Recently in my membership, I was asked a question around how to keep consistent and motivated with your at home pilates workouts. I know from teaching hundreds of clients over the years that it can be hard to stay on track when we’re so busy and when life is so up and down.

So today on the blog I’m sharing the 5 simple steps I encourage my clients to use to get their fitness mojo back and to stay on track with your home workouts:

1. Change your perspective

One of THE most important things you can do is to think about how you want to feel and let that be your driving force. For example you might want to feel happier, more energetic, less stressed, less achy in your body etc.

This puts more of a focus on the intrinsic factors of motivation, i.e. doing something because you enjoy it and enjoy the way it makes you feel

versus

the external factors of motivation ie. doing something for reward, praise, or a sense of obligation. For example thinking that a workout has to be 60 minutes and a sweatfeast to be effective. Or you have to crunch X amount of calories to earn that bacon roll for breakfast (you don’t by the way). This sort of thinking can easily lead to

2. Set a goal

If you’re out of the habit of exercising, it can seem like climbing a mountain in flipflops to get back into it right?!

I’ve found from experience that the easiest thing to do in is to focus on one thing that will support your wellbeing each week.

It could be something as simple as drinking more water each day or having the cupboards stacked with healthy snacks – just make sure it seems do-able for you and the season you’re in. For me writing it down and putting it somewhere I can see it helps me stay on track. I encourage you to do the same.

Try this 15 minute Warming Core Pilates workout

3. Schedule a regular time

Find a time that works best for you. Ask for help or support from partner if you have kids. Schedule it in your calendar and set a digital reminder. Focus on how the action you’re taking is going to support you to feel the way you want to feel. Try and stick to the same time each week to build the habit in your brain (neurons that fire together, wire together). Eventually you’ll just start to roll out your mat, fill your water bottle or reach for the healthy snacks on auto pilot.

For me, it’s always been about finding super simple ways to get my workouts in, without having to move heaven and earth in the process (how much kit do you need to get to the gym!).

I became a big fan of doing just 15 minutes of pilates when my Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I had zero time to myself – this just fitted easily into my day and I was amazed at how quickly and easily I built strength and was able to calm myself.

It was a real game changer for me and an easy way to take care of myself during a really stressful time.

4. Think fun and variety

You need variety to stay motivated plus a workout should be fun and enjoyable; something you look forward! That’s why I add fresh new content every month to the membership library with different themes and fun ways to enjoy pilates and look after your body and mind.

5. Get a work out buddy

It can help to have an accountability buddy if you’re working towards a goal. Time to phone your bestie! In my membership community, we encourage and motivate each other though our private Facebook group.

There is no end of support, encouragement and good vibes. I am always so humbled to check in to the group and see just what a safe, supportive and uplifting space it is. It’s the first place I go when I feel my fitness mojo waning!

When you make the time to invest in your health everyone you come into contact with benefits but most of all, you benefit yourself and you are SO deserving of that. ​

So, set yourself a goal right now and give my 20 minute Strength and Stretch Pilates workout a go over the weekend – why not challenge yourself to do it 3 times over the next week and feel the benefit of what a quick workout can really do for you. Just select the link and it’s yours! ​

Will you let me know your thoughts if you try it?

I know you can do it but if you need an accountability buddy let me know!

Am cheering you on.

Love Julie x

I’d like to thank the very wonderful Mr. Kevin R. Wembridge , Consultant Hip and Knee Surgeon with our beloved NHS for this month’s guest blog post all about the importance of looking after your hips proactively. This is an amazing blog post that will really help you understand not only how the hip works but why it’s so important to look after your body now for later life. It also includes some handy tips on how to test out your hip strength and mobility and how pilates is helping his patients regain muscle balance and strength.

Pilates is the perfect method for stretching and strengthening all of the key muscle groups Mr. Wembridge mentions here, so why not try it for FREE now with my 20 minute Strength & Stretch Pilates Workout I created to help keep your whole body hip and healthy! (Bad joke!). Select the link above or click here and it’s all yours.

Have fun with it!

Biomechanics, is a big word which is bandied around a lot in exercise circles, but what does it actually mean? In its simplest form it is the science of movement of a living body. So, why is it so important and why are there 28,700,000 items related to it on a simple Google search?

Essentially, people are not usually interested in biomechanics until something goes wrong with their own and they have a problem.

They seek help from physios, doctors, alternative therapists and are introduced to the term, seldom understanding what it means or why it is important to them.

There may be a recent injury, a chronic injury or long-term joint wear underlying their problem: however, it may simply be that their muscles are not balanced and working in harmony to allow normal motion.

