Monday 22 December 2014

Escape the gloom - notes from our November Pilates Retreat in Spain


The local town square

One dark, windy, wet, November morning 6 of us took flight from Newcastle airport, in the north east of England heading for Malaga, in southern Spain for our Pilates Retreat.  Malaga is reputed to have the best climate in Europe, being that it is just about as close to Africa that you can get whilst still being on European soil.  We left a dreary Newcastle in a howling gale, and landed in Malaga to a bit cloudy but warm breeze (about 18 C) - we swiftly started ditching the several layers of clothing that we had on.  It was just lovely to see the sun again!

We were picked up straight from the airport by our friendly taxi driver Paul and headed off to our final destination, Torrox, a small town in the foothills of the Sierra de Almijara in Anadalucia.

As the streets were too narrow to get the taxi right to the hotel door, we had to drag our suitcases the short distance to the hotel.  After a swift check in and checking out of each others' rooms (all very nice!), we had a bit of a walk around Torrox to get our bearings.  The town square formed the main area of the town, with the restaurants and cafe's based around the square.  A special mention must be made to the AMAZING cake shop, which incidentally also sold wine (€2 a bottle!?!?) and just about any other food supplies that were necessary.
The best cake shop ever!

So after stopping and having coffee and snacks in the square we headed to the cake shop  - after arming ourselves with cake, we headed back to the hotel to unpack and maybe think about unpacking our Pilates mats.

We had the use of the hotel's terrace for our Pilates sessions (and as we were the only guests of the hotel, we had the run of the hotel - the owners went out of the way to accommodate our requests (mainly for kettles and tea - being British after all!!).

The views from the terrace were amazing, and we enjoyed a lovely Pilates session and stretch in the open air with the sky above and the beautiful view of the mountains.  It was  so peaceful up there, only the sounds of the breeze and birds to disturb us.

View from the terrace
After a lovely stretch and relaxation, we headed back to our rooms to properly unpack and get ready for supper.  Supper for the first night was in the hotel, and I must say the food in the hotel was very good indeed, freshly prepared and extremely tasty.  As it was Marie's 'special' birthday we all enjoyed a bottle of fizzy stuff, compliments of the hotel.  After supper we all retired to our rooms as it had been quite a long day.


We all woke up refreshed after a good nights sleep bright and early, and ready for another Pilates session.  As it was a bit too cold on the terrace first thing on a morning, we went into one of the suites and had our session there.

After breakfast we decided to go and visit some famous caves nearby at Nerja.  We arrived there and were surprised to find a Scottish piper in full regalia playing the bagpipes - we think he was practicing for Rememberance Sunday.  There was almost no-one at the caves when we got there (and it had one of the best gift shops, in which we all managed to buy something), so we got our tickets and headed inside.

There were a lot of steps and uneven surfaces, but it was well worth it, as the views inside the caves were spectacular, some of the best rock formations that we'd ever seen, the caves had been in use since pre-historic times and they had an amazing atmosphere.  We even managed a few side planks in there!  After a quick coffee stop, we caught the bus from the caves into the town centre of Nerja.

The 'Church Organ' at Nerja caves
Nerja is a beautiful town, right beside the sea, with some beautiful gift shops.  We spent some time exploring the alleyways and browsing the shops - as we were out of season the place wasn't crowded and the temperature was just right for walking around in. We stopped just off the town centre for tapas and drinks, we could not believe how cheap the food was in Spain (€30 between 6 of us for lunch, and that included drinks!).

Beautiful Nerja
After lunch we found a fabulous ice-cream shop and headed down to the beach, dipping our feet into the sea in November felt really good!  We could have stayed there all day, it was a really beautiful place and it was very much authentic Spain.

After a good look around and a bit more shopping we headed back to Torrox, and another Pilates session on the terrace.  It was really nice after walking around for much of the day to have a good stretch out, and just to be mindful of how lucky we were to be able to teach and practice in such a beautiful location.

Supper that night was in one of the local restaurants in the town square, and after another busy day we headed to bed.


A beautiful morning and we managed to have our morning Pilates session on the terrace, which was so peaceful and relaxing.  After breakfast, we decided to head off into Malaga.  Lots of folks fly into Malaga, and from the drive from the airport, it looks quite uninspiring.  But the guidebooks told us not to look on first impressions, so we decided to give it a try.  We caught the local bus (which were always on time and very cheap), and set off down the mountain.  It took us an hour to get to Malaga, taking in the sights of Andalucia whilst we travelled.  The bus dropped us right in the centre, next to the harbour and a short walk from the old town.

First stop was the coffee shop (obviously - are you seeing a pattern emerge here?), and then we headed up to the old castle and fortress - The Alcazabar!  This turned out to be huge and an absolute haven of peacefulness and calm.  Every corner we turned there were beautiful gardens or water features and gorgeous terraces.  The views from here were wonderful too.

'The Alcazabar' - Malaga Old Town
Again, we could have spent all day there, but we wanted to see more of Malaga.  So after a food stop, we headed the short distance to the cathedral.  Which, as with most cathedrals' in Europe was truly stunning, with amazing architecture.

We then moved onto the Picasso museum, who was born in Malaga.  The museum was housed in a beautiful building, and it was extremely well organised, but I think the majority of the group decided that we were not fans of Picasso!  Maybe we just didn't 'get it', so the jury is still out on that one... :)

Malaga Cathedral

After another quick coffee stop we headed back for our bus, which again, was spot on time and set back off for our hotel.
We had a quick rest and then anyone who wanted too, joined in for another Pilates session on the terrace.

Supper was in another local cafe, and off to bed for an early start the next day.


We had decided that we all wanted to make the effort to get to the 'Alhambra Palace' in Granada, which was not too far from where we were staying.  So we had booked Paul (from our airport taxi), to get us there (as it was about an hour and half drive away).  We were recommended to get there early - so we had an early morning start, so no Pilates :(.    Paul turned up on time in his brand new mini-bus, and after driving down the motorway for about half and hour, the brand spanking new mini-bus promptly broke down!  So we were stuck in the mountains, with no phone signal, not knowing quite what to do!  Luckily the hotel had provided us with a packed lunch, so we weren't going to starve!  The Spainish Guardia turned up to move the bus off the motorway, and eventually Paul managed to call one of his friends to come and pick us up and take us to our destination.

Upon arrival that the 'Alhambra Palace' which is a World Heritage site, we managed to get in with no problems (even with the later than planned arrival).  The Alhambra Palace is basically another huge fortress and collection of palaces.  It is an amazing place, and the architecture is beautiful.
Taking time out in the 'Alhambra Palace'

We spent a good few hours exploring the palaces and the beautiful gardens.   We had lunch at the local 'pub' within the Palace grounds - where the waiter enjoyed our attempts to speak Spanish.  Marie almost got left in the grounds, as she had lost her ticket, which she needed to get out!

