What is Kettlercise?

What is Kettlercise?

Kettlercise is based on the traditional side of kettlebell training combined with modern-day sport science with the goal of promoting fat loss and body tone.

The exercises are dynamic and load-bearing but there is no impact (no jumping) and no complicated choreography to learn. The basic movement patterns mimic real life movements such as pushing, pulling, bending, reaching, twisting, squatting and lunging making this a truly functional exercise class.

triceps extensionIn a Kettlercise class we typically alternate exercises for the lower and upper body, or the front and the back of the body, to achieve an increased heart-rate via PHA (Peripheral Heart Action) training. We can also achieve the same effect by alternating dynamic and static moves, which allows us to manage our workload during the class whilst still boosting our heart-rate (for example: a swing followed by a biceps curl).

This is an extremely efficient form of exercise which requires the body to quickly shunt the flow of blood from one extremity to another, and helps us to maintain an intensity that uses more energy and burns more calories both during and after the class.

What is a kettlebell?

A kettlebell is a cast-iron weight shaped like a cannon ball with a handle on the top. It is thought that they originated in Russia in the 18th century as a tool for weighing crops and then started to be used for strength athletics in the late 19th century.

Unlike a dumb-bell, the kettlebell has an offset centre of gravity which makes it ideal for swinging movements which build strength and endurance in the core, back, legs and upper body. Typical exercises such as swings, snatches and cleans use several muscle groups making them truly ‘whole body’ movements.

Who is the class for?

kettlebell upright rowI think the best thing about a Kettlercise class is that everyone works at their own intensity which means it is suitable for most people regardless of previous experience or current fitness levels. You choose the weight of your kettlebell; you work at your own pace; and you take rests when you need to. As each course progresses you will feel fitter and stronger and able to do more and rest less, but the choice is always yours.

As with all exercise, there can be risks if the movements are performed without proper education and progression. In my Kettlercise classes we always ‘practice’ the key movement patterns without the kettlebell as part of our warm-up and I will coach you through each exercise during the class, giving alternatives as required if any movement does not feel right for you.

For further details and information about my term-time Kettlercise class please click here and come swing with us.

Please let me know if you have any questions at all about Kettlercise

 

Jx

 

 

 

Principles of Pilates #3

The principles of Pilates (part 3)

With Pilates the way in which the exercises are executed is of more importance than the number of repetitions completed or the exertion used. Mastering a simple exercise is often far more complicated than producing a larger movement!

Joseph Pilates created 6 principles of Pilates, but over time these have been added to and there are now deemed to be 8 key principles:

  1. concentration
  2. centering
  3. breathing
  4. control
  5. precision
  6. flowing movement
  7. isolation
  8. routine

Today we’re going to look at breathing.

Breathing:

“To breathe correctly you must completely exhale & inhale, always trying very hard to ‘squeeze’ every atom of impure air from your lungs in much the same manner that you would wring every drop of water from a wet cloth” J Pilates

Breathing has 3 key functions:

  • to carry nutrients around the body, bringing energy to every part of the body
  • to carry waste products away from the body and back to the lungs where they can be exhaled
  • to increase stamina

Restricted breathing (which inhibits the removal of waste) can cause numerous problems such as muscle tightness, restricted joint movements, tiredness, headaches and pain. Whilst breathing alone cannot cure these problems, it will contribute to greater well-being when combined with other principles.

one conscious breath

The goal in Pilates is to breathe fully into the belly & rib-cage without unnecessarily using accessory muscles in the neck and shoulders. It is one of the key principles of Pilates but also one of the hardest to grasp to start with!

Why does breathing matter during exercise?

It is common for us to unintentionally hold our breath when we are exercising, but this places the body under tension, especially in the neck and shoulders.

Try this:

  • breathe in to raise your arms above your head & hold your breath as you lower your arms back down, imagining that you are squeezing oranges in your armpits. Can you feel tension in your neck and shoulders?
  • repeat this exercise but this time as you lower your arms gradually release your breath in a sigh. Could you feel that there was much less tension this time?

What is the best breathing pattern for Pilates?

