half-term homework…

Just in case you’d like some ‘homework’ to keep you moving while there are no classes over the half term break, I’ve pulled together some previously recorded sessions & some other ideas that I think you’ll enjoy. Of course, it is totally fine to give your body a rest or do some other activities instead – that’s what I’ll be doing!

relaxation pose

Classes and short sessions:

Other ideas to try:

  • Lying with your legs up the wall is a great way to gently stretch your hamstrings, manage stress, improve digestion, promote sleep, boost circulation and a whole lot more! Super-simple to do – find out more here
  • Add some breathing practice into your day – it offers so many benefits – find out more here
  • Do a bit of decluttering! This is one of my favourite things to do – I’m quite ruthless and having a physical clear-out always crosses-over into feeling mentally clearer. Just don’t do what I recently did and drive around for weeks with bags full of charity shop things-to-be-donated things in the back of your car – that’s just moving your clutter into another space!! There are some great tips here
  • Find a local ‘slow ways’ walk and check it out. There are currently over 8,000 Slow Ways routes. This unique network of routes was drafted online by volunteers during the Spring 2020 lockdown. The next challenge is to walk, review and verify them all – checking over 100,000km of Slow Ways routes. It’s a big ambition for 2022. Thousands of people are getting involved. Up for helping? Simply choose, walk and review a Slow Ways route here.
walking

Have a great half term break Jx

Would your body benefit from seeing a Women’s Health Physio?

Spoiler alert: the answer is probably ‘yes’!

I wrote about this in my newsletter last week and decided to share it here too, just to help spread the message as far as I can.

I hadn’t originally planned to share this because it feels a bit personal, but I am so astounded at the changes that I couldn’t not share my recent experience seeing a fabulous Women’s Health Physiotherapist. In two sessions I feel like a different person – or more like me – and so much better connected in my body.

I knew I was holding on to tension/trauma in my body (nothing overly dramatic but childbirth x 3, surgery x 2, bereavement, giving CPR to someone in the street, general life-stuff) but I didn’t realise the impact it was having. I honestly thought I could get away with it, so long as I just kept on holding all that shit together! Turns out that I’m human after all and now that I can physically feel how much better it is to let it out, I’m on a mission to do more of that and to spread the word!!

breathe

A bit of background:

In the summer of 2020 I had two surgeries for breast cancer. The first one was a lumpectomy and removal of two lymph nodes in my armpit. I was cautiously back at work a week later, waiting to get the ‘all-clear’ and start the next stage of my treatment. I then found out that the first procedure had not been a complete success so I underwent a mastectomy with implant reconstruction four weeks later. This surgery was successful but of course it had a massive impact on my body, not least in terms of how I felt about myself.

Since 2020 I have also experienced a couple of bouts of severe back pain and associated muscle spasm, the most recent one about six or seven weeks ago.

In an attempt to cover all bases with regards my on-going low back & coccyx pain, I decided to see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist in case there was tightness/restriction in my pelvic floor which was contributing to the problem. And also to check that I am using my 56-yr-old pelvic floor muscles effectively (happily I am – gold star for me!)

What is a Women’s Health Physiotherapist?

I saw Jenny Gillespie (based near Tunbridge Wells) for a women’s health assessment. She is a chartered physiotherapist, specialising originally in musculoskeletal work and now in women’s health physiotherapy, offering holistic assessment and management to women of all ages with symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction and musculoskeletal pain.

I was pretty nervous before my first appointment, not really knowing what to expect. I actually almost didn’t go, but I’m so glad I did. 

Jenny started by taking some details of why I was there – my back pain issues, breast cancer treatment and childbirth history, most of which was quite emotional for me to share, but she put me at ease very quickly and suggested a treatment plan.

hydrate

What does a treatment involve?

I can only tell you about my experience and what my sessions have involved. We are all different and treatments will be bespoke, but hopefully this will help to give you an insight & dispel any concerns you might have.

