Why Pilates Is The Perfect Workout, Plus 3 Exercises You Can Do At Home

by
LAURYN

why pilates is the best workout by the skinny confidential

What can I say about Betsy Parker and her Pilates? Every single day of my pregnancy I waddled over to her studio ( a measly 2 miles LOL ) to see Betsy.

The minute I met her I knew I wanted to train with her. She’s a bright light, full of energy, funny, deceptively intelligent, beautiful, fit, and just an all around really interesting, cool person who is full of knowledge.

She looks 21, but is actually 66 and you’d never know just by looking at her. She’s become such a good friend and is definitely one of my favorite people in LA. I adore her energy and I’ve never met anyone who can make me laugh so hard. The shit that comes out of her mouth is everything I want for myself, & more, when I’m 66.

Her studio is bright & airy and exudes a low frequency that not a lot of people can emulate. You can find her dog Pip running around the studio, which is by her beautiful pool, while she teaches so many women in LA and Beverly Hills Pilates. You should also know that she teaches over Skype too, so if you’re not in the area you still have options.

I’m so excited that Betsy is on the blog today, I know you guys are going to be obsessed with her. And seriously you need to follow her on Instagram @parkerpilates. She does everything from sharing her famous guacamole, to teaching everyone how to fold a sheet like they do in hotels, to showcasing how she blow dries her beautiful hair. Welcome Betsy Parker of Parker Pilates.

♡♡♡

Introduce yourself & tell us your background with Pilates.

Betsy Parker: My name… I’ve had many by virtue of ex-husbands, and love to laugh about that! My name is Betsy Parker and it’s the name I’ve used for work for the past 20 years. In all those marriages, I’m lucky enough to have my two kids, the youngest of whom is now 28 ( my eldest is 34 ). 

Pilates came to me after my second child was born. What you learn being pregnant is your body is no longer yours. You do what needs to be done at the moment and deal with the repercussions when it’s over. With my youngest, I was on bed rest, being injected with steroids to grow his lungs. The good news is, the treatment worked, my son was born premature, but able to breathe on his own. The sad part was when I was given a Polaroid of me holding my baby, I didn’t recognize myself.

After he was born, my muscles were weak, my face was round from steroid shots, and I had over 50 extra pounds to deal with. I never had to diet and exercise to lose weight before, but I knew I needed to get into a program. My first instinct was a trainer. By the time I started with a trainer, I’d lost 25 lbs, but had a ways to go to my pre-pregnancy weight of 120. Within about 2 months I was bulking up, not shrinking. My blouse size was going up. I didn’t want grapefruits for triceps.

One day I casually asked my barista what he does, and he said he was getting his training certification in California and invited me to his gym. To my surprise, i walked into his studio and there was a Pilates studio. I’d once tried it in the ’70s and was interested. He was getting certified in Pilates and offered to train me for practice. After a week, I asked, “Can we never go to the gym again, and only do Pilates?” I was hooked. Eight weeks later, my friends marveled when I walked into a room. I regained my posture, was taller and thinner. At that point, I felt my calling was to get certified and show all my friends what this can do to their bodies too.

Why traditional Pilates over anything else? Give us all the juice. What are the benefits?

BP: Back in 1991 when I got started there was only traditional Pilates, known for it’s beautiful slow and controlled movements. There are four major pieces of equipment, and each one has up to 2000 different exercises that can be performed on it. It’s never done with heavy, hard weights and is always done to wake up your intrinsic muscles, which lie underneath the big muscles, supporting them.

The most important thing when you speak of traditional Pilates, you’re talking about using intrinsic muscles. Think of how a baby grips your finger using their whole hand, or how a baby lying on its back can wave its arms and legs straight up in the air for a long time without getting tired. As soon as we learn to walk and feed ourselves, we stop using the baby muscles and start using our big muscles. Waking them back up and using them along with the bigger muscles gives us an overall functional body. When you think of Pilates, think of slow, controlled movements, spinal placement, and breathing. Another benefit is there’s low risk for injuries. I can’t pretend to have a lot of experience with the newer Pilates methods which use more heavy weights and cardio, but to have a classic “Pilates body” there’s no substitute for traditional Pilates.

