February is a month marked with passion!  For instance, from the love that comes out of dedication and hope – like those of the Olympic athletes competing now in Sochi. I find it so inspiring to witness them following their dreams, having worked tirelessly toward a perfect moment. In a number of ways, you could say this is the perfect month for passion. Typically a wintery follow-on to January, and especially this year here in Chicagoland, you need to keep the fires stoked! To keep you warm, for sure – but also to keep the figurative embers burning on the passion for the goals you set forth at the first of the year.  And I’m sure you might have noticed that we’re closing in on record snowfall.  Since we’re not hosting the Winter Games, we just have to keep shoveling it out of the way!

However, you’re probably well aware that the number one reason February has that reputation is because of St. Valentine’s Day.  A day for passion to be on stage, front and center.  Finding a gift for that special someone can be a challenge.  But I’m here to help be the Cupid to your Pilates Valentine!  Below is a quick selection from my favorite small equipment pieces. I love them as gifts because they are perfect for at-home use, mostly portable, and hugely versatile while lending variety and extra challenge to a Pilates routine.  If you happen to own any of these pieces already yourself, then be sure to use them!  Get a workout in to keep yourself limber and ready for that Valentine’s Day activity – you know, because you might end up at the roller rink or suiting up for laser tag!

PilatesMagicCircle180x138Pilates Magic Circle – I’m not sure if it’s a myth or actual events, but I heard a story that Joseph Pilates, who did enjoy a good draught when relaxing, designed the magic circle by using the metal ring from a beer keg.  Whether or not the story is fiction, there’s no doubt that this innocent looking piece will amp up the routine.

Strap for Stretching – Awesome for flexibility training as well as learning mind-body connection.  While a towel or a yoga strap works pretty well, I personally love the Stretch Out Strap.  It’s a strap with segmented “rungs” about every 5 inches, creating a variety of holds for either the hands or the feet.  With the rungs, you can get better placement and leverage for the stretch you need.  Plus, the strap loops are secure and have a great tactile grip, helping with proprioception as your work with your joints.

Lucy Socks Ballet Grip_146x181Lucy Socks – I won’t go on and on about different clothes manufacturers, but here’s one outfit accessory I will include.  I’m ultimately a fan of ToeSox, but the ballet grip socks from Lucy are comfy on the foot and help you get a grip on floor or equipment.  That they’re both adorable and stylish is an added bonus!

Franklin BallsFranklin Balls –Like the foam roller, the set of two balls can either provide support or add a balance challenge.  Also, the ball is smaller and so when used singly; you can be specific in targeting Myofascial release for various parts of the body. Great for all over bodywork and flexibility.  For example, relieving held tension in the pectoralis major and other shoulder muscles that are sometimes difficult to access.

Foam Rollers_168x231Foam Roller – This tool is widely known to runners for “rolling out” the IT band, but it does triple duty because you can also position the roller under your hips, shoulders, etc. to facilitate a supported stretch.  You can get a greater range with the elevation that the roller offers.  Plus the round surface is perfect for providing a challenging surface for core work!

2lb weights– you don’t need a lot of weight to get great definition, and you don’t always have to go for the regulation dumbbells.  At this lower weight you can change up your arm routine with soft dumbbells; which might be easier on your grip if you have trouble with that.  Or use weighted balls filled with sand (typically with a latex covering) – they will challenge your coordination and can help improve your hand strength.

So I’ve shared my faves – hope one of them becomes a well-loved piece for your Valentine too!

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