Which cleaners to use on your equipment, and when

Cleaning your Pilates equipment is hugely important for the look of your studio, the feel of each exercise, and the safety of your clients.  There are four different cleaning solutions I recommend for your equipment.  I prefer using all of these in spray form with a microfiber cloth.

Water

Plain water from your tap is hugely beneficial for 90% of the cleaning you need to do.  This is my go-to solution for cleaning the following places:

  • Reformer rails
  • Reformer frames (wood and metal)
  • Wood roll-down bars
  • Metal and wood push-through bars
  • Reformer wheels
  • Chair pedals and other dusty/dirty areas

The problem with cleaning with some solutions (not all) is that they can mix with skin oil, sweat, or body lotions to make a sticky buildup.  Patience is key, here.  Take a few extra seconds to scrub rather than jumping to a heavier duty solution right away.

Water + Dish Soap

For a little extra cleaning power, I recommend 1 teaspoon of dish soap with 16 ounces of water.  (Yes, regular Dawn® dish soap!)  This is great for these applications:

  • Cleaning vinyl after each client
  • Extra scrubbing power (remember, just a microfiber cloth!) for tough grime of both metal and wood surfaces

Note: for tough stains on reformer rails, use water and some aluminum foil from your kitchen folded into a small scrub pad for extra oomph.  Check out this link for more info on this technique.

Silicone Spray

While the results you might get with Silicone spray seem magical, please be careful not to use this too liberally or on parts that aren’t listed below.

Note: It is a myth that silicone spray is good for your Reformer rails.  Please avoid using this on your wheels and rails.

BB Clean Product

BB Clean

This awesome, natural disinfectant can be used in any of the situations that water or soapy water can be used for a little extra all-natural cleaning and disinfecting power.  Finally, my pro tip is to be patient.  I prefer taking 10-15 wipes with water and a rag than using one wipe with a solution that has some heavy chemicals in it.  Your equipment has the ability to last upwards of twenty years, but if you want the wood finish and the metal coatings to last that long as well, using fancy cleaning solutions for the sake of saving a few seconds of effort isn’t recommended.

This post originally appeared on the Balanced Body blog, here.

How to replace your footbar padding

After years of footwork in parallel, your footbar padding will get worn down.  This may look like you’ve got two indentations and if your feet are on the bar it’s very, very hard in just those two spots because you can feel the metal beneath your heels.

(Note: When I talk about footbar padding I’m not talking about the vinyl sticky mat that velcros around over the top of the bar, but the neoprene padding between the cover and the aluminum bar.) 

Footbar Replacement

Conveniently, this padding is really easy to change.  This procedure applies to the Inifinity footbar on a Studio or Clinical Reformer, the black Allegro Reformer, and a Classic or Revo footbar on the Studio Reformer.

First, you’ll need to order the correct footbar padding from your BB Sales Rep or distributor.  The dimensions are slightly different so make sure you get the correct one.  They will be able to help you determine what is correct for your Reformer.

Second, remove the Velcro footbar cover.  On older Reformers you will need to just undo the Velcro.  However, if you have a cover that pulls tight on both ends with draw strings, keep the strings wrapped around the footbar, but just slide the cover to one side of the footbar and let it hang.

(Note: If you want to upgrade your footbar cover to one with drawstrings at both ends so it doesn’t slide sideways over time, you can!  Just talk to your sales rep or distributor.)

Now, you’re ready to start peeling off the old footbar padding.  This can be the most frustrating part of the process because the padding may come off in a thousand tiny pieces.  Don’t worry, just have patience.  I’ve found that over time the best technique is to use your fingers to peel the adhesive part under the padding off, rather than just the padding.  You can also try applying some heat to soften the adhesive before removing it.

Other times (lucky times!) the pieces come off in big chunks and it goes quickly.

Removing Footbar

Once the old padding is off, you are ready to apply the new padding.  There is no need to make the footbar perfectly clean and smooth, because you are just going to cover it up again.  Just make sure there are no thick chunks remaining.

