Continuing a very popular theme from last year, in this month’s lifetonic we’re re-visiting Random Acts of Kindness!
As you may recall from last year, being kind causes your body to release a variety of natural feel-good chemicals. As a result, practising kindness and compassion can make you happy, strengthen your immune system, reverse the effects of aging, alleviate discomfort, and even help you live longer.
Science shows there’s a link between kindness and happiness and that someone who feels joyful while doing good tend to do good more often.
Another significant advantage of kindness is that it has a ripple effect; people who are the recipients of acts of generosity frequently find up impulsively paying it forward, doing good things for other people.
It’s a positive loop system for your nervous system!
So let’s see where we can find little opportunities to sprinkle kindness throughout December….
Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
Send a thank you note to someone in your life that’s made a difference this year – it could be someone you know, but equally it could be your local hospital, hospice, fire brigade or maybe your children’s school teacher.
Be kind to yourself – re-read your Lifetonic from November 2022 to understand how cultivating a daily gratitude practice can bolster your wellbeing. And if that’s not for you, then just simply look back over 2022 and then write down 3-5 things, moments or people that you’re grateful for. Research shows that this can increase happiness by 25%!
Is there someone you can offer to run an errand for? A poorly or elderly neighbour that might need some support during our less than favourable winter weather? Or maybe just a friendly knock on the door to make sure they are ok.
Who have you been meaning to catch up with this year but haven’t quite managed it? Make December the month where you see that family member or friend you’ve struggled to catch up with this year.
How about letting someone who’s in the same queue as you go first? This is a great way to encourage someone to pay it forward and an easy way to show kindness in amongst the busy hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping which can be stressful for some.
Pay an unexpected compliment to three people a week; an easy way to make someone feel seen and appreciated.
Write a note to someone you care about and include the top 10 reasons that you love or are grateful for them (there’s that gratitude practice again)
Hold the door open of a busy shop or supermarket for a few moments and wish those that pass through a Merry Christmas. This is honestly one of my favourite ways to raise a smile on someone else’s face – especially in a world that seems really polarised and divided! Let’s never lose the art of communication and interaction – IN REAL LIFE!
Donate, volunteer or raise awareness for a charity you love and are passionate about. It has never been a more challenging time for charities. Or simply buy your Christmas cards DIRECT from your favourite charity! The money goes straight to them not via a third party (which is often the case in supermarkets who have charity cards)
Let’s change the world, one small act at a time.
Don’t forget to share how you’re sprinkling some kindness into the month by dropping into our Facebook community and letting us what random acts of kindness you’re going to be practising this December.
Wishing you a magical festive season friends – hug the life out of all those you hold dear!
Making gratitude a daily habit
Hi lovely TLC-ers
In a recent conversation with a one to one client, she reminded that we have a lot to be thankful for.
She was struggling to get on top of an injury; it was wearing her down and she knew it. So I said, lets start each session with one small thing we’re each grateful for when it comes to our health and our body.
It proved to be quite transformative…
Practising gratitude provides a wonderful way to be present and focus on the people and things in our lives that we are thankful for and trains us to see the small, good things that are unfolding for us.
Sometimes it can be hard to see the wood from the trees, so often having a focus on small, good things can help light the path for us when things feel a little overwhelming.
So this month’s Lifetonic is all about how we can make a habit out of practising gratitude.
There are so many ways that practicing gratitude can benefit our health and wellbeing.
Researcher Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. shares that people who regularly practice gratitude report stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure, greater feelings of optimism and joy, and healthier relationships, among many other benefits.
It’s easy to move through our days without taking the time to reflect on the positives, but a daily gratitude practice can transformational.
This is something that I have focussed on consistently throughout October having felt very disconnected from life this year; I’ve had to deal with a number of injuries that have held me back with my own health and wellbeing goals as well as my business goals. As a result, I feel as though I have made very little progress with anything this year and have felt a little bit low.
So I got myself a mindfulness journal and everyday in October, I started my day with 3 things I am grateful for to try and turn my mood around and it’s helped me in more ways than I have time to write down here.
So, to kick off our LIfetonic this month, I’ve prepared a few tips for ways you can practise gratitude this month and every month (this is now firmly part of my daily routine and something that has bred a new appreciation of mindfulness in me).
Write it down! Keep a gratitude journal or a daily list of what you’re thankful for. No need to make it another ‘to-do’ item – just simply list 1 – 3 things each day that you’re grateful for and look at them regularly. I’ve been doing this first thing in the morning with a coffee, and right before I hit the mat for 10 minutes. It’s been transformational for how my day then unfolds!
Make a mental note. Incorporate thoughts of gratitude into your daily walk or take some time in relaxation position before your pilates practice to mediate on a person or thing that day you are grateful for. A great way to start this, is to just set an alarm for 5 or 10 minutes on the mat and repeat the line: “I am grateful for this day” in your head along with some soft belly breathing. This is such a powerful way to activate your parasympathetic nervous system and to help bring us joy.
