5 Ways To Pick The Right Class (For You!)

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Dear Readers:
 
Having just returned from a beautiful holiday, I was pleasantly surprised when I put my key into the studio door and felt a sense of excitement come over me. You know you have a lot to be grateful for when you are excited to go back to work.  I guess I just want to start this blog by saying thank you.  It is because of your support that I am able to do what I love every day and I really hope to bring the same support to you in your health and fitness goals.
 
The relationship between instructor and student is such a special one and not something I ever take for granted. Last week, I spoke about life coming out on the mat and today, I want to make mention of how important it is for instructors to see the person inside of the body that is working so hard to follow direction.  People attend classes for a number of reasons and often health and fitness goals are ignited by a moment of painful realisation that they aren’t taking as good of care of themselves as they need to in order to live their happiest and fullest lives.  So many instructors show so much care and yet others can come in and bark orders and yell out commands without really seeing the parts in the whole.
 
This frightens me a bit as finding the right instructor is a bit like dating and one should not give up on classes simply because they have one in which they didn’t feel connected.  Today, I want to share five things to think of as you search for the right class.
 
 
Give it time. When you don’t know what you are doing, anything feels uncomfortable and awkward. If it’s just the routine that feels strange, try and go to three classes before making a decision.
 
Talk to the instructor. Don’t just pop in and out of a class. Take the time to introduce yourself to the instructor and ask him or her a few questions related to your goals and interests. 
 
Make it as convenient as possible. Is the location of the studio easy to get to? Is there a full class schedule? How full do the classes get on average?
 
Try a few classes. At JMP, we offer Pilates and Barre classes for students who want to mix things up, train different parts of their bodies and for those who prefer one over the other.
 
Don’t project! Being in a group class can be seriously intimidating (look at her bum! Am I doing this right?) Just because you’re feeling a certain something doesn’t mean everyone else is thinking it.
 
In closing, it’s essential that you remember that all classes are made up of men and women just like you. They are a community, not a competition and the right instructor will see you as an individual and you can help that by offering them the same respect in return.
 
Much Love,
 
Jo

Winter Blues? 5 Ways To Not Hate The Cold (No, Really).

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Dear Readers:

As winter has arrived, many will notice their moods will begin to change. Without the warm sunny days (and loads of extra vitamin D) it’s easy to snuggle up with the winter blues if not full-on seasonal affective disorder. Today, I would like to share 5 ways to stay positive and productive during these cooler months,

Accept Reality. It sounds silly, but how many people spend their entire fall and winter months complaining and whining about the cold and “counting the days” until summer? Weather talk is common, but when you think about how negative it is to resist your current reality on a daily basis, you begin to realize that you’re encouraging unnecessary negativity.

Now, make the most of it. There’s a lot of good things about the season, so find ways to enjoy and indulge in what is associated with these months. Mulled wine, bonfires, under-the-blanket movie nights with tea and more time with friends and family indoors are all good things (some in more moderation than others). A sweat-inducing booty barre or Pilates class never hurt anyone, either ;).

Stop being so hard on yourself. There are going to be moments when you indulge, forgo the workout and choose to stay in bed instead of tackling your “to-do” list. You’re human. Allow yourself to be and just get back on track without punishing yourself.

Get Away. On Tuesday, I posted about healthy retreats (and my getting away to the snow!), but booking any holiday works for you in a number of ways. First, studies have shown that anticipation serves as a mood-booster and the holiday itself can be a relaxing refuge. Bring along a loved one or a great friend and make a fantastic memory or go solo and reconnect with yourself!

Finally, be grateful. For the tastes, smells and treats of each season and the opportunity to experience each and every one, making the most of your days and infusing them with balance, harmony, good health, and yes, a bit of wine.

What’s your favourite thing about Winter?

