Pilates Students' Manual

Am I Progressing in My Pilates Practice?

September 17, 2020 Olivia Bioni Season 2 Episode 2
Pilates Students' Manual
Am I Progressing in My Pilates Practice?
Chapters
0:00
Welcome
1:25
Measuring Progress in Pilates
4:11
Different Types of Progress
5:26
How do you feel?
10:24
How do you cope with instability?
14:44
There isn't a finish line
Pilates Students' Manual
Am I Progressing in My Pilates Practice?
Sep 17, 2020 Season 2 Episode 2
Olivia Bioni

How do you measure progress in Pilates? It's different for everyone, but I like to measure progress in two ways: how my body feels in and out of class, and the way my body manages instability. Tune in to learn about more signs of progress and ways to track your growth! 

I want to hear from you! Share your thoughts and follow the podcast on Instagram and Facebook @pilatesstudentsmanual. Full show notes, episode transcription, and chapter markers can be found on the podcast website here: https://bit.ly/PilatesStudentsManual. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast for updates, and rate and review wherever you listen!  Episodes now available on YouTube: *https://bit.ly/YouTubePSM

Email [email protected] with your feedback. 

Show Notes: 

How you measure progress can be very personal. Be kind to yourself as you engage with the Pilates method and know that progress isn't linear (or sometimes visible), but changes are happening!   

Support the podcast:    


Visit *links.oliviabioni.com/affiliates* and take advantage of some sweet deals on products I use and enjoy with my affiliate links!  


Episode Music: 

This episode uses NCS music in compliance with https://ncs.io/usage-policy

Track: Syn Cole - Gizmo [NCS Release]
Music provided by NoCopyrightSounds.
Watch: https://youtu.be/pZzSq8WfsKo
Free Download / Stream: http://ncs.io/Gizmo

Track: Syn Cole - Feel Good [NCS Release]
Music provided by NoCopyrightSounds.
Watch: https://youtu.be/q1ULJ92aldE
Free Download / Stream: http://ncs.io/feelgood

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/oliviapodcasts)

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

How do you measure progress in Pilates? It's different for everyone, but I like to measure progress in two ways: how my body feels in and out of class, and the way my body manages instability. Tune in to learn about more signs of progress and ways to track your growth! 

I want to hear from you! Share your thoughts and follow the podcast on Instagram and Facebook @pilatesstudentsmanual. Full show notes, episode transcription, and chapter markers can be found on the podcast website here: https://bit.ly/PilatesStudentsManual. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast for updates, and rate and review wherever you listen!  Episodes now available on YouTube: *https://bit.ly/YouTubePSM

Email [email protected] with your feedback. 

Show Notes: 

How you measure progress can be very personal. Be kind to yourself as you engage with the Pilates method and know that progress isn't linear (or sometimes visible), but changes are happening!   

Support the podcast:    


Visit *links.oliviabioni.com/affiliates* and take advantage of some sweet deals on products I use and enjoy with my affiliate links!  


Episode Music: 

This episode uses NCS music in compliance with https://ncs.io/usage-policy

Track: Syn Cole - Gizmo [NCS Release]
Music provided by NoCopyrightSounds.
Watch: https://youtu.be/pZzSq8WfsKo
Free Download / Stream: http://ncs.io/Gizmo

Track: Syn Cole - Feel Good [NCS Release]
Music provided by NoCopyrightSounds.
Watch: https://youtu.be/q1ULJ92aldE
Free Download / Stream: http://ncs.io/feelgood

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/oliviapodcasts)

[00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to Pilates Students' Manual, a podcast helping you get the most out of your Pilates classes. I'm Olivia and I'll be your host. Join the conversation and share your thoughts on Instagram @pilatesstudentsmanual. You can support the podcast by visiting buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts. Let's learn something new.

Hello, hello everybody. Welcome back to Pilates Students' Manual. I've got an excellent episode for you today. It's actually a question from a listener in Australia and it's really important I [00:01:00] think, so that's why we're having an episode about it. The question is how do you know that you're progressing? Both as a student and maybe as a teacher, how do you let your students know they're progressing or tell them to look for progress for themselves. 

And I think in terms of getting the most out of your Pilates class, you do want to know that something is happening. That's totally relatable. So let's talk about it. 