Jenny started off by working over my breast cancer scars and surrounding areas which felt very restricted and were causing me considerable discomfort. She is literally the first person to see my scars so that was pretty emotional, but having some release work done was fantastic. Even after one session, the difference was astonishing; and after the second session today I have much more symmetry and much more comfortable movement in the shoulder and across my ribs.

She then worked over my abdomen for some visceral release. She found & released loads of areas where I didn’t even know I was holding tension. After the first session my abdomen was a totally different shape (much flatter – nice!) and much more responsive to exercise, whereas it had been ‘gripping’ ever since my surgeries. In the second session Jenny did even more work over this area of the body and it feels so much more comfortable.

The final part of the treatment was the part I had been not looking forward to – the internal assessment and scar/trigger point release work. Trust me when I say it was WAY less invasive than having a cervical smear test. My upper body was clothed and my lower body was covered with couch roll (paper tissue). There was no speculum, no bright lights & no peering inside my body!!

Every woman’s experience will be different but for me there was some internal scar release work required, which was weirdly incredible! As Jenny worked over internal trigger points I could feel areas of my hips, legs and back letting go of familiar uncomfortable holding patterns. It’s very hard to describe the sensation but nothing in either session has felt painful, intrusive, embarrassing or even unpleasant.

While Jenny was working on my body I felt very safe, respected and nurtured. I felt ‘seen’ as a whole person, like she had understood fully why I was there and what my body needed.

How does it feel afterwards?

Obviously this is going to vary from one woman to the next.

Jenny warned me that I would probably feel exhausted after the first session, and she was not wrong!! I cried a lot on the way home and afterwards (and the next day) but I know that I hold lots of emotion about my childbirth experiences (never mind all the other stuff I’ve been lugging around for years!!) so it actually felt good that some of that had been disturbed. The next morning my body felt different – almost disconnected while things settle into new movement patterns – but also much more ‘easeful’, a bit calmer, less tense.

In the week since, I have noticed

  • less hip/buttock pain when sitting & walking,
  • less gripping in my abdomen when exercising,
  • an easier/deeper/fuller/more effortless breathing pattern
  • a much better connection to and awareness of my pelvic floor – like it was asleep and it’s not any more
  • a change in how my reconstructed boob sits over my ribs, now much better aligned to the natural side

Also I’ve been making much better food choices over the past week because I feel so much better about myself.

nutrition

And I feel really proud of myself for doing something that I had previously not felt brave enough to do.

Is it for you?

I’m going to stick my neck out and say that every woman needs this!

If you have a vagina, regardless of whether or not you have had children (or how you birthed your children), and you have any low back/hip pain, any pelvic floor issues or any prolapse concerns, do yourself a favour and book an appointment. If you’re not sure if you need to book an appointment, I would say, do it anyway! You won’t regret it.

Also if you’re a man reading this and you know someone that fits into the criteria above, get them to book an appointment –  they will be very grateful. I should also mention that men’s health physiotherapy is also available if you need it for yourself.

I have known for a long time through my professional networks that seeing a WHP is a good idea for all women, but I didn’t know it through my own experience until now. My oldest child is 33 this year which means that I have been carrying some of my internal scars for that long.

Oh how I wish I had done this sooner, which is why I’m telling you in the hope that you will do it soon too…

Where to get help

If you would like further information or would like to find a women’s health physio in your area you can find out more here:

I booked my WHP privately but there is support via the NHS for certain conditions.

Help your feet to feel more fabulous

I’m going to start by saying that I’m not a Podiatrist, so this is written from the perspective of my own personal experience and the things I see in my clients.

Our feet are truly fabulous things. The ankle and foot complex contains 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. Considering both feet, that makes a total of 52 bones, making up about a quarter of all bones found in the mature adult body.

Maybe it’s time we took better care of these precious feet of ours??