LOOK for the good! Continue to look for things throughout the day to be thankful for. The more you develop this practice, the easier it becomes. This leads to more positive emotions and improves your overall psychological health.
Make it a family affair. Play the ‘Gratitude Game’ – I started this with my niece when she was about 6. We don’t do it all the time but when we do, it’s actually so uplifting that dinner becomes a whole different experience (try it and you’ll see what I mean!). All you do is go around the table and everyone has to share something, or someone, they’re grateful for from the day.
Turn lemons into lemonade. Try to see something that would usually be negative and see if you can turn it into something more positive. This change in perspective and mindset can be truly powerful. In fact, it’s reported that those who do this regularly are better able to handle serious trauma and avoid post-traumatic stress and long-term anxiety!
The last two years have been tough on everyone; everyone’s nervous system has been altered as a result of the pandemic so making gratitude a habit is just one way we can tip the wellbeing scales back in our favour.
It might take a bit of practice as your first try to practice gratitude – at the start of October I was really surprised at how hard it felt for me to find just ONE thing to be grateful for but that’s a reason why I knew I needed to cultivate this as a habit. Stick with it for this month and you’ll see that it can become a natural part of your day—even a way to recharge and fill your cup again.
We often find ourselves going, going, going. But when we can take a moment to stop and think about how thankful we are for the special people in our lives, for our bodies and how they serve us, and for the small things in life, we get a chance to slow down and appreciate the good in life..
So, what do you say? Will you work on practising gratitude as a community this month? I’ll be giving you some prompts in our Facebook Group so stay tuned….
And by the way, just so as you know, I’m grateful for YOU more than you will ever know 😊
Have a great month
Understanding how your spine moves to help prevent back pain.
October is National Backcare month, and so like last year, we’ll be using this month in TLC to focus on building and maintaining a Healthy Spine.
As part of that journey, I’m going to explain how and where movement comes from in your back.
As a Healthy Backs Practitioner, I see many clients for low back pain who have generally been told to come and ‘strengthen their core’ in a bit to ease their symptoms.
And whilst core strength is a core component (excuse the pun!), of a Healthy Back, it is most definitely not the only thing that drives a good back.
Back pain is multifaceted – lack of awareness, poor alignment, breathing, posture, daily habits, work, stress, hobbies, our motivations and beliefs and even things like neglecting our feet (how many of you regularly go to a podiatrist?), can all contribute to low back pain and discomfort.
But there is something else I see regularly in 1:1 work and that’s a lack of understanding of where movement comes from in your spine.
Without this understanding, we are often moving our spine in ways that it doesn’t like, (golfers who rotate from their lumbar spine being a classic example), when that happens, your back gets angry and irritated which manifests as back pain.
Time and time though, I’ve seen break through moments with clients when movement of the spine is explained to them and it’s amongst one of the first things I teach in a Healthy Backs session.
It’s this awareness that will improve not only your pilates practice, but your day to day movements, limiting unnecessary aches and pains.
Let’s look at how your spine moves.
Movements of your spine.
Your spine moves in 4 ways
Flexion (think Cat)
Extension (think Cobra)
Rotation (think Thread the Needle)
Side Flexion (think Standing Side Bend)
We’ll normally work through all of these movements in each of our Bodytonics.
But importantly, your spine doesn’t move equally in these 4 ways thanks to a unique little set of joints that run the entire length of your spine called your facet joints.
Latin for ‘fastening joints,’ these little joints connect (or fasten), the vertebrae above and below in your spine and are responsible for:
1. Guiding and limiting spinal movement
The amount of movement varies greatly between each section of your spine. This is largely due to the angle of the facet joints being orientated in different directions. For instance, our necks are naturally a lot more flexible than our upper and lower backs.
The facet joints play an important role in stabilising adjacent vertebrae to help prevent “slippage” between segments.
3. Preventing Spinal Nerve Compression
Openings on either side of your spine allow the spinal nerves to pass through. The facet joints help to maintain this opening so that your nerves do not become compressed.
4. Preventing Spinal Cord Compression
Your spinal cord runs immediately behind the body of the vertebrae through an opening called the spinal canal. The facet joints help to maintain this space so that your spinal cord does not become compressed.
The changing shape of your facet joints
As mentioned in point 1, your facet joints are unique in that the actually change shape as they move down your spine! This gives rise to different types of movement favoured by different types of your spine as follows:
Your neck (cervical spine) – facet joints all for movement in all directions (the neck is the most flexible part of your back)
Your mid back (thoracic spine – think the area where your rib cage is) – facet joints allow for mainly rotation
Your low back (lumbar spine) – facet joints allow for flexion, extension (this must always be controlled extension), side bending.
