Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Will Miss You Kat!

This beautiful article from a very special friend~ written & posted on

"My love and gratitude to Jaime @Pilatesblue, my joint whisperer, life counselor, and Pilates goddess".  

"RA Victory: Walking again, upright & confident, thanks to a summer of Pilates | CreakyJoints"

I’m walking again: to the Rite Aid to get my eye drops, to Starbucks to get my mocha, and to the departure gate at O’Hare to catch my flight. I even walked through the maze of final resting places on the grounds of Fort Custer, the cemetery where my mother’s father-in-law is buried, where we paid our respects on the Fourth of July, tiptoeing over tombstones. My joints didn’t buckle. I didn’t have to scan my surroundings for an available seat. I just kept on walking, relatively upright. Each moment I walked I did so to get somewhere or to see something.  This is new; when I walk, I am no longer trying to survive stressful attempts to stay upright.


Photo Credit: Jaime Ullman

I’m walking like this because I’ve spent two months exercising with a passion. I’ve been on my back, or sitting down, or leaning over. I’ve been on a machine, the Reformer, that moves back and forth and is controlled by different-colored springs that represent the different amount of force it takes to move the Reformer’s carriage.

I’ve been doing Pilates. And Pilates has given me strength and flexibility and the confidence to keep walking.

But I have to pause after every successful workout and tr
y not to get too excited. These moments of relatively good health never last.  I’ve had RA for 34 years now, and as I get older, I find that as soon as I get comfortable with an exercise routine I have to adjust it or give it up because my body shuts down.  I know that sometime, probably sometime soon, the medicine will stop working and my knees will swell again and every exercise I’m throwing myself into will no longer be feasible.  This is the calm before the storm.

Having RA for over 30 years means that the sweat-runs-off-your-face workouts are mostly a thing of the past because feeling well is mostly a thing of the past.

But until I start to be super sick again, instead of just kinda sick like I am right now, I’m working out like there’s no tomorrow. Well, in the way that someone who still hesitates while walking down a flight of stairs works out like there’s no tomorrow.

I’ve been doing Pilates twice a week in a bright, airy studio in Los Angeles called Pilates Blue, and it’s just as serene as it sounds.  Pilates is a practice I’ve dipped into before, but never this seriously. Now, Pilates is a discipline.

I could never do Yoga. My inflexible wrists cannot handle the weight shifting back and forth. Sitting crosslegged on the ground? Nah. And I don’t want to Namaste with you.

I want to work.  I work with my instructor, Jaime, one-on-one. It’s a luxury to be able to do this but I need the attention.

The first time I climbed on the Reformer back in May I laid down on the carriage, face up and shoulders against the shoulder blocks. I was not flexible enough to bend my knees and keep them on the footbar at the front of the machine, so Jaime adjusted the springload and pushed the carriage out. I moved ever so slightly, but far enough that I could hold my knees in a position in which I could unload them.

Then the work began. I moved up and down the machine’s track in a series known as footwork. I was on my heels, the balls of my feet, then my feet were in parallel, next, rotated out, and finally, rotated in. There were few breaks and breathing was emphasized throughout. Jaime kept me on a rhythm with a soft yet encouraging finger snap.

She could tell I was straining my knees to push through the movement, and made me stop. The focus went from external muscles to internal muscles that I needed to actively engage rather than just assume they’d do the work on their own.  Once I really listened, and tried this business called “activating,” my knees were suddenly free.

Every exercise I did with Jaime was modified to account for the lack of full extension in my legs and in my left elbow. But that doesn’t mean Jaime gave up on those joints. Each week we’ve been adding a little more weight, and with Jaime’s encouragement, instead of easing up on the locked joints, I’ve pushed them ever so slightly to stretch, stretch, stretch.

And they’ve opened up. For the first time in years I can stretch my legs out all the way.

The difference in my gait is tremendous. Jaime noticed that I lifted my left hip to compensate for decreased range of motion on the right side of my body and made me work with each exercise on keeping my left hip anchored.

Now, when I walk, I think about the same thing. I notice that my left hip does hike up, so I push the sole of my left foot a little bit into the ground, and guess what, there’s less hip pain when I walk, which means I can walk farther and faster.

I hear Jaime’s voice when I’m sitting in a chair and slouching. I breathe in deeply and try to expand my ribs so that my back touches the chair. I pull my shoulders down and back, which opens up my collarbone. I hear her when I’m sitting on an airplane and breathe deeply to work some of the stiffness out of my neck. I heard her this morning when I was trotting down the street in a real slouch. Ok, that time I heard her because she was actually right behind me and told me to stand up straight.

