The first two decades of Kara Tatelbaum’s life were dedicated to dance. Despite nagging hip injuries and what teachers continuously told her was not a “ballet body,” she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in dance from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and a New York Times performance review—all by 21.
She then earned a Masters in Choreography and danced internationally. But her chronic hip issues ultimately slowed her momentum. In a lemonade-from-lemons twist, she found Pilates and quickly became one of the most sought- after instructors in the Manhattan. Noticing that her busy clients couldn’t commit to multiple hourlong classes a week, Tatelbaum used her background in choreography to create at-home workouts that fit into any schedule.
When she became a second-time mom, her body and her time were drained. She took a page out of her own book—or rather, what would become her own book series, “Lazy Girl Pilates”—and learned how to fit fitness into her demanding days. Tatelbaum shares her story with 24Life and offers parent-friendly Pilates moves below.
Kara Tatelbaum: As a mom of one, I still managed to get to my morning ballet class a few times a week and did at-home exercises when I could. As a mom of two, that virtually stopped. My second pregnancy was very challenging, and after delivering an almost 10-pound boy, my body was shot. My hips started acting up again. So even if I had the time, I couldn’t get to ballet or Pilates. The little time that I found was used for rest. This, I learned, is extremely important.
When my son was a year old, I started to tend to my body, stretching on the floor while we played or doing push-ups on the tub during bath time. I learned how to fit it in and I stopped looking back. As a mom, our bodies change, and they should. I had to come to peace with that and keep moving forward.
24Life: Did your dietary habits change, as well?
KT: I’ve always had a very fast metabolism, but that all changed after having two kids. It’s more about eating for energy, not just pleasure. Moderation and planning is key. I eat small meals throughout the day and prepare as much as possible by buying groceries online. I eat as I go and keep healthy snacks, especially the ones with hidden veggies, for both the kids and myself.
24Life: What equipment do you recommend for busy moms who want a lot of bang for their buck?
KT: In addition to having a copy of “Lazy Girl Pilates: Morning” on hand, the best piece of Pilates equipment is the Pilates Magic Circle. You can use it for arms, back, legs, glutes and inner thighs. It’s inexpensive and easy to use.
24Life: As a working mom, when and where do you fit movement into your day?
KT: By maximizing the time I already have, the benefits of Pilates come without the hassle. The movements become habit-forming, and the repetition gets results. Working out has become less random and reliant on others.
Don’t wait for the ideal class or time to commit. If we wait for the perfect moment for exercise or self-care, it will never happen. Something is always better than nothing. Never give yourself a free pass because you are too busy to get to the gym or a class. Fit it in!
24Life: Any last words for busy parents?
KT: Being a parent means expecting the unexpected. Things are going great and then suddenly it changes. That’s why it’s important to start our day with a little self-care, whether that means working out, going for a run, taking a hot shower, writing in a journal, meditating or splurging on that espresso machine. Do this in the morning so it gets done, and carry that positive energy throughout the day.
When lying in bed: “Lift Your Hips Without Moving Your Feet”
With your head on the pillow, lift your legs up and cross your right ankle over your left, keeping both knees bent slightly, making a diamond shape. Try to lift your hips without moving your feet. It’s a tiny movement: basically just pressing your lower back into the bed and releasing.
Repeat eight times, then switch the cross of your legs.
When cooking: “Pliés and “Sautes”
Stand in first position with your heels together and toes apart. Bend your knees, keeping your heels down, bellybutton pulled into your spine and your back long. Add a jump! Plié and then jump, landing back in plié.
Repeat eight times.
When driving: “Shoulder Drop”
Reach your shoulders up to your ears, creating lots of tension. Hold it as you inhale in through your nose and count to five. Exhale all the air out through your mouth and drop your shoulders down.
Do it right and once or twice is all you need.
When sitting: “Inner-Thigh Magic”
Stick a Pilates Magic Circle, small ball or even a roll of toilet paper between your thighs and hold it there while you eat, make calls, type, whatever.
Hold until your inner thighs shake!
When bathing kids: “Bath Push-Ups”
Put your hands directly out from your shoulders onto the top of the tub and try to plank. Then put your knees gently down. In this modified position, you can do push-ups with your elbows in, elbows out, even hold planks.
Repeat push-ups 10 times; hold plank for 30 to 60 seconds.
When still bathing kids: “This Might Be Awhile”
Sit on the toilet with your feet hip-distance apart. Make “genie arms” by placing one hand and elbow onto the other, keeping your arms in front of your heart. As you exhale, draw your bellybutton into your spine and lift your right knee up. Only raise your foot a few inches from the floor.
Lift 10 times.
If that’s too easy, put your hands behind your neck, keeping your elbows out and shoulders down. To take it up another notch, add a twist, bringing your left elbow to your right knee and then vice versa.
March 10 times.
When couching: “Balancing Like a Ball”
Sit at the edge of the couch with your knees pulled into your chest. Engage your core. Keeping your shoulders away from your ears and a light grip on your ankles, tuck your tailbone underneath you, as if you’re about to roll back. Hold that balance for 10 counts.
Repeat three to five times.
Photo credit: gstockstudio, Adobe Stock; Courtesy of Kara Tatelbaum; Aviva Braun-Finkler