In pilates, this is why things like paying attention to the sequence of movement in your exercises is really helpful, as well as centring to control (unwanted) movements of the spine like over extending your low back or preventing twisting or torquing of the low back. Both of which lead to back pain.
If you do any day-to-day movements that involve ‘twisting’ understanding movement of your spine can be a saving grace really especially if you are twisting to reach for things (commonly down in house work and gardening) or you play sport and involves a lot of rotation (tennis and golf for example). Make sure this comes from the right part of your spine – if in doubt, turn towards whatever you are reaching for instead of twisting.
Things to consider for a Healthy Back
Rotation is a movement deficient in almost every adult I see but without it, the facet joints at your mid back become ‘stuck’ and movement then goes to the next available joint….usually your low back.
A part of your spine that’s not designed to rotate….
Or the movement will go upwards, towards your neck…
And whilst the neck is designed to rotate, if you’re trying to rotate it on behalf of your midback, you’re going to get an awful lot of neck pain as the joints over work!
So just consider the following to keep your back healthy….
Movement in all directions is essential to maintain a healthy spine!
Build an awareness of how you move on and off the mat and make sure that movement is coming from the right part of your spine
Develop your centre (core) to create stability for your low back
As it’s the one move we tend to skip the most, then think about adding in spinal rotation to your daily routine to stop your midback from getting stuck (lots of open book stretches or thread the needle!)
And that’s it!
I hope you’ve found this Lifetonic educational and informative and I hope it helps you to maintain a Healthy Back for life.
Share in our Facebook Group your one big take away from this month’s Lifetonic. I’d love to know if this has changed your thinking and if you have any questions!
See you on the mat for some low back love.
P.S. If you want to read last year’s Healthy Back’s Lifetonic, then just follow this link.
Intentional Rhythms and Routines
September tends to be the month in the year where we look to get back into a routine so this month is going to be creating intentional rhythms and routines!
We’ll do this by setting intentions that are realistic, manageable and meaningful and that align with the unique season of life we all find ourselves in.
Even though we’re all ready for a fresh start for Autumn, it’s still hard to say what life will look like in the coming months. 2022 is already showing us that there are many things we can’t control but there are lots of things that we can.
And while there is a lot we can’t control, we can still be intentional with our time, energy and the goals we want to accomplish. We still have the power to influence our own individual lives, in our homes, health and relationships.
In order to set ourselves up for success, we’re going to figure out what rhythms and routines have worked well for you in the past and what we might do a bit differently for the rest of 2022 and in the areas where we DO have the ability to refresh!
And while there is a lot we can’t control, we can still be intentional with our time, energy and the goals we want to accomplish. We still have the power to influence our own individual lives, in our homes, health and relationships.
In order to set ourselves up for success, lets look at what rhythms and routines have worked well for you in the past and what you might do a bit differently for the rest of the year in the areas you CAN control!
What is most important to you about how your home feels and serves you? Is it a space that allows you to feel calm and rejuvenated after a long day of work or taking care of others? Do you want to make any changes to your space so that it supports how you want it to feel? What about your laundry, cleaning, and even your breakfast routines—are you happy with how these rhythms and routines are flowing for you right now?
What are the most important relationships in your life and how will you cultivate throughout the rest of this year? Which are the ones that deserve more focused attention, and what are some ways you can lean into them more often and with more intention?
After such a challenging couple of years, many of us are thinking about how we can better support ourselves mentally. What does that look like for you? Do you find that getting out in nature more often would lift you up? Would sending boundaries in some areas of your life allow you to feel less overwhelmed?
What would you like to achieve with the rest of this year when it comes to your physical health? Do you want to build strength or increase flexibility? Would it help to add your daily pilates workouts to your personal calendar as a non-negotiable meeting with yourself? Or perhaps preparing some healthy meals and snacks at the start of the week as another form of self-care would be helpful.
How would you like to grow personally this year and what does that look like for you? What are some things you could do or some routines you could set in place that support your spiritual goals? When was the last time you reviewed your values? Could you do this as a family?
It’s so important to try and keep a positive and practical mindset about your intentions and refreshed rhythms. Some ways to do this are:
Setting realistic expectations for achieving your desired outcomes
Starting small and building on these new rhythms and routines over time so you can set yourself up for success
Remembering TLC is here to support you along the way
This is a great time of year to set out a new roadmap for your wellbeing and what’s important to you so take some time to think about the areas above and to keep setting intentional rhythms and routines to support the healthiest version of yourself.
When I sat down to do this I listed what is most important to me right now, what I learned from the last half of 2022 and what kinds of rhythms and routines I wanted to build into my life that reflect what I want to focus on for the rest of the year in the areas that I CAN control. It’s already paying off for me in big ways, and I’m excited for you to experience this too!
I hope you find this month’s Lifetonic a refreshing way to kick start the last half of 2022. And remember that I’m here to support you follow with your refreshed rhythms and routines for the rest of the year.
