Category Archives: health

A new year, new changes and a new you with The Pilates Pod

“One size does not fit all”  (Michelle, owner of The Pilates Pod)

Known originally as Contrology, Joe Pilates’ method is the art and study of control. 

Control over the mind, breath, centre (powerhouse) and the whole body to create balance and a uniformed body that is strong AND flexible all over.

We have LOTS of new exciting changes to the studio for 2018 so grab a cuppa and read on…

Pilates is a journey. Your own journey.  Joe never had “levels” in his sessions as every one works at their own level. You had your 1st five sessions as a new beginner to the studio, then you had a lifetime of individual work, journey and progress working around the studio on all the apparatus in an open studio with just Joe or Clara around to help assist and give you one more exercise to add to your routine when they felt you had earned it.

How we start here at The Pilates Pod

We don’t leave you quite as alone as Joe did. Start with the fundamentals of the studio system. In the fundamental system, you will start learning the Intro exercises, orders and transitions of Matwork and Reformer (the bread and butter of Pilates) as well as introducing you to the arm springs work, roll back bar and wall endings with hand weights.

We’ve got 2 Intro Packages for new clients  to do this. You can buy each package once. (if you are already an existing client, and you have never experienced a full studio session, you can also take advantage of each one of these packages, once.)

  • Semi Private Group (up to 4 people) 3 weeks Unlimited Studio sessions £60 (3 weeks from your 1st session) For healthy bodies, or those with general aches and weaknesses.
  • Individual Private Training:  3 x 1:1’s £120 (to use in 2 weeks from your 1st session) The recommended route for “all eyes on you”, or for anyone suffering with back disc issues, joint pain, neurological issues, or specific issues surrounding pelvic floor, c-section or abdominal separation.

Where to go after the basics?

Every BODY is different, every mind too! Some people pick things up quicker than others, some people’s body responds easier than others. It doesn’t matter! What matters is YOUR journey, your progress. It’s not a race. Pilates is about learning your orders and transitions for matwork and reformer,  as well as practicing the exercises themselves and getting it deep inside the body. If you are working through specific issues, you should stay with 1:1’s, otherwise We recommend that everyone as much as possible follows 2 -3 sessions a week, pre books them in to ensure consistency and includes:

  • Semi Private Pilates Studio Apparatus class.  With up to 4 people per session, these classes are the true Pilates experience. Using resistance from the springs and matwork combined as well as an opportunity to correct your individual needs using the whole system from barrels, spine correctors, pedi pole, toe corrector, foot corrector, magic circles on top of those exercises found in the fundamental levels. Plus it gives you a chance to be more independent than 1:1’s, for the best result.  If you have been doing 1:1’s for a while now and aren’t dealing with specific issues, maybe it’s time to switch to semi-private. If you have been doing Mat or Reformer independently, give these classes a go.
  • You can find even more of these classes for 2018: Mondays 2pm, alternate Mondays 6pm, Wednesdays 8pm,  Thursdays 10.30am & 7pm, Saturdays 12.15pm and Sundays 11am.
  • OR Private Training 1:1’s, Duets or Skype sessions.

PLUS a weekly one of these to fine tune one aspect of Pilates…

  • Matwork. Using no resistance except your own body weight, this can often feel the most challenging if the body is too tight in some areas, too weak in others, to support and perform the exercises with control, which is why the Reformer and small props helps give you this balanced body. Some small props may be used now as required. It’s really easy to learn and do at home between studio visits, but remember matwork is only 2% of the full Pilates system, so do use apparatus as often as you can!
  • You can find these classes for 2018: Mondays 9.30am, 7pm & 8pm, Tuesdays 8pm, Wednesdays 9.30am (Gentle Flow Mat) Wednesdays 7pm, Thursdays 8pm, Fridays 10.15am, Sundays 10am.
  • Barrels & Matwork. Using the small barrels and spine correctors, your body will restore its natural curves and alignment with the help and support that the curves of the barrel provide. Your Matwork & Reformer exercises will be enhanced, challenged and given support in order for you to learn and fine tune your Pilates. A perfect antidote class to modern life ill posture and tight hips/rounded shoulders.
  • You can find this class for 2018:  Fridays 12.15-1pm
  • Pilates with Small Props. A CHANGE to the old Pilates with Props circuit style class. This new class will be performed all together more like traditional matwork classes rather than a circuit, but every week will use many of the small props found in the studio, both contemporary and classical from fitballs, magic circles, poles, mini balls, rollers, hand weights, flexi-bands, toe correctors. Matwork with lots of small toys! No large apparatus will be used in this class like Reformer, Pedi Pole, Spine Correctors and barrels.
  • You can find these classes for 2018: NEW TIME Saturdays 10am, Sundays 10am.
  • Reformer Pilates. If Matwork is the butter, Reformer is the bread. These two systems that Joe created are the only ones with orders to them. Just as you would practice the finer deeper work of Matwork in a full 55 min class, this is the same but on Reformer.  The springs are what make the change to people’s bodies and create a lift in the spine; better, faster and more efficiently than matwork alone. Only 2 per class, you work at your own level and order.
  • You can find these classes for 2018: Mondays 12.45pm, Tuesdays 6pm, Thursdays 9.30am & 6pm, Fridays 6pm.
  • Jumpboard Reformer Express. The jumpboard provides a soft platform in which you jump and bounce off whilst laying down. Add an express workout for your cardio levels and fat burning for those short on time, or in perfect addition to a regular class before or after. Not suitable for pregnancy or anyone with weak core, bad backs or new.
  • You can find these classes for 2018: Wednesdays 9am and Fridays 5.30pm.