If we focus on the hip, it being the joint which connects the leg to the torso, the issues should become apparent. Essentially it is a ball and socket joint, which whilst being very stable, allows a large range of movement and has very strong forces which act upon it to help propel us when walking or running.

There are over 20 muscles which move this largest of joints, including the biggest muscle in the body (gluteus maximus).

Fun fact – the acetabulum (socket) is derived from ancient Latin and means ‘little vinegar cup’, as it was used to store and serve vinegar.

Concentrating on three of the hip movement groups (flexion, extension and abduction) should help simplify this further. For each of these, we will focus on the more important muscles only.

Movements of the hip

Hip Flexion

Let’s start with hip flexion. The main hip flexor is the iliopsoas muscle, which is formed from two muscles – the psoas (fillet steak for the carnivores amongst you) and the iliacus. The psoas arises from the inside of the lumbar vertebrae (lower spine) and is joined by the iliacus (from inside the pelvic wing) in the pelvis. It forms a combined tendon which passes over the front of the hip joint, before attaching to the top of the femur (thigh bone). It is the most powerful flexor of the hip, but also externally rotates the hip (imagine placing your left ankle on your right knee for instance).

If this muscle is tight it will pull the spine and pelvis forward, rotating them around the hip often leading to back pain and imbalance. Conversely if it is weak, stair climbing, hill walking and getting on a bus become tricky.

Hip Extension

Whilst hip extension is driven by gluteus maximus, the hamstrings play a significant part with it too. The hamstrings come from your ischium (sit bones) and cross both the hip and the knee to attach on to your tibia (shin). Once you understand that this large muscle group crosses both of these joints, it isn’t a large step to understand that tight hamstrings will not only bend the knee, but also tilt the pelvis backwards.

If you wish to test this yourself, sit on the floor with your back up against a wall, put your legs out straight in front of you and lean forward, tilting your pelvis. The chances are this will feel tight down the back of your legs and behind your knee, unless you are very supple!

This indicates hamstring tightness, which is extremely common, especially amongst cyclists and people who sit for long periods of time.

Hip Abduction

What is the purpose of abduction? If you have ever been to a gym and seen or used the abduction machine (pushing your legs out to the side), you may think it is just another muscle group to train. It is vital for walking normally. The gluteus medius starts on the outer wall of your pelvis and attaches to the greater trochanter (the bony bit on the outside of your hip) and pulls your pelvis down towards your femur. It is this that allows you to walk easily.

To feel what I mean, place your hands on the outside of your sides between your pelvis and the greater trochanter. As you walk you will feel two things happen. When your right foot is on the ground, you should feel the muscles on your right hand side tensing and the left hand side of your body lifting up a little. This allows your foot to clear the ground, so you may walk normally.

A weak abductor leads to a very abnormal and challenging walk!

These are just some of the muscles around the hip and to coordinate the simplest of tasks, walking normally, means they all need to function properly and together.

Training them as groups, stretching them off and ensuring they are balanced will help you prevent future problems with walking.

Whilst it is impossible to ‘future-proof’ your body completely, everything which you may do to help yourself now, will help your future self more.

One of the issues we have when we undertake hip surgery, is to try and restore the biomechanics of the hip as much as possible. Whilst we can do that to some extent mechanically, it then relies on our patients retraining their hip muscles around this through exercises and physiotherapy.

I have a number of patients who have found significant benefit using pilates to help balance their hip and knee muscles, lower back and core, both before and after surgery.

People often spend a great deal of time and effort in planning their future finances and retirement, only to be too unhealthy to enjoy them fully.

Spending some time now investing in ourselves and our bodies, is surely as, if not, more important? Looking after your body is a hugely rewarding thing to do both now and for your future self.

Wouldn’t it be good in years to come if everyone could look back and say to themselves, I’m really glad I looked after myself when I was younger? Above all, do not get old weak, you won’t regret it.

Feeling inspired? Grab your FREE 20 minute Strength & Stretch Pilates Workout designed so as you can feel the incredible benefits of pilates in a very short space of time. Select the link above or click here to have it sent straight to your inbox right now!

Don’t forget to leave a comment and let me know if you loved this blog post as much as me!

Love Julie x

P.S. Sign up to my YouTube channel to be notified when new pilates videos go live.

*This blog first appeared on the Ostara Pilates blog in September 2020 and to date has had over 133 views, making it the second most read blog post this year.

Let’s talk hip flexors.

Have you ever experienced:

Chances are your hip flexors could be tight.

Tight hip flexors can be a sign that certain other muscles are not pulling their weight in everyday movements such as climbing the stairs, standing up or going for a run or walk.