Things I believe to be true:

  • how our feet move affects how everything else moves further up the chain – ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips, pelvic floor, core, low back, mid-back, upper back, shoulders and neck – ie. literally every part of your body!
  • how our feet move also affect our sense of balance and proprioception (connection to where we are in space)
  • what we wear on our feet can inhibit and alter the movement patterns in our feet – it’s not rocket science, but here are a few examples:
    • if shoes/socks are too tight our feet can’t spread out to offer a good base of support when we’re standing or moving;
    • if shoes have no backs (eg. flip flops) the toes will work extra hard to grip the shoe as we walk;
    • if we wear heels the foot tends to slide forward adding pressure around the toes (this also happens in trainers with a thicker sole under the heel than the ball of the foot)
  • wearing shoes which are too small (even if they feel comfortable) is never going to make your feet happy
  • showing our feet some love will always be a good investment of time
feet in trainers

Are your shoes too small?

For some reason people seem to take offence when I suggest to them that their shoes are too small. I have no idea why it would be an offensive thing to hear?? It is just a fact that our feet get wider and longer as we get older, so if you’re still wearing the same shoe size you wore five/ten/twenty years ago they are probably too small.

Also, you probably don’t wear the same size clothes you wore five/ten/twenty years ago so why would your feet be any different to your body?

If you don’t believe me you could always go and have them measured!

Or, if you are experiencing issues with your feet/ankles/knees/hips and your toes tend to looked scrunched-up (eg. crooked toes, pointing-at-the-ceiling toes or unable-to-spread-them-out toes) why not buy one pair of shoes the next size up, wear only those shoes for a few weeks and see what happens. At the very least your toes will gradually start to stretch out and spread out and breathe a little. But more likely, loads of other things will change too…

I’ve bought bigger shoes, what else can I do for my feet?

Once you’ve stopped squishing your feet into the wrong sized shoes, you can help your feet even more by giving them some release-work, stretches, exercises and a bit of self-massage. It doesn’t need to take long each day – just pick one or two things that feel useful and start there. Do those things 2-3 times a day (or more!) and notice the changes. You can add in other things later on once your feet start to change.

Here are couple of short videos from me:

Also, walk around in bare feet whenever you can – it’s a great way to strengthen your feet and that helps them to function better.

What other help is there?

If you have any concerns, I would recommend you find a Podiatrist or Physiotherapist and let them assess what is going on with your feet. They will be qualified to offer specific advice in terms of exercise and support for your feet to get you moving more comfortably.

Be mindful of the fact that a Podiatrist will almost always recommend orthotics (support for your foot inside your shoe) which might not be your preferred/best option, although perhaps useful in the short-term.

Also, check-out some of my favourite foot-people online:

  • Gait Happens – she shares some fabulous stuff on social media so find here there too
  • EBFA Global – click to access Dr Emily Splichal’s free guide to Toe Spacers & also find her on Instagram for some great information
  • Katy Bowman is Nutritious Movement on IG – another source of fabulous resources for your feet
bare feet

Barefooting:

Having taken a keen interest in feet for many years, I now only wear ‘barefoot’ shoes which have no support or cushioning in the soles and they work really well for my feet. Barefoot shoes have a wide toe-box and a less rounded inside edge around the big toe to allow optimal foot function. I’m not suggesting that you go down this route without doing your own research, but am very happy that I made the switch.

I hope this has given you some food for thought and a few ideas to try if you think that your feet might be the cause of issues in your body. As always, let me know if you have any questions – I’ll do my best to answer them or direct you to someone who knows more than me

wrist and forearm pain solutions

It’s relatively common to experience some wrist pain or forearm pain from time-to-time, usually caused by a repetitive movement pattern. Examples might include playing racquet sports, gardening, using a mouse/keyboard, or my particular favourite, DIY!

As with anything in the body (& actually life in general!!) when the aggravating activity is short-term or less prolonged (eg. one game of tennis or a weekend of gardening) the pain issues will often be short-term too, and will go away of their own accord, with rest once the activity has stopped. The issues might flare up again but will not normally become a chronic issue unless the activity continues.