It can be difficult to measure your progress in Pilates because it's not quantitative like measuring your blood pressure, where you put on a cuff, it gives you a number, you write that number on a chart, you can compare it to the last time you went to the doctor and had your blood pressure taken. 

Pilates isn't like that. It's qualitative, which means that you're looking at things very subjectively. What's most important is how you, the person doing Pilates, is measuring that progress for yourself. 

A couple of notes about progress in general, specifically for Pilates. Progress isn't linear. [00:02:00] It's not like you go to one class and this is what the outcome is. If you come to another class, you will have grown this much, right? It's not a linear progress adventure. Every day is going to be a little bit different. Even when you nail an exercise that you previously couldn't do, the next time you do it, it's going to feel different. The outcome may not be the same, just because you've done it once before or a hundred times before. Every day's a little bit different. We see that a lot in balance. Some days you have great balance. Some days you have less great balance. The goal is that you're growing over time. 

It is important to know that if you're doing Pilates, whether it's once a week or every single day, you are growing, you are changing. Your brain is changing. You're making new connections. Your muscles are changing. Your connective tissue, your fascia is changing. 

And just a note about your fascia. There are cells running around body called fibroblasts and their entire job is to lay down fibers and [00:03:00] just put out, you know, collagen or elastin fibers, the fibers that make up your fascia. And those fibroblasts are laying down fibers whether you move or if you don't move. They're constantly making new fascial connections for us. 

When you move, whether you're doing Pilates or any other form of exercise, the way they lay down those fibers is going to reflect the way that you're moving. So if you're moving, your body is reinforcing that movement pattern. So it's really important, consistency, for sure. So that you keep reinforcing that movement pattern so that it's easier to move that way. That's where like muscle memory, that idea that your muscle remembers it, it's really your connective tissue, but it does remember it. And then it becomes easier to do it the next time. 

When you're just getting started and your fascia is just kind of all over the place. And again, even when we're not moving, it's laying down those fibers. So the more you [00:04:00] move and the more frequently you move and the more consistently you move, you're reinforcing those movement patterns. Even though it seems small, it may not even be noticeable at first, growth and change is definitely happening. 

Some progress is pretty apparent. If you couldn't hold a plank at all, and then you can hold a plank there's progress. But beyond that, you can do a little bit of quantitative work. Some stuff can be measured. Pilates isn't about measuring progress in like this numerical way. But you might say, okay, I can hold a plank. Can I hold a plank for 30 seconds? Can I hold a plank for a minute? 

A man just broke the Guiness Book World Record for holding a forearm plank for over eight hours, like eight hours and 15 minutes. That's insane. That's not the goal of doing a plank to do it for the longest amount of time physically possible for a human being. So don't get too caught up in measuring your progress in, Oh, can I [00:05:00] do this many reps or, Oh, can I do it with this heavier resistance? It's useful up to a point, but there are limits to that as well.

For example, I'm playing with handstands just in my personal practice, because I think it's fun to go upside down and do something that I previously couldn't do, right. Progress. But I don't want to hold it for six hours. The goal isn't to be able to hold it forever. That's not the progress that I'm looking for. 

There are two ways that I look at progress, how you feel and how you adapt to instability. How you feel physically, in and out of class is important and is a good milestone or measure of progress. 

One of the big benefits of Pilates is living a life that has less pain and more ease. There's lots of ways that you may notice that in your life. You may catch yourself or catch your reflection in the mirror and notice that your posture is improved, you're standing up a little bit taller. Your shoulders are drawn back [00:06:00] and down. You're really lengthening through the crown. You may notice that unloading groceries from the car is easier or bending over to play with your kids is easier. Maybe when you sit down for long periods of time, your back doesn't hurt. Your body overall feels good. And when you're doing those daily activities, your body feels good.

You're able to do those things in a pain free and ease filled way. Each of those things is going to contribute to how your body feels, and how your body feels is a way you can measure your progress in your Pilates class. 

You may notice that how you feel progress in the confidence you feel when you're executing exercises. The connection you have between your mind and your body, that your teacher is asking you to do something and you're able to translate that into movement in your body. You have increased body awareness. 

The way those things may manifest in your class is you might be looking [00:07:00] around to see what other people are doing or looking to see if you're doing things right less. You have more confidence and familiarity with the exercises and with your body. You may have an increased awareness of your body in space, even in different body positions, you know where your body is and you can control it.

