Why Do People Wear Compression Socks?

pro compression picOne of my favorite subjects to talk about is…..compression socks! On any given day at the studio you will find me wearing these knee high socks under my Athlesure wear or with shorts. I look like a soccer player or maybe just a person with confused 70’s throwback, summer attire. But, there are very good reasons for it and if you are an athlete who needs to recover quicker, someone who didn’t get enough sleep, anyone
traveling on a plane, someone who stands or sits for long periods of time, and all preggos, read on, because you need to get on some compression socks!!

First I want to tell you a story and then give you the facts. Somewhere in my 8th month of pregnancy after standing for 5-7 hours a day teaching Pilates, yoga and spin, I blew a gasket. Not mentally, physically! OK, that’s not the technical term, according to my doctor, a troubled valve, due to pregnancy, caused a large varicose vein to become permanently damaged. Summer training became painful both physically and visually! After getting treatment that reduced all symptoms, I became a huge fan of compression socks. They helped prevent the vein issues from happening and so much more!
Bike with socks

According to Pro Compression, one of my favorite brands, (they have great discounts on their website) the graduated compression promotes efficient circulation and reduces inflammation, allowing your body to recover quickly. The socks gently squeeze fluids away from your extremities, toward your core. In my language that means the socks are doing the work for your heart and bottom line is more immediate energy for you that will put a smile on your face!

Last story…last year on a climb called Pine Mountain in Ojai Ca, day 3 of the Challenged Athlete Foundation ride with a lot of climbing,, me and another rider had dropped the pack. This male rider was infamously known to kill it and be king of the mountain on the climbs during these particular rides. The two of us were neck and neck for 3k feet which was about 10-12 miles. After I smoked him at the top, he said great job and good thing you had on those socks!

For a bit more information about form and function, check out this article on another one of the brands I trust, SLS3, they have awesome performance accessories on their site. One last thing to keep in mind…compression is not created equally. Some socks are much tighter and more graduated than others. So it might be good for you to try before you buy.

Until next time, Keep RIGHT-Keep TIGHT!



The Five Pilates Fitness Foundation

In all my years of experience one thing I see a lot of is new clients who haven’t really done a lot of Pilates homework, but have heard great things from friends who do it (and obviously look awesome!).  So, in this post I want to give you a solid introduction to Pilates by explaining some of the core principals – five, to be exact. This will help you understand what to think about and focus on while participating in a private Pilates session or class.  Sometimes in a class you need to have a check list going on to bring integrity and awareness to your movements. Not that you don’t have enough to think about with learning pilates – it can definitely feel like learning a second language. The language of “BODY”. Its posture, feel, right and left, deep deep muscular compression, and of course the movement itself! At a certain point, there comes a relaxation with this kind of focus that can relieve stress and get you 100% into the moment! That’s when you know you’ve got it and it feels great!

Here are the First Five Principals: Breathing, Spine Alignment, Core Engagement, Axial Elongation, and Time Under Tension.

IMG_0238BREATHING: I could create volumes on Breathing correctly, but we are going to keep it simple to start.

Breathing deeply is not over rated! It can be difficult to unlearn patterns of shallow and incorrect breathing that can be the cause of neck and shoulder tension as well as fatigue. When we are babies our tummies rise and fall with the air going to all the right places. Life happens and we wake up one day without a clue where the natural breathing went! There are many factors that influence our poor breathing patterns. Sitting at a computer, weight gain, pregnancy, lack of exercise and stretching, poor posture, sadness, and stress to name a few.  Shallow breathing can force the body to recruit unnecessary shoulder muscles to help out instead of deep diaphragmatic muscular recruitment. The chest can also rise and fall as a default much like a pump handle contributing to shallow breathing as well.

Ideally in pilates fitness classes we want the inhalation to fill up the side lobes and back of the lungs and to not lift the shoulders while taking deep breaths. The diaphragm must move downward on the inhalation to allow for the air to fully fill up the lungs. The diaphragm will move up when we exhale hopefully In conjunction with compressing the deep abdominal musculature onto the pelvis.

To help bring your breathing back into proper alignment, try this:

  • Lay on the floor on your back with your knees bent. Place your hands flat on your ribcage with your fingers pointing towards each other.
  • Now apply a little pressure while taking your deep breath and try to get the side ribs to expand. When you exhale, apply a little more pressure creating a corset with your hands. This will allow you to feel how the ribs actually move downward towards your hips and slightly together. Your little muscles between the ribs called intercostals will be working as a team as well to help contain the ribs and direct the airflow out of the body.
  • The last cue with the exhalation is to pull the belly button to the spine like a vacuume without trying to push your back flat. I will go over lumbar spine position in my next post.
  • Keep in mind, the spine should remain in a neutral position.