Our door is open…..

By popular request, we’re opening our studio doors to you for 2018 at special times every week in which you can come in to practice by yourself. These “Open Studio” sessions give you an opportunity to come into the studio, work with the apparatus, matwork and small props. Whether you feel like stretching, working hard, geeking out on one particularly exercise or particular piece of apparatus, it’s all up to you. An instructor will be present but this is NOT a led session. A teacher will only be present for safety not for asking questions or advice. Please do be respectful to this and to other clients present in the room for their workouts to keep noise to a minimum. This is a time for yourself to workout,  a chance to come more often, workout with others, for your own practice, your way, with our studio, our equipment. We ask that you show up on time but feel free to leave quietly whenever you like within the 55 min slot. You are responsible for your own safety, modifications and for the equipment during these times. You must only use apparatus if you know how to use it and must sign a declaration form from Michelle before attending your first session. Min 5 sessions must have been attended on mat or on apparatus before you attend.

Open Studio Matwork £7.50 – Matwork only with small props. Up to 55 mins. 6 spaces .
Times available during 2018:
Mondays 2pm. Tuesdays 6pm. Wednesdays 8pm. Thursdays 9.30am, 6pm. Fridays 3.30pm, 6pm. Saturdays 9am. Sundays 12.00
Book here.

Open Studio Apparatus £15 – All the toys big and small in the studio inc Reformer, small barrel, spine corrector, foot corrector, toe corrector, pedi pole etc. Up to 55 mins. 2 spaces 
Times available during 2018:
Mondays 8pm. Tuesdays 8pm, Wednesday 7pm,  Saturdays 10am, Sundays 9am.  Book here.

To help you with your Open Studio workouts, we’ll be running Pilates Playground workshops every month. In these workshops, we’ll be taking a close look at a couple matwork exercises, and a couple of exercises performed on one piece of apparatus. We’ll geek them out, understand them, play with them, practice them, learn how to and how not to do perform them. You can then add them into your routine when you next come to the studio, or just use them as helpful tips and tricks. We strongly suggest you attend these as often as you can, or book a 1:1 instead if you cant make it. Fee £20 for each workshop, class credits cannot be used as payment.
The next Pilates Playground will be:
Saturday 6th January 9.15am-10.10am with Michelle.  It all starts from the feet!
A look at some of the feet on the bar work taken from the Reformer and the Foot Corrector. Essential places to start for everyone to connect their “feet to the seat” as well as particular useful for those with neurological issuess, limited foot mobility and strength.  Book here.
Sunday 4th February 12.00-12.55pm with Ellen.  Arm Springs. How the arms are rooted into the shoulder joint and how the shoulders are connected to the back body is so important. We’ll look at the arm spring series, some exercises on the Reformer and adding hand weights into our matwork. Book here

 

 

The importance of finding your balance

Balance. Noun. A state of equilibrium or parity; a harmonious or satisfying arrangement

Busy is the new normal. It’s too easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of daily life and getting our heads stuck planning the future or over analysing the past. We all need more balance in our lives. And Pilates with its emphasis on the Mind Body connection and focus on strength, flexibility and control gives you space to breathe and find your balance – both physically and emotionally.

Pilates exercises ask you to use as much mindfulness as possible in every movement. And particularly if you’re living with neurological issues like Parkinson’s or MS, Pilates has a ton of benefits for you:

Pilates exercises strengthens those deep core stabilising muscles which are super important to help your balance, correct posture and improve spinal and pelvic stability.

“Keep in mind that you are not interested in merely developing bulging muscles but rather flexible ones. Bulging muscles restrict flexibility because the over developed muscles interfere with the proper development of the under-developed ones” Joe Pilates

And finding your balance is also key if you have Osteoporosis. A disease where increased bone weakness increases the risk of a broken bone. It is the most common reason for a broken bone among the elderly. The real danger with this condition is the falls that can cause fractures.

Pilates exercises but particularly Pilates apparatus which uses resistance is perfect for people with osteoporosis. The resistance creates stronger muscles to work against, Pilates helps our spine’s lift and lengthen to give more space and improve posture and stability. We need strong bones that can bear our weight and allow us to move. And bone, like muscle, strengthens in response to forces it has to resist. Working against gravity, working with spring resistance and working our balance play a major role in strengthening our bones.