You're able to focus on what you're doing more and you feel less maybe panicked or overwhelmed by the instructions that are coming to you. You're able to really internalize those instructions and do them without devoting a ton of extra like brain power worrying about it. 

One thing that I noticed for myself in terms of progress is that I had sort of an internalized checklist of things that I knew. Like if I was lying on my side, okay, I want to pay attention to where my shoulders are. I want to pay attention to drawing my abdominals in. I want to pay attention to stacking my hips and keeping my pelvis steady while I'm moving. Even if the teacher hasn't said those things, [00:08:00] you've internalized what you know you need to do just to be in that body position, or maybe to do that exercise.

If the teacher misspeaks like, if you, you just did something on the right side and then they tell you to do it on the right side again, you can automatically adjust and do it on the left side. Right? You are able to kind of keep track of the exercises a little bit in your head without again, stressing, without worrying about it. But, you just know a little bit. The mind reading starts to come in, right. 

Also really important about being in class and doing this. You have a more nuanced understanding of the movement. You might see that as an ability to auto-correct or self-correct before the teacher can tell all you, Oh, you know, draw your abdominals in. You've already drawn your abdominals in because you know that that's how you stabilize for this exercise or whatever. 

You can check in with yourself and maybe even begin to play with if things feel a little bit differently, [00:09:00] maybe shifting the weight, can you engage a muscle a little bit more strongly, a little bit less strongly. You have a deeper internal experience of the exercise. You're able to do that while doing the exercise. 

Coming up after the break, I'll be discussing marking your progress in the way you adapt to instability.

Hi there. Enjoying the podcast? Me too. Make sure you subscribe wherever you're listening so you get notified about new episodes, and visit buymeacoffee.com/OliviaPodcasts to support the show. There, you can make a onetime donation or become a member with a donation of as little as $5 a month. Members get some awesome perks, including a shout out in the next episode, a monthly newsletter, a monthly zoom call with me and more.

You can also visit [00:10:00] links.oliviabioni.com/affiliates and check out some sweet deals on products I use and love. Now, back to the show.

So much of Pilates is working with finding stability in an unstable situation. If you're working with the equipment, the reformer moves, the springboard offers increased and decreased resistance, depending on how much you've pulled away from it. The chair offers a lot of instability. If you're working on the mat, you can have fewer points of contact with the ground, making you more unstable. You can add props like the Bosu, a stability ball, to make yourself more unstable. 

And the trick is using the muscles of your body to stabilize you even though you've put yourself in an environment that [00:11:00] is unstable. And remaining stable in an increasingly unstable environment is a sign of progress.

Very stable exercises are easier. They're by no means easy, but they're easier than that same exercise with increased instability. For example, if you're lying on your back in supine with your knees bent soles of the feet on the floor in base pose, that's very stable. The ground is supporting the majority of your body.

It's easier than lying in that same position, but on a foam roller. So now you've got fewer points of contact with the ground. The foam roller moves. And even though you're in the same shape, whatever you're going to do in that shape, just being in that shape in neutral is going to be more difficult. 

You know, that you're progressing when you can make yourself stable. Even when you're doing something like lying on the foam roller, how can [00:12:00] I use my muscles in a way that stabilize me, even though the environment I'm in is less stable. They have to work harder to do it, but you can manage that instability using your strength, using your attention. 

In Pilates, we can increase the potential for instability in lots of ways. We can decrease the base of support. We can lengthen the lever. We can make the environment more moveable. We can increase the resistance when you're working against that resistance, decrease the assistance, especially on the equipment, but also with props. And increase the range of movement. 

In terms of base of support, your body positions can contribute a lot to that base of support. So lying on your back, the way we started in base pose that supine position, where the ground is supporting you. That's more supportive than seated, where there are less points of contact with the ground. Seated is more supportive than lying on your side.

Lying on your [00:13:00] side is a bit more supportive than being in quadruped on hand knees, and being in quadruped is more stable than standing. We can even further add challenge increasing that instability by removing points of contact. If you're in quadruped, when we do bird dog, you're lifting a leg, maybe a leg and an arm. If you're standing, maybe you're standing on one foot. Maybe you're just standing on the balls of the feet with heels lifted. So base of support what you have supporting, you can make that exercise more unstable. 