The more you practice this form, the better form your breathing will take, and you’ll get more out of your Pilates, yoga, and any other exercise you do. In the next post I’ll share more information on the second foundation of Pilates- Spine Alignment.

Until then, keep RIGHT- keep TIGHT!

– Rana

Top three pilates fitness pregnancy exercises to do at home

View More: http://kristenvincentphotography.pass.us/agility

I hope you are having a happy healthy new year and enjoying your pregnancy! It can be an amazing time of constant change in both your body and mind. One minute you think everything is smooth sailing and the next you have every terrible symptom you read about the night before in What to Expect When You’re Expecting! One of the common ailments is waking up sore from a night of restless sleep is due to back pain. Somewhere between second and third (some as early as first) trimesters you may feel an achy tightness spreading across mid-upper back and or lower back. For those who are already experiencing this or trying to avoid the sometimes unavoidable pregnancy back pain, my top 3 exercises and posture cures can help.

First I should mention a little about pregnancy posture. We all enter into pregnancy with a predisposition posturally speaking. This can be from dear old mom and dad, repeated computer hunching, hair blow-drying, even current mothering can create a forward leaning head and shoulders and a compressed lower back that can present in many different ways. Sometimes overly flat or over-arched. The bottom line is that often most of us are not addressing these issues until pregnant and in pain. Ouch, double whammy! So my advice, outside of getting in front of a trained professional for an evaluation and getting on a daily home program is the following:

1) Stretch your pecs: Yes those beautiful bodacious new friends of yours might just be part of why your mid-upper back and neck might be bothering you.  The weight of the breasts pull down and lock tight creating a forward lean and can make it  difficult to take deep breaths. You will need to stretch the pecs before strengthening your back to prevent a body tug of war between the two. TRY THIS: stand in a door way with your elbow in a goal post position (90 degrees) Stand in a lunge (meaning one foot forward and one back). As your pecs, which connect into your shoulder, begin to stretch, breathe deeply and slowly. Ideally you want to stay here for 5-8 breaths. Don’t over do it. More is not always better until you know your limits.

2) Stretch  and loosen up your lower back: The typical  pregnancy posture is a forward tilt of the pelvis to accommodate your growing baby and prepare for delivery. The muscles that run up and down close to the spine (para spinals and erector spinae muscles) as well as quadratus lumborum can get increasingly taught (whew what a mouthful!) but there is a lot going on there that can get cranky, which we want to avoid if possible. TRY THIS: Get into position on all fours with knees right under the hip bones and wrists under the shoulders. Begin to sway your hips in a curled under tuck and alternate with an arched position allowing your whole back to arch to a comfortable place. Add the exhalation breathe out when curling and rounding your back like a rainbow and an inhalation when you arch or sway your back. This feels sooooo good to most tight backs! Next try to “stabilize”,  find the in-between place of neutral where you still maintain an arch but probably less than you think. We call this neutral in pilates fitness. Next pick up one knee and your  opposite hand only high enough that you could slip a card under. Now hold the position and breathe for 5 breaths. Stay focused, weight forward on your hand and minimize swaying. Put your attention toward your pelvic floor and kegal to help connect with the low deep seat belt abs called the transverse abdominus or in layman’s terms, low deep abs. then release and relax by doing some arch curls 4 or 5 and then repeat on the other side.

3.) Pelvic floor stretching (ooohhhh, controversial!): We know we need to be strong here for obvious reasons – we need to hold and support a developing baby, push out a baby, recover so we can support our spine, internal organs, and not pee when we sneeze for the rest of our lives…TMI? No way. It’s the truth ladies. If you fail to put some conscious effort into being both strong in the pelvic floor region as well as “released” you might end up with some preventable issues lingering. TRY THIS: You will need an exercise ball. (the kind you sit on at your desk. If it is too big it will not be safe to use and I don’t recommend it.) Stand on the floor with the ball also on the floor. Place the ball in-between your ankles and inner thighs so that both your feet and the ball are on the floor. (straddle) You can do these in your kitchen and hold onto the side of the sink. Find that neutral position that is between a curl and arch. You will then squeeze your legs together while breathing out and hold for a minimum of three counts. This is where you focus on the pull up (kegal ) and the pull in(low deep abs) at the same time. Do 5-10 of these and finish with 3 rounds of releases. Inhale and then exhale and push out like you are trying to increase the flow of urine. This trains the pelvic floor to not only be stong and supportive but to release and open up so baby can shine through when the time is right!