You just gotta get the balance right.

 

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony”
Thomas Merton

Written by Instructor, Clair Starkey

www.thepilatespod.co.uk

5 ways to become successful… in life and Pilates!

For many around the UK, today marks the first day back at school for the kids. <insert sighs of relief for parents everywhere!>

I bet you’ve already prepped their day and week with military order and discipline to ensure everything runs successfully, right?

  • New shoes and uniform bought, ironed and name tags on? Check.
  • Book bag and PE kit ready for PE Wednesday even though it’s Monday? Check.
  • Swimming lessons bought and booked for 12 week term. Check.
  • Arrangements made with school friends mums to pick up kids from football practice and we’ll take them all the next week? Check.
  • Lunches made. Check.

The importance of a good routine for children is vital to instill structure, consistency and development through repetition. But the same applies for the grown ups too and Pilates too.  Is it time you had a successful Pilates well-being routine? Let’s go back to school in 5 easy lessons.

  1. Provide structure and take ownership

Make your Pilates workouts part of your every day routine. Pilates isn’t just about the studio work, it’s about lessons learnt and transferred to your everyday life. Get a structured routine to your studio workouts 2-3 a week. Once every couple weeks just won’t do it! Do extra “homework” practice in-between with matwork routines that can take just anywhere between 10 -25 minutes, or just committing to a daily “Hundred” challenge, or simply being more aware of using your abs “in and up” when you bend over and lift things.

When you have structure, you take ownership and commitment to what you are doing. You have made things fit in, you aren’t wondering how you will find the time to fit things in. You are less likely to re-organise your workouts if they are already part of a structure and schedule.
One thing is for sure, you won’t get out of back pain, lose weight, feel fitter and make new friends by not creating a routine for your Pilates! You are the master of your own Pilates goals destiny. It’s time to take ownership of your self!

2. Repetition becomes habit

Habits can be good or bad but all habits are learned and can be un learned!
They used to say it took 21 days to make a habit (some say 30 days) but according to scientific study, it can take anywhere between 18 days to 254 days of daily repetition to form a new habit, it depends on the individual. But on average it takes 66 days for a new behaviour to become automatic. Plus as an extra bonus, when you make Pilates part of your every day/every week life, the healthy habit encourages other healthy habits to kick in.  You’ll start moving better and with ease, so you’ll start walking more or going to that aerobics class. You’ll feel healthier, so you’ll start eating healthier. You’ll sweat and improve circulation, so you’ll want to drink more water.

In Classical Pilates, we focus on repetition. Pilates is mean to be about low number of repetitions per exercise, not millions for the sake of it and the burnout feeling. It’s to ensure you get through the material, and it gets into your brain and body.  Unlike other styles of Pilates, Classical follows the clear format and order for the exercises as laid out by Joe Pilates himself for his work. In doing this, you learn the order! it becomes a habit through repetition. You are free then later to concentrate your mind on getting better at the same exercise and working deeper. Classical teachers are trained to teach you in the same way, the same wording, the same format. In doing so, the message sinks in quicker, the habit is formed without the confusion of extra flowery language to distract the mind. How many times have you heard Michelle cue the Hundred for beginners in this way…. “Bend your knees into your chest, curl up your head, neck and shoulders to your shoulder blade tips, lift your arms out of the mat by your hips and above your abdominal wall, move your legs to tabletop, anchor the pelvis and shoulders, eyes on the abs, long fingers and neck. Pump your arms up and down vigorously as you breathe in for 5 counts and out for 5 counts, in 2,3,4,5, out 2,3,4,5.”  Once you know it, you just do it!

3. Successful people are more efficient

When you start out at anything, routines are things you just have to keep doing over and over again. Pilates is just the same. You will need will power, you need motivation to stick to the routine especially if you’ve had a bad day at work, or it’s raining and you’d rather sit on the sofa with Game of Thrones and a cuppa. Once a routine is a learned behaviour (through repetition), it becomes a habit. Once it’s a habit, it’s autonomous so you don’t actually have to think about it, will power and motivation isn’t needed to attend. You won’t have to keep reminding yourself to book in your Pilates class, it’s an essential part of your daily routine.  You don’t let it slip, it’s a good habit. You therefore save time and free up more brain space to concentrate on other tasks as wellbeing and self care is under check!

In Classical Pilates, the orders and important transitions that link the exercises together make your more efficient in your Pilates and a learnt habit of good efficiency for outside in your every day life. Transitions are key to the Classical Pilates style for you to move from one exercise to another in the most efficient way. Your body is warm from the exercise, we transition from one to another in such a way that you don’t rest, cool down and undo all your hard work. It’s stamina building. It makes you get through your material so eventually a demanding, sweaty and challenging advanced matwork session will be done in under 25 mins. Efficiency! Who has time to workout for hours at a time?!