When the aggravating activity is more of a regular occurrence or more prolonged (eg. playing tennis three times a week or gardening several days a week) the pain issues can become more embedded and be more challenging to resolve.

forearm massage

Sometimes it is not going to be possible to stop doing the things which are causing us pain, but we can try to stay ahead of the curve with a combination of the following:

  1. Become aware of your posture whenever can, so that you can regularly remind yourself to make small adjustments if needed –
  • notice any imbalance between left and right (eg. head tilted to one side or one shoulder sitting higher than the other)
  • notice if there is any any ‘holding’ or ‘gripping’ in one area of the body (eg. tension in the low back)
  • notice how your body feels – ideally you will feel grounded (through your feet if you’re standing and through your hips if you’re seated) and able to move without losing that sense of being earthed
  • notice your breathing and how your body moves as you breathe (ie. do the ribs move up and down or do they open wide as you inhale?)

2. Vary your movement patterns where possible to reduce the impact of the aggravating activity –

  • change your desk set up if you suspect that the issue is keyboard or mouse related (try a wrist rest, consider a different keyboard or mouse, vary your desk layout, review your seating options, be aware of your posture)
  • review your movement patterns if you think the issues are sports-related (get some professional help if necessary)
  • takes breaks if you’re doing a longer task (chop & change between activities to break up the movements patterns, pause to stretch out your fingers/wrists/forearms from time-to-time or have regular tea-breaks)
  • make use of labour-saving equipment if you are doing a prolonged task (eg. an electric screwdriver will massively reduce the amount of forearm rotation, not worth it for a quick job perhaps but definitely worth it for a larger project)
  • change between your right and left hand where you can to reduce the impact of single-sided movements

3. Resolve any soft tissue tension/pain before it becomes a chronic pain issue –

  • stretching & self-massage are both easy (& free) ways to keep things moving – see below for some ideas to try
  • use of heat or cold may help to reduce any inflammation
  • sports massage can get right to the root of the problem by working on and around the affected areas (which may or may not be where you are feeling the pain!)
wrist pain

Don’t forget that pain in one place can often come from a related area of the body!

Wrist, hand and forearm pain are very often associated with neck, chest or shoulder issues, in which case treating the point of pain without resolving the contributing factors will only give short-term pain relief.

With that in mind, here are some of my favourite stretching ideas that you might find helpful. I’ve included some for the wrist and forearms specifically, but also some for the neck & shoulders because you probably need those too!

upper back massage

How can sports massage help?

Sports massage therapy can be a great way to resolve wrist and forearm pain and teach you how to manage the issue yourself. And the sooner you address the problem, the sooner it can be resolved AND the less likely it is to develop into a more chronic pain issue.

When you come for your first appointment, I’ll ask you about likely triggers for the pain you’re experiencing, ask you which movements help/don’t help, find out what you’ve been doing so far to try to resolve the issues and make a few postural observations. All of these things will guide my approach and then I will systematically work around the associated areas, as well as treating directly on the area that feels problematic, working within your comfort levels.

After your massage I will offer suggested homework that you can do to help yourself between treatments.

You will usually notice some improvement from just one treatment but in the case of chronic pain you will likely need several follow-up sessions to resolve the issues to the point where you can manage them yourself.

Please let me know if you would like to discuss a sports massage appointment with me before booking, or click here to visit my booking page.

online fitness for women

What started out of necessity in March 2020, soon become a real benefit to my clients, and so I have continued with an online fitness class timetable.

Classes are designed with women in mind, promoting cardio-vascular health, mental wellbeing, strength, core stability, lean muscle tone and bone density, all of which become more important as we age.

Online classes give us the benefits of regular exercise, in the comfort of our own homes (with the dog for company perhaps?!) and the convenience of joining in when it suits. Clients can participate in real-time via Zoom or using the recordings at a later date.

I recently changed my timetable to offer a rolling schedule of classes so that clients get more variety in their exercise routine. And all classes are just 30 minutes long so that we can get a workout done & dusted and then get on with the day.

