Sunday 28 August 2016

How to get the shape of your life!

As a Pilates teacher I get a lot of people coming to me saying 'I'm so out of shape', and it got me thinking - can your body ever be 'out of shape'?  'Shape' by definition is the form of an object as opposed to its colour or texture, therefore what creates form through the human body?

It takes time for an illness or injury to become apparent.

Unless you've had an accident or illness your body doesn't just suddenly change its form or suddenly become weak, it's created over a long period of time by incorrect movement/loads and not using/strengthening the correct muscles.  You don't just suddenly wake up with a bad back, the weakness in your body has been there for a long time - it's just the damage that the weakness has created is now starting to make itself known, imagine a door constantly banging on its hinges it might take a long time but eventually the door and frame will begin to show signs of deterioration from the constant incorrect use.

Your shape is a reflection of your movement and eating choices over a long period of time, your body is like clay - it is shaped by the environment in which you live and work, the forces that you place upon it and the food which you put in it.  

If you want to change your shape, then you have to change your lifestyle.  

Just like you don't suddenly wake up with a bad back, you don't wake up as a 70 year old and suddenly are able to do Yoga, to have strength, flexibility and endurance you need to build these up over a long period of time.  Your muscles naturally weaken as you age, therefore building up strength in your 30's and 40's is an investment into your future self.

How do you see yourself in the future?  Weak, inflexible and in pain?  

Start now, it's never too late.  Start moving more - walk to the shops rather than drive, climb stairs rather than take the lift, take frequent breaks from sitting down - incorporate more movement into your life and you will start to feel the benefits.  Don't think of exercise as hitting the gym for an hour a day twice a week as a good use of your time, especially if the rest of your day is sitting at a desk, driving home and then sitting in front of a TV, all you'll probably do is injure yourself. 

'Walking is man's best medicine' - Hippocrates

Biomechanically your body is designed to move, it needs movement just as much as it needs oxygen or nutrients - possibly more.  

Science is just discovering how much our bodies require movement on a cellular level, and how much disease is created by lack of movement (possibly more than bad diets), a sedentary lifestyle will soon be viewed as damaging to the health as smoking.

So, can you be out of shape?  No you cannot - you can be weak, inflexible and carrying too much weight, but your body is the perfect shape for you and your environment, just like human bodies have been since the dawn of time, so technically, you're already in the shape of your life!

Jill x


I always include a lot of  'Primal' moves into my classes, and everyone is loves them - as they are what your body is designed to do and they feel good!  But the best primal move of all is walking - so get out in nature (not on a treadmill) and enjoy a good walk and fresh air - it's good for the soul, and you can always hang from a few trees!  
Get in touch if you want to join a class or book a 1-2-1.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

How I left my Government job and became a Pilates Instructor!

For those of you that know me as just your friendly Pilates instructor, what you probably don't know is that I spent 15 years as a Performance Analyst for the Children & Family Courts.  Yes, I used to be a right geek - and I can write a pretty mean spreadsheet (nested 'if' statements the lot!) and provide you with a complete set of management statistical tools.  I had a very well paid and secure job, and one that I mostly enjoyed.  So what made me give up the security of a Government job with a good pension and all the perks of holiday pay and sick pay, and turn to the unpredictable-ness of self-employment?

It was a big risk, that is for sure, and I know many of you face the same dilemma.  What advice can I give any of you who are in a similar position, well I've been having a think and have come up with the following;

1) Reduce your risks as much as possible, get the right qualifications/certifications in what you want to do before you quit your job. Make the investments in equipment and training whilst you've got a steady stream of income, it's much harder to take it from your profits once self-employed.

2) Start off small, I just started with one evening class, and waited to see how it grew.  You will soon learn whether your proposed business is a viable option, if it is you will reach a tipping point - whereby you either stay as you are or take the leap and jump in.