 

4. Builds momentum little by little

There is a quote that goes “little by little, a little becomes a lot.”  That’s true with everything in life. Pilates is just the same. How can you be a master of the advanced work if you don’t go through the little steps of learning how to break it all right down to the basics and learn how to use your powerhouse correctly, every single time, every single exercise.  You wouldn’t just run a marathon, you would put in the months of training, step by step, mile by mile. A little Pilates every day means your body will have moved well hundreds of thousands of times over a year. No wonder you don’t need the weekly Osteopath fix anymore hey?!  One of our client’s Pete, committed himself to over 100 Pilates sessions in a year, and by doing it, he ended up losing 2 stone!  But you have to start. It won’t look pretty, you won’t be great at it to start with. but you will have started and that’s what gets you great at something.

5. Commitment saves you work in the long run
If you are constantly writing each and every day, you will become a better writer.  If you are constantly running mile after mile, you will be able to do a marathon. If you never thought you could learn languages but you kept listening to the tape everyday in the car, you would become better at Spanish. Pilates is the same. If you practice a little Pilates every day, you will be better at Pilates and your aches and pains/knee issues/weight loss/neurological issue will be better.  If you practice once a week, it may take a little longer, it you practice one every 2 weeks, it will take even longer. Down the line you save win in the long run just by dedicating a little time.

Written by Owner and Pilates teacher: Michelle Smith
www.thepilatespod.co.uk

 

Completing a Pilates Hundred Challenge

Ever wondered how it feels to complete your “Pilates Hundred Challenge” with us? Pilates Pod client Pete Summerbee explains how it helped him on his journey to fitness:

“Well as my 100th Pilates class of the year has passed, I wanted to reflect on the year I hit 43 and the approach I took to fitness.

I wanted to get fitter in 2015 and started the year with Dry January as well as a target to reach 100 Pilates classes by the end of December. My other target was to lose a stone but that seemed a pipedream, more of that later.

The alcohol bit was really easy, a lot of tonic water, and ever since then my relationship with alcohol has really changed. I still enjoy it but rarely have it – once a week maybe.

Not a lot happened for the first month weightwise and then I tweaked my diet – porridge, honey and chia seeds for brekkie and homemade veg soup for lunch, cut out the sugar and a lot of junk. (Still have junk food Friday nights though!) With this combined with the Pilates the weight dropped off and I toned up too. I am also a bad carb freak and won’t touch lots of foodstuffs but I now love brown rice and pasta.

The Pilates classes got easier, even though I don’t know left from right and have no co-ordination some days. The classes and people are great fun and I have never been fitter, lighter or healthier plus I have muscles where I never knew I had muscles. I put it down to a combination of watching food, sugar and drink intake (not dieting), a lot of walking (my tip is get a dog),the Pilates and the great team at the Pod. There is always laughter in the classes, however that might just be my classes!

The other day for some weird reason a group of us (outside of class) had to show whether we could sit down and stand up without using our hands, I was the only one who could. It is easy for me now.

What else has happened? Well I have done a Pilates display in public (which was great fun but scary. There was so much noise going on that none of us could hear our instructor Ellen and it is hard to watch what someone is doing when you are doing a cat stretch and trying to figure out the next exercise) and I’ve also taken part in a photoshoot for the Pod. There should definitely be an out-take section on the website, that’s for sure.

Overall I am loving Pilates and feeling really fit. Going to try to fit in more yoga as well as cycling in 2016.

Oh yeah and about that weight loss – 2 stone 7lbs at the last count!

So how is 2016 going? Well I hit the big 44 and by the time you read this post I’ll be on my 56th class of the year, working towards my second Hundred Challenge, what a great idea where did that come from?! I’ve completed another Dry January and I am healthier than I have ever been and I put this down to the Pilates. I now do a range of different classes and levels as well as really getting into my yoga. I’ve found having less alcohol is easy and I’d advise you to go for quality over quantity once or twice a week

I’m still enjoying the Pod, the journey, I’ve even been to my first baby shower and guessed the size of the bump. I’ve never felt healthier, loving life and 99.99% sure that will be training to be a Pilates teacher in September.”

Thanks Pete for sharing your experience.

Run Forrest Run- top tips for runners

We’ll be leading the warmups for the Hitchin Hard Half Marathon on the 26th June, so we thought we’d share our top tips for runners and how Pilates can help you:

When you’re a runner, whether it’s a short jog or a full on marathon, there are 3 things a runner is looking to do:

  • Run faster and for longer
  • Avoid injury
  • Run more efficiently

The good news is that running is no doubt a great cardiovascular exercise to keep you fit and healthy but the bad news is that it often leads to muscle imbalances, which not addressed can scupper your chances for those three things you strive to achieve.

Body asymmetries  develop because of poor body mechanics which in turn cause certain muscles to become overused (a common trait in runners), while others become underused.  This unfortunately can result in all sorts of issues for you the runner from lower back pain, IT Band issues, knee and hip problems.

