Pilates is a safe, low impact exercise that is suitable for every age and fitness level. It can be used to rehabilitate injury, tone and strengthen muscles and improve flexibility, balance and body awareness. Pilates is built upon 7 core principles that create the foundation of the Pilates discipline. The goal is to unify mind, body and spirit by integrating these principles into your Pilates workout.
The number 1 Pilates principle is concentration. A Pilates workout involves complete concentration on what our bodies are doing and how they are moving including correct posture and body position, movement patterns, muscle activation and breathing. Training the brain and the body to function with optimal efficiency.
Every Pilates exercise focuses on the activation of the core, providing a stable base for the rest of the body to work from to produce movement and strength.
Each Pilates exercise has a specific breathing pattern which improves the effectiveness of the exercise. Importantly the activation of the core is driven by the breath, but breathing deeply also nourishes the body supplying the muscles and brain with oxygen and focusing the mind. Concentrating on the breath helps to prevent breath holding which can cause increases intra-abdominal pressure which can put pressure on the pelvic floor.
Being in control of every movement is very important, this helps to strengthen muscles and movement patterns and reduce injury. Complete control requires the deep activation of the core first, layering on the control of the global muscle system with the brain.
Hand in hand with control goes precision, each movement needs to be precise, carried out with purpose and direction. For each exercise we will describe a precise body posture, position, muscle activation and movement that is vital to achieving the goals of that particular exercise for eg if an exercise requires you to lift your leg into the air, it is completely different to ask someone to lift their leg into the air with no direction, than it is to set the body into a specific position, cue the core and the breathe, instructing the person to take the leg into a precise position and move it in a precise manner.
Movements need to be continuously flowing with no stopping throughout the exercise and no distinct start and finish between each repetition, this helps to facilitate more eccentric work (lengthening) which helps control the movement in all directions, which is highly functional.
Regular practice is essential to ensure the brain and muscles don’t forget optimal movement patterns and that gains in strength and flexibility are progressed.
So how can you incorporate these principles into your everyday practice?
From the moment you walk into the room, I want you to be aware of your body in space, that wonderful lengthening (axial elongation) from the crown of the head to the floor. The position of your head, neck and shoulders with each movement, whether standing or lying. The articulation of your spinal vertebra as you move, noticing the movement of each vertebrae as you flex, extend and rotate, the separation and the stacking. The alignment and weight in your feet, whether you are lying or standing, from right to left/front to back. Finally the integration of the breathe, the core and mindful movement to really achieve the amazing benefits that Pilates has to offer.
Fit-Sana has a matwork Pilates class every Tuesday and Thursday at 08.55, if you have never done Pilates before I would highly recommend a few private sessions to begin with. Contact me for more information.
Sat on a bike all day, although pedalling (incessantly), your gait doesn’t really change. If you want to increase speed then you you pedal harder or faster. There’s never a lengthening of stride or shortening of step, as is the case with running.
There is so much advice out there about the best way to live your life, what you should and shouldn't eat, and the best way to exercise - and I think it can all be very overwhelming and confusing. So I thought I would try and write a simple version of what I feel encapsulates the "prevention is better than cure ethos" that I try to embrace not only in the way that I lead my own life but in what I try to emulate and encourage to my clients in my professional life.
I do think good nutrition is important - but I don't believe in diets, or fads and fancies. A nutrition plan that provides good whole foods that are nutritious, and the "less animals more plants" way of thinking is a good one. Make vegetables the star on your plate - different types, different colours and you can't go wrong.
Remember protein and "good" fats are essential to your health, and both will help balance your blood sugar levels and keep you feeling satiated for longer. Crowd out the junk with plenty of beautiful, tasty, healthy food.
Fermented foods, probiotics and prebiotics are great for the gut and help with absorption of nutrients.
I love a little bit of reality - so lets aim for 80% whole nutritious food and 20% party time!!
* A quick one on food allergies - I am no expert but there are definitely times in our lives when other things maybe out of kilter that we can develop food allergies (sensitivities) and these have a large affect on our levels of inflammation in the body. Food allergies are very real, it is not just someone being fussy. If you think certain foods maybe affecting you adversely - try cutting back or eliminating them for a while and see if it makes any difference.