More photos to come next time. Hope you enjoy these tips! Tune in again soon. Cheers to a happy, healthy, fit pregnancy!

How to be Fit to Deliver

Get Moving, Stay consistent, and Eat Well (but not for two)

fit preg momGet Moving: According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, pregnant women should exercise a minimum of 30 minutes a day, 6 or 7 days a week, unless they have medical reasons not to do so. Regular stretching and Pilates can relieve back aches, constipation and morning sickness. The problem is one day you feel like exercising and the next day you don’t. What then, you ask? Sick is just sick, not much you can do if your feeling nauseous and low on energy. Deep breathing still takes work but can calm the nerves and sooth the soul. Try sitting up straight and closing your eyes to help you concentrate. Breathe in and out only through your nose to the count of 4 or 5 without holding your breath in between. This type of breathing is said to “fool” your nervous system into calming down even if it thinks a bear is chasing you (lets hope not) and can be used in the labor room. Oxygenating your baby with big deep breaths helps to energize both you and your baby which can make you feel like you are doing good even if you are not out there getting your heart rate up.

That said, having a strong heart and lungs will help you get through your upcoming marathon: giving birth. So try to get in your walks and cardio exercise regularly. Walking has a profound way of soothing the stomach as well, FYI, so why not try it? Ask a friend or partner to “walk you” that way if you are having trouble motivating  you can get some support. Commit to 10 minutes and see how you feel – you can alway turn back or keep going!

Stay consistent: How do you stay consistent when everyday it feels like something is changing on you? Be adaptable and adopt the “change with the change” mantra! Continue reading

Q&A with OB-GYN Dr. Laurence Eisenhauer


Dr. Eisenhauer is an Encinitas based OB-GYN who helped create the Scripps Encinitas OB center. He has been practicing for over 30 years and delivered my son, Dylan.  Dr. Eisenhauer came into my life when the midwife in charge of my delivery said that my baby was in distress and that she wanted the doctor on call to take over for a c-section. “Holy $#!* this is really happening to me!” I said.  Then Dr. Eisenhauer calmly explained the scenario of what would happen next. We wanted a healthy baby and we had to make a decision, so we said “Yes” with a sigh of relief knowing that Dylan would soon be in our arms!

The next thing that I remember was the doctor saying, “Wow, now there’s a set of abs!” as he cut into my transverse abdominus muscle that is required for a strong back, ability to push, and a speedy recovery. My husband chimes in”Thats my girl!” and I had a little smile going for a second- even under those circumstances.

Six years later, while reviewing my delivery with Dr. Eisenhauer during this interview, he told me something I had never heard before. Continue reading

Welcome to the Agility Studio Pilates Blog

Pilates Push UpWelcome to the new Agility Studio  Pilates Blog! This blog is for anyone who is  interested in staying healthy and fit with Pilates.

I’m Rana Kennedy, owner of Agility Studio in Carlsbad. I specialize in Pilates, health, and fitness, prenatal pilates.

I have a successful history of helping strengthening people’s bodies through pilates fitness, including yoga, and spin. My passion is working with athletes, cyclists, and those recovering from injury but one of the most rewarding is helping moms be their best while going through the many changes they experience during  and after pregnancy. I’m an athlete, but I was also an older mom and for the most part unprepared. I approached pregnancy like many of us, questioning everything good and bad for me and my baby, searching for the answers to what kind of birth I wanted, and basically not really being prepared for life taking its own path. My son was born c-section with a double nuchal cord  wrapped twice around his neck. With all of my high hopes for natural birth, nothing could change the fact that my son was stressed with a heart rate of 60 beats per minute (low can be considered 90 beats per minute) and meconium present. For months I blamed the midwife for things I thought she should have done (I shouldda had a doula!),  my husband for sleeping during my contractions etc., I thought I was going to push that baby out no problem and be strolling down the street the next day! Now we laugh out loud, it didn’t happen that way.

The best part of this story is that I became fired up after Dylan was born to help and support women during their pregnancy with Pilates, yoga, and fitness and set out to learn everything I could on prenatal everything. Continue reading