Whilst we can’t change the fact that running does use these muscles over and over again, we can look at ways to help address the imbalances so we’re less likely to get the injuries, finish the race and shave off valuable minutes from our time.

In Pilates, we love our bums (and yours!) and whilst we strive to helping you achieve the balance between weak glutes and over tight hip flexors, in running there is an important reason why!

One of the most common issues we see a lot in all sorts of people but commonly in runners is the internally rotating knee/thigh. This is where the knee falls into the midline rather than tracking straight forward. Finding and then strengthening the glutes effectively allows us to stabilise the pelvis and stop the constant battle of your knee being pushed and pulled inwards and outwards.

Love your glutes
Some great exercises to target all those glutes are:

  • Shoulder bridge
  • Swimming – 4 point kneeling
  • Side Clam
  • Side leg lifts

Lengthen the tight hip flexors

Tight hip flexors are a very common ailment that runners suffering from. This along with a weak “core” often leads to a forward and downward tilt on the pelvis, again resulting in more loading to the knees and excessively arching the lower back

Some great exercises to target the tip flexors

  • Dynamic Lunges- ensure good activation of the glutes
  • Swan dive- opens the whole chest and lengthens the front of the body, abdominal wall and hip flexors whilst strengthening the glutes

Get stronger from inside out

It’s no good just hoping to target your tight spots with some static holding stretches that only temporarily release the problem, only to find after your next run it springs back. It all comes back to the muscle imbalance and poor body mechanics thing we mentioned earlier. The spine plays a huge part in ensuring the pelvis stays in an optimal position and limits the stress and load placed on other areas.

Luckily Pilates is all about this strength from within. It’s not a list of individual exercises and stretches but more a method of full body moves that will condition the whole body from head to toe with a full awarenesss and use of your inner stabilising postural muscles (known as the core) to work the limbs.

In short this kind of exercise programme will target everything at once, a perfect system of exercises created with flow and precision to ensure good alignment, form, breathing, strength and stability whilst allowing your body to naturally correct the war between your tight muscles and weak muscles.

Recently a lady came to us to start Pilates with hip and knee pain that was preventing her continuing her running, so much so she was having to give up her training and pull out of the Paris marathon. In just 4 weeks of regular Pilates, she felt so much better she decided to keep her place and within 8 weeks she completed the run pain free with over 1/2 hour shaved off her time.

And what runner doesn’t want that kind of result?! Book onto our our Intro to Pilates courses or find out about our individualised 1:1 personal training and see the benefits for yourself.

Happy running!

Written by Michelle Smith,

Director The Pilates Pod

www.thepilatespod.co.uk

 

I’m having a baby! What to expect in the 1st Trimester and exercises to help

Congratulations! You’re having a baby! 

Well, me too, so snap! This is my second child, my first is 5 years old and now I am 19 weeks pregnant with number 2, so I know what you’re going through.
baby on board
What’s the 1st Trimester of Pregnancy 
0-12 weeks of early pregnancy is known as the 1st trimester and a time to establish a routine. Every woman’s body is different and each pregnancy is individual. 
The focus for exercise in the 1st trimester establishing a good routine that will see you through your whole pregnancy, to help you stay active and strong in pregnancy, because let’s face it, it is hard work on your body and for a looooong time! But even more importantly, what you do now during pregnancy, sets up good preparation in your body to help you give birth naturally, with an ideal alignment of baby inside you and with to make the “job” a little bit easier. (she laughs at the word “easier”)
It’s also about pre working on returning to shape and recovery after baby is born, as the investment you make now in your body will help facilitate  this time later to be that little bit easier too.
Early pregnancy is not the time to work too hard. You may be feeling tired, sick, have some weight gain, an increase in the need to go to the loo, breasts become larger and more tender and hormones are all over the place. Avoid overheating in exercise, don’t worry about working out too hard, things may be a struggle for you at this time even though you don’t have a huge bump yet. It’s a time to realise what’s going on in your body is pretty major and amazing and listen to it.  In these early days, baby is doing it’s important forming so let’s give it some thought and chill out a little more on the vigorous stuff and start being mindful of the creation inside you, your changing body and respect the changes.  The 2nd trimester is the time where you can up your efforts so leave that for then.
Creating a good awareness focus on your pelvic floor muscles is key right now. They take a lot of strain over 9 months of pregnancy with the weight of a growing baby, as well as that extra effort during natural delivery. Learn what the pelvic floor muscles are, how to keep them both strong and flexible. We need the “bounce” in our muscles as well as the tightness so remember it’s not all about pulling up, up up down there!
Keep your movements controlled, slow and mindful, remembering to support the lax ligaments that occur in pregnancy from the hormone Relaxin by strengthening the muscles and ligaments that support around the joints.
Pregnancy is not about being wrapped up in cotton wool either! It’s a demanding effort on mum, and you need to be strong, active and healthy to cope with the demands. So although it may feel like a time to sit back, eat tubs of icecream and attend antenatal exercise classes where you only breath and then eat cake, come on ladies, invest in yourself! Strong and supple legs, back, core and pelvic floor are the order of the day so let’s keep active moving forward in our pregnancy… more on that later in our 2nd Trimester blog.
The stages of a baby
What exercises are good for the 1st Trimester?