Talk to us about cortisol & working out.

BP: Most of us should now know that stress raises cortisol levels. In a workout, you want to be able to stay relaxed and concentrate on every single muscle working in concert. When you walk into a workout class that’s very loud and intense, and someone’s yelling at you over a speaker, you get lost in the moves and don’t know what’s happening. That is stress, which raises cortisol, which causes bloat all over your body.

You are going to build muscle, but also build bloat from the cortisol. Let’s not bloat our bodies, let’s flatten our bodies. You should always have a relaxing feeling, even during very hard moves. Your focus should be on spinal placement. Pilates was never created to be a ‘bootcamp’ environment or to build big muscles, it is meant to lengthen, strengthen, tone, and promote overall health. The slow controlled breathing you learn in Pilates is actually a lymphatic cleanser, helping your body rid itself of toxins.

How has Pilates changed your body?

BP: As I said toward the beginning, I had a lot of extra weight and bulk. My posture was poor, I’d virtually lost the use of my core muscles during bed rest. It’s now been 28 years, and people can laugh at the concept of this, but at 66, I think my body is at a level higher than it was even before I had babies. In other periods of my life, I was a runner, swimmer, and dancer, so I was getting all the cardio, but I had no idea how to locate my core and intrinsic muscles, and I would bulk up, especially my thighs. Now, I could ride a bike uphill without bulking up my legs because I know how to use my intrinsic muscles in tandem with my exterior muscles. 

How has Pilates changed your clients’ bodies?

BP: Men and women’s bodies usually react differently. With women, an overall slimming down is the goal. I would say the first place my female clients notice it is in there thighs and arms. ”Betsy, I just tried on my jeans and they’re loose on me!” After about 8 sessions, they start to go down a pant size and showing off their arms. “Betsy, when I brush my teeth I noticed biceps and collarbones I’ve never seen!” Their stomachs flatten too. That’s because all those bulky muscles are becoming long and lean.

Men don’t usually come to me for this. I’ve had the opportunity to train many pro athletes who are obviously very adept and strong. They are the most surprised at how untrained their little supporting muscles are. Building up the little muscles along with the big just makes an overall better functioning body. They don’t come to me to lose their bulk, or to change their overall body look, but to build the muscles underneath.

I’ve did Pilates with you throughout my whole pregnancy. Why do you think pregnant bodies react so well to Pilates?

There’s no better exercise for expecting mothers. We can do so many moves that focus on the muscles that you need to deliver that baby. You’re never at risk of injury if you’re with the right teacher.

During my first pregnancy, I followed the advice of my doctor who said I could continue exercising regularly. I was running 5 miles a day, which turned out to be too much, and it later caused complications. So I understand women who want to continue working out through their pregnancy. Not only is Pilates safe, but it’s ideal for a body going through changes.

What should someone look for when they’re finding a Pilates instructor?

BP: You want someone with experience, someone with a matching personality, they gotta match your vibe, and above everything else, someone who only teaches Pilates. Pilates should not be a side hustle. Look for someone who has taken advanced training, and not just a level one, maybe even someone who is a master teacher ( which I am ). Look for someone who will be flexible with your schedule and dedicated to you and your overall improvement. Not just a job, or a session to them. You want them to truly believe in their work and the benefits of Pilates. It’s ok to talk to and interview a few instructors to find the right one. Talk to them about what Pilates can do for you, and make sure they aren’t trying to price gouge you.

You’re so fashionable. Tell us some of your favorite Pilates outfits.

