Are you in need of a fresh challenge for September? Then you might want to join my FREE 30 Day Pilates Plank Challenge!
Be aware that this is NOT a traditional plank challenge where you’re asked to plank for an extended period of time!
This is a much smarter plank challenge, which focuses on teaching you good alignment, correct form and understanding the connections that are required to support your body in a truly intelligent way.
The Pilates Way!
If you struggle to find the time to build strength efficiently in your body then this is the challenge for you.
Strength is the number one way to protect your body from injury including things like back, neck and shoulder pain, and the pilates plank is one of the most efficient ways to build functional, full body strength.
Done correctly, did you know that you’ll see results quickly?
You can sign up below to be sent your challenge resources, which include:
Your FREE 30 day challenge calendar (printable PDF)
Access to a short ‘How to Plank (the pilates way) video’ (including modifications and tips to avoid wrist and toe discomfort when planking)
Access to a super quick ‘Pilates Plank Variations’ video (giving you planking options from beginners to advanced, so you can take part no matter what level you’re at)
PLUS I’ll be dropping in with regular motivation and teaching points to keep you inspired along the way!
Our challenge starts on 1 September (tomorrow!) but you can jump in at any point.
Work your body smarter not harder – SIGN UP BELOW to join us!
FREE 30 Day Pilates Plank Challenge
JOIN TODAY AND LEARN TO BUILD STRENGTH THE PILATES WAY!
We all struggle with our motivation. Yes – even me! I love pilates, I love what it does for my body and how it makes me feel, but there are some days where I run out of steam too – just like you!
But here’s the thing with motivation…research shows that motivation often FOLLOWS action, not the other way around.
But what does that mean in practice?
It’s actually more important to get on the mat when you feel like you’d really rather not because this is where you have the most opportunity to learn just how impactful moving your body for a short space of time can actually be.
In turn, this can act as a powerful catalyst that can help to keep you going, even on the days where you feel least like it!
Today, I’m sharing 4 simple tricks to help you get on your mat when you’re really lacking motivation and inspiration…
1. Ask yourself, what’s your alternative to not getting on your mat?
On those challenging days, I’ll often consider what my alternative is to NOT moving.
Usually it means just sitting, which brings with it a little bit of overthinking too and a feeling of on-going sluggishness.
Maybe you’ve been there too?
Translated – it means I’m not really doing anything useful for my physical or mental wellbeing and am actuallycontributing to making myself feel worse by doing nothing.
Whether it’s 1 minute, or longer, here are some of the incredible ways your body benefits just by simply moving it:
You oil your joints which prevents stiffness in your body (and lowers your risk of injury and back pain)
you increase your flow of oxygen. Why does that matter? Well oxygen is an essential ingredient of ENERGY! It’s a process known as cellular respiration and it requires glucose and oxygen to create ATP (which is the physiological term for energy).
If you want to read more about how your body creates energy, then I’d really recommend you read this blog post by our wonderful TLC nutritionist, Moira.
movement helps keep your digestive system active – this is essential for getting rid of waste and detoxifying your body
it improves your circulation which can prevent things like blood clots (follow this link to try a quick standing pilates routine). It’s also all up hill to your brain and movement helps pump blood upstream!
Knowing these benefits makes it a bit counter intuitive to NOT take action wouldn’t you say?
See for yourself…
I always encourage my Lifetonic Club members to hit play on the shortest routine in their Bodytonic Library, which is a 7 minute pilates warm up routine, because 7 minutes is better than none and just look at how you stand to benefit!
You can try it for yourself here:
2. Rate your transformation
I’ve been busy rehabing my mum following two rounds of life saving colorectal surgery and we use a fatigue scale to work out how tired mum is, which then helps me work out the right rehab things for us to work on.
It’s brilliant and works really well because it’s just a simple metric!
Based on that, I created the Little Book of Pilates Progress, for Lifetonic Club members. This little book allows members to keep track of their pilates progress by measuring things like their flexibility, mobility and strength as well as their energy levels and how calm they feel.
They can also measure important aspects of their health that contribute towards their overall wellbeing, things like their key relationships, their personal growth, their finances even how much time they’re making for fun things in their life.
