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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Mums and Posture! Could your posture be causing you long term health problems?

Mums and postureAre you a new Mum?

Do you have back aches and pains, do you feel stiff with sore muscles and achy joints?

I have been though this and I have the solution!

I can help you reduce your aches and pains, improve your tummy tone, make you feel more confident, give you a stronger pelvic floor (so no accidents), better back strength and the right exercises for you !

Do you know one of the key factors is a better posture !!!

Why new mums need to correct their posture?

There’s no doubt that pregnant mums and mums with young babies carry heavy things from a baby, toddler to bags and car seats !

As we tend to our daily activities, posture is the last thing on our minds. Unfortunately, this can often lead to regular tasks – such as housework and social interaction – being performed in ways that are detrimental to our health and posture. Lifting badly is a common cause of back pain (remember to bend your knees and pull the item close to you).

While postural issues don’t always manifest themselves in a manner that allow us to easily recognise we have them, back pain can be a clear sign that you may need to have your posture assessed. We balance our baby on our hip, the phone against the ear, so no wonder our lower back and neck hurt!

Did you know approximately 70% of women will, at some time in their lives, report low back pain. And during pregnancy, while 50–80% of women have reported back pain, one-third of pregnant women claim this low back pain is a significant problem.

Common Posture Problems

Uneven hips
Activities such as twisting to lift children out of cars, and carrying of babies or young children on the hips, can cause your hips and shoulders to become uneven.

Forward Head Posture
As a woman’s body adapts to her changing weight and shape during pregnancy, the spine and pelvis realign to serve as a counter-balance, One of the issues that can arise from this is Forward Head Posture (FHP).

Dowager’s Hump (or increased kyphosis)
Dowager’s hump (or increased kyphosis) is another postural issue that can occur during pregnancy. It is a condition that increases the natural curve of the upper back.

Pelvis Forward
The increased weight from carrying a child can pull your pelvis forward, increasing the curve to your lower back (or increased lordosis).

In severe cases, long term bad posture can lead to Scoliosis, a condition that results in the spine twisting from left to right, instead of running in a straight line from top to bottom. Depending on the severity, scoliosis of the spine can have a detrimental impact on vital organs, such as your heart, liver and kidneys.

Correcting Posture

The good news is that postural issues can be corrected, and even, in some instances reversed.

A good pilates teacher, osteopath, chiropractor, Physio can assess your posture or send me a photo and I can give you specific exercises – hannah@farnhampilates.com

At Farnham Pilates we give exercises and stretches that, when done regularly, will help to strengthen your muscles and maintain improved posture. Farnham Pilates is an online resource for pilates videos, tips and information to help busy mums solve these common, painful problems.

You can Take Action

1. Assess your own posture in a mirror.

2. Make an appointment to see me – I can recommend daily exercises to improve and maintain your back and core strength.

3. Start a routine of gentle exercise – Pilates, yoga, walking – see link here for Farnham Pilates classes.

3. Commit 3 minutes a day to improving your posture-

My philosophy is to keep moving, stretch do exercises within your limits and find something you enjoy.

Just 3 minutes a day dedicated to exercises to improve your posture can make a tremendous impact on your long term health. People who regularly stretch and maintain a good range of motion are less likely to suffer the negative effects of immobility.

4. Look at your diet and nutrition – Reduce sugar it reduces inflammation that can cause the pain!!

Maintaining a healthy spine, can help you maintain a healthier life.

If you are not local to me or find it hard to commit to a regular exercise session why not take a look at my Yummy tummy Programme.  This programme gives you bite sized exercises which you can do anywhere.  It is a 6 week programme which will help create a flat strong tummy, strong core muscles, and strong pelvic floor which will help solve many of the issues mentioned above.  You get weekly emails and a Facebook support group to join so that you are given the best chance of succeeding  over the 6 weeks.  Click here to find out more or you can sign up below.

Yummy Tummy Programme

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

Contact us

 

Secrets of a Pilates Instructor – My top 6 Pilates exercises to keep me moving

At this time of year finding time to exercise can be hard and with our regular classes closed for the holidays, it can be easy to just not bother.  But just doing 10 mins exercise each day can really make a difference, keep your fitness levels up, and make you feel better overall during a time when we are generally less active. Here are my top 6 Pilates exercises to get me up in the morning, stretch, move and strengthen, which I feel are great for fitting into your daily routine.

To begin – Breathe wide and full and gently engage your tummy muscles as you breathe out.

