Tag Archive for: fitness

How to get stronger at home without weights or fancy equipment

Overwhelmed. Intimidated. Discouraged. These are the feelings I hear from people when they talk about trying to find the right home workout routine. Overwhelmed by the amount of information and advice they find. Intimidated by the types of workouts and exercises they’re seeing, many of which make them worry about pain or injury. And discouraged by the fact that so many strength-building workouts they see online or on tv are geared toward super fit people who are already experienced athletes. This is why I’m passionate about movement systems like Pilates.

Building strength based on your individual needs 

One of the reasons that I fell in love with Pilates (a love affair that started more than 20 years ago!) is its central focus on how the whole body works and your individual movement needs. Exercise programs and strength-training routines should be designed to fit you, not the other way around. I’ve always found it strange that so much of today’s health and fitness culture relies on people fitting a pre-packaged workout routine or devoting themselves to a specific diet. 

Here’s what I say to that: Your body is a self-sufficient miracle and is already working the way it needs to. Your heart is beating, your lungs are filling with oxygen, and your internal systems are engaging in the many regenerative processes for which they’re designed. 

Woman meditating in front of water

Understanding some basic things about how your body works is the most important first step in starting any new strength-building routine. For example, nearly every client I’ve ever worked with has asked me what the best ab workout is. And here’s what I tell them: breathing. If you are breathing as you should be, with ease and balance, your abdominal muscles are working. 

Once you shift your focus to understanding a bit about how your own body works, then the way you approach starting a new workout routine becomes a lot easier. Because it’s all about listening to your own body and thinking about how your lifestyle and day-to-day activities affect the way you feel. In general, there are three characteristics of a successful home strength-training routine that I like to emphasize: consistency, progression, and balance. But first, let’s talk a little bit about why building strength specifically is so important for your health at all stages of life.

two women doing Pilates in their living room

Health benefits of Pilates and strength-training at home

The price of a healthy body and personal wellness is hard to pinpoint because, in a way, health is defined by the absence of illness or injury. And this gets even more true as we age. Many people have a hard time wrapping their minds around the idea of building strength later in life because we so often associate the word with youth and athletic training. But in reality, strength is a critical component of aging well and as we get older we have to work a lot harder (and smarter) for it.

Continuing to move your body in ways that promote strength, stability, and flexibility should be the foundation for any new workout routine. But, again, understanding a little bit about how your body works is essential for getting started. Developing a better understanding of your unique musculoskeletal system, for example, can help you address and eliminate a lot of the aches and pains that stem from daily activities like sitting at a desk, sleeping on a not-so-great mattress, or spending a Saturday doing a lot of yard work.

Woman doing a mermaid Pilates stretch in her home

Smaller movements = bigger whole body impact

Our culture has a habit of emphasizing big movements, big muscles, big workouts, and so on. But it’s those little muscles, those little movements, and those smaller, more mindful exercises that often have the biggest impact on our bodies and health. An intricate web of connective tissue called fascia runs throughout our bodies, holding everything in place (organs, bones, muscles, etc.), reacting to the positive and negative input we provide our bodies with every day, and ultimately informing all of our movement. 

Stress, uneven movements, or awkward body positions (hunched over our phones or laptops for example) can cause our fascia to tense up and get snagged in different spots; while slowing down, breathing more deeply, and bringing a level of mental awareness to our movement can help release that tense tissue and bring back some balance. When we think about exercise and movement in terms of our fascia and the interconnectedness of our bodies, rather than just working big muscles or stretching them to get more flexible, we can create more effective workout routines that offer a bigger, long-term impact.

Paying more attention to our fascia and trying to bring more balance to that web of connective tissue running throughout our bodies is also critical for preventing injuries. Movement systems like Pilates are designed to do just that. But, more than anything, approaching strength-training and exercise from a more informed and mindful place is essential because it gives us the energy and freedom to do the things we love to do. For me, Pilates has given me the tools to ensure that I am always mobile and strong enough to do the things that bring me joy. 

