Strong Saturday – Farnham Pilates Blog

Easy ways to stay healthy at home

It’s easy at times like these to slip into bad habits, so here is a reminder about some simple things you can do to ensure you stay healthy – and happy – at home.

Make the most of the first 10 minutes of the day and set the tone for the day ahead – exercise, stretch, sit, and breathe. Get dressed and some days wear a dress or your favourite outfit that you feel good in. 

Be kind to yourself – try not to put high expectations on yourself. We all have different worries and concerns and this time and this means that you may not “achieve” much, so be kind to yourself. Try to incorporate self-care in your day even if it is just to shower and moisturise with your favourite smell; I love rose products from the Body Shop and like to put orange essence on my wrists to lift my mood. Every night I put lavender drops in my bath and on my pillow (I’m a bit of a smell freak!). Do things to make you find the joy and happiness within you – what do you love doing? How about reading, jigsaw puzzles or knitting.  If you are missing the coast you could find the sound of sea on YouTube. Even a simple bath and early night will make a massive difference to your stress levels,  so get a good night’s sleep. If you struggle try breathing exercises 10 mins before. 

Make plans and goals for the day – do meal plans and batch cooking to make life easier, it is so much less stressful if you know what is planned. Do a shopping list and stick to the plan – this will also help you avoid overeating.  Batch cooking makes for a stress-free dinner as you just have to reheat what you have already made.  Try to think of non-food related treats, such as a special cup of tea, a walk around the garden or a face mask. To mix things up a bit, look out for local schemes to help the community through these times: for instance the Maltings in Farnham is running a jigsaw and games swap. And with garden centres opening up, a little gardening can be a great stress reliever and improve the view out of your window!

Create a new routine – we have come out of the initial holiday phase at Easter (even if you are working) and feel we need to achieve things so plan your day. Try and do the daily exercise, do a 10 mins exercise video then Pilates, also plan a walk. Even if you just dance round the kitchen it will make a big impact. 

Keep a healthy diet – your energy levels will be affected by what you eat, so be sure to focus on good gut health and keep your immune system strong. I swear by Symprove, a local firm (I don’t get commission!) https://www.symprove.com. Learn more about the gut here – https://www.symprove.com/gut-microbiome/. You have 70-80% of your immune system in your gut, so manage your immune system with good gut microbe. Lack of Vitamin D can have a massive impact on energy levels and there is evidence that it can reduce the impact of Covid-19, so ensure you get enough sun and consider taking a supplement. Eat regularly to help balance blood sugar levels and add more fibre into your diet. An easy meal could be lentil bolognaise with whole wheat pasta and cheese. 

LAST CHANCE to join before the price increases next week then the doors close at end of May. 

I have 2 types of membership – 

ZOOM I only do zoom classes for the clients that pay for the class membership on £45 a month. The classes are small – there are about about 4-8 people in each class.
Monday 2.30 back care 
Monday 8pm improvers (business class)
Tuesday 9.30 beginners mixed
Some Saturdays  

FACEBOOK The rest are on Facebook – those are for the clients paying £9.99 a month.
Classes 
Mon, Wed, Fri at 9.35am 
(some Saturdays) 
This includes access to the website with a library of videos.

Membership also gives offers you a private Facebook group and WhatsApp group where there are lots of classes, both recorded and live.

I want you to take this opportunity to try this deal as Prices are going up next week on Thursday 21st April.  

Class membership will increase from £45 to £49 per month.

Online membership will increase from £9.99 to £11.99 per month

“I LOVE THE PILATES COMMUNITY. YOUR TEACHING IS OUTSTANDING AND I FEEL “SAFE” THAT YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. PILATES CONTRIBUTES TO MY WELLBEING AND I SIMPLY LOVE BEING PRESENT. IT CAN BE VERY STRESSFUL WITH ELDERLY PARENTS SO I LOOK FORWARD TO PILATES AS PART OF HELPING TO KEEP MY MIND AND BODY WELL. THANK YOU.”

Jayne

“SINCE DOING PILATES, I FEEL MORE SUPPLE, KNOW HOW TO STRETCH PROPERLY AND FIND THAT RUNNING IS MUCH EASIER. HANNAH HAS ALSO HELPED WITH MY POSTURE AS I SIT AT A DESK ALL DAY.”

H Mortimer, Surrey

Next week’s blog will cover stretches for homeworking. Check back then!

Squeeze and breathe,

Love Hannah x

How are you doing?

How are you? These are strange times and I just wanted to check in to see how you are doing? With so much uncertainty, I hope that you are able to spend some time looking after yourself and taking time to stay healthy.