Another good gift shop was explored and then we headed back in our taxi.

Back at the hotel, it was time for our penultimate Pilates session, which we held on the terrace as the sunset over the mountains.  This was followed by a bit of wine on the terrace too!  Supper was in the hotel again, which was by far the best place to eat in Torrox.


We started with a final gorgeous chill-out Pilates and meditation session followed by breakfast.  A local masseur arrived and a couple of people had a massage.  We then spent the remainder of the morning packing our bags and getting ready for our departure.  We just had time for lunch in the square and then Paul arrived to take us to the airport.  Malaga airport has to be one of the nicest airports with some great shops.  So some final presents were bought, before we headed back to a cold, dark and wet Newcastle.

All in all, everyone agreed that they'd had a great time.  We had some good laughs and saw some beautiful sights; and of course, enjoyed some amazing Pilates sessions.  There was no pressure to join in two Pilates sessions a day, you choose. All levels are catered for, so don't worry if you've never done Pilates before.  You just need to bring your yoga mat - everything else will be provided. 

There will be another retreat, heading to exactly the same hotel planned for 9th-13th October 2015. If you would be interested in joining us, then let us know as there are limited spaces. 

Prices from £680 per person based on Half-Board for 4 nights. 
  • Group Transfers (if arriving on the same flight as your retreat host)
  • Accommodation at Hotel La Casa, Torrox for 4 nights on a Half-Board basis
  • A minimum of 8 Pilates classes across 4 days
Friends and partners often wish to travel and not participate in the activities. Non participating group members are more than welcome and we offer a reduced price for them. Please contact us for full details.
In order to keep costs as low as possible, we do not include your flights as it is cheaper to book low cost flights direct with the airlines concerned, for those departing from Newcastle airport - we will advise which flight to book.

A deposit of just 15% of the retreat cost is payable to secure your place. Minimum numbers are applicable.  Please do not worry if you are travelling on your own, the groups are kept small and you'll soon make friends. 

If you are booking within 12 weeks of departure, full payment is required.
Booking conditions apply once deposit is paid. 

For more information on your instructors visit their website

*****VERY SPECIAL OFFER, we are pleased to be able to offer you this retreat at the amazing price of £600, for a limited time only - until end February 2015. ****** 
(after Feb it will revert to it's actual price of £680).

We can also offer a monthly savings scheme - so if started saving in Feb 2015 that would be 8 x £75 per month (not including flights, based on the offer price).

Get in touch to book, and take advantage of this amazing price, only 7 spaces available!


The stunning architecture at Alhambra Palace

Pilates on the terrace

Anchovies in the square

Side Planking - Nerja Caves

Nerja main street

Sunrise Pilates on the terrace

Nerja sea front

The food was amazing!

Thursday 25 September 2014

Principles of Pilates....and life!


It's been a while since I last blooged, and I have been wondering what to write about next.  There are so many exciting things to write about in the fitness and nutrition field, so I thought I would go back to basics - the principles of Pilates.

The 'Principles' are what sets Pilates apart from all other exercise systems, and if adhered to, make Pilates the most effective and efficient training method.  We can also bring the principles into everyday life and into all of our other activities that we do every day.

So what are they? - Depending on what/who you read there are up to 9 principles, Joseph Pilates did not directly write them down, so there is no concrete agreement, but they are basically the following;

Centering - this is bringing the focus to the centre of the body where all movement originates from.  Joseph Pilates called this the 'Powerhouse', or what we now call the 'core' - this is the area that incorporates from the pelvic floor, up through the abdominals, obliques, back and transverse abdominus (the body's natural corset).  All movement flows from the centre out to the extremities, allowing a safer more efficient movement, and strengthening the abdominal area.  No movement should be attempted before the core is properly engaged.

Control - All Pilates exercises are performed with the utmost control (no flinging randomly in our classes!), this helps minimise the risk of injury and creates better results.  All of our exercises come with clear instructions as to which muscles to use (and which ones not to use) - attention to detail is crucial.

Concentration - this is the mind/body connection, bringing awareness to the muscles that are working and attention to the movement that is required.  This is why Pilates can sometimes feel frustrating to beginners, as there are many different instructions to focus on for each movement - it can take years to perfect some Pilates exercises. A good tip is to close your eyes when exercising which allows the brain to focus entirely on the body and brings an awareness to the feelings and sensations.  We often live too much in our heads - thinking, planning, analysing, that we become unaware of the sensations through our body until it's too late.

Precision - this is where we focus on alignment and placement of the body.  Every exercise has a precise movement whilst keeping the body in it's true alignment.  We focus on correct posture and good alignment whilst carrying out the exercise which improves the body's overall movement in everyday life.  No floppy feet or hands - everything is engaged and has a purpose!

Breath - The most important of them all?  Joeseph Pilates said 'Even if you follow no other instructions, learn to breathe correctly'.  In modern life, our breathes are too shallow, Pilates believed that forced exhalation was the key to full inhalation, and that as the oxygen enriches the blood all of the body's cells are awakened.  Every movement in Pilates has a specific breath pattern and timing - effective breathing can help to lengthen the abdomen, broaden the upper back and helps train the correct muscle recruitment for everyday core strength.

In Pilates we practise 'Thoracic breathing', which is the practice of pulling in the abdominal muscles whilst inhaling and exhaling - thus protecting the spine. Also exhaling deeply encourages the deep core muscles to engage.

Flow - All movements should be performed with a flowing movement - there should be no beginning and no end.  Movements are not held static (unlike yoga) and should be a continuous and even flowing movement.

Which is the most important of the above Principles?  They all have a place and are as important as each other.  Try applying them to your everyday life - I'm still to learn the principle of 'control' when presented with a bar of chocolate - but we can't all be perfect!!

Keep practicing....

:)  Jill x

Friday 18 July 2014

Summer Pilates workout - for on the beaches!!

