Healthy Mamas: Postnatal Pilates (Part 7)

Contrology is designed to give you suppleness, natural grace, and skill that will be unmistakably reflected in the way you walk, in the way you play, and in the way you work.

~Joseph Pilates


I said yes without really thinking about it- which is not uncommon for me.  Some of our Pilates trainees wanted to see a Level 3 Flow…would I do it?  Yes- of course! Wait…can I still do that?!  It has been seven months since Naia was born.  I have been taking regular private Pilates lessons and am feeling pretty good.  Sure- let’s do it!

So with Deborah guiding me and Samantha, we flowed at a decent pace, through the full Level 3 Reformer sequence.  And it felt great!  My body did not fail me and my mind and heart were so happy.  Being on the reformer and doing this work feels like home.  My mind can focus solely on the movement and my body is able to dance.

And I am completely at peace.  Sweaty…shaky…PEACE.

Level 3 Reformer:

Short Spine
Stomach Massage Series
Pull Straps
Short Box Series
Long Stretch
Down Stretch
Up Stretch
Long Back Stretch
Semi Circle
Chest Expansion
Thigh Stretch
Arm Circles
Long Spine
Knee Stretch Series
Bottom Lift
Side Splits
Front Splits
Front Splits Kneeling
Russian Splits


Real Men Do Pilates

It happened at an event just a week ago.  I was talking with a gentleman about our studio and he seemed very interested, but said:

            I would feel uncomfortable coming into a studio and doing Pilates with a bunch of women.   It’s not for men.


Baseball: MLB Season Preview: Portrait of Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta demonstrating Pilates workout on Reformer equipment during spring training photo shoot at Sloan Park. Mesa, AZ 2/27/2016 CREDIT: Robert Beck (Photo by Robert Beck /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images) (Set Number: SI-215 TK1 )

More and more athletes are using Pilates as a supplement to their training program.  Chicago Cubs pitcher, Jake Arrieta, recently talked to Sports Illustrated about his use of Pilates. “What I noticed from Pilates last year was that I have much better control of my body,” Arrieta says. “I repeat my delivery consistently. My balance is much improved. And the mental and physical toughness Pilates requires to complete movements the correct way have directly helped me on the mound.”  He reportedly gets on the reformer for about 20 minutes before every game.  (See the full article here)

And he is not the only one.


Tennis legend, Andy Murray used Pilates to recover from back surgery in 2013. (WSJ)


Kobe Bryant


Antonio Brown

And it’s not just for athletes.


Chef Ryan Pera uses Pilates to help keep his back strong for long shifts standing on his feet in his popular Houston restaurants. (Check out the article here)

And if you still aren’t convinced, check out these pics!

Let’s also remember that Pilates was….wait for it….a GUY!


Pilates (originally called Contrology) was named after Joseph Pilates, a boxer and gymnast from Germany who was an inventor and physical fitness expert.  He developed this system of exercise, along with all of the Pilates equipment, and was a pioneer of the health and fitness industry.   He encouraged and taught people how to move and be healthy so that they could go out and enjoy their lives!

So if you want to

  1. Build Strength
  2. Improve Flexibility
  3. Cross Train
  4. Prevent Injury
  5. Discover New Muscles
  6. Build Core Strength
  7. Decrease Stress
  8. Improve Posture
  9. Increase Body Awareness

you might want to join the ladies and take up Pilates!

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see what our male clients are doing in the studio and what they have to say about why they choose Pilates.

#RealMenDoPilates #brolates #DudesDoDoPilates


Defying Gravity

Defying Gravity: one of my favorite songs from the musical, “Wicked”, and the title of one of Amy Alpers’ fabulous workshops.  As I sit at my desk or try to figure out a good way to be on my iPhone without getting a neck cramp, I hear that song playing in my head and think of ways I can do just that: defy the pull of gravity.

One might think that since I talk about and teach posture and proper alignment all day, I would have perfect posture all of the time.  One might think.  BUT with spending nearly 4 years of my life either pregnant or nursing, toting around two kids, and squeezing in computer work at the end of the day when I don’t have much left in regards to energy, my posture definitely takes a hit.  Recently I have been noticing my shoulders rounding forward and my upper back getting weaker and weaker.  So I have decided to take a stand to actively counter the effects of kids, chairs, smart phones, computers and general LIFE stuff to work on defying gravity.

