By Jessica Schmidley
I’m hot. I always have been. My body temperature always seems to run a little on the warm side. I never liked to sweat or feel warm, and as the years went by I found myself growing more and more heat intolerant.
I’m 37 years old at the time of writing this, and ever since I was young I’ve always preferred a cooler atmosphere. I would actively avoid activities outside as the temperature and humidity rose in the summer months.
A few years ago I wondered if I could “train” myself to tolerate the heat. I decided to run a little experiment, I spent the summer taking Hot Yoga classes once or twice a week. You read that right, it was above 80 degrees outside and I took classes in a hot humid room for 90 minutes at a time, at times taking classes in studios that reached 105 degrees.
What is Hot Yoga?
Hot Yoga, by definition, is Yoga performed in a heated room. The exact heat and humidity level will vary based on the style of yoga being taught and the specific studio.
The benefits of Hot Yoga itself can vary from physical to mental; increased blood flow, improved flexibility of muscles and mobility of joints, improved mood, focus and less anxiety.
The Benefits of Heat Acclimation
The following physiological benefits stated in this article from Spartan Training can apply to both heated cardiovascular and non-aerobic activities.
A Word of Caution
Any heated activity can pose potential risks, including dehydration. It’s very important to rehydrate during and after intensely sweaty activities, preferably with water containing added electrolytes. Electrolytes are essentially salts and taking in salt with your water allows it to be pulled into your cells and tissues and utilized where needed. Without electrolytes in your water, you will expel or urinate most of the water out without absorbing it. In extreme cases, you can experience hyponatremia, where the sodium levels in your blood become too low as a result of drinking excessive amounts of water. Without sodium or electrolytes, the ratio of water in and around the cells can become imbalanced and could potentially be dangerous. Sports drinks are often recommended, however a pinch of sea salt added to your water will also do the trick with less added sugars and artificial ingredients.
Always check with your doctor before performing activities in excessive heat, and avoid if you have any contraindications to heated exercise.
My Own Personal Case Study
By the time we reached August, I found that I was more tolerant of the heat outdoors. I could sit outside on a hot day without feeling overly uncomfortable, or do outdoor activities requiring fewer breaks. My joints also felt better and I had less pain and stiffness in my back and hips with just one or two Hot Yoga sessions per week.
Every individual is different, I’d encourage you to listen to your body and find a frequency, duration, and heat level that works best for you.
“Don’t be a hero”, was the catchphrase of one of my favorite Yoga instructors. Meaning, listen to your body and monitor yourself during class. Take breaks, leave the room, or sip water as needed. Your tolerance will build up over time, but like everything else, acclimating to Hot Yoga is a form of training. Inquire about heat and humidity settings at your studio, start slowly, and give yourself the grace and patience as you progress in your hot practice.
By Jessica Schmidley
You've decided to start Pilates! The good news is, you are absolutely ready for this journey, just as you are. Wherever your body is at this moment, is exactly where you need to be to start Pilates.
A common misconception is that you need to “get in shape” before starting a Pilates practice, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. The exercises and concepts range from beginner to super-advanced, and your instructor will help you assess and navigate your practice. The Pilates method is meant to meet you where you are, right now. You are ready for this!
Whether you haven't worked out a day in your life, or you are a professional athlete...everyone has a Day 1. Everyone starts at a different place, but Pilates is truly for EVERY BODY. Get excited!
So how do you prepare for your first Pilates session? Once you have chosen a studio, here are 3 things to consider before you get on that Mat (or Reformer, or Cadillac...) for the first time.
1. What to wear:
First off, you don't have to go spend all your savings at Lululemon to do Pilates (although we all do love any excuse to grab some new workout gear)!
The most important factor to consider is your comfort level. Everyone has different preferences, so let that be your first guide. Your clothing mustn't be skintight and made of spandex, but overly loose and flowy clothing may get in your way and move around too much as you navigate your practice.
You are moving about on equipment with springs and wheels attached to it. Long hair should be pulled back and out of harm's way.
In general, shoes are not worn in Pilates classes, unless you have a medical condition that requires it. Check with your studio's policies on proper footwear, some will require the use of socks and others may allow bare feet. Socks should have some type of rubber grip on the bottom to prevent slipping and sliding while performing exercises. This is for your safety.