3) Don't ever think it will be easy!  People only see the successes, they don't see the hard work of building websites, marketing, failures (yes, you'll have a few), building a client base - these things take time, years even - you just have to keep plugging away.  Duncan Bannatyne said in one of his books, that he would never invest in anyone who still held onto their regular job, because they didn't show the faith to invest in themselves, so why should he?  I agree with him, when it's your own business you have to make it work, you have no choice.

4) It's a roller coaster of emotions, owning and running your own business is not the same as working for someone else.  It belongs to you, and you have to try and not take things personally if someone doesn't like your product or service.  You can't please everyone, and you sometimes have to develop a very thick skin.

5) You will know in your heart if it's the right thing to do, and the right time to do it.  You have to get them both right, it might be the right thing but not the right time and vice versa - get them both aligned and the force will be strong!  Imagine where and what you want to be doing in 5 years time.

Is it worth it?  Most definitely!!  I'm now around most days for the school run, I get to see my kids much more - especially during the holidays....challenging at times, but fun most of the time.  I don't earn half as much as I used to, but you learn to live within your own means - did I really need as many clothes (I could live to be 100 and still not have worn all the clothes I have in my wardrobe)?  You have to reassess the important things in life.

I love my job, I get to work with and teach some amazing people, people who come through the door in massive amounts of pain, or are stressed, tired and just having a bad day - come to my classes and leave feeling rejuvenated and generally better about themselves.  People start to be able to walk taller, straighter and free of pain. What better way to spend my days than making people feel a bit better about themselves?  And teaching people that they have been given an amazing thing, their own body....I teach them to view that as a gift and something that should be treasured and nurtured.  I believe that movement is medicine, and everyone should learn how to move correctly and then move more!

So, if you're in the same predicament, weigh up you options and if the Universe is telling you something, then you should listen!

Jill x


If you want to come to any of my Pilates classes in Durham (Langley Park or Willington) , workshops or retreats - then you can check out my website

Saturday 20 August 2016

The Olympics and Pilates - which of Team GB practice Pilates?


I don't know about you, but I am loving watching the Olympics 2016.  Seeing people who have made massive sacrifices to their lives for that one moment is just amazing to watch.  I did actually get up at 2am last Saturday to watch Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford and Jess Ennis-Hill; and I loved the two Brazilian gymnasts who on Sunday won silver and bronze medals behind Max Whitlock - it meant so much to them.

Anyway, whilst I was watching, I started to wonder how many of Team GB practice Pilates as part of their training program, so after a quick search on trusty Google, here are a few of the results;

1. Andy Murray - he did amazing, winning his 2nd Gold medal.  Loved how he put down John Inverdale (John asked him how if felt to be the first person (tennis player) to have won 2 gold medals - to which Murray replied - 'Serena and Venus have 4 each' - oops!).  Anyway Andy Murray is well documented to have credited Pilates with getting his back injury sorted after back surgery.  He still includes it in his regular training plan, along with a lot of flexibility work.

2. Bradley Wiggins - Sir Brad uses exercise balls and Pilates to keep his muscles resilient and keep his core strong.  

3. Tom Daley  He incorporates a wide range of disciplines into his training program including Pilates, Meditation and Ballet - all of which he has credited with him falling back in love with his sport.

4.Laura Trott - The top cyclist says that core work is very important for holding the position on the bike and preventing injury.  She regularly incorporates planks, side planks and exercise ball work to strengthen her abs.

So although Pilates is not technically a sport, it's not hard to see why so many successful athletes incorporate the system into their training programs.  Pilates focuses on alignment, balance and centre using deep core muscles - it's hardly surprising that it's the 'backbone' (ha!) of many sportspeople. When you regularly practice Pilates your strength creeps up on you, and you don't really notice it, as it is gradually built up via specific building blocks, it's only when you stop, and the aches and pains start to return - you realise how much good you have been doing for your body.

But you don't have to be a top class sportsperson to do it, you can do Pilates at any level - just make sure that you join a class with a suitably qualified instructor.