Hi All

I know that a lot of you are jetting off and are going to be missing your weekly dose of Pilates - well, no excuses to let your practice slip.  Here is a suggested programme for you;

Warm up
Alignment and balances - into tree pose.  Foot activation (press down into bent toes)
Roll downs (x3) into up dog, then down into plank x 3/4 times

Main Phase
Neutral spine - toe taps x 6, hover on last few
Shoulder Bridge - with leg lifts if able, keeping hips stable
The 100 - oh yes - do not forget this one!
Roll ups and downs (from lying position)
Side Plank - both sides, with thread needle if able x3
Torpedo x 5/6
Side kick x 5/6
Oyster x 5/6
Dolphins x 6 (add variations if able)
Table Top - holding longer
Cat Stretch
Cobra - start off with small extensions then into full if everything feels ok
Do other side from Torpedo
Single Leg circles
Open Leg rocker (with legs wide)

Cool Down
Hamstrings & Sciatic stretch
Gluteal stretch
Hip rolls (knees one way - head the other, arms in T Position)

Whoop - get through all that and we'll be impressed!  Should take you an hour to do the full lot, or break it down to half hour sessions - always do the complete set for warm up and cool down, then choose a couple of exercises out of the main phase.  The above are exercises that we regularly perform in classes, so remember;

Breath, alignment, feet (activated not hanging!), control, precision - think about the target muscles.

Try to practice 2/3 times per week (even if just for 15 mins) - keep up with the great progress that we've already made.

Have a great summer!

J & M xxx

Friday 27 June 2014

Why every golfer should practice Pilates

Are you or do you know someone who is a golfer?  

Do they practice Pilates?

If not, then they should, here's why;

*Approximately 60% of amateur golfers experience injury playing the game (Horowitz, 1999)

* Half of all professional golfers are forced to retire early due to injury (Metz, 1999)

Common golf injuries are:

Lower back (36%)
Elbows (32%)
Hands & Wrists (21%)
Shoulders (11%)

The reasons for the injuries are wide ranging from general overuse, poor swing mechanics and striking the ground with the club. To swing a golf club correctly requires a complex mix between balance, flexibility, co-ordination, muscular strength, joint mobility and neuromuscular training, the impact upon the ball requires compression forces of approximately 8 times the body weight.The golf swing is all one-sided which puts greater stress on the body and is not great for posture.  Core strength is a key component for golfers to achieve all of this correctly and efficiently - hence why Pilates is perfect for golfers and can help prevent injuries.

Pilates Exercises for Golfers

Pilates is designed to correct muscular imbalances, with it's focus on posture, alignment and technique, as well as core strength it is ideal for golfers. Pilates mat exercises can be used to stretch and strengthen, as well as creating some rotation in the golfers body - integrating the entire body thus correcting any imbalances.  Practising Pilates can create a flow to movement, essential in golf, as well as bringing a mind-body approach to a more conscious functional way of moving - the correct engagement before movement, can make the golf swing become more free and efficient!  Centering in this way can only improve the golfers swing and help them in their everyday life as well as helping keep them injury free, as all strength within the body comes from a strong core.

Key muscles for golfers to focus on

*Rectus Abdominus
*Latissimus Dorsi
*Rotator Cuffs

 3 suggested Pilates exercises for golfers

Shoulder Bridge - excellent for strengthening the gluts and stabilising the hips - both extremely important for golfers.

Single Leg Circles  - great for strengthening the legs, and stretching and strengthening through the hips.

Threadneedle Stretch - stretch through the thoracic spine, increasing mobility and creating some rotation through the mid back.

Improve you game

Golfers who practise Pilates have reported the following benefits;

* Hitting the ball further
* Improved swing
* Fewer injuries

So, what are you waiting for, include some Pilates into your exercise regime and see what benefits you gain...Tiger Woods can't be wrong?!


Tuesday 8 April 2014

Food Labelling - What you should look for!

Hi All

Learning how to understand and interpret food labels is an essential tool for anyone keen to improve their nutrition.  Have you ever looked at the label on the back of a food packet and struggled to understand what it actually means?

A survey (BBC News, 2005) found that out of 70 products tested for 570 nutrients only 7% actually matched the stated values, and almost one fifth contained levels outside of the generous 20% margin of error, so remember that although the labels may be helpful, they may also not be that accurate!

'Healthy' Foods

In the last 20 years the media has played a significant role in making us all more aware of the damage that a poor diet can have upon our health.  The food industry, as a result, have modified their marketing strategy to appeal to a population that is becoming more health conscious.  Many terms and phrases are used such as 'low in salt', 'low fat' and 'sugar free' - which is what we've been programmed to understand as 'better' food, but do you know what the legal requirement's are for food to be labeled as such?

'Health' Labels
  •  'Light, low, reduced or high' - there are no specific guidelines for these terms, other than they should not mislead.
  • 'Reduced or low fat' - must be at least 25% lower in fat than the original, but often calories are maintained by adding other ingredients.
  • 'low calorie' - must have lower calories than the original, but at no set level (so it could be 1 or 2 calories lower, and still be labelled 'low calorie').
  • 'sugar free' - sugar has not been added, but almost always an artificial sweetner has been used for taste.
E Numbers

Once upon a time it was bad to have an 'E' number in your food, as a result manufacturers now use the technical term for the additives (of which the public are mostly unaware), therefore it is also important to look out for the following when choosing foods;

  • sugar
  • dextrose
  • glucose syrup
  • glucose-fructose syrup
  • inverted sugar syrup
  • high fructose corn starch
  • mannitol
  • xylitol
  • sorbitol
  • maltodextrin
All of the above are refined sugars which are mildly addictive and contain empty calories.

When the E numbers are on foods, this is what they mean;

E100s - are colourings
E200s - are mostly preservatives
E300s - are antioxidants, acidity regulators and anti-caking agents
E400s - are emulsifiers, thickeners, stabilisers and geling agents
E900s - are generally waxes, sugars and sweeteners

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

This is added to foods as a flavour enhancer, it has been linked to obesity due to it's mildly addictive qualities and the effects that is has on the hypothalamic region of the brain affecting appetite. It's one thing that you definitely don't want to be eating, ironically it can be found in lots of 'diet' products (not good if it actually increases your appetite!).  MSG (E621) is only required by law to be added to the ingredient list if it is added in its pure form, therefore look out for any of the following as these will indicate that it is there;

  • yeast extract
  • hydrolysed protein
  • whey protein isolate
  • soy protein isolate
  • carrageenan
  • most 'natural' flavourings

Things to Avoid
  • processed food in general
  • fast foods
  • confectionary
  • soft drinks and cordials
  • pre-packaged meals
  • refined baked goods (pastries, cakes)
  • 'low fat' foods or 'healthy' options
  • cheap sausages, burgers or pies
 Do Eat
  • organic foods where possible
  • use whole, fresh produce
  • home baked products - you get to choose the ingredients

 Always read the lables - you never know what's lurking in there.....!!

Saturday 15 March 2014

Why everyone should practice Pilates!


I have been practising Pilates for quite a few years now, it was only when I stopped doing it that I realised what the benefits of it are.  We often laugh in our classes, that if anyone just happened to look through the window they would think that all we were doing was lifting our legs up and down, and not doing much at all!  But if they looked even closer they would see the pained expressions on our faces and if they came into the room, they would hear the grunts of pain (good pain!) as we engage the deep core muscles.