I think hydration deserves it own mention - your body depends on water to survive. Every cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water to work properly - make drinking enough water a key part of your health plan every day. Work out how you are going to do that - I measure the water I need to drink at the start of the day and make sure that by the end of the day - come what may - I have drunk it all!!
Well it would not make sense if movement was not high up on my list of most important "pillars of health". Exercise is important for so many reasons - we know it keeps your heart and your bones healthy, but it also keeps your brain healthy. Exercise is a huge mood booster, but it can also help to keep those brain pathways open delaying ageing and cognitive decline.
Fancy trying something new - sign up for my newsletter to get the weekly schedule, there are classes every day and something for everyone! Some "hot and sweaty" and some wonderfully restorative pilates.
If going to the gym is your worst nightmare - don't worry there are heaps of ways to get good exercise - take a walk in nature, have a game of tennis, just move ....
GOLDEN RULES OF EXERCISE:
Exercise should leave you feeling energised NOT depleted.
Do something you LOVE to do.
It is not called “The Breath of Life” for nothing. Breathing is one of the most basic functions of the human body, and breathing correctly is a vital step to ensuring your body is optimally healthy. The breathe not only fuels the body with oxygen, it helps digestion, can clear a foggy mind and it drives the function of your core. To learn more about the breathe and your core READ MORE
While it may sound simple and something we do unconsciously, you may have developed incorrect breathing habits throughout your life, which could be affecting your health and even be causing back pain. If you are not sure book a one to one appointment with me and I can assess your breathing patterns for you.
Sleep is as vital to sustaining a balanced life as breathing, eating and drinking. How much sleep we need varies from person to person, but generally a good 8 hours sleep is recommended. During sleep your body and psyche regenerate for the day ahead. To get some tips for a good nights sleep READ MORE
In our daily lives we come into contact with literally thousands of poisons all hidden in every day chemicals which really affect the way our bodies function. Make sure you are aware of what you are using in your house and putting on and in your body and avoiding as many of the potent toxins as you can READ MORE
We all know what stress does to us, and how it makes us feel. No matter how indulgent or fancy the term may sound, self-care is crucial for your physical, emotional and mental well-being.
Self-care is important to maintain a healthy relationship with yourself as it produces positive feelings and boosts your confidence and self-esteem. Self-care is necessary to remind yourself and others that you and your needs are important too. Find time to do the things you love - life is for living NOT existing.
Hand in hand with self care is finding your tribe. Science has proven the importance of social connections to humans, and people with strong social connections at the beginning and end of their lives live longer! Being part of a "tribe" doesn’t just brighten your life; it actually makes you healthier. A tribe can come from anywhere. Your tribe can be centered around your family, or people from work, or people who share the same hobbies or interests as you. Sharing and caring are two of the most wonderful things we as humans have to offer.
Finally PURPOSE & ATTITUDE
We all need a why - something to motivate us. Your why will not be the same as my why. What drives each one of us is very different, but that sense of purpose is so important. As is your "Attitude" - are you a glass half empty or a glass half full kind of person? A positive attitude will help you get through the highs and lows in life - your attitude determines your direction!! Remember - your attitude about any state or condition in your life is always within your power to choose - BE POSITIVE!
Are you sabotaging your own success with your chosen exercise routine?
To answer this question we need to start at the beginning – do you actually have the foundations in place to enable you to do the exercise that you are doing. In the very same way that a building will start to crack and fall down if the foundations are not good enough, the body will break down and develop injuries if you do not have a good foundation in place.
What do I mean by a “good foundation”?
What are some signs that your core may not be doing its job properly?
There are no quick fixes to a fit body – even a body that looks ok from the outside may have issues on the inside. If you are heading into an exercise programme and you have been out of the exercise arena for a while, get checked out and make sure that you have a good foundation. This is particularly important if you have had a baby (or more than one) or undergone pelvic/abdominal surgery – both of these things have a huge impact on your ability to connect and integrate core function into your daily lives, as well as your exercise routine
Do you need to have a pelvic floor and core assessment?
Is more exercise better?