Natural alignment of the pelvis– important for facilitating a correct birth position and so you know a benchmark of the “norm” when later it naturally starts tilting forward.

Extension of the thoracic spine– you want to work on extension of the (mid-upper) thoracic spine for later prevention of the inevitable roundness that occurs, to support the weight of the growing breasts, to maintain a good upper body alignment and to help with lower back support. This area becomes increasingly stiff as the lower back becomes more mobile.

Flexion of the lumbar spine and oblique strengthening– gain mobility of the lower lumbar spine to strengthen and stretch the back muscles. It’s important to learn how to activate, strengthen and stabilize with the deep abdominals known as the Transvere Abdominisius, along with the Obliques, which helps prevent the destablisation of the rectus abdominus which may cause abdominal separation known as Diastasis Recti, and to help stablise the pelvis and aid with lower back ache.

Focus on pelvic floor toning and stretching– the pelvic floor muscles need toning and stretching to work naturally as a support system against the weight of a growing baby bearing down on them. This is important during pregnancy, to assist and guide baby out in delivery and to regain their control after, helping to avoid those little “leaks” that can be common. Pelvic floor muscles should be worked with breathing exercises and functional movement so it’s not about just squeezing your bits aka Kegel, but making them work during normal movements like a squat.

Breathing– breathing is great as a relaxation tool  and will not only help you engage your deep ab muscles and pelvic floor, but help you relieve stress and stretch tight mid back muscles. As baby gets bigger inside you, your organs get squashed, and the added hormones too, make breathing a little bit harder to do, so focusing on your breath is a great way to bring back some focus to this area.

Finally, it’s often nice to get out and meet other mums to be. Doing a specialist prenatal Pilates or yoga class during your pregnancy will get you to meet other like minded women, who can share support with how you are feeling and in our classes, the ladies make friends and often have babies around the same time so you’ve got an instant network of new mummy friends! Please note we only recommend continuing with Pilates in your 1st Trimester if you have been doing so before you became pregnant. Otherwise, wait for your 1st scan, check all is ok with the baby and with your pregnancy and join in from 12-13 weeks.

Oh, it’s ok to eat the occasional tub of icecream too! (mine’s the salted caramel one!)

Look out for part 2- The 2nd Trimester…….coming soon!

Written by Michelle Smith
Owner, The Pilates Pod and mum of 1 (and a bit!) kids!
www.thepilatespod.co.uk

Optimal nutrition for the over 60’s

The term ‘senior citizen’ no longer evokes images of blue rinses, zimmer frames and beige polyester clothing. Baby boomers are seemingly more healthy and youthful than ever, enjoying active and energised retirements. Just think of some of our most fabulous, glamorous ‘seniors’ like Helen Mirren,and Tom Jones who like a fine Bordeaux, seem to get better with age.
Helen Mirren

By 2050, for the first time ever, the world population will have more people over age 65 than children age 5 and younger. Baby boomers (those born post 1946) are therefore are more important and significant generation than ever before and will impact our socio economic climate for years to come.

Despite their increasingly youthful appearances however, researchers claim baby boomers are at risk of more disease than previous generations, triggered by their increasingly sedentary lifestyles and poor nutrition. Despite apparent improvements in medicine, healthcare and standard of living, today’s 60 years olds are less healthy than their immediate predecessors. Age related illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and cancers are more prevalent than ever.

However such illnesses do not have to be an inevitable part of growing old. With good nutrition and lifestyle there is no reason why you cannot maintain great health into the winter of your life.

During our lifetimes our nutritional requirements do change quite significantly. It is therefore important to make sure that your diet is tailored specifically for your advanced years.

It is a popular belief that over 60’s require less calories, however they actually need more of certain nutrients than younger adults. As we age, our body becomes less efficient at producing and absorbing certain vitamins and minerals.

greensI
In theory we should get all vital nutrients from our food, but this can be a challenge for even the healthiest among us. Changes in farming techniques mean that foods are simply not as nutrient dense as they once were.
A good quality supplement is therefore recommended at all ages, but especially during older age. As with many things in life, you get what you pay for so avoid cheaper vitamins from the supermarket that are full of fillers, and invest in food state vitamins from brands such as Cytoplan. A specially formulated multivitamin for over 50’s will ensure you get the complete spectrum of vitamins and minerals.

Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a concern for many, and by 2025 there will be 1 million people in the UK living with the disease.

