Friday, June 30, 2017

Your List of "Things to Do"

by Lesa McLaughlin
Owner, Excel Pilates DC

"So much to accomplish in 24 hours." 

"There is never enough time in the day." 

"I do not have enough time to exercise." 

"I wish I could fit a workout into my schedule."

Yes, daily life is truly a balancing act. If you are like me, we start off the day with a long, ambitious list of things to do. It feels like there is plenty of time to get through the list but then one more thing is thrown into the mix, or there's a change of plans. Traffic, sick kids, cancelled train... The extra stuff I always refer to as speed bumps. If you get side tracked or slowed down, time flies away but the list does not get shorter. On days like this a good friend of mine always say
"Calgon, take me away" 

(knowing this phrase dates me, I'm sure). By the time we are at the end of the day, we look to de-stress. Exercise is a great way to do that but too many things get in the way. Often at the end of it all, you're just plain exhausted.
Exercise may start high on the priority list but it often is pushed to bottom or just removed from the list. But TBH, (as my son would say), exercise needs to not only stay on the list; it should remain at the top. When I think of or discuss the importance of exercise, I refer to my high school biology class and 

"The Seven Signs of Life" - The seven signs of life are moving, respiration, sensitivity, growth, reproduction, excretion and nutrition. All of these activities are present in living organisms

Note the first sign on the list. To maintain our living bodies, it is essential that we keep moving. Staying strong (to the best of our abilities) helps in every aspect of our daily lives.

Exercise improves the quality of our lives in every way and is a necessity, not a luxury. When making your list of things to do, try putting exercise at the very top. If you can make it the first thing you do in the morning, even better. That way, it's done and nothing else gets in the way. If it's later in the day, that works too. Try to exercise at a time of day that feels best for your body. Wherever exercise falls on your list, make it a top priority. Most of all keep your workout on your list; not only do you need it, you deserve it and you will feel better for it!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Teaser Family Tree

The Teaser Family Tree
by Kerry De Vivo

Every exercise in the Pilates vocabulary is related. Like a family tree, we can take an exercise and work backwards through the order to find the similarities as well as the fundamental skills that are needed from exercise to exercise. Some exercises are more obviously related and resemble one another. Learning about the relationship between exercises can be very helpful in understanding a challenging exercise as well as discovering what fundamental skills or building blocks we may need to continue to progress with any given exercise.
In the case of teaser on the mat, can you think of some exercises that are building blocks for a strong and successful teaser? The hundred looks like a mini teaser, the roll up is a teaser with the legs placed on the mat, rolling like a ball requires the balance and control of a teaser as well as the ability to articulate and roll through the spine. Keep going and we see double leg stretch in the stomach massage series which also looks like a mini teaser position and open leg rocker takes rolling like a ball a step closer to teaser with the legs extended while balancing using the powerhouse. 

Alexandra Adams, owner Excel Pilates Northern Virginia

A strong teaser requires strength in the powerhouse, the ability to articulate through the spine, flexibility in the hamstrings and lower back, breath, control and balance. Check out the similarities between these exercises and teaser in your home practice or ask your instructor for some help in your next session!

Monday, October 3, 2016



by Kerry De Vivo

When I began teaching Pilates over 20 years ago, the studio policy, “In consideration of others, please turn off cell phones”did not exist.  That is because we did not all have cell phones.  Then, for awhile we all did not retrieve emails on our cell phones.  And for awhile, we did not receive text messages on our cell phones.  And then once upon a time, we did not have Facebook, snapchat and Instagram on our phones.   

Welcome to 2016!   

We live in a moment where there is a lot of “interruption” potential in our day.  Between all of the new resources I noted and then the in person conversations, commutes, phone calls, etc., our days can be spent with continuous interruption causing us to have shorter moments to focus on the task at hand.  

We then become less rehearsed for extended periods of time for activities that require concentration, such as in a 50 minute Pilates session.  