Exercises are low-impact so that they are kind to your joints and pelvic floor muscles. Exercise variations are offered throughout each class so that you can enjoy the moves which are best for your body.

online fitness

There are three class formats available:

  • Total Body – a 30-minute body-weight class focusing on low impact exercises without dumb-bells (DB). Sometimes there will be more focus on a particular area of the body, such as core or legs, but regardless of the focus, these sessions are great if you want an equipment-free workout
  • Functional Fitness – a 30-minute class designed to increase your heart-rate and strengthen your body using a single DB and single-arm/single-leg movements to replicate and strengthen you for day-to-day activities.
  • Metabolic Fitness – a 30-minute high intensity, low impact, fat-burning fitness class using a pair of DB. It is a self-paced workout which is ideal for maintaining lean muscle and bone strength, as well as improving cardio-vascular health. It is a super-effective, time-efficient workout which will help your body to burn more calories both during & after the class.

As a reminder, metabolic fitness needs two DB, functional fitness needs one DB, total body needs zero DB. Your DB don’t need to be heavy but obviously your results will be different with different weights. That said, if you tend to hold lots of tension in your neck and shoulders, heavier DB may make things worse so going lighter might be right for you on some moves. I will always respect your choice.

As well as the rolling programme, which moves the classes to a new time each month, I have also added ‘graded’ sessions for each week of the block:  

  • week one classes will tend to include more basic movement patterns – it is a great chance to focus on great technique, but don’t think that will make it any easier!
  • week two may include some different timings or some pulsing movements for extra overload, but always with the option to stay with single reps if that is better for you
  • week three will tend to involve more variations eg. a different class structure such as an accumulator
  • week four might be more dynamic or use more complex sequences of moves linked together

Here is a look at the current timetable:

Classes are currently available to book here on a class-by-class basis so I hope to see you on screen soon!

I also have a new monthly membership option which goes live on 2nd May, giving you unlimited access to the online fitness classes every month. I’ll be sharing more details soon, but if you would like to know more in the meantime, please get in touch.

As always, let me know if you have any questions at all about my online fitness classes.

Cold showers

Have you tried switching to cold water at the end of your shower?!

📷 ‘shower in the middle of nowhere’ by @takemeoutphotography via @unsplash

I’ve tried ending my showers with cold water a few times in the past but not stayed under for more than a second or two! Over the past 2 weeks or so, I’ve been getting braver and I have to admit it feels great.

After a cautious start, I can now dunk my head under the shower and stay there for a good 20 seconds. I know that’s still not very long but it’s a big increase since I started out. I’m also starting to master the art of not squealing too loudly because one day the dog was sitting at the bottom of the stairs wondering whether or not he needed to come to my rescue!

Even with this relatively short blast of cold water, when I turn the shower off, my body feels like it’s glowing in spite of cool air coming in through the open windows. I don’t have my central heating on yet and the cold showers are really helping me to feel warm as I’m getting dressed and ready for the day.

Probably the most positive thing I’ve noticed is that it makes me laugh out loud every day, which is a really mood-boosting way to start the day. AND it 100% makes me feel like a super-hero!

Health benefits of cold showers:

There are so many reported health benefits, including:

  • an increase in endorphins (our so-called ‘happy hormones’) which may help to counteract depression
  • increased alertness, clarity and energy levels as a result of deeper breathing while exposed to the cold water – all of which are ideal at the start of the day
  • improved circulation – the body will always work hard to maintain core temperature by sending fresh blood to an area which is cold, so taking a cold shower can create this response
  • increased resistance to common illnesses such as colds and flu as a result of our immune response being stimulated
  • reduced stress levels due to a lowering of cortisol levels in the blood – the cold shower itself may be a mild stressor but exposure to this type of stress helps us to be more resilient when faced with other stressful situations
  • reduced pain levels &/or a reduced perception of pain / muscle soreness in the body
  • increased willpower and self-belief – this small daily ‘challenge’ can strengthen your will-power and boost your super-hero status!