The Mind diet advocates 10 foods which they claim reduces the risk of alzheimers by 35%. This includes green leafy vegetables, nuts, berries and whole grains. It is advised that red meat, cheese, margarine, pastries and sweets are avoided.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis (meaning porous bones), is a common concern for over 60s. This degenerative disease occurs as bone density decreases, increasing risk of fracture. Post-menopausal women are particularly prone to the disease due to increased oestrogen production. Your doctor will no doubt recommend a diet high in dairy to prevent osteoporosis. However dairy is not the best source of calcium. It is highly acidic, and mucus forming, and most humans cannot digest the lactose it contains properly, which leads to conditions such as asthma and eczema. The body needs magnesium in order to absorb calcium so supplementing with calcium alone is not enough.
It is therefore a good idea to eat a diet rich is calcium and magnesium rich foods such as cruciferous vegetables like kale and broccoli. Sardines are also calcium rich and have the added bonus of containing B12 that is a key nutrient for brain and nervous system health.
Exercise and muscle strengthening also helps prevent the osteoporosis. For best results, aim for 30 minutes of exercise five times a week.

Vitamin depletion

Vitamin D depletes with age and there are only a handful of foods that contain it. Fish such as tuna, mackerel, salmon and sardines are all good sources of the vitamin. For vegetarians, vitamin D sprays are a simple way to supplement your diet.

Vitamin B12 absorption

Aging decreases the body’s ability to absorb B-12 in the small intestine, which may lead to a deficiency. The Institute of Medicine advises that over 50’s supplement synthetically with a good quality supplement.

While it’s true that our body’s change as we age, illness and disease is not inevitable. Eat a nutrient dense diet, made up of whole natural foods and keep sugar, caffeine, dairy and gluten to a minimum.

juice
Recipes

Smoothies and juices are a fantastic way to supplement your diet.

These easy recipes are packed full of essential vitamins, minerals and enzymes.

Supergreen Juice- Bursting with essential minerals such as magnesium which maintains normal muscle and nerve function.

2 medium apples
3 celery stalks
½ cucumber
½ thumb of ginger
½ lemon
½ lime
2 cups spinach or kale

Wash and juice all contents, removing pith of lemon and lime before juicing

Simple Superfood Smoothie

Rich in fibre, vitamin C, K, vitamin E, B6 and potassium, as well as packed with plant based protein, this smoothie is a great way to start the day.

½ avocado
1 pear
1 tspn chia seeds
1 tspn hemp seeds
1 glass of coconut or almond mylk

Blend all ingredients

For more information, contact naturopath nutritionist Amy Huggins
Health & Happiness

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The man, the legend and his creation

“Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.”

Do you buy that? Smart words you might think?  These are the words of Joseph Pilates, the creator of the Pilates method. Except back in  the 1900’s when he devised this fantastic system of movements, it was called “Contrology” (only later becoming Pilates after his death)

So let me just get this right… Pilates was created by a man?
How many men do you know these days who do Pilates or even less, how many teach it? Yet the system was originally created by a man and taught to hundreds of men. And not just “a” man, Joe was a man’s man!  A cigar smoking, beer loving, womanizing, man!

Joseph Pilates (1883-1967) always claimed that he was far ahead of his time with his system of exercises and he was right. In the early 1920’s he started his first studio in New York City, but today Pilates is known internationally as a key staple exercise and movement programme. Not a fad that came and went, not a wishy washy airy fairy exercise, not something that didn’t make you break a sweat, but a system of carefully controlled (hence the name Contrology) flowing movements designed to return you to life. It’s no wonder then that his (second) book in 1945 was named just this “Return to Life through Contrology”  (his first book was “Your Health”)
These days the Pilates method is taught and practiced by millions of smart cookies all over the world, who’ve cottoned on to the fact that this Pilates thing will make your back feel strong, your whole body feel toned, your vitality and energy increase, make you stand taller, walk and move easier….. basically it will make you feel fan dabby tastic!

Joe based his concepts for Pilates on having a balanced mind, body and spirit and took some of his inspiration from the early Greeks. He studied scientifically and experimentally into what upset the balance of these things.  Sleep, posture, stress, technology all played a part in his research.  You might not even know that much of Pilates work was outside of the actual exercise system we now know and love but that he also had his views on how we should sit on a chair, sleep in our bed, and built furniture to help us get this balance.
He believed in correct breathing being the basis of it all, as it is in life. Adding in body movement and mechanics, spinal flexibility and physical education.

Quite simply Pilates is a method of exercise designed to bring about balance in your body through strength and flexibility. If the body is restored to balance, it can move effortlessly without strain.  Most of the time, we are completely unaware of these stresses and strains being added to the body, causing us to be out of balance. Until it’s too late and the injury sets in to the point of letting us know about it. An ache or niggle here, later leading perhaps to more pains and a trip to the osteopath or doc.