Woman selecting an online fitness class on an iPad in her home

How to start a consistent home workout routine

Building strength is not about spending an hour here or two hours there doing big, hard, explosive exercises that leave you exhausted and sore. To build muscle, you need to find a starting point that works for you and do that movement consistently every day, even if it’s just for 15-20 minutes. 

At MOVE Wellness, we offer several gentle beginner level Pilates classes that give you some initial guidance and routines to get you moving. This easy 15-minute morning routine is a great option if you’re not sure where you want to start. Regardless of what you decide to do, the goal should be to establish a new movement habit that you can incorporate into your daily routine. That means that it should be enjoyable and customized for you, otherwise it’s going to be hard to maintain long-term.

Along those same lines, fancy equipment and perfect form are not things you need to get stronger and healthier at home. Let me say that again: No fancy gym equipment or perfect Instagram-worthy poses needed! For people who take our livestream classes, we’ve even got a list of “prop swaps” you can find at home for some of the equipment or tools you might normally use in a studio or gym setting. Don’t have hand weights? Grab some canned beans! Don’t have a head pad or Yoga block? Grab a book from your bookshelf. 

With any Pilates exercise, the goal shouldn’t be to look exactly like the instructor does or like the seemingly flawless exercise enthusiasts flooding our news and social media these days. The goal is to have you safely engage in that movement in whatever range your body will allow, and then progress from there in ways that allow you to own that movement and experience joy and confidence in doing so.

A man and woman doing planks in their home

How to increase body strength at home

Mat Pilates is one of the most popular and effective ways to build strength at home because it allows you to use your own body weight and natural movements in training. At some point in time, building muscle became all about doing “leg days” or “upper body days” and eating this much protein and that much fat this many times a day. But the good news is, building body strength doesn’t have to be that prescriptive or oddly specific, and for the most part, really shouldn’t be. 

When you think about gaining strength, you want to think about whole-body strength. Not working out one specific muscle or muscle group, but instead moving your body through it’s normal planes of movement and building strength through your center. This means understanding how your spine alignment works, learning that engaging your core isn’t just about tightening your abs, and being assured that nothing you’re doing should hurt or feel bad.

Your own body weight is usually all you need to get started with Pilates. Then, once you’ve developed some comfort and familiarity, you can increase progression by adding props like resistance bands or weighted balls (or prop swaps).  

A woman doing a home workout with weights

3 tips for successful strength-training at home

#1: Start small

We love simple movements and exercise modifications in Pilates because it allows you to customize workouts for your skill level and comfort. For example, don’t feel pressured to start with hand weights or resistance bands. Just using your own body weight and learning to move freely through different ranges of motion first is not only ok, it’s often the better way to begin. If you want to establish a routine that you can both maintain and benefit from, the focus should be on performing movements correctly and fully, not with excessive amounts of weight or resistance.

#2: Keep it slow and steady

Yes, moving fast and getting our heart rate up can provide a great cardiovascular workout, but it’s the quickest path to injury if you’re not moving correctly and fluidly. Remember, you’re creating a new routine and developing new habits, not transforming yourself into an entirely different human being overnight. Moving slowly and thoughtfully allows us to establish a healthy routine we’re more likely to maintain and grow over time.

#3: Consistency is key

Like I mentioned before, 15-20 minutes of movement each day is better than an intense hour-long workout one or two days per week. Make your strength-building routine part of your everyday life, not an additional difficult, time-consuming task that you’ll end up dreading or not having time for.

Moving with ease is a basic human necessity. Exercise and strength-training should always be driven by a desire to move and feel better, not look better. When we focus on physical appearance rather than feeling and health, we fall into the trap of not listening to our bodies and letting discomfort and pain turn into injury and chronic mobility issues. 

Whether you decide to try an in-person or livestream class through a studio like ours or just start incorporating new movement practices into your daily routine at home, be sure to take note of how your body feels and ask lots of questions.

You Can Start Now

Looking for a guided, approachable way to get started with movement? Movement Essentials: Getting Started with Pilates is now available at MOVE On Demand and may be right for you. This is a complete 28-day program designed to safely introduce you to Pilates and keep you on track as you build a routine. Each week Elaine Economou will cover the basic principles of Pilates with a consistent warm up, weekly classes, and a variety of special topics to enhance your journey. And, it comes with an easy to follow calendar that will guide you through the progression and prepare you for a lifetime of healthy movement. Watch the program trailer to learn more.

