The roll up is an exercise that sometimes can feel as smooth as melted butter and other days can feel like a rocky road. The days where it feels complicated are frustrating. When I started Pilates I had days where I felt the same. The question on my mind was, ‘why did it feel so great last week and not this week?’ The truth is, I don’t have the answer to that question. It’s not always about finding the why but having the tools to make it feel better. Every day of our lives feels different.
When doing your roll up, I want your last rep to be your best rep. The first one feels stiff and that’s fine! The next reps start to feel fluid and the last one is the best one you’ve got! Sometimes that’s why I ask for one more rep. I know you have it in you! It’s not meant to perfect, Pilates is a practice that creates strength for you to live your life.
Here are a couple of ways to go from hating the roll up to feeling accomplished.
Breathe during your roll up!
When I was a dancer I used to hold my breath all the time! While rolling up and off the mat it’s easy to get to that tricky spot and hold your breath. Take another exhale at that point and keep going. The exhalation helps relax your body. Ask yourself if you’re holding on to anything. What specifically? I don’t know and it doesn’t matter, think of letting it go and notice the difference!
What are you thinking about?
The mind is complex and can wander off to many areas. While I’m doing Pilates I’m reminding myself to focus on my breath and movement. The minute my mind stops doing that, the easier it is to forget what you’re doing. Instead, add some images to your roll-up: think of your spine rolling up off the mat like a big wave cresting in the ocean. Imagine a towel behind your back and you’re pulling the towel off the mat and over you. Or imagine your body being rolled up like a carpet. Choose the one that works best and makes sense to you.
The goal of the roll up is to bend your spine.
In order to bend your spine during the roll up your head and tail need to curl. This is the same as in cat cow. You can practice feeling the bend with the cat cow exercise as well as doing a standing roll down against a wall. The wall gives you the same feedback as the floor with the help of gravity. You can learn which parts of your back need help bending.
Ask a family member or spouse to help you.
Your family sees you practicing Pilates and they know it’s important too. Make them a part of your practice! If you have little kids ask them to sit on your shins, make sure it’s not painful, and then roll up. Or have someone hold your feet while you flex them and feel how easy it is to come up! And if you live alone, try it with your feet against a wall. When you push your feet against the wall you’ll get similar results.
Props are your friend!
Grab a set of 2 lb hand weights and hold them during your roll up. The weights help you bend while coming up from the floor. If you feel a tightness in your low back, place a towel between it and the mat. When rolling down the towel keeps you from feeling a ‘slap’ on the mat. Use a block or ball between your legs if your hips feel tight. Squeezing the block/ball turns off your hip flexors and works your inner thighs also making your roll up smooth like butter.
Now try out your roll up! Tell me which one of these helped you. Watch this video for more tips and to see them in action. Lastly, if you’re still frustrated about your roll up, schedule a private session with me.