On the left I am in my “comfortable” sitting position.  That is until my back, neck and shoulders start aching!  At which point I assume the sitting posture shown on the right.

Here is a “four point posture check” that I teach my clients and use for myself:

  1. Sit up on your sitz bones
  2. Pull your abs toward your spine
  3. Roll your shoulders back and down
  4. Pull your face back into your head (weird but try it…did your head stack back over your spine?!)

With less than optimal posture, here are a few things that might happen in the body:

  • head sits forward on the spine causing the neck muscles to have to work harder to keep it on
  • shoulders round forward causing the pecs (chest) to tighten,
  • the upper back rounds, causing those muscles to be over stretched and weak
  • there is a greater load on the low back (lumbar spine) as all of the weight of the upper body sits on that area

The Pilates system is perfect for helping to counter the daily strains on our body.  The equipment in particular, is amazing in promoting decompression of the spine and helping to defy gravity! I highly recommend getting in a Pilates studio anytime you can, but, if you don’t have access to a reformer, cadillac, low chair, or ped-o-pull, you can certainly do things from your office or home to help improve your posture.


Press your arms back behind you to tone the triceps and open the front of the chest.


Start with elbows bent and hands forward (like you are in a bicep curl). Squeeze your shoulder blade muscles as you rotate your arms out to the sides (as shown above).  Add light weights for added challenge.


Look to the right and then nod your head down (chin to armpit) to stretch the side of your neck.  Take your right hand to your head to add a gentle stretch and reach the left shoulder down and away from you for an even greater stretch.  Repeat on both sides.


Reach one arm out to the side and pull your hand and fingers back.  Gently look away from that arm for a greater stretch down the front of the shoulder, arm, and hand.


Tricep and shoulder stretch. Keep abs in and try not to over arch your low back.

We can’t avoid carrying our kids, sitting for long hours, and being on a computer, but we can combat the negative changes they have on our body.  So give these exercises a try and see if your posture improves and if you notice a difference in how you feel.

Interested in Defying Gravity at InsideOut Body Therapies?   Call, email, or schedule online. 919-361-0104

10 Reasons to Do Pilates

“In 10 sessions you’ll feel the difference, in 20 you’ll see the difference, and in 30 you’ll have a new body” ~Joseph Pilates


In honor of Global Pilates Day this year I thought I would share a few of the reasons I think everyone should do Pilates.  I know there are many more, but this is my short list of reasons why Pilates is so life-changing.  Yes,  Life. Changing.

  1. You time– Who doesn’t need an hour of “me time”?!  For an hour the focus is on YOU: your body and your movement.  Since Pilates is fairly detailed, your mind doesn’t have the space to drift off to the grocery list, bills, kids, etc.
  2. Posture– Through the Pilates system, we work all areas of the body, even the ones that might be neglected in daily life.  A big focus is on opening the chest, working the upper back and strengthening the core, which all lead to better posture!
  3. Flexibility-  You do NOT have to be flexible to start Pilates, rather doing Pilates will improve your flexibility.  Through the Pilates exercises you will actively stretch AND strengthen your body at the same time versus focusing on passive stretching.
  4. Core strength- As you might have heard, we do focus a lot on the core in Pilates. The core goes beyond just the abdominals (although you will strengthen them for sure!).  The core includes the abs, hips, and even the shoulder complex as all of these areas help to keep us strong and balanced.
  5. Balance- Improved core strength helps us improve our balance.  We need balance in order to be able to do all of the other things in our lives, whether it is holding a baby and four bags of groceries in the rain, climbing a mountain, skiing, or just walking across uneven terrain.
  6. Breath- We focus a lot on the breath in Pilates.  Breath is imperative for life.  Tight ribs, necks, backs, and jaws can all lead to restricted breathing patterns.  Many of us can optimize our breath for greater lung capacity, improved oxygenation of the blood and healthier tissue.  When we breathe better, we feel better.
  7. Sleep- And when we breathe better and move our bodies during the day, it can help improve sleep at night.
  8. Injury prevention- One of the Pilates principles is to promote uniform development of the body (and mind!). This means that all muscles have both the strength and flexibility needed to create balance in the body.  When there is balance in the body, there is less chance of injury.
  9. Happiness! As you get stronger and more flexible, breathe better, sleep better and give yourself some quality time, an added benefit is HAPPINESS!
  10. Fun- Even when your instructor makes you hold Teaser for what feels like hours, Pilates is generally FUN!  The Pilates system, with the playground-like equipment and 100s of exercises is never boring!