Personally, I find it very important to practice periods of time with fully concentrated mental effort on a task.  It is rather refreshing in this world with many interruption potentials.  Joe Pilates knew his work would be very powerful if we incorporated mental focus.  He referred to his work as a method of physical and mental conditioning.  The mental aspect is a high value aspect of his work.  It does require discipline, practice and deliberate focus.

Before arriving to a Pilates session, take a moment to realize your are stepping into an opportunity to train your body and your mind.  

Realize that you will not be able to accomplish any other task during your 50 minute session.  Cherish this time to train your body and your mind.  In a Pilates session, the mind should be so invested in concentrating on how to do the exercises, there should be no availability for distraction or interruption.  Keeping track of how to move through an exercise, how to use muscles, incorporate refinements or corrections from teachers, and control the apparatus, requires abundant concentration.  I recall a quote from Joseph Pilates, 

“NO MAN - NO MACHINE can correct or create vitality, power or health for you; everything comes from within, you have to unfold it.”  

Along with physical and mental effort, you will proudly be able to unfold and own physical fitness for yourself.  Physical fitness in the words of Joesph Pilates

 “… 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.”  

Who wouldn’t want that?!

As a teacher of The Pilates Method, I can say with certainty that you will gain a lot more out of sessions by incorporating mental focus.  There is a reason why the studio slogan is, 


We are here to assist you in obtaining the full benefits of Pilates.  Let us know if you need specific tips on making mental connections during your session or during home practice.  Here are a few quotes from Joseph Pilates that reflect the importance of mental focus in his work-

"The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning is gaining the mastery of your mind over the complete control over your body."

"The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning develops the body uniformly, corrects posture, restores vitality, invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit."

"Through the Pilates Method of Body Conditioning this unique trinity of a balanced body, mind and spirit can ever be attained. Self confidence follows."

"The Pilates Method of Body Conditioning is complete coordination of body, mind and spirit."

Thursday, August 25, 2016


by Amanda Smith Breon

Pilates IS for men.  Contrary to a stigma that Pilates is for women, the Pilates Method of body conditioning is an exercise system that was created by a man for men and women of all ages and fitness levels. At Excel Pilates Annapolis, men as well as women are practicing and thriving on the benefits of Pilates. Professional male athletes and professional sports teams are incorporating Pilates as a fundamental component in their training. Pilates is an extremely physically challenging, mentally engaging and athletic workout for ALL bodies. Men specifically can benefit from the flexibility aspect of the exercises as men are anatomically predisposed to tight hamstrings and lower backs.  Pilates also creates a connected, balanced, integrated body and improves your reflexes to prepare you for the unexpected. It will help you improve your sport, help you to sit through long meetings and recover from traveling.  It will help you move through life. 

It’s a lifestyle and one that includes energy, resilience, grace, and finesse.

Do you want to be able to play soccer or kickball on Tuesday nights and still be able to
walk on Wednesday morning? Would you like to become more coordinated and integrated so that you can improve your golf game? Do you want to be able to sit at your desk and
accomplish tasks without aches and pains? Or, would you simply like to be able to run and play with children or grandchildren without fear of injuring yourself? Perhaps you would just like to stand taller with better posture in your next group photo at work or at home. If you can answer yes to any of these questions Pilates is something that you should try.

The Pilates Method has been around for over a century and has out lived just about
every fitness fad. It is a complex exercise system comprised of mat work and exercises on
several pieces of apparatus that utilize metal springs for support and resistance. Pilates
strengthens your abdominal wall, back muscles, inner thighs, and gluteal muscles, all of
which are commonly called “your core” or as we like to say, the powerhouse. Every exercise is comprised of equal aspects of flexibility and strength to create balance in the body. The exercises strengthen the weaker, less used muscle groups while stretching the stronger over used muscle groups. Pilates also improves posture and alignment, balance and efficiency of movement.

Anatomically, men are built with a pelvis that is tipped slightly back which often
results in tight hamstrings and lower backs. Popular activities such as running, cycling, hiking and weight lifting can increase this hamstring and lower back tightness commonly leading to pain and/or injury. The Pilates exercises help to strengthen muscles while also increasing flexibility. Many men comment on how much more flexible they feel after incorporating Pilates into their life. They move more freely in their day to day routines as well as when they are more active in sports that they enjoy.