I often see people who having made the decision to get fit, go all out to kill it. What are the pitfalls of this kind of exercising and what do you need to be thinking about to make sure that what you are doing is right for your body and sustainable.
What is the answer?
The long summer holiday is looming ....after all the amazing hours and hard work you have put in at the studio, it’s finally time to take a well earned break! Whatever you are planning to do, a time out from the normal routine can be a wonderful thing – but what about your fitness?
It’s not completely impossible to keep up the same level of health and fitness, but I think we need to be realistic – with children off school and traveling, it can be really easy to say goodbye to your normal healthy routine. However I’m sure you don’t want to come back in September feeling out of shape and less than refreshed.
The good news is feeling healthy during and after holidaying is totally possible, by making just a few smart choices you can keep active and energized, get the most out of your break AND look forward to the next one.
If you are off on your travels or just won't make it into town, here are a few tips to help keep you on track and minimise the “holiday damage"!
Easy for me to say and possibly easier said than done - try to remind yourself what motivates you? Why did you start this in the first place? Take those thoughts and put them back into action over the holiday period. There’s no use taking a step back in the wrong direction now – is there?
If you’re finding it hard to keep yourself motivated because you are in a different environment from normal, your gym buddies have gone away – see if you can entice a friend to join you or rope the family in to give you that extra boost of energy!
Don’t quit just because it’s the holidays – that’s not a good excuse. If you find that you can’t always make it to the gym, find other ways to work out and mix things up a bit. With some careful planning I am sure you can include some exercise into your day - be proactive!
Be creative - Think outside the box of your normal exercise routine. Try to remember exercises, stretches and routines that we do each week in class and do these on your own. Body weight exercises can be done anywhere with no equipment needed. Remember I have free videos on my vimeo channel you can access too.
Embrace your surroundings - If you are on an island or beach holiday, head to the water for your workouts. In the countryside or even in a city that has amazing parks, head out and explore by hiking, running, walking, biking or even look at horse riding for a more adventurous twist. Try surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, snorkelling, windsurfing or kite surfing to get some fresh air and wake up some muscles you may never have known you had.
Involve the whole family so you don’t feel like you are impacting on everyone else’s holiday by needing to stay in shape.
Remember - regular short, quality exercise sessions also create lasting change. Health and fitness is a lifestyle and a daily practice no matter where you are or what you are doing. Make sure what ever you do, you make it fun!!
Always carry a water bottle (especially when its hot), do not let a lack of normal routine spoil all your good habits.
Aim to drink at least 2 litres of water each day.
EAT AND DRINK IN MODERATION
Again easier said than done and I’m not suggesting that you should deprive yourself of all the holiday yummies, but try to be aware of what you are eating and drinking.
Save space for treats - on days that you know you will be indulging more than normal try to keep other meals and snacks on the healthy side.•
Beware of the "eat as much as you like" buffet - try using a smaller plate, it’ll encourage you to take smaller portions and try to fill up on as many fruits and veggies as possible.
Visit food markets - they are amazing for soaking up local culture and finding local delicacies —and cheap, wholesome fresh food. Local food is better for the environment, you get to pick what you’re eating and you'll even squeeze in some movement as you walk around the market.
Pack snacks - when you plan to be out all day, bring along your own healthy snacks to keep your hunger at bay – not only is it cheaper but it will help keep you away from unhealthier options.
Make your own meals - if you’re staying somewhere with kitchen access, take the time to whip up your own delicious meals. You are more likely to eat something healthy that way and you’ll know exactly what’s in it.
Cocktail hour or for us Kenyans the infamous sundowner - the demon alcohol, we know it’s bad and if you are tucking into cocktails the sugar content can be extremely high – need I say more. You know the score – everything in moderation!!
Enjoy yourself of course – just don’t go overboard everyday!!.
REST AND RELAXATION
Keep work away. It’s a holiday try and resist the urge to check work emails, or spend all day scrolling and tableting, focus on having fun. It will keep your mind clear and allow you to decompress.
Free your mind - meditating even for just a few minutes each day can help relieve anxiety and stress. Even better if you can find a beautiful space to do it in.
