Inspiring Life from the Core

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Improving Gait

Improving Gait

written by Carol Crincoli, Pure Pilates Director

When my clients walk into the studio, I pay attention to many things.  Posture and energy level are helpful assessments before I get someone moving, but watching how a person walks gives me powerful information of what could be going on in someone’s body.

I recently saw a friend, who had been in the hospital for about 6 weeks last year.  He had lost weight and valuable muscle mass and what I noticed immediately is how his gait was “off” when we were walking to dinner.

In Pilates, I was taught that when your feet are out of alignment, so is the rest of our body. Joseph Pilates believed that our feet were mis-treated and under-used.  When it comes to a healthy body, Pilates taught me that the feet are the foundation to how well we move through life.

I mentioned my observation to my friend and we both agreed that while his cardiovascular workouts were important, he needed a strength training component that also focused on his feet to improve his gait.

Poor gait makes walking inefficient and can zap your energy.  It can be the reason you may have hip or back pain and it most definitely will affect our balance and increase the risk of falling.

So how do we improve and strengthen our gait? 

  • Strengthen and stretch your feet and ankles – The mobility of our feet and ankles is just as important as their strength. Lifting and lowering your heels (barefoot) off a step activates the feet, ankles and calves. Once they get tired, let the heels hang down for a deep stretch. In a seated or standing position, circle the foot and ankle in both directions for focus on mobility.
  • Activate the muscles in your legs – Leg strength is key to better gait.  If your hip flexors and back line (glutes and hamstrings) are not firing when you walk, your feet will be affected. A simple way to wake up these muscles is by squatting. Our bodies should be able to sit and get out of a chair to a standing position.  Chair squats are perfect if you are new to squatting.  With a chair behind you, hinge your upper body slightly forward as you bring your bum into the chair. Without holding on to anything, come back up to a standing position. Practice until your muscles are tired.
  • Improve your posture – “Standing up straight” will not improve your posture, although awareness or your body in space can be helpful.  We all suffer from “text neck” syndrome, mostly from being attached to our electronic devices. The poor position of the neck will also emphasize a rounded back and closed chest. Strengthening your back muscles and stretching your chest will be the first step in improving your posture.

In “Feet in Straps”, one of the workouts from our virtual library, I lead a 15-minute workout that will help you improve your gait. With the resistance of a theraband, we focus on the feet, ankles and the entire leg for strength, mobility and flexibility. Give it a try before your regular workout or as a stand alone class.

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Katie is a passionate mover who was brought to Pilates through dance. After a professional dance career, Katie discovered her love of teaching-connecting the mind and body, and working with students of all ages and levels. Her appreciation and understanding of everyone’s ever changing body and needs only became greater as her own body went through pre and post natal stages, an experience which has helped Katie navigate problem solving, and bring a freshness to each session making them feel personal and specific to each body’s needs. Her sessions are full of flow and aim to challenge clients with a sense of comfort, and often a little humor, all of which she has brought to Pure Pilates since 2016. Katie thinks the gift of movement and self care is one of the best things one can do for overall wellness, and is thrilled to seek and fulfill milestones and goals with each of her clients. When she’s not at the studio, Katie is taking care of her three little humans- another job that also makes her smile, laugh, and challenges her on the daily.
Eighteen years ago I discovered my love for Pilates. After having my two children, I felt the need to move my body again. At the time I was living in North Carolina, and worked through many different exercise and training programs. I discovered Pilates, and instantly knew it was right for me. Forteen years later, and a move to New Jersey, I decided to share my love of Pilates with other people looking for some way to move their bodies. Pilates has also been a way for me to keep me strong and flexible to continue many activities. My family loves to be active, and I often find when we are all together (mostly vacations) our days consist of activity and movement such as hiking, kayaking, or skiing(more on this later). As I have gotten older I find it even more imperative now that I keep my body strong. Recently I was in a skiing accident that left me with many knee injuries and ultimately having to go into surgery. I found being able to do light Pilates a few weeks after surgery kept me sane and ultimately helped with recovery time. Pilates has not only helped me be able to keep up with my children, but has also provided me with a body that is able to function at peak performance. My approach to Pilates can be described in one, simple word: movement. Movement can help you, both physically and mentally. Movement, and Pilates, is ultimately about self care. Having a built in time to focus on your body and movement can help relieve yourself of feeling tired, anxious, and stressed. Movement awakens you. Even after one session you can leave feeling calmer and energized.
Enjoyment of life through movement is a vital part of Kathy’s philosophy. When not in the studio she leads an active lifestyle trail running, cycling, skiing and hiking. She also loves connecting with people while traveling with family and friends. One of her favorite cycling trips was riding along the coast of northern California. Learning new things and sharing knowledge is also important to Kathy. She has a passion for food, likes to cook for her family and experiment with new recipes. She is currently trying to achieve the perfect pizza. She is also an avid reader of historical fiction and biographies. Her latest endeavor is learning to play golf.
Carol M. Crincoli, owner Pure Pilates studio, has been in the fitness industry since 1990, with experience in corporate and commercial fitness, recreational programming and teaching as an adjunct professor. She began practicing Pilates in 2003 and received Pilates training through the PhysicalMind Institute in New York, NY. She holds certifications from the Pilates Method Alliance (PMA) and the American Council on Exercise (ACE) as a group exercise instructor, personal trainer and lifestyle and weight management consultant. She was also accepted into the IDEA-PFT Recognition System as an Elite Level Personal Fitness Trainer. She is the only trainer in the NY-metro area for Trent McEntire’s Arcus equipment. Carol graduated from the Boston Conservatory of Music with a BFA in musical theater and a minor in dance. Opening Pure Pilates is the culmination of a lifetime dream, and her mission to "inspire life from the core" is a holistic approach to health and wellness—from exercise and nutrition, to stress management and self-care. Carol is also the inventor of 8th Avenue Rail, an organizing solution for Tower springs.