Join Dorene O’Malley from Fusion Pilates Asheville for a quick Pilates tip on how to energize your hips and hamstrings.
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Join Dorene O’Malley from Fusion Pilates Asheville for a quick Pilates tip wo show you some work on keeping the shoulder Blades on the back and in place while doing upper body work
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Join Dorene O’Malley from Fusion Pilates Asheville to work on the outer buttocks to support you while walking
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Dorene from Fusion Pilates Asheville gives some tips on how to integrate movement into your daily life.
No Time to Exercise? Integrate Movement into Daily Life.
Who came up with the rule that in order for exercise to count you
had to drive to a gym and dedicate one hour to sweating and
struggling in order for it to be meaningful? Everyone now has a
hectic life and tying yourself to getting all of your movement needs
from only one hour of the same daily exercise routine is akin to
trying to meet all your dietary needs from a single daily meal made
of the same five foods. Creativity is key, so here are ten ideas for
getting more movement into your life without it taking time away
from work or family.
Brushing your Teeth – Most everyone does this at least once a day
so use this time for two different movements- practice balancing
on a single leg while brushing, (which is what you need to be able
to do in order to walk correctly) and then also bending forward
from the hips to lengthen hamstrings during the spitting phase.
Preparing Meals – use low tech equipment for some arm work –
chop with knives, beat with a whisk and mash with a potato
Practice Squatting – every time you have to sit to eat, work or
watch TV, use it as a moment to squat, hovering above the
seat. The same applies when rising up out of the chair -use your
legs and buttocks instead of momentum.
Shopping – Walk to the store and carry your groceries home. If it’s
too far to walk, park in the furthest spot and then walk the cart
back to the storage area. If you have your children with you, lifting
them in and out of the cart is an added bonus.
Climb stairs instead of using the elevator or escalator. Don’t
lean forward or pull with your arms, and use the back leg and
buttocks to push off with.
Practice deep belly breathing – it reduces stress and uses your
diaphragm and lungs. It can be done while waiting in line, driving
to work or cooking dinner.
Turn your head or twist your torso to look behind you when
backing up your car instead of using the built-in camera or
glancing in the rear view mirror.
Stand on your tiptoes to reach the item on the top shelf at the
market or squat down to reach bottom shelf (if that movement is
available to you).
Stretch, hold a plank position (classic push-up position while on
forearms) or work on moving your toes individually (yes it can be
done) during the tv commercials.
While walking through the house – reach up and grab the trim on
the top of the door frame and stretch (if short hang off the side) –
better yet – install a chin up bar and practice hanging with your feet
on the ground until you can work up to getting your feet off the
floor. (Two of my over 70 clients can now hang from their bars
with their feet off the floor and proper chin ups are in their future!)
As we age we tend to move less and when we move less we simply
can’t move our parts with the same range of motion that we once
had. Hence the need to move more and not only during one-hour
designated periods but more throughout the whole day. Be
mindful also that you are how you move, so if you always do
activities that move in the same direction (running, biking,
elliptical machine) and you have nothing in your life that moves
you or bends you sideways or with a twist, then you are only using
the same muscles over and over (repetitively) and you
are neglecting a few hundred others! So get creative and plan to
move more in the new year.
Dorene from Fusion Pilates Asheville gives some tips on balance.
To Prevent Falling – Balance, Strength, Attention are needed.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1-in-3 adults
over the age of 65 falls every year, with many sustaining serious
injuries such as a broken hip or head trauma. Falls are also the
leading reason for emergency room injury visits by adults ages 45
If you have a fear of falling it may be due to poor balance. If this is
the case you will tend to shorten your stride (as walking requires
the ability to balance on one leg), which then leads to a shuffling of
the feet. The more you shuffle, the less the foot moves at the toe
and ankle joints and the more likely you are to trip. So excessive
tentativeness can actually lead to an increase in the risk of falling
because you tend to cut down on activity, which then makes the
balance, strength and reflexes worse. Sort of a Catch 22!
The good news is that we can take easy measures to protect
ourselves from falling by integrating balance, strength and
flexibility work into our daily lives.
Start with alignment and balance.
