Lightweight, portable, inexpensive and challenging, the Pilates Magic Circle is a great addition to the repertoire of anyone who wants to help center themselves and get a great workout at the same time.

This flexible ring was created by Joseph Pilates as a way to create balance and encourage even development of muscles and control. At 12-14 inches in diameter, the ring is small and lightweight, made of plastic, metal or rubber and features to side handles to allow you to squeeze it between the arms and/or legs. While building tone and core strength, the Pilates magic circle is fun addition to any routine. Also known as the Pilates circle, exercise ring and fitness ring, the magic ring has a lot to offer.

Look for a circle that gives mild resistance, but isn’t too difficult to squeeze. If possible, it’s great to try out the Pilates circle before purchasing. There are a wide variety of brands that each have slightly different padding configurations and styling. However all of one thing in common – they bring added challenges and stability to classic Pilates movements.

Eight-Step Pilates Ring Workout

One of the most innovative things about the Pilates magic circle is that it allows for variations on familiar exercises like the hundred and the roll back. It can also provide some structure for those who are new to Pilates but who aren’t ready to dig into more complex equipment work.

Check out these eight Pilates ring exercises to get started.

Upper body sequence

  • Standing tall, engage the core and place the circle between both palms, even with the waist.
  • Slowly and with control, push the circle in rhythmically for ten reps, holding for just a moment at the closest point.
  • Moving up the body, repeat at chest height, at shoulder height, and over your head while constantly engaging the core.

 

Magic Circle Pilates hundred

  • Lie down on the back on the mat.
  • Extend both legs, placing the circle between them and just above the ankles, squeezing slightly.
  • Raise legs to a ninety degree angle, rolling the head, neck and chest up as well as you gaze toward your navel.
  • Lifting the hands off the floor, pump the arms up and down for 100 reps, inhaling for five count and exhaling for a five count.
  • To increase difficulty, try lowering the legs down to 45 degrees.

 

Straight arms

  • Standing with feet together, squeeze the inner thighs together while pulling the navel towards the spine.
  • Hold the circle with both hands, directly in front of the chest, hands open with fingertips pointing away and elbows slightly bent. Don’t squeeze the circle.
  • Press the circle in with control for ten reps.
  • Next, squeeze the circle as you count to ten and move the circle above your head, reaching ten when it’s directly overhead.
  • Lower the circle down towards the hips while counting to ten. Repeat four times for five total cycles.

 

Behind the back

  • Standing with feet together, squeeze the inner thighs together while pulling the navel towards the spine.
  • Hold the circle with both hands, directly behind the back, hands open with fingertips pointing down towards the ground and elbows slightly bent. Don’t squeeze the circle.
  • Press the circle in with control for ten reps.
  • Next, squeeze the circle as you count to ten and move the circle up as high as it will go, reaching ten when it’s at its peak.
  • Lower the circle down towards the hips while counting to ten. Repeat four times for five total cycles.

 

Side leg press

  • Lying on your side, bend the elbow closest to the floor and rest the head on the hand.
  • Placing the circle just above your ankles, stretch the legs down and point the toes away. Stack the hips vertically, with legs slightly in front of the body.
  • Draw the navel towards the spine, fully engaging the core.
  • Reach the top arm up and out, stretching the full length of the side body and further engaging the core and back.
  • Inhale, then exhale and squeeze the circle as much as possible. Inhale to release.
  • Repeat ten times then switch sides.

 

Roll back

  • Sit down on the mat, bending the legs in front with the feet flat on the ground.
  • Place the circle between the legs, just above the knees.
  • Sitting tall and with arms straight out in front, inhale deeply.
  • Exhale, tucking the lower back and pelvis under as the abs pull in.
  • Squeeze the circle between the legs as you lower down until the spine touches the ground and the air is fully released.
  • Inhale and exhale.
  • Inhale as you roll back up with control.
  • Repeat for ten total reps.

 

Whole body raise

  • Lying on your back, place the circle just about the ankles between the legs.
  • Pull the legs up to a ninety degree angle.
  • Draw the arms behind the head, supporting, but not pulling in any way.
  • Gently raise the head, neck and shoulders off the floor as you gaze into your navel without straining the next or back muscles.
  • Inhale, lowering the legs down halfway to a forty-five degree angle.
  • Exhale, bringing them back up to 90 degrees as you pull your abs in toward the spine.
  • Repeat for a total of ten reps.

 

Bridge

  • Lie down flat, resting the arms by the side and placing the feet flat on the floor.
  • Place the circle between the legs, just above the knees.
  • Inhale, squeezing the circle in.
  • Exhale, lifting the hips towards the ceiling.
  • Hold at the top, inhaling to squeeze the circle even tighter. For more of a challenge, hold for three breaths.
  • Exhale, lowering back down with control as one vertebrae lowers to the floor at a time until the bottom is resting on the floor.
  • Repeat for twelve total reps.

 

With the Pilates ring, it’s important to focus on form. Allow the ring to act as an extension of the body, increasing awareness and moving towards a more centered practice. Then take it with you anywhere, along with the 100s to Happiness digital app for your smartphone or tablet, to help build on and improve your Pilates routine.

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Workouts can become moving mediation.

Movement and mind are one and the same. You don’t have to stop what you’re doing in order to grow mindfulness in your life and exercise routine – building a mindfulness practice into your workout is one of the best ways to get more out of both your physical body and your mind.

Here are five ways to incorporate mindfulness into your workouts.

Focus on breath

Taking control of the breath is a key to taking control of the mind. Pilates offers very specific instruction on breathing during movements, helping to pull the body and mind together, but not all workout systems do. At first, it’s not important to try to control the breath, only to observe your patterns of breathing and to be aware of the breath as it comes in and out of your body. No matter what exercise you’re doing, focusing on the breath is a great way stay in the moment.