One of my favorite quotes from Mr. Pilates’ book, Return To Life is this:

“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. Our interpretation of physical fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.”

The goal for most of us is to stay healthy so that we can do the things that make us happy.  Why not choose a fitness program that brings about joy and happiness along the way?!


Happy Pilates Day from InsideOut Body Therapies!

Call or email the studio to schedule a class or private session.


Beyond TRX

Guest post by IOBT personal trainer, Adam Decker.


I hadn’t heard of Pilates before 2010 and I honestly hadn’t thought much about fitness in general up to this point.  Sure, I went through several different phases of “cutting weight” and “beefing up” in the gym to get ready for a tour or reality TV gig, but I didn’t do any of it for health purposes.

Flash forward six years…I now have a wife and two kids and a strong practice at InsideOut doing personal training based in the principles of Pilates.  I teach using the TRX®, BOSU and weights, among other things, but my focus is on so much more than just building muscle or losing weight.

My gym days started in 2007 when I was prepping for America’s Got Talent with my a capella band, The Fault Line.  (Aca-awesome, I know….) Before this I never had the urge to lose the “baby fat” as everyone called it.   Now it was just about looking great on TV!  I significantly cut calories, downed protein drinks and was in the gym A LOT.  I felt good about myself for the show, but this just perpetuated an all too common pattern of weight loss and gain, which I had struggled with since my teen years.  And I wasn’t thinking about how I was doing the exercises.  I even got a hernia during this time and have no idea how it happened.  I definitely wasn’t doing any kind of mindful movement.

America's Got Talent

America’s Got Talent Semifinals Round 2 The Fault Line

You’re welcome for that pic…

After the first phase of my singing career fizzled out, my whole life took an overhaul, including my health and fitness.  I became certified in personal training through The National Academy of Sports Medicine and trained with the amazing folks at IOBT.   I also started really thinking about movement and balance- balance in the body, being able to balance in the most literal sense, and the act of finding balance in life as well.

When I really thought about how and why a movement was performed, things started to come together and stay consistent for me. I became intrigued by the anatomy and physiology of movement and a passion formed in finding healthy movement patterns and creating challenging exercises to promote healthy movement.  I took these ideas to my clients and they started to see results come to life.

I guide people through movement that is physically and intellectually challenging while keeping them safe through detailed cuing- a skill I learned by working at IOBT.  I can’t express how much I have learned and absorbed through daily discussions with the PTs, body workers, and Pilates professionals about healthy movement and the clients that we share.  I feel so lucky to work in a collaborative environment with so many knowledgeable professionals!

My approach is to not to have you stop what you’re doing, rather make what you are doing better and more efficient.  Whether you are a 12 year old in tai kwon do, a healthy and fit 35 year old, an inactive 50 year old, a 70 year old Pilates addict or anyone in between!  I have built a diverse community of clients that challenge me and allow me to grow on a daily basis.  It is not about doing 50-100 reps of an exercise with questionable form, but to do a few high quality reps that will make lasting changes for healthy, functional movement.  That is what keeps me stimulated in the profession: to watch my clients and myself grow, change, progress, and function better in daily life.

Call (919-361-0104) or email ( the studio to schedule a personal training session with Adam and check out his full bio here.


Healthy Mamas: Postnatal Pilates (Part 6)

Mindfulness is Enlightenment itself. You only need a few seconds to get enlightened. To be aware that you are alive, with a body that is strong enough and healthy enough – that is Enlightenment. Our body is a wonder.

Thich Nhat Hanh


Yesterday was a day full of love…not only was it Valentine’s Day (I actually baked a cake with Z…but that’s another story!), my littlest turned ONE month old, and I returned to the studio (my second home!) for my FIRST postnatal Pilates workout. It was a pretty great day!