1. Seated arm circles – sit cross legged or legs forward and circle your arm left arm round and lean with your body as much as possible. If you need support place the opposite hand in front of your knee. Change arms.

top 6 pilates exercises

Spine twist

2. Spine twist or the saw – sit with a support behind your back legs out in front, twist your spine and reach your opposite arm to the toes.

6 top pilates exercises

Side bend

 

3. Side bend or mermaid – standing or sitting, reach your arm out the head, support your back by placing your opposite hand on the floor or waist.

6 top pilates exercises

Cat Stretch

4. Cat stretch – on your hands and knees, on your out breathe let your head drop down and lift your tummy, tuck your bottom under without moving the hips forward.

6 top pilates exercises

Shoulder bridge

5. Shoulder bridge – lying on your back let your bottom tuck under, squeeze your tummy muscles and let the hips slow rise lifting vertebrae by vertebrae.

6 top pilates exercises

The Hundred

6. Hundred – lying on your back with the knees bent, let your arms pull towards your toes and slowly lift the head as your tummy pulls in and down towards the floor to support the back. The image is shown using the Pilates ball, but that is a more advanced version, you can just have your legs in table top with no ball.

6 top pilates exercise

Childs pose

To finish – Stretch into the child pose from your hands and knees, gently lift the tummy muscles and then press your bottom back to the heels to get a good stretch into the lower back.

If you feel you need a bit more help over the Christmas period or at any other time when you are too busy to make class we have a 15 minute video available to purchase with exercises you can do at home – click here for full details.

Have a Happy and Healthy Christmas and New Year from all at Farnham Pilates

 

Exercise at Christmas

Exercise at Christmas

Christmas can be a fantastic and exciting time but also full of stresses. Many mums that do regular exercise find it hard as the classes and bootcamps tend to stop the same week as the kids break up from school. There are things you can do at home but it is hard to keep motivated with all the temptations around at this time of year. Also I find it hard as it gets colder to resist the warm, unhealthy drinks and biscuits!

Its also hard for mums to stick to a routine and getting a workout in when there are so many demands on our time leading up to Christmas. Decide what you’d like to fit in and try and follow these 10 simple steps –

1. Move more – don’t stay in one position for too long a time when you are cooking, cleaning or relaxing on the sofa – get everyone one up and moving or out, for example on a walk, treasure hunt, races or competitions.

2. Workout first thing – before anything else happens. “There are just too many activities and commitments that come up,” says Angela Bekkala, clinical exercise specialist, mum of twins and creator of Happy Fit Mama. I run early so “You’re finished before the kids wake up!”

3. Put it as an appointment in your calendar – Hopefully your partner is supportive. If you worry about spending time with them as they are not working, it’s a great way to spend quality time together. Or if they can help with childcare you do the same for them. I have had comments of people saying it’s selfish, but its not – its about your health and sanity. Get grandparents to help, you only need 30 mins to fast walk or run!

4. Plan in what you enjoy and want to do – aim for 3-4 activities a week – DVD, online workouts etc. On Periscope Rachel Homes does a 7am workout, or maybe run, walk to get fresh air, or arrange to meet or pick up a friend then you cant cancel.

Classes available locally to Farnham with children

Bootcamp Tilford with Belinda Andrews 14th and 16th December – 9.30 Tilford Green – back on wed 6th January.

Farnham Pilates – last classes 17th-18th Dec – 8.45 and 9.45am – wear Christmas hats bring a friend or children.

Sweaty Betty does classes inhouse too.

5) Don’t worry about what you wear –  I put the clothes out the night before and dress in the dark and don’t look in the mirror. Then I enjoy the shower or bath later and then do hair and make up and feel much better in myself.

6. Its not always possible to exercise without the kids – so include them or watch online and do it in front of them. I think its just as important for them to see me working out and that I find it important to look after myself.

Ditch the ‘either-or’ attitude. Children instinctively love to move. Resistance bands are great for playing with and balls make fun mini trampolines. Also as your children grow older, workouts can be bonding time. I’d like my oldest daughter to run or cycle with me, if its a one off they wont do it, but if its regular they will understand it’s important and will want to come with you, or simply bribe them for that Saturday night movie and popcorn. I ran a dash for colour for Phillis Tuckwell this September and my daughter and I had great fun throwing powder at each other! Other ideas could include taking the kids to the park and do step ups, tricep dips, running races and they love a circuit or obstacle course. It doesn’t need to be long, just a quick workout – 10-15mins raising your heart rate is better than nothing.