There are other benefits as well. Focusing on breath helps you to get more out of your workout by sending more oxygen to the muscles and to the brain. During a workout you need that boost even more than when you’re just going about your everyday life. There’s a reason that breath control is a central point for so many exercise systems – it works!

Try breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, and exhale during the work of the exercise. You’ll find that the more that you’re able to align your breath with your movement, the more you’ll be able to take control of your workouts and the easier it will be to let go of distractions so that your movements and your thinking can become one and the same.

Use mantras

A mantra is just a word or phrase that you repeat over and over again during meditation. It doesn’t have to be extraordinary or spiritual, but the effect of using a mantra is powerful. Mantras can help you to feel stronger and less like you want to give up. They can be incredibly empowering, propelling you forward when you don’t want to keep going. They focus the mind on the moment, pulling attention away from wandering thoughts and back to the reality of the here and now.

Here are some examples of mantras that you can say to yourself, either out loud or internally. And of course it’s great to come up with your own – use what works, because there are no rules!

  • One movement at a time.
  • My body is getting stronger.
  • I am strong. I am powerful.
  • My mind believes it, my body can achieve it.
  • Just do it.
  • I’m doing this for me.

 

Whatever kind of repeated word or phrase you find to be useful is what you should be using. It could be something as simple as repeating the word “focus” again and again, or something as complex as a quote from a favorite fitness hero. Whatever it is, incorporating a repeated word or phrase into your exercise is powerful.

Visualize

Using the mind to the fullest extent often means thinking in new and innovative ways. While it’s true that our stated goal here is to use mindfulness to pull the body and mind together, sometimes the best way to do that is to disengage from the world around us. For instance you might visualize yourself speeding down a wooded path during a workout on a stationary bike, or running on the beach as you power down the treadmill.

Pulling your mind out of your current surroundings is a great way to help your body and mind to become in tune with one another. People who visualize during workouts often find that they can actually sense their bodies more effectively and that their form actually improves as they let go of distraction.

Be aware of your self-talk

You’re saying things to yourself, whether you realize it not. There is constantly a voice in the back of your mind that is offering a commentary on what’s going on inside you and around you. What is it saying? Is it encouraging you to move forward or is it holding you back? These are some significant questions to think about because negative self-talk can have a tremendously stifling effect on your ability to move forward and can even be the catalyst that pushes you back.

Once you’re aware of your self-talk, you’ll then be able to mold it into positive self-talk that will take you to the next level. Changing your inner dialogue can really help you to reach your goals. This is one area where tapping into the power of a mantra can help you to change the way you talk to yourself during a workout.

Focus on one thing

In order to bring mindfulness to your workout, focus on just one thing at a time. It truly doesn’t matter what you concentrate on – that part is entirely up to you and your coaches or mentors.

This might start with something as simple and straightforward as counting your steps or counting your breaths. You might focus on one spot straight in front of you or think hard about releasing tense muscles. You can even focus on the burn that you’re feeling, which can surprisingly actually make the sensation feel better! That’s because as you pull your attention to it, you learn to feel stronger and less afraid of the discomfort.

By pulling your attention directly to one specific thing, you’ll let go of distractions and keep yourself in the moment.

Whether you add in one or all of these mindfulness techniques into your workout, you’ll notice the results. Working out shouldn’t be a chore – it’s something that should make our bodies and minds feel invigorated, even as exercise challenges us. When you bring your body and mind together, movement can push them both to improve.

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Pilates improves your mind and body, helping you gain more focus and a stronger, leaner physique. However, you may struggle with motivation to perform the exercises or suffer with joint pain and muscle spasms during or after the workout. Though most Pilates exercises are quite gentle, they can also be challenging for those who are new to the program.

Even with a healthy diet, you may not get enough nutrients to help your body recover during a workout. In fact, you may not even have the drive to start a workout in the first place. By introducing certain vitamins and supplements to your diet, you may see improvements in your energy, focus and strength while doing Pilates.

Why take vitamins and supplements during Pilates?

Pilates teaches you how to move efficiently as you train different muscle groups at once. No matter how beneficial Pilates may seem, it’s hard to gain positive results if you lack the energy or deal with joint pain during the exercises. If you have anxiety, depression or fatigue, you may skip Pilates altogether and miss out on all the benefits that come with it.

Supplementing your diet with essential vitamins and nutrients can help you overcome joint pain, combat muscle aches, relieve anxiety and gain more energy. You’ll feel more focused during the workout and have the energy to complete all the exercises.

Some people may need a multivitamin if they can’t meet their recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals from their diets. Others may only need one or two vitamins to help boost their energy or repair muscle damage.

What to look for when shopping

Before you buy your first supplement, you should first:

  • Understand what you lack from your diet. Are you getting enough protein? Do you eat enough fruits and vegetables with your meals?
  • Read the labels carefully. Check out the percentages of each supplement, and see if it meets or exceeds the recommended daily allowance.
  • Check out supplement reviews & rankings online. Compare different brands, and read various reviews from those who have bought them. What works for some may not necessarily work for you.
  • Visit a few supplement blogs for additional information. Some bloggers may give tips and tricks to maximize a supplement’s effectiveness and help you gain more insight into vitamins as a whole.

 

L-theanine

L-theanine, a nonessential amino acid, forms the building block for proteins. Found in black and green tea, this amino acid has a similar chemical structure to glutamate, a naturally occurring amino acid in your brain. A study conducted in 2013 found that L-theanine reduced anxiety in graduate students as they were assigned stressful work. People also use this amino acid for treating their anxiety and improving their focus.