Think of your body as blocks – if you want to build a tower of
blocks they need to be stacked from the bottom up, and if one of
the blocks juts out the tower runs the risk of toppling over. To line
up your tower find a mirror and stand looking at your side view (if
you don’t have a mirror ask a friend to help you out) place your
feet pelvis width (not wider) apart and keep your weight over your
heels so your toes are free to wiggle. With legs straight, line knees
up over your ankles, center the pelvis over your knees, ribcage
(torso) over the hips and the ear in line with the shoulder. If any of
your “blocks” don’t line up and you have difficulty getting them to
do so, you may need some flexibility and strength work before
hand. But if you have found the proper alignment – you can begin
to work on Balance.
Stand on two feet with your weight on your heels and a wall or
chair nearby as needed. Close your eyes. If you feel wobbly, your
internal proprioceptors need some practice. Practice this daily until
you no longer feel wobbly.
Single leg stance – if you have mastered standing on two legs with
your eyes closed, move on to standing on one leg with the eyes
open. Do both sides. Once you can stand there solidly for one
minute, try to do it with the eyes closed and work up until 1 minute
Once you have mastered the above, move on to further balance
challenges by trying the above exercises on Bosu balls or balance
Walk heel to toe. Do this using only your eyes to look down. If you
drop the head and neck wile you walk, you have taken one of the
“blocks” out of alignment and since your head weighs 8 to 10
pounds it can easily pull you forward and assist in loss of balance.
Incorporate strength work into your day:
As you get up and down into chairs many times during the day, do
it without the assistance of your arms and upper body. Walking
requires strength in the hips and buttocks so use them as often as
possible during the day. If you cannot do this at first, find a
specific chair to use and add more cushions or pillows to make the
seat higher. Find a height that allows you to do the movement
going down and getting back up. As you get stronger, reduce the
amount of pillows until you find that you can do it at normal
Other ways to keep you on your feet:
Be mindful of what you are doing. Leave multitasking to others.
Keep your head level and use only the eyes to look down. Your
head is heavy and can easily pull you off balance.
Check your medications with your doctor. Blood pressure
medications and antidepressants can directly affect balance.
Wear sensible shoes.
Use handrails when available.
As we are living longer, fall prevention is becoming as necessary
as heart attack prevention. Many hospitals, clinics and fitness
facilities are adding balance programs to their schedules. If you
feel you are off balance way too often for comfort and need more
than the above tips can provide, know that there are other options
available. Avoiding daily life activities shouldn’t be the only
choice you have.
Decrease Neck, Shoulder and Head Tension with 2 balls and a sock.
Now that computers, tablets, smart phones and the like are part of everyday life, more and
more people find that they are suffering from neck pain, shoulder tension and headaches.
One of the biggest reasons is that your head, which weighs roughly 8 to 10 pounds, is thrust
out in front of your body (go ahead – take a look now while you are reading this article and
see if your ears are in front of your shoulders). When the head is in this forward-head
position, the neck and upper shoulder muscles are working overtime to hold your head up.
When you start to really think about the time you spend staring at a screen and
maintaining this posture, it translates to a significant amount of time. When the muscles
are held in an incorrect position for long periods of time, your range of motion becomes
compromised and pretty soon you can’t move your head and you are so tight, your arms
cannot go overhead without you wearing your shoulders as earrings.
Since we aren’t going to stop using our computers or smart phones any time soon, and
daily massages are probably cost prohibitive, you can use this easy home-made tool to help
you relieve some of the pain. (If you have any neck, head or spinal issues, you should check
with your doctor before attempting to try this. This is for those of us with pure muscle
tension and lack of movement).
1. Grab some firm balls that are about the size of tennis balls. I find tennis balls a bit
too squishy but if you are so tight that easy an touch is somewhat painful, go with
the softer balls first. We use “pinky balls” in the studio (a Google search will turn up
2. Get a knee sock, tube sock, or knee-high. Put the two balls all the way inside to the
toe end of the sock, one on top of the other. Put a knot in the end of the sock so that
the balls cannot move around.
3. Lie on your back on a firm surface (the bed or sofa will not work as there will be no
pressure). If you need to prop yourself with pillows under the knees or elsewhere,
go ahead. You want to be as comfortable as possible.
