CLASS?

For your comfort and ease of performing the exercises it is best to wear clothes that are more form fitting. Yoga pants or leggings and a tank top are perfect as they allow the instructor to to see how your body moves so they can check alignment and offer adjustments as needed. Avoid clothes that have zippers, toggles, etc. and leave your jewelry at home. These things have been known to cause tears or holes in the upholstery of the equipment.

Exercises on the Pilates Equipment are done in bare feet or with socks that have grippy textures on the bottom. So you can leave those fancy gym shoes at home. Contrary to popular belief that Pilates is just stretching, you will sweat in your Pilates workout. Bring a towel to wipe any sweat as well as a bottle of water to keep yourself hydrated during your workout. Some studios will provide these items, but most often studios do not, so it’s best to be prepared and bring your own.

ARRIVE EARLY TO YOUR FIRST PILATES SESSION

I suggest arriving early to your first session. The studio may have paperwork or intake forms for you to fill out prior to your session. A good Pilates teacher will meet with you prior to your session to learn about your body, ask if you have any challenges or injuries so that they can adjust the class to your needs. The teacher may also introduce you to the equipment which includes safety information, the parts of each piece and how to use the apparatus. It’s important that before you begin working out on the equipment that you understand each part.

The right Pilates teacher will find out your goals, take into consideration your imbalances or injuries and create a plan to help you achieve your goals. Whether you are there to rehab from an injury or surgery, or simply to gain more strength and become more fit, the teacher should create a plan to achieve this, and work to find the right exercises and equipment to get you to that point.

While I strongly believe that Pilates is for everybody regardless of age, body type, fitness level, injuries or medical conditions there are some exercises that may need to be omitted or modified based on your individual needs. Finding out any physical limitations prior to the class/session will help your teacher to give you the best workout out for you and keep you safe.

WHAT IS A TYPICAL PILATES EQUIPMENT CLASS LIKE?

Once you have met your teacher and have been introduced to the equipment it is time to get started. Typical Pilates sessions are 55 minutes in length. The work on the apparatus focuses on a full body workout with small and controlled movements using the springs for resistance. Just like a Pilates workout on the mat, focus is put on building core strength, but now we work against the springs to focus on control and centering.

Your session on the Reformer will be a full body workout. Classes typically start off with a warm up while lying down. As the class progresses you will focus on specific muscle groups through exercises that have you lying down, sitting, standing and even being in an inverted position.

Pay attention to the instruction and cues of your instructor. Their cues are important to make sure you are performing the exercise correctly, that your form is good and safe, and will help to make sure you are targeting the right muscles you should be using. Expect a lot of hands on instruction in your session. Most teachers like to help adjust the body so you can reap the full benefits of the exercises on the equipment as well as focus on proper body alignment.

While Pilates is low impact and safe on the joints, you will still find it a challenging workout. Sometimes the smallest of moves can be the hardest. Also, as previously mentioned, you will sweat. You might not sweat like you would in a boot camp or HIIT type of class, but you should find Pilates a challenging workout that still makes you sweat.

FINAL WORDS AND TIPS

After your first session you may find yourself a little sore. That is to be expected, but you may also find yourself feeling more flexible and walking a little taller with better posture.

During your session if you have any concerns or questions please speak up and let your teacher know.  This allows the teacher to teach in the moment, and helps the student to fully comprehend the exercise and what they are being asked to do.

Hopefully, you now feel more prepared to take on your first Pilates class.

Pilates VS. Yoga! Which is Right for You?

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When I meet people and tell them I teach Yoga and Pilates, the number one question I get is always “Isn’t Pilates just stretching like Yoga?” That would be a big “NO!” If you have ever taken both a Yoga and Pilates mat class you might notice some similarities. In fact Joseph Pilates, the creator of Pilates, was inspired by Yoga and practiced Yoga himself.

But the two are very different in many ways. It really is like apple to oranges.

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The Origin –

Yoga is thousands of years old and was created in India. Yoga was initially created as a spiritual practice, it’s only now in the modern, Western world that is become more about the physical fitness practice of yoga; with the focus being more on the postures and the physical practice.

Pilates was created by Joseph Pilates in the 20th century as a form of strengthening and rehabilitation. It is first and foremost a physical fitness practice. Pilates focuses on a practice that brings together the mind and the body. Yoga adds in the element of spirituality and  focuses on unifying the body, mind and spirit.