Reimagining my fitness routine for post-pandemic life

With two doses of vaccine in my arm, I find myself pondering what my new ‘post-pandemic’ fitness routine will look like. Here’s one thing I know, it will not look like it did before COVID-19 and in many ways I’m grateful for that. Gyms, small fitness studios, local YMCA’s and other recreation centers are all open again. In addition to Pilates, I love to play tennis and am thrilled to be back on the courts! While I’ve been lucky to keep up my Pilates at home during the pandemic, it’s time for me to return to in-person workouts. Do I need to give up my ‘at home’ workouts? I don’t want to!

I see an opportunity to evolve my fitness routine — hopefully to include both virtual and ‘in studio’ training. As a result, I hope to build a more robust and more flexible fitness routine into my post-pandemic life.

My pre-pandemic fitness routine

Like many people who have had a regular fitness regime for years, my pre-pandemic fitness routine included a combination of memberships, class fees, court time, outdoor activities and even a splurge on some semi-private Pilates training with fellow tennis enthusiasts. When the pandemic hit, it was March in the Midwest. Things shut down quickly, leaving many of us who use fitness as a wellness and mental health tool floundering. Tennis in the snow, anyone?

My (current) pandemic fitness routine

Things evolved quickly with COVID-19 and thankfully, so did my Ann Arbor Pilates studio — MOVE Wellness. As a team, they managed to go completely virtual within days and offer a fantastic array of livestream fitness classes. Kudos to all the Pilates, GYROTONIC, yoga and barre teachers for turning their homes into online studios and their laptops into lifelines. As grateful as I was to still be ‘moving’, I joined in online with a bit of skepticism and an attitude that I ‘would just get through this’ until we could get back to normal classes at the studio.

One month, two months, three months. I lost count. But I also lost count of how many classes I have taken online with live instruction. It’s become a new norm for both me and my husband, and in some ways I’ve grown to love it. 

What is it that I love? Here’s a short list.

  • Weirdly, I love seeing who shows up for class (a little like happy hour). I do feel like part of the community. Sometimes we chat, sometimes we don’t and both are ok.
  • I love the flexibility of changing my clothes (or not) 5 minutes before logging on for class.
  • I enjoy the ease of adding extra classes to my schedule when my schedule allows it—no pressure of an early commitment to do something I’m not sure I will be able to do. 
  • Occasionally (but not often), I enjoy doing class in my pajamas with the camera off.
  • I spend a lot of time in northern Michigan and I love that I can take my new routine with me.
  • As a contract employee paid hourly, I value the time I save by not traveling to any studio (I’m in and out of class in 50 min!).
  • I love the overall value of my classes – I am getting LIVE, professional instruction at an affordable price.

Nancy Kelley doing an online Pilates class with MOVE Wellness

Nancy Kelley doing an online Pilates class with MOVE Wellness

Nancy Kelley doing an online Pilates class with MOVE Wellness

What do I miss? (A much shorter list…)

  • In the group classes I miss the 1:1 in person connection with my trainer and their ability to correct my form with more nuance or encourage me to push a bit harder. 
  • The equipment—love my weekly Reformer class.
  • In person interactions with friends and instructors.
  • Occasionally leaving my house to immerse myself in the small studio environment.

Over time, I started making some adjustments to take things to the next level with livestream classes. I eventually took the money saved from membership fees and tennis court time and bought myself a home Reformer. Having my own equipment at home allowed me to participate in a livestream small group training class with MOVE. My instructor is up close and personal managing only a few clients on the screen and I don’t miss a thing. Honestly, she sees everything and gives me fantastic feedback.

Nancy Kelley updating her fitness routine with a home Pilates Reformer

Nancy Kelley updating her fitness routine with a home Pilates Reformer

Nancy Kelley on her home Pilates Reformer after her workout

What’s next? A hybrid fitness routine?

