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Mind Your Words: Teach Don’t Tell

For the Pilates participants who may be reading this, the perspective below offers a glimpse into part of what goes on behind the scenes;

the mind of the instructor;

the person who can NOT count to 10 — forwards or backwards 😀

The aim is to clear up just why we, Pilates Movement Instructors, are so darn persnickety, and why we take our storytelling skill so seriously!

Patience

Teach, Don’t Tell

Movement Instructors connect words with actions, simultaneously offering relevant reasons to motivate the participants intention and attention to said action. We are fostering intelligent communication for connection between teacher and client; the cues we use are meant to describe and inspire the idea of a movement that has energetic expression. This is our art.

Our underlying quest as instructors in our storytelling skill is for clients to experience success. To feel like the time spent pursuing quality movement was a worthwhile endeavour.  Sometimes, this pressure surrounding the self created quest takes our storytelling skills down a notch. We find ourselves relying to heavily on anatomical details or ‘feeling’ the exercise/movements, in a specific area or repeating go-to phrases the industry has latched on to.

There is a danger in being too anatomical or too focused on what or where someone “should be feeling” an exercise. Let’s face it; some of us don’t care what moves who where, some of us feel to much and even more of us don’t have any feelings at all …. AND we’re all snowflakes, each one of us different, with different needs and goals.

When the Movement Instructor and the client can get out of our own way and step cleanly into the moment in front of us, the body systems and the brain know how to move, the story is being told, teaching action is happening, the magic takes place …

Motivation and the Pleasure Seeking Brain

The pleasure seeking brain is continually searching out and repeating action that makes life easier. When action results in making life easier the brain categorizes the action as pleasure. The pleasure causes the brain to look for ways to groom and groove excellent movement patterns, this becomes motivation.

Storytelling skill (cueing) aims to borrow that instinctive desire and drive the individual to continually ‘tidy up’ movements, until there is the awesome moment of “effortless effort”.

“Effortless Effort”

What?! (Insert eye roll here…)

Pilates is designed to give you the opportunity to work better, THEN harder, while encouraging participants to always avoid working harder then is necessary.

Clean (i.e effortless effort) movement demands efficiency, Pilates teaches that, grooms that, and ultimately what was once your workout becomes your warm up.

As Movement Instructors we endeavor to:

Step up, be prepared to explain an action in several different ways. Explore cueing until you see the action being understood or you see the light bulb going off behind the eyes of the client.

Work towards understanding how the client learns. What brought the client through the door in the first place? Why do they keep coming back? We need to learn to adapt our cues and expressions to match the person in front of us.

Be clear. We all have our ‘go to’ expressions. For example: belly button to spine. Let’s make sure we first express what we actually are asking for. Avoid relying on and assuming a phrase will always inspire the correct action.

Address complex action simply. Sometimes the list of cues are LONG, be sure to highlight a priority. In other words, emphasis what shouldn’t be sacrificed in order to accomplish another action further down the list of cues.

One of my favorite teaching moments is between breathing and action. If the effort to create an action causes you to hold your breath, the sacrifice is too great. In other words, if you catch yourself holding your breath, reign it in, work only as hard as you can breath consistently.

Teach, Don’t Tell

Simply means exploring with clients to learn what to say in order to help someone organize and co-ordinate a movement. Look at what happens when the client does what you asked them to do.  Then identify and address perhaps TWO of the most important corrections according to their demonstration.

Both the Movement Instructor and the client need to allow for room to grow into the actions. It takes time for the brain to instinctively and confidently adapt movement patterns. Every energetic expression of the teachers cue has to sort through outside force, internal deviations or habits and the complexity of the action.

Your brain and body systems know this and will learn to re-organize itself according to the brain’s pleasure response.

Client

As Clients, You Can Help Us Be Better:

We need you to speak up when what we’re asking for sounds like a foreign language.

Do you keep hearing a phrase that you feel or think is wrong for your body? Ask the instructor to explain themselves or to paraphrase what they are saying.

If you’re given a bony landmark or a muscle or a feeling/sensation as a reference point, speak up if that reference point is even a little bit foggy. There are hundreds of ways to describe an action.

