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.