4. Place your new tool under your neck so that one ball is on either side of your spine.
Start at the base of the neck/ top of the shoulders. There is usually lots of tension
and tightness in this area.
5. You want to keep your face parallel to the ground and not tilt your head back so that
your chin points to the ceiling. If your neck is very tight you may need to prop the
back of it so that you can maintain a level head and pressure on the neck.
6. Stay there for at least 2 minutes You can add very gentle, small and slow head nods,
moving the head as if to say yes and no. Again, small and slow are key.
7. After the first 2 minutes or so, move the balls upward about an inch. Continue in
this fashion until you reach the base of the skull, where you feel the ridge of the
skull. This is where your upper shoulder muscles attach and many people do not
even realize they have pain and tension there.
You should feel gentle pressure as if you were receiving a massage and there should be
a feeling of release at some point. Do not get discouraged after trying this once and not
getting results. Give yourself time. If you are spending 9 hours a day working at a
computer, that is 540 minutes a day. Spending only 20 minutes a day to try and
counteract the damage done from years of accumulated tension is small peanuts. So be
diligent and understand that it will take time to get relief. But isn’t 20 minutes a day a
small price to pay to be able to rid yourself of the constant pain in the neck!
Has walking for exercise been suggested as an activity for you, but the actual doing
of it causes pain in the knees, back, hips or even torso? Have you seen the people
who seem to glide over the pavement and wonder what they are doing differently
than you? Perhaps you had a toe injury or even a shoulder injury and without
realizing it, the rest of your body began compensating for the injured area and then
–boom – you have bursitis in the hips or some other niggling pain and the idea of
strolling through the neighborhood no longer thrills you.
Walking with ease involves a coordination of the whole body. Our pelvis and legs
need an assist from the torso and the arms. The joints and bones act as shock
absorbers and send the force of the foot’s impact on the ground into the soft tissue
along the pathways determined by the joints. As the shock travels upward, our
muscles and fascia help to keep our brain from rattling on each step.
Since our bodies were designed to move and function in a specific manner, if we
change any of the details, we change the pathways and efficiency. These changes
may make walking an uncomfortable experience or unknowingly be contributing to
some of our health issues.
Take a look at your feet; do they turn out away from each other? If so you may be
contributing to bunions and hammertoes. You are also changing the way some joints
were designed to function and thus changing the pathways up the chain into the rest
of the body.
Do you commute to your job and then spend much of your time in a chair? If so you
are in a perpetual state of hip flexion, which is shortening the muscles connecting
the thigh to the pelvis and torso. You may no longer have the ability to sufficiently
extend your leg behind you without excessive pelvis twisting. This is limiting the
push-off during walking and causing you to take small steps – again changing
Can you stand up straight on one leg for 60 seconds without falling over? If not, your
hips may be lacking strength. Since walking requires us to be on one leg during 80%
of the gait cycle, you may be compensating by “falling forward” and overusing the
To make walking more enjoyable, more efficient and less painful try some of the
Keep your torso upright, don’t let it get in front of you. This is using gravity to move
you forward and your joints are overworking to soften the landing. Your core
musculature is involved here so if you are weak in the core, holding yourself upright
may be difficult.
Work on your feet – move all the toes, arches and ankle joints. Yes – all your toes
should be able to move independently of each other and the feet should point
straight ahead when you are walking.
Beef up the buttocks muscles. The gluteal muscles are not there to make you look
better in jeans, they keep you from falling off to the side when you walk.
Stretch and activate the hamstrings – the muscles you sit on a good portion of the
time are the ones that push back to propel you forward. They need to be at their full
length to do the actual job of moving us forward.
Open up your Hip Flexors – all that sitting is also not allowing your thigh to move
back behind you with ease.
Don’t land on a bent knee when you send the leg in front of you. This is that bopping
up and down motion you see and is a surefire way to aggravate the knee joint.
Bopping is an indicator of lack of hip and outer leg strength.
So if the doctor advises you to walk more for your health, but walking feels like it is
doing more harm than good, check in with a professional that can help you analyze
your gait, make adjustments and recommendations and make the changes that you
need so that you can head out onto all the trails accessible to us in the Asheville area.