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Washcloth Workout

written by Carol Crincoli, Pure Pilates Director

Are you missing your favorite Pilates exercises that require the Reformer, Tower or Chair? Maybe you’ve never done Pilates, but are looking for some new ideas to workout at home, without purchasing more equipment. 

I recently recorded a workshop series, Pilates Reformer: without the machine. I designed 3 workouts that replicate exercises you would do in the studio with just 2 washcloths. These workouts are part of the Pure Pilates virtual library membership, but here I share a few of my favorites for you to try.

Bridging/Pelvic Lift

This exercise was inspired from the version that I teach on the Reformer.  It focuses on the “back line” of the body, specifically the hamstrings, glutes, calves and muscles of the spine. Before attempting this exercise, make sure you can perform a strong, basic bridge.  Those washcloths will create an increased instability for added intensity.

Plant your feet hip distance apart on the washcloths and lift your hips. Make sure to press into your arms, but don’t stress the neck and shoulders.

While keeping your hips lifted and glutes contracted, stretch one foot out and away from the body. Make sure your hips stay up and don’t worry if your knee doesn’t fully straighten. Drag that foot back in to feel an intense contraction of your hamstring.

You can drop your hips for a quick break or just fix your bridge by reconnecting to your backline.

Repeat the exercise by stretching the other foot out and away from the body.

To uplevel the intensity: Stay lifted in your bridge as you alternate the legs out and in simultaneously.

Mountain Climber

Here’s my version of the Chair exercise, Mountain Climber.  This exercise is quite intense for the core muscles but like a plank, it will require your upper and lower body to come to the party. Before attempting this exercise, make sure you can perform “Pushup Prep/Knee Float” without the washcloths. The first image below is an example of this preparatory position to practice.

Come into a quadruped position, which is simply being on your hands and knees.  Make sure to line the wrists with your shoulders and your knee caps with your hips. Curl your toes under, securely on the washcloths and deepen your core. Think about your belly and spine coming in to hug your organs.

Without moving your upper body or dropping your hips, extend one leg back behind you. Your goal is to fully straighten the leg. Don’t worry if you don’t! Dragging that leg into the starting position from your abdominals and hip is where you will feel the deep connection.

Repeat the exercise by stretching out the other leg and dragging it back in from your abdominals.

To uplevel the intensity: Stay lifted in your pushup press as you alternate the legs out and in simultaneously OR glide both legs out and in at the same time.

Eve’s Lunge

My version of Eve’s Lunge on the Reformer is a bit more intense because you need to use your upper body to support you in place of the machine.  It’s still a worthwhile exercise to stretch out the hip flexor and quadricep muscles (front of thigh).

Start in quadruped (all 4’s) and then step one foot forward to step up your lunge position.  Lift your bent knee off the floor.  This foot should be on the washcloth. If you are tight, try elevating your hands on a chair seat or coffee table to create some space to move.

Glide the washcloth leg out and hold the stretch as you breathe.  Drag the leg back to the starting position by deepening your abdominals and hip flexor. Repeat a few times. Then switch to the other side.

Mermaid

Mermaid is a favorite because the side bending and stretching just feel so good. This exercise can be done on all the apparatus and the mat.  With the use of the washcloths, I think my exercise resembles the Tower version the most.

Configure your legs so that one knee bends into the midline of the body and the other bends behind.  You want your hips to be as even as possible, so if you are struggling with this position, prop yourself up on a pillow to elevate your seat.  If that doesn’t work, just find a comfortable seated position. Position your washcloths on the side of the knee bent into the midline. Other arm reaches strong to the ceiling.

Side bend as you glide the washcloth out to the side. Do you best to keep your hips down. This will help deepen the stretch along the side of your torso. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed.

While stretching into your side bend, rotate your body in so your ceiling arm comes down to the other washcloth. Push the washcloths away to deepen into the twist.

Unwrap from the twist.

Glide back up to your starting position.  Repeat a few times. Then switch to the other side.

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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.