If you want to join my classes, then get in touch via the link below;

Hope to see you in classes soon!  

Jill x

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Core Strength - what Rowing has taught me about Pilates.


Recently I was convinced to give rowing a try.  I train some awesome ladies (who are of a certain age), and they are absolutely some of the fittest people I've ever met - they are great examples of 'if you don't stop using it, you'll never lose it!'  Anyway they've been asking me for a while to give rowing a try, and finally last week I got round to it.

I absolutely loved it!  Firstly you are on the river in Durham, which is just beautiful, it's so peaceful and calm (when the wind isn't blowing that is - but that's a whole different story!), and you are concentrating so hard on getting your rowing technique right, that you forget about the stresses and strains of life, and the 'To do' list.

As a Pilates instructor, it's made me realise why all of the top athletes practise Pilates as part of their training plans.  Here are some of the reasons I was thankful that I do Pilates;

1. Getting the instruction to 'engage my lats' - I knew exactly where and how to do this.

2. 'Less is more' - I say this all the time in my classes, as it's not about the big movements, it's about focusing on engaging the smaller muscles, it often doesn't look like we're moving much at all. The same goes for rowing - the harder you try to row the slower the boat goes; relax and stop overthinking then things seem to work - strange that!

Me in action!
3. Core strength, oh my word, was I pleased that I've got this - not only does it massively affect the balance of the boat.  But if the movement comes from the core, then it makes less work for your arms and legs - thereby you have more strength and control in these muscles.

4. Balance - you certainly find out whether you have this.

5. Flow - in our classes we get into the flow when we have the control of the movement combined with the breathe - same in rowing.  This also makes us concentrate more - so great for switching off the mind!

6. Breath - I believe that the most important thing in any exercise program (and life!) is breath.
Joe Pilates said, 'if you learn one thing from Pilates, learn how to breathe' - this is absolutely true.  Every single person that I've ever taught Pilates to, when they first start say 'it's the breathing that's the hardest part' - it's so hard to breathe properly, and when you don't breathe properly you will never be able to engage your core properly and you will always hold onto tension.  As I always say there's a reason they teaching pregnant women how to breathe to give birth - strange that they don't teach anyone else!

Having said all of the above, I'm still aching especially in the glutes!

What I've learned or been reminded of is how beneficial Pilates is, not just for your everyday life, but for any sportspeople out there - YOU SHOULD BE DOING PILATES.  Not only will it help prevent injuries and improve your performance;
but it will help you to gain better control of your core, thereby releasing and allowing the big superficial muscles to do their job.  Your balance will improve as will your posture, and if you can learn correct breathing techniques then you will truly harness your Core Strength.

I'm in a quad for the first time tonight - I'll let you all know how I get on.....

Jill x


If you want to join our Pilates sessions, or if you'd be interested in 1-2-1 or small group sessions for your particular sport, then get in touch via our contact form -

Sunday 7 August 2016

Summer Pilates Workout

I know that there are some ninja's out there, and I'm getting a lot of requests for a simple set of exercises to keep you moving whilst your away on your holidays.  So here you go, do these and they'll keep your spine mobilised and your core strong;

Warm Up - some big movements focused on the big muscle groups

Squats - 8 x normal, 8 x pulses - 2 x sets

Roll Downs x 4

Onto Mat - Shoulder Bridge x 8 with breath

Toe Taps  - x8

Single Leg Stretch  x 8

Scissor Legs x 8

Onto side - Torpedo x 8, then x8 pulses

Oyster - x8 with x8 pulses

Do the other side

Onto all fours - Table Top x 8

Onto front - Dart


Cat Stretch
Glute/Piriformis Stretch

Enjoy!!  See you all back in classes soon. Jill x

(This program is for people who have been attending classes previously.  Any exercise program should be supervised by a professional, or you should seek medical advice before you begin).