Tag Archives: posture

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

 

Top tips for preventing back pain in the workplace

It’s reported that 3 out of 4 people have back pain in their lives and 85% of those are undiagoned, meaning there is no specific medical reason why.
SO WHY?!

chained to the desk

Do you ever feel like you’re chained to the office desk?

Considering how much of your day is spent at work, you’re probably right for thinking so! Plus it’s reported 4 out 5 British workers eat their lunch at the desk so we really are chaining ourselves to the desk!

The office environment presents all sorts of physical stresses on the body.   Monitors too low for your eye-line, chairs too high or too low, phones stuck between the ear and shoulder, RSI and shoulder strain from repetitive typing without correct support, wrong lighting causing eye strain…. shall we go on?!

But one of the biggest problems we face is sitting down all day, and lets face it, most of us leave work and go home to sit all evening on the sofa! This long period of inactivity causes the spine to:

  • Slouch and gradually compress against gravity
  • Adds strain to the lower back
  • Forces the mid back to overly round and tighten the chest and weaken the back support muscles
  • Pushes the head further further, adding to neck strain, headaches and increasing load added onto the spine.
  • Shortens and tightens hip flexors
  • Weakens the important abdominal core muscles
  • Reduces space for the vital organs

So what’s the solution?

I quit quit1

Ok, maybe not! But thankfully it is possible to make a few changes that will reduce the time and how you sit at your desk and improve your back pain.

  • Swop your chair for a stability ball. Posture is greatly increased by working your core stabilising and back muscles as you sit on a ball, as well as been shown to lead to better circulation, upper body mobility and less beck and joint pain.
  • Get a raised desk and do away with the chair at all! LinkedIn staff did this and saw a 50% reduction in back pain from not sitting down!
  • Ensure typing is done with wrist support resting on the desk. Awkward positions when typing can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
  • Get a hands free set for your desk phone. No more holding the phone between your ear and shoulder which causes neck and shoulder pain. Plus hands free means you can stand up and walk around more so less time sitting down.
  • Get a grip!  We’re losing our grip power as most things we do is by finger touch. Building up grip strength by making and tightening a fist (without tightening your shoulder and neck) will exercise the forearm and the small muscles in the hands, reduce the effects of typing RSI  and carpal tunnel syndrome and give you great toned triceps too!
  • Wiggle at your desk. if sitting still is the enemy, then have a little wiggle. Circle your ankles, flex and point the toes for improved circulation- do the same in the wrists. Stretch your neck by tipping your ear to your shoulder, circle your shoulders, lift your chest up to the sky and lengthen your spine, circle your pelvis like a clock to move the lower back.
  • Counter balance the effects of desk working by doing some Pilates regularly. Move well every day with some forward bending, side bending, twisting and back bending/extension will go a long way to helping to reduce the effects of sitting down all day.
  • Make the tea! Getting the teas/coffees in for your team will not only get you out of the chair and moving your spine but it’ll also make you more popular too! We suggest you use the handy colour chart to get the right strength of your colleagues favourite brew… mine’s a Builders Brew!

what's your strength brew?

You may also be interested in the following related  blogs:

 

Written by: Michelle Smith
Director, The Pilates Pod
www.thepilatespod.co.uk

Pilates and Back Pain: Why it works

My last blog was about putting up with back pain and why that’s not a good idea. On a much more positive note lets have a look at why Pilates is so great for managing back pain. It goes without saying that any pain should be diagnosed by a medical professional reducing the chances of aggravating rather than relieving your discomfort.

Did your mother ever tell you to stand up straight? She was onto something here. She probably also told you to eat your vegetables too but now we might pay a nutritionist to advise us on superfoods!

Mother knows best
Mother knows best

Poor, slumped and collapsed postures standing and especially sitting place a tremendous amount of strain on our tissues. If muscles are held in a shortened position for a prolonged period other muscles will have to work overtime in order to support the weight of the surrounding structures. The body’s energy efficient response to this is to lay down extra collagen into the overworked muscle to make it more like a ligament, allowing it to support the same weight without expending much energy through prolonged muscular contraction. So rather than having well balanced muscles around a joint we have shortened and weakened muscles on one side versus overly long muscles that have lost their ability to contract as muscles fibres are replaced by collagen.

Hence we end up with a poor balance of muscular control around many joints. The resulting lack of stability around our sensitive joints  can result in poorly controlled movements with painful muscular spasms as the body quickly tries to gain control.

Muscle imbalances from sitting
Muscle imbalances from sitting

Pilates teaches you to lengthen your body in every possible direction. Even some of the starting positions for many exercises are hard work! This continual striving to find more space in your body is decompressing the joints and distributing the load of either movement or static held positions. In the Pilates mat exercises its just you and gravity. On the equipment the springs act as gravity for you to push and lengthen out against. A reformer is literally trying to squash and compress you giving you some feedback to lengthen out against. Thats why the equipment has the funky looking straps and handles so your limbs can experience this as well as your spine. Once you get back on the mat again after using the equipment your body knows what to do, as you reach a leg away for Single Leg Stretch you keep reaching into a now imaginary strap.

Reformer
Get a little length

Pilates brings your smaller supporting muscles to the party. Too often these small stabilisers get edged out of our movement patterns by the bigger movement producing muscles. Ever had to drive a car without power steering when you are used to having it? Thats what your body is doing when the stabilising muscles are neglected. It takes so much more effort to move the damn thing around! Advanced Pilates practitioners make the harder exercises look easy and flowing. They are still working hard but no part of the body is working harder than it has to.

Quality of movement is really important in Pilates. Once you start to find and use your stabilising muscles movement becomes much smoother and more controlled. Many of our stabilising muscles fine tune out movements but are also rich in nerve endings that send information back to our central nervous system. Our movements are then better calibrated, and of course smoother movement is far less likely to cause pain. Not having this feedback is like trying to negotiate the world with fogged up glasses.

One of the greatest gifts Pilates gives people with back pain is the ability to take back some control of their situation. Back pain is frightening and frustrating in equal measures with many chronic long term sufferers becoming depressed when it limits their previous level of activity. It’s a real privilege to work with this population as they learn how movement is going to help rather than hinder them.

No back pain
No back pain