7. Do you get Back pain? – stop what you are doing, think about your posture. Have a look at our 5 days of short stretches and the relevant blogs. I am also running a 6 week programme for you to follow – details here.

8.Walk or cycle to friends for Christmas drinks or the family drive and you walk or run and meet them there. Make the most of any time you have and make time.

9. Analysis your time – Can you not go on Facebook/cooking/ cleaning for 10 mins. Swap activities or plan ahead and do bulk cooking. Get the kids to help and delegate. I find December is the best month as they have to be good and help otherwise Santa may not come! We do a points system for pocket money and points are taken off for not helping. They don’t get tea if they don’t help. I know older ones have homework but when they are hungry they will do anything to get the food quicker!

10. Don’t beat yourself up – if you don’t get time. Don’t set unrealistic expectations. Even 10 mins a day is great but even every other day is a good start!

 

Pilates and Massage – a Perfect Match

Pilates and Massage

I’m sure I’m not alone in loving a good massage. It can work so well with Pilates clients who combine Pilates for strengthening and massage for relaxing tense muscles. Massage and Pilates really are a great match.

This week we have a guest blog from deep tissue and hot stone massage expert Aase Waterman. We work together to help clients and I absolutely believe that combining regular exercise like Pilates and massage keeps your body strong and mobile and releases unnecessary tension.

Why having a massage is definitely worth it

Pilates and massage

Aase Waterman

“If you have been thinking about having a massage but never got round to booking an appointment, wait no longer as there are numerous reasons why you should make regular massage part of your lifestyle. Massage is an excellent way not only to manage stress and reduce chronic pain and so improve your life, it can also act as a preventative measure and promote a sense of well-being. Today more and more people are turning to complementary therapies including massage as part of a balanced wellness plan.

The aches and pains that come from working long hours, sporting activities, ageing and daily stress can be reduced by regular massage. Recent Technology developments that affect your posture and can give upper back and shoulder symptoms can also benefit from massage.

Technology can play a huge part in today’s common ailments.

The plethora of smart devices such as phones, tablets and computers that we find ourself continuously using in today’s digital age, has led to an explosion in “technology” related conditions such as tight neck and shoulders or sore wrists and backs. A high percentage of clients complaints and worries about their is posture is often due to holding a device for long periods and repetitive activity such as texting or working at a computer leading to discomfort. Common muscular problems people seek a massage for, are for stiff neck and shoulder, and low back pain – this isn’t a coincidence!

Have you found yourself propped up in an awkward position reading information from your iphone or slouching on the sofa?

The technology explosion and increased multi tasking has had a negative impact on lifestyle, mindset and our stress levels so exercise and alternative therapies like massage can provide time and space away for this “techno-stress”.

Massage can provide a calming and relaxing therapy alongside the physical benefits it brings, and is ideal for people of all ages and lifestyle. It can also give you a greater body awareness that can help detect any potential issues earlier as a preventative measure. A time for you to unwind!

This is where I as a professional massage therapist can help people feel better, improve their mobility and flexibility and address any problematic aches and pains. The positive effects of massage can be prolonged by adapting regular stretching and exercise activities as part of a healthy lifestyle.

My training incorporates various techniques like deep tissue, clinical and Swedish massage, hot stone treatment, passive and active stretching, soft tissue and myofascial release. I take time to understand your background and treatments can be tailored to individual requirements.”

But don’t take our word for it. Here is a testimonial from a client who has seen both Aase for massage and myself for Pilates.

I thought my body was declining at 84 but since starting weekly one to one Pilates with Hannah in July and monthly massage since August I feel my posture is improved and I’m walking tall for the 1st time in years. I know you and Aase are going to keep me going until I’m 100!” Peter Hillier age 84, Farnham

If you would like to see and feel first hand how Pilates and Massage can work so effectively together, join us for our Xmas Wellbeing event. We will have bubbly, nibbles, massage (20 mins with Aase), Heated Pilates (more about this in next weeks blog!) and Positive Mindset workshop.  This will all take place on Thursday 10th Dec at our Garden Studio in Rowledge, Farnham.

12-1pm – Heated Pilates trial (booking necessary)
1-3pm – Coffee, bubbly, nibbles, massage
3-3.30pm – How to have a positive mindset and the importance of this.
To book your place contact hannah@farnhampilates.com.
 
For more details of Aase’s massage treatments do visit her website 
 

 


Can Christmas give you back pain?

