Video Fitness

AM Pilates

Jillian Hessel

Iím reviewing this workout after having done it twice.

General workout breakdown: seated warm up, including body visualization (you imagine your spine is being pulled up by a string and energy flows through your hands), rhythmic breathing, percussive breathing, and upper body stretches (including triceps stretches, for some reason); matwork, beginning with the controlled sit down from standing, what Stott calls the half roll back (sit with your hands under your thighs, and alternate exhaling while rounding the back toward the mat, then inhaling while drawing your spine upright and straight), rolling your knees around while on your back to release the lower back, pelvic press (which includes both imprinting the spine and half bridge, with pulses in half bridge), the 50 (half of the 100), roll up, leg circles, rolling like a ball, single leg stretch, criss cross, spine stretch (forward), saw, swan dive (the real thing, except you donít go as high as in the full exercise), rest position (i.e. shell stretch or childís pose), and side leg kicks (kick your leg forward twice and sweep it back once, keeping it parallel to the floor; pulse the lower straight leg); and standing section, including standing forward fold and balance test. Itís approximately 25 minutes of centering, stretching, Pilates exercises, and balance work. (By the way, the booklet with the DVD accurately lists all of Anaís exercises in her PM segment but skips several for the AM workout.)
Jillian doesnít include many repetitions, maybe 3-5 for most exercises.

Level: I would recommend this to a fairly experienced beginner / low intermediate. The focus on the breath is elementary, making this a decent second or third workout for a Pilates beginner, but I donít know if thereís enough instruction about form to make this an ideal first workout. At the same time, someone whoís more intermediate might find the reminders about proper breathing helpful one day and annoying another because with experience the breathing becomes more automatic. Some modifications are suggested (e.g. putting a towel under your torso during swan dive to make it easier on your back), but none are shown, such as having your opposite knee bent while doing leg circles. That said, the small number and basic nature of the exercises (with the exception of the swan dive, here done in a fairly advanced formókeep going at the original pace instead of the double time if youíre new to this move!) would probably not be very intimidating to someone whoís fairly new to Pilates, but a more intermediate Pilates practitioner like myself would find this only good for lighter days. I consider myself at the stage where Iíve crossed over into intermediate territory with respect to Pilates. Iíve had almost two years of Pilates experience, including a live class, but my strength and flexibility are still limited.

Class: Jillian alone with voiceover

Music / Set / Other Production Notes: Outdoors near the ocean in Hawaii(?); Jillian is on a platform in a volcanic rock-studded sandy area with waves crashing up in the background. The acoustic guitar-based music is pleasant but forgettableóand barely audible. Since this is a Gaiam production, the picture and sound quality are excellent.

Equipment: chair, flexband (long stretchy band of some sort), and mat. The second time I did the roll up and leg circles (the only two exercises using it) without the flexband, and they worked just fine. I think I see what Jillianís trying to do (even if I canít verbalize it right now), but donít go out and buy a band just for this. Youíll have to have everything close by since thereís just barely enough time to set everything up while the tape is rolling. Jillian does this barefoot.

Comments: I have done this in the morning, and the workout obviously takes places early in the day, but you could certainly do it any time. For example, I could easily see doing this before a yoga video for an afternoon or evening exercise session.
You donít need a lot of space for this workout. You should be able to lie down on your mat with your arms and legs extended.

DVD Notes: The DVD, titled ďA.M. and P.M. Pilates Mat Workouts,Ē contains AM Pilates plus Ana Cabanís PM Pilates and Energy Boost Pilates (1). AM Pilates is divided into four chapters: Introduction, Warm Up (through the upper body stretches), Mat Work (the 50 through side leg kicks, and Centering (standing forward fold through balance test). In addition to the brief introductions before the AM and PM segments, there are interviews with each instructor and little written biographies of each. Of course, thereís the standard Gaiam introduction after the long disclaimers.

Conclusion: Iím keeping the DVD, but more for Anaís workouts. Iíll save AM Pilates for days when Iím not feeling up to my regular Pilates workouts (recovering from an illness, just back after a long vacation, that sort of thing), but I donít expect to use it often. Iím sure I would have used it more if I had acquired this DVD a year to six months ago, but now that Iíve progressed some and have 20 other Pilates videos to choose from, Iím not sure that I like it enough for it to see more than an occasional spin.

Instructor comments: Jillian Hessel is yet another injured dancer turned Pilates instructor. She comes across as serious and very focused, almost intensely so. In contrast to Ana, Jillian seems a little stiffer in front of the camera. Did I mention she focuses on the breath a lot? As she explains in the interview, breathing and alignment are very important to her because her Pilates instructor taught her (a dancer!) how to breath and move properly. She includes a good amount of instruction and cues most moves pretty well, but sometimes she chooses to mention ďinhaleĒ or ďexhaleĒ instead of cuing the move. Jillianís form is good, but for some reason her torso lifts off the mat when she sweeps her leg back during the leg series. I donít remember seeing other instructors do this. (In fact, the common problem is rocking the hips forward and backward during this move.)

KL (KathAL79)

July 27, 2005

This Pilates workout is sort of an odd blend. On the one hand, instructor Jillian Hessell spends a lot of time focused on the breath, which would be very helpful to Pilates beginners. Furthermore, she provides a rather abbreviated mat sequence--for example performing "50s" instead of the tradional hundred exercise and doing only two quick side series exercises. On the other hand, she does not give much detailed instruction about form, shows no modifications, and performs a few of the exercises at a very quick pace, including the criss-cross and swan dive, which would make this workout more ideally suited to advanced beginners or lower intermediates (most likely on a light day).

The DVD breaks the workout into three segments, Breathing, Matwork, and Centering. The Breathing segment, about 4.5 minutes long, is performed seated in a chair, and it includes both breathing instruction and a few simple stretches. The 16.5 minute Matwork sequence begins with a controlled sit-down and roll-back. A band is used to modify the roll-up and single leg cirlces, and few repetitions are performed for the exercises. Finally, the workout concludes with a 3-minute Centering section, which involves additional breathing instruction, basic stretches, and a tiptoe balance, all in a standing position.

This 26-minute workout would probably be best suited to Pilates beginners who have some prior familiarity with the Pilates exercises and are looking for a relatively basic workout.

Instructor comments: Jillian was fine, teaching in voiceover here; as mentioned above, she doesn't give much in the way of form pointers, and she has a somewhat annoying habit of drawing out the word "aaaaaaaaaaaand."

Beth C (aka toaster)

September 8, 2006

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