I had been patiently waiting to get back in the studio, but was respecting my body and the healing that needed to happen after giving birth.  I am so grateful that I was able to have a peaceful, natural birth, with no complications and am very thankful that I only had a minor split in my abdominals (diastasis recti- a very common issue that happens in pregnant women).  Despite the labor and birth going as smoothly I possible, my body still took time to recover.  Those first couple of weeks were rough! I spent a lot of time resting after giving birth (well, as much as I could with a toddler and newborn!) and began doing abdominal strengthening after two weeks (the Pilates “scoop”, breath work, and small upper ab curls with a very intentional scoop first).

I felt the toll that this second pregnancy took on my body, even more so than the first, and I have been really gentle with myself as I begin the journey to find my new strength.  I will never have the body I had before kids- that would be impossible.  That doesn’t mean I won’t be the same weight or fit into my same clothes, it just means my body is different!  Major changes have happened, but I can still find strength, stability, power, grace, and freedom of movement, just in a new way!  Women’s bodies are AMAZING!  I am in awe of what mine did for me over the past year and I am excited to “Return to Life” as Joseph Pilates would say, through the Pilates system!


It felt amazing to walk into the quiet studio and lie down on the reformer.  I have missed the sound of the springs, the feel of the foot bar on my feet and the straps in my hands, and the immediate connection to my body and breath that I get from Pilates.   I started on the reformer- it felt great to just be able to lie on my back without getting winded or dizzy!  I found myself getting excited for each exercise…

  • stomach massage- yay!  my belly doesn’t get in the way AS much now!
  • pull straps and T- YES! I can lie on my stomach!
  • elephant- I can feel my deep abs in a safe and strengthening way
  • side splits, Russian splits, front splits kneeling?!- my hips have missed the stretching and strengthening

Like so many things, we gain even more appreciation for something when you step away from it for a while.

I went through a modified Level 3 reformer workout avoiding the more challenging exercises for my outer abdominals such as 100s, teaser, long stretch and short spine. Being completely in tune with myself and my body was like a breath of fresh air- it has been a while since I had the space and time to do that!

Pilates is the perfect system to help heal and retrain the postnatal body.  When the movements are done with integrity and intention, the principles of Pilates promote uniform development of the mind, body, and spirit.


photo credit: Heba Salama Photography

What is Your “Why”?

One of my favorite New Years Day traditions that my husband and I share is taking down our goal board, reassessing the past year, and looking at the blank slate ahead of us.  And yes, we do have an actual goal board!  It is simple- a small cork board that we pin index cards on and keep in our bedroom.  We don’t really look at it everyday- like most things we see all of the time, it fades into the background, but it does catch my eye at least once a week.


As we took down the cards with the things we had accomplished, assessed whether we wanted to keep up the ones we didn’t accomplish, and added brand new goals to the board, the word “WHY” started to come up a lot.

Why do we care whether we cook 80% of our meals at home, pay off that credit card, or do the Basic 10 every day?  Some of the answers were obvious, but we decided to go deeper.

Why do we want to be healthy? Why do we want financial freedom?  What will that give us in the long run?

As we came up with our answers, it became more obvious as to WHY we needed to strive toward these fresh new goals on our silly cork board.

So WHY Pilates?

A few months ago I stumbled into a conversation with two clients at the front desk- women in their 40s or 50s. They were explaining to me why they do Pilates: they use Pilates as their extra health insurance policy.  Now that is a great WHY!  If we move now, exercise our bodies and minds, we will hopefully be able to live longer and have better quality of life without having to rely as much on our more costly insurance policies!

One of my clients just turned 70 this week.  In her last lesson before the holiday and my last day with her before going on maternity leave, she wanted to do inversions.  Yes- the advanced exercise where you flip upside down on the bars of the Cadillac.  It wasn’t the first time she had done them, but we both felt like it was appropriate to celebrate this milestone birthday by flipping upside down as if on the monkey bars!

