Week 10 of Loretto’s 10 Week Pilates Challenge

PuppetsThe scapula, or shoulder blades to me and you, are very important in helping to keep our backs and necks in correct alignment. But our bodies are like the wooden stringed puppets. The puppet can’t move if the strings don’t move him, and if the strings are all gnarled up, he’s going to look like a mighty misshapen thing.

The bones of our bodies are the same as the wooden parts of the puppet and the muscles are the strings. If the muscles aren’t strong and correctly aligned, the bones would also shift out of alignment.

How the scapula can move out of place

How the scapula can move out of place

The scapula are a perfect example of how muscles can move the skeletal structure. The picture on the left is of incorrectly aligned scapula.

Winged scapula, incorrectly aligned scapula, causes our upper thoracic cavity to cave in, giving less room for the organs in our core to function.



The breastbone, or sternum, is also vital in staying broad across the upper thoracic. The moves we will do today will assist to promote scapular stability, keeping the shoulder blades where they should be on the back, and also make us think and feel broader across the sternum.

The muscles we are using will help put the scapula where they should be.

So here we are at week 10. In the next few weeks I will up load four twenty minute videos and you can use them to create a Monday, Wednesday, Friday abs and arms routine. In addition to that I will up load 3 videos which will allow you to create 3 different one hour mat classes.

I hope you enjoyed the ten week challenge. If you have questions about modifications for moves, osteoporosis and Pilates or pregnancy and Pilates, just leave them as a comment and I will respond to you. I really enjoyed doing this and hope it truly did make you feel stronger and healthier.


Week 9 Loretto’s 10 week Pilates Challenge

Week 9

Well, good morrow folks! Today, the start of week 9 is all about extension work: the back, neck, and shoulders.

The neck is very important, because it is with correct neck alignment that we can avoid neck pain, which can very quickly trickle down into our shoulders and back. Altogether an uncomfortable, yet avoidable, experience.

Scalene Muscles

Scalene Muscles

I work the scalene muscles in the neck. Think about that poor neck for a minute. On top is the head, and it weighs on average 10 lbs. You’ll hear me say this in your sleep: for every inch your head sheers forward, you add ten more pounds of weight to your spine. Remember, your spine stops at the base of your brain, not the top of your shoulders. So by moving the neck, we are keeping it mobile and strong. It needs to be!

Swan DiveWe are also working the muscles in the back today by doing swan dive and cobra.

The lady in the picture looks a lot nicer than I do, but I won’t deprive of you of a giggle…, you’ll get to see me look more ridiculous than usual as I do my very best to attempt swan dive in the video. My back HATES it, but my back needs to do a lot of extension work. You don’t have to come up as high as the woman in the picture, and if you can, I am flying down to see you do it.

A very quick, but very important word now about Pilates and Osteoporosis. There are exercises that can help you, and others that can do damage. There are ways to modify exercises to prevent fracture. So please read this post here, click on the blue word, and I have created a list of Pilates mat exercises and modifications for you.

Back muscles

Back muscles

The spine is very important, and so are the muscles, the core, wrapped all around it.

With that being said, without further ado, and now appearing from stage left…., let’s start week 9 with 90 repetitions of the ab series.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday for arms and legs. Abs can be done Monday through Saturday!

Pilates Mat for Clients with Osteoporosis

Here is a list of safe and modified exercises for Pilates mat clients with osteoporosis:

Safe Pilates Mat Exercises

Hundred–with head down
Single Leg Circles
Single Leg Stretch–head down
Double Leg Stretch–head down
Single Leg Stretch With Straight Legs–head down
Double Leg Stretch With Straight Legs/Lower Lift–head down
Criss-Cross–head down
Swan-Dive (1 only)
Single Leg Kick
Double Leg Kick
Shoulder Bridge–not too high
Side Kick
Hip Circle/Hip Twist With Stretched Arms–neutral spine
Side Kick Kneeling–neutral spine
Side Support–neutral spine