The new padding should be applied so the seam faces away from the carriage.  I start by holding one short end of the padding in each hand, and visually aligning it so it’s centered on the footbar.  Then, I smooth it all the way across in a line.

New Footbar Placement

Next, wrap the middle of the padding around the middle of the footbar, and work your way outward, smoothing as you go.

Once the padding is secure, you are ready to re-attach the footbar cover.  Make sure you face the Velcro seam away from the carriage.

Footbar Orientation and Cleanup

Re-tie the strings on each end (if present) and tuck them back under out of the way.

Now, you’re ready to enjoy your new, cushy, footbar.


This post originally appeared on the Balanced Body blog, here.

Troubleshooting your Trapeze Table canopy

There’s nothing more frustrating than when you are working with a client on your Cadillac and the slider bars won’t adjust where you need them to be.  You scurry around, trying to loosen things and find the best angle to apply force to move the bars into position, all while your client is watching you and waiting.

Fixing this issue might sound intimidating, at first, but can be fairly simple if you have the right tools and process.  Here’s where you can start.

First, make sure the tubes the sliders are mounted to are clean.  There’s a quick #MaintenanceMonday video on Instagram about how to clean your tubes with Silicone Spray, here.  Basically, you spray some silicone on a dry rag and wipe down the rails.  If the canopy is aligned well, the sliders should move much more easily.

However, if the silicone spray cleaning doesn’t help your sliders move more smoothly, you may need a slightly more in-depth tune-up.  To do this, you’ll need a 3/16” Allen wrench and two cotter pins.  (Hint: you can substitute some thin nails or small Allen wrenches for the cotter pins, if you didn’t keep yours).

To watch this process as it relates to a sticky vertical slider bar, you can check out the free video in the BB Garage, here.

  • Insert the cotter pins (or cotter pin substitutes) into the holes on the vertical tubes.  This will prevent the tubes from sliding down once you loosen the set screws.
Insert Cotter Pins
  • Loosen the two set screws on each tube receiver which are mounted to the wood frame.
Loosen Screws Mounted to Frame
  • Loosen the two set screws at the top of the canopy that hold the top horizontal tube in place (see photo).
Loosen Screws on Top of Canopy
  • Slide the vertical slider bar all the way up to the top.
  • Tighten the two set screws at the top.
  • Slide the vertical slider bar all the way to the bottom.
  • Tighten the eight set screws on the bottom.
  • Test slide the bar up and down to make sure the process worked.
  • Remove the cotter pins.
  • Enjoy your smoothly functioning slider!

Please note, this procedure can be extrapolated to the horizontal slider on the top of the canopy, and to issues with the push-through bar binding up.  If the vertical slider doesn’t function smoothly after this tune-up, you’ll need to loosen all of the set screws of the canopy, sequentially, and re-tighten them.  I can help walk you through that slightly more complicated process if you reach out to me at Kaleen@fitreformer.com.

Happy Reforming!

The difference between wheel bushings and bearings

How your carriage rides on the rails is one of the most noticeable things about your Reformer and one of the most critical to getting the intended feeling of an exercise.

Not only is the condition of the outer rubber wheel important, but the metal part that surrounds the axle bolt, as well.  That metal part (it looks like a donut), can be either a bushing or a bearing.

Bushings

Classical leaning machines, such as the Contrology Reformer and the Centerline Reformer, use bushings on their wheels.  Bushings are simply a round metal donut that fits between the rubber or plastic wheel and the metal axle bolt.  It can be made of different materials, such as steel, bronze, or high-grade plastic like Nylon.  The material chosen depends on what kind of friction properties you want  (Translation: how you want it to feel/the drag) and what kind of wear properties you want (Translation: whether you want to oil or maintain the surfaces that rub on one another.)