BP: If you look at my Insta page, you know I’m a huge fan of the one-piece. I love a brand that has good support, especially because I need a little butt lift at my age, even with the Pilates. We all have our thing, right? In the spring I love a capri length legging or even a mid thigh… with a tank top… and usually with an off the shoulder top layered on top to make it cute and sexy. Anything that doesn’t make me look like a gym teacher. I’m always conscious of what flatters my shape, and not what is the latest “look.”

Another point is that I’m in the studio 10-12 hours a day. In the AM it could be 45 degrees, then 70 by lunch, so I love layers. And when I get a break and want to run to lunch or on an errand, I always choose an accessory and outerwear to take my look from studio to street in all the right ways. If you’re looking for specifics, you can’t go wrong with the Lululemon Wunder Under leggings.

Basically, I choose my outfits first by fit, second by functionality, but feeling chic is a must for me. You don’t want to have a wardrobe malfunction when you’re hanging upside down, even if it’s a pretty top. My favorite outfit doesn’t exist yet, because it’s in my head and I haven’t had it produced quite yet. But it’s coming! 

What are 3 Pilates moves someone can do on their mat at home?

BP: My favorite move is a simple one that cinches the waist and builds a natural corset. I call this ‘body waves.’ Lean your left hip against a kitchen table or counter, put your left leg behind right, tighten obliques, hands behind your head, drop to your left till your right elbow is pointing to the ceiling, and the left elbow is pointing down. Slowly come back up, keeping elbow pointing up, until you’re back standing. This engages your left oblique, helping your lift. Keep it slow and controlled. Repeat 15 times. Continue on right side, lifting your left elbow to the ceiling.

Next exercise …let’s talk about thighs and butt. I’m always reminding my clients about lengthening and strengthening. You’re going to lie on your side, prop yourself up on your forearm, with a hand under your head. Bottom knee is bent, the top leg will lift and straighten so that you’re forming a line to the crown of your head. Slowly bring the top leg forward, so your body is now an L shape. In this new position, do small controlled circles with your foot. Your toe should be drawing a circle about the size of a saucer, 15 reps, then reverse the direction and do the same. With these circles, and with much of Pilates work, stay in an “opposing stretch” position, meaning the toe reaches forward and the glute reaches in the opposite direction. Now you’re lengthening and strengthening, and this creates beautiful tone. Continue on both sides.

From here, bend both knees into a right angle and begin to lower and lift that top knee like a clam shell, opening and closing. Staying in that propped position, lift that upper knee so there is space between your two knees and the knees are parallel. Now begin to rotate that top knee, making a “knee circle.” After 15 reps, reverse the direction and do the same.

To finish this booty and leg series, bring that top knee into your chest and push it back out in an upward diagonal direction and be sure you’re engaged in that upper glute. This series is killer, and as you get stronger you could add some bands around those knees and create even more resistance.

For my abs, I love a basic roll down, sitting upright with legs extended and spine very long. Reaching the arms out in front of your chest, begin by rolling down one vertebrae at a time and reach the arms over your head as you finish the roll. Now lift the arms overhead and use your abs to start rolling up, still lifting the arms. If you can’t quite get up, slide your feet under the couch to hold you and assist, and after one or two times you will be able to do it on your own. When this becomes “easy” do this same routine with your hands behind your head, both on the way down and on the way up. It’s so perfect for defining your abs and totally strengthening that core.

Why would you recommend Pilates to women?

BP: It’s the quintessential exercise for women. It gives you a longer leaner shape without the bulk. The breathing helps with stress, spine alignment helps with posture, you’ll be holding your body in a more confident way than you’ve probably ever felt before. Standing taller and stronger with a leaner flatter figure, what woman doesn’t want that?

How can people book you & what does it look like to train with you?

BP: The most common way I meet new clients is through Instagram direct message. I also have my email on Instagram. I usually have a waiting list, but can squeeze new clients in if they’re visiting LA or I have an opening. Personality is everything when choosing new clients. I don’t choose my clients by how rich or famous they are, but if I think we’ll be a good match. If you want to reach out about a session, let me know a little about you and your Pilates goals.

