Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Shrink, Sink, and Lift the Diamond!

Does that phrase sound familiar to you? It does if you've taken a pilates class with Dovalyn at Reston Pilates. The "diamond" represents your core and "shrink, sink, and lift" is the shorthand to remind you of how to properly engage it. Or if that's too much to remember, just giggle! Laughing reminds you exactly where those ab muscles are.

Coach Jodi owns Reston Pilates and she generously offered a free mat class to anyone who wanted to check it out. Anyone? Yes, anyone includes you if you are local! Get your coupon for a free mat class or 50% off a private session here.

We all know how important a strong core is for running. A strong core reduces your likelihood of injury. It supports good running posture and form, enhancing speed and agility. Yet many of us neglect our core, myself included. Pilates is a great way to strengthen your core. A group of us decided to take Coach Jodi up on her offer and see what Pilates was like.

Our intrepid Pilates crew!
back l to r: Megan, Susan, Lynn
front l to r: me, Molly, Laurie

What is Pilates? What do you do?

Some people think that Pilates is intimidating, and that it involves a machine that looks like an ancient torture device. But you don't have to do Pilates on a reformer. For many people, especially beginners, Pilates "mat" classes are more accessible and an easy way to start becoming familiar with Pilates exercises. 

In a mat class, you are on an actual mat, much like you would be in a yoga class. An instructor leads you through a series of core-engaging exercises, helping you with your form, and providing tips on modifying the level of difficulty.

Dovalyn made liberal use of humor to engage our giggle muscles,
keep the class fun, and distract us from how hard our cores were working!

Here's an example of Lynn & Molly laughing while working hard.
Susan was laughing so hard from simultaneously (1) trying to master
this move and (2) watching Lynn laugh that she totally rolled over...

Susan & Megan didn't coordinate their outfits. Really.

The goal here isn't to touch your toes.
Dovalyn gave specific instructions about what you should feel in your core,
and which parts of your body should actually move.
This is a subtle but powerful exercise!
Laurie rocks a killer plank!

What Comes Next?

After the class we all felt temporarily more "buff." The muscle memory of engaging your core lingers with you for at least a few hours. You are aware of your core, and consciously remembering to tighten it. You can feel how much of your body's strength, power, and balance radiate from your core. The homework Dovalyn gave us for the week really made sense:
Whenever you are standing in line, or stirring a pot at the stove, pause and remember to "shrink, sink, and lift your diamond." Don't clench your butt. Keep your shoulders relaxed. Mindfully engage your core.
Think how much stronger all of our cores could be if we kept this in mind and practiced it regularly! I am making a concerted effort to do my homework.

There is a quote I like from Joseph Pilates on the home page of Reston Pilates:
"In 10 sessions, you will feel the difference. In 20, you will see the difference. And in 30, you'll be on your way to having a whole new body."
I believe it. I think it would serve me (and my running) well to keep practicing Pilates consistently!


  1. Love this pilates post - and using giggles to locate the core muscles!