In the words of the great healer LL Cool J, don’t call it a comeback. Yet. I’m still a broken person with serious physical limitations.  My best workouts happen when I’m feeling better. To get stronger with this disease, you have to be in a relatively good place already.

But there are things I’ve been able to do this summer because of Pilates. I took three trips by air that didn’t knock me out. On one of those trips I flew to Washington, D.C. and had enough energy to hit the gym the morning before I participated in a panel.

It’s not that I feel normal again.  I feel . . . athletic.  I’m tapped into something beyond my disease.  I resent RA for robbing me of that feeling. When I was in my teens, I’d already had RA for most of my life, but I was still an athlete, albeit one who couldn’t run very far and had to rest more than others.  I had enough endurance and muscle memory to be a slightly above average swimmer.  Before my elbow locked, I could play volleyball.  When I could still run the length of a court, I was aggressive enough to play basketball.  Now, in my 30s, the RA has ruined most of my joints.  When my knees are swollen and the RA is in full effect, no sport is really adaptable enough. But now that my RA is under control, I’m delighted to find out that through Pilates, I can reclaim some of my . . . athletic glory. My sense of self.  I wish there were competitive Pilates meets.  I’d be there.

Until then, I’ve got my very own joint whisperer to cheer me on. To Jaime and to all the others who’ve had the courage to take a look at my compromised body and still give it a shot: thank you, from the inner layers of my meniscus, and the bottom of my heart.

Here’s me with Jaime–smiling, sweating, and standing on two relatively straight legs.

Photo credit Jaime Ullman

Photo credit Jaime Ullman

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Focused Body = Focused Mind

I’ve known for many years that Life Coaching was going to become an intrinsic part of my pilates practice. My passion has always been the mind-body connection. Here is a taste about Coaching that you might not know...

A life coach recognizes your greatness so that you can also see it. Once you get a glimpse of your authentic self, you will feel inspired to bring the whole you into focus. By aligning body, mind, emotions and spirit, you will easily step forward into the life you have always known you were meant to experience.

It allows you, the client to be present where you are, how you are feeling, and where you would like to go. Maybe you have new goals, and are not sure how to reach them. Maybe you have feelings of sadness, frustration, even happiness, and want to move forward.

You find a lot of power when you combine movement with your heart & mind. And I can assist you on your journey.

Life coaching is for career, for relationship, it’s for friendship, it’s for self, it’s for family. It’s really for anything you need coaching on. I’m a coach/advisor for my pilates clients, and it’s much the same. 

When you feel like you don’t want to turn to someone who is too close to you. You need someone who is more objective, a Life Coach/Advisor is someone that will listen to you
without judgement. 

I listen, nurture your plan, and help you see that you have the answers to your questions. It’s just a matter of defining it, and becoming in balance with your choices, your life.

Why is life coaching different than say, therapy? A therapist will take you back through your history, through your path in life, your family, your roots. 

A life coach talks to you from today, right where you are right now. We really don’t talk about the past. We talk about today, tomorrow, and the future. How you can become accountable for new changes in your life.

A life advisor doesn’t give you their opinion, unless you ask for it. I will root for you, and cheer for you. It’s a wonderful thing to have someone coach you, and be by your side.

I have a wide variety of clients from all over the globe, predominantly professionals in a variety of industries. Coaching is typically done on the phone, making it convenient & comfortable for you in your life. 

We can Skype, we can meet in person as well. You don’t have to leave your home or office. It can be a 30 min session, 45 min, or an hour. Typically, it’s a 3 month package, because it takes time to see a shift and changes in your life.

Read more about my life coaching practice on, and see if it’s right for you. In the spirit of Valentine’s day, and treating yourself right. I’m running a special through February 14th. Give it a try! A 15 minute introduction is free of charge.  You can ask questions about coaching/advising, and we can go from there. I look forward to sharing this wonderful experience with you and for your one precious life.

Living the Focused Body Focused Mind PilatesblueLife

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Morning Elixir To Keep You Healthy in 2015

Seems everybody out there is using the word cold. Feeling a cold coming on, have a cold, or just getting over a cold. Why not have a daily prevention routine? Start off the new year with a morning daily ritual to get your body ready for the day, and keep the “cooties” away. 

There are several options out there, depending what you want to focus on, for your own health care needs. After some research, I came up with my Pilatesblue Morning elixir.
It consists of water, lemon, super tonic, echinacea, cayenne, maple syrup, and apple cider vinegar with the mother taken every morning. I feel energetic, congestion free, and can’t remember the last time I got a cold (knock on wood). So what makes this drink so perfect? 

