Tag Archive for: Pilates Class

Most of us have experienced back pain at some point. Elaine Economou‘s latest blog for popular website, Sixty and Me discusses some common causes of back pain and offers simple strategies for relief. Read Simple Strategies to Unravel Back Pain.

“Unraveling back pain is like being a detective for yourself. The trick is to think about your unique genetic and cultural postures and bring balanced movement into the body all day long. There are so many systems working together to keep us moving and pain free. Noticing and understanding the systems will inform your choices and help you care for your body.”

—Elaine Economou

Unraveling back pain

Back pain, once you have ruled out other issues, can be diminished once you understand your own body and the elements that play a role in causing the pain. As you consider your unique situation, there are two factors that can be particularly helpful. Your genetic posture—how you’re made—and your cultural posture, or what you do all day. All of our systems are connected. So, once we have better understanding of our unique challenges we can work to restore balance to the body.

Movement can be part of the solution

When pain flares, our instincts can lead us to try stretching that one area or worse, to stop moving altogether. But movement is typically a key part of the solution. ​​Depending on the cause of the pain, certain movements can help relieve back pain. There is no one simple fix, but Elaine offers strategies and simple movements to help you move more and feel better.

  • Move your spine in all planes of motion
  • Practice mindful breathing
  • Visit a specialist
  • Build strength by taking your Movement Vitamins

Read Simple Strategies to Unravel Back Pain.

You Can Start Now

We know the more you move, the better you feel. Sometimes we need a little push to get started. That’s why Elaine Economou created Movement Essentials: Getting Started with Pilates. A 28-day program at MOVE On Demand designed to get you moving safely and keep you on track. Each week Elaine introduces you to 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 a clear progression and provide a foundation for healthy movement.

Watch our program intro to learn more. Support the activities you love to do in life by starting today!

About Elaine Economou

Elaine Economou helps people move with ease, strength, and joy. Her passion is empowering people to understand their unique bodies to build strength, and do more of what they love. As co-founder of MOVE Wellness®, Elaine leads a global movement community of clients in high-caliber, in-studio, and interactive livestream training

Find all of Elaine’s Sixty and Me blogs on her author page.

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.

How to Keep Up Your Fitness Routine While Traveling

The latest blog from Elaine Economou about working out while traveling is now posted on the popular website, Sixty and Me.

“Once you evaluate the when and where of a travel exercise routine, figuring out how you will exercise is the next step. With internet access you can do virtually (pun intended!) anything you want. Online fitness options—both on demand workouts and livestream classes—are widely available. You don’t need to have any fancy equipment or props taking up space in your suitcase. Use a beach towel instead of a mat and water bottles as hand weights. That book you brought along to read on your trip can make a great substitute yoga block.”

—Elaine Economou

Tips for Working Out While Traveling

In this blog, Elaine will guide you though how to think about your available time and space on vacation. She’ll break down the advantages of the various online workout options. And, she’ll talk about what type of exercise you need most when you’re on the road. Give the following 30-minute Level 1 Pilates class a try on your next vacation using therabands for resistance. Perfect for your suitcase! Be sure to read the full blog over on Sixty and Me to learn even more strategies.

Read How to Keep Up Your Fitness Routine While Traveling.

Move More, Feel Better

We know the more you move, the better you feel. That includes finding smart ways to make movement part of your routine, even when traveling. For wherever life takes you or from the comfort of your very own home, MOVE Wellness offers a free 14 day trial of our livestream classes. Support the activities you love to do in life by starting today!

About Elaine Economou

Elaine Economou helps people move with ease, strength, and joy. Her passion is empowering people to understand their unique bodies to build strength, and do more of what they love. As co-founder of MOVE Wellness®, Elaine leads a global movement community of clients in high-caliber, in-studio, and interactive livestream training

Find all of Elaine’s Sixty and Me blogs on her author page.

The latest blog from Elaine Economou with tips to maximize your online fitness classes is now posted on the popular website, Sixty and Me.