Since Pilates requires focus and concentration to perform the movements, L-theanine may help to clear your mind during the exercises. With less anxiety, you commit to the slow yet challenging routine and leave your worry behind. With greater focus, you learn how to control the movements and your breathing, which can help reduce your stress when it’s done properly.

Omega-3/Fish Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids may provide numerous health benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic. Fish oil contains two essential omega-3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid. Studies have shown that these acids may promote greater heart health, reduce depression and help with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Fish oil also contains vitamin D, an essential nutrient for maintaining healthy bones and protecting against cancer and diabetes.

Your heart rate and blood flow increase as you exercise. Fish oil supplements can help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes and prevent an abnormal heartbeat. The vitamin D in the fish oil will help strengthen your bones as they support your body weight during the exercises. Since fish oil helps with depression, it may improve your mood, refresh your mind and help you reap the benefits of each movement in the routine.

Joint & bone support vitamins

Joint and bone support vitamins contain many different substances to help build and repair your joints, bones and cartilage. These supplements may contain up to five or six different vitamins and compounds for targeting different areas of your body.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are two common ingredients found in these supplements, both occurring naturally in healthy cartilage. When taken together, they may help relieve pain, improve joint mobility and slow the progress of osteoarthritis damage. These support vitamins may also contain calcium and vitamin D, a powerful combination of essential nutrients. While calcium aids in bone health, growth and repair, vitamin D maintains bone structure and helps reduce the loss of calcium in your body.

Pilates not only improves muscle elasticity but also joint mobility. The more you bend and stretch, the more force you exert on your joints. You need optimum joint mobility to perform Pilates moves efficiently. Taking these supplements may help relieve pain in your joints during a session, allowing you to perform the exercises to your fullest extent.

Vitamin C

Ascorbic acid, better known as vitamin C, is a water-soluble antioxidant. Because your body doesn’t make or store this vitamin, you have to get it from certain foods such as fruits and vegetables. It helps your body grow and repair tissue, including collagen for making tendons, ligaments and cartilage. Vitamin C not only aids in healing wounds but also boosting the immune system. Though vitamin C deficiency is rare in North America, some people may not get enough from their diets alone.

Pilates conditions your entire body, including your joints. It balances your strength and flexibility, making you more agile and less prone to injury. Taking vitamin C while doing Pilates may help you recover from the workouts more quickly. Since it repairs muscle tissue, you’ll experience less downtime between workouts. Vitamin C also aids in collagen growth, so your tendons and ligaments will benefit from this supplement as you stretch and flex your way to better health.

Protein bars or powders

Protein not only helps to build strong bones, muscles and cartilage but also enzymes, blood and hormones. It’s a vital building block for healthy skin, hair and nails. This nutrient is abundant in red meat, poultry and fish, including nuts, beans, peas and rice. It provides many benefits such as preserving and building muscle, reducing hunger, improving the immune system and coping with stress. Protein is such an important part of the human body that you would not exist without it.

During Pilates exercises, you’re developing a stronger core and back, gaining lean muscle and improving your flexibility. Each hold or repetitive movement creates small micro tears in your muscles. Consuming protein bars or powders before or after your workout sends the protein to each muscle, helping to rebuild it and make it stronger than before. With stronger muscles, you can perform the exercises even better and progress further in your workout. This is a solid list of the 10 best protein powders to consider.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is found in meat, fish and dairy products and used to treat fatigue, memory loss and depression. It’s an important vitamin for your metabolism and the proper development of your blood cells, brain and nerves. Adults require at least 2.4 micrograms daily; however, they may not get enough from food alone. Some doctors administer vitamin B12 shots to their patients to help them overcome fatigue and other symptoms of B12 deficiency.

You need enough energy and drive to start and perform your Pilates exercises. Taking vitamin B12 supplements before a workout may give you a boost and help you see the entire session through to the end. Vitamin B12 combats depression and gets you up and going again. Because Pilates helps to reduce stress, combining vitamin B12 with your workouts could do wonders for your mind and overall health.

Magnesium

Magnesium does so much for your mind and body, from regulating your blood pressure to building strong bones. It keeps your heart rhythm steady and calms your nerves. This mineral also helps with digestion, relieves muscle aches and increases your energy levels. Unfortunately, magnesium deficiencies are common in the U.S. and may lead to inflammation, heart disease and diabetes.

Wrapping Up

Pilates is a mind-body workout. Not only does it improve your muscle strength and flexibility but also your concentration and spinal alignment. An anxious, nervous mind will only hinder your progress. If you’re not getting enough magnesium in your diet, it could lead to inflammation and cause more pain and discomfort during your workout. Magnesium relieves spasms and pain caused by overexerting your muscles and keeps you calm and focused while performing the exercises. It’s an important supplement for improving your Pilates exercises and life outside of the gym.

Now that you’ve powered up with all your supplements, try downloading the 100 day Pilates challenge! At the end of 100 days, we hope you’ll feel happier, focused, stronger, and more centered.

 

About Rick Grimes

 

Rick Grimes is a former pro soccer player who now focuses his efforts on helping people better themselves. You can check him out on Google+ to find more of his articles on health, fitness, supplements, nutrition and more.
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Though it’s a widespread belief that mindful mediation is a thing in which people sit down cross-legged and stay still and silent for hours on end, in but the truth is that mediation is so much more than that. Mindful meditation is about being here and present in this moment, without thinking about what’s coming next or what’s come before. Particularly today with the swirl of electronics and the sway of mounds of tasks to occupy our minds, it’s a monumental challenge for us to feel as though we’re right here and now. Our bodies our in one place and our minds completely another.