Drinking Water Helps Maintain the Balance of Body Fluids. Your body is composed of about 60% water. The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature.
Water Helps Energize Muscles. Cells that don't maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue.

Having lemon regularly boost the immune system. Foods that are high in vitamin C and other antioxidants can help the immune system battle germs that cause a cold or flu.
Also in preventing Throat Infections. Lemon is an excellent fruit that fights against problems related to throat infections, due to its well-known antibacterial properties.

Super Tonic
Is Ancient High-Potency Remedy for inflammations, fevers, flu, colds, infections. The components of SuperTonic instantly energize and stimulate every organ and give a surge of circulation, dilating blood vessels, including to the brain and the heart.
It also dissolves mucus, clears sinus and lungs, nourishes and protects the heart, balances digestion, fights inflammation, kills bad bugs and heats the body.

This wonderful herb encourages the immune system and reduces many of the symptoms of colds, flu and some other illnesses, infections and conditions.

Has several benefits such as Anti-Irritant Properties. Cayenne pepper aids in breaking up and moving congested mucus. Once mucus begins to leave the body, relief from flu symptoms generally follows.
It’s also great for Detox Support. Cayenne is a known circulatory stimulant. It also increases the pulse of our lymphatic and digestive rhythms. By heating the body, the natural process of detoxification is streamlined.

Maple Syrup
Can be a cold stopper. Syrup contains essential nutrients like zinc and manganese, which can help you ward off illness

Apple Cider Vinegar
ACV is amazing for soothing a sore throat since most germs can't survive in the acidic environment vinegar creates. It also clears a stuffy nose. It contains potassium, which thins mucus; and the acetic acid in it prevents bacteria growth, which could contribute to nasal congestion. It also balances pH levels, lowers cholesterol, leaves your skin glowing & clear, gives you more energy, reduces bloating & water weight, and helps with muscle aches and pains. We could list more, but this is a blog about the morning magic elixir, not just ACV ;) 

Quite a list, right? All these magical and healing properties from such simple ingredients. Of course these ingredients have several other benefits, but for everyday liquid prevention, thought I’d highlight these benefits for you. Tell us what other wonderful qualities you get from these natural aids.

So all this research, and we're off to make our magic morning elixir. These ingredients come in all different variations. I personally use liquid form by Dr Schulze’s. If you choose powder form, the conversion roughly is 1 tsp for 2 to 3 drops in this receipe

8 oz room temperature water
Squeeze of 1/4 lemon wedge
(2) drops Dr Schulze’s Super Tonic
(2) drops Dr Schulze’s ECH+ (If feeling cold coming on or around others with cold)
(4-5) drops Dr Schulze’s Cayenne (this is intense, lower to taste) 
1/4 tsp maple syrup
(1-2) tbsp of Braggs ACV with the Mother

Combine and stir all ingredients, and viola. You’re on the road to a healthier you everyday in 2015. Let me know if you like it as much as I do!

Living the natural PilatesblueLIfe

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Welcome 2015

It’s perfect time to refresh your self care practice, remember this is your one precious life! I wish for you to stretch, reach, grow & achieve balance in all areas of your life.

Here are some great tips to help get you started.

Change, especially the positive kind is not an easy task. There are a huge number of factors involved in any given aspect of life, and there are plenty of these aspects as it is. Well, Dave Brailsford, a trainer of the professional British cycling team, Team Sky, reasoned that given the fact that there are tons of little variables, one could improve a tiny bit in each one to make a big overall change. He said that through aggregation of marginal gains it is possible to overshoot the competition after a while. Making tiny 1% changes in things ranging from the comfort of the seats and weight of the tires of your car, to the most comfortable pillows that allowed athletes to get better rest, yielded impressive overall results – it took only 3 years for Sir Bradley Wiggins to become the first ever Brit to win the Tour de France.
By adopting this simple yet highly effective method of aggregation of marginal gains to our own life, we can start making a huge improvement in under a month. The theory is very straightforward – every day for the next 21 days you will make a small and manageable 1% adjustment to a particular aspect of your life, which will result in the development of 21 good habits that you can keep doing for years and years. All the changes are small and easy to make, yet within a few years you will be miles from where you are now in terms of physical and mental health, productivity and overall quality of life.

Day 0 – Make a firm decision right now

We all like to start things at the beginning of the week or the beginning of next month, but you should sit down right now and commit to the program. Make a firm decision to start making these small improvements first thing tomorrow.