  1. keep the neck and shoulders relaxed to reduce tension in these areas
  2. allow your breath to flow – don’t hold your breath at any point
  3. breathe in through the nose and breathe out through the mouth without holding in between
  4. breathe out with soft lips (not pursed) and try to make a sound as if you are sighing – think of the sound that waves make as they break on the beach

When practising Pilates we want to exhale with the movement which requires the most effort. In most cases you will aim to breathe out as you move away from your neutral/starting position, and breathe in as you return back to neutral but don’t get too hung up on your breathing!

Although there are good reasons behind the style of breathing we use in Pilates, you don’t want to get too hung up on it. If you’re struggling, simply focus on keeping a steady, rhythmic breathing pattern so that your breath is flowing as you move – gradually as you get more confident you will find the breathing becomes a more natural part of your practice.

 

Jx

Please click here to find out more about of my current Pilates classes

How can Fitness Pilates help you?

How can Fitness Pilates help you?

In general terms, Pilates focuses on strengthening weak muscles and stretching areas of the body that are restricted, with a view to restoring muscle balance & reducing postural issues in the body.

Fitness Pilates builds on the key principles and original mat-work exercises that Joseph Pilates devised and brings the exercises up-to-date by adding functional adaptations, 3-dimensional movements and a whole-body focus.

Each class includes a range of standing and mat-work exercises designed to give you improved flexibility and mobility, a stronger core and a better back.

You will be guided through each exercise safely for your body with the specific goals of:

  • improving your posture in all positions
  • developing functional core strength to support your whole body
  • strengthening the muscles which surround your spine
  • creating stability in the pelvis and shoulder girdle
  • increasing mobility and range of movement
  • supporting activities of daily life (ie. walking, sitting, standing, lying down, getting up, carrying shopping, reaching up to a shelf, picking up the kids, getting into the car, etc, etc)
  • reducing stress and improving relaxation

mat-work pilates

I hold a Level 3 Pilates mat-work qualification and have been teaching Fitness Pilates for 8 years, during which time my classes have continually evolved. Over the course of each term we use a range of small equipment to vary your experience of the exercises and we will sometimes include fascial release work into the sessions too. We finish each class with a focus on breathing and relaxation before you step back into your life.

You do not need to have any previous experience as classes are taught in a progressive way to include all abilities.

My Fitness Pilates classes are suitable for the general population. If you have a specific spinal condition you may prefer to attend my SpineSafe™ Pilates class which is more deeply focused on chronic back pain issues. If you unsure which class to attend please email me for further information and advice.

For further details and information about my Fitness Pilates classes please click here

Please let me know if you have any questions at all about my classes

 

Jx

 

Principles of Pilates #2

The principles of Pilates (part 2)

With Pilates the way in which the exercises are executed is of more importance than the number of repetitions completed or the exertion used. Mastering a simple exercise is often far more complicated than producing a larger movement!

Joseph Pilates created 6 principles of Pilates, but over time these have been added to and there are now deemed to be 8 key principles:

  1. concentration
  2. centering
  3. breathing
  4. control
  5. precision
  6. flowing movement
  7. isolation
  8. routine

Last time we looked at concentration; now we’re going to look at centering.

Centering:

In Pilates the ‘centre’ refers to the neutral position of the lumbar spine (lower back) & pelvis. Joseph Pilates describes the centre as the area between the ribs & the hips, at the front & back of the body. Nowadays we have extended that definition to include the sides of the torso.

Your centre is the pivotal point of the body from which all movements emanate. Movement, balance, force & strength all come from the centre – a weakness in the core will affect the body’s ability to perform any of these functions.

It is important to understand that core control is more important than core strength. Abdominal control provides fluidity of movement which is crucial; abdominal strength provides support which is beneficial but secondary.

Your centre is controlled by use of the abdominal muscles, the muscles in the lower back, the pelvic floor muscles and the diaphragm. Together these muscles surround your abdominal cavity and form a central cylinder – your ‘core’.

core musculature Burrell Education

(image credit: Burrell Education)

When you activate your core you increase stability of the spine which is why it is important to activate the core before each movement.

Once the core/centre has been ‘set’, we can add arm & leg movements to challenge your stability further and develop muscle tone.

One of the keys to success is being aware of when you have ‘lost’ your centre, and making sure that you work within the capabilities of your core strength – if you try to progress too soon, or push ahead without maintaining your centre, you will not develop a stronger core and overuse the muscles in your lower back causing aches & pains and less stability than your started with.