I know that many people have turned to their kitchen for comfort – my children and I have been baking a lot, but it can be difficult with limited ingredients! I couldn’t get eggs the other day, so was pleased to find a recipe (below) for banana loaf made without eggs. If you use vegan chocolate it’s also completely vegan!  It’s a slightly difference take on banana loaf, with a moist, orangey taste, I hope you like it. A friend gave me a handy tip about bananas too – if you have lots that are on the turn but you are not ready to use them, pop them, as they are, into the freezer.  Frozen bananas are great for banana loaf and delicious smoothies too!

During lockdown, many people are getting used to the new normal of working from home.  As well as managing distractions, having no colleagues for support or water cooler catch-ups, and quite possibly becoming a teacher overnight (home-schooling, anyone?), you do still need to find the time and headspace to keep fit. Sitting at a desk, in an uncomfortable chair, every day may be giving you lower back pain or discomfort in your hips.  Here’s a great exercise to stretch your hip flexors:

Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch

Kneel on your left knee. Place your right foot flat on the floor in front of you, knee bent. Lean forward, stretching your left hip toward the floor. Squeeze your butt; this will allow you to stretch your hip flexor even more. Hold for 30 seconds to 2 minutes. Switch sides and repeat.

If you need some daily motivation, you might like to try my 30 Days of Pilates programme for a special price of £5.99 – daily motivational videos and emails to keep you on track with your Pilates.  Click here for more details.  

Alternatively, a library of over 500 daily videos can be yours for just £9.99 per month with our Pilates Community online membership – and the option to join our Farnham Community Online Facebook Group to help with motivation and camaraderie. In addition, you will have access to 4 Facebook Live classes per week! Click here for more details.

Egg-Free Vegan Pecan and Dark Chocolate Chip Banana Loaf

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 ripe-to-overripe bananas, mashed (about 300g when peeled)
  • 75ml olive oil
  • 80g soft, dark-brown sugar
  • Zest and juice of 2 clementines
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100g vegan dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids minimum), cut into small chunks
  • 100g pecans, roughly broken

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/ 160C fan/Gas 4, and line a medium roasting tin or a baking dish with non-stick baking or greaseproof paper.
  2. Whisk the mashed bananas with the olive oil, sugar and clementine zest and juice until fairly smooth, then stir in the flour and baking powder. When they just start to combine, stir through three quarters of the dark chocolate and the pecan nuts. Smooth the batter into the prepared tin (don’t worry, it should look pretty doughy), then scatter over the remaining chocolate and nuts.
  3. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until it is well risen and a cake tester or skewer inserted in a non-chocolatey area comes out clean. Let it cool in the tin for five minutes before transferring to a wire rack. This is best eaten warm, but will keep in an airtight tin for two or three days.

Please – STAY INSIDE – and don’t forget to squeeze and breathe!

Love Hannah x

Pilates exercises for improved bone density

Today’s is the last blog in our series on bone health. This week, we look at exercises that can improve your bone density. These assume you have healthy bones. If this is not the case, contact me and I can write a special programme for you.

For feet and legs

Standing tap foot Stand tall and neutral with ears over shoulders, hips, knees and ankles, your chest lifted, and arms relaxed at your side. Breathe in and up, shift your weight over one leg as you lift the other. Count to five and then switch to the other leg. This warms up your feet and ankles and, in turn, improves your flexibility. Try tapping your toes sitting or standing 10 times.

Lunges Stand in a half squat position – feet shoulder-width apart, knees behind your toes, weight on your heels, torso lifted and hands in front of you for balance. Cross your right leg behind and beyond your left leg and drop as low as you can, keeping your pelvis and shoulders straight ahead and your weight back. Push up and step to the left with your left foot. Do ten reps to the left, then ten to the right.

Balancing on one foot at a time is also a great exercise for lower body bone density.

Shoulder bridge Lie on your back with your knees bent and a tennis ball under each foot. Roll up through the spine, vertebrae by vertebrae, squeezing your glutes. Repeat five times.

For arms

The plank Lie on your front leaning on your elbows, lift your knees to go up onto your toes, with shoulders down and neck long. With feet parallel lift and hold your abdominals in. Then progress to lifting one arm punching side to side and up to the ceiling to twist.

Side plank Lean onto the left hip and place your left hand down, straighten the legs and lift your hips so you are on your hand and side of your heel in a straight line from head, shoulder hip to feet. using the abdominals and obliques lift the hips and reach your top hand to the ceiling. On your out breathe twist under your arm pit then return. after 5-6 change sides.