Last week in the UK The Times newspaper ran a story based on a study that found over half of all British woman have done no vigorous exercise in the last 12 months.
If you’re a female, it’s hardly headline news.
For over 30 years I’ve long experienced the barriers woman face when it comes to exercise.
Complicated and multi-faceted – it involves things like role modelling, gender, opportunity, socio-economics and your location, whilst at a more micro level things like attitudes, beliefs, behaviours and motivations ALL influence a woman’s pathway onto a mat, tennis court, football pitch or whatever.
Whilst I would gladly pick any of these to look at in more depth, for this blog post I wanted to keep it related to what I’m seeing and experiencing as a teacher so I’m going to write about one of the BIGGEST reasons I see woman holding themselves back from taking action with their own health and wellbeing.
And it’s the increasing belief that woman think everything has to be perfect before they can start.
They will often look for the perfect time (by this I mean both season of life AND duration), the perfect place, the perfect athleticwear, the perfect routine, the perfect equipment.
So they wait and wait and wait, working towards getting everything lined up in the correct order before they start, meaning they very rarely do.
This is something psychologists call ‘sequencing’ and it’s the idea that you can’t take action on one thing, until the thing before is done or in place.
This type of thinking is perfectionism in action and is a hallmark of procrastination.
From perfectionism to hyper perfectionism
But why are we procrastinating so much?
In 2001 I submitted my Honours dissertation which was called “The Body Beautiful: Media Representations of the Female Body as ‘closed perfection.’
It looked at the increasing rise of consumerism and the commodification of being ‘feminine’ in a post modern world and undertook a visual and textual analysis of over 200 woman’s weekly and monthly magazines ranging from the 1940s all the way through to 2000.
It concluded that the print media was heavily responsible for perpetuating and upholding idealized and unattainable visions of what it meant to be a woman whilst all out rejecting any notion of what culturally philosopher, Mikhail Bakhtin, called the ‘grotesque’ female form.
I was awarded a First for it and I can easily still draw parallels to that piece of work and what I see happening in the online space of today.
Nowadays, we are becoming subject to what I call hyper levels of idealism / perfectionism in our everyday lives through mediums like Instagram and open access to well meaning ‘influencers.’
From routines to rituals, to workouts and wardrobes, holidays, homes, hair, food, fun, even our coffees are being highly idealized (how many ‘perfect’ iced coffee pours have you seen on instgram this summer?!).
And whilst use of the hashtag #BodyPositivity is on the rise and campaigns like Sport Englands #ThisGirlCan have to be applauded for the ground breaking work they’ve done around all of the big barriers to exercise and sport for woman, as a publicly funded body, it’s hard to keep up momentum against the 80 million+ images that are uploaded to Instagram every single day.
Why embracing imperfect living sets you free to take action and make progress
There is no doubt that, online, pilates has a “look.” There is even the phrase “pilates body” to denote a recognisable link between the method and what your body ‘should’ look like. The problem with this is, there is no such thing as a ‘pilates body’ only the perception of what you are fed, it lacks depth as to the true functional benefits of the method, especially as you age, and it also turns down the volume on the all important unseen benefits you stand to reap from a consistent pilates practice (you can ready what they are in this blog post).
Day in and day out we are fed image after image of the ‘perfect’ workout. From the athletic wear, to the environment, to honed and toned midriffs, to the exercise method itself and what’s happening in the process is that we are not giving woman a license to do it their own way; a way that gives them a starting point, a way that truly fits with where they are in their life right now; a way that not only shows them how to do it all imperfectly but that it’s MORE than ok to do it that way.
This, to me, is becoming one of the greatest barriers of our modern day age when it comes to women taking up any form of exercise – vigorous or not.
What my dissertation proved all those years ago seems more relevant than ever – our bodies and our everyday living are becoming a highly idealized, commodified and pretty much unattainable vision for the vast majority of us and it’s becoming an increasingly more challenge hurdle for woman to cross meaning we all too often take no action.
But your health is the best and most worthwhile asset you will ever own and you CAN take imperfect action on it to help you live your healthiest life by starting right now – where you are, with the resources you have now, with the clothes you have and with the time you have be it 5 minutes or 50.
In fact, after orbiting the sun for over 40 years, my biggest life lesson is that there is NO other way to do life other than to do it imperfectly because:
Imperfect living is KINDER
Imperfect living is REALISTIC
Imperfect living is MORE DEPENDABLE
Imperfect living helps us to MOVE FORWARD in our life instead of the perfect way always holding us back and creating tension in our life (and in our body).
The Lifetonic Club was born to help woman break away from perfectionist thinking and find freedom in embracing the imperfect in all areas of their life.
Always remember that you are a fully fallible, complex, brilliant and imperfect human. So today, count all of the ways you’re doing things imperfectly then celebrate the fact that you’re doing life just right. Your life is not an Instagram feed.