I hardly ever respond to “hey, what are your rates.” I work alone, one-on-one with every client, so you’re not getting passed off to another teacher. Once we’ve connected, most of my clients will buy a package of sessions, and we’ll decide your fitness goals, how often you need to or are able to train, and work out a schedule. Many of my clients have been coming to me for years and years and we develop a great relationship. We play music, take pics and videos, have our dogs in the studio, we’re all a big family.

♡ Can you break down ‘a day in the life’ of eating for you? Give us all the deets for breakfast, lunch, dinner & snacks.

BP: For snacksI love anything crunchy and salty. Here’s what always makes me happy: Take a raw fennel bulb and thinly slice it and plate it. Add the juice of one lemon ( use a hand press ) , a slight drizzle of some great olive oil, grind some kosher salt and top it with a bit of shaved fresh Parmesan! It’s so delicious and satisfying, and loaded with vitamins and fiber!

Another go-to in the “snack” category: BONE BROTH! Sipping on a thermos of this all day at work is a life saver, and you can make it even yummier and even more nutritious by adding spices, fresh ginger, fresh turmeric, or lemon! 

Breakfast: I’ll usually have one of these options.

1. Slice or chop fruit or berries of choice in a cereal bowl, top with an organic cottage cheese ( I’m obsessed with the chives option! ) add some ground salt/pepper and give it a try! Lately I’m in love with papaya, watermelon, and ripe nectarines. 

2. Poaching an egg is so simple and a poached egg for breakfast can be super satisfying! Slice an avocado on a small plate, add a nice thin slice of tomato, chop some fresh chives if you have them, now add some coarse salt and pepper on that tomato. Next, drop your poached egg right on top of this, add some red pepper flakes and a drop more of salt…. now just a light dust of grated fresh Parmesan! All you need is a fork and knife and perhaps a half slice of a bread of choice to soak up the left over creation!

3. A sweet potato can make the most satisfying and nutritious meal any time of day, but I absolutely love one in the morning to get my day started! Before I put my coffee on I simply  poke a few holes into a medium sized sweet potato and pop it into my toaster oven at 400 degrees. By the time I put my coffee on, have a shower and am dressed it’s ready to be eaten! Normally, when I open it up I’ll throw on a slab of ghee, and sometimes a good sprinkle of cinnamon! This keeps me revved up for a morning of clients, and then I’ll have my protein at lunch!

Lunch: I use this meal for my main portion of protein, so I make sure I keep hard boiled eggs, tuna, fresh chicken, ground turkey, salmon and any other variety of lean high protein foods on hand.

1. Slice a lemon in rings and line the bottom of a shallow baking pan, then salt them. Season a piece of Tilapia, cod, or salmon to your liking and then place it on top of the lemon slices. Now take whatever veggies you’re into, slice them nice and thin, toss them in an touch of olive oil, season them ( I love a dash of cayenne! ) and place them around the fish. Place all of this in a pre heated 350 degree oven and bake for about 30 minutes only. I recommend dark green veggies ( the most nutritious ) to be in every mix, and bok choy is a delicious option. I allow myself 10 extra minutes in the AM to prep this lunch so that I just pop it all in the oven when it’s lunch time! 

2. Salads!!!! Start with a tomato, but hold it right over your bowl as you cut it up so you keep all of the juice. Slice a bit of white onion very thinly into this bowl and chop up a bit of fresh cilantro if you like it. Now squeeze the juice of one whole lemon into this, add salt, pepper, and a dollop of Dijon. Stir this all up and then throw in your favorite leaf! Right now I’m obsessed with frisée and arugula chopped together. I also love to add thinly chopped cucumber and dill from time to time. Mix this up thoroughly in your bowl and add the protein of your choice…chopped egg, tuna, or that roasted chicken from the night before. There is zero oil in this dressing but you’ll swear there is! Delicious!

