Pilates Plus One...in Four Easy Steps
Practice Pilates with children: it's good for all of us!
Last year Kathryn Hefter and her three year-old June left Conecticut and the Pilates studio she founded there to follow her husband at a new job in Saratoga Springs.Though motherhood and a new city certainly changed Kathryn's typical workout routine, she found it more essential than ever to practice Pilates. That's partly because with;another baby on the way, she's more conscious than ever of daily stresses on her body: "My alignment has changed since becoming a mom," she explains. "I always have a kid on the hip or a giant car seat to lug around. It's important to keep yourself limber and strong." Plus, since becoming a mom, she’s found new incentive to exercise: “Before kids, I was just interested in how I looked in my jeans—believe me, that is still huge—but it’s about more that that now. If I don't feel good, I get cranky.”
For Kathryn, Pilates is the perfect choice for many reasons, one of them being that as an instructor with 13 years experience, she says, “I can do it from home, and I know how to kick my own butt.” But the practice has benefits for everyone, she explains. Pilates was developed as physical therapy for athletes and dancers, and the attention it affords the body's smaller muscles and overall alignment is invaluable, especially to new mothers. "With all the changes your body goes through throughout pregnancy and recovery, it’s easy to get injured if you aren't aware of your body. Pilates gives you the physical awareness necessary to change the hip you carry your child on, or carry the diaper bag on the other shoulder."
As she braces for a second child, Kathryn is once again turning to Pilates for much needed time spent on her self, and she’s looking for new ways to incorporate June into her exercise.“Since becoming a mom, time is of the essence. That's why Pilates has become more special to me. It’s the most efficient and effective way to work out because it targets the whole body. I still long for the days to spend 3 hours on myself, but I'm in a different stage now. Sometimes you just need 20 minutes.”
Kathryn offered the following additional suggestions for incorporating kids into a Pilates workout.“Obviously a child’s attention span is limited, but everyone can benefit from Pilates," she says. And there are benefits to working with a partner.June acts as a willing exercise assistant, ready to climb on Kathryn's back whenever mom craves a deeper stretch (“kids love to climb on you anyway!”) Kathryn shared these other helpful tips for working out with kids:
1. Make getting ready a ritual: one part of working out that two year-old June loves is getting into her Pilates outfit—“usually about four tutus,” Kathryn says of her full fledged girly-girl’s typical choice. Spending time dressed engages kids, and turns it into a special activity.
2. Focus on your own work-out and lead by example: "Like all sports and fitness, the takeaway isn't always physical,” Kathryn says. “I mostly think with toddlers [the benefit] is being together in a fun way, showing them that mom is active and takes care of her self. It encourages them to do the same and develop self-esteem.”
3. Make a game out of it: Ask your child to see how tall she can make herself in a standing stretch or to try balancing a pillow on their hip for side-kicks.
4. Uses pose that are easy to follow: Kathryn suggests sitting and standing stretches, mermaid pose, the classic Pilates exercise “the hundred,” and roll-ups “because it’s fun to partner up and help each other.”
Here is a resource for great beginner poses. —Artie Niederhoffer