Many professional male athletes include Pilates in their training regimes and attribute
it to injury free seasons, longer careers and more powerful, agile bodies. Because Pilates
focuses equally on strength and flexibility it uniquely benefits the professional athlete by
preventing injury, developing mindfulness of their body, and increasing their control. Pilates
also addresses imbalances that can be created in the body with repetitive one-sided
movements such as golf or pitching. Athletes who are accustomed to a “no pain no gain”
mentality where they work and sweat to the point of nausea and fatigue are taken by surprise by the effectiveness of this mindful approach to conditioning. “The Beast," Chicago Cubs Cy Young winning pitcher Jake Arrieta, does Pilates nearly every day and uses it to warm up before every start. “It’s an incredible experience,” Arrieta says.

“Pilates has been around a long time but maybe was taboo in this sport. I think it’s only a matter of time before you see a reformer in every big league clubhouse.”

In fact, in the newly remodeled Wrigley Field, there is a new training room with Pilates equipment. Professional athletes that incorporated Pilates into their training also include golfer Tiger Woods, New Jersey Nets basketball star Jason Kidd, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Curt Schilling, Buffalo Bills Pro Bowl offensive guard Ruben Brown, PGA Tour pro Rocco Mediate2, and Brooklyn Nets player Kris Humphries3.  The Brooklyn Nets have invested in Pilates equipment for their weight room and have had Pilates equipment shipped to their hotel on road trips.4

Pilates IS for men and the benefits are vast. Pilates supports physical health and
activities from the day to day to the most demanding and athletic. Joseph Pilates proclaimed "In 10 sessions, you will feel the difference. In 20, you will see the difference. And in 30, you'll have a whole new body." Consider giving Pilates a try. You may achieve your best fitness goals yet. We offer classes for men, private and semi private sessions at Excel Pilates Annapolis. Our teachers are second and third generation classical instructors comprehensively trained directly from the lineage of Joseph H. Pilates. All you need is an open and willing mind—and a pair of socks. We hope to see you in the studio soon!

Experience our introduction to Pilates class, specific for men. 

Visit http:// 

for details and registration.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


by Kerry De Vivo

Here I am with my first Pilates teacher, Steve Giordano.  This photo was taken at the life celebration that followed the funeral service for our mentor Romana Kryzanowska,  27 years after I had my first Pilates session. 

June 1986 - that's when I had the great fortune of accidentally discovering Pilates through my dance endeavors.  I took Pilates sessions three times a week for six weeks and my body was completely transformed.  I knew I had discovered something special.   

Fast forward thirty years.... I've been teaching Pilates for over 20 years and have been a studio owner for nearly 18 years.  If I have life distractions that pull me from my Pilates workouts, I'm physically and mentally not myself.  Pilates has truly become a way of life for me.  It's an essential element.

I'm amazed that 30 years later, I still struggle with the neck pull in the Mat work. It is the ultimate exercise to work my imbalances.  But then there are other exercises that I've "conquered", such as the long back stretch on the Reformer.  I can remember the first time doing that exercises.  I remember exactly where I was and recall thinking, "I'm going to crash and burn on this one".  Just proof of my favorite Joe Pilates quote "Time and progress are synonymous terms - nothing can stop either.".  

What my body needed and was challenged by 30 years ago is different today.  But the beauty of Pilates is that it's a system of exercise that supports and challenges my body and mind as I evolve.  As a teacher of the Pilates Method of Body Conditioning, I have had the pleasure of witnessing many people develop their own relationship with the work and how they incorporate it in their life.  The great thing about Pilates is it is a form of exercise I can realistically say, I will do for life!  