These muscle groups include:

Does that list surprise you? Like me, did you think that if you just spent your life working on stretching just your hip flexors it would be enough to make them flexible?

I did too. Until I discovered pilates and learned that moving dynamically (like in pilates), was the best way to not only stretch but also strengthen by body; sometimes what you think is a tight muscle is actually a muscle that needs strengthened.

Your muscles work like an orchestra; each one with a different role that blends in and complements with others to create the perfect symphony (this happens mainly through your body’s connected fascia system – yes that’s right your WHOLE BODY is connected which is why stretching muscles in isolation – or statically – is not always the most effective way to release and strengthen them).

Pilates is a dynamic form of movement that teaches you to recruit the right muscles in the right way, at the right time. It will also teach you how to move with grace, precision, and control. And the best thing is, you can get an INCREDIBLE core workout – that includes stretching and strengthening those hip flexors– in a very short amount of time.

Additionally, through Pilates we learn how to breathe. Breath is important because it affects the way we move and the way we use our muscles.

Feeling stressed? Releasing tight muscles like your hip flexors through focused breath work could be the stress reliever you’ve been missing.

Somatically, releasing the psoas can also stimulate organs, circulation, the nervous and reproductive systems and relieve sciatic pain and the fear reflex; there is much evidence to suggest that the psoas is a site where the body holds a lot of trauma, particularly for woman.

Pilates teaches you how to breathe properly to release tension so is also the perfect antidote to stress.

But where to start?

Will you sign up for this workout today? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel where you’ll be notified when a new workout is posted.

Love Julie x

Did you know that your pilates practice is underpinned by a set of principles? The pilates principles are worth taking time to know about because they will help you gain the basic philosophy behind the method, which in turn will help you improve in your practice.

Over the years, different training schools have attributed a variety of principles to the method. Below I’m talking you through the 8 that I work to.

Alignment

Also known as precision of movement and is probably one of the most important ones to understand in a good pilates practice. In pilates, you look for good alignment at the start, and throughout each movement. By correctly aligning the body and bringing the joints and soft tissue into their natural neutral zones (which means the muscles are at the right position to move the joints in the right way), the right recruitment patterns are encouraged and the joints remain healthy.

Breathing

Synchronisng the breath to movements is a key part of pilates and probably one of the hardest to master. The breathing patterns in pilates help with stability and encourage fluid movements. Learning how to breathe well also helps both the mind and body to relax, recharge and focus. You can read my post on Pilates Breathing, and how it supports stability here. It also includes some tips for getting started with it.

Centring (Core Stability)

This is the term we give to training your core stability. Pilates focuses on maintaining control and support of the body as movement takes place. It does this by encouraging the recruitment of the deep core muscles that help to control and stabilise whatever it is you are doing. The main muscles involved in core stability are your pelvic floor, your deep abdominals (the secret one being the transverse abs), your diaphragm and the multifidus which is a set of spinal extensors that run up your back.

Alignment, breathing and centring together are knows as the ABCs of pilates.

Co-ordination

Coordination – a challenge for the brain over the body! Co-ordination helps focus the mind and allows for the movement to be performed purposefully and with control. By focusing on the quality and detail of each movement that make up the exercise, coordination, control, mobility, strength and the overall efficiency of the whole body are improved.

Flowing Movement

Pilates movements should be controlled, graceful and flowing. Moving your body through different planes of movement (rotation – think thread the needle, side bending – think mermaid, flexion – think roll down and extension – think cobra), and your joints through their normal ranges of motion, will lead to longer, leaner muscles that are stronger across their whole range.

Relaxation

Come on, be honest, who’s favourite position isn’t the relaxation position? Relaxation of the mind and body is an essential part of any pilates session. Focusing on releasing areas of tension within the body allows for change in the body to take place. In doing so, the mind starts to relax as conscious thought becomes purely focused on moving with grace and ease.

Concentration

Pilates encourages thoughtful awareness of your whole body while your performing the movements. To bring about change to the way you move, the body and mind need to work together and pilates is a genius practice for achieving this. Pilates will help you develop greater body awareness and control, through concentration and focus on your ABCs (alignment, breathing, centring remember). When you are aware of the movements within each exercise, this way of moving will ultimately become automatic, bringing about unconscious improvements to the way the body moves in everyday life – that pilates magic!

Stamina

Pilates is an endurance based movement method, where the emphasis should always be on the quality of the movement. As you progress in your practice, repetitions and the difficulty of each exercise can be increased to challenge your stamina. Small pilates equipment can also be introduced to further build muscular endurance and don’t forget I’ve got HIP Pilates coming in August (stands for High Intensity Power Pilates), which will draw on all of the pilates principles but most of all this one!