Have I persuaded you to give it a go??

The easiest way to start is by turning the dial down at the end of your usual shower, until the water is noticeably cooler. I prefer to step out of the water while it cools down and then step back in, but you may prefer to feel the temperature changing.

Once the temperature is set, focus on slow deep breaths and notice how it makes you feel. Gradually go a little colder each day until you’re at the coldest setting, and then start building up the time you spend there…

I honestly have been surprised how good this feels to me, and it’s so simple to add into your daily routine when you’re having a shower anyway.

📷 ‘the face behind the mask’ by Joey Nicotra via @unsplash

I’m going to keep building up my times because apparently that’s when the real benefits happen. And if 20 seconds makes me feel like a super-hero already, I can only imagine how much more invincible I’ll be after 60 seconds!!

PS wouldn’t you just love to take a shower in the middle of nowhere?!


Pilates in your everyday life (part four)

How do you spend your days? Do you tend to be in one position for prolonged periods of time? Have you noticed that this affects how your body feels?

When we stay in one position for some time it will have an impact on how our body feels but we might not always be aware of it. If we then repeat that same pattern every day, the impact is likely to become much more noticeable.

For example:

  • If you spend a few hours in the car driving to visit a friend, when you get out of the car you might notice some tightness in the hips, or stiffness in the low back, or maybe some tension in the neck and shoulders. As soon as you stand up and move about, most of those issues will ease-off and you will carry on as usual.
  • If you drive every day for work, you might start to experience more of the same issues more of the time, and you might find that they don’t ease-off quite so quickly/at all. Over time, some of the on-going tightness or tension might then begin to affect your posture, which in turn would cause more tightness or tension in the body.

By changing our posture throughout the day we can try to break the postural patterns we are creating and help to reduce repetitive strain, overuse injuries and fatigue. In part three I talked about ways to break up your day with some movement, and today we are looking specifically at changes you might need to consider for your working environment if you are largely desk-based.

Your working environment:

The goal is to set up your work space so that you can minimise any negative impact on your posture. Here are a few things you might like to consider:

  1. find a supportive chair to reduce muscle fatigue in your lower back – make sure that it is adjustable so that you can get the best fit for your body. Personally I don’t like traditional office chairs but I use a saddle stool on a wheeled base, which enables me to maintain a neutral alignment for my spine without any tension. Find what works for you.
  2. check that you have room under your desk to place your feet flat on the floor – use a footrest if necessary. Aim to have your knees slightly lower than your hips and your feet slightly forward of your knees.
  3. have your keyboard and screen directly in front of you rather than off to one side or at an angle. This allows your shoulders to be square and face the screen fully. Arms are best supported – forearms on the desk and upper arms comfortably by your sides.
  4. set yourself up so that everything you need to access most often is within easy reach to avoid repeated stretching and leaning to one side.
  5. look after your eyes by having your screen about arms length away from you with the top of your screen level with your eyes. Reduce glare from nearby windows by using blinds or curtains. Use appropriate lighting levels to further reduce eye strain.
  6. try to keep your wrists straight while typing, with hands and wrists hovering just above the keyboard. Choose a mouse that fits your hand and move it with your arm instead of bending your wrist into weird positions.
  7. this last one is still on my to-do list, and I know it would make a huge difference – learn to touch-type so that you can keep your head in a neutral position rather than always looking down at your keyboard (as I am doing right now!)

In your car:

Maybe you are not desk-based but spend considerable amounts of time driving each day?