Here's a list of our favorites:
2. What to eat/drink before:
Just like any workout, you wouldn't want to walk in with a full stomach and bladder. Keep this in mind as you approach the start time of your class. Depending on what time of day you come to the studio, you may have one or more meals in your system. I typically recommend eating no sooner than 90 minutes before your workout, so food has a chance to get out of your stomach and move a little further into your digestive tract.
If you are an early riser, try to have something light with a higher carbohydrate concentration... some fresh or dried fruit, toast, or part of a granola bar. Carbohydrates are easier to digest and will give you energy, but won't take as long to process as protein and fat. Avoid spicy, acidic foods especially if you tend to get heartburn when laying down.
I personally love to have a little coffee in the morning, especially before a workout. It helps me get a little spring in my step so I'm ready to move and focus. Make sure you are sipping water throughout the day, to stay hydrated and prevent muscle cramps during exercise. Just allow a little time when you get to the studio to empty your bladder before all the abdominal work!
Do not partake in alcoholic beverages, recreational or prescription drugs that may impair you. You will be working on highly specialized equipment that can be potentially dangerous. Our job is to keep you safe above all else during your workouts.
3. Keep an open mind:
You may think you know what Pilates is about, you may have even done Pilates at another studio or gym before, but keep an open mind that first time you walk in the studio.
Your first session will likely consist of filling out intake forms, a brief chat with your instructor to go over pre-existing conditions, injuries, surgeries, or issues going on in your body. Next, you'll have an introduction to the equipment you'll be using and probably fundamental exercises to set the groundwork for a successful practice. Whether you are new or an experienced exerciser, everyone needs fundamental work. It is the foundation to upon which your entire practice is built upon, and it's likely that you'll spend a good portion of your first sessions focusing on.
Pilates is like no other workout, and no two Pilates instructors teach the same way. You'll be working your body in ways that may feel foreign and engaging muscles that you may not realize you had! So, it's important to just dive in with an open mind and go with it! Communicate with your instructor if you are feeling any pain, discomfort, or confusion with the work.
Leave any preconceived notions you may have about Pilates or your ability level at the door. The beauty of the Pilates method is that it is completely customizable, and can be adjusted based on what your body needs and where it thrives. Everyone is strong in their own way, and EVERY BODY can do Pilates.
by Jessica Schmidley
It’s an understatement to say these past few months have been surreal. A few months ago, the concept of sheltering in place and social distancing were new and seemed like a distant reality that would never really hit us. We quickly learned that not only would we quarantine, but we would have to swiftly pivot to a new way of doing business and living our lives.
As a boutique fitness studio, we watched other businesses shutter their doors permanently just days after the official Shelter in Place (SIP) order was in effect for Illinois. Questions began to arise: How will we survive this? Will we stay afloat? How can we keep our clients happy when they are accustomed to a totally different class delivery?
Through team work and ingenuity, we shifted to a fully virtual Pilates and Fitness studio in just a matter of days, just in time for the official SIP deadline. For months we waited for the order to be lifted, for Phase 3 to commence when we could finally reopen our doors to our clients. We’ve been in Phase 3 and open for a few weeks now with limited offerings. The absolute joy of both clients and instructors is palpable and we are simply elated to begin Phase 4 with the following guidelines effective immediately.
What is Phase 4?
For boutique fitness studios like ours, Phase 4 details that regular business and classes can commence with capacity of the studio/class at 50 people or less. As a modest size business, we have always capped our class sizes to keep that smaller group feel, Pilates classes no more than 6 participants and Yoga & Fitness classes at 8-10 on a typical day. Even at absolute capacity, we rarely have more than 20 clients in the building at any given time, even adding in our instructors that still keeps us well below the approved 50 person maximum.
Clients are encouraged but not required to wear masks in common areas of the studio, including entering the building and waiting in our reception area for their appointment to begin. We highly encourage clients to arrive no earlier than 5 minutes prior to their class or session time, so we may control the flow of clients in and out of the studio. Clients are encouraged to maintain social distance between themselves, other clients and staff while in the studio. Hand sanitizer is available throughout the studio for use, everyone is encouraged to use sanitizer or wash hands before and after class.