The Benefits –

Both practices offer many great benefits including strength, flexibility, stress relief and awareness of the body and breath. Pilates focuses more on building strength, particularly in the core area.

Yoga benefits include relaxation, focus on breathing, and the addition of meditation.

Pilates benefits also include the guiding Principles: control, centering, concentration, precision, breath, and flow. Pilates also puts a great focus on building better posture and muscular balance.

A Typical Class –

This is really where the two begin to differ. Yoga now has many different styles, so how the class is structured is based on the style of the teacher. Classes will focus on a flowing series of yoga poses, sometimes the poses may be held for a few breaths. Often the moment is coordinated with the breath, particularly in the Vinyasa style of Yoga.

Most classes will begin with some mediation and maybe even chanting. Pretty much every Yoga class will end in Savasana, a final resting pose. Yoga combines standing postures, seated postures, supine and prone postures.

In Pilates you can take mat or equipment classes. Mat Pilates classes most often feature the traditional order of exercises that Joseph Pilates created. When taking a Mat class with a traditional teacher, you can expect the same order of exercises and a structured class. This helps the student to learn the order and focus on working on proper alignment and progressing the exercises. The focus of the class is a great all over body workout, but mainly the work is on building a stronger core or Powerhouse.

In a Pilates class you will move the whole time. The Pilates exercises are not static, meaning you don’t hold poses like you would in Yoga. You are meant to keep the body moving both during the exercises as well as from one exercise to the next. Most of the Pilates exercises are done on a mat, in a supine (on the back) position.

So Which One is Right For You?

So which one is right for you? It really depends on your goal for starting your practice. As you can see there are some overlapping qualities of both. Give both a try and see which one you connect with the most. I highly recommend a practice that includes both and no I’m not talking about Yogalates or PiYo (which are neither Yoga or Pilates), but add both to your fitness routine. I recommend to my students 1 – 2 classes a week of both.

Some people will connect with one over the other. Maybe you want a kick ass workout that focuses on strength. Then Pilates might be for you. Maybe you need a calming class with time to just sit and silence and learn to breath again. Then Yoga is for you. Give each a try and see which one you resonate with the most. Yoga isn’t for everyone and Pilates isn’t for everyone. You’ll only know once you’ve tried both.

As one of my friends said “I’m more interested in learning Pilates, because Yoga doesn’t appeal to me. I have no desire to stand around like a tree” Personally, I love standing around like a tree.

Namaste!

What is Pilates?

 

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When I tell people that I’m a Pilates teacher I often get a quizzical look. Followed with questions like “That’s like yoga right?”or “That’s like stretching for ballerinas right?”

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History of Pilates

Pilates is a method of exercise that was created by Joseph Pilates in the early 20th Century. Originally called Contrology by Pilates, it has become one of the fastest growing methods of exercise. Joseph Pilates was a German who was interned in a prison camp in England during World War 1. Some say that Pilates created the exercises that we now know to help keep his fellow detainees fit and healthy during the war; it was also rumored that he created resistance equipment by using bed frames and bed springs, as well as metal bands from beer kegs. These were the first Pilates equipment that we now know as the Reformer and the Magic Circle.

After the war Pilates moved to New York City where he opened his first studio and worked mostly with boxers. Because his studio was also in close proximity to many dance studios, eventually many dancers came to him looking for rehabilitation for different injuries. Joseph Pilates continued to teach out of his studio for many years, and wrote two books on his method, “Return to Life Through Contrology” and “Your Health: A Corrective System of Exercising That Revolutionizes the Entire Field of Physical Education”.

What is Pilates

Pilates is at it’s heart a physical fitness routine that builds on core strength and flexibility. Focus is put on spinal and pelvic alignment, breath, concentration and control of the core muscle group through body based movements. There are six principles of Pilates that are now known to be a major part of the method. These are concentration, control, center, flow, precision, and breathing.

There are mat exercises that can be done anywhere on a padded mat, and focus more on using one’s own body weight and movement to engage and strengthen the “powerhouse” and other parts of the body. There is also the apparatus that was created by Joseph Pilates and still used today. These include the reformer, Cadillac, barrels and more. These use spring loaded resistance to offer a more challenging strength and endurance workout.