Much Love,

Jo

Staying Healthy In Cooler Months: A Few Tips To Make It Easier

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Dear Readers:
Though yesterday was oddly warm, all one has to do is look outside to know that summer has gone and cooler months are upon us. While I miss the never-ending sunshine and consecutive beach days (a lot), there are some great things about the colder months, most specifically the warm soups, full-bodied wines and those “let’s stay in” moments with our nearest and dearest.  But let’s be honest; staying healthy and active isn’t always so easy when there are so many temptations to indulge in heartier meals and stay under-the-covers on dark mornings.
Today, I want to share a few tips for staying the course.
Have rich and healthy snacks on-hand.  Peanut or almond butter slathered on an apple or piece of warm pumpkin,  thick, greek yoghurt with warm honey and nuts (which being lactose intolerant, I cannot have) or even warmed blueberries over oats can all satisfy like the unhealthier options that will no doubt be tempting us.
Have a Stay At Home Workout Plan. A DVD, free weights,  yoga mat and a balance ball are enough to help a day in be a day off.
Set Up a Buddy System: Take turns carpooling or meet at the local cafe for a pre-workout coffee or tea. When you have someone else relying on you, you’re more likely to go.
Plan your meals ahead of time and keep a food diary.  A little food prep will go a long way in terms of keeping your meals from moving into the full sugar and starch territory. Keeping a food diary will also differentiate what you’re craving and what your body actually needs.
Don’t beat yourself up. In the cooler months, our bodies tend to crave more rest, and that’s OK. It’s all about balance, in our bodies and our lives.
Do you feel its harder to stay healthy in Fall and Winter?
Much Love,
Jo

How To Stay Centered In Chaos

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Dear Readers:

We live in a world that is constant motion–literally and figuratively, and let’s face it; it can be difficult to quiet the mind and find our “zen” when there’s so much going on around us.  Unfortunately, a mind that never settles leads to a number of situations that can have a very serious negative impact on our health–from sleepless nights to higher levels of stress hormones. Today, I am sharing five ways to stay calm in the chaos. I would love to hear your ideas below or on my Facebook page in the comments.

Be Grateful: It sounds a little cliched, but the proof is in the pudding so to speak. According to a study at The University of California, Davis, Gratitude has been shown to reduce cortisol levels (stress hormone) over 20%. One way to do this is to recite 3-6 things you’re grateful for each morning and in moments of stress. Give it a try and let me know if you notice any changes.

Exercise: OK, you knew this would be in here, but there’s a good reason beyond wanting to see you all in class.  Exercise keeps dopamine and serotonin levels up while also giving us time to zone out in a way that actually benefits our overall health (unlike a glass of wine and TV, which also has its place, but not daily).

Stay Present: There is a saying that living in the past brings about depression and living in the future increases anxiety.  Instead of dwelling on what has gone wrong and what could go wrong, keep your eyes on the road in front of you and make your big decisions in real time.

Step Outside of The Situation: Whether it’s a packed train, an overwhelming mother-in-law or a chaotic work meeting, challenge yourself to see it as an objective person looking in instead of someone who needs to participate. In doing so, you’ll start to see the big picture and train your mind to focus on the whole instead of allowing small bumps and eye-rolls to ruin your day.

Breathe: We sometimes forget that the calming, deep, healthy and healing Pilates breathing technique can be used outside of the studio, and as often as is needed.  Breathing properly will not only lower your heart rate and redirect your focus “inside” yourself.

Much Love,

Jo

Silencing The Critics (Even The One Inside).

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Dear Readers:

Haters. Judge Judy’s. Negative Nelly’s. The Peanut Gallery.

There are a number of names we use for those folks who just always seem to have a negative opinion to share–be it verbally or even with a heavy eye-roll. While there are plenty of supportive and wonderful people in the world (who accept us for who we are and where we want to go thankyouverymuch) so many of us seem to give more credit to those with the salty words and scowling brows. As a result, we miss out on beautiful moments and opportunities as we find ourselves struggling with an ever-present fear of judgement. It’s such a shame to experience, but also to watch someone who we admire, respect and believe in talk themselves out of believing in themselves.

Now, we all know the “tsk tsk” mentality has been around since the beginning of time, but the fact that we now live in a world of 24-hour media has amplified the problem, almost making a live-and-let-judge society the norm. Everything from our outfits to our expressions of joy are up for commentary which has led to a perpetuation of fear that, somehow, if we are completely ourselves (flaws and all) we will let others down in some way.

As both an individual and instructor, this breaks my heart.  I not only hurt when I see those in my life holding themselves back from their full potential, but I  find myself concerned for the well-being of many current and would-be students who find themselves operating in a space of fear.  There are those who aren’t fully present in a class–or perhaps don’t even sign up for one--because they are too concerned about how they might be perceived by someone else.  It could be they are afraid of body comparisons or worried their partner, friends or family members might deem their desire to do something solely for themselves as indulgent. Or it could even be that old negative messages from childhood have convinced us we are not worth the effort or will never achieve our goals.

Today, I want to ask all of you to really think about who you are and who you want to be. Not who you were or who the world has told you that you are, but your truest and most authentic self. Think about what you want to experience in this life and what would make you feel most whole. If it’s wearing your hair a certain way, dancing like crazy in a Booty Barre class, taking that bucket list trip to that far off locale or something far more personal, I encourage you to really open up your heart to it.