Day 1 – Drink a couple of glasses of soda less

Looking at the manufacturer’s official website we find that a can of Coca-Cola has 139 calories, and most sugary sodas are around the same. The can contains less soda than two average-sized glasses. That means that by drinking only a couple of glasses less you are cutting down on over 150 calories and 40 grams of sugar a day, leading to very slow, but steady weight loss if all aspects of your diet remain roughly the same. You can drink more water instead.

Day 2 – Go outside and walk for 30-40 minutes

An hour of walking at a normal steady pace will burn between 200 and 300 calories, depending on your weight size – heavier people burn more calories during the same exercise as skinnier people. This means that 30 minutes will burn 100-200 calories. It’s not that difficult to find the time for a short walk, and you can even break it down into 2-3 walking sessions of 10-20 minutes during the day. Combine it with less soda and you get about 250-350 calories less every day without changing much at all.

Day 3 – Eat a fresh salad before lunch and dinner

You don’t have to replace your regular meals with salads, just make sure you eat a medium-sized bowl of fresh salad – plenty of veggies and no toppings except spices and olive oil – before lunch and dinner. Not only do you get plenty of much-needed micronutrients, but the fiber in the vegetables will also make you feel full, so you won’t be able to gorge on unhealthy and highly caloric food as much.

Day 4 – Read 10-20 pages of a book

It has been shown time and time again that reading has plenty of psychological and even mental health benefits. Not to mention that it makes you more eloquent and broadens your horizon. Even if you are a slow reader it won’t take you more than about 30-60 minutes to read 10-20 pages. Do this every day and you’ll be going through at least a book or two per month. You can start with some of these.

Day 5 – Start doing bodyweight workouts

Getting a good workout in doesn’t require anything but good will and 20-30 minutes of free time. You can do this type of bodyweight workout 2-3 times a week to reap some great health benefits, get a sexier body and boost your confidence.

Day 6 – Warm up your body and stretch in the morning

Doing 3-5 minutes of jumping jacks or mountain climbers when you get out of bed is a good way to warm up your joints and it gets the heart pumping. You can follow this with some 10-15 minutes of static stretching. You can do these after your workout on your workout days instead of in the morning. Stretching has numerous health benefits and is fairly easy to do.

Day 7 – Devote 30 minutes to learning a new skill

There are probably a bunch of skills that you would love to have right now. Whether it’s work related, general skills that can be applied to a broad range of things like team management or conflict resolution, we could all stand to learn something new. By devoting just 30 minutes a day tolearning a new skill you will have learned the basics and gotten fairly decent at it within a few months.

Day 8 – Replace one of your regular snacks with fruit and nuts

We reach for snacks a lot of times during the day, whether it’s because we’re a bit hungry, sad or just bored. The next time you feel like you need a snack reach for a couple of apples, a banana, a pear or a cup of berries, combined with a handful of walnuts or almonds. Nuts have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels and can lower the risk of heart disease, whilecertain berries have great amounts of antioxidants, and various fruit contains plenty of vitamins, minerals and fiber. It’s a healthy snack and it keeps you feeling full for longer.

Day 9 – Get some vitamin D and fish oil supplements

In a perfect world we would have access to all that the body needs, but this is not the case. Most people lack omega 3-fatty acids in their diet – these keep the heart healthy, the skin looking young and your mind sharp – and hardly get enough sun exposure, which limits vitamin D production which is responsible for bone density and keeping normal testosterone levels. These supplements are relatively cheap and will ensure that you stay healthy despite common dietary deficiencies.

Day 10 – Use moisturizer after you shower, shave or wash your face

Keeping your skin as soft, smooth and elastic as possible is the key to looking and feeling young even as you get older. A lot of people, particularly men, fail to utilize moisturizers on a regular basis. This means that after washing your skin will dry out and even become flaky, becoming less soft and smooth over time. By using a good moisturizer on a regular basis you will ensure that your skin becomes fresh and soft, and remains that way for a long time.

Day 11 – Do 10-15 minutes of running/cycling/ jump rope training

If you’ve stuck to the changes you’ve made, you will already be walking a bit more, warming up and stretching and doing a couple of short workouts a week. However, in order to ensure good cardiovascular health you will need to elevate your heart rate and keep it in an elevated state for a certain amount of time. You don’t have to be exact about it – as long as you do some running, cycling or jump rope training for about 10 minutes 2-3 days a week you will significantly lower the risk of heart disease.

Day 12 – Brush and floss your teeth after dinner and before bed

An important yet often overlooked part of overall health is your oral health. Tooth decay can cause a host of problems, extreme pain being one of them, and can cost you a lot to repair if things go out of hand. A lot of food gets stuck in your teeth after big meals, and the bacteria do the most damage if you forget to brush before bed and leave them to eat away at your teeth overnight. With this simple habit you will have a beautiful smile for a long time.