You can apply the same approach to your car:

  1. check your seat position, tilt and height and adjust it again if someone else has been driving your car
  2. position your mirrors so that you are not straining to look at them
  3. consider what shoes you are wearing – heels will change the position of your foot and ankle in relation to the pedals
  4. keep your hands, wrists and arms relaxed

Alignment cues:

Making small changes to your posture will help to reduce neck & shoulder tension, ease back pain and support your body throughout the day. You might also like to think of the alignment cues we use in Pilates and apply these to your working day:

  • lengthen your spine from your tailbone to the crown of your head
  • soften your shoulders
  • gently lengthen the back of your neck by dropping the chin slightly
  • maintain soft, relaxed breathing into your ribcage
  • plant your feet in the earth so that you are grounded (this applies whether you’re seated or standing)
  • find an even weight through your sit-bones when seated

I hope some of these suggestions help you to make some positive postural changes. Keep checking-in with your body as you go through your day until you naturally start adjusting your posture as required.

Let me know if you have any questions at all?

Pilates in your everyday life (part three)

For most of us, a large part of our day can be spent in a seated position. Think about all the time that you spend driving, at your desk, on the sofa, eating, having a coffee – it all adds up to a lot of hours on your bum!

If we lead this sedentary type of lifestyle, the chances are that we will experience some postural issues at some point. Over time you may start to notice an increase in neck or shoulder pain, tension headaches, low back pain or issues with your hips. Lots of these will occur because we tend to have a more relaxed (slouching?!) posture while sitting down but also because we are not using our core muscles to stabilise us, as we do when standing.

Stand up!

A simple way to change your posture and movement patterns, and introduce some elements of Pilates into your everyday life, is to stand more often. Over the next week why not try some of these ideas and see what differences you start to notice:

  • if you are at your desk for long periods during the day, get up and stretch (see below) or have a quick walk around your work-space every 15 minutes; if you’re really short on time, just stand up and sit down again every 15 minutes
  • look for more active ways to socialise with friends – eg.
    • grab a coffee-to-go and take it for a walk rather than sitting at a café
    • visit places which will involve some walking (eg. wander around a NT trust property rather than going to the cinema)
    • encourage friends to join a Pilates class/running club/dance class with you
  • if you’re travelling on public transport alternate between sitting and standing every 10 minutes – don’t try this while driving!
  • when you’re watching television, stand up / change position every 15 minutes (or when the adverts come on) – also try limiting TV time.
  • notice if you always sit on the same section of your sofa and/or in the same position (eg. legs crossed the same way every time) – if you do, making some changes to those habits will make a huge difference to how you feel in your body. It will feel weird to start with but only because your body has become accustomed to being in a certain position – mix it up a bit and your body will quickly adapt
  • finally, if there’s anything that you do which keeps you in one position for prolonged periods, try to change your posture at regular intervals – eg.
    • if you’re reading, keep changing your position and be aware of your head posture (as the head starts to move forward, the neck muscles will have a whole load of extra work to do, so think of stacking your head above your rib cage or using cushions behind your head for support)
    • craft activities often involve looking down at our hands; if you notice that this is an issue for you, take regular breaks to bring your head and neck back into a neutral position and add in some gentle stretches
    • gardening can often involve long periods spent in a bent-forward position – try kneeling down to avoid this and take regular breaks so that you can stand tall again

Standing rotations:

Click here for a short video with some ideas for rotational stretches for your upper back.

These are great to do when you have been sat down for any length of time. You don’t need to do them all – find one or two moves that feel useful and add those to your day whenever you can.

As you start to notice the amount of time you spend sitting down, you can also start to make some small changes which will have a positive impact on your body. Give it a try and let me know how you get on…

step away from your desk & go out to play!

If you missed the earlier posts in this series, you can find them here & here

Pilates in your everyday life (part 2)

Starting Pilates as a new activity can sometimes be frustrating because we tend to naturally want to push ourselves and feel that we are working hard, but the best results come when we work more gently.

Maybe you have been in a class and have found yourself rushing through progressions of exercises, believing that the ‘harder’ options are more beneficial? Or maybe you sometimes engage the muscles really strongly, without noticing that you have created tension somewhere else in the body?