The reality is that there will always be someone who will misunderstand us or feel they know us better than we know ourselves, but when we really nurture and welcome our essence and our own unique soul, suddenly the world isn’t scary but a beautiful, magical and exciting place that cultivates and rewards our curiosity.

You are enough as you are, please don’t forget that.

Much Love,

Jo

5 Things Pilates Has Taught Me

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Dear Readers:

The toning benefits of Pilates have been well-documented, but my years in the studio have offered me insight into the ways in which practicing can impact your daily life and habits. Today, I would like to share five things Pilates has taught me.

 

Control

If you allow for it, Pilates can have a profound effect on your body. Not only do the exercises teach you how to control your movements, but also how to focus your mind. You become aware of how your body is moving and also what it should feel like. In a world that often indulges in mindless chatter, wandering and eating, having this awareness can be freeing and maintaining control of your body and mind is a very powerful feeling.

Compassion For My Body

Many exercise programs promote the idea of extreme sport. The message that is sent is one that identifies both high-intensity and exhaustion as the only way to commendable results. Pilates teaches us to show deep and profound compassion for our body and to honor it, not only through strategic and thoughtful movement, but also with the desire to protect it from harm. No matter what state your mind or body is in, there is always an option of movement in Pilates. The movement has been made to support your body and to continue to keep it moving. That in turn is a great message for your mind. It is important to stay in motion.

How To Build Strength

Pilates shows a different side to strength than other forms of exercise. As I mentioned up top, the loads are not as strong. The reason is a simple one; Pilates adheres to the ideology that more work is required from the body from lighter loads. Pilates uses your own body weight for training and proves that everyone can build strength, regardless of their body type.

How To Listen

Pilates has always taught me to listen to my body. I always pay attention to how I am feeling that day and how that is effecting my movement. I can safely say that no two lessons have ever been the same. In fact, our body can teach us quite a bit about ourselves and unlock our thoughts in ways that never seemed possible. We must listen to our bodies are telling us and respond in kind.

 Body Appreciation

Pilates has really encouraged me to go beyond the physical and truly appreciate the the amazing machine the body is. It deserves our respect.

Much Love,

Jo

Earthing: Is There a Benefit To Going Bare (Foot)?

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Dear Readers:

You know that feeling when you walk through the door after a long day and the first thing you want to do is slip off your shoes?  It’s an inherently distinctive way of unwinding and relaxing, of returning to a more natural state and feeling free from the constraints of not only your footwear, but also your day.

As a Pilates instructor, I am mostly in my bare feet all day, but not all of us have this luxury.  As it turns out, there is a name for slipping off your shoes. It’s called “Grounding” or  “Earthing”.  OK, speaking candidly, I feel it’s a little condescending and a lot lame to name the practice of taking off one’s shoes, but titles aside, I am a big fan of the practice.

Anyone who has ever slipped their feet into warm sand or walked on soft grass during their lunch break knows that going bare (foot) not only feels great, it rejuvenates the soul.  But researchers have taken it a bit further, sharing health benefits that go beyond a boost in mood. The idea is that we, as humans, have lost touch with the earth which has blocked the benefits of exchanging electrons with the surface of the planet. There have been numerous studies on the topic and there has been scientific validation that earthing changes the chemical makeup of participants in studies comparing those who go barefoot with those who are not “grounded”.

In today’s blog, I wanted to share a few of the reported benefits of this practice and a few reasons to get outside more often. Go for a walk, touch some plants, walk on the grass, melt into a ray of sunshine and feel the earth around and underneath you.

1. Earthing allows electrons to be drawn into the body from the earth which supporters say will help to eliminate free radicals in the body.

2. Walking barefoot can help eliminate fatigue and chronic muscle pain.

3. Those who slept on a “grounding mat” showed marked changes in sodium, magnesium, potassium and proteins.

4. Experts say that connecting with the earth helps to eliminate “electromagnetic pollution” in the body.

5. Walking amongst the trees will offer an opportunity for increased oxygen and doing so in the sunshine can increase our vitamin D levels, which is known to boost our mood.

6. Earthing is said to reduce inflammation which is directly linked to the aging process.

7. Some studies suggest it can help to relieve Jet Lag.

8. Grounding has been shown to improve the efficiency of the cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, and nervous systems

9. Walking amongst nature brings about a calming and meditative effect which will help to lower the heart rate and decrease stress.

10. Whether you feel you are “grounding” or not, there’s something wonderful about the idea of taking a few moments each day to connect with the world around you and feel grounded in your own place in it.

 

What do you think? Have you tried it? Will you try it?

Much Love,

Jo