When we're lengthening levers, that might mean that you're adding your arms and your legs. It might be straight legs. It might mean adding weight so that your leg or your arm is heavier and therefore harder to stabilize because there's more of it to stabilize. 

For making things moveable, the reformer carriage moves. You might add a Bosu or a stability ball where the ground, even if you have a point of contact, [00:14:00] it's not a stable point of contact.

We can increase spring resistance or add a resistance band when you're working against the resistance, and then decrease the assistance if you're doing something where either the springs, like a heavier spring was supporting you when you're bridging, or maybe a prop is offering some additional support, we can remove that assistance. 

And then you're responsible for more of that action, which would of course, make it more difficult, increasing the range of movement, making that range of movement bigger is again, going to challenge your abdominals and challenge you to maintain that stability, even though your limb or the carriage or whatever, it's further away from you.

For an example, if you were to take footwork on the reformer, right? You're lying in supine, very similar to base pose, and you're doing footwork. We can do that same footwork action, but seated on the chair. Sitting is still a fairly stable position, but depending on the [00:15:00] resistance, depending on the assistance, it's going to be more difficult because you're just sitting on your sit bones with your feet on the pedal, right? You have fewer points of contact. 

You can make footwork even more unstable by sitting on top of the foot bar on your reformer and having your feet against the edge of the carriage. We're still bending and straightening our legs whether we're lying down or sitting, but sitting on the foot bar now you've got a real narrow base of support and you really need to work hard to balance there in addition to performing the exercise. 

Now just because you could sit on the foot bar and do footwork doesn't mean that you always have to sit on the foot bar to do footwork. You don't graduate necessarily from one exercise to another, and you can never go back. Lying on the carriage and doing footwork is still valuable, will always be valuable, cause you are getting that feedback, right? There's more things that you can focus on besides just progressing in terms of exercise difficulty. 

Those are all [00:16:00] situations where you are reacting to instability in a class, but outside of class, the way your body responds to instability is also quite important. Mostly because you're out of Pilates class significantly more than you're in Pilates class and we do Pilates so that our lives are improved, not just so that we get better at Pilates. 

So you may notice and consider it to be progress if outside of class, you catch yourself when you lose your balance. If you miss step, you can catch yourself or you lose your balance less, right? You're able to adapt to that instability before it becomes so unstable that you lose your balance. 

A personal story. I live in Chicago and it gets quite icy in the winters. And a couple of years ago, I was walking on the sidewalk and lost my footing and rolled my ankle. But I didn't sprain it. I did not seriously injure myself because I had enough strength and flexibility in my ankle joint that I didn't hyper extend it to the point that I [00:17:00] was injured. That strength and flexibility prevented a more serious injury from occurring. 

That's not a benchmark that I want you to go out and test and be like, Ooh, if I roll my ankle, do I injure myself or not? But the fact that that happened, that was a great benchmark of progress. That even when I did lose my balance, that I was able to catch myself, that it wasn't serious.

I hope that's given you a few more ways to look at progress, to measure progress for yourself. I'm sorry I don't have a quick and cut and dried answer to your question, Cate. Because it is so subjective, how you want to think about progress in the exercises. 

What I hope you see through this episode is that progress isn't just doing harder exercises. It's also about the way you feel in your body and the way you feel throughout your life as a mover, as someone who does [00:18:00] Pilates. 

And just one more thing I want to add before I go: really exciting news. I got my first donation on Buy Me A Coffee page. Those donations mean the world to me, guys. It really helps the podcast stay up and running. It's just me with the assistance of my partner, doing all the editing, all of the social media, running all of the accounts. So it means so much that the work that I'm doing is resonating and connecting with you, across the country and across the world.

It's a lot of fun, it's a lot of work, and I really appreciate you thinking of me and thanking me by visiting my Buy Me A Coffee page. So thanks so much. I hope you have a great week. I'll talk to you again soon.

Thanks for tuning in to this week's episode of Pilates Students' Manual, a podcast helping you get the most [00:19:00] out of your Pilates classes. Be sure to check out the podcast Instagram @pilatesstudentsmanual and subscribe wherever you're listening. Interested in teaching Pilates too? Check out Pilates Teachers' Manual, available everywhere you listen to podcasts. I hope to see you next episode. Until next time.



Welcome
Measuring Progress in Pilates
Different Types of Progress
How do you feel?
How do you cope with instability?
There isn't a finish line