Get to know your Pelvic Floor

The Pelvic Floor is a vital muscle in your body. It underpins your bowel, bladder and the uterus, and supports your back and spine. Refer to the picture which shows the muscles that stretch like a hammock from the front to the back of your pelvis. When these muscles are strong and healthy they give us complete control and support over our bodily functions and help contribute to satisfying sex. The muscles consist of 2 types fast and slow twitch and require you to strengthen them fast and slowly to support your core!

Pelvic Floor

In the absence of exercise, simply getting older brings muscle deterioration. But childbirth, pushing on the loo, hysterectomy, menopause, lack of oestrogen and muscle tone, obesity, bad breathing habits, excessive coughing, poor posture, weak gluts, stress, and high impact exercise like running, jumping and weight lifting can also contribute to a weak and ineffective Pelvic Floor (Stats show high reports of female fitpros with weakness).

Leaking urine is embarrassing, inconvenient and happens to one in three women due to a weak Pelvic Floor. Showing signs when you cough, sneeze, laugh, run or exercise, not reaching the loo in time, or struggling to control yourself and at worst a prolapse (suffered by millions of women) which can contribute to bad posture, back and neck pain and can take away our freedom and confidence to enjoy an active life.

Pelvic floor strength test and Isolating and functional exercises?
PF restoration and maintenance exercises are incorporated in many Pilates classes. They effectively start with isolating the muscles then incorporate your core – diaphragm, deep abdominals and deep back muscles. If dysfunctional you need to start with the basic exercises to learn to isolate the muscles but if you have no problems just keep mobile and do the following 3 functional exercises. The functional and movement based exercises can be 70% more effective than just kegel /pelvic floor exercises (research by Dr. Bruce Crawford Pfilates (Urogynecologist).as they incorporate the muscles which work to provide stability to the pelvis, pelvic floor and maintain your posture and alignment : gluteus minimus, the hip adductors, and deep hip rotators. During my Pilates classes we advise you to breath out on the exertion and when you start to engage the PF muscles. Ideally you’ll do these exercises for the rest of your life anytime, anywhere.

POSITION -Neutral posture (check in the mirror) either seated (don’t cross legs as you can use your gluts/ buttock muscles) or lie down on your back, bend your knees and keep your feet flat (If pregnant lie on your side), then …

To test the strength:
1. Stop your wee mid flow on the loo (only do this once or you’ll risk getting a bladder infection).
2. Tighten the muscles around your vagina and back passage and lift inwards and upwards. Count how long you can hold for, then completely relax the muscles. Aim to hold for 10 secs. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists recommends you practice this contraction just before you get out of a chair, cough, and sneeze or laugh to increase support and to retrain a weak pelvic floor.

Exercises to isolate the pelvic floor:
3. Fast Pelvic Floor contractions: Lift quickly -like an on / off switch hold for one second. Repeat 10 reps
4. Slow Pelvic floor controlled contractions: Imagine your PF muscles are an elevator at the ground floor of a building. As you contract and breathe out, imagine the elevator rising, slowly, to the second and third floor. Release slowly as the imaginary elevator lowers to each floor and returns to the starting position. Breathe in and relax completely.)Repeat 10 reps and hold for 8-10 seconds. This increases endurance for impact activities (eg trampoline, running and weight lifting).

POSITION– Lie on your back with your hips and knees bent, find a neutral curve in your lower back, engage your pelvic floor and lower abdominals on each exercise.

1. Pelvic tilt: Gently rock your pelvis forward and back (anterior then posterior pelvic tilt). As you rock back breathe out and pull in your PF and abdominal muscles, feel your low back pressing and hold 30-60 seconds. This mobilises and lubricates the joints of the spine and hips, improves and increases
blood flow, combines deep breathing and pf activation.
2. Inner thigh squeeze: place a pillow or ball between the knees and squeeze repeat 10. To progress lift and straighten legs towards ceiling, open, exhale then close and squeeze repeat 10. Aim to strengthen your deep abdominals, hip flexors, and inner thigh muscles.
3. Curl up: Engage pelvic floor, breathe out pull in your belly button and lift head * 5. Aim to improve core strength. (if Diastasis rectus hug arms across chest and gently pull hands towards each other.
4. Stretch inner thighs: Hug knees in to relax the back and rock then open the knees wide, hold 30 secs.

