Looking for a Great 10 Minute Pilates Warm-up?

Do you find yourself waking up early, a little stiff from your night’s sleep, but wanting to get that early morning run or walk in before work?  Or maybe you prefer after work, but find yourself feeling tight after driving in rush-hour traffic. Before you hit the road, you think about warming up all of the important muscle groups used in running and walking, but want something quick, yet effective!  Here are five pilates exercises that make up a quick 10-minute workout to get you ready to move, live a balanced life, and keep a strong core exercising outside in Atlanta this fall!

10 Minute Pilates Warmup Exercise 1 - Mobilize your spine and warm up your breathing muscles with Cat-Cow

Pilates Warm Up Exercise 1: Cat-Cow

1. Mobilize your spine and warm up your breathing muscles with Cat-Cow.

Set up:  Starting on all fours, position your hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your pelvis. Begin with a neutral spine, reaching long from the top of your head to your tailbone.

Get Moving:  Inhale through your nose feeling your ribcage open like an umbrella in all directions.  As you exhale through your mouth (think blowing out birthday candles), round your spine to the sky like an angry cat- reaching your tailbone to your knees and allowing your head to hang heavy between your arms.  On your next inhale, allow your abdomen to sink toward the floor, rolling through the spine to lift your head toward the sky.  Repeat this 5-8 times feeling increased mobility with each rep!

Tip:  Focus on a long inhale and a long exhale as you move your spine.  Warming up your breathing system before a walk or run is just as important as warming up your glutes or hamstrings!

Video: How to Do a Cat Cow Pose

10 Minute Pilates Warmup Exercise 2 - Wake up the glutes with a supine Shoulder Bridge

Pilates Warm Up Exercise 2: Shoulder Bridge

2. Wake up the Glutes with a supine Shoulder Bridge.

Set up: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat.  Position the feet so that you feel slightly more weight in the heels vs the toes.  Feet should be inner hip distance apart with your arms close to your body and actively reaching into the mat.

Get Moving: Breathe in through the nose to prepare.  As you exhale, press the hips toward the ceiling (as if puppet strings are lifting your hips straight up).  Inhale to lower to your starting position and continue for a total of 10 reps.

Tip:  If you’re looking for a challenge (as pictured), extend one leg for a single leg glute bridge.  Keep the knees together (as if a strong magnet is pulling them toward each other) as you do 10 reps on each side.

Video: How to do the Shoulder Bridge

10 Minute Pilates Warmup Exercise 3. Activate the hamstrings and hip flexors with Single Leg Circles

Pilates Warm Up Exercise 3: Single Leg Circles

3. Activate the hamstrings and hip flexors with Single Leg Circles.

Are you planning on running or walking some hills on your course?  Then you’ll want your hamstrings and hip flexor muscles to be ready!  If you typically have tight hamstrings and/or hip flexors, use a heavy TheraBand (gray or black is best), yoga strap or even a long belt to assist the leg as it moves (this set up is described below).

Set up:  Lying on your back with both knees bent, place the band under the ball of one foot (just below the toes and pad of the foot) for maximum stretch. Reach the extended leg toward the ceiling with a strong, straight knee (ideally a 90 degree bend at the hip).  Holding one end of the band in each hand, keep your elbows bent and on the mat.

Get Moving:  Inhale through your nose as you cross the extended leg over the midline of the body.  Using the band for assistance, start your exhale and bring your leg down, around and back to the starting position.  Find an even rhythm as you circle your leg.  After 5-8 circles, reverse the direction for the same number of reps.  Repeat on the opposite side.

Tip:  To make this exercise even more effective, keep your hips and sacrum in contact with the mat or floor throughout (visualize the foot stretching to the ceiling and the hips sinking heavy into the floor).  Make sure that you’re exhaling on each lift of the leg to feel the added benefit of lower abdominal work!  For an added challenge, try this same exercise as pictured above, either arms to the ceiling or by your side.

Video: How to Do Single Leg Circles

10 Minute Pilates Warmup Exercise 4. Now to the all-important abdominal muscles!  Get moving with my favorite exercise in the Pilates Series of Five- the Criss-Cross. 

Pilates Warm Up Exercise 4: The Criss-Cross

4. Now to the all-important abdominal muscles! Get moving with my favorite exercise in this Five Part Pilates Series – the Criss-Cross.

Set-up:  Start lying on the mat with knees pulled in toward your chest.  Overlap your hands and place them behind the base of the neck for support.  Place your thumbs along each side of the neck.  Inhale through your nose to prepare, and as you exhale through the mouth, lift your head, chest and shoulders so that the tips of the shoulder blades are lightly touching the mat.  Bring your knees to a 90 degree bend.

Get Moving: Inhale again, and as you exhale, twist the upper body to the right bringing the right knee toward the left armpit and the armpit toward the knee. At the same time extend your left leg.  For maximum challenge, keep your elbows wide (behind the plane of your ears) throughout!  Inhale to return to the starting postion, and repeat to the left side.  Continue to alternate sides for a total of 10 reps each.

Tip: Keep your hips stable as your torso moves to drive the work into the abdominals.  Remember to keep your elbows wide!

Video: How to Do the Criss-Cross


10 Minute Pilates Warmup Exercise 5. Last but not least, make sure that the lateral line is ready to work with Mermaid!

Pilates Warm Up Exercise 5: Mermaid

5. Last but not least, make sure that the lateral line is ready to work with Mermaid!

As you run or walk, your pelvis, shoulders and ribcage need to move.  The Pilates Mermaid exercise is perfect to help open the ribcage and allow for improved lateral and rotational movement.

Set up:  Start seated in a z-sit position (knees folded to the left side of the body).  Raise the right arm toward the ceiling with the bicep connected to your ear (imagine the bicep velcroed to your ear).   The left arm can rest on your top ankle.  Check both hips to ensure that they are connected to the floor.  If one hip is lifted away from the floor, prop that hip by sitting on a yoga block (or a thick book)- in other words, prop what is dropped!

Get Moving:  Inhale through your nose to sit tall.  As you exhale, side bend to the left as if you’re lifting up and over a round barrel, bending your left elbow in toward your waist.  Inhale to return to the starting position.  Repeat for 3-5 repetitions on each side.

Tip:  For added mobility, on the last rep add a small rotation toward the bent side.  Pause to breathe into the ribcage 3 times- inhaling and exhaling each time.

Video: How to Do the Criss-Cross

Now that you’ve activated the right muscle groups, you’re ready to hit the outdoors!  Happy running and walking, and be sure to enjoy the crisp, clean fall air!