Be patient with yourself, it’s just Pilates. #gregpember

How do I keep my joints healthy for years to come?

Joint health, An article by Sarah Eby, Physiotherapist. 

As a Physiotherapist, this is a question I get frequently. It’s a common story: joints start to get stiff and achy as we get older, joints don’t recover as fast from injuries as they used to, or we start to develop joint pain during sports or our basic day to day activities.

Can you relate? If so, I am here to shed some light and instil some hope.

You can promote healthy joints throughout your body in two primary ways:

Through movement and strength.

Joint health

Our joints, all of our joints, are meant to move. They are built so that movement brings fresh blood flow and lubrication to the cartilage and joint surfaces to keep them smooth and healthy. The muscles and ligaments around our joints stay strong and malleable by stretching and contracting as our joints move through their full range of motion.

Joints are built to move, withstand load and compression, and adapt to the stresses that we apply to them throughout our daily movements.

What if my joints start to get stiff and achy? Shouldn’t I rest them so they don’t become more painful?

If you have had an acute injury or trauma, or are experiencing sharp pain with specific movements, then there may be a need for rest and recovery.

However, if there has been no trauma, it is likely that your joints just need to move more. It’s the old adage “move it or lose it” – our bodies adapt to the stresses that are placed upon them, so if you spend your days sitting at a desk or hunched over looking at your phone, your body with start to adapt to the limited range of motion or movement that you are regularly exposing it to and start to stiffen up. The cure is simple – move more. Figure out which movements feel the most stiff, limited or difficult, and slowly start to do more of that particular movement.

For example, one of the most common complaints I hear is about stiff hips. If this is the case for you, you could start each day by pulling your knees into your chest and then rotating your hips in a circular motion each morning before you even get out of bed. You’ll be surprised at how fast your hips start to feel less stiff and achy throughout the day.

The reason this works is that when you move your hips this way each morning, you are sending a message to the body that you require your hips to have a full knees to chest bend, and full rotation, and the joints will start to adapt. The cartilage will get compression and lubrication on all of its surfaces and stay healthy and supple for any movement you throw at it.

When joints get stiff or start to be painful our instincts are to stop moving them, which is often the opposite of what we need. Movement is medicine for our joints.

It’s hard on my joints to do a deep squat, run a marathon or lift heavy weights, right?

Wrong.

I have heard this time and again – and here is my answer: there are no “bad” movements or activities, just poor preparation.

Many of my patients have reported someone telling them they should stop doing x, y or z activity (often that they love doing) because it is harmful or because it is causing them pain.

Again, if you’ve had a trauma, surgery or illness that is affecting your joints then heed these warnings, but if you are clear of all these things, then let me give you some examples to demonstrate my point.

Yes, if you have never run a day in your life and you suddenly decide to start training for a marathon, without any knowledge about proper footwear, how to safely progress your distance or cross training (ie. separate strength training of the muscles that you use for running), then you are setting yourself up for injury. But, if you do your research, join a running group, strength train and invest in good footwear, then you will properly prepare your body and your joints for the stresses that running places upon them (and could crush that marathon goal of yours)! Running in and of itself is not harmful, but jumping into long distance running without the proper preparation could be hard on your joints.

In the same way as running – taking up yoga and suddenly doing repetitive deep squats, when you haven’t done more than squat down to a chair in years, could cause pain and inflammation in your knee joints.

And suddenly deciding to become a power lifter and dead lifting 100-200 lbs without first practicing how to do a proper deadlift without any weight, and then slowly increasing your weight incrementally, will put undue stress and strain through your lumbar spine, hips and shoulders.

Our joints will adapt to the load and movements they are given – but the process is not instantaneous. Problems arise, injuries occur or “harm” can be done to our joints when we try to do things that we have not properly prepared for.

Muscular strength is another big component of joint health. The deep muscles around our joints ie. the core muscles in our spine, the rotator cuff in the shoulder, and the glutes in the hip, are there to increase joint stability, maintain good alignment and promote functional joint movement. These deep muscles also protect the joints (the bones and cartilage) from compressive or shearing forces that could cause injury. You want to keep them strong!