Do you have a favourite pilates principle? Let me know in the comments below!

Love Julie x

P.S. Want to give pilates a try? Don’t forget you can download my FREE 5 simple everyday pilates exercises here which also comes with a special BONUS video for you too!

The pilates mermaid stretch is one of my all time favourites for a stiff low back and because there is also a kind of inner flow to it. You can use the pilates mermaid as a gentle warmup or as more intense cool down stretch or, if like me, you do a lot of sitting.

This is an exercise that works to lengthen and open the side body. Keeping the sit bones grounded as the arm extends in long reach up to the side of your head and over, it will connect the stretch through the center of the body. Mermaid is also a good lesson in keeping the scapula settled in the back as the arm moves. There is a special dynamic between breath and stretch as you ground down and reach skyward, which is what gives it the special inner flow feel.

Benefits

This exercise is great for improving your overall flexibility by working to stretch your obliques, shoulders, and inner thighs. It opens your side body, lengthening the muscles between the ribs and pelvis. This can aid in being able to fully expand your chest in breathing. It prepares you for moves that call for twisting and bending and keeps your low back supple too!

How to do the pilates mermaid stretch:

Sit on the floor with both legs folded to the right side in an 90/90 position – one shin is parallel to your front, one parallel to your side, in line with your hip. Make sure the back foot is flat to the floor to protect your knee. Make a connection between your pelvis and your ribs so that you are flat as if your torso was between two sheets of glass. Both arms are lengthened by your side providing some light support as you sit upright. Like most pilates exercises, the real support for the move comes from the abdominals.

Follow along in the video:

  1. Extend your left arm straight up above your head. Keep your left shoulder down, away from your ear. Bring the inside of the arm as close to your ear as you can without hiking up the shoulder.
  2. Keep your left hip grounded as you lengthen your spine and the stretch moves up through the center of your body. Grow tall through the crown of your head as your spine lengthens and extends up and when you have nowhere left to go with the stretch, take it over to the side. Keep both sides of your waist long.
  3. Do not let your ribs pop forward as you curve to the side – connect them to the pelvis.
  4. Your support hand moves further away from your body to increase the stretch.
  5. Keep your shoulders down and your scapula settled in your back, even at the farthest point of your reach.
  6. To initiate your return, send your left sit bone down toward the mat. Then use your abs to begin to bring your torso up.
  7. Now begin the reach to the other side, again lengthening up through the crown of your head and side bending to your right. You can walk your supporting arm (left arm), out and bend at the elbow to take your forearm to the floor to increase the stretch. Continue to focus on keeping the right side bone grounded now as your stretch extends up and over toward the left.
  8. Aim to keep your left shoulder down and the scapula settled in the back.
  9. Repeat two to three times each side.

How to tell if you’re doing it wrong:

Arched Back

Raised Shoulders

Craned Neck

Need a Modification?

If you can’t sit in the Z leg position without discomfort, you can do this stretch in standing or cross your legs in front of you if that’s more comfortable.

Take your time with this and be sure to breath fully into the side of your body when you’re in the stretch to really open it up. Stretch only as far as you can with good form and no discomfort. The more and more you do this stretch, the further you’ll be able to go. It’s a great beginners exercise.

And don’t forget to smile :-)

Leave me a comment to let me know if i should start calling you Arial :-)

Julie x

P.S. Be sure to read my blog post on pilates breathing tips to make sure you get the most of that side opening! I’ve linked it above for you.

One – You have to be flexible to do pilates

Wrong….

When I first started pilates, I could barely bend over let alone do anything else! My hands would get to the tops of my thighs and then I would just get stuck meaning my flexibility was practically at zero! However, a few months in and I could start to see my hands getting lower and lower towards my toes whilst at the same time I could feel myself getting stronger and stronger as my core worked to support me on the way down to touch my toes; that balance of strength and mobility that pilates is so famous for.

ake it from me – and from the many clients I’ve taught over the years – you do not have to be flexible to take up pilates. Pilates trains flexibility. It does this mainly through dynamic stretches which means you are always actively moving.

Pilates exercises will encourage your muscles to lengthen, expand and release as you move, which improves the range of movement at your joint. At the same time it will actively work to strengthen the supporting joint structures helping to protect you from injury.

Done consistently, you will gradually see improvements in your mobility, your flexibility and your strength.

Two – Pilates is only for woman.

Wrong…

My first two pilates teachers were both male. Several of my teacher training teachers have been male. And in case you didn’t know, Pilates himself was male (first name Joseph).