Pilates works more effectively when we take time to build stable foundations. Focusing on the more basic versions of the exercises, paying attention to our breathing and being mindful of our alignment might not seem challenging enough, but they enable us to do the harder work later. This is particularly important if you have/have had chronic pain.

Coping with chronic pain:

If you have experienced pain in the past, it can be hard to come back to exercise without worrying that the pain may recur. It may lead to an avoidance of exercise altogether or it may result in you over-doing things when you’re having a good day, causing an increase in your pain symptoms.

In an ideal world we want to take a more consistent approach by setting some realistic, sustainable activity goals with sensible gradual increases over time.

If you are recovering from a previous injury or a pain condition, start by establishing your baseline for activity – ie. the amount you can do without causing any flare up of your symptoms. It might be a small amount to start with but it will form the foundation for your future progressions. Once you are moving without pain, you can gradually start to increase your activity levels, always staying within your pain-free volume and type of exercise.

Although chronic pain may still cause you flare-ups or setbacks from time-to-time, taking a more structured approach to exercise will help to off-set these issues and be of long-term benefit.

Ideas for daily Pilates practice:

Here are some ideas of how to bring Pilates into your everyday life as part of your daily baseline activity:

  • start with becoming more aware of your posture & alignment (see previous post)
  • practice engaging your core muscles in different positions – eg. when lying down on your side, your back or your front (you could try these before you get out of bed in the morning); or when standing (maybe waiting for the kettle to boil)
    • start by finding a neutral position for your pelvis
    • begin to notice how your body feels as you breathe in and out
    • on an exhale, add a gentle contraction of the deep abdominal muscles – imagine that you are wearing a corset – whilst gently lifting your pelvic floor muscles
    • on an inhale, let the abdominal muscles gently relax again
    • repeat for a few breaths
  • add some gentle stretching to your daily routine, keeping within a comfortable range of motion – try this or this for some seated upper body stretches

I hope that gives you a few ideas about how to bring the benefits of Pilates into your everyday life. It was never intended as something you only do in class – the magic happens when you fully embrace Pilates as a daily practice…

Pilates in your everyday life:


For the next few weeks I’ll be sharing with you some suggestions for how to integrate what we do in a Pilates class into your everyday life. Maybe you already do this? But if not here are some ideas to get you started:

Think about your alignment when standing:

 In particular, try to attach this habit to something you do at intervals during the day (eg. when washing your hands):

  • be aware of your foot placement – aim to stand with your feet hip width apart and your weight evenly balanced
  • position your shoulders directly above your hips
  • widen your collarbones with softness in the ribcage and length in your spine
  • gently tilt your pelvis forwards and back a few times in order to find the neutral point right in the centre – think of your pelvis as a bowl or a bucket, when we’re in neutral the water won’t spill out at the front or the back
  • once you’ve found your neutral position, add a gentle contraction of the deep abdominal muscles – thinking of drawing in your belt one notch whilst gently lifting your pelvic floor muscles
  • finally, all you need to do is breathe naturally and notice how the body feels when it is aligned

 Think about your alignment when you’re sitting down:

Try to attach this practice to something you do at intervals too (eg. when sitting down to eat)

  • sit towards the front of your chair and feel your sit-bones sink into the chair, evenly weighted
  • be aware of your foot placement – hip width apart and under the knees 
  • position your shoulders directly above your hips
  • lengthen your spine
  • gently tilt your pelvis forwards and back (without moving the rest of the body) and then find the neutral point right in the centre – think of your pelvis as a bowl or a bucket, when we’re in neutral the water won’t spill out at the front or the back
  • once you’ve found your neutral position add a gentle contraction of the deep abdominal muscles – thinking of drawing in your belt one notch whilst gently lifting your pelvic floor muscles
  • breathe naturally and notice how the body feels when it is aligned

As we bring awareness to our posture we can make subtle changes which will have a positive impact over time. None of the movements need to be big and the contraction of the tummy muscles will be gentle, but regular practice will help you to feel better in your body as you go about your day.

I hope you’ll give these a try.

Let me know how you get on.