Get the most out of your break - doing things that you love and sharing time with friends and family (or alone time!) ensure that you will get the most out of your holiday.
Get enough sleep - it can be tricky with all the socialising and living out of a suitcase to get regular and good sleep. Try and make it a priority, we all need 7-9 hours sleep a night and without it our physical and mental health will suffer.
SO - listen to your body.
If you are tired - rest, relax and eat healthily to recharge and rejuvenate.
Find exercise while you are away that seamlessly fits into your day, creates a moment to allow you to switch off and helps you to explore your new environment – whether it’s cityscapes, seascapes or stunning landscapes!
MOST OF ALL HAVE FUN!!
I am dedicating this week to the beautiful derriere!! Believe it or not there is so much more to this important part of our bodies than having a nice rounded butt to show off our designer jeans!!
I have just had the pleasure of spending a few days with with my wonderful friend and director of Richmond Physiotherapy Pippa Rollitt who says that there is a direct link between the amount of time you spend sitting on your bottom and the incidence of ankle, knee, hip and even low back pain.
There are three main muscles in your butt, the Gluteus Maximus, the Gluteus Medius and the Gluteus Minimus and all three muscles play a very important role in our posture and lower limb alignment.
When we spend too much time sitting on those muscles, they become weak and inefficient while the muscles that works with them can become tight and overactive.
So what can you do to help wave goodbye to some of those niggling aches and pains that might be because you spend too much of your day sitting on your a***e!!:
ALI'S BUTT MAGIC
Stand with your back against a large ball placed against the wall. Bring the feet slightly forward and keep your pelvis in neutral. Slowly lower bending your knees keeping the knees pointing over the 2nd and 3rd toes. Repeat x 10 each side.
Pulse at the inner range
Pulse at the mid range
Hold the kettle bell as you squat
Find a step about knee height and holding the 5kg kettle bell slowly step up onto the step and step down alternating legs.
Try and keep the pelvis as square as you can.
Exhale up inhale down.
Repeat x10 each side
SQUAT LATERAL STEP UP
Stand side onto a step – one leg on the step and one leg on the floor.
Squat and then push through the leg on the step to lift the leg off the floor bringing the pelvis level.
Yu can add the leg lift as shown in the picture.
Hold for 2 seconds and repeat.
Repeat x 8 each side
SINGLE LEG SIT TO STAND
Stand infront of a chair.
Slowly take the weight onto one leg and lower yourself to sitting position.
Hold and stand back up on the same leg.
Try and stay balanced, keeping the pelvis level throughout.
Exhale to stand up, inhale to lower.
Repeat x 8 both legs
BULGARIAN LUNGE SUPPORTED
Stand one stride infront of and facing away from a high step. Place one foot on the high step and hold a broom handle in the hand on the same side for support.
Slowly lower the body bringing the front knee to 90 degrees. Keep the knee directly above the ankle.
Once you have your balance swop the support for hand weights.
Repeat x 8 both sides.
KETTLE BELL STORK
Stand on the left leg with the knee soft, extend the right leg straight behind you.
Hold the 5kg kettle bell in both hands.
Slowly lower the kettle bell with straight arms and a straight back as you lift the right leg behind you. Try and keep the pelvis square to the floor.
You should feel this in the standing buttock.
Repeat x 8 both sides.
BRIDGE ON A STEP
Lying on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees and feet on a step.
Pelvis in neutral – lower tummy gently drawing in – Squeese your gluts and slowly curl up into a bridge lifting the pelvis until the hips, knees and shoulders form a straight line. Hold for 10 seconds and curl down one vertebra at a time.
Repeat x 8
SINGLE LEG BRIDGE
Lying on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees.
Pelvis in neutral – lower tummy gently drawing in – straighten the left leg at the same height as the right knee. Squeese your right gluts and slowly lift up into a bridge lifting the pelvis until the hips, knees and shoulders form a straight line.
Repeat x 8 each side
HIP THRUSTERS OVER A BALL
Sit on a large ball and walk out until the head and shoulders are supported on the ball, hips at the same height at the shoulders and the knees directly over the ankles.
Drop the bottom as you inhale and exhale to lift it back in line with the shoulders.
Repeat x 10.