10 Benefits of pairing mindfulness with fitness

 

Adding mindful meditation to the workout has a wide variety of benefits, allowing for improvements in physical, mental and emotional health.

Stress reduction

 

It’s well-documented that just one month of practicing mindfulness brings down stress levels dramatically, both in the sense that people feel less stressed and in the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) that can be found in their bodies. Working out is already a powerful way to reduce stress, but adding in mindfulness offers a perfect pairing, increasing the results.

Clearer thinking

 

Mindfulness leads to more focus and clearer thinking. Working out sends much needed blood flow to the brain, washing it in oxygen and mind building nutrients. Adding mindfulness into the mix increases verbal reasoning skills, working memory and concentration.

Knowledge of self

 

Who are you? What do you want out of life? It’s easy to just plug in and keep going, without realizing whether or not this is the kind of path that you should be on, the one that really makes you happy. Practicing mindfulness gives the mind the chance to slow down and get thinking about what’s really important instead of being constantly focused on task lists. There’s a chance to realize flaws within yourself as well as opportunities. That clarity is far more valuable than many of us can imagine without it.

Better form

 

Attaining great form is an important part of any workout routine. It prevents injury and leads to results. However attaining great form doesn’t happen when you’re constantly thinking about something else. In order to improve form and perfect technique, presence is a must. Adding mindfulness to the regimen helps to keep the focus where it should be – on the body.

Improved awareness

 

Somewhere along the line it became cool to hate being active. The couch potato culture that’s been snowballing for decades is something that everyone has to wrestle with, and that causes many people to actually fear activity. Mindfulness shows us that there really isn’t anything to fear – being present in your body and in this moment is not only perfectly alright, it’s actually pretty amazing! Instead of trying to escape the occasional discomfort of exercise, mindfulness helps us learn to enjoy our bodies even as we push them to change and improve.

Easier weight loss

 

Regularly practicing meditation is linked to improved outcomes for people who are trying to lose weight. That’s right, sitting still and clearing your mind can help you to reach those weight loss goals. Why? For all of the reasons that we’ve listed here that mindfulness is great for you! Bodily awareness, improved focus and attention, better understanding of self, etc. These reasons and others that we perhaps can’t even put our finger on are all contributing factors for hitting those goals when it comes to bodily changes.

Fewer sick days

 

Nothing challenges the great groove of a workout routine like getting sick. Mindfulness meditation is directly linked to lower incidences of illness, and for those that do get sick the duration is shortened. Now that doesn’t mean that if you meditate that you’re never going to get a cold, but a regular practice will make you less likely to catch that virus that’s running rampant through the gym.

A better night’s sleep

 

Getting a solid amount of sleep is an integral part of staying healthy and supporting those workouts. When the mind regulates itself more effectively, it’s less likely to be out of control at bedtime when the brain needs to be taking a break. As working out regularly has a similar effect, when the two are put together it’s a perfect recipe for getting the right kind of sleep in order to stay healthy.

Self improvement

 

Meditation and mindfulness actually make us better people. Though it may seem a little outlandish, it’s actually true that practicing the art of mindfulness increases empathy, in those who practice. What does that have to do with working out? Success in life isn’t just about the self, and in order to get the most out of your workouts you’ve got to be able to connect with others. People who really become passionate about health and fitness aren’t just concerned for themselves, but for the people around them who deserve to be happy and healthy. Mindfulness helps to take the workout mindset out to the wider world, inflaming your own passion for getting fit.  

Long lasting effects of mindful meditation

 

One of the truly amazing aspects of meditation and mindfulness practices are that they have these incredible effects that stick with you, they are there for long after the meditation session is over. Once that meditation session is over, the brain continues to have improved emotional regulation and attention span. We can really see here how much meditation is like working out – the results are something that we can count on. Working out and mindfulness are two parts of your health and fitness life that you want to stick with you for today and for the years to come.

While Pilates and mindfulness go hand in hand, thanks to the body-mind connection that is a focus of Pilates, mindfulness is something that can be incorporated into any workout system. Adding a mindfulness practice into your workout routine helps to created a well-rounded experience, one that promotes health and wellness in holistic way.

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Being a parent can be tough. We’re seeing more and more kids being diagnosed with what were once adult diseases, things like diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity. That’s not to speak of the dramatic social and emotional problems like attention issues and lack of motivation that are also running rampant through young people and which are equally important aspects of health and wellness.

Today’s society is full of influences that don’t just reach in from the schoolhouse and the neighborhood, but also reach in from televisions, mobile phones, tablets and laptops. These influences often cause unhealthy habits that can follow children well into adulthood. Shaping the health and wellness of our children, therefore, has become a huge challenge.

How can parents raise fitness minded kids? The solutions are surprisingly simple, yet can be difficult to carry out. Take heart! This is doable for every single family out there and though it can be a challenge at first, families quickly find that making changes offers such tremendous benefits that they were well worth it – for everyone involved.

The basics of fitness-minded kids

There are a few things that kids need in order to grow up as fitness-minded adults. Some of these are quite easy to make happen, while others are tremendously difficult. Keep in mind that you don’t have to get this all done at once – it’s ok to begin with just one!

60 minutes of physical activity each day

For many families that number can seem overwhelming given the high amount of time that kids spend in school however keep in mind that the time spent active does include physical education time at school or activities like dance, karate or soccer that happen after school. Recess is unfortunately becoming a thing of the past and that physical movement time is something that families must make time for. When you get this piece incorporated you’ll be amazed at how well kids do, and the improvements that you see in sleep patterns, focus skills, dietary habits and more.