Sending TLC to wherever you are in the world
Join over 1000+ others who have already taken my FREE 21 Days of Pilates Challenge. 10 minutes a day for 21 days it includes Healthy Backs, Pilates for Posture and Pilates at your Desk.
Just sign up by following this link – everything is sent straight to your inbox to do in your own imperfect way!
Connecting With Others
One of the unique benefits of The Lifetonic Club is our community!
There are thousands of fitness apps out there, but very few have a strong community filled with ongoing encouragement, positivity, and support.
That’s because The Lifetonic Club was founded on connection!
There is SO much value in investing in relationships and making time for human connection. Years of research show that social connections can impact our health in several areas, including decreasing the risk for cancer, depression, and diabetes, and leading to better heart health and weight management.
In fact, in a prospective study, over 500 women with suspected heart disease were monitored for more than two years to see how their social circles affected their health. Women who reported a higher social network score routinely had lower:
Coronary artery disease risk
Blood sugar levels
Rates of hypertension and diabetes
Fat stores around their waists and hips
The women in the study who reported having smaller social circles were considered to be at increased risk of coronary artery disease and mortality.
Nurturing our social connections is so important to our overall health and well-being. That’s why this month’s Lifetonic is all about connecting with others!
Set Aside Time to Nurture Relationships
Many of us realised how much we were lacking a social connection when we all had to stay indoors and physically distance during the pandemic. We weren’t able to see loved ones for long periods of time, and we missed the everyday connections we can easily take for granted—like smiling at someone as you pass them in the street or having a brief chat with the barista at your local coffee shop.
A recent survey of 308 adult participants between ages 18 and 84 measured the effects of perceived social isolation. Respondents were asked questions related to stress, trust, and life satisfaction. Preliminary results showed that all participants experienced at least some perceived social isolation during the pandemic, with the highest levels of isolation among young adults. Researchers who performed the study found that perceived social isolation was associated with lower levels of trust and life satisfaction and higher levels of stress.
I know I experienced a feeling of social isolation and loneliness during the pandemic and with working from home now a permanent feature of everyday life, I have to say that this is something I still struggle with.
This year is the first time we’ve been able to travel properly again, and I went skiing with my partner and a small group of friends in March. We wanted to connect with others and have some fun together. It felt transformational and it reminded me of how good it is for our health to gather with friends and laugh.
Nurturing our friendships and connections with others is also a great way to intentionally slow down and relax, which is essential for a well-balanced life.
Pair Connecting with Others with Something You Enjoy
If you’re looking for some fun or creative ways to connect with others, consider one of these!
Get outside! Go for a walk with a friend or loved one—either in-person or long-distance, over the phone—and share something about your day or even something you’re excited about in the coming week.
Put it on the calendar. Set up a weekly date night with a significant other or close friend. Take turns picking where you meet or what you do. Surprise each other with a new activity or try to come up with a date night tradition!
Start your day with connection. If you love a good morning routine, try adding a simple step to connect with someone important in your life each day. Send them a friendly text or voice message to let them know you’re thinking of them.
Connect through a hobby. Join a book club or local group related to a specific hobby. Enjoying a shared activity or experience is a great way to nurture relationships and have some fun together.
Support your community. Volunteer for a group or cause that’s important to you and where you can meet others who are like-minded. You’ll love the satisfaction of knowing you’re contributing while forming friendships with new people.
Spread the love! It’s easy to go about our days, moving from one activity to the next without telling others how much we appreciate them. Set an intention to share your gratitude with at least one person each day.
It’s important to remember that reaching out to someone and sharing yourself with them might not always be reciprocated. But more often than not, it will be and it will be worth it!
I’d love to challenge everyone in TLC to invest in relationships in two ways this month:
In our community: Write a post, comment on another member’s post, or find other members near you. Share a part of your journey so we can all support you (there are already some great examples of this in our Group as well)!
In-person with others in your life: Be intentional about connecting with a friend or family member by spending time together in whatever way you can. Don’t forget to put it on the calendar!
As you go through this month and year, remember that you’re not alone. You have others you can turn to and share your journey with here in The Lifetonic Club.
I’d love to know how you’re pursuing this month’s Lifetonic to connect more with others.
Despite the weather in the UK, the summer is officially here and we reserve the month of July for fun, play, laughter, connection and all things that are good for your summer soul!
So this is a short and sweet lifetonic encouraging you to step away from any to-do list for July and make an intentional decision to let your hair down and have some summer fun with ZERO guilt attached!
Why is it important for us to laugh?
The health benefits of one good laugh are pretty spectacular; when you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it actually kick starts a series of physical changes in your body.
stimulate many of your internal organs (which makes them work better)
enhance your intake of oxygen-rich air
stimulate your heart, lungs and muscles
and increase the endorphins that are released by your brain, which can help to reduce pain and also lower the stress hormones cortisol and adrenelin
But as this article explains, adults only laugh around 20 times a day compared to children who laugh up to 400 times a day!