Can Christmas give you back pain-There are many activities you may have to do around the Christmas season that can cause common problems and injuries. As back pain affects 80% of us at some point, here is some advice about what to do to prevent problems –

The first line of treatment has traditionally been paracetamol, but new research has found it may be no more effective than a sugar pill. It is better to prevent by strengthening your abdominal muscles and back to help stabilising then stretching and strengthening around your weak muscles.

The most important thing to consider first is what’s actually causing your lower back pain. By considering this question you’ll be able to choose the right techniques or treatments to get to the root cause and move towards a much speedier recovery. For the most part, lower back pain is caused by strains to the soft tissues, the muscles, tendons or ligaments, and/or to the joints underlying the commons problems.

Here are some common activities over the festive period that can contribute to back pain and some tips as to how you can minimise this.

1. Cooking, washing up, prepping food, you may be standing for long periods of time. This can cause sore feet, swollen ankles and puffy legs, tense shoulders and ultimately back pain.

2. Making beds, shaking duvet, bending, lifting, moving items, getting the house ready, cleaning, gardening – clearing leaves and digging, All can cause sore wrists and knees and back pain.

3. Sitting for long periods – writing cards, wrapping etc all causing sore hands and fingers and back pain.

All of the above can cause these common problems ….

REPETITIVE STRAIN INJURYMore commonly seen in the upper body, this type of injury can occur in the lower back when an action is continually repeated over a long period of time, causing stress to the joints or soft tissues.

It happens due to a repetitive pattern in movement usually caused by work or sport.

For example, if at work you constantly have to turn to your right, the right side of your lower back could become compressed, irritated and inflamed.

How to fix it? Try to adapt and balance the movement of your body throughout the day.

If a pattern of movement is unavoidable then stretching in the counter direction would be beneficial. All of the above activities could contribute to repetitive strain injury so try and vary the jobs you do and don’t spend to long on one thing. Your aim is to balance out your body preventing one side taking all the strain.

A regular massage with an experienced therapist may be helpful too. Or massage your feet or have a game everyone massaging feet.
Some preventative measures you could take are as follows …

Always consider your posture, look in the mirror look at how you stand and sit, pull the shoulders back, lift up through the spine.

Stop and stretch every hour. Even going for a gentle walk for five minutes can do wonders.

Low impact regular exercise is best such as yoga, pilates, swimming and walking. This will also help your stress levels over the festive season too.

Regularly move shoulders, roll them and do back stretches.

Be mindful of posture alignment and back pain and use your pelvic floor engage the abdominals before you lift .

ACUTE MUSCLE OR JOINT STRAIN

This is probably the most common injury to happen to the lower back and quite often occurs when lifting, over reaching, so when moving furniture around, making beds etc.

Symptoms can include muscle spasm, pain (which can be severe) and restricted movement.

Overreaching, twisting or stretching causes the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the area to tighten to prevent further damage and inflammation will build up as part of the natural healing process. Fast treatment is the most effective for this.

Some preventative measures you could take are as follows …

Always bend the knees and engage core before lifting

Can Christmas give you back pain

Always bend at the knees not at the back before lifting.

 

How to fix it? Immediately put an ice pack on the area for ten minutes at least. Repeat this several times until the inflammation begins to subside.

If the muscles have tightened up you could also alternate with a hot pack to help them relax, but start and finish with the cold pack to ease the inflammation and reduce the pain.

As with any injury rest is important to allow the body time to heal, but don’t spend hours sitting or lying down as this could make it worse. Find a good balance and when it has calmed down a little, stretch the area out with exercises such as shoulder bridge, rock on your lower back. You may find massaging arnica cream into the strained area beneficial.

So do enjoy the festive season, but don’t overdo it. Make time for yourself and make sure you enjoy some exercise too which will help keep your body in tip top condition.

I’m a Pilates teacher! I cant have hurt my back!

I have corrected, advised and helped over 2000 clients over 10 years with back pain but I have to admit it – I have had low back pain (LBP) and severe pain twice where I can’t actually move. This happened on Sept 2014 and Sept 2015 (can you see a pattern forming – having the summer off teaching to be with the children and going straight back to exercise?)

Do you want to hear how I healed my back to keep me moving?

If YES then keep reading.

Pilates and back careSo this year, unfortunately, while I was lifting Pilates equipment out to the new Garden studio my lower back just “went”. It felt like a snap, a sharp feeling and sent a shooting pain down my leg! Have you had this happen? What did you do? I felt quiet scared, I went into shock and my body froze as I was stooping over. So I rang my husband “umm darling you know I teach Pilates? Im stuck and can’t move and I’m teaching in 1 hour! HELP!” I slowly lay down and cried a bit!! I mean how can it happen to me -I’m a Pilates teacher!”, I knew I needed to stretch but the shooting pain was agony! I relaxed and taught that class as I knew stress can make the pain worse, so I said nothing but I learnt such invaluable steps to get back to the road of fitness….