Tip: Go for a family walk after dinner, enjoy a quick game of soccer together in the backyard or try out some exercises like those from 100s to Happiness together. You can even throw on a physically active video game. These are great ways to connect with kids and strengthen your family bonds as well.

Moderation in moderation

There are very few things in life that have to happen 100% of the time. Not leaving a child in a hot car, turning off the stove and looking both ways before you cross the street are just a few examples of things that have to be done without exception. However kids need to understand that health is one of those things that allows you to indulge in as long as it’s in moderation. So having a cupcake a birthday party or noshing on some holiday candy is perfectly fine, but a candy bar every day is too much. The same goes for working out or physical activity – it’s ok to take a bit of time off as long as it’s in moderation.

When you’re working together as a family, it means that means that everyone has a voice. Allow your kids to have autonomy when choosing when and how indulgences happen to help them learn to self regulate moderation.

Tip: Agree to family rules about moderation to make it more plug and play, taking the pressure off in moments of struggle. That could mean taking one day a week off from exercise or going out for an indulgent family mean every Friday night. Having those systems in place is critical to everyone’s success.

Customize your child’s fitness

Getting excited about fitness is a lot easier when you’re doing something that you’re excited about. Allowing a child to have a say in what they do for fitness helps them to make it their own. Any kind of physical activity will do. For some kids it might be gymnastics, for others it could be soccer. Swimming is a wonderful physical activity to encourage or you could even try rock climbing or gardening. Think outside of the box and allow each child to learn to express themselves through fitness.

The key part here is to make it regular and help kids stick with it. Finding a long term way to stay physically active doesn’t have to mean signing up for a sport, though that’s a traditional and perfectly valid way to get it done. There are also lots of great workout programs for home that kids can get excited about. Classes at a gym are great for kids who are twelve and up and can participate effectively in adult classes even if there aren’t special classes offered for their age.

Tip: Parents shouldn’t forget that they’re the role models when it comes to customizing fitness. Finding out the kind of fitness activities that motivate a parent will spur the child on to get excited about it themselves!

Environment is everything

What truly shapes young minds and bodies is the environment in which they live. That goes for the home environment and the school environment. In order to for kids to grow up health conscious and able to make great fitness choices, they have to be surrounded by a positive experience that puts an emphasis on the right kinds of food decisions and exercise habits. We even have an app that can help guide you for 100 days of fitness and wellness, making fitness fun, easy, and accessible on your handheld device!

It cannot be overstated –

Parents play the key role in the choices that their kids make and the behaviors that they act out.

 

Children are looking at their parents. At every move that they make, everything that they do. With children, there is no hiding, there is no way to pull the wool over their eyes. They are going to reflect the parent. That magic mirror is a beautiful thing, but also a sobering realization. In order for kids to be fitness minded, parents have to be.

Creating a fitness minded environment that values the importance and benefits of getting healthy is the central pillar of raising fitness minded kids. That focus simply has to be there, and everything else is going to stem from that focus. The great news – creating that environment means that everyone in the family gets to benefit!

 

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“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.” – Lucille Ball

 

You deserve to be happy. Not because you’ve done something special, or because you were born into a certain place and time – you deserve to be happy because every person does. This is an intrinsic right, one that is a part of all people, no matter what their past might include or what kind of life they might have come from. The potential for happiness lies within us all.

Pilates is a system of exercise that’s not just about changing the body, it’s about empowering the spirit and taking control of life. One of the reasons that Pilates has becomes so popular is because it teaches us not only to learn to love our bodies, but also to learn to take control and find our way.

Today’s world offers information and opportunities that are unprecedented in history. We have more of a chance today to find happiness than at any other time before. Though the world is full of problems, the knowledge is here for you and for me to grab hold of our journey and to create the fulfillment that we deserve.

That’s all very easy to say, but actually getting there isn’t so easy. The world is a weighty place. Depression, anxiety, coping mechanisms and the pressures of life can build up layer after layer of gunk that keeps happiness from coming into our lives. It can feel nearly impossible to just be happy. Why, even when life seems to be going beautifully, does this stew of mediocrity or inaccessibility seem to just keep hanging on? Figuring out which changes to make in order to fill in the things that aren’t falling into place is no small task, but there are some wonderful ways to reset yourself and begin take charge of your own happiness.

Questions to ask yourself when seeking happiness

 

Just getting started is a challenge, but once you get going on the path to finding out what makes you happy you’ll discover that it’s something that just flows along, easily and wonderfully enriching your life.

Here are five questions to ask yourself to get you started on figuring out what makes you happy. Either go over these simply as you read through, or for even better results grab a sheet of paper and record your answers. Putting them down on paper will really help you to solidify what you’re feeling and to make the whole process more concrete, which will make it much easier for you to pursue your happiness.

Another important note here is that there are truly no right or wrong answers here. Be open to your answers and honest with yourself. There’s no one looking over your shoulder or checking to make sure that what you’re writing is “correct”.

If you had unlimited resources (time, money, etc.), what would you do with yourself?

 

The fantasy of being overwhelmingly wealthy is one that just about everyone finds themselves indulging in from time to time. And there are most certainly people on this planet who have seemingly every luxury and accommodation that could possibly be out there. However we all know that wealth doesn’t equal happiness, nor does the time that it can buy you.

So if you weren’t impeded by the constraints of finances and the time that you currently use to pursue the money that keeps a roof over your head and food in your mouth, what exactly would you do with yourself? How would you make use of your time? Given unlimited possibilities, what would you choose to do?

Given sixty seconds to describe yourself to a total stranger, what would you say?