Contactless payment is available through our new Bewe scheduling system. Simply login to your account and add a credit card onto your file. When you need to purchase sessions we can process that for you in the studio, or you may conveniently purchase while logged into your account from anywhere.
All class sizes are limited and prior registration is required for all classes, virtual or in-studio. Walk-ins will no longer be allowed.
Clients who are sick or exhibiting symptoms are asked to stay home.
Our cancellation policy is 24 hours for all classes and private sessions.
Fitness & Cycle Classes:
Per the guidelines of Phase 3, fitness classes were required to be done outdoors and with less than 10 participants including an instructor. We will continue to offer our fitness and cycle classes outdoors (weather permitting) with the same smaller class sizes that we have offered through Phase 3. This will likely continue through the summer and fall.
Yoga & Barre Classes:
Yoga and Barre classes will continue to be offered virtually and will now expand in-studio classes for up to 6 participants. We have created a format where clients may take these classes either virtually or in-studio, at the same time! All classes will be live streamed through our new software Bewe Stream, and will continue to be offered in this format indefinitely. When registering for classes, be sure to note whether you have selected either “in-studio” or “virtual”, as it will show as two separate classes in our schedule so we know which clients are registered for which option. In studio classes will continue to be offered with no hands on cuing or spotting from instructors.
Pilates Apparatus Classes:
Our Pilates classes are officially back, with up to 6 participants per class! We have spaced each piece of Pilates equipment a minimum of 6 feet apart, and instructors will also maintain 6 feet of social distance between themselves and clients. Instructors and clients are encouraged to wash hands or use hand sanitizer before and after their classes. As with other class offerings, there will be no hands on cueing or equipment changes from the instructor. Clients will be responsible to make any equipment adjustments required during class. All equipment will be fully sanitized between each class or session.
Private Pilates and Personal Training Sessions:
We will continue to offer Private (1 on 1) and now Semi-Private (2 on 1, 3 on 1) Pilates and Personal Training by appointment. All stipulations mentioned above for Pilates classes also apply for Private Sessions.
To allow for proper social distancing, equipment/exercise area sanitation and proper flow of traffic in and out of the building, we have added extra time (no less than 15 minutes) between classes for the remainder of the summer. We plan to adjust class times closer together if appropriate, starting in September.
Our foremost priority is to keep our clients and staff safe as we continue to navigate through this time. We are so happy to be open to a greater capacity and will continue to earn your business with the best possible Pilates, Fitness and Yoga experience while under our roof!
Please note: We have recently transitioned to a new scheduling software (Bewe), we are no longer using Mindbody for scheduling or payment processing. If you have not already, please register on our new software by clicking here. If you have any current, unused sessions from our previous system, please reach out to Jo Ann directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to have those sessions transferred.
By Jo Ann Graser
"Pilates? That's Like Yoga, Right?"
As a business owner who offers both Pilates and yoga at my studio, I run into this question on a regular basis. My answer can be detailed or basic, depending on my audience. Here are some comparison points about the two disciplines based on my personal experience with both. For the purposes of this discussion, I am comparing yoga to Pilates on the apparatus.
• Yoga was developed over 5,000 years ago in India with the purpose of connecting individual consciousness to a universal consciousness creating spiritual enlightenment. Poses or “asanas” combined with breath control and meditation improve the physical, spiritual, mental and emotional health of the practitioner.
• Joseph Pilates began development of his regimen (historically called “Corrective Exercise” and then “Contrology”) approximately 100 years ago. The underlying theme of Pilates is a systematic and disciplined approach to physical movement through focus and clarity of the mind. Joseph Pilates created apparatuses which could support the body in order to correct dysfunction and improve movement.
• Yoga utilizes mats and small props to aid or support the practitioner.
• Pilates has an extensive array of machines, or “apparatuses,” designed to assist the individual in improving alignment, strength and coordination.
• In my experience, yoga poses are typically held for extended time periods to release
muscle tension. In some styles of yoga, a long series of poses is repeated
sequentially, with the purpose of warming the body to allow for increased range of
• Pilates movements are often guided by the apparatus, which can be configured by
the teacher to provide assistance or resistance for the client. The focus in a Pilates
session is often on a relatively short piece of choreography emphasizing control and
precision. A movement is focused on and repeated for a few repetitions before
moving onto the next exercise.