Why do I do Pilates?  Yes, to feel good about how my clothes fit and how I feel in my body, but more importantly…

  • To stay fit and active so I can play with my children for years to come
  • To breathe better and more freely
  • To manage anxiety with the control of my breath and mind
  • To keep my heart active and blood flowing!
  • To live my everyday life injury and pain free
  • To be more mindful and to have a sense of control over my body
  • To live a long and happy life with my physical and mental health in tact

Pricing 1

Oh, and I want to do Inversions on MY 70th birthday!  

Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness. Our interpretation of physical fitness is the attainment and maintenance of a uniformly developed body with a sound mind fully capable of naturally, easily, and satisfactorily performing our many and varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.
~Joseph Pilates
Visit our website to find out more about the services offered at InsideOut.

Healthy Mamas: Prenatal Pilates at 37 Weeks (Part 5)

arabesque pic

We made it!  Full term is considered 37 weeks, and here I am!  I have mixed feelings about being done with this pregnancy: I am ready to feel like myself again, but nostalgic about this likely being my last pregnancy…I can’t wait to meet our baby girl, but would also like to get her birthday a little farther from the holidays!

To be perfectly honest, it has also been a challenging few weeks.  We have been battling one sickness after another in our house which has made everything more difficult, including exercise!  My weekly Pilates lessons have dropped off and I can feel that in my body.  But, I have still been able to do some stretching and movement at the studio and when I can do it, that has felt amazing!

So here it is, Pilates is possible even when VERY pregnant!

Hip strengthening and opening are both a priority as I prep for the labor and delivery process.  The hip muscles also take quite a beating as the pelvic ligaments stretch and feel more lax.  The hip muscles have to do more work to hold everything together!  Therefore, several of my exercises this week revolve around the hips…

As the abdomen gets more and more compressed (baby is now taking up A LOT of space in there!), it becomes even more challenging to get spinal movement.  Kneeling Mermaid on the Low Chair is a wonderful assisted side bend stretch that allows opening of the sides while also working the hips, core and upper body.

The Spine Corrector supports the spine in extension- a position that is tricky to find at this stage of pregnancy!  It is a great place to just breathe, opening the chest and creating more space for the lungs and other organs.  It is also a great place to add some light hand weights for arm circles and other arm motions.

Finally, the Magic Circle Arm Work is a series that can be done throughout pregnancy to help tone the upper body in a standing position.  I had a helper for this one….enjoy some toddler cuteness!


OTH pic

Please feel free to contact me with questions about how to continue your Pilates practice throughout your pregnancy.  Healthy movement IS possible and can help ease some of the discomforts of a rapidly changing body!




Healthy Mamas: Prenatal Pilates at 32 Weeks (Part 4)

Hellooooo THIRD trimester….and all of the aches and pains that can accompany it!  I am 32 weeks pregnant and am definitely feeling the weight gain and changes going on in my body, but again, Pilates has saved me.  It allows me to continue to move, stretch, work and breathe which are all so important for the mind, body and soul anytime, but especially right now!

32 weeks Quad Stretch

Here are a few changes that one might experience in the third trimester:

  • increased ligament laxity as the body prepares for birth
  • pain accompanying increased laxity!
  • heaviness in the front of the body causing strain and tightness in the upper and lower back
  • difficulty finding a comfortable position
  • fatigue due to changes in sleep as well as increased strain on the body
  • swelling
  • pelvic floor weakening
  • digestive issues and shortness of breath due to increase pressure and decreased space for organs such as the diaphragm, stomach and intestines, due to the ever growing uterus!

Again, the Pilates system is amazing for this stage of pregnancy.  The equipment and springs support the body and provide opportunities for movements that aren’t possible in many other forms of exercise or everyday life!

Click on the red links to view the videos and use the “back” button on your browser to return to the post.  Z only made a couple appearances this time.  Enjoy the soothing sounds of the springs in a quiet studio!

Spinal movement is important for a healthy spine and it just feels SO GOOD!  Cat with the Push Thru Bar is a supportive way to get flexion and extension of the spine while also opening the shoulders and upper back.  I modified it slightly to add more lumbar spine flexion by allowing the hips to sit back toward the heals.  Kneeling Mermaid with the Push Thru Bar is a great side body opener.  It creates more space for the ribs and lungs to allow for improved breathing!  Knee Stretches on the reformer incorporates this increased spinal mobility into a more dynamic exercise, using and supporting the openness in the lungs.  The breath supports the movement and the movement supports the breath!