 

Knowing who you are is a core part of figuring out what makes you happy. Think about this question long and hard, and don’t just jump to the normal answers that revolve around what you do – think about who you are. A great way to tackle this question is to come at it from the angle of determining what you would tell someone who you were embarking on a relationship with rather than what you might say in a job interview. Think about the things that are important to you, the aspects of yourself that you most highly value.

Who would you be if you knew you could fail?

 

Fear plays a central role in why we aren’t happy. Figuring out who you would be if you could let go of fear will tell you a lot, because it will key you into who you could be. Assuming there were no risks at all, no chance whatsoever that anything could stand in your way – what would you love to pursue? This could be in terms of relationships, education, career, personal accomplishments, anything at all. In fact it’s a great idea to think about this question from a variety of different angles in order to really understand it.  

What are your core personal values?

 

What are the 4-5 values that are most important to you in life? Think about this question in terms of your ideal life, and don’t be held back by any limitations that you might feel because of actions that you’ve made. In this exercise, remember that you’re free from mistakes. When you’re able to figure out exactly what values you find to be the most important, you’ll then be able to figure out what your priorities should be. Think about things that are good, desirable, useful and constructive in life. These serve as guiding principles for your journey towards happiness.

What aspects of life make you truly happy?

 

Most people aren’t happy because they find themselves chasing the wrong things. If it’s family that really makes you happy, then you’re not going to be happy with your life if you work long hours or travel a great deal. Here’s where the hard part comes because, unlike in previous questions, here it becomes obvious that you don’t have unlimited resources. However realizing what your priorities are is a great way for you to realize that you’re free. You’re free from restrictions, free from demands. There is always a way, always a path. You might have to think well outside of the box, to extend your view and take chances in order to pursue that happiness.

Lots of people say things for their whole life like, “I’d love to live at the beach,” but then over the course of an entire lifetime they never make that happen. Why? If waking up to the sound of the ocean is really the thing that would make you happy, then there are most certainly ways to make that happen. That desire might be at odds with other values, like the desire to be close to family or the need to attend a certain college in order to move forward. These are tough issues that often leave us with a great deal many more questions than answers. However there’s a huge difference in seeing the limitations in life that are keeping you from moving forward and just blindly groping for fulfillment without any knowledge of why or how the process works or doesn’t.

Happiness truly flows from empowerment. Finding out what makes you happy is the first step on the path to getting what you want out of life. Then, download our 100s to Happiness app for 100 small steps–just one a day–that can help you on your path to happiness. Starting on your path is amazingly life changing.

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Tennis and Pilates are a perfect match. Both are whole body workouts that require a strong core and incredible balance. For tennis players, be they novice or professional, Pilates offers the perfect way to develop both the physical and mental strengths that are required to take the time on the court to the next level. Whether done in the studio or on the mat, Pilates is the best way for tennis players to cross train.

How can Pilates improve your tennis game?

Here are seven ways that Pilates makes your tennis game more competitive and enjoyable.

 

  • A stronger core for a stronger game

The central point of Pilates as a system is the strengthening of the core, though it does balance that core focus with development all over the body. Tennis requires quick, balanced and precise motion. All of that movement comes out of the core, from footwork to racket movement. The stronger the core, the more easily and fluidly movement comes through the rest of the body. Core strength also improves stroke power. Pilates is one of the best ways that tennis players can create better stability as well as ease of motion.

 

  • Increase your stretch

There is a great deal of stretch and reach that goes into playing tennis at any level. Players often find themselves reaching to return a ball from a less than perfect position. Getting there to return an incoming ball could mean stretching the body far forward, well over to the side, or lower and higher in space. The ability to move quickly and effectively through space is greatly improved through the practice of Pilates. That’s going to mean returning more serves and allowing the opponent to get fewer points.

 

  • Developing kinetic awareness

Feeling what’s happening in the body doesn’t always come naturally, but developing a sense of where the body is in space can help tennis players to move their bodies with more intention and improve their game. By demanding that practitioners concentrate on precise movement, Pilates encourages improvements in form and fosters a mastery of movement. Pilates is a form of exercise that helps individuals to develop kinetic awareness through focus and detailed motion. That kinetic awareness translates from the mat to the court, improving muscle control and focus for tennis players.

 

  • Whole body changes

Tennis is fast paced, whole body game. Though Pilates focuses on the core, where movement comes from, it also works muscle groups and flexibility all over the body. What happens in one section of the body affects all other parts, particularly in a game like tennis with heavy levels of impact coming from one source. Pilates balances the functionality of the body, allowing tennis players to move in new and more effective ways, thus becoming more competitive in their game. The kind of movement required to hit the ball with force and accuracy is easier when the entire body is developed through Pilates, so that players can draw from more than just the primary muscle groups.

 

  • More power

Tennis is in many ways about power – the powerful shot, the powerful leap, the powerful serve. Pilates helps tennis players to increase their power by strengthening key muscle groups as well as improving muscle control. Shoulder and arm strength in particular are fostered through Pilates work, which are integral aspects of the game. Much of tennis is about using the racket as a lever, pushing the speed of the racket head faster to increase the velocity of the ball. Improving the functionality of that lever through increased strength and control is a huge boon to tennis players. By adding in cross training through Pilates, tennis players are able to become more powerful than by practicing tennis alone.  

 

  • Better balance

With the fast pace of tennis, it’s important that tennis players are able to stay on their feet, as well as to change direction quickly when it’s necessary. All of this requires a great deal of balance and control. Integrated into the Pilates regimen are a wide variety of balance developing exercises that integrate strength and flexibility as well. Pilates is a perfect way for tennis players to improve their balance, a boost that will improve their game and extend their ability to take on the ball without losing their footing.