I had to give up running and started again with exercise. I also now can’t sit for long periods of time! I went to consult a physiotherapist, osteopath and Pilates friends to help pin point how I was twisting or where was weak to work on, as its hard to tell on yourself. I was so upset I joined a charity,”Back care”, on their “Get Britain Standing” campaign they started on back care awareness week in October, and I have now offered to sign up to do the London Marathon for the charity next April! So please help, support and laugh at my training attempts as the weeks go by. Please support my sofa to marathon attempt!

I’m not the only one! Do you know 70% of people in the UK get back pain, and in 2013, 31 million days of work were lost due to back, neck and muscle problems. Bone and joint problems persisted in the UK because “sitting is the new smoking” says prof Steve Bevan, Director of Centre for Workforce Effectiveness at the Work Foundation. “The more sedentary the worse it is”. For example, ”the average British adult sits for 9 hours per day – double the safe limit” and The Backcare Organisation is trying to make people realise that prolonged sitting is strongly linked to back pain, diabetes, heart disease and cancer – so reducing your daily sitting by just 1 hour can burn 1kg of fat per month.

Tell me in the last year have you ever felt pain in your back, that you can’t lift your child or bend down, or are you in agony after gardening or driving? Do you know the right stretches and exercises for you? If not please contact me as I’ve formulated a 6 step plan which I know works, and I want to show you. Due to the demand Farnham Pilates is running more back care courses, and further short videos of exercises to help you are on their way, so please contact me – Hannah@farnhampilates.com

Pilates is the right thing to do, so try a gentle slow class. We will be posting daily exercises and/or tips to Facebook. Contact me if you have any questions, want an assessment or join the back care classes in the Garden Pilates Studio. And please join the mailing list if you would like more exercises and information on back care. You can do this on this page – on mobile devices sign up below or on PC/Laptop look to your right to sign up.

Is parenting making your back ache?

Parenting making your back acheThe school run, breastfeeding, birth, even cuddles can contribute to chronic back ache but it doesn’t have to be something you put up with. When you think about it, it isn’t surprising that the many tasks you juggle daily in addition to the effects of pregnancy and birth on your body can lead to constant back pain. Pilates specifically deals with these issues.

So what are the most common causes of back pain for mums?
  • Weak or dysfunctional pelvic floor
  • Postural changes during pregnancy and after birth
  • Age and hormonal changes post natal, Peri-menopausal
  • Handling the kids- twisting and leaning
  • Pushing a pram
  • Juggling everything- general stress on the nervous system
  • Tension
  • Overloading one side of your body due to bags, baby or child
  • Your “squeezed in” workout
  • Abdominal separation
  • Stooping over your iPhone or computer
Living with back pain can often scare you off exercise and movement but moving – the right way – can be exactly what you and your back need to feel better.

When participants first arrive at my classes, they’ve often put it off for fear that they’ve left it too long. There is no such thing. It really doesn’t take long to start to get back in shape and relieve your back pain, especially if you’ve done exercise regularly in the past. It’s just important to keep moving.

This doesn’t have to be in an exercise class. Making a few tweaks to the way you do daily tasks can make a massive difference to your back.


Take care when lifting
. Bend at the knees not your hips and when the load is heavy and wriggly try to keep it close. Keeping your child closer to you when lifting reduces your risk of injury or back strain.

Take care when getting your baby or child into a car seat or buggy. Kneel or squat whenever possible. If you can get in front of your child to get them strapped in it’s much kinder on your joints.

Use alternate arms when holding or carrying your child. This doesn’t have to be on a busy road, where you’d prefer your strong side but perhaps when you’re at home, use the other side for balance.

Check your breast feeding posture. Are you stooped or hunched forwards? Is your neck comfortable? Are you having to lean to get a good latch? Could cushions or a better chair help you both out?

Never twist when you lift. Lift first and then turn. Lift your pelvic floor first before you lift children, shopping or other items. To strengthen gently lift and hold a few times in the day and slowly release to increase the tone.

Work on your fitness and strength. Perhaps add a walking morning to the school run or park a little further away. Consider a weekly class with friends, a walk or something gentle to get you started. It’s great to do something sociable like joining a pilates, Zumba or Bootcamp class but take exercise slowly and balance your type or exercise.