Because The Lifetonic Club uniquely doesn’t focus on the more traditional health and fitness measures like flat abs or what you weigh, it’s given us a much more holistic way to measure progress on (and off), the mat.
Making something tangible gives you a sense of achievement and accomplishment, which helps with motivation.
Being able to see the progress that I’m making with my health goals, and knowing that I’m more than likely going to feel better as a result, is a powerful way that gets me on my mat every time, so if you’re really struggling, I’d recommend you try something as simple as rating how you feel before and how you feel after your time on the mat.
3. Reward yourself
This is an EASY win that I love to do!
Our brains LOVE reward! Rewarding yourself for doing something is a proven way to help kick start a dopamine-driven feedback loop and when dopamine rises, so does our motivation to act.
It’s called Temptation Bundling and means that you can pair an action you want to do (watch an episode of your favourite netfix show), with an action you need to do (10 minutes of pilates).
Pick a reward that’s super attractive to you and you’ll instantly feel motivated to roll out your mat.
4. Double up on the positive self talk
Does any of this sound familiar?
“ I’m too busy, I’ll just do it tomorrow” (prioritising someone or something over yourself)
“I can’t really be bothered” (not viewing your health as important)
“I’ve missed 2 workouts already this week, what’s the point of doing something now? (seeking perfection)
Let’s be honest, when you’re low and lacking in motivation, the voice of the inner critic can be strong in helping you find those extra reasons to stay on the sofa!
It’s in these moments where I double up on my positive self talk (or the voice of my inner good-ness…).
This can be challenging when you’re lacking in motivation, because for every negative thought you have about yourself, research says you need to have 8 positive ones to counter it.
So I encourage you to be ready for those days by having a little bank of at least 8 positive affirmations that you can say kindly towards yourself on those off days.
Unlike other types of fitness programmes, pilates lends itself particularly well to an at home environment because it’s uniquely non-competitive and also encourages you to be full of mindfulness on the mat, which means that you don’t necessarily need to lean on the support of others in the moment.
Outside of that, we have our TLC Facebook Community Group where we connect for support, motivation and inspiration. This is a wonderful community who will cheer you every step of the way to reach your pilates goals!
So whether you’re just getting started with an at-home workout practice, or have been at it for a while and are looking for some extra motivation to set yourself up for success, the tips below will help you to stay on track and get the results you signed up for!
Tip #1: Wear what you feel most comfortable in
The beauty of home workouts is you don’t have to get dressed in the latest activewear to get on the mat! You can wear whatever you want!
I’ve been known to work out in my pajamas and you’ll often see me on Instagram sneaking in 10 minutes of pilates here and there in my jeans!
Some days jeans are fine but on other days changing into actual workout clothes gives me a boost that encourages me to show up with more intention and focus on my mat.
Remember in The Lifetonic Club we’re on the mat to tune into how we feel, so pay attention to this during your workouts, and choose to wear something that works best for you!
And definitely don’t be fooled by the influencers on Instagram who make it look as though you need to have dropped several thousands of pounds in Sweaty Betty to ‘look’ the part.
Tip #2: Create at-home workout triggers
In The Lifetonic Club I talk a lot about using triggers to help motivate and encourage you to get on the mat. These can be especially useful with an at-home practice.
I often encourage our members to try and create a small space that they use just for their pilates practice. This space can act as your visual trigger to get on the mat.
The more you do pilates in this space, the more you associate this space with pilates. This can serve as a powerful way to ‘anchor’ the practice in your brain and help you to develop the habit of getting on your mat.
And if that doesn’t work for you, you can also just keep your mat rolled up somewhere you can see it. This is something I’ve done for years to remind me that those positive, feel good vibes are only a 15 minute workout away.
And this isn’t just a crazy idea – research shows that if you are looking to integrate a new habit into your life, then you need to make the cue, (in this case your mat), a big part of your environment.
Tip #3: Think simplicity
It’s easy to think that you need all kinds of equipment at home to get a good workout but that simply isn’t true! We’ve found in The Lifetonic Club that the more simple you keep your routine, the more likely you are to stay consistent – and consistency leads to results.
Nearly all of the workouts within The Lifetonic Club use your bodyweight to build strength and don’t require expensive equipment or an elaborate set up.