Our larger muscle groups, such as our biceps/triceps and quadriceps/hamstrings, are meant to create large joint movements in our body – bending the elbow and bending the knee joints respectively, while our deep muscles fine tune these movements and protect the joints as they move. Both types of muscles are important for joint health, working in unison to create joint mobility and stability.

This is why Pilates is such a fantastic form of exercise.

It takes you through movements that involve your entire body, moving your joints through healthy ranges of motion, and works your core and the deep stability muscles surrounding your joints.

It is one of the best things you can do to keep your joints healthy for years to come.

Joint health is complex, and joint pain is not always clear cut. If you think you may have an injury or pain that needs attention or diagnosing, feel free to contact me at sarah@rootphysio.com or 519-757-7668 for a complimentary 10-minute consultation.

Written by Sarah Eby, Physiotherapist and KW Art of Fitness Client 

More about Sarah

Sarah Eby

Sarah is a Physiotherapist, Yoga Instructor, movement enthusiast and is in love with all of the classes she has been taking at KW Art of Fitness since moving back to Waterloo a few months ago. After years of studying and working in Toronto, treating a wide variety of patients in busy downtown clinics, Sarah decided it was time for a change – time to move “back home” and time to set up her own practice, Root Physiotherapy, in Uptown Waterloo.

Her vision was to create a physiotherapy practice where people receive quality, one-on-one care from a skilled Physiotherapist who has their best interests at heart; and to get to the root cause of your issues, so you can move well and be well for years to come.

When Sarah isn’t working, you can find her taking a Pilates or yoga class, hiking somewhere, cooking at home or spending time with her family and friends.

Learn more about Root Physiotherapy, click here. 

Mind Your Words: The Art of Cueing

In Movement and in Life
  Steph - Arc

Storytelling, this is the daily practice of any movement instructor, most commonly referred to as ‘cueing’. 

Judith and I (Stephanie) are going to be offering and exploring ideas that are meant to tantalize your mind, create questions and perhaps offer those reading this blog an opportunity for a deeper understanding of yourself, or at the very least of your Movement Instructor. I will be discussing concepts from the perspective of a teacher in movement and how individuals participating in movement may get more from their personal fitness regimes.

At our studio we have groomed within ourselves a style that brings the opportunity to work with people Stephaniewhose desire it is to explore, define, improve and align their bodies with grace, strength and efficiency. This desire to learn will take them into aging with a quality of life that only mobility offers. 

The art of Pilates is to look at the body in front of us and to discover the most direct route to address its movement patterns. The challenge in this art lies in the practice of our storytelling skill (cueing). We are always working to improve this storytelling skill in order to best use the power behind our words to teach a deep understanding of movement unique for each person.

Mind Your Words blog series has the grand intention of exploring what is behind the words we choose to use, at times over use, as we look for ways to teach people the powerful connection between their minds, their bodies and their own personal responsibility in the pursuit of creating an exquisite quality of life.

In today’s temperament with concern to our use of words and how they impact others, we find ourselves on a swords edge between being mindful of the words we use and being fearful of how our words may be misunderstood. This fear has the potential to destroy communication and to create even more loneliness in the human race. A couple of weeks ago, a beautiful mind walked into my Pilates class and shared a snippet of learning that has stuck with me, “everyone communicates, not everyone one connects.”

Our challenge is to connect through communication.

Our wish is to be clear with what we mean.

We ask our clients and anyone who ends up reading this blog to explore personal responsibility in defining, exploring, perhaps redefining our understanding of the words we use and how these words hit us on a daily basis.

Aristotle once stated, “it is the mark of an educated man to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” 

When you read Aristotle’s quote, how do you interpret it?

The message I “hear” when reading this quote or better yet saying it out loud is: “it is sign of an open and balanced mind when able to contemplate an other’s collection of experiences, life concepts or definitions behind words, without taking it as a personal attack on belief systems, self expression and experiences.”

Exploring what’s behind a word through the thesaurus:

Cueing: signal, sign, indicate, prompt, reminder, word, gesture
Fitness: good health, strength, robustness, vigour, well-being
Tantalize: tempt, entice, lure, allure, beguile, excite, fascinate
Intention: design, purpose, goal, wish, desire, ambition, idea
Temperament: nature, frame of mind, mood, attitude
Responsibility: duty, task, function, role, common sense, power

People who you’ll bump into at our Studio

So you’ve met our instructors but who else helps us make the studio brilliant?