Avoid standing still for long periods of time. Move more.

Every time you use your iPhone think about your posture. Make it a habit. Are you slouched on the sofa with your head pushed forwards? Could you take a breath and sit up tall?

Don’t rush. This doesn’t mean be late for everything but taking 3 deep breaths occasionally will calm the tension and help to relax your muscles. If the kids are demanding and not doing as I ask I try and smile before I call/ shout it helps me calm down.

Don’t overdo it. If life feels busy all the time it’s possible you are cramming too much in. Is there something you could prioritise this week? Something for you? Or perhaps something you need to say no to? “You time” is important as we are helping to raise amazing people for the future but need to make sure we happy and healthy first!

Make keeping your spine moving and therefore healthy a priority.

Parenting making your back ache

Example of shoulder bridge

Move as much as you can. Think about rolling your spine, side stretches twisting and rolling forward to help you lengthen and release tension. Pilates is an all over body conditioning programme designed to balance and add tone to your body but it’s also about stretching and mobilising your muscles and joints. There is a great move called the shoulder bridge it relaxes tension in the back and strengthens the muscles to support the spine. Please email me with your back problems or questions and I can send you back and pelvic floor exercises. Or if you are local to Farnham, Surrey why not book onto one of our back care classes that start next week?  These are 6 week courses designed to get your back – back on track – a perfect way to end the year.  Take a look here for more details

Back Care for Parents (and what to do if it hurts!)

Back care for parentsWhen you’re a parent lifting is part of the job, but like most aspects of parenting you don’t get any training for it. However if you don’t take care of your back when lifting this can have serious consequences down the line. Here are some tips and ideas to help keep a healthy back when you are a parent.


Be careful when lifting – don’t bend from your hips. Use your legs and keep your child close to you. Injuries will occur if you pick your child up with your arms outstretched. This happened personally in the summer when moving pilates equipment. After 4 weeks off with no core strengthening, my back just went. It was agony! I had to just lie down and move slowly, so I understand and had to follow my own advice of keep stretching and moving and slowly building up the core exercises.

 

Kneel or squat where possible – when buckling your child into a car seat it’s a pretty awkward position to stand outside the car and twist in. It’s much easier and better for your back to try and kneel or squat in front of your child.

 

Use alternate arms – when carrying your child, try not to lift for long periods on just one side.

 

Check your breastfeeding posture – whilst breastfeeding make sure you are sitting straight and lift your baby to the breast, don’t lean over bringing the breast down. Use pillows to make yourself comfortable and try and sit in a chair with a firm back to support you.

 

Never twist whilst lifting! – Always lift and then turn.

 

Pay attention to your fitness – work on your core and strengthen your abdominal muscles and pelvic floor. A great way to do this is by joining a Pilates class. During pregnancy the abdominal and core muscles weaken. It is important to rebuild them to help improve your posture and reduce back pain.

 

Avoid standing for long periods – this increases the pressure on your back. Keep mobile and enjoy gentle exercise such as Pilates, yoga, walking or swimming to keep your muscles and joints flexible.

 

Don’t rush – you may be lifting heavy, unfamiliar objects such as car seats and push chairs. Move slowly and pay attention to what you are doing.

 

Don’t overdo it – take a break when and if possible.

 

What to do if you get an injury:

    • If it’s a chronic tightness, stiffness or nagging pain try applying a heat pack.
    • If it’s a sudden acute injury, e.g. a pull in the back or twinge in the neck, stop and rest. Use an ice pack if you have one and consult your health professional.
    • Do some appropriate stretching or strengthening exercises to stretch tight muscles and improve joint range of motion. You can find exercises online or get a specific programme made up for you by an osteopath. We have a number of back care exercises for you to try here

  • A massage is a great way to relax and unwind whilst relieving your sore muscles, so go on, treat yourself!
  • Painkillers might be a short term solution but if you want to look after your health in the long run you need to get to the cause of your pain. If pain continues to be a problem or becomes more severe, visit your doctor or osteopath – don’t just put up with it!
  • If you notice any other symptoms such as neurological signs (headaches, numbness, weakness), general unwellness or bowel or bladder changes you should contact your doctor immediately.

Here at Farnham Pilates we are running a specific Back Care course small group course in the garden studio from Nov 3rd – Dec 8th. These sessions will take exercises slowly to increase strength, mobilise and stretch muscles, check your imbalances and correct bad habits. If you would like to know more visit our classes page.