Pilates Mat Exercises Clients with Osteoporosis SHOULD NOT do

Roll-Over–both ways
Rolling Back/Rolling Like a Ball
Spine Stretch
Rocker With Open Legs/Open Leg Rocker
Neck Pull
Spine Twist
Control Balance

Other Important Exercises to Add to the Osteoporosis Exercise Program

Psoas Stretches–adapted from Eve’s Lunge on the Reformer
90/90 Posterior Tilt–modified Hundred
90/90 Lower-Abs Leg Lowering–modified Hundred, lumbar spine flat
Dead Bug–knees straight, lumbar spine flat
Prone Hip Lift–modified from Single Leg Kick
Squat/Plié Variations–done in front of the Wunda Chair, not as mat work
Standing Balance Series
Half Kneeling–“marriage proposal” position
Prone Trunk Extension With Varied Arm Positions
Modified Wall Push-Up
Foam Roller
Thoracic Spine Extension
Prone Spine Extension–modified from Trapeze Table “Swan”
Vigorous walking program

Source for Pilates exercises: Pilates, J.H., & Miller, W.J. 1945. Return to Life Through Contrology. Miami: Pilates Method Alliance.

Week 8 Loretto’s 10 Week Pilates Challenge

Week 8

Here we are, it’s week 8 and time for extension work, and also oppositional stretch.

Spinal extension over a Pilates Arc

Spinal extension over a Pilates Arc

Extension means bending the spine backward. In the picture to the left you can see clearly that the model’s head is bent back over the spine. That is the goal.

This extension work can feel like hard work, because our bodies LOVE flexion. We love it so much because our bodies do it almost all day long. Some of us sleep in spinal flexion, I know I do. Here’s a list of things we do everyday that puts us into flexion;

1. Driving

2. Sitting at a desk

3. Sitting at the computer

4. Eating at a table

5. Walking around, running, carrying grocery bags, books.

Tall people have it the worst! They adopt spinal flexion to meet and greet the rest of the population under 5′ 10.”

Extension of the spine is vital to promote spinal mobility and flexibility, in other words: a healthy neck and spine.

Pilates Swan

Pilates Swan

This week’s moves are oppositional stretch, swimming and swan. Swan is done very basically here, I’m just getting you ready for the next full swan dive! Next week I’ll get all fancy with swan. My body hates swan, but that means my body needs to do this move more.

For your abs increase the repetitions to 80 this week. And remember, Monday, Wednesday and Friday for arms and legs. Abs can be done Monday through Saturday!

Here’s your video for week 8.

Loretto’s Pilate Mat Class on Audio

Class 1

If you feel ready to try a Pilates mat class, click on the arrow below to hear me do a mat class. You can down load the link to mp3 players or iPods or iphone playlists here.

Week 7 Loretto’s 10 Week Pilates Challenge

Week 7

Here we are at week 7, and it is mostly about feet and legs stretches, a bit more core work and let’s revisit plank, classical and reverse, because the week I was supposed to do it was a CRAZY week, so I borrowed someone else’s video. Now you get to see me do it.

For your abs increase the repetitions to 70 this week. And remember, Monday, Wednesday and Friday for arms and legs. Abs can be done Monday through Saturday!

Week 6 Loretto’s 10 Week Pilates Challenge

Week 6

Hi folks! Well here we are at week 6. The arms are now going to increase the weights by 1lb. Continue doing the same routine. The abs will increase in reps to 60.

Remember you are doing Monday, Wednesday and Friday for arms and legs. Abs can be done Monday through Saturday!

This week we are going to introduce Rolling like a ball, seal, open leg rocker and teaser. Teaser is an intermediate to advanced move so give it a try, but don’t feel like you have to get it done today. Just keep trying.

Week 4 Loretto’s 10 Week Pilates Challenge

Week 4

Hi folks! Well due to a CRAZY day I have to borrow someone’s video for the moves I want to teach you today. Pictures are going to be used also to get you thinking about the straight lines in the body for these moves.