Bearings

Contemporary leaning machines, such as the Studio Reformer, Allegro and Allegro 2 Reformers, and the Rialto Reformer, use wheels with bearings.  Bearings are also donut shaped, however, they have a few layers because inside of the donut are a bunch of tiny steel balls and lubricant.  This allows for a much silkier ride than bushings, with hardly any drag.  You can find these types of bearings on roller skates or inline skates.

Which is better?

Despite very different designs and “feels” neither one is technically superior.  They just provide different experiences on the Reformer.  If you want to try one out to feel the difference, check local studios and see if you can take a session with an instructor there (what a great way to cross-train, build your local network, and make more Pilates friends!) Or, you can come to one of the many Pilates on Tour conferences and try out many different pieces of Balanced Body equipment.  I’ll be there answering all your equipment-related questions!

Maintenance and Care

Balanced Body does not require regular maintenance for the bushings or bearings specifically, however, I recommend keeping the surfaces of your wheels and rails clean.  This prevents hair, dust, dirt, and little rubber flecks from any padding you use from migrating into the bushings or bearings where they will start to cause problems (see the gross photos below!)  If you can keep your machine clean, the wheels can last decades.  To read more about cleaning your rails, click here.

Psst! This post also appeared over on Balanced Body’s blog.

 

How to never tighten that one loose bolt again

We’ve all experienced a loose knob, bracket, or post on our Pilates equipment, and some of us even have the exact right wrench in the front desk drawer to tighten that bolt because it happens week after week, after week.  It’s so annoying!

Today I want to show you how to use Loctite® to prevent these bolts from rattling loose over and over again.

First, Loctite® is a brand name for a liquid thread locker.  It comes in a small tube and there are several “colors” you can purchase, each of varying strengths.  The color you want is BLUE.  The blue Loctite® is semi-permanent and will balance preventing your bolt from rattling loose from daily activity while still being able to manually remove the bolt with regular tools at some point in the future, if needed.

Loctite® is quite runny, so be wary when cutting the nozzle open the first time and handling the tube with the cap off at any point.  Once applied, the liquid will harden into a gummy substance that will grip both the female threads and the male threads so that they can’t easily wiggle loose.

Please, avoid the RED label because that one is permanent!  You’ll never get those bolts out again.

Here’s a quick Maintenance Monday clip on how to apply the Loctite® to your Allegro 2 silver loop hooks on the carriage.  Those hooks can get quite loose over time, so this little trick will keep them securely in place.

To do this procedure on these particular bolts, you’ll need a 5/32” allen wrench, a shop rag, and blue loctite.  This same process can also be done on any bolt that is chronically loose, isn’t screwed directly into wood, and isn’t required for adjustments during a client session (i.e. cam cleats, or knobs).  I recommend doing this when you have at least a two hour period afterward where the equipment will not be used.

  1. Remove the bolt from the nut.
  2. Place the bolt on the dry rag and wipe it clean.
  3. Open the tube of loctite (you may need to cut the end if it’s a brand new tube) CAUTION: Squeezing the tube even a little bit will cause the liquid to squirt out, so be gentle and do this over your shop rag.
  4. Apply a short, thin line along the length of the threads.
  5. Re-insert the bolt and tighten it.
  6. In two hours the liquid will harden into a gummy substance.
  7. Repeat on the other bolts.

If you aren’t sure whether Loctite® is right for a particular bolt of yours, feel free to shoot me an email at Kaleen@fitreformer.com and I’ll help you out.

Happy Reforming!

Bumpy Ride? Troubleshoot Your Reformer: Part Two

Continuing on last month’s topic of troubleshooting a bumpy carriage ride, let’s talk about other places your annoyances might be coming from besides the wheels.

I perform the baseline testing by doing leg circles with my feet in straps, because I get the biggest range of motion using the ropes and straps (Remember, in Part 1 all the testing was done without the ropes.)  More specific testing I’ll do with my hands as demonstrated in photos and videos in this post.  You MUST ensure that the wheels and rails are clean and smooth before beginning this process.

Allegro workout photo

LISTEN

With feet in straps, doing leg circles, we are listening for a few noises.  There are four common possible sources.  Check out the photo below for an explanation of what parts I mean.