Practising Pilates is giving your body what it wants, your skeleton wants to be correctly aligned and your muscles want to support the skeleton in it's goal!  All to often in modern life we are bending our bodies into positions that they are not designed to be in - think bent over a computer, lounging on the sofa in front of the tv or driving a car.

Just look at a toddler bending to pick something up - they do it properly, bend from the knees rather than the hips and extend up.  Children have great posture, they haven't been subjected to sitting for hours in one position, slouching in chairs and generally learning bad habits - they still run about, jump and generally do the things that humans are designed to do.

What are our bodies designed to do?  

Looking at our anatomy - we are designed to walk upright (think how many animals have gluteals (butt's) like humans?), we're beautifully designed to run, jump, throw, climb, push and pull heavy objects - all of these things your body is perfectly adapted for to enable it to move in a number of ways.  Think of our big muscle groups;

- the quadriceps designed to hold your pelvis upright whilst contracting to pull the leg forward.
- the hamstrings - opposite of the quads, pulling the leg back
- the gluteals - big muscle group designed to keep body upright and move the leg
- the biceps - strong arm muscles to enable throwing action or lifting action
- all of the big back muscles (trapezius, latissimus dorsi) all designed to hold your spine upright whilst helping the limbs move

How much correct movement do you actually do during your average day?

Probably the average person will do a bit of walking, maybe a bit of lifting (bag or baby), some carrying, perhaps a bit of pushing (the vacuum?), bending to get in the car - not much really, when you think what the body is designed to do.  Also have a think about when you're actually doing this stuff, how much of it is with the body in it's correct alignment?  So think of carrying a heavy bag on one shoulder, carrying a baby on one hip - think about what that's doing to your body, putting extra pressure down one side, pulling the pelvis out of alignment.  So even when we're doing the good stuff - are we actually doing good stuff for our bodies?

Why Pilates?

When you first start practising Pilates you will feel a couple of things;

1. Going to a class will feel like having an anatomy lesson!
2. Your teacher will be obsessed with your alignment (be prepared to be pulled and pushed).
3. What you probably think is good body alignment is actually not!  (If you've never practise any discipline where alignment was important - dance, martial art, a technical sport - then you will probably have no idea when your body is correctly aligned). This will feel very strange at first.
4. There are too many things to remember - pelvic floor engagement, pelvic stability, engaging the transverse abdominus (see what I mean about anatomy?), correct alignment and BREATHE!!  It will feel like learning to drive again, and that's what you are doing - you're learning to drive your body.
5.  The time will fly over - this I promise, you'll be too busy trying to remember all of the above, whilst actually trying to do the exercise that you will forget all about your worries, stresses and the time.  Hence why Pilates is a great mind/body workout.

So give Pilates a go - your body will thank you for it, and soon you'll start feeling the difference - you'll be walking a little taller, thinking about your posture (and therefore improving it - 'where the mind goes the body will follow' - Joseph Pilates) and as a by-product getting some strong core muscles and some serious muscle tone.  The changes are subtle, and it's only when you stop that you realise the benefits.

Let me know the benefits you've experienced through Pilates, your comments are welcome.


Thursday 6 March 2014

Weight Loss v's Fat Loss


This is something that I've been meaning to write about for a while and is quite a controversial subject.  Lots of people want to lose weight for various reasons, but most of the time weight loss does not mean fat loss.  You hear lots of people saying that they've lost 10lbs in a week using various diet methods, but at the end of the day what are they actually losing?  Do you know the difference between weight loss and fat loss?

Weight Loss = Total loss of body weight as measured by weighing scales, weight is taken from all over the body including bones, organs, muscles and fat.

Fat Loss = Lowering total body fat, as measured by calipers or body shape.  Healthy goals are around 10 - 15% for a man and 15 - 20% for a woman (depending upon age).

Using only the scales as a measure of success is completely flawed and you are doomed to failure!


Your body is very complex and has lots of things going on within it - if you use only the scales then you are also including things like the contents of your stomach/intestines/bowel, the amount of water contained within your muscles as well as the amount of fat in your body.

At the end of the day you can chop off your head (it weighs about a stone by the way) and lose weight!

What most of us want to lose is fat not weight.

The below picture shows the difference between fat and muscle. Muscle is much more dense that fat - that is why you can have two people who weigh the same but look totally different.  The same weight in muscle takes up a lot less space that the same weight in fat. Therefore if you're building muscle you'll see very little change on the scales - but people will comment that you look slimmer!

How to lose fat and not muscle.

1. Eat Protein - your body needs protein to build muscle as well as for many of the other nutrients contained within.  The usual recommendation is 1g of protein per every lb of body weight.

2. Include some Weight Training - Pilates is great for this as it uses body weight.  But anything that requires resistance training is great.

3. Don't reduce your calories by too much - not only will this send your body into 'starvation mode' thereby holding onto fat, but it will also reduce your body's ability to build muscle.  A 500 calorie a day deficit is more than enough  - the daily recommended amounts are 2000 per day for a woman and 2500 per day for a man.  (Remember to adjust if you're also exercising, so for example, if you're using up 500 calories a day in exercise - then keep your dietary intake at around 2000 calories)

You should be aiming to lose no more than 2lbs in total weight per week as anything above this is water and body tissue taken from your muscles,bones and organs, not fat!  Rapid weight loss will get you into the rut of yo-yo dieting (sound familiar?) as it is unsustainable and unhealthy - the only thing that you will be losing is pounds from your pocket and not your thighs!

So eat sensibly, cut out the processed food, eat as much organic food as you can, weight train, include a bit of cardio exercise, eat more protein and less starchy carbs - the results will speak for themselves.

For anymore advice then please contact us through our Website or Facebook page. If anyone wants their actual personal Total Daily Energy Expenditure (your individual, actual total daily calorie intake - for your body based upon your lifestyle and other indicators) worked out, then we can include this in our 1-2-1 sessions.

Saturday 1 March 2014

Yoga v's Pilates


This is something that we get asked alot, both Yoga and Pilates usually get put together into the same category and there are many similarities, but there are also some major differences.

Both Pilates and Yoga are standalone exercise programs that don't really fit into any of the normal moulds for exercise, both emphasis the mind/body connection and help lower stress levels. Everyone should include some practice of this sort into their lives, and it's just a matter of trying them out to find out which one is best for you.  (Within Yoga and Pilates there are also different forms depending on which teacher you get - so if you're trying to decide between the two, it might be best to try a few different teachers to get the right match for you).