Superman Start on your hands and knees, with your pelvis in a neutral position and a flat back. On your out breath gently clench the left buttock and slide your left leg away until it is straight, with your toes touching the floor. Simultaneously lift the right arm to horizontal. Return the leg and relax. Repeat three to five times for each leg.

Using weights is also a great way to improve bone health in the arms and shoulders. Ask me if you need details.

For back

Back extensions Lie on your front, straighten your legs behind you keep your arms at your sides. Lift your upper back, pressing your hips into the mat. Keep your head and neck neutral and hold for 30 seconds before lowering. For a deeper stretch, put your hands underneath your shoulders.

Dart or Swan Dive Lying on your front, arms at your sides and palms facing your body, your neck is long, legs are together parallel with toes pointing. Lengthen through spine.

I hope you have found this series on bone density interesting and helpful. Looking after your bone density is just one way to look after your health as you get older. We will be looking at others in the coming months. If you are worried about your bone health, why not sign up for a class next year. Our class timetable for the new year can be found here

Next week we will be concentrating on breathing and how it can help with pain as well as stress relief…

Squeeze and breathe…

Love Hannah x

Strong Saturday recipe – Ottolenghi’s ratatouille

This is taken from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Ratatouille book Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi

Note: Follow the instructions closely, over-cooking the vegetables “is the point,” according to Ottolenghi.

Ingredients:

7 tbsp sunflower oil

4 garlic cloves, sliced

2 small onions, cut into 1 1/4-inch dice

1/2 fresh green chilli, thinly sliced

2 small red peppers, cut into 1 1/4 -inch dice

1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 1/4-inch dice

1 small parsnip, peeled and cut into 1 1/4-inch dice

1 cup French beans, trimmed

1 medium courgette, cut into 1 1/4-inch dice

1/2 large aubergine, peeled and cut into 1 1/4-inch dice

1 small potato, peeled and cut into 1 1/4 inch dice

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1/2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp tomato paste

salt and black pepper

1 cup water

chopped coriander to garnish (optional)

Method:

Pour two-thirds of the oil into a large heavy casserole dish or a pot and place on a medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, stir in the garlic, chilli and red peppers and fry for another 5 minutes. Add the butternut squash and parsnip and continue frying 5 minutes. 

Using a slotted spoon, lift the vegetables out of the pot and into a medium bowl, leaving as much of the oil in the pot as possible. Top this up with the remaining oil. Add the French beans, courgette and aubergine to the hot oil and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Return the contents of the bowl to the pot. Add the potato, tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste and plenty of salt and pepper. Stir well, then pour in the water, or just enough to half-cover the vegetables. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer gently for 30 minutes. Taste the vegetables and add more salt and pepper if you like. 

Finally, preheat the oven to 400 F. Use a slotted spoon to gently lift the vegetables from the pot into a large, deep roasting pan to make a layer about 1 1/4 inches thick. Pour the liquid over the vegetables and place in the oven to cook for 30 minutes. At this point all the vegetables should be very soft and most of the liquid evaporated. Garnish with coriander, if you like, and serve. 

Enjoy!

Squeeze and breathe.

Love Hannah x

Farnham Pilates – Stronger Saturday – Focus on Lifestyle for Bone Health

Bone density and lifestyle

This month at Farnham Pilates we’ve been focusing on helping clients improve their bone density and bone health. This week we look at lifestyle changes you can make to improve your bone health. These assume you do not have problems with your bones; if you do, please talk to your GP about anything new you would like to try.

Exercise

Activities like swimming and cycling are great for cardio fitness but they are not weight bearing so they won’t help your bone density. This is why a variety of exercises is best for overall health. Great weight bearing activities include:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Dancing
  • Climbing
  • Skipping
  • Jumping up and down on the spot.

What else can you do?

Try to fit weight bearing exercise into everyday life:

  • Use the stairs rather than the lift
  • Try to keep moving throughout the day
  • When getting up from sitting or lying down, take your weight through your legs rather than using your arms to push you up
  • Do up and down exercise on the loo every time you go
  • Fit in five press-ups while you boil the kettle.

Take a look at my mum’s morning exercises here https://vimeo.com/349833103.  She does this two-minute routine each morning for flexibility and for bone health.

Try to reduce stress

Another way to look after your bones is to reduce stress in your life. Stress increases cortisol levels in your blood, in turn blood sugar levels increase which makes calcium levels in urine go up. Of course, none of us can avoid stress all the time, but it is useful to identify what situations make you feel stressed and work out ways to avoid them. I have done this and now:

  • I try to plan better so that I am not late.
  • I write to-do lists and shopping lists so that I don’t forget things or have to do two trips.
  • I keep a notepad by my bed so that if I think of something important, I can write it down and then forget about it.
  • I avoid reading emails just before I go to bed.
  • If I get stressed, I try to go for a walk (otherwise I would eat biscuits!