There are many ways to find and activate your centre/core and we spend time doing this each time we move into a new position – we find a neutral pelvis, we think of a belt tightening lightly around the pelvis, we think of drawing upwards and inwards with the pelvic floor; all of these are designed to help with core activation. It is important to keep thinking of them during the class so that you are always aware of your centre.

Outside of Pilates, it is useful to keep an awareness of your centre to improve your posture in everyday life.

Finally, remember that we are looking to achieve a light connection with the core muscles – you don’t want to activate them to 100% otherwise movements will not flow and your posture will become unnatural – aim for 30% contraction so that you are just aware of a gentle feeling in the tummy wall.

 

Jx

Please click here to find out more about of my current Pilates classes

Principles of Pilates #1

The principles of Pilates (part 1)

It is important to understand the principles behind the Pilates technique in order to get the best results from your classes.

With Pilates the way in which the exercises are executed is of more importance than the number of repetitions completed or the exertion used. Mastering a simple exercise is often far more complicated than producing a larger movement!

Joseph Pilates created 6 principles of Pilates, but over time these have been added to and there are now deemed to be 8 key principles:

  1. concentration
  2. centering
  3. breathing
  4. control
  5. precision
  6. flowing movement
  7. isolation
  8. routine

Although each one may be easy to grasp, trying to combine all of them into each exercise can be tricky so I suggest that you focus on 1 or 2 to start with and gradually introduce aspects of the others as you progress. Over time, a simple movement can become more challenging simply by focusing on several of the key principles at once.

Start with what you can do, be patient and allow your mind to learn how to focus on the things which may initially be more challenging.

Let’s start by looking at concentration.

Concentration:

‘Concentrate on the correct movements each time you exercise, lest you do them improperly and thus lose all the vital benefits of their value’ J Pilates

With some forms of exercise the mind can switch off but in Pilates it must remain focused to ensure that the body stays in alignment and that the breathing is controlled. This ‘mind/body’ connection not only enhances the physical execution of the exercises but also promotes relaxation and a feeling of well-being.

The first part of concentration is becoming aware that the position of every part of the body is important and that all movements and positions are interconnected. In order to walk, many different interactions take place in the joints and muscles of the body so that for example, the position of your foot influences the position of your knee, hip, spine, shoulder & head. In order to achieve optimal alignment throughout the body (and thus an efficient movement pattern) we need to first become aware of these interactions through concentrating on how we are moving.

Obviously it is hard to concentrate on every part of the body at once, but the more you practice the more you will be able to ‘tune in’ to what is happening in different places at the same time.

wherever you are, be all there

Improved concentration not only leads to an improved physical performance but also offers wide-ranging mental benefits:

  • clarity of thought
  • increased mental energy
  • mental calmness in stressful situations
  • enhanced ability to tackle problems in a fresh way

Think of your Pilates sessions as time for yourself, time to leave behind what you have come from and where you are going to. Focus on each exercise in turn and pay attention to how your body feels as you move.

 

Jx

Please click here to find out more about of my current Pilates classes

 

antiperspirant vs deodorant

I’ve been wanting to write a post about antiperspirant vs deodorant for ages and every time I sit down to write it I chicken out because it seems like a slightly bizarre thing to be writing about. But it is also something I feel quite evangelical about so I’m going to do it anyway!

The back-story:

Before I went to university I decided that I didn’t want to leave a boyfriend behind at home, so that I could experience all that uni-life would offer without pining for someone who wasn’t there. So my then-boyfriend soon became my ex-boyfriend, and off I went – young, free and single and determined to stay that way…

One week later I met the most amazing guy (ever!!) and not long afterwards we were living together, which was how it stayed for two years. So much for being young, free & single!!

One of the things about the amazing guy was that he was an eco-warrior, light-years ahead of his time and he was absolutely passionate about looking after the planet as well as his body & soul.

I used to laugh at him for always rinsing the washing up before it was dried, but he insisted  that chemicals in the washing up liquid were damaging to our bodies, and so I kept laughing and he kept rinsing. In the years since then I have often smiled because I always rinse any washing up that I’ve done by hand and I now believe that he was right all along.

The other ‘eco’ thing I remember about him is that he only used deodorant, never antiperspirant, because he believed that disrupting the body’s natural sweat mechanism was hugely damaging to the body. I didn’t change my behaviour on this one until fairly recently, but I have often read articles (like this one) debating the pros and cons of antiperspirant vs deodorant which brought about a gradual change in my thinking.