  1. Carriage wheels (but you already eliminated that possibility with testing from Part 1, right!?)
  2. Pulley wheels (called a sheave)
  3. Pulley D-ring on Eyebolt
  4. Pulley spring on Riser
Pulley diagram

If you hear squeaking but don’t feel any bumps or catches as you circle your legs, likely some dry lubricant will help.  Check out this video to see how to apply Teflon (PTFE) Spray to the Pulley wheel.

If you don’t hear any squeaking, great!  Move on.

FEEL

Constant thump

If you feel a constant thump-thump-thump-thump, there are two places to check.

First, check that the ropes are not thick, stiff, fuzzy and wavy.  Worn ropes can cause a bumpy feeling as they glide over a smooth, round pulley.

If the ropes are fine, it might be the pulley wheel itself.  The best way to check this is to grab the two ends of the rope coming out of the pulley (about 6 inches from the pulley wheel), apply tension on the ropes and slide them back and forth.  You may hear some click-click-clicking and/or feel the thump-thump-thumping.  Click here for a video.

These one or two feelings mean that the pulley wheel has been deformed and needs to be replaced.  It’s not a safety hazard, necessarily, but does greatly affect the feel of any exercise where ropes are under tension.

One thump only

If both the ropes and pulley wheel is okay, and you feel just ONE click during leg circles, you should check for wear on the inner radius of the eyebolt attached to the pulley.  Over time this will wear down and then as the D-ring slides over the edges of the wear on the eyebolt, you can feel and hear a click/thump.  The photo below shows the kind of wear on the eyebolt you should check for.  Too much wear can be a safety hazard!  In that situation I’d recommend replacing just the eyebolt and saving your existing pulley.

Close up photo of eyebolt

A final note on noise

Some noise is going to exist.  The pulley spring can rub the riser and the pulley and be a little loud during use.  There isn’t much you can do about this, and it’s not a safety hazard.  So, don’t worry!

If you’re still stuck after all these steps and can’t figure out where your bumps or noises are coming from, you can set up a video call with me or send an email to Balanced Body Tech Support for troubleshooting help.

Happy (Smooth) Reforming!

 

Psst! This post also appeared on Balanced Body’s blog, here.

Bumpy Ride? Troubleshoot Your Reformer: Part 1

One of the many little pleasures in my own Pilates session is experiencing a smooth and quiet carriage ride.  While working out, I want to be able to focus entirely on how my body is feeling rather than running through all the possible causes for the bumps.

If your Reformer carriage has developed some bumps along the way, here is a quick procedure to help pinpoint the source of the bumps and fix it.

  1. Are your rails and wheels clean? This is extremely important because most of the time the wheels or the frame rails will actually have dirt, debris, or little rubber flakes stuck to them which can cause bumps.  If you’ve cleaned BOTH the rails and wheels, then you know that’s not the cause and you can move on.  (You can read more about cleaning your rails, here.)

  1. During footwork, is the bump rhythmic or does it occur only once? If the bump is regular, about every 5 inches or so, it is likely coming from a wheel.  If it only occurs once during each repetition of footwork, it could be the rail.
    1. Your bumpy wheels could be the carriage (rolling) wheels which support the weight of the carriage, or the side wheels, which control how much side-to-side motion the carriage has within the frame.
    2. To relieve side wheel bumpiness, ensure there is between 1/8” and ¼” side-to-side play (video example, here). Sometimes you will notice that the wheels are too tight against the inside of the frame and they cannot roll in a perfect circle.  Side wheels do not have to be in contact with the frame 100% of the time.
    3. Carriage (rolling) wheels could be bumpy because they’ve sat still too long under the heavy carriage, causing flat spots on the rubber wheel surface. Or, they could be more grindy (that’s a technical term, by the way!) like sandpaper, in which case it’s likely the bearings inside the rubber wheel causing the problem.  In either instance, replacing your rolling wheels will solve the problem.
    4. Some Reformer frames, like the Studio Reformer, have holes on one side at the head end for the carriage stopper. Be sure that if you are only feeling the bump at the maximum range of your footwork that you aren’t just rolling over that hole. There’s nothing you can do about this feeling, but if you don’t realize it, you could be searching for the cause for a long time.
    5. If the bump only happens once and you know it’s not the carriage stopper holes, run your fingers along the surface of the frame rail to check for any obvious deformation.
  2. If the bumps don’t happen during footwork, but do happen when you use the straps, perhaps your pulleys or ropes are to blame.