We would like to introduce one of our clients, Steve Knipping, who has been coming for the past 5 years, 3 times a week, participating in reformer classes, spin classes and privates sessions.

Steve brings with him a warm and ready sense of humour, always has a motivating, albeit funny, word for other participants and he has this remarkable ability to connect golf lessons into potential real life lessons.

Tell us a bit about yourself Steve: 

I am 54 years old and have been married for 34 years to Lianne. We have two daughters, Lauren and Danielle. Lauren is a registered dietitian, married and lives in Boston; Danielle is a registered nurse and lives in Hamilton.

I am a partner at WalterFedy – a consulting architectural and engineering design firm in Kitchener. As a  senior project manager I am primarily involved in land development projects and client relations.

How long have you been coming to the Studio?

I’m going to say 5 years but I’m not 100% sure; neither is Steph as she can’t count nor is she overly aware of time. 

Why did you start coming to the Studio?

I initially came as part of a golf/pilates combo lesson. I had signed up for golf lessons with Rob Hannah and it included some sessions with Steph.

At one of the classes we did some exercise that completely “released” my back and that made me think I might be on to something that could help me. I had been looking for something to help improve my fitness but most things I had tried just seemed to aggravate some of my past injuries – bad back, bad shoulder, rotator cuff issues, hip issues. Pilates seemed to be something I could do, challenge myself, get in better shape but not hurt myself. I started with one on one training with Steph, which I still do, joined a group Pilates class and also joined a spin class.

Why do you keep coming back?

I like the small class sizes. The atmosphere of the studio is focused but relaxed and encourages a balanced approach to fitness and life. The breaks between sessions are nice and help you recharge and keep things fresh. The instructors are all great, as well as the other clients. There is a common element to the instructors and clients with respect to values and general approach to life. This makes it easy to blend in together during the group classes whilst having space for personal modifications when necessary.

What other fitness, sport or outdoor activities do you participate in?

My big passion (and frustration) is golf, but I also enjoy cycling, curling in the winter as well as snow shoeing. Once I retire I would like to add another Pilates class to my routine.

Meet Steve – The Studio Plant Man

Ever wonder how the Studios plants stay hydrated and oh so healthy?! Learn about the man behind the Studio plants… 
 
Steve
 
Where does your love for plants come from? 
 
When I was 13, living in Bracebridge, I went to Lake of Bays to my grandparents summer resort to work.  My responsibilities included helping my Uncle Ross. He had his own Green house and planted renowned flower gardens on the property of Point Ideal.  I developed an interest in flowers and tried to learn more from him although being a klutz wasn’t an asset!  After three summers at Point Ideal I went to work for my dad’s construction company in Bracebridge and helped around our family home with the flowers and vegetable gardens etc.  I was always fascinated in what could become of just a little cutting, seed or bulb.  
 
Then in University, our neighbour had a Hibiscus that she needed to part with and I took it to London in 1974.  It became fun to have “a plant” – not something most of my friends really cared about – and I was determined to keep it alive.  I was successful and in fact that original hibiscus is growing happily today in Forest hill although it has almost taken over 1/3 of the room that it is in.  
 
I found after seeing my hibiscus slowly loose leaves etc, that you have to repot these plants quite regularly.  To do that you remove about 1/3 of the root ball and about 1/2 – 2/3 of the foliage.  This made a tremendous difference and of course I had the material for more.  You normally have to soak 3 or 4 stems in water for a couple of months to get possibly one new plant.  I like the challenge! 
 
Tips from the Plant Man
 
If you really want to have plants I would always recommend that you learn about them and have a real interest in their survival.  I find plants soothing and invigorating at the same time.  Determine what kind of sunshine you have available in which windows in your home and decide what you will place plants on.  Be careful about staining or damaging hardwood floors or carpet.  
 