Tricep Press on the low chair promotes decompression of the spine as well as shoulder and chest opening.  Side Arm Series on the reformer is a challenging set of four exercises (I just showed one of each) that I love doing to improve my upper body strength. It also requires hip opening and core control to be able to stay stable on the moving carriage.

The Ped-o-pull, an often forgotten about piece of equipment, was originally developed by Mr. Pilates for a client who was an Opera singer.  The exercises promote chest opening and increased lung capacity.  It is great for pregnant mamas because the exercises are done in standing and as in most Pilates movement, they promote flexibility AND strength! Another exercise that also shows a powerful combination of flexibility and strength is the Plie Press on Paddle Back on the low chair.  This one makes me feel strong and confident in my changing body!

Two other pieces of often underutilized Pilates equipment are the Foot Corrector and the Ladder Barrel.  The feet are so important in balance and support of the whole body and they certainly take a beating during pregnancy!  The foot corrector is a great way to build strength and support from the bottom UP!  Ballet Stretches on the ladder barrel are a stable supported place to get an amazing stretch through all parts of the legs and hips. The hip muscles have to work extra hard to support the increased weight of the upper body while keeping everything together as the ligaments get more relaxed.  It is important to have strong, open hips toward the end of pregnancy to prepare for the birth process.

See you in a couple of weeks!


Pilates –It’s Not Just For Dancers

**Guest post by Katie Kennedy, PT, DPT, CSCS, PMA®-CPT**

Pilates –It’s Not Just For Dancers

Historically popular among dancers, Pilates has become a key training component for all athletes, including runners.

When I tell people I’m a Pilates-based physical therapist, their first reaction is often, “Oh…you must work with a lot of dancers.” My response is, “Pilates isn’t just for dancers.”

I work with all types of athletes in their rehabilitation from injury and to help them become stronger in their respective sports. For me personally, I do Pilates for one main reason, which is to be a faster runner. Not only can Pilates training help correct muscle imbalances and prevent injury, but it also helps develop key capacities for better running.

Olympic running coach Jack Daniels states that some of the most important aspects to running are VO2 max (oxygen capacity), and running economy (runner’s movement efficiency). Pilates addresses these areas through controlled breath work.

The very first thing that you learn in Pilates is how to breathe to your fullest capacity. Take a moment and inhale. Where is your breath going? Are you breathing into your throat, middle chest, or all the way down into your low belly? Pilates incorporates a breath that fully utilizes your lungs with every movement. Fewer, more effective breaths during a run means less energy spent on breathing.

Pilates also emphasizes developing a strong core and improving flexibility, coordination, and balance.

Running is a series of single leg bounds. Without proper balance and stability through one’s body, energy can be wasted on unnecessary steps or balance recovery. Core strength gained through Pilates training aids with body control by enhancing transverse abdominal and hip strength for dynamic pelvic stability. With good stability through the pelvis, the hips are allowed to move within their maximum range. Having full hip extension allows a runner to access their glutes for a powerful push off, providing more force production with every foot strike.

Pilates involves smooth, flowing movement. Quality of movement is much more valuable than the quantity of movements. Practitioners develop uniform movement patters and become more aware of their body and where it is in space. These concepts and heightened body awareness can translate to more fluid running form and cadence. Moreover, the flexibility and mobility acquired throughout the whole body can decrease the likelihood that an athlete will get injured, especially common running ailments such as ankle sprains, iliotibial band tightness, or knee pain.

I love Pilates because of the natural benefits it provides—from developing core strength to improving running mechanics. Like running, however, Pilates takes hard work and dedication to become stronger. Whether you’re training for 5Ks or marathons, consider complementing your current training regimen with Pilates to improve your running times!


Katie, a three time marathon runner, is a Pilates-based Physical Therapist at InsideOut Body Therapies in Durham, North Carolina. She is using Pilates to attempt to better her marathon PR of 3:04 (2015 Boston Marathon) at the upcoming 2016 Boston Marathon.

Call the studio (919-361-0104) to schedule a Pilates-based Physical Therapy evaluation with Katie and visit our website to see her full bio.