POSITION- Standing
1. Squats 1: legs wide push bottom back as if going to sit back on a chair. Repeat 10-50. Aim to stretch and strengthen core, bottom and legs and lower back.
2. Squats 2: Slowly lower yourself down into a deep squat bottom near your heels (you may need to hold onto the back of a chair for support). Place a pillow behind your knees (to take some pressure off the knee joints) or remove for a deeper hip and thigh stretch and stand with your heels on a firm cushion. Do not let your back round or your tailbone tuck under. Lengthen your spine and lift your heart, maintaining a neutral spine position. Hold 30 secs repeat 3. (Feet flat is harder).
3. Squats repeat above with PF squeezes (PF muscles are slightly lengthened so a good position to really sense the contraction and relaxation against gravity. Repeat 5-10, fully relax between repetitions.

This term at Farnham Pilates one of our focusses is Pelvic Floor. Take a look at our classes page for more details.

Secrets to becoming a better runner

better runner

 

As many of you will know I am training to run the London Marathon next month in aid of backcare.org. I won’t lie, it has been hard to keep motivated and train, especially during the long winter months, so I thought I would share some of the techniques that have helped me stay motivated to KEEP RUNNING and some of the stretches that have helped me become a better runner.

1) I joined a ladies running group in my village and you get a message every day of who is running so keeping company and chatting while you run keeps me going.

2) Getting my husband and family involved to run with me. My husband’s great at getting up at 6am to run – I would not do it on my own.

3) I have to run in the morning when I’m in the right clothes and before my body knows what I’m doing!

4) I set up a Training plan on my I-phone using apps Strava and My Asics and get reminders of how far I have to run.

5) Organising fundraising events. Everyone helping and supporting me is so motivating as I can’t let you all down.

6) I also have a Personal trainer once a week to push me and check my alignment, stretch me, check that I’m doing it right as sometimes yourself you can’t tell and show me exercises I might not know. I believe it is good to go to someone else and be the participant not just the teacher.

Here are my secrets to becoming a better runner

I know you all ask me in class – “how is your running going”? Well I won’t say it’s easy to stay motivated but it helped this week having the lighter mornings as it is very hard to get/stay motivated early in the morning and when its raining, (and as I’m writing this its hailing – I’m not going out in that!!!) Once I’m up in my running clothes I want to get going first thing, once kids dropped to school, and tick my run off on my weekly schedule! What has really surprised me with all the online research and Womens Running articles I’ve read is that I’ve realised I should stick to 3/4 runs a week and do MORE strength work. Yes I do regular Pilates but for me to stop my lower back seizing up I have to stretch, stretch, stretch and have to strengthen my gluts too. So with all this I have a few tips to become a better, stronger, faster runner……..

Sam Greenwood physical literacy expert says“There is too much emphasis on actual running, when in reality runners should be focusing on improving core skills such as strength, posture, stability and mobility.”

Types of exercise to incorporate

1. Plyometric Exercises

If you really want to boost your running implement plyometric exercises two or three times a week into your training.‘Plyometric’ is commonly used to describe any explosive, jumping exercise and this is a popular addition to circuit training and is used in many sports. The most important functions of muscles and tendons during running is to store energy. Like a spring, your body can store some energy from impact and then unload that energy to propel your body forward. A large portion of your energy actually comes from the energy stored in your legs from the impact you made with the ground. So Plyometric training activates different muscle recruitment patterns than distance running does, it teaches your body to react to fast-twitch fibres. Maximising muscle recruitment allows you to exert more force into your legs and propel yourself faster.

A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning that tested the effect of plyometric exercises and running, further confirms that runners will benefit from adding in plyometric exercises. The study established a baseline by asking all participants to complete a timed 5km run, then split them into two groups. One group’s training consisted of running around two or three times a week, whereas the second group ran less but also completed bodyweight plyometric exercises. After eight weeks, both groups had significantly improved their 5km times, but the plyometric group ran 25% less than the other and still achieved the same results.

Example Exercises are – Switch Lunges, Leg bounds and Box Jumps.

2. Improve your posture

Your posture is the foundation of your movements, it affects how you stand, walk and run. Poor posture will shift your centre of mass back, accentuates over striding and impairs your ability to control the muscles in the spine and the lower legs. This lack of control can inhibit you from correctly storing and releasing the elastic energy for optimum running performance. As gravity pushes down on our bodies, our muscles make thousands of tiny contractions to keep us in a natural position, which means that you are actively maintaining your joints in the middle of their range of motion whilst standing, sitting and moving.