The present day:

I started experimenting with deodorant, rather than antiperspirant, late last year but the problem was that I couldn’t find a product that I liked enough to make the swap permanent. I tried a few brands (roll-on or stick – I don’t like aerosols) but they felt horrible on my skin. And then quite by chance I came across an online discussion and saw someone recommending a brand called Native. She said it was a brilliant product and that the company offered free shipping, so I took a look.

The first time I looked I didn’t buy anything because I saw the company is based in the USA and assumed they wouldn’t ship to the UK, or at least not for free. But on a second look I realised that they do ship free to the UK so I ordered and received my delivery. [Please don’t shoot me down for the air miles thing – I figure the plane was coming here anyway!!]

And then I didn’t use my Native deodorant for a while because I didn’t really think it would work. And then I started using it sometimes. And then I started noticing that my skin felt a bit sore on the days I used the antiperspirant instead. So now, I just use my Native deodorant all the time.

The trade off is that I do sweat a bit more – of course that’s actually the whole point, letting my body do what my body needs to do – but given that we have had some pretty extreme temperatures lately I am super-impressed by this product.

It is made from natural ingredients, contains no aluminium and is paraben-free. It has ingredients to absorb moisture and others to eliminate odour-causing bacteria.  It feels really nice to use (not sticky), it smells great (there are loads of options to choose from) and it lasts really well (which more than offsets the slightly higher cost).

So there you go. My thoughts on antiperspirant vs deodorant in case you are thinking about making the switch too.

I think the amazing guy would be very impressed, and probably quietly amused, to know that I have finally caught up with his thinking on this one, along with so many other things. If only I’d had the wisdom to listen to him all those years ago…

Jx

(PS I didn’t laugh at all his advice. I took it very much to heart when he told me that brandy was a great soother for a delicate disposition after too much cider the night before. It worked every time!)

What is SpineSafe™ Pilates

What is SpineSafe ™ Pilates?

Pilates focuses on strengthening weak muscles and stretching areas of the body that are restricted with a view to reducing postural issues in the body.

The SpineSafe™ approach is based on the 8 principles of Pilates, alongside the latest research from the world of physiotherapy, and the class caters for clients with specific spinal conditions such as low back pain, disc prolapse, spinal stenosis, osteoporosis, scoliosis, surgery, etc

spinesafe pilates The aim of this class is to help you to develop postural balance through your body and build a strong, stable, supportive base for everyday movement patterns. The exercises we do will complement and support the work you are doing/have done with other health care professionals such as your GP or physiotherapist.

Class numbers are limited to ensure that you have the support and attention that you need, as well as sufficient time in class to practice each exercise.

You will be guided through each exercise safely for your body with the specific goals of

  • managing & reducing your pain symptoms
  • improving your posture
  • developing functional core strength
  • creating stability in the pelvis and shoulder girdle
  • increasing mobility and range of movement
  • supporting activities of daily life (ie. walking, sitting, standing, lying down, getting up, carrying shopping, reaching up to a shelf, picking up the kids, getting into the car, etc, etc)

I have been teaching Pilates for 8 years and decided it was time to go deeper with this training to further develop my teaching practice and offer this new class. I am also an Advanced Clinical Massage Therapist and it may be very useful for you to incorporate some soft-tissue work alongside your SpineSafe™ Pilates class to create a really effective back care routine.

For further details and SpineSafe™ Pilates class information please click here

Please let me know if you have any questions at all about my classes

 

Jx

what can Barre Pilates do for me?

What can Barre Pilates do for me?

Over the past 24 years I have taught (and attended) a very wide range of fitness classes and during that time I have often changed my mind about which class is my favourite. Like most things, fitness classes go in phases (I think I always knew that slide was never going to last!!) and gradually evolve as new options come along, and that is one of the things I love most about this industry.

Regardless of the variations available I have always tended to prefer low impact classes – I think I just like to keep my feet on the ground!

barre pilates

And although I have never been inspired to dance, I somehow always knew that I would love the discipline of standing work at the barre. So I tried it…and I do! So I trained to teach The Barre Pilates Method and I thought I’d share with you my thoughts on the benefits you can expect from Barre Pilates.