Recent research has shown that that figure could actually be lower as things like social isolation and working from home have brought around a laughter deficit!
So ask yourself this question: when was the last time you laughed? And then make it an intention to find something to laugh about each day this summer and beyond.
Why is it important for us to ‘play’?
Play means doing something just for the fun and enjoyment of it, with no goal or expected outcome – when was the last time you did something without having a meaning attached to it?!
When we are in play, it opens us to being present, and it invites us to experience joy.
For everyone play will look different; it might be reflected in your hobbies and interests or the relationships you have in your life. Play can be activities you do on your own, but it is also great when we can do them with other people in our lives. When we share in play, we strengthen connections with others; our children, our partners and even our communities, depending on what we do.
One of the biggest and best benefits of play, is enhancing bonding; either on a personal level or a social level.
Ultimately we can use it as a way to connect and forget about our worries, and that’s what can make it so good for our health.
Play inherently makes way for creativity and innovation, strengthening our ability to problem solve and navigate difficult decisions. Including more play in our lives also encourages us to be present and experience positive emotions like joy and laughter, which in turn helps to balance our lives when we are going through difficult times.
We lead busy lives, in part because we value achievements, so to make time for laughter and play would mean we would need to valueour own well-being. Sometimes slowing down to find the humour in the everyday is worth more than finishing a task, and to play would mean we could allow ourselves to experience joy..
So what’s one way you’re going to add more play into your life this summer? Share in our Facebook Community so as we can create a little bucket list of ideas for each other.
And if you need a little kick start of ideas, then don’t forget you can refer back to this Lifetonic.
Wishing you a month that’s filled with laughter, fun and (hopefully) a whole lot of sunshine!
If you’ve been following along in my Instagram stories (and if you haven’t, then you can do that here), then you’ll know I’ve been struggling with a lot of fatigue and energy dips of late.
Somehow, when you feel fatigued, you always tend to feel weaker in your body and when you feel weaker in your body you can feel less confident which means you start to hold yourself back from doing things that you know are important to you – like building strength.
In midlife we often see the tipping point when it comes to our health; suddenly all the things we had the energy for before, like making it to the gym for a hard and intense workout feel like climbing Everest. Twice. So we start to forgo things that are actually beneficial to us, when in actual fact this is the very stage in life where we should be prioritizing doing things that are good for our health.
So how do we take on Everest in a more manageable way?
Firstly, we should never be hard on ourselves in situation like this – the key thing to remember is that your body is changing, and you just need to keep flexible in your thoughts to change along with it.
That can often mean trying new things or a new approach to see if it works for you and if it aligns with how you’re feeling in your body and mind.
We are all creatures of habit and trying out new ways to exercise can often feel like going against the grain, and like it won’t work, but as our TLC members experience, there is freedom in thinking differently when it comes to your wellbeing, especially when you’re going through the many physical, mental and emotional life changes that midlife brings.
Having a ‘reserve’ of strength in your body is important throughout life, and it’s even more important at midlife as changing hormone levels can negatively impact bone density and also other important aspects of your physiology like cell hydration, which impacts balance and proprioception, collagen production, which impacts tissue elasticity and inflammation, which can impact joint mobility and range of movement.
Having strength is like a kind of insurance policy you can call on if you need to. In fact, if you read this past blog article written for us by an NHS Hip and Knee Surgeon, you’ll see a call from him to “not get old weak.”
I found out just how important this is with my mum last year. As an avid pilates fan and member of TLC, her consultant looked on amazing that she was not only able to sit up in bed without any help, but was able to get herself out of bed on the SAME DAY she’d had her colorectal surgery and was able to wash her face and brush her teeth.
Perhaps an extreme example but the evidence is there to support that fact that you recover faster from injury and illness (and surgery), when you have a reserve of strength to pull from. Many surgeons will now prehab you before surgery if they don’t feel your ‘fit enough’ before an operation.
Having strength also means you can also continue to do all the things you love to do without injuring yourself – like gardening, running, cycling etc.
But here’s the most important thing about this article, you don’t have to be moving heaven and earth nor be doing a full on 60 minute pilates routines, with every gadget under the sun, to get results when it comes to strengthening your body.
In fact, because of the way I’ve been feeling, I’ve scaled things right back and have been following this simple full body strength routine for around 5 minutes each day; helping me to keep making progress even on the more challenging days right now.
These pilates exercises are safe, easy to do and won’t take up hours of your day. They also don’t require any equipment but by adding them into your daily routine, they’ll give you a nice little reserve of that all important strength your midlife body needs.
Let’s dive in………
Curl ups for core strength x 6 – 8 reps daily
This is not a ‘sit up’. It’s also not a ‘crunch.’
