Perform these exercises in the order listed. Keep your heart rate elevated by incorporating a cardio boost after each exercise.
Warm-up: Choose three of the cardio boosts from the following routine and perform as one set. Repeat the set five times.
1. Single-leg stretch
Lie on your back with your knees pulled into your chest. > Place your right hand on your right ankle, left hand on your right knee. Extend your left leg toward the far wall, as close to straight as you can. Keep elbows bent and facing outward. > Curl your head, neck, and shoulders off the mat, and point your chin toward your chest. Exhale as you sink your navel toward your spine (see above). > Inhale as you switch legs and hands, exhaling when your left leg is bent and your right leg is straight. Keep shoulder blades and tailbone anchored to the mat. One inhale and exhale counts as one set. Complete three sets.
Cardio boost: Roll up to standing position, and do two minutes of jumping jacks. If you need to avoid impact, march in place for the same amount of time.
2. Double-leg stretch
Lie on your back with your knees pulled into your chest. > Place one hand on each shin with elbows bent and facing outward. > Curl head, neck, and shoulders off the mat, and point chin toward chest. Exhale as you sink your navel toward your spine. > Inhale as you stretch your legs toward the ceiling, as straight as you can, and stretch arms straight above your head (see above). > Exhale and bend knees back into your chest as you circle your arms around and back to start position. Repeat five to eight times.
Cardio boost: Roll up to sitting position, turn over, and get into Plank position. Do 30 to 45 seconds of Plank jumping jacks, opening and closing your legs (as if doing jumping jacks) while maintaining a strong Plank position. To avoid impact, step each leg to the side instead of jumping out.
3. Single straight-leg stretch
Set up as in the previous exercise. > Extend your right leg toward the ceiling, and hold your right ankle or calf with both hands as you stretch
your left leg straight out, a few inches above the mat. > Exhale as you press your spine deeper into the mat. > Inhale as you pull your straight, raised leg toward your face, with a gentle double bounce. Keep tailbone anchored to the mat (see above). > Exhale as you quickly scissor-switch legs (keeping them locked straight), holding the left leg at the ankle and pulling it toward your face with a double bounce. One pull with the right leg and one pull with the left leg counts as one set. Perform eight to 10 sets.
Cardio boost: Roll up to standing position, and do an elephant walk: With your feet planted flat on the floor, legs straight and knees unlocked, round your torso forward, and place your hands on the floor. Walk your hands out to plank position, then walk your legs in toward your hands. Walk your legs back out, then walk your hands back to meet them. Repeat five times.
4. Kneeling side kicks
Stand on your knees on the long edge of the mat. Tip yourself over to your right side, and place your right palm flat on the mat and directly under your shoulder, parallel to your hips, with fingers pointing out perpendicular to your body. > Place your left hand behind your head, elbow pointing toward the ceiling. Your chest should be lifted and facing forward. > Extend your left leg straight out to the side, and lift it up to hip level (see above). > Inhale as you kick your left leg in front of you, foot flexed, keeping your leg straight and waist aligned. > Exhale as you press your leg back toward the wall behind you as far as you can without moving your hips or dipping your leg toward the floor. Repeat four times; then repeat four times on the other side.
Cardio boost: Stand up, and do five squat thrusts: Squat down, place your palms on the floor under your shoulders, thrust legs out behind you into plank position, hop them back in, and stand up.
Lie facedown on the mat with your legs squeezed together, heels together, toes apart. Stretch your arms in front of you with fingertips reaching out. > Inhale as you pull your navel into your spine and lift your right arm and left leg. Hold and lift your head and chest off the mat (see insert above). > Switch arms and legs by lowering your right arm and left leg to a few inches above the ground as you lift your left arm and right leg (see above). Continue switching as though you were swimming, inhaling for five counts and exhaling for five counts. Repeat three sets of five inhales/exhales each. Keep your belly pulling toward your spine throughout.
Cardio boost: Get into plank position, and do mountain climbers: Draw your right knee into your chest, then return to plank position. Next, draw your left knee into your chest, then return to plank. Alternate as fast as possible for one minute.
Nothing takes the place of quality, hands-on instruction, but at-home practice is a great way to maintain that all-important motivation and consistency, especially if budget is a concern. Here are a few of our favorite DVDs for losing weight with Pilates from the comfort of your living room.