The Novice Foodie

Just eating real foods, lifting heavy things and learning about it along the way

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My favorite Pilates moves

I generally prefer more active workouts like running and Crossfit to slower-paced ones like Yoga, but doing Pilates is a great compliment to high-impact training by increasing flexibility and improving core strength–both of which may improve performance in other forms of exercise. Personally, I can never get enough ab work and I could definitely use a little help with flexibility. I also find that Pilates has just the right balance of activity and relaxation. That being said, here’s a compilation of my top five favorite Pilates mat exercises*:

*Disclaimer: This is simply a list of exercises that I look forward to during a Pilates workout. I would recommend incorporating this list into planned routines that involve the whole body. This is not a comprehensive workout and the exercises are listed in no particular order.

1. Toe Dips

I like this exercise because my hip flexors do not like many abdominal moves (which probably indicates that I need to do them more often.) This exercise, though, strengthens my core without making my hip flexors too angry. 

2. Double Leg Kick (and single leg kick)

These exercises are great compliments for abdominal work. The back is an often neglected part of the core, and these moves engage the lower back while getting a good stretch through the hamstrings. I love how this exercise embodies the Pilates goal of strength and flexibility all at once.

3. Rolling Like a Ball

If I’m being totally honest, this one is just really fun.

4. Double Leg Stretch

This is a great abdominal challenge. I like exercises that I can feel working right away–instant gratification.

5. Anything with the Pilates ring (aka Magic Circle)

A little equipment can add variety to mat exercises. Most can be performed without the ring, but I find that using it helps take the edge off of my hip flexors when used between the thighs and adds a little extra toning to my arms when held between the palms.


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Group Fitness

“You don’t know what you got ’till it’s gone”: a truly accurate idea summed up by Joni Mitchell in her frequently covered song “Big Yellow Taxi,” and precisely how I feel about the group fitness classes offered at Ohio University’s Ping Recreation Center. Not because they are no longer offered, but because my schedule no longer allows me to attend them!

For much of my sophomore year, I have gotten my exercise through sports as a member of the OU Women’s Ultimate Frisbee Team as well as the OU Swim Club. This quarter, however, I focused solely on swimming and exercising on my own. In absence of the direction provided from a team sport which practiced every day, I quickly missed being told what to do.

It is always easier to reach your potential when you have work-out partners or a “coach” of sorts, even for the most motivated of people.
So, what could be better than fellow work-out partners AND an instructor?

In my freshman year, I took full advantage of OU’s group fitness classes. I attended at least two weekly, on top of swimming practice and my own work-outs. When I started ultimate, I decided that two sports was plenty a work out for me, and only occasionally attended a group class.

Now that I have ceased participation in ultimate to focus on my studies, I have also forgone participating in group classes and worked out solely on my own as well as swimming in order to work around my schedule.

I now realize that this is simply not smart.

After attending a Pilates class and a yoga class, I have a whole new appreciation for the opportunity OU’s recreation center is providing me, and any OU student. It took a quarter and a half for me to realize what I had given up!

These classes are an excellent opportunity to try an array of new, exciting ways to strengthen, tone and sweat. The value of an instructor is not to be forgotten! It is both easier to motivate and safer to learn new exercises with an experienced guide.

I take a little something away from each class and incorporate it into my daily workouts. In Pilates, I reinforced my knowledge about core exercises. I learned different, challenging and effective ways to engage core muscles in moves such as leg circles, the hundred, and side kicks. Who knew rolling like a ball could be an exercise?

In yoga, stretches to open hip joints truly relieved joint-pain for me. In preparation for the crazy difficult pose pictured here, you take your bent leg up between your arms, so that your foot and your knee are between either arm, and push back and forth. This helped alleviate the tightness in my joint from an injury last quarter.

There are hundreds of benefits from relieving back pain to posture improvement that come from classes such as these, and a lot to be learned from a trained and experienced instructor to guide you through them.