Curl ups in pilates are all about training trunk stability by strengthening your core muscles, in particular your transverse abdominal muscle, which is THE deep core stabilsing muscle targeted through pilates work. You can read all about that important muscle in this blog post.
It’s also not all about the front of the body; the curl up is also a mobility exercise for your back; as you lengthen and stretch it throughout the exercise.
A great one for training awareness of working in a neutral pelvis and spine; there is no flattening of your back into the mat to achieve maximum height like in a sit up, this is all about moving with control and awareness, which is why you can typically do LESS of these exercises whilst getting MORE out of them.
Bridge for hip and glute strength x 8 – 10 reps daily
Anyone that has suffered from chronic low back pain will no doubt be more than familiar with the bridge.
This exercises works to strengthen the glutes and other muscles of the hip whilst providing a juicy long stretch for your hip flexors as your hips open towards the sky, which will also help to improve your hip range of movement, especially if you are a ‘sitter’ where your hip flexors tend to be stuck short, which can restrict your range of movement.
The thing I love most about this exercise, is that it’s literally done in 2 moves; going from a flexed position of your hips (start position) to an extended, or open, position of your hips and back to your start position.
You’ll start to feel your glutes fire after only a few. You’re also training a good neuromuscular pattern with this exercise as the glutes are responsible for pushing your pelvis through space (walking), which is what you’re essentially doing here (the pilates squat works in a similar way).
The integrity of your low back during life, let alone middle life, is essential for living a pain free life and this is largely down to the work of the glutes, so don’t let this one slide as you age.
Pilates Plank for full body strength, but especially arms and shoulders x 2 -3 reps holding for around 5 – 20 seconds dail
A perfect all rounder, there is literally no muscle left untouched in a plank; from your head and neck to your ankles and feet, all of your body is involved in this one.
The particular benefit for most though, will be in working to strengthen your upper body, namely your arms and shoulders.
Good form – particularly in the upper body – is really important in the pilates plank – as the muscles of your shoulder girdle blend into your core via your fascia (then down into your inner thighs through the spiral line – told you it was full body).
Focusing on good form means you’ll pick up the right connections in your body which gives you the green light for holding the plank for less time but getting much more out of it whilst strengthening our body quickly.
Pilates is all about working your body more efficiently!
TLC members don’t forget you have a wrist modification video that goes into more detail on how to modify for your wrists in the pilates plank, as well as access to your Pilates Plank tutorial series that will walk you through the mechanics of a good plank, helping you to get the most out of the exercise without having to plank for a ridiculous amount of time (it’s also featured in our Calendar this month!)
Try this this little circuit for the next 7 days to see if you feel stronger at the end of it.
Pilates for me, will ALWAYS be about moving peacefully with my body and respecting where I am in my health journey😊
Sending TLC to wherever you are in the world today.
In midlife pelvic floor work always seems to be about strengthening the pelvic floor and in fact, I’ve worked with some woman who have actually been afraid to do any release work for fear that it’s going to somehow increase leakage etc.
So off the back of a focused month of pelvic floor education for our members, let me explain why release work is just as important as the strength stuff and why you never have to worry about anything ‘falling out.’
The pelvic floor, is subject to a number of hormonal changes throughout the course of woman’s life – the two most notable periods being pregnancy and menopause.
That said, it’s a complete myth that pelvic floor work is only relevant if you’ve had a baby or because you’ve reached menopause; the pelvic floor muscles form part of you core muscle group, working in harmony with your diaphragm (breathing muscle) and you should be training them in all stages of your life regardless of whether you’re pre / postnatal or menopausal.
Releasing your pelvic floor muscles is an important part of control work and whether your pelvic floor is more hypertonic or relaxed, you should still incorporate some release work.
This is to help make sure that any negative tension held in the muscles is truly released before you start to contract them for strength work.
This ultimately means you will pick up more of the muscle fibres of the pelvic floor, which means you’re training them much more optimally and much more functionally.
What I can’t stress enough when you’re doing pelvic floor work is the DIRECTION for releasing and contracting work.
To release your pelvic floor, you should be thinking about a gentle unzipping of the muscles from the front of the vagina (think pubic bone), underneath you towards the back passage.
On an isolated contraction, you are drawing the muscles together from the back passage, towards the front of the vagina and then slowly working to gently draw the muscles up inside.
This is really important to realise; the directional work is key when you’re training your pelvic floor muscles; if you are just pulling up and pushing down on the pelvic floor, you are going to stretch that muscle group in the wrong way and that’s when you can get into trouble!
Other than that, don’t be afraid to do the release work – it’s an important part of maintaining a healthy pelvic floor.
Not only that, if you are someone who often feels particularly tense or stressed, then you’re probably a shallow breather and that means you can be holding tension in your pelvic floor muscles because of the unique way the pelvic floor connects with your diaphragm. And as releasing work is supported through your breath, it can be a very effective way to help you relax and release tension, not just from your pelvic floor muscles, but everywhere else too.