I have learned so much by being forced out of my normal fitness routine and experimenting with live online classes. It’s something I would never have tried had it not been for COVID-19 shutting down all the gyms, tennis clubs and small fitness studios in Ann Arbor. It’s easy to point to these online classes as a silver lining in a very difficult time.

I have often heard MOVE Wellness owner Elaine Economou say that “the consistency and frequency of your routine builds positive outcomes” and I have to say, she is right. I was able to increase my workout frequency while still receiving quality instruction — all from the comfort of my own home. And, I am definitely seeing the benefits. At a time when most people were moving less, I was actually moving more and both my physical and mental self benefited.  

Nancy Kelley playing tennis as part of her new fitness routine

Truth: If I could only choose ONE form of exercise — I would likely not choose online fitness (I’d choose tennis). I’m grateful to be back on the courts and ready to return to some in-person fitness classes. Even with my Reformer at home, I miss the face to face interaction. But, I also have NO intention of giving up this newfound form of online fitness instruction. It’s extremely clear that these online classes have a very important place in my routine adding significant value, flexibility and very real positive outcomes. I also know how much Pilates improves my tennis game and keeps me injury free. Since I don’t have to choose, I plan to keep a mix of virtual and in-person training. 

I might not be ready to jump into a big gym environment again, but I am ready for a small fitness studio where I feel safe. In addition, I am committed and excited to continue my online instruction. I’ll find my new balance between in person and online instruction as I go forward. I’m confident in one thing, that my new fitness routine will be just that—new.

You Can Start Now

We know the more you move the better you feel. There’s no better time than now to reimagine your own fitness routine. Here are five ways you can start now and join the MOVE Wellness community:

Elaine Economou is featured in Authority Magazine!

In an insightful interview with Dr. William Seeds of Authority Magazine, our resident fitness and wellness expert Elaine shares “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing“.

“Move your body in ways that bring you joy every day! Ditch the idea of fitness as something external like the size of your biceps or your six-pack, and get strong by doing something you enjoy. Love your body for all of the miraculous things it does every day, for all its imperfections, and move. By paying attention to our bodies through movement, we can be more mindful and impactful in every aspect of our lives.”

—Elaine Economou

Read the full interview here, and contact us to get started with MOVE today.

Reflecting on 2019

The end of a year is always a time of reflection on where we have been and where our path will lead us next. Our growing community has become stronger than ever as our trainers and desk team have provided encouragement, accountability, and resources for our clients to be successful. We see people flourishing in their health and fitness as they deepen their commitment to movement and we couldn’t be happier.

We know that movement heals. With a focus on common health issues that many of us face, we were able to host several events this year that brought us together as a group to hear from experts and engage in conversation around these topics. In 2019 we held events in partnership with local health providers related to back pain, pelvic floor issues, and osteoporosis. We are committed to continuing these conversations into the new year and using movement as medicine. We’re always listening if there’s a topic you wish we would explore further in 2020.

We can’t look back on 2019 without once more congratulating our most recent group of MOVE Pilates Instructor Training graduates. Joining the MOVE Comprehensive Pilates Instructor Training Program is a big commitment and these students worked tirelessly to soak up and assimilate a wealth of information. In training the next generation of movement teachers, we are proud to impact the future of our industry and of what these teachers will bring to our studio. While these apprentices are wrapping up their practice hours and beginning their professional movement careers, we prepare to welcome the next Instructor Training class in February 2020.

Welcoming 2020

As we anticipate what we can accomplish in the new year, some topics and themes you can look forward to include:

  • More movement and programming for healthy backs
  • Regular osteoporosis classes and discussion groups
  • A renewed focus on post-therapy fitness
  • Additional classes for men
  • More pre/postnatal programs
  • Continued collaboration with healthcare providers

We are ending a year filled with great memories and fun times. Know that as we have helped you reach your goals, you are helping us to reach our goal of sharing MOVE with as many people as possible. We have so much appreciation for the trust you place in us and thank you for giving us the opportunity to do what we love. MOVE Wellness is a reflection of the beautiful community inside our studio and we raise a toast to each of you wishing you a new year filled with health, joy, and movement. 

Happy New Year!

Elaine & Robin