Mind Body Connection
• In many types of yoga, the session starts with the setting of an intention for the
practice and ends with a guided meditation and relaxation or “savasana.” Goals are
to clear the mind and surrender to the movement.
• In Pilates, there is constant attention on posture, alignment and movement
mechanics. The practitioner is encouraged to focus on each movement, staying
present and intentional. The theme of controlling the body with the mind is ever present.
• Yoga teaches breathing in and out through the nose or a “warming breath.” This type of breathing is designed to relax the body and calm the mind. Focus in yoga is on
“belly breathing.” The classes I take often use the breath as a mechanism to time
each pose for example: "Hold this pose for another 4 breaths.”
• Pilates teaches breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. This type
of breath is considered “diaphragmatic” and is meant to energize and prepare the
body for strong engagement. The practitioner is encouraged to “move with the tempo
of the breath,” coordinating the two.
• Yoga emphasizes the mind-body and spiritual connection, quieting the mind by
focusing on mastery through introspection. Flexibility and strength are improved
through repetition of the asanas.
• Pilates follows a systematic approach, focusing on individual movements as they
integrate with the whole. The intended outcome from Pilates is improved posture
and creating a strong, balanced and stable base from which to move.
by Jo Ann Graser
We all find ourselves existing in a world turned upside down. Emphasis on “world.” We are not alone by a long stretch. Every person on this planet has been or will be affected by Covid-19. Big picture, the loss of life and serious illness everywhere is overwhelming. However, right here in our homes we are waging a battle to keep entropy at bay. Entropy is defined as: "lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder and chaos.”
“Shelter in place” was terminology that was not part of my lexicon and while the term “shelter” is
somewhat comforting, we find ourselves forced into new routines and an abundance of uncertainty. For me, that first week of shelter in place was terrifying and filled with “what ifs.” What if my business fails? What if my industry ceases to be viable? What if my family/staff/clients/friends get sick? I found myself scrambling and working on sheer adrenaline to pivot my business and take care of my clients and staff.
Self-care was not high on my list of priorities, but I did make time each day to move, sweat and work off some of the nervous tension. These questions formed a loop in my head each morning: How do we cope? How do we move forward while staying in one place? How do we break the stressful emotional cycle of anger, fear, loneliness, and separation? I made it my mission to keep those in my circle of influence moving and motivated.
Let us talk physiology for a moment. When we are stressed, our cortisol levels rise. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. When released into the bloodstream, cortisol can act on many different parts of the body and can help your body respond to stress or danger. This heightened stress response is important for managing short-term situations. When cortisol is present over the long term it can lead to symptoms such as headache, dry mouth, gastrointestinal problems, heart palpitations, unusual sweating, loss of libido, overeating/undereating, and anxiety symptoms. Over time, heightened cortisol levels can lead to our health being compromised through immune system suppression, cardiac problems, depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, etc.
One of the best ways to cope with elevated stress is to GET MOVING. As the body warms, the heart rate increases and breathing becomes deeper. Endorphin levels rise. Endorphins are a group of hormones produced in the pituitary gland and their secretion leads to decreased pain, feelings of euphoria, modulation of appetite, release of sex hormones, and enhancement of the immune response.
With high endorphin levels, we feel less pain and suffer fewer negative effects of stress. Our bodies
produce endorphins in response to prolonged, continuous exercise. Our health clubs and studios are shuttered, some communities are closing hiking trails. How do we continue our workout routines within this new reality? I find it ironic that the technology that until recently was blamed for increasing levels of inactivity is now the best place to find all kinds of workout options, classes and motivation! It is indeed a new virtual reality.
When Tensile Strength Studio and Barrington Yoga Loft was deemed non-essential and ordered to close, we immediately began creating a “Virtual Studio.” We have managed to put almost all our
programming into this virtual studio. You will find Pilates, Yoga, Barre and Fitness with all your favorite instructors. Comments from participants are overwhelmingly positive and some even have requested that we continue to offer virtual options after we re-open! This is an opportunity to “try” a new workout modality literally from the comfort of your own home.
This is our reality for the time being. My hope for you is that you embrace the new normal and figure out ways to re-capture all those activities you “used to do” pre lockdown. Your immune system will thank you and imagine how good it will feel to emerge from quarantine stronger, healthier and happier than when you went in.