So if you want to stick with your routine for more than a few days – keep it simple.
Tip #4: Have a plan
In The Lifetonic Club, members benefit from a clear plan and calendar to follow from home, helping them to skip decision fatigue. When you are busy and feeling a little low on energy, not having a plan can be a real barrier to getting on your mat at home.
Also, a quick search on YouTube and Instagram will pull up thousands of free workouts and it’s hard to know where to start (and also who’s qualified to teach what!).
Each month in TLC, I put a calendar together so as members know what to do each day, how long they are going to need and how they can track their results.
If you’re a member of The Lifetonic Club, then you’ll also benefit from the coaching I provide inside our private Facebook Group. I go live 2 to 3 times a week where I teach you all about movement, motivation and mindset. All the things that I love and that help drive a successful at home practice that’s going to get you those all important results.
I’m also working towards both my qualification in stress management and wellbeing and my Level 4 pilates (always busy!), so I’m in the Group regularly sharing ALL my learnings to help you build strength, lower those stress levels and help you feel great in ways that will bring about those long term results.
I’ve been sharing some tips on my Instagram stories all around small shifts I’ve made to help me manage stress and anxiety on a daily basis. I like to think of it as a fresh, yet simple perspective, on the fight against stress
Back pain is what brought me to pilates, but the underlying cause of that back pain was stress, caused by years of not listening to my body when I was in the corporate world.
It took me a LONG time to work that out, and it’s only been in the last 5 years that I’ve joined all the dots together and started to turn things around. Up until that point all I was doing, was going round and round in a stress cycle, feeling tired, irritable, tense and low on energy all of the time.
Small changes, big impact
Pilates was a catalyst to me becoming so much more intentional with my health, but the surprising thing was finding out just how much of a BIG impact SMALL changes can actually have.
It has been the accumulation of these small changes that have made the biggest difference to my stress levels and how I feel each day.
So much so, that part of my morning routine is now actually all about asking myself that very question – how do I want to feel – and then planning my day in a way that supports this.
It is this concept of ‘how do I want to feel,’ that underpins The Lifetonic Club.
And here’s the really magical thing, the more you ask this question, the more you’ll start to notice the things that are taking you away from how you want to feel, especially those things that add stress and anxiety to your life. It has been a real game changer for me.
The surprising question to ask yourself daily
There is growing evidence that subjective health is becoming one of the best predictors of long term health – asking questions like ‘how do I feel’ and ‘does this work for me’ and using them as a guide to shape the things around you, instead of fitting into a rigid plan.
This approach has worked especially well for me because it opened my eyes to the fact that our health doesn’t start and stop – there is no on the wagon / off the wagon when it comes to your health, it’s always on-going; shifting and changing with the different seasons and experiences we find ourselves in.
This realisation has led me to have a more flexible approach to my health, which in turn has led me to understand my own personal drivers of stress and how I can then take quick action to control them better.
Pilates for stress relief
For me, I’ve let go of the fact that I need to spend 60 minutes working out to get relief from the feelings of stress and anxiety. Through many years of experimenting and trying every fitness regime in the book, there is now nothing that lowers my cortisol levels and increases my endorphins faster than a 15 minute pilates workout.
Pilates can be incredibly powerful in providing a place for the body to relax, rejuvenate and release tension. It also provides a space for the mind to focus and become present in the moment. The Pilates principle, breath, oxygenates the blood which triggers the brain to calm down. The breath creates a physiological response in the body that naturally decreases our stress and anxiety.
How stress manifests
Stress can manifest itself in your body in many ways from headaches, stomach aches, digestive issues, back pain, muscle tension, dizziness, even rashes and skin disorders. Stress compromises your immune system, disrupts your sleep, and creates tension in relationships. Stress leads to weight gain.
One of the best things we can do for our health is to better understand our health on an on-going basis, remain flexible with it and track our stress drivers so as we can get ahead of the game and manage them proactively.
For me, stress can often leave me super low on energy, particularly if I’ve been working on a big project for my business, so if I want to feel more energetic, then I‘ll make sure that I open my day with an affirmation that anchors this feeling for me; something like “energy flows to and through me.”