  1. it’s a low impact class which is kind to your joints, whilst toning and strengthening the muscles which support your joints; but don’t be fooled – you will still sweat because we will overload the muscles with full-range and part-range movements
  2. it’s a standing class (with about 10 minutes of mat-work at the end) which means that is great for bone loading; as we age we naturally lose bone strength so any exercise that is weight-bearing actively promotes our bone health
  3. barre pilates exercises focus on your butt, legs and core to strengthen and tone these areas of your body for better functional movement patterns in your everyday life; your butt and core are key to supporting spine health and reducing non-specific low back pain and it is important to include a focus on these areas as part of your regular fitness routine
  4. you can work at your own level so it doesn’t matter whether you can perform a deep knee bend in plié or not; you will be guided through each exercise and work within your fitness level and experience, resting when you need to
  5. we focus on your posture throughout the class to help you to find a balanced alignment in your body; this in turn promotes improved breathing patterns, improved recruitment of core muscles and improved pelvic floor function
  6. each class includes stretching and flexibility exercises during the workout and at the end of the session; stretches are used to target specific muscles but also to promote a sense of relaxation and well-being after the workout

Barre Pilates is a great addition to your regular fitness routine, and a perfect complement to other classes that you do. If you want to give it a try, I’d love to see you at the barre!

 

Jx

core stability vs hands under your bottom

A few weeks ago I wrote about something that I see when I’m teaching mat-work exercises.

Do you sometimes feel that you need to put your hands under your bottom to support your back when you’re on the floor for abdominal exercises?

Click on the links below to see my article on this topic, and why I think it matters & a simple flow-chart I created to hopefully help you if this is an issue for you:

Let me know if you have any questions Jx

 

change

2018 is proving to be a year of change. I have been feeling a real shift happening over the past few weeks and I am nervous, excited, anxious and interested in seeing where it will lead me all at the same time.

I guess it is not unexpected that my Mum’s death last December would change me, but it feels more than that. Inevitably there has been a huge shift in the family dynamic, with some pretty major stress along the way, but now that my body & mind are feeling nourished and stronger, I also feel that there is an adjustment within me on a deeper level, which is changing the way I think about my work & life.

In thinking about all the changes happening right now I have also been thinking about the resources I have used to help me at various times in the past. Aside from hiding my head in the sand sometimes (which is never really the best plan), here are four books I like and one habit that might be of interest to you too in times of change:

  1. If there is something in your world that needs to change, or just something which would feel better if you found a different way of looking at it, ‘Flip It’ by Michael Heppell gives some great insights into turning your head around
  2. If you need to get on top of tasks that feel onerous or daunting, try reading ‘Eat That Frog’ by Brian Tracy. The theory is that if you get the worst thing in your day done at the start of the day, you free up your energy to do everything else. If you have more than one frog to eat, you eat the biggest and ugliest one first! It doesn’t matter whether your frogs are work or life related, it all works the same way
  3. Things Are What You Make Of Them – Life Advice For Creatives’ by Adam J Kurtz is a great little book – really easy to read or flick through – full of simple suggestions which can be applied to any business or life situation. It’s also one of the prettiest books I own with rainbow coloured pages and hand-written notes, which are all presented on perforated pages so that you could, if you didn’t mind defacing the book, place them up around your house/workspace as daily prompts
  4. If you feel that you need a ‘life-bible’ have a look at ‘The Life Book’ by Nina Grunfeld. It focuses on different aspects of life (for example: health, creativity, work, family, money, etc, etc) and provides exercises and ideas for working on the areas that are most relevant to you. It’s another book that is good for dipping into when the need arises. It is thought-provoking, also quite pretty, and packed full of proverbs such as: ‘gratitude is the heart’s memory’ which I kind of like
  5. A habit that I have adopted recently is setting myself a daily task list with each item on the list numbered from 1 to 3 as follows: 1 = needs to be done today; 2 = hope to get it done today; 3 = can be done any time this week. On Thursday, for the first time, I completed all my 1 & 2 tasks which gave me a real sense of having made progress, and all the 3s got carried on to my next task list ready for action at a later stage. There’s nothing new about task lists of course, but the numbering has really helped me to keep focus – thanks to Jenny Burrell for this one

I’ll leave you with a few ‘change’ quotes just in case you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed or in need of a nudge:

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading” Lao Tzu

“It’s never too late to be who you might have been” George Eliot

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection” Mark Twain

And of course, the best change quote ever!

Jx