How has your fitness routine changed in the last 14 months? The global pandemic has uprooted our usual habits and has us exercising more inside our homes. This blog will touch on the evolution of online fitness, as well as:

  • Walk you through some popular online fitness options.
  • Help you feel ready to safely workout on your own.
  • Offer advice for how to get the most out of your online workout experience.

9 Tips for Online Fitness Classes

We polled our awesome staff of trainers and compiled their best advice. They teach everything from Pilates to barre, yoga, HIIT and more, and have been teaching classes online since the very beginning of the pandemic. The most common suggestion is turn on your camera. Some people are understandably shy about having the camera on, but movement instructors really love to see you move! The instructor can really personalize your experience if they can see you in real time. 

Online Fitness Tips

  1. Choose the right place to exercise
  2. Don’t be late
  3. Listen to your body
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
  5. Eliminate distractions
  6. Establish a routine
  7. Put your class in your calendar
  8. Turn your camera on
  9. Learn what works for you

Read the full blog for all the great tips from our staff. Online fitness is here to stay. It’s incredibly convenient and can even connect you to a community of people with similar interests. Whatever fitness path you choose, we hope you’ll keep moving.

Move more, feel better

See for yourself what Pilates can do for you from the comfort of your own home. MOVE Wellness offers a free 14 day trial of our livestream classes with over 40 to choose from weekly. We are also welcoming clients into our Ann Arbor, MI studio for private training sessions. Whichever path is right for you, support the activities you love to do in life by starting your personal Pilates journey today!

About Elaine Economou

Elaine Economou

Elaine Economou helps people move with ease, strength, and joy. Her passion is empowering people to understand their unique bodies to build strength, and do more of what they love. As co-founder of MOVE Wellness®, Elaine leads a global movement community of clients in high-caliber, in-studio, and interactive livestream training

Find all of Elaine’s Sixty and Me blogs on her author page.

At any fitness level, Pilates is an effective and safe way to increase your flexibility, develop your core, and release tension. The exercises are designed to layer and build on each other as the student learns the foundational principles. Pilates is suitable for all bodies at any stage of life. At MOVE, we have different levels of Pilates classes to help our clients move confidently and comfortably through their personal fitness journey. Read on to learn more about how we created our Pilates levels and how you know when you’re ready to level up!

What are Pilates levels?

Pilates levels are designed to lend structure to the repertoire of exercises to ensure that you are learning the essential principles before moving to more challenging exercises. 

The Pilates Method Alliance and STOTT Pilates organize the Pilates exercises into three categories:

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced

At MOVE, we’ve organized our small-group training classes into six levels:

  • Gentle
  • Intro
  • Level 1
  • Level 2
  • Level 3
  • Advanced

We also have private sessions available for students to strengthen their muscles by getting a Pilates workout from an instructor teaching them movement, motion, and control and other Pilates exercises.

Is there different Pilates equipment for each level?

Pilates exercise is done mainly by bodyweight, so all you’ll really need is a yoga mat. Some Pilates classes add light weights or resistance bands to stretch, increasing range and improve control.

Am I ready to take it to the next level?

As you progress on your Pilates journey, you may come to a point where you are wondering if you are ready to move up to the next level. At MOVE, our Level 2 Pilates Classes are designed to be a comfortable transition between Level 1 (beginner) and Level 3 (intermediate). In Level 2, clients will continue to practice the full beginner repertoire of exercises while intermediate principles and exercises are layered into the workout. This includes more weight bearing on arms, more complex movements, and larger ranges of motion with stability and balance challenges.

What do Pilates trainers think?

From a trainer’s perspective, a client is ready to enroll in Level 2 classes when they have achieved competence with the beginner level exercises and can do most of them fairly easily, with good form, and without a lot of explanation. The trainer in a Level 2 class will divide class time between letting students move smoothly through the material while introducing new concepts and exercises from the intermediate repertoire. Intermediate exercises generally require more strength and coordination. Level 2 is a way to start learning the increasingly challenging material before it becomes the focus of the entire class in Level 3.

So how do I know for sure?