As you can see, bumps can be a multi-factorial problem.  Stay tuned for Part II where I discuss how to troubleshoot your ropes and pulleys for mystery bumps.

Happy Reforming!

Pssst!  This post also appears over on the Balanced Body blog, here.

How to Store your Springs When not in Use

Even if your studio is incredibly busy hosting 8 or 10 Reformer classes per day six days a week, the reality is that your springs aren’t in use more than they are.  Therefore, it makes sense to care about how they are stored just as much as how they are used.  Here are a few tips on how to store your springs during off-hours to prolong their life and stay safe.

Note: Check out this post if you want to learn when your springs are ready to be replaced, and this post to learn more about the science of springs.

Attach at least 1 regular Reformer spring to springbar

When your students finish class, have them store the Reformer in any gear position with at least one regular spring attached to the springbar.  For a Balanced Body machine, this means at least a red spring.

The reason for this is that your carriage should be anchored home for the safety of your staff and clients. The carriage should not be able to freely move if someone happens to come over and lean or sit on it.

When attaching a spring, do not pre-load the spring by attaching it to the top deck hooks or buttons, or using a block to move the carriage further from the springbar.  The coils of the spring should still be closed or almost closed.

Store Trapeze Springs in a Straight position

When storing your Trapeze springs, store them either hanging vertically or laying flat on any horizontal surface.  Leaving your roll down bar or trapeze swing attached to the springs and hanging from the canopy is fine, as their own weight plus gravity is not going to weaken them over time.

Avoid storing trapeze springs by top-loading a Push-Through Bar, stuffing them in a basket or other container on the floor, or any other position that causes the springs to be held with their coils open.

If you happen to notice that a spring is hanging and some coils are opening (see spring on left in photo below), that is a sign that the strength of the material at that range is compromised and it should be replaced.  Hanging springs for storage purposes will not contribute to this deformation, instead, this spring was probably allowed to snap back uncontrolled multiple times throughout its life or stored with a bend in it.

Does leaving a spring hanging or attached to the springbar wear it out faster?

Nope!  When springs are wound from music wire, the coils have an initial tension, which is basically the amount of force it requires to separate the coils at the very beginning.  That value, plus the spring constant (how many pounds of resistance per inch of extension the spring provides), resists gravity.

Combine the initial tension and spring constant with the fatigue principles I discuss in this blog post, and you’ll see that tiny amounts of stretch of the spring are not going to weaken it to any point that makes a difference to your studio.

Here’s a summary:

  • Extension springs have a maximum stretch limit, in our case about 2-3 times their length, which is when they will start to permanently deform (meaning they lose resistance and may not close all the way).
  • Springs are designed to be able to cycle over a million cycles belowthat maximum stretch range.
  • Bigger extension (more travel) of the spring stresses the spring more than smaller extensions (less travel).
  • If a spring is designed to stretch 2.5x its length a million times, it can likely handle a stretch 0.1 times (for example) its length significantly 

Springs are a fascinating topic and can easily get dragged out into hours of conversation and lecture.  Your guiding principle today should be: don’t store your springs in any manner which causes the coils to stay separated.

Happy Reforming!

This post also appears on Balanced Body’s blog, here.

Balanced Body makes it easy to replace your upholstery and foam

After many years of use, especially in a busy studio, your reformer vinyl can start to wear.  It might crack, the corners might get nicked, your client’s jewelry or zippers might cut the vinyl, or it could get scuffed.  Underneath the vinyl, you might have foam wearing thin where clients commonly kneel or put their butts or feet.