1. Origins

Yoga is based upon ancient beliefs originating in India, it can be found in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.  It has evolved over many years into several different branches - Hatha, Iyengar, Ashtanga to name but a few.

Pilates was developed in the 1920's by Joseph Pilates an athlete who took elements of dance, yoga, gymnastic, boxing and martial arts training, to develop his system of exercise into a full body program that emphasises proper alignment, good technique and correct breathing.

2. Mind/Body/Spirit 

Both programs emphasis the mind/body connection, but yoga adds the extra element of spirit through meditation.  Pilates is based more on anatomical correctness (sometimes it will feel like an anatomy lesson), focus and concentration are achieved through correct engagement of the required muscle.

3. Movement

Both Pilates and Yoga focus upon correct movement whilst maintaining alignment. In Pilates you will find that you are moving the muscles more to increase the load;  whereas in Yoga through the postures, you will find that you get yourself in position and then hold it there thus creating an isometric contraction.  Both programs focus upon flexibility and spine strengthening.  Pilates is more about core engagement and correct technique, the focus is on quality and not quantity.

4. Breathing Techniques

Breathing is an important part of both practices (and life!!).  Breathing in Yoga is taken on a deeply spirtual level - especially in  flow based classes (such as Ashtanga), where breath is matched to movements and postures.  In Pilates a special breathing technique is employed called 'Thoracic Breathing' which basically means keeping the core engaged and taking the breath further down into the bottom of the lungs, 'exhale on effort' is used to ensure that muscles and breath are combined.

5. Calories burned

Neither programs will get the heart rate up sufficiently high enough or long enough to gain cardio benefits - so that is why it is important to include some cardio exercise into your program, but you will build up strength and therefore muscle (which in itself burns more calories).  A beginners yoga class will burn about 145 calories per hour, whereas a power yoga class will burn about 250 calories.  A beginners pilates class will burn about 175 calories per hour, where an advanced class will burn between 250-350 calories.

They both work! - Both of the methods are time tested, and have stood this test of time because they work.  Both have benefits for posture, strength and muscle toning, and both will increase your flexibility.  Just find the one right for you - or as they are both designed as different programs why not combine them - as they can be complimentary.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

Half Term Pilates Workout!

Hi All

Even though it's the half-term holidays, no need to let your Pilates training slip!  Take just 20 minutes three times per week and do the following exercises, that will then ensure that you are keeping that spine moving and getting the joints lubricated. 

This programme is designed for those already attending our classes - full explanation of the exercises are given in class - where posture and technique are continually checked - this is designed as an aide memoir to be used between classes.   

Ensure that you are feeling well before you attempt any of the exercises.

Remember the Pilates Principles of alignment, flow, centering, concentration, control, precision, flow and breath.

Start off with the Pilates Stance

- knees soft, second toe, knee and middle of the hip all in line.  Rock pelvis backwards and forwards - to find neutral (where the pubic bone and hip bone are on the same plane).

Start taking deep breathes in and get the core engagement, engage the Transverse Abdominus and pelvic floor.

Roll shoulders back and down, pull head up tall.  Without moving hips - lift up one leg to 90 degrees and circle the ankle, repeat other side.

Roll Downs x 4

Lie in relaxation position - find neutral pelvis

Knee lifts x 6

Shoulder Bridge x 6

Single Leg Circles x 6 each way and each leg

Abdominal Curl Ups x 6 with x 6 pulses at the end

Oblique Curls x 6 each side with x 6 pulses at the end

Lie on side - shoulders, hips, knees and ankles stacked - knees bent about 45 degrees, feet in line with bum -

Oyster x 6 single, x 6 pulses - then if able into bicycle legs x 6

Lie on front - find neutral pelvis

Dart x 6

Oyster - other side - as above

Rolling like a ball

Hamstring Stretch, gluteal stretch, threadneedle stretch, cat stretch.


Enjoy!!  xxxx

Thursday 13 February 2014

Top 5 Diet Tips from a Fitness Instructor - that actually work!

Over the years I have been asked alot about diet and exercise and what my recommendations are for best diets. I have also tried and tested many various methods from drinking olive oil (yuk) to Dr Atkins, Weightwatchers, etc, etc.  All of them have some sort of benefits in that they make people think about what they're putting into their bodies and they are all built on some kind of scientific foundations.  However, after all my years of 'dieting' (successfully and not so successfully) I've found something that works for me.

Here are my Top 5 tips; 

1. 'Eat and Train' - not 'Diet and Exercise', it's about changing your mindset.  As soon as I think about going on a diet - I start craving biscuits and crisps (it's true - I once gave up crisps for Lent and found myself thinking about them all the time, even seeing a crisp packet in a bin made me crave them - it was awful!).  It's psychological, if you focus on eating properly rather than going 'on a diet' it's much better for your brain and you have a much greater chance for sucess in the long run. The same also goes for 'exercise', when you think about it as something that you have to do - it becomes a chore, instead think about training for a healthy body, bikini body, toned abs... whatever it is that floats your boat really!

2. Don't do diets with an expiry date - whether it be the '12lbs in 12 days', the 30-day challenge' or whatever - the very name implies after that timescale (whatever it is) you will have reached your goal and therefore you can stand-down and return to your normal eating habits.  This then leads to yo-yo dieting in the long run, I'll admit that it might be ok to do one of these for a kickstart - but understand that it is a short term solution and that if you don't continue with your healthy eating you will return back to normal.

3. Don't eat food with an advert - when was the last time you saw an advert for a carrot, egg or broccoli?  Simples!  Just don't eat processed food.

4. You cannot train away a bad diet - I hear so many people saying 'well I've burned x amount of calories so I can go home and eat cake', or 'I'm saving up all my calories for the weekend' - true that it's much better to be burning calories at a class than sitting at home, or creating a calorie deficit during the week - but do you really want to undo all your good work?  It's like saying - 'If I save up my money all year and then blow it all on one weekend in Vegas - will it affect my bank balance?' - sure you have the money there to spend - but if you think about it your bank balance remains the same as you haven't gained or lost anything (apart from a great weekend in Vegas, that is?).

It's the combination of good diet and exercise that is the key to long term health success (notice I said 'health' and not 'weight loss'?)  You can use diet alone, but without exercise your heart and muscles will not be getting toned and you'll get that saggy, hollow look; or you can exercise alone, but without diet you will just be replacing the fat lost during exercise with fat/sugar in your diet.