3. Nothing like a good old burger, and I absolutely love a turkey burger wrapped in a big cabbage or lettuce leaf. Add some chopped onion and/or red bell pepper, salt, pepper and even a dash of cayenne to your meat before broiling it, and maybe even a dash of chipotle mayo on your leaf before wrapping! It’s so lean and so filling… it’s the perfect lunch.  I sometimes go for it and just wrap this in a pita when I need the carb fix!

Dinner: I love dinner, and it’s always a random choice depending on how much energy I’ve used during the day, and how much I have left for putting it together.

1. The best and easiest roasted chicken is from chef Thomas Keller, and it never fails. I always start with an organic air chilled chicken ( it really matters, and I’m very picky about this ). I preheat my oven to 450, then give my chicken a quick rinse. ( I make sure to thoroughly clean my sink right afterwards to avoid any residual bacteria remaining there.) Then I pat the chicken dry until it is “bone dry.”  I then begin to coat the chicken with a coarse sea salt or kosher salt, and I truly mean I coat it…inside and out. I add a quartered lemon and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary inside the cavity, place it in a roasting dish breast side up, tie up the legs and wings, and roast it for 50 minutes to one hour depending on its weight. Most of these organic chickens are between 3.5 lbs to 5 lbs., so I play that as it goes. I also love adding around the side of the chicken some of the following: small halved potatoes, onions, sweet potato slices , garlic cloves, fennel wedges, or any thing else that sounds good at the time. This way you have a total meal in one shot! I absolutely love this dish, and there will always be plenty left over for use in salads, soups, and sandwiches.  

2. Pasta with peas is a dish my mother in law used to whip up in my kitchen, and it always amazed me how quick and simple this dish was to prepare and mouthwatering it was to eat! In a medium pot I have the water heating up to prepare to cook about two cups of dry pasta of choice. I use a small pasta for this dish, and usually it’s a spiral cut or short tube cut because it holds the peas the best. In a separate small sauce pan, I heat a half cup of good olive oil, and when it’s ready I add some freshly chopped parsley and a chopped small onion. I then add salt and pepper and I cook this stirring constantly until it’s nice and soft. Next I put in a can of peas and about half of the liquid from the can, I lower the heat and let this all simmer while the pasta is cooking. In just a few minutes I’m ready to drain the pasta ( I make sure I reserve some of the pasta water to add to the sauce ). Once the cooked pasta is in the serving bowl, I add the peas mixture and the reserved pasta water, toss it all up, and top it with some grated or shaved Parmesan.

Treats: 

1. Fresh extra ripe organic strawberries with whipped coconut cream or heavy whipping cream ! So simple! Takes just a few minutes with a hand emersion blender!

2. Cubed ripe watermelon with chopped mint and crumbles of feta…I add fresh lime squeezes on mine, too!

3. A frozen banana ( previously sliced and diced ) in my mini food processor and blended at high until it becomes the consistency of gelato… it’s incredible, and you could add bits of chocolate, a few frozen berries, coconut flakes, even peanut butter if you like! I like just the banana myself!

Where can everyone find you? 

BP: Primarily on instagram @parkerpilates

As I said, be sure to follow Betsy @parkerpilates and DM her to book a session ( remember she does Skype sessions too ).

x, lauryn

+ for more wellness posts, scope this page.

++ if you’re into quick & easy workouts check out The Skinny Confidential BBG.

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  1. AvatarJulie

    I am 7 months pregnant and found this SO helpful! My chiropractor actually recently recommended pilates to me and I am so interested in giving it a try! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  2. AvatarKate

    Pilates sounds perfect for me. Gave birth 5 months ago. Im leaving in Europe and due to corona it’s difficult to go to rain outside the house. Do you have any tips on good Pilates account for videos on YouTube?

    Reply
  3. AvatarAmanda Turner

    As a classical Pilates instructor myself, I LOVED this interview. I see you tagging her in stories on IG so it’s nice to finally put a little backstory with a name 😉

    Reply