Here’s the line I want you to keep in mind for plank, ear, shoulder, hip, knee and ankle. If you don’t want to hold plank position on your hands, do it like the lady in the picture below, hold the position on your forearms.

plank1Let’s start with fifteen (15) seconds today and build to sixty by week 10. The key is to roll the front of your mat so that you have extra cushioning beneath your hands or elbows. Splay the fingers with to distribute the weight evenly, keep the scapula (shoulder blades even and strong on either side of the spine, keep the back of the neckpho_exercise_plank-extended long, don’t crunch up your neck and let the eyes look down at the floor where the mat and floor meet. Inhale the right leg long behind you with the toes curled under, and then exhale let the left leg join it. Imaging there is fire shooting up from the mat to keep those abs from falling forward. Breathe at you leisure as you hold plank for 15 seconds today.

To hear me cue you into plank you can click on this link. Eventually one hour of a Pilates class will be accessible for you to down load and use at your leisure via audio.

Now for abs, lets bring the reps up to 50 for week 4 and for week 5! You can do the series of 5 we did last week on alternating days. Continue to do legs and arms 3 days per week also, and keep doing spine stretch forward, twist and saw on alternating days as well. Plank is a move that is a whole body strengthener.

Next week we’re doing rolling like a ball, seal, open leg rocker and teaser.

Week 3 of Loretto’s 10 Week Pilates Challenge

Week 3

Is it really week 3 already? Sure is. I hope you’ve been doing the exercises diligently and that you’re feeling stronger already. Here’s what we will do differently today folks;

1. Roll up – a great ab move and a great spinal mobility and flexibility move. This move is part of a routine for spinal flexion, or forward bending. Next week to balance out the spine I will add some spinal extension, or bending backwards. Combined, these spinal exercises promote healthy spines and a strong core.

2. The Hundred- a Pilates mat warm up move.

3. Series of 5 for Abs – If you’ve done a Youtube search for Pilates ab work you’ve come across these. They’ll become part of our regular routine today.

Here’s what you’ll do the same for the next week; Continue doing spine stretch forward, twist and saw as well as knee and leg circles (Start at 8 minutes), 4 repetitions now for spine stretch forward, twist and saw, same number of reps for knee and leg circles.

We will add on 10 reps to our ab routine. Remember when 20 was a killer? Look how far you’ve come baby!!! Keep doing it, this stuff really works.Check out the video below for all the new work to add to your routine.

If you’ve got questions regarding the need to modify a move due to previous injuries or surgeries just leave a comment and I will either do a video or a blog post to explain the modification.

Just a word or two extra on Pregnancy and Pilates and Scar tissue.

pilates pregnancyPregnancy: Yes you can do the moves, arm work as normal, sit ups are tricky because you don’t want to lay on your back for extended periods of time, side work is fine but keep the laying on your back to a minimum. Leg work is also fine, but keep the moves small and precise.

Pregnant women release an increased amount of a hormone called Relaxin which promotes looseness in the ligaments, this means you will be capable of doing big sweeping movements with your legs, but DON’T do it. This is when ligaments and tendons can easily tear. Keep those leg moves small and within the frame of the body. Think the size of a soccer ball small. This goes for people who trained as dancers also. Keep those moves small, precise and tight. Ligaments are like elastic bands, they can only stretch so far and then they tear.

Surgery and PilatesSurgery: If you’ve had surgery chances are you’re feeling tightness in that area, scar tissue is the culprit. But with incremental lengthening of moves you’ll get the mobility and flexibility back. It just takes patience, commitment and time, but you will regain full mobility and flexibility. Plus you are never too old to start Pilates! So no excuses now 🙂

Remember you are doing Monday, Wednesday and Friday for arms and legs. Abs can be done Monday through Saturday!

OK, let’s get started on week 3 of my 10 week Pilates Challenge.  I mention in the video that we will do plank…again the time card was filled! So let’s bank on plank for next week!

Week 3: Roll-up, the hundred and series of 5 Pilates abs, plus the regular ab routine.

Single Leg Stretch is part of the series of 5 and can be done directly after leg lower and lift, or anywhere in the series. This lady does a great job of explaining the move.