Next week in our final blog on bone density, we look at the Pilates exercises that can aid good bone health.

Squeeze and breathe,

Love Hannah x

Pilates keeps your bones strong

Welcome all, 
Here is your weekly post to get your body and mind motivated for the week ahead. Each week we’ll send out exercises and a healthy recipe for you to focus on and why. If you have any specific areas of your body that you would like exercises for please message me and I will try and include it in the next email ….see below for why you need to strengthen your bones.

Bone Density – why it matters and how Pilates can help

My friend fell over and broke her wrist last month so I’ve focussed on increasing bone density this month in the Pilates classes. Do you know if your bones in good shape?

Does bone density matter?

Bone density is the amount of bone mineral in bone tissue. Too little can mean you are more likely to suffer from broken bones – a condition called osteoporosis. The risk of this increases post menopause so it’s worth taking note early and looking after your bones. This can be done with a good diet and with weight bearing exercise.
If you are concerned about your bone density – perhaps you have had a post-menopause fracture or there is family history – ask your GP about a bone density scan. If you have thyroid problems, talk to your GP as some conditions can affect bone density.

What is osteoporosis?

Osteoporosis means ‘porous bones’ and those with the condition have low bone mass or brittle bones. This can lead to fractures, especially in the spine and hips. Osteopenia is a pre-cursor to osteoporosis. If there is any doubt about your bone health, you must inform your Pilates teacher who can modify your exercise programme for you. [or: let me know so that I can modify your exercise programme for you.]

What affects bone density?

The process of bone formation begins in the womb and continues until late adolescence – this is when it is crucial to have enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet. But what if your adolescence is a distant memory? Is it too late to look after your bones? There is not arguing that good nutrition in childhood contributes enormously to healthy bones, however there is plenty you can do to improve your bone health. 

Two quick exercises – 
Press up  – on your hands and knees and push down and up to strengthen your arms! Repeat 8 times, rest and repeat.

Swimming – on your hands and knees. Shoulders over your hands and hips over your knees, engage your core and lengthen you right hand and left leg away keeping your torso still. Repeat 6 times each side.

In my next blog, I talk about changes you can make to your diet to improve your bone health but see below for a great bone and skin strengthening receipt with bone broth!

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.

Small is beautiful – benefits of small Pilates classes

small pilates classesAfter Easter I’m moving all the classes to the Garden studio. After 10 years of teaching I really feel that in the smaller classes clients get more individual attention and we can focus the class on particular problems and help with assisted stretching. Here is some feedback from my students on the smaller classes we provide and also my top reasons why small classes are beautiful.

 

Feedback from students  – 

 

“It is so great having classes in the studio especially after the years of attending the rowledge village hall, the studio is lovely and warm, and in smaller classes you get individual attention I feel I can focus on me more. With it being so much calmer, quieter, peaceful and relaxing I find I can really focus on my body and area we are working on and I find it better to help me use the pelvic floor (I need all the help I can get to find it). Another major advantage is parking feels so much safer as I park on school road. So I don’t regret moving to this lovely private space!” Jenny

 

“I just want to say thank you for the class I feel it is just what I need” Catherine 

 

Benefits of small classes or personal training – 
1. More Personal attention from the teacher– In a smaller class the teacher can see when you are out of alignment or need more support on a particular move.
2. Faster improvement in a smaller class – I remember peoples strength and weakness and can see the improvement quicker in a smaller class.
3. Quality of class – I’m continually trying to update and improve the classes and the class structure and the studio has made a massive difference to the quality of the class as the teacher has to pay more attention to each person and their problems in a smaller class.
4. Relationship building between teacher and class – means the atmosphere is great (sometimes too much chatting but you still get a good class).
5. Greater focus for you – in a small class you can’t hide or get away with doing nothing!
6. More fun – great rapport in class creating camaraderie and often class members become friends.
7. Accountability – in a smaller class everyone remembers who was there, so you become accountable to attend each week and more likely to develop a regular routine.
8. You are more likely to stay motivated during class. 
9. Less injury – larger classes can cause an injury as the teacher can’t see if you doing the exercise precisely.
10. If confused you are more likely to ask a question and check the exercise in a smaller class.

 

Please remember all feedback is welcome and I look forward to seeing you in the Garden Studio soon. Full timetable can be found here

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