 

  • Injury prevention

Something that’s a top priority to all athletes, be they amateur or pro, is preventing injury. A major key to preventing injury is improving muscle tone and flexibility. Hyperextension is a serious risk for tennis players and Pilates strengthens the ancillary muscle groups that can help to prevent it. The repeated use of the same muscles over and over again in tennis means that the opposing muscles aren’t developed, throwing the body out of balance and increasing the risk of injury. Strains on tendons and ligaments can be effectively prevented through cross training.   

Tennis players incorporating Pilates

Pilates for tennis players is nothing new, in fact many major tennis stars have used Pilates as their secret weapon on the court for years. In particular, tennis powerhouse Roger Federer has used Pilates to help him reach new heights of the game, pushing tennis to the heights at which it can be found at today. Star Andy Murray has also cited Pilates as having had a dramatic effect on his game, saying in a 2012 interview with the Daily Mail  “I started Pilates a few weeks ago which I think has already helped. My body feels good compared to the last few years.”

Those benefits don’t just have to be for the rich and famous – they’re there for the taking for every tennis player out there! This cross training method can help amateurs and team players, college students and professionals. Whether it’s at home with the 100s to Happiness app, in the studio or at a group class, regular Pilates sessions are a proven way to help tennis players improve their ability to be competitive on the court, getting more out of the game and out of themselves.

 

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The hardest thing in life is to begin. So often we can clearly see the image of what we need to do in order to move forward in life, be it by improving our health or letting go of emotional baggage. Seeing what’s wrong is most definitely not the problem.

The stumbling block is in the doing – in the making it happen.

Why 100?

This is a number that seems outrageous to say the least. How can you possibly get a list of 100 things to take control of your health with? Isn’t that far too many? Could you ever even hope to accomplish this much? Aren’t you just going to set yourself up for failure with this ridiculous goal?

Actually 100 is a perfect number simply because it does seem to be so daunting and impossible. Life is daunting and seemingly impossible! When you create a list of 100 and then start accomplishing what’s on it, you magically find that you’re able to do all kinds of things that you never imagined were possible!

Anyone who is familiar with Pilates knows that there is a central exercise called “the 100”.  To do this central exercise, you basically lie flat on your back on the mat, then roll your shoulders and head up off the floor, lift your legs into the air, then straighten you arms and pump them up and down by your sides one hundred times. At first it’s grueling. Just as in this list idea, the idea of doing 100 seems to be completely outrageous. Just as in the list of 100, the 100 in Pilates is the warm-up for the workout that’s to come.

However that’s one of the truly amazing things about Pilates – it teaches us that we have a control over our bodies that is far more than we ever thought to be possible. By starting out here, with this incredible number, you’re already jumping in and overcoming this huge hurdle before you even begin, which makes the whole process even more easy and intuitive.

How to get started

“Were man to devote as much time and energy to himself as he has devoted to that which man has produced, what astounding and unbelievable progress would be made; a progress eclipsing all he has so far successfully accomplished…” – Joseph Pilates

Sit down, grab a pen and paper (or type it up if you’d prefer) and get ready to move forward. The first step in any journey is the most powerful – absolutely. Realize that you need to take time to devote to improving yourself, and that this is time that’s well spent and incredibly important for you to be the most that you can be. Too often we spend all of our time focused on getting everything done for everyone else, neglecting the importance of taking care of ourselves.

Create your list around a theme, somewhere that you want to focus in order to take control and improve your life. Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling.

  • 100 health improvements
  • 100 wellness goals
  • 100 ways to improve yourself
  • 100 ways to get more out of your Pilates routine
  • 100 ways to increase your family’s health
  • 100 ways to let go
  • 100 things that aren’t working in your life
  • 100 things you love about yourself

 

Think of your list as a bit of a “brain dump” – you’re getting it all out and down on paper to allow you to get started.  Here are the basic tips for how to get that list of 100 going.

Think of your list as a bit of a “brain dump” – you’re getting it all out and down on paper to allow you to get started.  Here are the basic tips for how to get that list of 100 going.

  • Create a Framework

Number from 1-100 first, then add in entries for each number.

  • Go for speed

This whole process should be done at one sitting, in one single go. It shouldn’t take you more than an hour. Actually, it will probably take you considerably less time than that!

  • Write in shorthand

Don’t worry yourself with complete sentences, just get it down as quickly as you possibly can. You don’t even have to use complete words as long as you can decipher it later. You can even draw pictures or mention resources.

  • Ignore the numbers

Once you’ve numbered your paper, just completely forget about which number you’re on and blow through that list. Get in a mode of generating the ideas and just go forward. The more you get into a flow and work without losing time to check where you are, the easier the whole process will be. You’ll actually likely find that you could easily get even past 100 if you just let it flow.   

  • Repetition is fine

It does not matter if you repeat some entries – it’s almost impossible not to. You can go back and see which ideas popped up more than once and you’ll know that those are more important or those that you’re putting too much emphasis on.

  • Don’t judge

It’s important that you don’t evaluate things as you go down the list – just go! You’ll be able to weed it out later.

Customizing your list and using it

You taking the time to take control of your health isn’t being selfish – it’s the best way that you can care for the people that you love, because it ensures that you can offer them the best you that’s possible.

To get started, just create the space to fill up with your goals. When you open up that space, it will naturally start to grow. With this list you’ll be able to start moving forward to the changes that you want to make in life.

To use the list, take the 100 things that you’ve put on it and separate them out into categories, then get into your mind when and how to tackle them. When you come back to evaluate them, you might find that some were not terribly useful and that others are for far off in the distance.

100 is a number that can lead you to fulfillment and empowerment. It’s a number that can help you to take yourself to the next level and to accomplish things that you never thought were even remotely possible. 100 is a path to happiness.