I find growing plants very rewarding and I can see them as a motivator to move and care for and keep happy as I “mature”.  It really is a great feeling to find that Christmas Cactus that you hauled into the basement after the last blooming and then brought out actually budding up and preparing to display once more.  Also to have an orchid that blooms and blooms on 3or 4 ice cubes a week, gives a sense of achieving artwork. (Although it is hard on the Scotch on the Rocks supply) 
 
I believe people have to like the plants they place in their homes and be motivated to keep them happy.  For first timers, go to nurseries and see what you like.  Then if you know anyone who has plants try and mooch.  Much better price point and the competitive “I made it grow bigger than yours” can add another element.  
 
Remember if a plant pot is light to pick up that is a good time to water.  
 
Hibiscus

We’re a little Different from Other Studios…

Art of Fitness

 

  1. Don’t worry about a Pilates mat, water, or a towel – we’ve got you covered!
  2. Class shouldn’t be easy. If it’s easy, you’re doing it wrong. No, really, you are. If it felt easy, ask a teacher to show you how to work harder. It’s always possible to work deeper in an exercise.
  3. If you want to take a class and it’s full, get on the wait list. You have a pretty good chance of getting in!
  4. Class is all about you. Request what you want to work on. Request what you don’t want to work on. Ask teachers to stay after and give you pointers. They’ll do it.
  5. If you forgot something just ask us – it’s likely we will have a stash somewhere. aka – hair ties, water bottles etc.
  6. Notify the teacher of any injuries or medical conditions. This helps us know how to give you modifications. You are the boss of your body! Never do an exercise that doesn’t feel or sound right to you. It is perfectly acceptable and expected to honour where you are at and rest for a few moments if the class is moving in a direction that is not appropriate for you.
  7. Have fun. There’s no reason for Pilates to be so serious. We’re glad you’re here and hope you enjoy the energy of our studio.
  8. Ask questions. As Instructors, we love to talk and are passionate about why Pilates is great for you – so don’t hesitate to ask about a certain exercise or sequence.
  9. We are always here for you – email us with concerns, questions or feedback.
  10. Turn off your cell phone. This enhances your experience and is a polite gesture to your fellow students.

Get to Know: Kris Witmer

As a client of KW Fitness for many years, Kris has enjoyed the benefits of Pilates while training with Steph. Pilates benefits people of all ages and improves overall strength, balance and flexibility. This is particularly important as we age since Pilates helps our bodies move more efficiently, improves bone density and helps us to avoid injury.

After 35 years of working in the corporate world, Kris retired and is excited to begin this second career – especially since she is so passionate about Pilates.

Kris

1. What is on your bucket list? To remain healthy and active. Continue to explore Europe – Italy, Spain, Scotland, Ireland
2. Where did you grow up? Waterloo
3. What food can you not live without? Vegetables
4. Who is the funniest person you know? My friend Laura
5. What is the best gift you have ever received? Benjamin (my grandson)
6. First thing you do in the morning? Coffee and breakfast
7. What is the one thing people would never guess about you? I have my Grade 4 in piano
8. What’s on your bedside table? A glass of water and my Kobo Ereader
9. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Strive for progress (moving forward) rather than perfection
10. What’s the background on your computer? My grandson

 

Rhythm of a Class – An Instructor Perspective

Rhythm of a Class

It is a Pilates Instructors dream to see and entire class moving in a synchronized way however that’s not always the case. Courtney talks about a layering technique she uses, it helps eliminate any uncertainty in a group class setting. Start with the foundation exercise and that is what the baseline is for the clients. She stays at this baseline until all the foundational cues that she is using are being applied by the clients. If the cues are not being applied it tells her that she doesn’t have the green light to move into more complex exercises.

Rhythm of a Class

Once these cues are being applied we can increase the challenge and add another layer, this might mean progression, functional movement, load transfer etc. As an Instructor we need to know that we are able to go together with the clients into more directional complex exercises, not just because the plan was to get there but because the clients are ready to go there.

