Last updated July 1, 2022
No excuses—you can keep up your Pilates routine on vacation with these 7 exercises. And all it takes is 15 minutes.
When my students return from vacations, they often say to me, “Oh, it was great, but I ate too much and now I feel stiff and out of shape.”
It happens every time we travel. We take distance from our daily routines, from our work, our alarm clocks and our usual workout practices.
But we don’t have to throw all our hard work out the window.
I’ll be the first to admit that when I travel, my daily routine goes by the wayside—yet I always make time for my basic Pilates sequence. It only takes 15 minutes and I can do it on carpet with no equipment and almost no space.
The routine removes muscle tension, restoring my body after a flight and long exploratory walks. When I do this sequence first thing in the morning, it wakes me up, improves my mood and boosts my metabolism.
Anyone can keep up their Pilates routine on vacation. You just need to learn the exercises. And after only 10 sessions you’ll have a basic understanding of the movements.
What is Pilates, anyway?
Pilates is a disciplined physical system created in the 20th century by German physical trainer Joseph Pilates. The method is suitable for everyone—young, old men, women, athletes and those who have never trained before.
I teach Pilates at every level—Basic, Intermediate and Advanced.
Pilates is a low-impact exercise that strengthens the deep core muscles, the body’s powerhouse—an area crucial for long-term health.
Most movement starts at the center of the body and moves outward. A solid understanding of how to engage the core and pelvic floor muscles ensures that your movements are strong and pain-free. It will help you maintain a healthy posture throughout your day.
Through a series of precise, controlled movements, the Pilates method targets every muscle group while developing posture, functionality and flexibility.
Each move builds on the one that comes before it to form a sequence. The sequence begins with foundational exercises to warm up the body before progressing to more complex movements as you gain strength and control.
Keep Up Your Pilates Routine On Vacation With This Sequence
Here is a “basic” version of the beginner Pilates sequence. Once you grasp these basics, you can take the workout into your own hands and practice without a class or a teacher.
And you don’t need a studio or even a mat for a full-body Pilates workout—a carpet or a towel will suffice. But if you’re anything like me and other die-hard Pilates enthusiasts, you always travel with a mat.
1. The Hundred (warm-up/breathing)
Feel the burn with the 100. Lie on your back, feet on the floor or you can modify with your legs in tabletop position. Keep your head down or curl up your torso (remembering to keep shoulder blades on the floor while you gaze at your stomach).
As you inhale, move your arms up and down for a 5 second count. As you exhale, continue moving your arms up and down for another 5 second count. Continue this ten count cycle until you reach 100—for a total of 10 cycles of breathing.
It’s important that you pull your abs in and up, and keep your pelvis heavy on the ground.
2. Roll Down (spinal articulation)
Start with knees bent, hands holding your legs. Pull your abs in and up, and begin to roll down one vertebra at a time until your arms lengthen completely.
Hold the position for 3-5 seconds. On the next exhale, roll back up. When you feel in control, release your hands, extend your arms out and roll down to the floor one vertebra at a time.
Exhale and begin to roll up all the way, peeling your spine off the mat. Then extend your legs and stretch over.
3. Single Leg Circle (stabilization)
Begin by lying on your back with one leg extended up to the ceiling, the other leg bent with your foot pressed firmly into the ground. Circle your leg (start with crossing over), smaller circles (for beginners) or larger (for a challenge) 5 x each direction, each leg.
Watch out: Try not to move your hips while circling your leg. Inhale to prepare and exhale to draw a circle. Keep the abs in and up.
When the control is there, keep the bottom leg stretched out long on the mat.
4. Rolling Like A Ball (massage with control)
Begin by sitting on the mat, hugging your legs toward your chest with your hands on your shins (or ankles if available).
Keep your heels together and your knees open. Draw your navel to the spine and look toward your feet to create a round “ball shape” and raise your feet a few inches from the floor.
Release & repeat 3 times. When you manage to keep control and balance, roll back onto your shoulder blades on an inhalation and back up on an exhalation. Repeat this 5 times.
5. Single Leg Stretch (abdominal control)
Lie on your back with your knees bent in tabletop position.
Put your right hand at your right ankle and your left hand below the right knee, elbows wide and shoulders down. Extend your left leg straight out.
Use your abs to curl off the mat to the base of your shoulder blades, abs pulling in toward the mat. Gaze at your stomach.
Inhale on two counts and exhale on two counts (inhale: right knee in, left knee in / same on the exhale). Repeat each side 5-10 times.
6. Double Leg Stretch (abdominal control/coordination)
Lie on your back with your legs pulled into your chest and hold your ankles or shins. On the inhale, extend your arms and legs away from each other keeping your stomach pulled in and up to the spine and your pelvis heavy.
With the exhalation, circle your arms around and hug your legs to your chest by drawing the abs in and place your hands back on your ankles. Keep your pelvis heavy throughout. Repeat 5-10 times.
7. Spine Stretch Forward (stretch/breathing)
Spread your legs open. As you inhale, sit up as tall as you can from the base of your spine. If you can’t sit directly on your sit bones, then bend your knees slightly.
Feet flexed extend your arms in front of you, shoulder width apart, palms facing down. As you exhale, pull your navel to your spine and round your back into a C-curve, starting from the head down, reaching your arms forward.
On the next exhale stack up your spine from the bottom back up to starting position (your head will arrive last). Do 3-5 reps.
See how simple it is to keep up your Pilates routine on vacation? Your body stays strong, elongated and supple wherever you are in the world. It’s an incredibly empowering discipline.
If you follow a regular practice at a studio, you can always check in with your teacher remotely for an extra challenge as most Pilates instructors offer Zoom classes.
I highly recommend Pilates Anytime or Pilatesology—two online libraries with amazing workouts at every level. These sites provide access to teachers and tools that help you keep up your Pilates routine when on vacation.
I also highly recommend joining a Pilates retreat. Not only will you visit a beautiful location, but you will meet new, like-minded people, and participate in daily movement and relaxation exercises.
Rather than ending your vacation feeling “stiff and out-of-shape,” you will no doubt return home feeling refreshed and re-energized.
PS: You can use the above sequence at home, too.
Monika Harczuk has over 17 years of experience teaching movement practices across multiple modalities. She loves to explore and observe the physical body and its movements. Monika teaches Classical Pilates, Iyengar-inspired yoga, and meditation and shares the tools that have helped make her life more harmonious.
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