Sure, doing Pilates will, as Joe wanted, return you to life and restore your imbalances once you have them. But imagine if you will a life where doing Pilates meant you didn’t get the imbalances in the first place?! That’s what’s it’s all about. It’s functional, basic movement. Strength training, flexibility training, body balancing.

You can (and should!) use it to help your sport improve, to get you out of back pain, to prepare your body for motherhood, to deal with the physical demands on a young developing body, or to managing the issues we face as we get older. It’s perfect for everyone; male and female alike.

In Pilates we refer to a “two way stretch” That’s one of the really cool things about it, you are always focusing. As one part of your body strengthens, the other side is stretching. Imagine in a gym, you’d have to use two machines for that. In Pilates, just the one exercise will do both! As your body becomes stronger, it also becomes longer = flexibility and strength! Winner!

We focus on the inner workings of the body, what some refer to as the “powerhouse” or “core.”
The deeper muscles of the body can’t be seen but can still be felt, and it’s these smaller postural muscles that help us with proper alignment whilst we go through our everyday movements. An imbalance in these muscles means we can’t work as efficiently, we are more likely to injure.  Time off work, time off the sports pitch, time off picking up the grandchildren for a cuddle. Do you want that?

But it doesn’t stop there! Pilates is a full body exercise. You use your brain to move your body so it’s great for the grey matter! You simply don’t have head space to think of the shopping when you’re doing Pilates, so a natural stress reliever.  We also use the limbs; our arms and legs, so you’ll be getting them stronger too.

In fact, Pilates as a class may help you in the studio, but just think of the all the benefits it gives your whole life outside the class room! For a full Pilates experience, you should also be using the equipment such as the “Reformer” to really condition the body, but it’s so easy to start with just you and a mat, anywhere, anytime.

And what’s not to like about that?! Just be sure your teacher knows a bit about what they are talking about!

For more information on Pilates, check out www.thepilatespod.co.uk

 

 

Are we a nation of pill poppers?

“The one thing that is taking up GP’s time is those arriving with back pain.”doctors waiting room

That was the view in the Cambridge News recently, reporting on how we are a nation obsessed with the control of pain and the taking of pain relief. We’ve all done it- reached for the headache tablets when our head is pounding and thanked those little white pills for sweet relief when it’s gone. But what happens the next day and the day after that when the same headache comes back?

A recent study from The Lancet journal has revealed that paracetamol is no better for back pain than placebo. With 26 million people suffering from back pain in the UK, that’s a pretty big number of people reaching for the bathroom cabinet supplies and keeping the pharmaceutical company rich!

Of course there are people who’s lives and conditions rely on medication, we’re not talking about those here naturally. But have we become reliant on the “quick fix” of those little tablets to get us through back, neck or headache pain on a daily basis?

Deal with the cause and not the symptom

From a previous life coping with back pain from a car accident, I know too well of the joy  you feel from re-occurring visits to the osteopath where your back is temporarily “fixed” only for it to spring back again a few days or weeks later and rely on that fixing again. Or to manage the pain with Tens machine and medication that was offered to me with the NHS. Do you want to spend your life like that? I got fed up relying on someone or something to “fix” me and started looking for ways to manage myself and that’s when the lightbulb moment happened.

lightbulb moment

Sure, that’s dealing with the symptoms, but what is the cause?!

In my case the symptoms were back and neck pain, spinal stiffness from being locked up on impact and muscular spasms. But the cause (obviously we know the car accident was the culprit) was that my spine was no longer in alignment, my neck was too far forward, my mid back twisted and locked up, my lower back and pelvis had been trying to cope with this imbalances and caused pain.
After the initial physio help and no help from the Tens machine, I invested in Self Management Tools, better known as Pilates!

It’s really important to get your spine checked out. A good osteopath or chiropractor won’t just look at the symptom (tight hamstrings, sore shoulders etc) but look at the whole spine and realign your spine and pelvis into it’s optimal position, allowing your muscles and joints around it to then work freely and without restrictions. But without some sort of “management tools” to help keep your spine and pelvis aligned, this trip back to the docs or osteoapth  can be a frequent (and expensive) reoccuring one!

For me, once a week doing Matwork lead to 3-4 times a week on both Mat and Reformer and guess what…

magic wand Hey presto, the magic happened!

I was moving my body again in all directions; forward flexion, side bend, rotation twist and backwards extension and feeling supple. I got stronger in my centre and core, my glutes starting working and the pain disappeared. My body started to help itself!

At first I didn’t realise it, but after a couple of weeks I began to think “hang on a minute, my back hasn’t been hurting like it usually does!” and then I realised what I’d been doing differently- Pilates!

But it’s not really magic is it, it’s just a bit of common sense.  Pilates isn’t a magic pill but it’s sensible, controlled movement. Pilates is exercise, exercise is movement, movement is what makes us feel better!

Move often, with control, stability and mobility. Stretch, strengthen, feel better!

And you can look forward to chucking those pills in the bin!

For more info on how Pilates can help you, see www.thepilatespod.co.uk