5. Do not cut out food groups - whether it be low-fat, low-carb, high-protein, health shakes - the fact is that the body needs fat, carb's and protein to exist - for example, people following a low-fat diet will become nutrient deficient (Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat soluble - meaning that you need a certain amount of fat in your body for these to be processed), all diets in which you have to 'cut-out' something set off certain reactions within your body that may not be good (obviously the only things you should be cutting out is the biscuits, chocolate, crisps, cakes, pastries, alcohol, etc - unfortunately!).

Eating a balanced diet is the key as this will ensure that your body gets all of the food groups, vitamins and minerals that it needs and it is a much more varied diet that is ultimately cheaper and more effective. If you want a treat, then have one - just don't go overboard - don't deny yourself anything just think about moderation and portion control.

The only thing I would add, is wherever possible buy organic and as unprocessed as possible (e.g. brown rice, wholemeal bread) - this will ensure that your food has as few additives in it as possible.

And that's it!  Remember 'eat clean and train mean' - you won't go far wrong with that attitude.

If you have any other top tips then it would be great to hear from you.

Friday 7 February 2014

What are the Pelvic Floor muscles and why are they important?

After my recent soiree's with the monk - it's time to get back to business!  So let's talk about the Pelvic Floor muscles - most people have a vague idea where they are located and what they do, but do you actually know how to isolate these muscles and their importance?

What are the Pelvic Floor muscles? 

The Pelvic Floor are a large band of muscle that run in between your legs. Think of a hammock that is attached to your pubic bone at the front,  runs inbetween your legs and attaches at the base of your spine at the back.  The pelvic floor muscles support your pelvis, intestines, bladder and bowels, and are the muscles which give you control when you urinate (in both men and women).  Along with the deep muscles of the back and the abdomen they form the 'core' which is central to Pilates practice.

Why are the Pelvic Floor muscles important?

As you get older the muscles can weaken and sag - this can cause prolapses (when organs are not sufficiently supported and  drop into the pelvic cavity), poor bladder control and urinary incontinence. Weakened Pelvic Floor muscles can also contribute to an insufficiently supported core which can lead to abdominal or back pain and structural imbalances within the body. 

As with any muscles the pelvic floor can be strengthened by carrying out the correct exercises and identifying the correct muscles to contract.  In Pilates we spend a lot of time ensuring that the pelvic floor is contracted before any movement is performed, this is to ensure that the core is correctly engaged, and that the Pelvic Floor are used as their natural role as muscular support for movement.

Finding the Pelvic Floor.

The best way to find the pelvic floor muscles is to lie on the floor with your eyes shut, so that your brain can concentrate on the isolations, do not hold your breathe.

First start off with the back passage muscles (these are the ones you use to stop yourself passing wind) - try to isolate the muscle and draw it inwards and upwards (Inhale to prepare, and then engage on the exhalation).  Ensure that no other muscles are contracting, it's common to feel the gluteals (bum muscles) contract, focus on ensuring the buttocks are not squeezing together or that the pelvis is not tilting.

Then move onto the front passage muscles - these are the ones you would use to stop yourself mid-flow when urinating.  Again try to isolate the actual muscle, ensuring that nothing else is contracting, and draw it inwards and upwards. Ensure that nothing else is contracting such as the hip flexors, or inner thighs.  See if you can hold the contraction for 5 secs on the exhalation.

(Women Only - obviously!) - The Vagina
Imagine drawing the walls inwards and upwards - the action of drawing inwards has to be performed first and then pulling upwards.  It is helpful to imagine a elevator - first the doors have to close and then you need to lift upwards to the first floor (towards the belly button) and then see if you can lift even higher to the second floor (towards the ribs) - it is important to get the inward and upward action for this muscle.

(Men Only) - men also need to isolate the mid passage muscles - to do this imagine lifting the 'family jewels'.

Now that you can contract them in isolation, you have to try and contract all 3 muscles together and hold for about 10 seconds (on the exhalation).

In Pilates we always try to get around a 30% contraction (to enable you to gauge a 30% contraction, you need to pull the muscles in 100%, then let them out 50% and then let them out another 50%) - so it is a low level contraction that can be held for long periods of time.  However, the degree of contraction depends upon amount of exertion required - but around 30% is a good gauge.

Points to Remember
  • Before you lift something heavy always engage your Pelvic Floor to support you back
  • To avoid embarrasing leakage, engage Pelvic Floor before you jump or sneeze
  • Practice Pelvic Floor contractions for 5 minutes a day
  • Always engage the Pelvic Floor if doing abdominal exercises
So now that you their importance and how to find them - get contracting!

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Notes from hanging out with the Buddhist monk.

So, after my last post about Mindfulness I decided to put my money where my mouth is and I attended an evening meditation session with a Buddhist monk. 

The benefits of meditation are listed as;

* Improves Sleep
* Improves Relantioships
* Relax and unwind
* Help overcome Stress and Frustration

I arrived with an open mind, but not really thinking that I would be able to sit still for the required 2 hours (being a mother of two young boys and a zumba teacher means I have a lot of excess energy, and sitting down for long periods is not something I usually do!).  The venue was our local library and I was surprised at how many people turned up - there was about 30 there, obviously the Buddhists are tapping into something within modern society that other religions are not...?

The theme of the discussions and meditations was anger, how to let go of anger, and how anger is the source of an unquiet mind (the aim is to have a peaceful mind - even if only for a milli-second).  Everything that the monk said seemed to resonate with the group, and the meditations seemed to fly over (even for me!) - I couldn't believe that I had been sitting still in a semi-conscious state for that long.  The session ended with a quick group discussion and a final meditation.

Afterwards I felt really relaxed and chilled out. In fact I was so chilled I was unable to find my car in the carpark (I did not get frustrated, I just accepted the frustration and moved on), then I wandered around the carpark (or should that be floated?!) until I found it.

Following that session, my friend Marie and I, decided to do the full day session called 'Pamper your Mind' at the Buddhist Centre in Darlington.  Again it was with the same monk (Dragdon - I hope I've spelt it correctly?), and the first session was about wealth and how it does not bring happiness, in fact the more that you have the more that you want.

Readings were taken from 'Eight Steps to Happiness' by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, which included things like:

'Happiness is a state of mind, so the real source of happiness must lie within the mind, not in external conditions'.

Discussions were based around appreciation of what we have, what is stopping us 'enjoying our enjoyments' (i.e. living in the moment) and looking at how, no matter how bad the situation, there is always something good to take from that (for your own personal development). So the next time someone irritates you - you need to thank them for giving you the opportunity to develop your own patience and tolerance.

The day seemed to fly over, with several discussions and meditations.  Lunch was included (vegetarian of course!), which gave us a chance to talk to others on the course, all from various backgrounds and ages, and all really friendly. All in all it was a great way to spend a 'derby' Saturday in February!

Details of other courses can be found at the below link - which includes details about the sessions run in Durham.