When most people think about the benefits of Pilates, they think “strong core” But my friends, it is OH SO more than that. Everything that we do radiates from our center, or from our core, which in Pilates we call the “Powerhouse”.  Pilates not only strengthens the core but also improves flexibility. Pilates improves muscle tone, balances musculature, supports correct posture, and teaches you to move with ease and grace, while building flexibility and long, lean muscles, strength and endurance in the legs, abs, arms, hips, and back.

As you can see the benefits of Pilates are many. However, my favorite benefit of Pilates is the one that isn’t even visible to the eye; a calming sense of peace of mind. There is a wonderful mind-body connection in Pilates similar to when practicing Yoga. Pilates is like a moving meditation to me. The precision of movement that flows with both grace and strength whether on a mat or a piece of the Pilates equipment can not be beat.

As you move through the exercises with the Pilates principles in mind, you become more in tune and aware of your body. You have very little time to focus on life outside of the studio, as you become one with your body. The stress and tension of work, family life, etc. just melt away as you move through the exercises. It is indeed a very mindful practice.

Of course there are many physical benefits to practicing Pilates, as I mentioned above. Many of my students come to Pilates because of low back pain, or wanting to work on developing lean musculature and strengthening their core. Pilates can help you to look and feel your best, as well as teaching body awareness and good posture. Recent studies even show that Pilates can help alleviate low back pain more than other therapies.

In fact a recent Italian study “found an important improvement of pain, disability and physical and psychological perception of health in individuals who did the daily sessions of pilates”.*  The results of the study showed that Pilates was better at reducing pain in individuals with low back pain more than the standard treatment methods for chronic low back pain. That’s pretty powerful! Pilates heals!!

In my teaching I have many special conditions that I work with and all of these clients have seen amazing benefits from a regular and consistent Pilates practice. Whatever your goal is, Pilates can help you achieve your fitness and wellness goals.

Benefits of Pilates:

  • Increased Core Strength
  • Better Spinal Health
  • Improved Balance and Posture
  • Leaner Musculature
  • Increased Flexibility
  • Increased Energy
  • Improved Joint Health
  • Corrects Imbalances in the Body
  • Establishes Mind-Body Connection
  • Greater Body Awareness

It’s very easy to see how a regular and consistent Pilates practice can benefit you in so many ways, both physical and mental. Pilates is not only great for building core strength, or helping athletes to improve their games, but it can help the every day person (like you and me) to alleviate pain, build strength and flexibility and heal from the inside out. Give it a go and see for yourself.

The beauty of the Pilates method is that is accessible to everyone, and most of the exercises can be modified to suit different populations. If you are interested in further exploring the Pilates method look for a certified instructor in your area and try a class.

*Notarnicola A., Fischetti F., Maccagnano G., Comes R., Tafuri S., Moretti B. “Daily pilates exercise or inactivity for patients with low back pain: a clinical prospective observational study”  European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine. February 2014

How To Start a Yoga Practice

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Yes, starting a yoga practice can be very intimidating. One of the number one reasons I hear from people for not starting a practice is that they feel they are not flexible enough to do yoga. That is why you start! Yoga helps build flexibility, so you can just meet your body where it is now and get started. As long as you show up on your mat, you can benefit from yoga.

Besides flexibility, yoga is also great for increasing muscle strength, reducing pain, improving mental clarity, it offers a sense of calmness, relaxes the mind and relieves stress.

With so many studios popping up and yoga seemingly everywhere, it has never been more accessible. However, it can also be a bit overwhelming to know where to begin. Here’s some tips and information to get you started and on your mat in no time.

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There are now several styles and schools of Yoga. Here are a few and their different approaches.

  • Hatha – this is a generic term that refers to most forms of yoga. Typically these classes move a bit slower and focus on holding poses (or asanas) for a few breaths.
  • Iyengar – developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, this type of yoga utilizes props such as yoga blocks and straps to make the asanas more accessible. This is a great practice for beginners or someone who maybe has difficulty with balance, alignment or who has certain physical conditions.
  • Vinyasa – Vinyasa is a more fluid and constant moving form of yoga. Asanas are linked with breath and transitioning from one asana to the next is part of the practice. When you see classes labeled as Power Yoga, they are usually a form of Vinyasa.
  • Gentle or Restorative – there are many forms of gentle or restorative yoga, such as Yin Yoga. These classes will also feature props like yoga blocks and bolsters in order to support the body in more passive poses. These classes typically move very slow and are great for relaxation.