Day 13 – Listen to some relaxing music and do breathing exercises for 10 minutes after work

Once you come home from work it’s time to shift mental gears from busy and stressed to comfortable and relaxed. Music is an excellent stress reliever and when combined with some good breathing exercises can help you calm down and relax your body and mind fairly quickly. Just 10 minutes of this relaxing therapy a day and you will become much calmer and happier in the upcoming months.

Day 14 – Do one thing that’s a bit outside of your comfort zone

The best way to grow and improve is to step just outside your comfort zone. You can’t just do this with everything all at once, but doing one small thing that you don’t feel that comfortable with – speaking to a crowd, singing, etc – every week will make you become more relaxed with it and eventually help you overcome your fear of it. Focus on one thing until you get comfortable and then switch to something else. Start of small – e.g. speaking to five people – and graduate to something big over time – e.g. giving a toast at a celebration.

Day 15 – Start a conversation with at least one random person during the week

A lot of situations in our daily lives can be boring and even a bit awkward. By talking to a stranger while waiting in line or siting in a coffee shop you can actually become happier. Connecting with others keeps boredom at bay, lets you share your frustrations and get a few good laughs. Approach one random person a week and spark a conversation – who knows what interesting places it will take you.

Day 16 – Get a foam roller and massage your muscles for 5 minutes before bed

Foam rollers are a great way to give yourself a good massage and reach all the tight muscles. A myofascial release, e.g. loosening up those tight knots in the muscle, is achieved, which will reduce muscle soreness, improve mobility and help you feel more relaxed. You can do it a few minutes before a workout or before going to bed to relax and prepare for sleep.

Day 17 – Watch 15-20 minutes of TED talks every other day

TED talks give you insight into a variety of different topics, can inspire you, make you think, and as with books, broaden your horizon. Here are some of the most popular ones that you can listen to every other day, or if you get a chance even one per day. Learning about different topics will come in small basic fragments, but will grow over time and even motivate you to do some further research on your own, thus gaining plenty of knowledge over time.

Day 18 – Read about body language and work on yours during the day

Spend an hour or two during the weekend to do some research on body language and then try to improve yours at various times of the day. You want to have the body language of a confident and powerful person, to know which mistakes to avoid and read other people’s intentions to a degree. With time you will be able to exhibit confidence and become more assertive, tell if someone likes you or doesn’t like you by reading small queues and much more. “The Definitive Book of Body Language” by Barbara and Alan Pease is a good read.

Day 19 – Take your partner somewhere nice at the end of the week or treat yourself to a nice night out

It is important to keep your relationships strong, and if you don’t have a significant other it is important find yourself someone you can be close and intimate with. By taking one day out of the week, or even just once in two weeks if you’re busy and devoting it to the other person you will earn a lot of goodwill with them. On the other hand if you are single, go out and have some fun. Get a couple of friends to come with you and try to meet some new people – some of that confidence, experience in sparking up conversation with strangers and positive body language might come in handy. This will help you relieve stress and keep your relationship strong or help you overcome the fear of rejection and improve your love life.

Day 20 – Shut off all the lights and electrical equipment before going to bed

Lack of sleep is a common problem in the modern world and it can have a lot of negative side-effects. There are a lot of things that can get us distracted like computers and phones, but we also seldom create good sleeping conditions. Your room needs to be dark when you go to sleep – no music, background movies to help you dose of, just a couple of more YouTube videos or lights of any sorts. If you make this a habit, you will slowly begin to have more regular sleep patterns and sleep for the full 7-9 hours that you need to feel well-rested, focused and energetic.

Day 21 – Take the day off from mundane life and get some quiet time for yourself

Once or twice a month choose a day to be your rest day. Distancing yourself from everyday worries and other people and simply doing nothing can do a whole lot of good for you. It can be a weekend at the countryside, a fishing trip, sitting around the house watching an entire season of your favourite show or whatever else lets you get some privacy and relax. A completely relaxed day or two like that every month will go a long way towards improving your mental and physical health, which can be severely degraded by stress.

Slow and steady wins the race

If you follow this comprehensive guide and make a tiny lifestyle change every day for the next 21 days, you will end up with a host of very good habits that can help you make a huge overall improvement in terms of health, fitness, productivity, relationships and happiness. It’s all about sticking with these small changes for the long run and steadily improving over time. At one point you’ll look back and be amazed at how big of an impact these 1% improvements have made.