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Though Pilates can involve lots of equipment that’s been specially designed to push the body and make it do more, it turns out that you don’t need much of anything in the way of equipment to get a great workout.

Mat Pilates is done on the floor using a yoga or exercise mat, sometimes in conjunction with some basic equipment like a Pilates ring, weighted ball, and resistance bands. Through the use of controlled breathing and resistance movements that rely on the weight of the body itself, mat Pilates builds core strength, flexibility and tone all over the body. The exercises support lower back health, balance, improved sports performance and mind-body awareness.

In mat Pilates, movements are slow and controlled. Precision is fundamental and completing a mat routine involves building concentration.

Something that most people don’t realize is that Joseph Pilates himself, the founder of the Pilates Method, developed the mat exercises based on the work done on Pilates machines like the Cadillac, the Chair, the Reformer and the Barrel. Mat workouts challenge the muscles in different ways and originally the mat workout was designed as a compliment to the machine work. Taking the mat workout away from the studio for an isolated routine is a relatively new concept in terms of the overall development of Pilates, but the versatility, rigor and accessibility of these routines have proved to be very valuable.

The best part about Pilates mat workouts are that they can be done literally anywhere. They’re great in group settings and through online instruction, which make them wonderfully affordable. What many people don’t realize is that Pilates mat workouts are often more challenging than machine workouts, as learning to isolate the muscles of the core and other parts of the body aren’t quite as easy.

Best Pilates Mat Workouts

Getting started with a mat workout can be a challenge, if for no other reason that it’s difficult even to know where to begin! Having a solid routine is incredibly important in terms of getting the results that you’re looking for as well as in terms of having a workout that flows and is easy to do.

Here are three of the best Pilates mat workouts to try, each with its own flair and benefits.

 

  • Pilates mat routine in classical order

Let’s start with the most challenging and comprehensive mat workout.

This is the actual order that Joseph Pilates laid out for the mat exercises and there’s truly something to be said about working the exercises in this order. After all, this is the way that they were created. Pilates created this sequence of exercises in a way that he thought was logical and that worked for the whole body. It starts off by warming up the body, then progresses through to more challenging exercises and finally into cool down exercises as the session comes to its end. No part of the body is left untouched in this comprehensive, whole body Pilates mat workout. Not only is every area specifically targeted, but each is also targeted in every position. This is by far the most complete and comprehensive mat routine available.

You’ll notice quickly that this is an incredibly long version of a mat routine (34 exercises!) and it can be a bit daunting. Keep in mind that these are all of the mat exercises that were created by Joseph Pilates put together in one routine.

 

If you’re wanting to just start off with the classical order but are looking for a routine that’s a bit more manageable and straightforward, then try just doing the first ten exercises and build from there.

  1. The Hundred
  2. Roll Up
  3. Roll Over
  4. Single Leg Circle
  5. Rolling Back (or rolling like a ball)
  6. Single Leg Stretch
  7. Double Leg Stretch
  8. Spine Stretch
  9. Rocker with Open Legs
  10. Corkscrew
  11. Saw
  12. Swan Dive
  13. Single Leg Kick
  14. Double Leg Kick
  15. Neck Pull
  16. Scissors
  17. Bicycle
  18. Shoulder Bridge
  19. Spine Twist
  20. Jack Knife
  21. Side Kick
  22. Teaser
  23. Hip Twist
  24. Swimming
  25. Front Leg Pull
  26. Let Pull
  27. Kneeling Side Kick
  28. Side Bend
  29. Boomerang
  30. Seal
  31. Crab
  32. Rocking
  33. Control Balance
  34. Push Up

2. 20-minute full body routine

Sometimes you’ve only got a few minutes to get a workout in, but that’s not reason not to do one! The best part about this twenty minute routine is that it’s great for both beginners and for advanced practitioners. It challenges literally the entire body to get better, and you’re guaranteed to feel the burn if you take on this routine.

Try fitting it into the morning before you head out to work or pull it up on a lazy weekend afternoon when you have a few minutes to dig in, bringing you a boost of energy before you go out to enjoy your evening. It’s even great to slip in on your lunch break!

  1. Standing Roll-Down – 5 reps
  2. Side Bend – 10 reps per side
  3. Thigh Stretch – 10 reps
  4. Kneeling Side Kick – 10 lifts and 10 circles per leg
  5. Double-Leg Stretch – 10 to 15 reps
  6. Scissors – 10 reps per leg
  7. Hundred – 100 counts
  8. Side Teaser – 5 reps per side
  9. Swan – 5 to 8 reps
  10. Side Leg Series – 10 side leg kicks and 15-20 side leg circles in each direction per side
  11. Roll-Up – 5 reps

3. Mat routine for better abs

Sometimes what you really want to do is to isolate one particular part of the body. Pilates offers some great ways to focus on just one particular part of the body, getting you the exact workout that you need to shape your body into what you want it to be.

This quick ab workout takes just a few minutes and is a perfect addition to any exercise routine. Known as the Series of Five, it’s a perfect challenge for just about anyone.

  1. Single Leg Stretch – 5 to 10 reps per side
  2. Double Leg Stretch – 5 to 10 reps per side
  3. Single Straight Leg Stretch – 5 to 10 reps per side
  4. Double Straight Leg Lower Lift – 5 to 10 reps
  5. Criss Cross – 5 to 10 reps per side 

It’s easy to see just how versatile and easy to do Pilates mat workouts can be. You don’t need to have a great deal of experience with Pilates, nor do you need to have a tremendous amount of equipment to get the results you’re looking for.

Don’t forget to log into you 100s to Happiness app to find even more amazing mat workout tips and routines!

 

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