You know your body best. A Level 1 class provides a well-rounded workout. For some clients, continuing the essential work in Level 1 may be a great fit on an ongoing basis. Students interested in advancing should feel comfortable with a Level 1 class and might in fact start feeling like they want more of a challenge. Any doubts or questions? Ask you instructor. MOVE trainers are always happy to provide their feedback and suggestions.

We love to see our clients mastering new exercises, and at MOVE there is truly a level to suit all bodies and fitness goals.  We’re here to support your personal journey.

Starting something new can often feel intimidating. But getting started in Pilates does not need to be overwhelming or intimidating. Pilates is for everybody, and you can do it too. This beginner’s guide to Pilates will give you a better idea of what Pilates is and what you can expect when starting out.

Q. What is Pilates?

A. Pilates is both a technique to help you move efficiently and safely, and it is also a series of exercises to help you learn that technique. It is a system designed to help you strengthen and mobilize your body. It is named after Joseph Pilates, who invented the technique.

Q. Who should do Pilates?

A. Anyone can benefit from doing Pilates, including older people, people who haven’t worked out before, people just coming out of Physical Therapy with injuries, and professional athletes and dancers.

Pilates can be done in its most basic form gently and simply. As ability, strength, and coordination increase, we can add complexity and more challenging exercises.  Anyone who wants increased core and overall strength, fewer injuries, better coordination, and better muscle function can and should do Pilates.

Q. What type of exercises do you do in Pilates?

A. Pilates has a variety of exercise that target strength and mobility for the whole body, always initiating with an engagement of the core. They can be done on a mat or unique equipment strategically designed to allow for the fullest expression of movement. Some pieces of equipment you would likely find in your session include the Reformer, Cadillac, chair, and barrel.

In any session, including an introductory session, the trainer will aim to move you through all possible planes of movement of the spine if possible. Your session will include exercises that move the spine forward and back, sideways, and rotating into a spiral. You will also be taught to stabilize your spine and pelvis using your core.

Common beginner Pilates exercises

Pilates Toe Taps
  • Toe Taps: The student lies on her back on a mat. She engages her abdominals while holding legs in the air at “tabletop” (knees bent, shins parallel to the ground). The student learns to fire her abdominal muscles to support the stability of the pelvis and lumbar spine while challenging that stability by alternating touching the floor with each foot.
Pilates Hip Roll
  • Hip Roll/Shoulder Bridge: Student lies on her back and lifts pelvis in the air, engaging her glutes and hamstrings, and using abs to keep her ribs from “popping out.”
Pilates Breaststroke Prep
  • Breaststroke Preps: Student lies on stomach and lifts upper body and shoulders off the mat. She fires her glutes and hamstrings to lengthen.

In all of these exercises there is an emphasis on correct form and engagement of and stabilization using the core muscles. A few other (more advanced) famous Pilates exercises are the Hundred, Roll Up, and Teaser.

Q. What should I wear for Pilates?

A. Wear what makes you feel comfortable and allows you to move. This could be leggings and a tank top, or sweatpants and a t-shirt. Layers can be helpful if you tend to be cold. Socks or bare feet are good, and socks with little grippers on the bottom can be useful for providing some friction with the floor. Jeans or restrictive clothing are not recommend as they impede freedom of movement. (But if wearing jeans will get you into class, go ahead and do it! You can trade them in for leggings when you feel ready.) If and when you feel comfortable, form-fitting clothing can help the teacher see your body better and give you more detailed and nuanced corrections.

Q. I have a serious injury/issue in my body. Can I safely do Pilates?

A. Always talk to your doctor first. There are safe exercises and safe ways to approach Pilates for almost all bodies, injuries and issues, but it is important that you have some familiarity with what is contraindicated (i.e. a “no-no”) for your particular issue.  For example, people with a certain level of osteoporosis in their spine should not do forward flexion (bending forward.) The teacher and student work together to find safe alternatives to traditional exercises. At MOVE Wellness, we have a “gentle” Pilates class specifically designed to work at a pace and level that accommodate bodies with issues and injuries, or those who simply prefer to work at a slower pace. Starting with a private Pilates lesson before doing a group class is always recommended, so that you can go into class with a clear sense of what movements are best for you, and which should be modified. The instructor will also be able to help with this, but the more you know about your own capabilities, the better.