As an Instructor we always want our clients to have a positive experience creating a sense of accomplishment and desire to come back week after week. When you go to a class and it’s just hard, you get tired, you do so many heavy exercises that your only option is to loose quality, give up or collapse, then the experience is negative as it will leave one with a feeling of having given up on themselves or that you just aren’t good enough, strong enough, fit enough …

What we are looking for in clients is that ‘aha moment.’ During rep one or two the expectations are for the client to “give it a go”, not perfection. Around rep five or six we should see that precision meter go up because the client realizes “oh, that is what you meant.” The next stage we instructors strive to bring into a movement is always the ‘holy crap’, ‘I am getting it because this is intense’ moment.  Now this stage is our fine line, as instructors we want you to feel it however eventually if we play this out to far the client starts to lose their belief in you the instructor if you choose to push them to the point of having to give up or the client chooses to persevere however in the struggle they loose that connection and trust in you. As instructors, we need to watch and observe, and most importantly need to give clients permission to draw those lines themselves as well.

The class or session should leave a client feeling motivated, inspired, curious about what strength and ability they will reach into next. Teaching clients to be light in an exercise when the intensity of that exercise sequence is taking you towards your strength potential, drawing in on your limits, is essential in allowing the clients to create great gains without driving them to disappointment in themselves.

Our voice is powerful, and what Courtney Miller speaks about in her podcast with Breathe Education is that she has a lot of success when ramping up an exercise to ensure that you are softening your voice, have a smile on your face, have a giggle, because we are ‘just doing pilates.’  This helps the client soften the tension and to discover how to use just enough effort to get the extra rep or two with quality and gives a positive note to land on.

To hear the Podcast interview with Courtney Miller yourself click here.  

An Instructors Perspective Series: Podcast overview with Courtney Miller

Courtney Miller is known in the Pilates world for her creativity; blending yoga, Pilates and functional fitness movements, her clear cueing skills and her way of staying ‘light’ during hard exercises. I watch her Pilates Anytime videos weekly to keep my own creativity juices flowing but also to pick up on her cueing and relaxed nature of getting her message across to a client without being too anatomical. Her classes are fun, light hearted, and most importantly challenging!

Recently my interest was drawn to a podcast interview that Courtney did with breathe education. There are five key points that continue to resonate with me as an instructor: the creative process, incorporating props, planning for clients, approach to cueing and the rhythm of a class.
 
The following series of blog posts is a summary of my perspective and interpretation of Courtney’s conversation and is based on her ideas, descriptions and concepts described within the podcast interview. I was inspired to write this for two reasons: to bring fellow instructors attention to Courtney’s interview as a tool for learning, and to give our clients a glimpse into what goes through the instructor brains during classes and private sessions. 

The Creative Process

As a Pilates Instructor we are constantly working towards solutions via modifications and or concepts that help our clients achieve beneficial and appropriately challenging options for overcoming obstacles. Each client’s body reacts differently to different movements, meaning, we are always on our toes trying to creatively challenge you as a client from one session or class to another. Our goal is to find the options that react well in your body.
 
Becoming a Pilates Instructor stems from a love of movement. We love to get our bodies onto the Pilates equipment or our mats with small apparatus to get into our own body movement sequences. Nine times out of ten our exercise ideas and flows will come out of a personal practice session. This is why you will see us in classes, in the corner quietly working out solo or doing private workouts with other instructors. 
 
Look out for “Incorporating Props” tomorrow! 
 

Get to know Stephanie Moore

Stephanie understands that no two clients are the same and believes that taking a fresh, fun customizable approach to fitness is vital to success. She draws on her vast knowledge, years of experience, spirit and tools to develop effective alignment patterns which bring understanding to her clients’ kinesthetic sense.

Stephanie also believes that the classes offered at Art of Fitness care for her clients not only physically, but mentally as well. It’s her goal that through specific mechanics, fitness is able to bring clarity, increase perception and stimulate the mind.

“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.”- Joseph Pilates

Steph Moore

1. What is on your bucket list? Travel (everywhere), Pottery Wheel Class, Solo Art Show 
2. Where did you grow up? Smiths Falls, Ontario 
3. What food can you not live without? Summer Sausage 
4. Who is the funniest person you know? Am I allowed to say me? 
5. What is the best gift you have ever received?  Hansy
6. First thing you do in the morning? Walk Hansy 
7. What is the one thing people would never guess about you?  Nap time is sacred time
8. What’s on your bedside table? Lamp, Essential Oil Diffuser, Stack of books, water, sketch book, pen and pencil 
9. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Inspiration is the greatest gift to give others 
10. What’s the background on your computer? Hansy