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Don’t forget to breathe

Breathing. We all do it if we’re alive. But because it is so fundamental, it is only natural that breath patterns. philosophies and rules have developed over the millennia. Pilates has breath philosophies as well – the most famous quote being “you have to ‘out’ the air before you can ‘in’ the air.” (Makes more sense in German where the word for breathing out is ‘ausatmen’ but you put the ‘aus’ (out) part right at the end of the sentence).

On the other hand, when I am lifting weights at Crossfit and I am doing a deadlift, for example, of 275 lbs. I definitely NEED and MUST HOLD MY BREATH. Why is this? And isn’t that antithetical to the Pilates ‘breath’? In Pilates, we don’t put the kind of loads on our bodies that Crossfit or other weight training does and so we can continue to breathe through the exercise and train the breathing mechanism to work steadily and efficiently.

However, the Pilates breathing in many circles has now run amok. Breathing for every little movement isn’t logical or necessary. I also believe if you are focusing on the choreography and trying to find the correct muscles working in a coordinated fashion, giving a breath pattern is one variable too many to try to track. Some general breathing patterns can be helpful – ‘exhale on the effort’. Just breathe! And don’t worry too much about it.

There was a study I read about a few years ago that asked is it better to move on the exhale or inhale. Their conclusion? Neither was better than the other. Except to actually breathe.

One last thought. When I do any house painting, I rarely tape off for the trim. I have a very steady hand. But I have found that when I am painting the trim, if I consciously breathe steadily and regularly my trim line is even straighter. Conclusion? Keep breathing.

Crossfit Seattle

A few Pilates Pullups. Strength exercise worthy of Crossfit.

Jude and I went back to Crossfit Seattle today for the 1st time in a year and a half. We’ve been going to Crossfit 206 with Fran because it’s closer and 206 feels like our crossfit home. But I was reflecting on how long I have been doing Crossfit. I know I started at least in 2007 if not slightly before. Crossfit Seattle was then Crossfit North and was out in one of the hangars at Magnuson Park. It was definitely a funky space with a porta-potty outside.

I was only going 1x a week (maybe) and wasn’t sure about the intensity of the workout. Definitely an ass-kicker but I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not. But while I was not particularly regular Crossfit has definitely been in my thinking if not in my body for a good long time.

As a small person, I have always wanted to be and feel stronger. Crossfit definitely fills that for me. I didn’t really like weight training because it felt too segmented with too much muscle isolation. Crossfit is definitely a full form functional movement system although they have very little rotational work and a large percentage of the workout is in neutral spine (a good thing considering the heavy loads one is working with).

But I think one of the best things about Crossfit is their metrics or assessment tools. Everyone keeps a book or log of how much weight they are lifting on the various lifts: Back squat, Front Squat, Deadlift, Overhead Squat, etc. as well as their recording of the various set workouts. These workouts, as I have referred to before, are often named with womens names: Fran, Chelsea, Grace, Elizabeth, Helen, etc. Each workout has a proscribed weight to be used. Most of us will modify but we all know that we are working towards the Rx workout.

The ability to compare my ‘Cindy’ time (As Many Rounds As Possible (AMRAP) in 20 minutes of 5 pullups, 10 pushups and 15 squats) from a year ago or a couple of months ago and see how I have improved feels really great. (I think I have gone from 16 rounds to 21 rounds BTW). And then I can compare myself to others at my gym or any other Crossfit gym and see how ‘stack up’.

Pilates needs these assessment tools. We measure our progress by a. less pain in an injured area, b. better feeling in our body (very subjective) c. how we look in our clothes. But all of these are more or less subjective. I have tried to inject some assessments at our studio but we haven’t really continued to check in with them. I need to create more Pilates metrics. While we could use the classic ‘levels’, that doesn’t always work for everyone based on some injury. But in the next couple months, I am going to figure out some metrics that work very specifically for Pilates. I think so many of my clients have no idea how strong they have gotten. I need to take more pictures of my clients arms (mostly women) so they can see how sculpted and beautiful they have gotten. More importantly, how much more functional their fitness level is for their everyday lives when their gardening or lifting kids, traveling and having to lift carry ons in the stow bins. And strength in the gym will translate to less likely for injury elsewhere.

Advanced Pilates

I did the level 5 Reformer workout this afternoon. Of course there are some variations from studio to studio but generally this would be the accepted highest, most advanced Reformer exercises. I used to do the L5 every week but have been mixing it up a lot for the last year or so.

I was very pleased to see that:
a. I remembered all of the springs and set up for each exercises,
b. I was able to do all of the exercises and all of the transitions (more or less on the transitions),
c. my strength gains from Crossfit and other workouts have really helped with this workout and,
d. my flexibility had not really diminished that much.

The level 5 eventually becomes a body ‘rebalancing’ for range of motion and flexibility. It keeps moving through the 60 some exercises with few reps and lots of different movement patterns. It doesn’t really isolate any muscle groups but everything is working fairly hard.

Made me think that I would like more of my clients to work towards a L5 workout ability. Maybe we’ll just start with the classic L1, 2, 3, and 4 and see where some of my clients are at. We’ll call it the “Level 5 Project”

I wonder how sore I’ll be from the stretching tomorrow.