My recommendation if you're going to go on a day course - wear thick socks ;).

Let me know if you're been to the centre or intend to go. 
If you would be interested in meditation classes then please let me know.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Mindfulness - the power of the mind and how to incorporate it into our everyday life.

We live in a world of technological advances so great that we can now do many things at once without thinking about it. We have machines to do our washing, cooking and cleaning; machines that take us where we want and tell us what we want - when we want it!  All of these things only a half century ago would have taken considerable effort - involving both the body and the mind.

However, as the world has become more fast paced, the stress placed upon the average human has increased considerably - we're always attached to a mobile, answering an email and checking social media (I am guilty of all these) while our life passes us by.  So is it any wonder that there is a growing movement of mindfulness?

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a hot topic at the moment - only last week a delegate of the world's top business and political leaders were told how mindfulness could help them cope in a increasingly hectic world, and how in as little as 10 minutes a day they could gain inner peace by sitting down and focusing on their breathing and allowing their minds to wander.

Mindfulness can be found in many Eastern philosophy including yoga, Buddhism and Taoism, it can be described as bringing your mind into the moment and paying complete attention to that moment with openness and acceptance.

Mindfulness is also at the core of Pilates' practise;

Joeseph Pilates said'

"Breathing is the first act of life, and the last.  Our very life depends on it.  Since we cannot live without breathing it is tragically deplorable to contemplate the millions and millions who have never learned to master the art of correct breathing" (Return to Life through Contrology)

What can it do?

Practising mindfulness is said to help with;

* being fully present in the here and now
* becoming more connected to the world and your surroundings
* increasing self awareness
* being more balanced emotionally
* becoming more calm and accepting
* decreasing stress and anxiety

Can mindfulness be good for my waistline?

There was an interesting study carried out by Harvard psychologists Langer and Crum, whereby they took 84 hotel attendants in 7 different hotels  They were cleaning an average of 15 rooms a day, each requiring half an hour of walking, bending, pushing, lifting, and carrying. These women were clearly getting a lot of good exercise, but they didn’t believe it: 66.6% of them reported not exercising regularly, and 36.8% said they didn’t get any exercise at all.  The researchers divided the groups into two, and gave one group an hour long presentation of how much exercise they were actually getting, the other group was told nothing and acted as the control group.

After 4 weeks (of no change in behaviour) - the group that had been given the presentation all showed a decrease in blood pressure, decrease in weight, decrease in body fat ratio and decrease in BMI when compared to the control group.

Weirdly, just by being mindful and thinking about how much exercise you do, seems to have a physiological affect.  The only change in the two groups was that one group was more aware of how much exercise they were actually getting.

How to incorporate mindfulness into everyday life

What the study does show is that the key is engagement (which is one of our key principles in Pilates).  In Pilates we do not randomly move limbs without complete engagement of the mind first targetting the required muscles with control - this needs to have complete concentration from the mind -
'Where the mind goes, the body follows' (Joseph Pilates).

Here are a few things you can do to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routines;

1. When brushing your teeth or having a shower, focus in on the activity - think about the taste, sensation, smells.

2. On a morning just sit for 10 minutes - switch off the tv, don't read, check emails or phone, until after your 'sit' and let your mind wander.

3. Do short bursts of mindfulness throughout the day - rather than one long session.

4. When kept waiting (traffic, call centre's etc), rather than get frustrated, use it as an opportunity to practice mindfulness.

5. Learn to meditate.

So how are you going to be mindful today??

We will be incorporating more mindfulness and meditation within our current Pilates classes.  If you would be interested in longer meditation sessions then please let us know.

Friday 24 January 2014

Why is good Posture important?

I travel alot for work and I see it everywhere - people slouching in chairs or hunched over laptops, particularly on trains! Didn't your mother ever tell you to sit up straight? It drives me mad, I have the overwhelming urge to straighten people up!

Why is posture so important and what can be done to correct bad posture?

The term 'posture' refers to 'the carriage of the spine as a whole, the attitude of the body, or the position of the limbs' (Webster New World Dictionary), it also refers to the body's alignment and position against gravity whether standing, seated or prone so that no one area of the body is over stressed.  The spine naturally has 4 curves, which act like a shock absorber and distribute the vertical pressure on the spine, when all the natural curves of the spine are in place, and the hip bone is on the same plane as the pubic bone, we call this the 'neutral spine' (a term used alot in Pilates).

Bad Posture

The sitting position is where most bad posture is seen, people tend to push their head forward from the spinal column whilst driving or working on a computer.  This then causes the muscles at the back of the neck to have to do the job of the spine by pulling the weight of the head back, the spinal column usually curls forward too and the shoulders become rounded.  This can cause the neck muscles to become fatigued and they will become strained and painful.  The head weighs roughly a stone in weight, as the head is held forward of the spinal column the dead weight upon the body increases (imagine holding a bowling ball straight out in front of you all the time), this can then cause further pain down the spine, headaches, reduced blood and oxygen to the brain, fatigue and decreased range of movement when moving limbs.

The NHS recognises that 90% of all low back pain stems from;

- bending awkwardly
- lifting, carrying or pushing incorrectly
- slouching in chairs
- standing or bending down for long periods
- twisting or over-stretching
- driving in a hunched position

Bad posture has also been proved to influence our mood, a study led by Brian Meier, a psychologist at North Dakota University found that emotions have a highly physical basis, so sad thoughts could lead to a slumped posture with eyes directed down, and happy thoughts to a more upright posture and the eyes looking up.  Therefore by simply looking up could give you a physical boost that leads to better posture and a better mood!

The Good News

Bad posture can, in most cases, be fixed - as it's a habit and habits can be relearned.  Just by becoming more mindful of your body alignment can help ensure that you sit or stand up taller.
Probably just by reading this you've straightened yourself up...?

What to do:

-  When sitting at a desk - roll your shoulders back and down, open up the collar bones and take some  deep breathes - just thinking about your alignment helps - where the mind goes the body follows!

-  Avoid staying in one position for long periods

 - Exercise regularly to promote strong abdominal and back muscles (Pilates is excellent for this)

 - Maintain a healthy body weight

Once you begin to feel the benefits of good posture, you will not want to revert back to old habits - you will be standing taller and straighter, you will have less pain and tension in your neck muscles, you will have less lower back pain, and you will look and feel more confident. So stand up tall and face the world!!

If you have concerns about your posture consider having a 1-2-1 postural analysis - this will assess weaknesses in your body and a program will be devised to correct these.

Get in touch to come along to one of our Pilates classes;

Wednesday 8 January 2014

What to expect at your first Pilates Class.