Pilates can help you work in a neutral spine and stretches are important such as – Kneeling hip flexor stretch, Balanced Donkey Kicks.

Posture strengthening moves have to include the posterior muscles including lower back, the glutes, the hamstrings, and the calf muscles, try deadlifts, squats, lunges.

3. Improve your balance

Balance and stability is key to performance to maintain efficiency in each stride to helping to avoid injuries.

“The ankle is very common to injure while running, due to the nature of undulating surfaces and the up and down of pavement, good balance will help your ankle respond to the change in level of the surface you run on.” states Matthew Crehan, Author of The Art of Running and Sport and Exercise Science graduate from University of Leeds.

Exercise – Stand on one leg with your eyes closed for 30 seconds before repeating on the other. Stand on the edge of a stair and raise up to toes and down both feet then try one at a time. Also the reformer works the ankles and can help get the legs, knees and ankles in good alignment.

4. Develop your core

There is a direct correlation between a strong core, strength and flexibility and a powerful run.

A strong core is vital for good running form; the core muscles work together to stabilise the whole body, allowing the arms and legs to work hard, propelling you along at a pace. If the core is weak, runners will tire more easily and tend to slump, particularly on long runs. This contracts the lungs, limiting the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs which reduces blood flow to the working muscles. Furthermore, a weak core can mean that movement from the arms or legs can throw the rest of the body around; making the energy spend totally inefficient and increasing the risk of injury.”

5. Stretch to Prevent injuries

After every single workout, whether it’s a run, walk or a strength session, you must stretch! This is one of the most crucial parts of running training that is so often overlooked. Having tight muscles will not only affect your performance but increase your chances of injury. So take the time to stretch these properly to look after them. This helps prevent injuries and can improve strength, power and speed. Being aware of your body and staying pain free enables you to train more frequently and increase the intensity of your workouts. I use the foam roller to stretch and relax the muscles after each workout. (I still have 2 available. )

See my best stretches after running from last week

USING FOAM ROLLERS– these are great for going greater range of motion at a joint, speed recovery, myiofascia release but we have been discussing in class not stretching the IT Band (Iliotibial band) on the side of the leg as this can injury you as it is a tendon not a muscle, the answer is to get the glut med to fire up properly and it would not be so tight.

Need to improve your core strength come for a postural and functional movement assessment, for us to be able to give you a personalised training program. Contact hannah@farnhampilates.com

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Get your fitness ready for International Women’s Day


Fitness and International Women's Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day, a global event celebrating the achievements of women around the world. This year the campaign focuses on the issues of inequality women still face every day. Another area where women are lagging behind is personal fitness. Studies have shown that women are up to 50% less likely to participate in sports and physical exercise than men. Research shows just 1/6 women has exercised regularly since childhood compared to 1/3 men.

Women often fall way down the list of priorities in their own lives and struggle to find time to work out. Family often comes first, followed by busy work schedules. It’s all too easy to say I’ll do it tomorrow.

Regular exercise has so many physical and psychological benefits. For example Pilates can help your alignment, posture, release tension in joints and improve your performance in all sports and can help relieve your back pain. I think we should use this day to encourage and inspire other women to have the life they deserve and show that anything is possible if we work hard and help each other.

With this in mind I am taking on a mammoth challenge this year. After not running since before having my 2 children now aged 9 and 11 years old, I am currently training to run the marathon and raising funds for the charity BackCare. See below for details of events that are helping me raise funds for my chosen charity – backcare.org.uk

Upcoming events:

Saturday 27th February 8-12pmCurry and drinks at Hannah’s, Tickets are £20 and include welcome drink and Thai curry. 

Friday 4th March 4-6pm – Children’s Disco in Rowledge Village Hall (aimed at primary school age children up to year 7 but all ages welcome). Tickets are £7.50 which includes a drink and party food. 

Friday 15th April 8 till late – Mixed gender poker night at Hannah’s house. It’s £10 to play. You can bring your own booze or there will be an honesty bar to raise money.

Friday 22nd April 1-3pm Coffee afternoon at Becky’s house (21 Lickfolds Road.) Just come along for coffee and cake and donate money on the day.