I’ll select a short pilates routine from the TLC Bodytonic Library that has an energetic theme to it (our rejuvenation flow workout has been my go to for April) and I’ll make sure that my snacks for the day are going to boost my energy naturally instead of double dosing on caffeine and sugar.
Mid-afternoon, I’ll whip up something like the strawberry almond protein smoothie from our TLC recipe bundles.
On another day, I might feel that I need more focus or calm, so I’ll follow a similar process but maybe add in a bit of journaling, or a Guided Relaxation from the Mindtonic Library.
Simple but powerful changes that I flex and change as my stress levels and feelings of anxiety dictate.
For more, you can always read this article I wrote where I shared 5 quick and easy ways to relax and reduce stress.
Shortly I start my coaching certification in Stress Management and Wellbeing so as I can continue to develop The Lifetonic Club into a resource that will truly educate, support and transform your health; pilates but SO much more.
Pilates for managing stress and anxiety on YouTube
My latest YouTube video is in support of National Stress Awareness Month. It’s a short but effective routine all about staying present and reconnecting to yourself – essential when you feel like everything else around you is out of control, which is in keeping with the theme of National Stress Awareness Month.
Find that 15 minutes for yourself and lower those stress levels now.
I would love it if you could leave a comment or thumbs up if you enjoy it.
It really does help me to keep making other useful videos for our community.
P.S. If you’re interested in trying pilates to lower your stress levels for yourself, then I created my FREE 21 Day Pilates Challenge especially for this reason. You’ll get a 10 minute video sent straight to your inbox for 21 days. All you need to do is roll out your mat at a time that suits you. You can sign up below to get started today…
Ever wondered if doing shorter pilates workouts of around 10 to 15 minutes can really transform your health and wellbeing? Then this blog post is for you.
Kindly written by Carrie MacWilliam, a member of my pilates membership, The Lifetonic Club. Carrie shares her story of how being able to do shorter pilates workouts have allowed her to stay consistent with exercise, build her strength back up quickly after having a baby and feel more confident in her body and relaxed in her mind on an on-going basis.
You’ll also read how it’s given her the energy and patience needed to take care of herself & her family.
Why I chose pilates to help me regain strength & confidence
About a year ago I made the leap back into exercise after a three year hiatus. From a very young age I’d always been an active person and enjoyed keeping fit, but the stresses of pregnancy and demands of being a working mum had put that on the backburner – there just never seems to be enough hours in the day! My confidence in my body had also taken a knock.
low on energy
stiff and achy especially in my low back
disconnected from my own body and mind
I had tried really hard to get back into the swing of things with exercise but finding time to get to the gym felt almost impossible. W hen I did make it, I was exhausted breaking a neck to get their on time, and carrying all the gym kit was like a workout in itself! The classes were fast and loud and I often left feeling kind of more exhausted than I was before I arrived.
Something just wasn’t working for me – I knew I wanted to strengthen my body and rebuild my confidence; I needed a new approach but I just wasn’t sure what that was!
Then I discovered an advertisement for pilates for beginners through Ostara Pilates along with Julie’s blog post on the benefits of pilates. All the benefits of practising Pilates completely rang true to me and felt this is what I needed to take my first steps to truly strengthen my body and rebuild my confidence.
I signed up for 6 weeks of pilates for beginners. Making the initial time for myself and not feeling guilty for that was the first step. Julie helped me understand that by taking time to look after my own health, put me in a much better position to take care of everyone else’s; the old adage “you can’t pour from an empty cup.”
But guess what, as a new mum, busy PR Director and wife, I still struggled with finding those 60 minutes to get to class….
What shorter workouts have done for me
I joined The Lifetonic Club during the pandemic and started by following the pre-planned calendar, making a commitment to do at least 15 mins per day for 30 days and here’s what happened.
Gone was the clock watching and worry of finishing on time to make a class (then feeling guilty when I didn’t quite manage it!)
