Fit and Active Through the Holidays + A Giveaway to Keep You in Shape

3-200x300As the holidays get stressful, the first thing to get dropped is often our exercise routine.  This is rather unfortunate because exercise is a tool we have to help eliminate stress and the extra pounds that come from munching on holiday treats.

If you’re worried about falling off the treadmill, fear not. I recently sat down with certified Pilates instructor Kristen Matthews who shared some tips to keep your core tight and your body lean during the holidays and beyond.

The twenty minute yoga introduction ..

Compared to working out in a gym, Pilates is much better for the environment since it uses no electricity and can be practiced almost anywhere.  And by doing it outdoors you can save even more energy.

Kristen teaches a bi-weekly outdoor mat class on Thursdays at 4 p.m. and Saturdays at 10 a.m. on Ocean and Palisades Aves. in Santa Monica. The class is perfect for all levels as Kristen is able to provide individual guidance and attention to beginners and people with injuries in addition to challenging more experienced students.  Plus, with its picturesque location looking over the ocean, it is a mini escape from life’s daily stresses.

Kristen recommends using Manduka mats for Pilates as they’re free from PVC and other toxic chemicals.

She also teaches private and duet lessons in a studio space that uses only non-toxic cleaners and second-hand reformers as to not add to the chain of production waste.  She also makes house calls (possible gift idea for the fitness buff in your life)!

If the holidays have you too busy to attend a class, Kristen has shared four exercises below that target the whole body and can easily be done at home to keep you in shape through the busy days ahead.


YDT GIVE AWAY: To get you in shape for the New Year, Kristen is giving away one Private Studio Class and two Group Mat Classes to a lucky YDT reader.  To enter, comment on how you’ll stay healthy through the holidays.


Pilates Exercises

1) Hundreds:  100 counts

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  • Start lying on your back and bring your knees to a 90 degree angle with your arms by your sides.
  • Lift your head and shoulders and curl up over your ribs.
  • Pump arms between your hips and knees while you inhale (through nose) for 5 counts and exhale for 5 counts, repeating 10 times.
  • To make the exercise more challenging, straighten your legs to a 45 degree angle.

Tips: Draw your belly button to your spine to prevent abs from popping out. Lengthen legs out of hips if they are straight and pump from the back of arms to widen collarbone.

2) Shoulder Bridge:  3 times holding for 30 seconds, breathe throughout exercise

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  • Lie on back with knees bent, feet hip width apart, and arms long by your sides.
  • Press into the back of your arms and lift your hips up to the sky.
  • Create a long line from your knees to your chest.
  • Pull your belly button to your spine and keep your tailbone long.

Tips: Visualize holding a yoga block between your inner thighs.  Keep equal weight on all corners of your feet.  Look up to the sky to keep neck long.

3) Side kick series: 8-10 of each
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  • Lie on your side and line your whole body up to the back edge of your mat bringing your legs forward to the front of your mat.
  • Prop your head up onto your hand and place your other hand firmly on the mat in front of you for support.

Step 1) Lift your top leg hip height and rotate it out. Kick leg forward for 2 counts and sweep it back on 1 long count.  Inhale as the leg sweeps forward, exhale as it sweeps back.

Step 2) Start with your top leg over your bottom leg, reaching the top leg 6 inches longer than the bottom.  Lift the top leg up toward the sky (picture resisting through water) and lengthen to lower.  Inhale to lift left, exhale to lower.

Step 3) Start with your top leg hip height and reach it 6 inches longer than the bottom leg.  Circle the leg 10 times in one direction then reverse the circle, picture tracing a quarter.   Breath throughout circles.

**For all the side kick exercises engage your core by pulling your belly button towards your spine.

4) Forearm Plank: 2-3 times holding for 10 seconds, breath throughout exercise.

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  • Set up on your forearms and your knees placing shoulders are over your elbows and clasp your hands together.
  • Stretch your legs behind you to create a plank position.

Tips: Pull your belly button towards your spine and lengthen your tailbone.  Lengthen your spine from the crown of your head to your heels.


*Disclaimer:  Please consult your doctor or medical professional before trying any of these exercises.  Your Daily Thread and Kristen Matthews Pilates are not responsible for any injuries.