To book onto any of the above events or for more info please email me Hannah@farnhampilates.com

Or if you wish to donate towards my fundraising here is my Virgin Money Giving Page

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Exercise and teenagers – how parents can help

Exercise with teenagers

Last week I had the great honour of teaching a group of Farnham Girl Guides a 90 minute Pilates session. It was quite a nerve wracking experience getting up in front of teenage and pre teen girls, but I am never one to shy away from a challenge. I also believe passionately that getting girls into good habits around exercise, mindfulness and taking care of themselves from a young age is really important.

During the session I talked about how important exercise is for confidence, their heart, enjoyment, team playing, meeting friends, the importance of a good bra for exercise (my daughter was mortified about this!) and posture. The class also covered balance, all body strength moves, core strengthening, spine mobility, flexibility of your back forward, back and sides, stretching and relaxation and how to learn to meditate!

I couldn’t have asked for better praise at the end. They ran up after saying it was really cool which for any of you with teenage or pre teen children, you will know this is not said lightly!

“It was fun and informative”

“It’s great learning to meditate or relax so when I get stressed with homework I can do it at home”

You can see that very quickly teens make really positive associations around exercise and the benefits it can have in their every day lives.

The teenage years can be a time when our children start to give up some of the more active things they have always done for themselves. Pressures of school work and exams, social pressures and just changing bodies and hormones can all make it seem easier to just give up physical activities, maybe thinking you will pick them up again later. But it is so hard to get back to activities once you break away and breaking these good, healthy habits at around teenage years can set up a new habit that is harder to break – a cycle of not making time for yourself and your health and wellbeing.

The whole experience got me thinking about how we can encourage our teens to keep active and do something that makes them feel good just for them. My conclusion is that we, parents, are the answer. I know it seems that at times our teens just want to do the opposite of what we are doing, but actually they take on board the positive. So seeing Mum or Dad regularly taking time for themselves, exercising and keeping healthy is a far greater role model for them than any ad campaign. If this is just a normal part of family life then it is more likely that your teen will continue taking care of themselves without even thinking about it.

If you can also build activity into family occasions too then this can be a good positive reinforcement of healthy living. Even just a family dog walk, going bowling or we have become regulars at the roller disco since the New Year, or maybe taking time to do an online exercise video with your teen. These are all small, easy steps that can make a big difference to the ongoing health and wellbeing of your teen.

So do you exercise as a family? And if so what do you do? And does your teen have a favourite activity that they do whatever? I would love to hear what works for your family.

 

Dry January! Why we need to drink more water!

Drink more water

Are you doing dry January? Whether you are trying it or not this month, it is a good time to check if you are drinking enough water. Drinking more water can curb appetite and sometimes hunger can be thirst so try a drink before eating.

Tip – did you know – Water is an absolutely essential thing for weight loss, staying healthy and looking after your body! It can be hard to keep on top of the old 8-glasses-a-day rule so here are 12 ways I think are a great way to keep your water intake up.

How to drink more water:

1) Don’t allow yourself a diet fizzy drink until you’ve drunk 2 glasses of water.

2) Have a glass of water every time you do something transitional – ie, sit down at your desk, get home from work, when you first wake up.

3) Keep a bottle in your handbag and take it everywhere you go – fill it up along the way.

4) When you go to fill up your bottle or glass, down it – and then fill up again! No sipping over time, just get hydrated then and there on the spot and you’ll feel the benefit immediately.

5) Freeze slices of lemon, lime or orange and use them instead of ice-cubes. So refreshing!

6) If you must drink a rare orange or apple juice, just fill it half way and fill the rest with water.

7) Take a two litre bottle to work and aim to drink it all by the end of the day. Leaving it on your desk will reduce time spent away from working and will be a constant reminder for you to drink it up.

8) Drink two full glasses of water at each meal – one before and one after. You could drink one before you have a snack too so you don’t eat as much. Sometimes when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually just dehydrated!

9) Put reminders in your phone calendar! Every three hours would be good and you’ll remember throughout the day rather than remembering at night and trying to play catch up all at once.

10) It doesn’t all have to be cold! Drinking hot water and lemon or ginger is lovely. Make sure it’s caffeine-free though as caffeine actually robs you of water! Herbal teas are great instead of caffeine like mint tea, liquorice. I’ve become a fan of Three Tulsi.

11) When drinking alcohol have 1 glass of water to 1 wine/ bubbly etc you will feel better in the morning.

So drink up – bottoms up! If you take just one of these tips away, you’ll be on the right track to getting your 8 a day and you’ll definitely drink more water.