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!

 

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.

Back Care Awareness Week 2015

Back Care Awareness Week 2015

This week is back care awareness week 2015. I will be looking and asking you to participate in back care awareness to raise awareness of the problems back pain can cause as well as prevention and treatments. A main message from the organiser BackCare is to stand and not sit at work. Charity “getBritainstanding.org” encourage active working.

There is recent research below on the advantages of standing at work. It does suggest there are advantages of standing but there are a few cons that I will look at as well. I will examine the advantages of standing or being more active at work to help prevention of problems, and then treatments such as exercises to do to mobilise stretch muscles and strengthen your back. I will also look at other treatments available to help prevent or relieve pain.

This week I want you to be aware of your posture as you work, How long you sit for in the day, posture of your shoulders and lower back. Draw a picture and send it to me.

What is the distance away and height of your computer? If you carry things at work how do you lift them? Think about engageing your core muscles before you lift (message me if you want more on that). Use the stairs at work not the lift. Are you a carer? Do you lift properly?

Key Findings

1) A School in Bradford West Yorkshire took part in a seven week long study with students standing rather than sitting in July 2015 to prevent sedentary behaviour. They compared to a school in Australia and discovered it increased their step count and in class activity levels increasing blood circulation, heart rate and calorie expenditure and additionally showed improvements in behaviour, engagement and academic performance.  You can read more about this project here.

2) A 2015 study published in the Oxford Journal of Public Health shows that sit-to-stand desks in classrooms appear to be an effective way of reducing sedentary behaviour (prolonged sitting) in a diverse sample of children.

3) At their 2013 annual meeting, the American Medical Association adopted policy recognizing potential risks of prolonged sitting and encouraging employers, employees and others to make available alternatives to sitting, such as sit-stand desks.

4) A 2011 study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that when workers are equipped with sit-stand workstations, prolonged sitting is reduced and mood states improve.

5) A 2009 University of Queensland study found that even when adults meet physical activity guidelines, sitting for prolonged periods can compromise metabolic health.

Disadvantages

If you stand there are certain postures that will make your lower back pain worse – So if you have a lordotic lower back curve (Ie, postnatal, an excessive pelvis tilt and lower back curve. Don’t lean on one leg, have a moveable chair, keep mobile, still be aware of your shoulders.

So if you are worried about your back at work why not try this stretch?

If you are concerned about your posture come and see me for a posture analysis and I will give you exercises and stretches to help prevent back pain.