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I highly recommend trying out a few classes and styles to get a feel for what type of practice you may be drawn to. Also, taking a class in a studio means you will have a teacher there to watch your alignment in the poses so as to avoid injury.

A certified yoga teacher will be able to modify the exercises for you and help you to find the proper alignment in each exercise. Make sure that your teacher is there to teach, focus on your alignment, and keep you safe. They should not be practicing alongside you for the whole class. They are there to teach, not get in a workout of their own.

A knowledgeable teacher will focus on alignment, anatomy and offer modifications for special cases or injuries. They should also be able to teach all levels of students at once, teaching the exercises so a beginner can do them, while offering progressions of the exercises for intermediate and advanced students in the class. No yogi left behind!

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If the thought of going to a studio is still a bit intimidating, there are now many options that can help you start a practice at home. This is actually how I got started in my own yoga practice, which led me to practicing at local studios and then eventually getting certified to teach.

All you need is a mat and some floor space to get started. I started off by following along to yoga DVDS. Some of my favorite yoga DVDs are from Gaiam, especially Gaiam Healing Yoga DVD With Rodney Yee. Not to mention that there are so many great instructors who do videos on YouTube (myself included) and there are even some pay per view yoga sites online. These help to make getting started easy and fun. Here are a few that I love:

As far as what to wear, just wear what you are comfortable in. I prefer athletic gear that is lightweight, more form fitting, breathable and moisture wicking. I prefer more form fitting clothes when I work out, because extra fabric can actually be a hindrance and just get in the way. However, wear whatever you feel comfortable in and what’s going to get you on your mat.

Make sure to have a towel nearby for sweat and to wipe sweat off your mat so you don’t slip in certain poses. Also, have a water bottle handy so you can stay hydrated while focusing on your practice. Props are a great way to help make certain asanas more accessible as well as take you even deeper in some poses. I recommend having at least one yoga block and a yoga strap ( or a long towel or belt will do). You can find these anywhere now, even at places like Target, TJ Maxx and sporting goods stores. I’ll leave a few links at the end of this article of my favorite yoga props. I’ve also included one of my YouTube videos that is a short and gentle yoga practice perfect for beginners.

I hope this post as given you some more information on starting a practice and helped to relieve some of the anxiety about getting started. If you have any questions please comment below or reach out to me and I’ll be happy to answer them. Now unroll that mat and get your yoga on. Namaste!

Resources:

Yoga Mats:

Manduka Yoga Mats

Gaiam Moroccan Garden Yoga Mat (3mm)

GoFit Yoga Mats at Dick’s Sporting Goods

Yoga Props:

Gaiam Block & Strap Combo

Gaiam Rectangular Bolster

Yoga Props at REI 

The Happiness Project: Mid Year Check In & June Resolution

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After reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin back in December, I set out to create my own Happiness Project for 2018. I set an area of focus, or resolution, for each month in which I wanted to bring more happiness and joy into. I shared my goals and resolutions for each month in 2018 here, check then out.

Now that we are half way through the year, I did a mid year check in on my goals. In the video below, I share how I did on each goal, including some wins and some misses. I also share my resolution for June and some exciting news about my professional career.

I would also love to hear about any goals you set for this year and how you are doing on them, so comment below.

Coffee Chat With Chris – Body Positive – Disordered Eating Recovery

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Sharing my body image issues and my recovery from an eating disorder is something I have always wanted to share with others, but never had the courage to do so. Until now.

Eating disorders, disordered eating and negative body image issues are quickly growing among men, but it’s seldom talked about. In our world of “man up” it is often hard for men to come forward and talk about their struggles with these bodies we live in. However, we are starting to see more men stepping up and talking about these struggles as the Body Positive movement grows. I hope that I can be a loud voice in this movement.

From my teens and into my thirties, I struggled with an eating disorder. It wasn’t only until recently that I’ve been able to speak about it and talked to friends and family about what I went through and why. Even day, while in recovery, I still have moments or triggers, but I’ve learned to deal with those. Everyday, I work hard to accept and love this body I’m in and to work to help others do the same.

In this video I get real on my struggle with and recovery from disordered eating. I share how I discovered Body Positivity and how I work to accept and love myself a little more each day.