There was no more packing and lugging a gym bag (not to mention the stress of trying to get changed before a class)
My inconsistent approach to looking after my health disappeared
I no longer felt knackered after every workout
Instead, I got:
A flexible & realistic approach to working out
An easy to follow plan that has helped me to stay consistent even on the days when I don’t feel like doing much
A quicker way to see improvements in my overall health and fitness (I often now do over 2 hours a week in a way that suits me, while also giving me some much needed breathing space)
Support from an amazing community of people all working towards improving their health and fitness in a practical and fun way
A sense of comfort and nourishment whilst everything in the outside world seems so upside down
On the physical side I couldn’t believe how quickly my body’s overall strength and stability returned.
Within one week I felt stronger and more toned. By the second week I felt like I was actually gaining more energy with every session as well as feeling calmer. By 4 weeks my flexibility was so much better and I wasn’t aching as much from taking care of a toddler! I also noticed that I had naturally lost the weight that had come with a maternity leave of cake and hot chocolate.
I feel all the positive endorphins after every session no matter how short and like I have worked all the right places in the right way, and it feels good!
How staying consistent has left me feeling
In short, this is how finding shorter bursts of time for myself has left me feeling:
more positive and energised each day
calmer & stronger than I ever have before
free from niggly aches and pains and tension headaches (but also know what to do if I feel them coming on!)
much more intentional with all aspects of my wellbeing which has a huge ripple effect on those around me (patience with a toddler is a big ask but I now have the confidence to tackle more strenuous activity which in turn has given me a big boost)
Who wouldn’t want to feel like that each day?
I don’t ever remember enjoying exercise as much as I do now so if you’re looking for a way to make long lasting change to your wellbeing routine & have fun with it too, then The Lifetonic Club is for you!
You can read more about joining our pilates membership, The Lifetonic Club here.
Inspired by Carrie’s results? Want to try all the incredible benefits of pilates for yourself? Than sign up below for my FREE 21 Days of Pilates Challenge.
Whether it’s 10 minutes or 60 minutes, the best thing about pilates is that you can get everything you need from a session without any pilates equipment, making it super accessible and easy to get started.
BUT what happens when you’re looking to take things up a notch?!
Enter pilates props (think small equipment); things like the overball (small ball), therabands, light hand weights, the pilates magic circle, a yoga block can all add variety to your matwork, helping to keep them fresh and exciting.
Pilates props also help to isolate or engage specific muscles, and can foster “a-ha” moments even during the most familiar exercises. Like the springs on a Reformer, props can provide support and stability or offer more challenge, depending upon the movement being performed and how they are used – they are also just really good fun, which is what workouts should be!
Here are some of the most commonly used pilates props and how to use them.
1. Foam Roller
The best friend of a lot of sporting professionals and physios, the foam roaller is widely known as a rehab tool designed to smooth out your fascia. As it has a wobbly surface, it’s brilliant for challenging balance. In a vertical position, you can lie on it and try Arm Circles, Single Knee Fold, Toe Taps, or Dead Bug to get those core stability muscles firing. Or turn it horizontally and rest your pelvis on the Roller while spine curling, working up to Bridge. Placed beneath the shoulder blades, it’s fantastic for supporting curl ups and oblique twists and facilitates spinal extension – amazing after being a desk all day!
2. Light hand weights
In Pilates, we use light hand weights to keep the emphasis on the entire body. One- or two-pound weights add challenge to the Standing Arm Series and just about any of the mat repertoire – yes even single leg stretch! Many Reformer exercises, from Coordination to Rowing to Backstroke, can be done on the Mat using Hand Weights.
You’ll find these being used in my Foundational and Core mat classes, Total Barre and also my HIP Pilates class. Brilliant for toning the upper body and building strength in the core (and in the case of single leg stretch, co-ordination too!)
Probably the most versatile of all the pilates props, it is a long, stretchy band that’s available in varying levels of resistance, and is great for stretching the hamstrings and lower back while lying on the Mat – it was in deed a life saver for me when I suffered with my chronic low back pain. I’d use mine to stretch my hamstrings twice a day. The band can add resistance and challenge in so many of the mat exercises including the Side-Lying Leg Series, and it provides support and stability in exercises such as the Roll Up, Roll Back, and One Leg Circle.
Again you’ll find the theraband in my mat classes and also my Barre class.