Any of these reasons might make you want to replace your upholstery, but it sounds like a tedious process that requires a local upholstery service.  However, Balanced Body makes it really easy to replace your vinyl and foam on the most frequently used equipment with no upholstery skills required.

Every Reformer, Chair and Cadillac is built with removable upholstery blocks.  That means in order to change the vinyl and foam on your Reformer carriage, you only need to unscrew and re-install a few bolts.  This works because each carriage pad consists of a plywood backer, foam, and upholstered cover that is already stapled to the plywood backer.  Shoulder rests, headrests, chair padding, and Cadillac upholstery are all built similarly.  They come pre-upholstered and require only an allen wrench or screwdriver to remove and install the new one.

If you’re looking to replace less often used sitting boxes, mat conversions, Allegro 2 shoulder rests, or moon boxes, the process is slightly different.  In many cases it may be less expensive to buy a whole new part.  In other cases I recommend contacting a local automotive upholsterer (many of them are mobile and can come to you) to help.  These professionals are generally more than capable of matching your vinyl and repairing it, even if new stitching is required.  After all, the upholstery in your car has much more complicated geometry.

For short-term fixes, I use one of two products to prevent the damage from getting any worse.  For corners that are worn or asymmetrical cracks, I use Tenacious Tape in black (I LOVE using this to protect your sitting box corners!)  This product comes in a small roll and has a wonderful cloth-like texture and great adhesive backing.  I use a pair of scissors to cut it to size.

For smooth, straight cuts I use a vinyl repair glue called Performix VLP.  This is a great option for fairly straight cuts and tears with edges that can be pressed back together.  You can watch a video on how repair a cut like this by clicking here.

If you aren’t sure how easy it is to replace or repair your specific piece of upholstery, contact Salestech@pilates.com for help.

Happy Reforming!

This post also appeared on the Balanced Body Blog.

Which lubricant should you use, and when?

 

3-in-1 Multipurpose Oil

This oil comes in a small bottle and is available at most hardware stores.  It is great for situations where you aren’t necessarily able to take pieces apart (these situations might be better suited to a grease) and need the oil to penetrate a small space.  Because it is an oil, putting it on exposed surfaces may not be ideal, because it will attract dirt and dust and possibly gum up and cause more friction.  In general, think about this oil for metal-on-metal articulating surfaces.

I use 3-in-1 oil on the following parts of my Pilates equipment:

  • Chair hinges
  • Push-through bar T-pins

I only apply the oil when noise appears, which tends to be once or twice a year.  Always have a rag handy to wipe up any drips.  No need to apply as a preventative measure.

Dry Lubricant

Unlike WD40, a dry lubricant such as PTFE (Teflon) does not attract dirt or dust so it is great for exposed surfaces.  It has the versatility of a spray to penetrate hard-to-reach areas, and protects against moisture that can cause rust.  In general, think about this lubricant for plastic surfaces.

Now, you may be wondering, “What about Silicone spray?”  Silicone spray will likely work for most of these applications, EXCEPT when under load, like the pulley axles, because it will wear off.  So, if you only have one dry lubricant, get the PTFE spray.

I use dry PTFE spray on the following parts of my Pilates equipment:

  • Springs (the plastic balls attached to the spring hooks between the coned coils)
  • Noisy chair knobs (apply on the threads)
  • Cadillac Rails (where slider bars slide, apply with rag)
  • Pulley Axles

As with the 3-in-1 oil, have a rag handy to catch the overspray and wipe up any drips.  Again, I only apply the spray when a noise presents itself.  When on an easily accessible surface such as Cadillac rails, I’ll spray the rag first, and then wipe the surface with the dampened rag.

Next time you head over to a hardware store, grab these items and upgrade your Pilates studio toolkit.

This post also appears on the Balanced Body Blog.