Cheers, here's to 30+ more -Kerry De Vivo

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


How Old is Your Spine?
By Kerry De Vivo

"If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old.  If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young." -Joseph H. Pilates

Back pain is very common in the United States.  Two major contributing factors are poor posture and too much sitting.  In a Pilates session, we teach clients how to have good posture and how to support their body in various daily, natural movements. We also help clients discover how to incorporate more movement into their busy days.  

One of my clients has a one hour commute, each way, followed by a 10 hour day, mostly sitting in a chair.  In her sessions we work on ways for her to add more movement and support to her long days.

"As a newer student to Pilates, I have found that setting aside just 15 minutes daily to do the basic 5 [mat exercises] has helped ease my back and chronic neck pain after long days of sitting in front of a computer.  Even when I don't have time for a full workout, doing just the basics prevents my muscles from tightening up and causing more pain.  Thank you for helping me Excel!" -D'Ann

Thank you D'Ann for sharing your story and inspiring all of us to do something good for our spine.  Pilates exercises the spine and our deep supporting muscles. Read my blog article The Secret Weapon to better understand why the core strengthening Pilates produces is instrumental to a healthy spine.  Pilates is a full body workout.  In every session we strengthen the muscles in the upper back to counter act the forward facing daily actions we all do, i.e. driving, typing, cell phone, cooking.  
A study on how Pilates core strengthening impacts overall health published in Stone Hearth News concluded that an 8-week Pilates program improved health related quality of life and reduced functional disability more than either a trunk strengthening exercise program or controls among women with chronic low back pain. Read more here.

This study reveals measurable improvement in 8 weeks bringing validity to Joe Pilates' famous quote "In ten sessions you will feel the difference, in twenty sessions you will see the difference, in thirty sessions you will have a new body." -Joseph H. Pilates.
So keep up the home mat practice and if you know someone who suffers from chronic pack pain, share this issue with them.

This video is of Excel Pilates Annapolis apprentice, Caraline, demonstrating back bend on Joe Pilates' apparatus called the spine corrector.

Monday, January 11, 2016

It's a Matter of Time


by Kerry De Vivo

Ironically, I was at the National Clock & Watch Museum on New Years eve.  How appropriate to be at a museum that celebrates time when about to embark on the holiday that tends to make us all ponder time.  

Time... how if flies by, and what we make of it.  The New Year, oh yes, we’ve been through this before.  A time of renewal, a new beginning, another round of self promises.  Well, I think meeting our New Year resolutions regarding fitness, all comes down to time.  We will always make that call to sign up for the new Pilates session, IF we make time.  We will always practice our exercises at home, IF we make time.  

What is my point?  My point is, if we make our health and exercise a priority, we will always find time for it.  Believe me, I struggle with this just like everyone else.  If I make my Pilates workouts an option, then often there is not enough time in a day.  If I commit that my Pilates workouts are mandatory, it’s just a matter of determining the time of day it will happen.  But it WILL happen. 

Years ago a client said to me that she realized it wasn’t a matter of IF she was going to practice her exercises every day, it was a matter of WHEN.  So true.  If you want to keep a resolution that involves exercise, take on this mindset and then figure out what works for you.  Another client said his ritual is 10-10-10.  So at 10 p.m. every day, he practices his first 10 mat exercises which took him 10 minutes.  This daily practice, along with regular Pilates sessions, is a perfect recipe.  Figure out what works for you and you will say, IT’S ABOUT TIME!

Another consideration about having success with a New Year resolution is the type of exercise one chooses.  Pilates is a workout for life.  It is a cumulative method, where concepts build upon one another.  It also builds the body up vs. wearing the body out, and therefore it can be done for years.  Heck, this June I will celebrate my third decade of doing Pilates.  Yup, 30 years!  Lucky me.  And I’m aspiring for at least 30 more!  So as time passes, Pilates continues to support my body while simultaneously providing challenge.

With the New Year in front of us, and a year of time to sculpt, consider this quote that caught my attention at the museum.

It IS a matter of time.  What will you allow your time to “fill” up with?  What will stand out as a priority?  And isn’t is suiting that my favorite Joseph Pilates quote is, 

“Time and progress are synonymous terms - nothing can stop either”.