We looked a 4 exercises for developing control of the pelvic floor muscles through release, strength and toning work in our May Lifetonic. It’s an aspect of pilates I absolutely love teaching and developed my knowledge through becoming qualified in pre and postnatal pilates as part of my journey to become a Level 4 qualified movement teacher.
In 2021 I went on to train with specialist stoma care nurses through their ConvaTec Nurse Education Programme – this was a very kind invite from a clinical pilates teacher and core rehabilitation specialist who runs this course for them and who was a great support to me when my mum underwent two life saving surgery for colorectal cancer last year.
Mum’s surgery left her with abdominal weakness, loss of sensation in her pelvic floor and low back pain. I used this training to specifically help rehab her (she was given zero direction on what to do after her operations and no post surgery physiotherapy).
That’s just a little background on my pelvic floor education / CPD work and why I’m so passionate about helping woman maintain their health.
Back to you, are you afraid to do any release work when it comes to your pelvic floor?
Leave me a comment on this post over on Instagram and let me know if I can help you.
Sending TLC to wherever you are reading from.
Struggling to define self care for yourself at midlife?
I have a question for you to ponder – do you think you’re addicted to your mobile phone?
I know I do and I know it’s not great for my overall wellbeing.
I rely on my phone to run my business, keep a running list of shopping lists and to-dos, scheduling appointments, connecting with friends, booking train tickets, I even use it to control my lights at home! (I have the Hive system).
And if I’m being honest, I often feel like I am constantly connected to my phone, plus I very rarely use it to actually make a call!
Maybe you can relate?
Putting your mobile down more often is good for your health in so many ways. It helps to reduce stress and anxiety that stem from constantly being connected to email and social media, improves sleep quality, and lessens the strain we put on our necks and backs from long periods of time spent looking downward.
And by reaching for our phones less often, we also get to spend more meaningful one-on-one time with those we gather with — an important part of being able to find joy and abundance in life.
So this month in The Lifetonic Club we’re going to focus on the health benefits of reducing our phone use.
Because we rely on our phones to help us with so many things in our lives, it’s very easy to pick them up even when we don’t have anything specific to check or do. For example, I find often find myself scrolling through instagram when I am standing at the bus stop – twice I’ve been so checked out of my mind, that I’ve actually missed the bus which has made me late and angry for no reason!
If you’re up for joining me in the attempt to spend less time on our phones this month, I’m suggesting a few strategies to help you:
Use the Screen Time function (for iPhone users) or Digital Wellbeing function (for Android users) to get an idea of how much you use your phone. Then, set time limits for specific apps. Just by setting this up and giving it a try, you can see how often you open certain apps on your phone and start to be more mindful of how you use them. For the apps that you spend the most time on, consider this question: how is this app improving and supporting my wellbeing?
Set a few “down times” during the day when you can put your phone in another room. This will help you to be present throughout the day and reduce distractions that might affect the quality time you spend with others or on certain activities. I like to use the Down Time function on my iPhone to make certain apps inaccessible during specific days or windows of time.
Use the time you could be scrolling to do something for yourself! Read a book for 15 minutes, get down on your mat for a quick Pilates workout, or simply go for a walk.
Sign out of the apps that lead to you falling down a rabbit whole. This can help create a barrier between you and the app as you then have to log in to use it. You may be more inclined to think about whether or not you really want to spend your time on your phone or doing something else?
You might try one or two of these ideas each week in June to see how well they work for you. The idea is to get more mindful about how you use your phone.
Want to go one step further? Then I invite you to join me in a very simple challenge for the month:
CHALLENGE: Take a 24 hour ‘digital sabbatical.’ That means you actively turn your phone off for the whole day. And please only do this challenge if you do not rely on your phone for emergency contact things!
It may seem like quite the stretch but having tried it, I can reassure you that it can be transformational for your wellbeing.
If you do decide to give this a try, take a note each week of the thoughts, behaviours and feelings you have towards your 24 hour digital sabbatical. No judgement here. Just observations.
I’ve consciously used my phone a lot less since January and it has had a real positive impact on my wellbeing – my concentration has improved, so has my productivity, and my patience (does anyone else get unreasonably annoyed by the constant ‘bing’ of a what’s app message?).
It’s also helped to improve my mindset around not comparing myself to others (which I can often do on social media).
But the surprising revelation is how much money it’s saved me on my bill each month! With the cost of living rapidly rising in the UK, I’m seeing this an unexpected and very welcome WIN!
I’ll sign off by saying that, if you find reducing your mobile phone use to be a real challenge, here are a few resources to help your mindset towards this month’s Lifetonic: .
The New York Times recently wrote this article about how putting your phone down can actually increase your life expectancy!
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.