Probably my favourite pilates prop, the overall is a dream piece of kit for wakening up the surrounding muscles of the inner thighs, ankles, or palms when it’s placed between any one of these parts. It’s also a great for challenging stability and getting those deep core muscles to fire when placed under the pelvis (love doing toe taps this way) and provides a great modification tool when placed under the thoracic spine to help with curl ups.
I also use it in prenatal behind the mid-back to avoid my ladies lying supine (flat on the back) for an extended period of time.
I run a specific pilates with the small ball classes – check my schedule for more information and to book. This is the piece of kit to give you serious shakes and wobbles!
5. Tennis ball
Joseph Pilates invented several small pieces of Pilates equipment specifically to engage and work the feet, most famously the Foot Corrector. The small size and firmness of a tennis ball makes it ideal for waking up the feet. Try rolling the sole of your foot over a tennis ball while standing or seated (try it whilst you’re working at your desk to keep your feet mobile!).
Tennis balls can also be placed under tender areas such as the hips or shoulders for a static stretch or gentle rolling massage.
You will have seen the tennis ball in use during tennis ball rising in my mat classes (we also use spikey balls, which we’ll talk about next).
6. Franklin ball (spikey ball)
These small, inflatable balls are used to massage and wake up the muscles and fascia. Placed beneath the pelvis, lower back, shoulders, or other tight or sore spots, spikey balls work with the body’s own weight to release tension. These balls can be used for static holds or you can slide them back and forth across the fasciae for a self-massage.
Again I’ve used these quite a lot in my matwork classes and last year attended an Art of Motion teacher training course on the slings system with the wonderful Katherine Pentecost. This training class was focused on using these little pieces of wonder to help you find glide and release through your fascia system.
I’ve only ever used the pole in Reformer sessions, but they are so effective when added to exercises like the classic Roll Up as it adds resistance and a challenge on the way up from the floor and contributes to a great stretch in the forward rounding position.
8. Magic Circle
I would have said that this is the most well known of all the pilates props, but I think in recent years there has definitely been a shift more towards the overball in its place. Still, this deceptively simple tool has endless uses and is a firm favourite of mine – you cannot get a better inner thigh workout!
It’s a resistance based circle that you can hold between the ankles, thighs, or palms for finding the mid-line or your ‘centre;’ an important pilates principle (think of the phrase “naval to spine”). The Magic Circle can also create instability (the same way an overball does) when balanced on the floor beneath an outstretched hand in the Side-Lying, or Side Kick Kneeling, or under the ankle of the stationary leg in the One Leg Circle. There’s also an entire standing series performed with the Circle placed above and between the ankle bones — a major balance challenge.
Did you know that many pilates exercises can be modified so that they can be done in a seated position? Sitting upright is especially beneficial for beginners, as it encourages length in the spine (the same effect can be achieved by sitting on a Foam Roller or a Yoga Block). Try Spine Stretch Forward, Spine Twist, or the Saw, for starters. Bonus: you can do these on an airplane or at your desk.
10. Yoga block
In yoga classes, blocks are commonly used to bring the floor closer to you in Forward Folds. In pilates, these firm but not rigid foam blocks can take the place of a magic Circle or an Overball. They can prop up the sacrum in a Bridge and provide a useful perch in any of the seated exercises. Lightly hugging a block between the hands in Single Leg Kick engages the back muscles and upper arms. And can also be used in place of a cushion for the Big Squeeze.
Try adding props to your Mat work and see if it doesn’t challenge you in interesting ways and reveal new information about the exercises and your body.
Hope to see you on the mat!
P.S. Have you grabbed your FREE 20 minute Strength & Stretch pilates workout yet? It’s perfect for beginner level right through to advanced and will give you just the release you need in your body if it’s feeling tight and out of balance. Grab it by clicking here now.
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
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.
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!).
Ibecame a big fan of doing just 15 minutes of pilates when myDad 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
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.
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.
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.
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:
Any cramping or gripping sensation in your hip flexor and quad muscles?
Tightness or tugging sensation around the groin?
A sore lower back?
A sore or numb bum?
Do you ever feel tightness or gripping around the hips?
Do you sit a lot for work?
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:
Your core (abs, obliques, diaphragm)
Your pelvic floor
The deep 6 muscles of our hips
Your lower limb muscles (like your hamstrings and quads)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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