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My Pilates Journey: The Hague based triathlete Sabina shares her experience of Pilates practice at Aspire Pilates

1. How did you discover Pilates?

I was introduced to Pilates through a book my father gave me for Christmas a few years ago. I have been an avid runner and did not like going to the gym, so he thought that Pilates would complement the exercises I was (not) doing. I read the first chapters of the book and was fascinated. I tried to practice the exercises from the book whenever I travelled for work in remote areas of Africa, in my small hotel room. However, I never went further than those initial chapters and I now realise that I did not really know what I was doing. It is only when I met Lucy Bosscher of the Aspire Pilates Studio in The Hague and did an introduction course, that I came to understand what Pilates is and how much I could benefit from it, particularly for my running and triathlon competitions: to keep injury-free and to enhance my performance.

2. How long have you practiced?

I have been taking Pilates classes for three years, both private, using all sorts of equipment, and group classes. I love both types of classes, but consider private sessions a real treat and try to do them at least once a week.

3. What was your initial experience of Pilates and how has it evolved over time?

I loved Pilates from the very beginning. It was quite a revelation to discover its principles, the breathing and the control you must have over each muscle of your body. With time, I got to understand better what movements are required for a specific exercise and what I should pay attention to. But even after three years I keep being surprised in discovering new exercises and all variations that go with it.

4. How have you benefited from Pilates?

Pilates helps me improve my running style, keeps me stable on the bicycle and has greatly enhanced my stroke in swimming. I keep training and competing, reaching better personal results and sometimes even a higher step of the podium but, above all, pilates has kept me injury free.

5. What is your favourite exercise and your favourite piece of equipment?

Until a week ago, I would have said : the “tree” or the “pike”, but now it is definitely
the “magician”, which I have just discovered. As for my favourite piece of equipment, without any doubt, it is the chair, so simple, and yet so versatile.

6. What has Pilates become for you?

Pilates is a privileged moment dedicated to my body and my mind. After each class, I feel so good! I feel relaxed, I feel confident. I always leave Aspire Pilates with renewed energy. Pilates is a great exercise system; it conditions your body and at the same time refreshes your mind. I never get bored with Pilates!

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Why You Should Try Pilates in the New Year

New Year, new You, right? So enough talking, let’s get straight to the point – try pilates in the New Year.

To all of you sceptics out there — an unfit international civil servant, corporate executive slaving away behind the computer screen, or a buffed gym devotee, or a spiritual yogi,  or an avid runner add Pilates to your training regime, it is your golden ticket ! Research has shown that Pilates improves:

  • Body awareness
  • Posture
  • Spinal mobility
  • Flexibility
  • Muscular endurance
  • Lower back pain
  • Bone density

And not only that! We are giving you here five compelling reasons why you should try Pilates in the New Year

1. Prevent injuries.

Injuries can leave us incapacitated for weeks and months. But what if we could use exercise as a way to prevent injuries rather than cause them? Pilates focuses on your core, strengthening your abdominals and back muscles. Think about how much you use your core every day without even realising: to stand up, walk, bend over, even to sit in a chair. If you suffer from back pain, it’s probably because these muscles are weak. Strengthen them and you’ll alleviate current woes and help prevent future pain.

2. Build core strength and long, lean muscles.

For most of us, the core is the weakest part of our bodies, but it’s our center, where all our strength originates from. When it’s weak, the entire body is weak. Pilates focuses on exercises that constantly engage the core, working on a deep level. Unlike weight lifting that can cause muscles to shorten and bulk, Pilates focuses on resistance and assistance training to work both sides of muscles simultaneously. This allows the muscles to elongate to get that long, lengthened, toned muscle look.

3. Increase flexibility, coordination and balance.

Not surprisingly, your balance and coordination come from your core as well. When Pilates strengthens your core, those muscles that control balance and coordination are also strengthened, helping to prevent falls and injuries. Increased flexibility also allows muscles to lengthen and be more pliable so they can bend and stretch further to alleviate the possibility of injury.

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4. Eliminate shallow breath and increase lung capacity.

It has been scientifically proven that controlled breathing has score of health benefits: increased focus, decreased stress, enhanced relaxation, better circulation, more efficient respiration, and lower blood pressure. Pilates is unique in its use of specific breath patterns, forced active exhalation and employment of the lateral/intercostal breathing technique. With this intense focus on breath, the exercises become more fluid, precise and controlled and the Pilates practictioner’s mind becomes free of distracting thoughts. By the end of the session, one usually leaves exhilarated, less anxious and with a deeper understanding of the relationship between the body and the mind.

5. Look 10 pounds thinner

10 pounds lighter

Pilates helps you improve your posture, and the simple act of standing with good posture can make people appear 5-10 pounds thinner. And more confident, too! Pilates is not just an exercise method, it is a lifestyle. You don’t leave the class behind when you walk out the door. You try to incorporate all of the elements into your daily life—engaging your abs, standing tall, relaxing your shoulders, moving with grace.

Pilates is so versatile that you can do it anywhere. All you need is your own body.

Still wondering if Pilates is right for you? Joseph Pilates, the father of the method,  once said, in “10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 sessions you’ll see the difference, and in 30 sessions you’ll have a whole new body.” Doesn’t that seem like something wort trying?

Get in touch with Aspire Pilates to book a session here and now.