Although on the surface of things, it would appear to attract a higher proportion of women, earlier in the year The Sunday Times ran an article on ‘Mat Men’ and called out the rise in the number of men turning to pilates for a variety of reasons including improving their mental health, rehab-ing an injury, solving a low back issue, improving their balance and coordination and using it alongside other training programmes.

The same article also cited Tiger Woods, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo, Daniel Craig and Andy Murray as pilates converts; all of them using it to improve sports performance and protect from injury.

Over the years I have worked with many male clients both in a 1:1 and Group capacity and I currently teach a male orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in hip and knee replacements! He came to me because he’d heard such great things about how pilates can safely and effectively rehabilitate joints like the hip and the knee post operation and is also a very keen cyclist looking to improve both his flexibility and strength.

Pilates is for any body and every-body. It is non-competitive and a really smart way to look after your body and your mind regardless of your gender. And remember, you don’t have to be flexible to start it (see point one).

Three – You need lots of fancy equipment to do pilates

Wrong…

All you need is something soft or cushioned between you and the surface you’re working on making it both a cost effective and convenient work out – you can literally do it anywhere!

Although I don’t use a mat when I do pilates at home (my carpet provides enough cushioning for me), it is important that your bones and joints are protected from working on any hard surfaces so if you don’t have a soft surface at home, you’d need a mat around 1cm thick and these can be picked up really cheaply from places like Amazon.

Sometimes in class we use small equipment like the foam roller, an overball, a theraband or light hand weights, but these are all things that have been added to pilates over the years helping to give the matwork routine some variety, and whilst these are all brilliant and introduce a bit of fun to a class, they are not essential.

The original pilates matwork was just Joe on his mat and 34 body weight exercises and nothing else. This is now known as the ‘Classical Pilates’ repertoire.

Since lockdown, we’ve gone back to basics as we’ve not had access to my equipment and it’s been great just to focus on getting a work out using our bodies. No two classes of mine are ever the same and it’s amazing just how much strength you can build with just yourself.

There are pieces of pilates equipment you can progress to, like the Reformer or the Cadillac but you can happily stick with just yourself and your mat!

Like I say – cost effective and convenient.

Four – You need an hour of your time to do pilates

Wrong…

You can build strength, improve your posture and boost your energy in a very short space of time with the pilates method. It’s one of the reason’s why I love it so much – no need to find a very rare 60 minutes to workout! Try it for yourself = this 10 minute pilates for beautiful posture is a great place to start! Just roll out your mat and hit play!

I hope this has helped clear up any misconceptions you might have about pilates or are there any that I might have missed? Leave me a comment if you think I have and I’ll see if i can clear it up for you!

Happy Pilate-ing.

Love Julie x

P.S. Thinking of giving pilates a try? Then read this blog article I wrote for you on Getting started with pilates.

P.P.S. Looking to improve your flexibility? Then I have something coming for you very soon!

As a pilates teacher, I often get asked ‘Julie, I’m so busy right now, what pilates exercises can I do that are quick and easy but will still leave me feeling like I worked out?’ So I created a FREE download: 5 Simple pilates exercises you can do EVERY day.

Download it by clicking the link above or here.

They give you a total body work out, helping you to build strength, move your body in a gentle and kind way and leave you feeling calmer and more energised, they are also super simple. You can do them in 5 minutes or 10 – 15 minutes if you have the time.

All 5 of the exercises included will help you build strength, improve posture and help you re-balance your body. What’s more, they are a sure fire way to help lower stress levels and will leave you feeling great.

Pilates is a form of mindful movement and is known to increase oxygen in the body, boost circulation, build strength, improve mobility, reduce stress and leave you feeling energised not depleted, after every workout. It is a gentle and kind way to care for your body and your mind and you can get all of these benefits in just a very short space of time.

When I was suffering my own chronic low back pain, ‘little, often’ was an approach that worked much better for me over longer periods of being in a gym or attending classes, which is why all of these exercises can be done in as little as 10 minutes as many times as you like in a day.

Let me give you a quick rundown on what you can expect from each of the exercises featured:

I’ve got a very handy How To video for single leg stretch that I’m sharing with you here.

New to pilates? I’m very glad you’re here! I wrote a blog post on Getting started with pilates which I’ve linked here for you.

You can save the download or print it off and hang it somewhere you can see it. Give them a go and leave me a note in the comments to let me know how you get on if you give them a go!

Love Julie x

P.S. Don’t forget to claim your free download by clicking this link!

JOIN THE LIFETONIC CLUB

The LifeTonic Club is an online pilates and wellness membership that is helping you to stay fit and healthy in ways that fit neatly into your day and easily into your life, making it super easy to stay motivated, consistent and inspired for the long road.