Q. Will Pilates make my abs stronger?

A. Pilates starts by focusing on the stabilization of the pelvis, ribs and shoulders, and by learning to use the breath to activate the abdominals and find a healthy placement for the ribs and shoulders. You will learn to stabilize your pelvis and ribs with all of the muscles attached to them with particular attention to the abdominals. We learn to activate our deepest layers of abdominal muscle – our transversus abdominis – before we begin every exercise. Doing so aids in this stabilization.  So yes, Pilates will make your abs stronger. It will also strengthen the other muscles of your core, your glutes and large muscles of the back. As you learn to work with these core muscles, you will work all muscles of your body. Pilates will ultimately give you a full body workout but will emphasize good core function as a prerequisite to good form.

Q. What is the difference between Pilates and Yoga?

A. In both Yoga and Pilates you are likely to go into a studio wearing comfortable clothing and embark on a series of movements. Both Yoga and Pilates will emphasize the mind body connection and ask you to work with your breath. Pilates is more straightforwardly an exercise system and physical technique for movement. It will teach you how to have good form and give you a series of moving exercises based on the work of Joseph Pilates. This will increase and strengthen your form, core strength and coordination.

Yoga is connected to a 2000 year old philosophy that is designed to set the practitioner up for spiritual transformation and meditation. Both of these techniques may ultimately benefit your mind and body, but the movements and the basis for the techniques are very different. In general, Yoga classes tend to have more of an emphasis on stretching and holding “poses,” while Pilates exercises move along different planes to increase strength, particularly of the core.

Q. Should I take Pilates classes or private lessons?

A. At MOVE, we highly recommend that everyone take at least one private lesson before they join classes. This helps ensure that you are familiar with the technique of Pilates and how to apply it to your particular body and set of issues. It also helps us make sure that you are placed in a class appropriate for your level.  Once you have done this introductory session, you can choose to continue with classes only, privates only, or a combination of the two. We recommend doing a combination when you’re ready, as private lessons are opportunities to work in specific details to what is going on in your body, where as classes ask you to take some of what you’ve learned into a context of being slightly more independent. Some home practice is also recommended.


Q. How often should I do Pilates as a beginner?

A.  Try to start with at least one hour a week, although more is encouraged when possible. This may be through private lesson, classes and/or home practice. Pilates is safe to practice daily, and in general, the more, the better.

Q. I have more questions, is there someone I can talk to in person?

A. Yes! Call us at 734-224-2560, email us office@movewellness.com, or stop by for a conversation and a tour. We are located at 3780 Jackson Road in Ann Arbor, behind Sun and Snow, across the parking lot from the Quality 16 movie theater. Come and visit us! We would love to meet you.

Lauren Miller is a Pilates and GYROTONIC Trainer at MOVE Wellness in Ann Arbor and can be reached at 734.224.2560 or office@movewellness.com

This month, we shine the spotlight on Sarah Cohen, who recently completed the MOVE Wellness Studios Pilates Instructor Training Program. We hope you enjoy getting to know Sarah.

Sarah Cohen Pilates TrainerI love the supportive feeling of being at MOVE Wellness Studios. When I workout, I feel clear minded and more relaxed. My family appreciates it when I work out regularly. I find that a combination of Pilates and walking keeps me feeling great! My favorite Pilates exercise is the Roll Up because you have to use so many muscles in order to do it properly. To me, wellness is the combination of being physically fit, eating well and taking care of yourself emotionally.”

Sarah’s current MOVE Wellness Studios class schedule includes Pilates Reformer on Tuesdays at 8AM at MOVE Wellness Studios’s Westside Studio. She also teaches a Strength & Conditioning class at St. Joe’s Livingston on Thursdays at 11AM and St. Joe’s Brighton on Thursdays at 12:15PM.  She is also available for Pilates private training.  Book online or call us at 734.224.2560.