 

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Pilates During Pregnancy: Best Exercise to Stay Fit

Expecting an addition to the family in 2016? Want to stay fit during pregnancy but not sure what type of exercise to choose from? Feel intimidated by the gym crowds? Take Pilates! Many women find Pilates to be one of best exercises to do, both during and after their pregnancy. The list of benefits is long, but let’s narrow it down to the following:

1. A stronger Transverse Abdominis to prevent Diastasis Recti.

One of the major misconceptions out there is that women should not work their abdominals during pregnancy. Of course they should! It’s just a matter of “how”.  Women should focus on the Transverse Abdominis muscles during pregnancy and not on the Rectus or what people see as the six pack muscles. Strengthening the Transverse will help combat an exaggerated Diastisis Recti, which is something that every mom-to-be should be aware of.  As the abdominals stretch, a small separation will occur between the 2 sides of the Rectus, which are the most superficial layer of the abdominal wall.  This is a natural protection response preventing Rectus from having to stretch too far, but if not handled with care, this separation can become exaggerated and sometimes not return to its natural state after delivery.  This is the number one reason to maintain a strong connection to the deep abdominal muscles, whose job is to keep everything together, even in the stretched state of pregnancy.

2. A stronger connection to the pelvic floor muscles

Most women have heard of “Kegel Exercises”, but don’t really understand the importance the Pelvic Floor during pregnancy. One of the main functions of the pelvic floor is to support the organs in the lower abdominal cavity. As the uterus grows it relies on the pelvic floor more and more for support, which is why it needs to be strengthened.  On the other hand, in order to give birth, the Pelvic Floor must completely relax to allow the baby to pass through. Pilates helps women not only feel the contraction of the Pelvic Floor muscles but also the release, ensuring that it is both strong and flexible.  A strong Pelvic Floor will also help the body return to its pre pregnancy state more quickly and prevents incontinence.

3. Better breath control

As the baby grows, the diaphragm is compressed up into the chest, and even though a woman’s lung capacity remains the same, it can feel increasingly harder to breathe.  Pilates breathing taps into the intercostal muscles lining the ribcage, which allows moms to still feel able to take deep breaths. Pilates breathing also helps keep the thoracic spine (middle back) flexible, which can get very tight during pregnancy.  Also, since each exercise in Pilates is associated with the breath connection it makes using the breath during labor much more accessible.

4. Less discomfort due to muscle & skeletal imbalances

As the baby grows the body has no choice but to adapt to make room.  This of course means that posture and alignment will be compromised.  While Pilates cannot stop this from happening, it can help to strengthen the stabilising muscles, especially those surrounding the hips and pelvis to ensure less discomfort (especially in the low back) as the baby grows and also help with balance issues.  Strengthening these muscles also helps to ensure there are no permanent imbalances postpartum. 

And of course…

5. A quicker recovery & return to pre-pregnancy body

It’s simple… the stronger the body is going in to pregnancy and throughout, the stronger it will be after.  If women lose the connection to their abdominals as they stretch during pregnancy, it will be that much harder to reconnect once the baby is out. It’s not just about abs either.  So much of being a mom involves lifting, bending over and time spent rounded forward (feeding, changing, pushing a stroller, etc) so strong arms and back are also important to prevent permanent tension, imbalances and bad habits.

If you need more advice about Pilates during pregnancy, contact us now

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Aspire Pilates Studio Gift Vouchers

Are you out of time and ideas for your gift shopping? What do you offer to someone you care about if they already have everything? Well, we at ASPIRE Pilates Studio in The Hague might have an original suggestion.

Why not treat someone to ASPIRE Pilates Studio Gift Vouchers?

It can be a 60-minute “one to one” private session at the ASPIRE Pilates Studio in Koningennengracht, The Hague; Or you can go even further, and offer an ultimate treat : an Introduction Course at ASPIRE Pilates Studio which consists of three private equipment-based or mat sessions. ASPIRE Pilates Studio in The Hague features state of the art Balanced Body apparatus. Our experienced teachers will adapt the sessions to suit all levels of fitness and Pilates experience.

ASPIRE Pilates Studio Gift Vouchers are available in a range of denominations.

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Valid for 12 weeks from date of purchase.

Want to be original? Want them to know that you care?

ASPIRE Pilates Gift Vouchers will definitely offer an experience they will appreciate.
Contact ASPIRE here and now to get this voucher!
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How Often Should I Practice Pilates?

How often should  I practice pilates? It is the question I am often asked especially by the new clients. Well, there is no One answer. It all depends on what results you are expecting to achieve.

According to the father of the method, Joseph Pilates, “If you will faithfully perform your contrology (original name of the method) exercises regularly only four times a week for just three months, you will find your body development approaching the ideal, accompanied by renewed mental vigour and spiritual enhancement.” 

Who would say “no” to mental vigour and spiritual enhancement! However, not all of us have the luxury of time and the budget to commit to four sessions a week. So where is the compromise?

If you want to get real results, say, release neck and shoulder tension and get fitter, or run a marathon without injury, or enhance your athletic performance, or get back into pre-pregnancy shape, commit to Pilates practice at least  2 times a week. And that should be an addition to your existing exercise regime. 

Even a simplest Pilates exercise focuses on multiple things – breathing, coordinated muscle contraction, balance, control. As a beginner you are often overwhelmed by having to do so many things at the same time while performing a movement, but as you progress you get better until you get into the flow. That is when your Pilates practice becomes meditation in movement.

Ideally, Pilates is something you do 24/7. Integrating Pilates concepts into your everyday life can help correct bad postural habits. Feel the shoulders creeping up and the neck getting stiffer? Get away from your computer and do a roll down to release the spine; feel the energy dip? do a standing 100 as a “little pick me up”. 

So my response to the question “How often should I practice Pilates?” is this: Once a week is great, 2 times a week is better, and 3 times a week is amazing!  

Most important, remember: Pilates should not be your only exercise. Commit to movement everyday.

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