Well - congratulations, you've finally made the step towards a healthier future.  You may have been considering trying Pilates for a while - but have not been able to find a class to suit, right time, right place - but now the planets have aligned and you're about to attend your first group mat class.

What to expect;

What to bring;

If you are attending a class at a studio or sports centre - then they will probably already have mats available (yoga mats), or if the class is a community class then you may be asked to bring one along.  You may also be asked to bring a towel and a drink. 

What to wear;
Pilates is done bare foot - so no need for special trainers - although there are special socks that you can buy for the winter months.  You will need to wear comfortable clothes - leggings and t-shirt are fine.  You may need a warmer sweatshirt to put on for the stretching part.  You should be able to stretch in your clothes, and the teacher will need to be able to see that your body is correct aligned, so something not too baggy is good.  Long hair will need to be tied back, and long necklaces or bulky bracelets will get in the way - so make sure that these are removed.

I am a glasses wearer and Pilates I can still do Pilates in my glasses (unlike Zumba!!).

Upon Arrival
When you first arrive, try to arrive a bit earlier - so that your instructor can get a chance to have a chat with you about your expectations and any injuries that you may have.  You will be asked to fill out a PAR-Q form (Pre Activity Readiness Questionnaire) which is used to assess if you're able to join the class, or whether you may need to check with a doctor before you're able to go-ahead.  Exercise is suitable for most people, but there are a few people who need to check with their doctor before increasing their levels of activity and this form is designed to assess this.

First Class

All studios/teachers are different but there are a few consistent things that you will learn during your first few sessions;

- Neutral Spine
- Pelvic Floor Engagement
- How to engage your Transverse Abdominus
- Thoracic breathing technique
- Pelvic stability
- Scapula stability
- Ribcage closure
- Segmental control of spine

To name but a few - these are the foundations of great Pilates technique.  A good teacher should take you through these and ensure that all of the subsequent exercises are carried out incorporating the above, as well as introducing you to the Pilates Principles.

So there it is - the benefits of Pilates are numerous and the principles can be taken into everyday life, so enjoy your journey!

Let me know what your first experience was like.
Jill xxx


Saturday 4 January 2014

Do you measure up? How to take your body measurements.


As the festive season draws to a close and reality kicks in again, our thoughts turn to losing some weight.  In my previous post I talked about how important it is to set goals and measure how you're doing against those goals, so that you can see your progress or if you need to adjust your program.

So what do you need to do?
Weight - You need to get an accurate set of scales, and make sure that they're on a solid floor (believe it or not, if your scales are on a carpeted floor - the carpet pushes up against the scale causing the reading to be higher than it actually is - aha - so that's the reason!).

Now for your measurements -  you need to strip down to your underwear, stand in front of a mirror take a deep breath, roll your shoulder blades back and down, and stand up straight and tall - and breathe (don't suck in)!
Waist - The waist measurement is one of the most important ones, as it can be used as an indicator of health and is also good to use for determining your dress size. You need to measure around the smallest part of your waist, just above the belly button - make sure that the tape is straight all the way around (the mirror will help you with this).

Bust - Under your arms around the fullest part of your chest (usually the nipple line), careful not to squish too much.

Hips - Measure at the widest point around your bum, you may feel that this is almost at the top of your thighs.

Thighs - Measure at the widest part of your thigh

Knees - Measure right above the knee

Calves - Measure at their widest point

Upper arm - Measure at the widest point above your elbow

Forearm - Measure at the widest point below your elbow

You need to take your weight and your measurements at the same time of day on a regular basis, I usually weigh myself on a Monday morning as soon as I get up every week, and take my measurements on a Saturday morning once a month (when I've got a bit more time).

You will need to keep note of your figures, so I would recommend setting up a table that looks something like this;

Start date Week 1
(Full Set)
Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
(Full Set)
Upper Arm
(Excl Weight)

Remember to add in your start date, and only do you full set of measurements once a month.

From this you will be able to chart how your body shape is changing.  Weight is not a good indicator of health, but body shape is!  So please do not focus on the lbs. but focus on the inches (or centimetres - depending where you're from).

From this you will also be able to work out your 'hip to waist' ratio - but that's a whole different subject! (Maybe for another post?)

So get measuring and remember to let me know your inch loss!


Wednesday 1 January 2014

New Year, New You - but for how long....? 5 Things to Keep the Motivation.

Hi All

Well it's that time of year, after 3 weeks (or years) of overindulgence everyone's thoughts start turning towards their New Year's resolutions, and I can bet the vast majority of those resolutions will have some sort of self-improvement through fitness, health or nutrition element to them.  For me, as a fitness instructor, it's a great time of year - full classes, lots of enquiries, enthusiastic clients - how long does it last for in the vast majority of people?

Well research has shown that for most people, the resolve starts to wear off after....wait for it... 9 days!?! With 60% of people saying that they made the same resolutions last year.  Why do we make promises to ourselves that we cannot keep? 

As a fitness instructor with busy classes (most of the year around), I am well versed in the excuses that people come up with as to why they cannot attend today;

* Bad weather
* Not feeling well
* Too tired
* No babysitter

When you think about it a one hour training session is only 4% of our day - why then, do people feel that they cannot fit this into their lives  - we still find time to play Candy Crush or watch that hour long episode of 'Coronation Street'!  Exercise is so important - we are becoming a nation of couch potatoes and this is now affecting our children with obesity levels rising, we need to get off our butts!!

4% of a day - is that so hard?  Here are 5 things that are proven to prolong that New Year's resolve;

1.  Train with a friend - you're less likely to miss a session if you know that you've got someone relying on you for a lift or they are coming to pick you up.

2. Set clear goals - whether these are weight loss, inch loss, specific event (i.e. marathon, 5km run, swim 5 lengths etc), when you've got a clear plan you're more likely to stick with it.

3. Small Steps make big improvements - when you are setting your goals, make sure that they are attainable.  If you find it hard to walk to the end of the street, it's unlikely that you'll be running a marathon in 3 months time!

4. Measure your performance against your goals - ensure that you have a set time each week, month, whatever, to measure how you're doing against your targets and keep a record of them.  This will enable you to see what you've acheived and make adjustments in your program.

5.  HAVE FUN - this is, in my opinion, the most important element to long term sustainable exercise.  If you find the gym boring but love the outdoors - then don't join a gym...but get outside and climb some hills, or ride a bike!  It seems simple but you'd be surprised how common this is!

So what are you waiting for? 

Those beach butts don't get made by sitting on them!!  :)

Jill x

PS - If you're serious about getting fit - then I would recommend a good coach and have a few 1-2-1 sessions.  This will get you on track and ensure that your progress is correctly monitored.