Have you ever put the word 'Pilates' into google images and viewed what comes up? You'll be presented with endless photos of beautiful young women doing all kinds of gymnastic and acrobatic Pilates movements which is amazing to see but that's NOT what the originator, Joseph Pilates created it for. No, he was convinced way back in the 1940's that we were moving into an increasingly stressful world and that we all needed to devote far more attention to our fitness and wellbeing no matter what our age. And let's face it, we are all going to spend a lot more time being older rather than younger! Youth is fleeting and once we get past our thirties the wear and tear of an ageing body begins to take it's toll. And that's nothing to get worried about, it's just life, so what can we do?
This is the time of year when our thoughts turn to changing old habits and getting fitter and healthier. Inevitably, post the Christmas excesses I see an influx of new clients eager to lose weight, shape up and get fit for the New Year, and equally within 6-10 weeks many of them will have slipped back into old habits; missing classes or sessions because of work, children, not feeling well and generally feeling they don't have the time needed to do it. Why does this happen year on year I wonder? I think it's because we set our expectations way too high and when we don't reach those impossible heights, we simply give up.
Let’s face it, most of us would benefit from being getting a bit (a lot?) more exercise. Children over five and teenagers should, according to the Department of Health, be doing a bare minimum of 60 minutes ‘moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity’ every day. And once you reach adulthood you’re not off the hook. If you’re between 19-64 you should aim to be physically active for at least 20 minutes every day, and for no less than an hour and a half each week.
When you see it written down like that it doesn’t look that much, but for many of us there can be little time between work and family commitments to focus on fitness. It’s often the last priority when it should really be right up there. How can you do everything else that’s expected of you, after all, if you don’t look after yourself?
So here is a fun, and sociable (and slightly competitive!) fitness challenge for the whole family to enjoy over the Easter break. I’ve done it with a family I teach regularly, so it’s a tried and tested workout! This is your chance to see who’s the fittest - mum, dad, or the kids!
Rachel’s five day fitness challenge!
The whole family needs to do the five exercises below for the week leading up to Easter Sunday. To make sure everyone is motivated to stay the course you could offer a special Easter treat as a reward to everyone who completes the challenge.
Start by doing 4 repetitions of each exercise on Monday 30th March, then add one extra repetition of each exercise per day until Easter Sunday, by which time you'll be doing 10 of each.
Do make sure you all do the workout on something soft when you’re lying down, a carpet will do as long as you have no back problems.
And that’s it!
I’ll be posting on my blog and facebook page too so please let me know how you’re getting on, who completed the task and what your reward was!
The Eggsercises – sorry, but it is Easter!
Roll down and walk the plank
Standing up straight to begin with, feet hip distance apart. Start to roll your spine down starting from the neck until your hands are close to the floor. Bend your knees, put your hands on the floor and start to walk forward with your hands until you are in the plank position. Take a breath and then walk your hands back until they are near your feet and roll back up.
Start kneeling on all fours, then lift your right arm and left leg at the same time and balance like a flying superhero. Hold it for a moment, then do the same on the other side. You need to do both sides to count as one repetition.
The Chiswick Bridge
Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet hip width apart and arms down by your side. Pull your tummy in, tilt your pelvis towards you and roll your pelvis up starting from the tailbone until your body is in a bridge position with your pelvis in the air. Take a breath, then roll the spine back down onto the floor.
The Westside Leg Lift
Lying on your side, bottom arm straight out in line with your body and with your head resting on it. Make sure your legs are together and that you are completely on your side so that your hips don’t roll forward and you are not arching your back. Place the hand of your top arm in front of your chest with elbow bent. Breathe out and try to lift both legs off the floor without your spine arching or your hips rolling forward or back. You need to keep your body in as straight a line as possible.
The Chiswick House Swan Prep
Lie on your front with your arms bent, elbows close to the sides of your body and palms facing down. Pull your tummy in and away from the floor. As you breathe in lift your back up slowly until you feel the weight on your elbows. Breathe out to lower back down to the floor. If your back feels ok, you can progress to lifting up until your arms are straight. At no point must you sag in the back, keep the abdominals pulling in to protect your lower back. The kids will do this one easily, us adults find it a bit more challenging as our flexibility decreases with age!
Don’t forget to let me know how you got on by posting here or on my Facebook page!
And a very Happy Easter to you!
© Rachel Lawrence. All rights reserved. No reproduction without permission.
Turning my back on a successful career in television to become a Pilates instructor was definitely a leap of faith for me. But it looks like the change of lifestyle is starting to pay off as my Chiswick based Pilates classes have just been voted the Best Pilates Class in West London by the West London Mum Live.Love.Local Awards. I'm overwhelmed and thrilled all at the same time!
Having just taught a Pilates workshop aimed at runners for lululemon UK in London, I thought it would be timely to follow up with some thoughts on exactly why core strength is so important if you run.
Run faster and further with less chance of injury
Whether your running is an occasional weekend pursuit, a regular part of your fitness week or indeed your profession having a strong core is vital not only for injury prevention but to increase your overall strength. Running is an easy way to keep in cardiovascular shape but there's no doubt your body can take a pounding due to the nature of it being high impact on the joints, as well as the potential to develop asymmetries. Body asymmetries develop from poor body mechanics which causes certain muscles to become overused, whilst others become underused resulting in a variety of ailments such as lower back pain, hip bursitis, knee pain, tendonitis, hamstring tears, strains and pulls.
The Core of the Matter
Runners like any athlete should view the body as a functional unit consisting of many parts which work together and have specific roles in performance as well as injury prevention. And at the centre of the body is the core, that area between the bottom of the rib cage and the pelvis. It's the epicentre of your power and deserves your attention and your time. All movement starts from the core, and when running it endures a considerable workload. The bottom line is if you're not strong in the middle you won't be powerful. For runners this core strength comes into play as a stabiliser of the body; being able to maintain good posture will maximise your performance and help avoid injury. Core stability is achieved through muscles that are strong but evenly balanced as well as flexible enough to enable the relevant joints to move through their full range of motion. And because everything in the core is connected, excessive tightness in any area can limit movement elsewhere and lead to injury. Tightness results in poor posture, and poor posture creates inefficiency. It's a vicious circle.
Why do Pilates?
Pilates exercises create a stronger, more flexible spine and core as well as promote faster recovery from injury. Good posture is dependant on a strong core, and whilst many knowledgeable athletes understand the importance of a good set of abs, they often neglect the other key core muscles of the lower back, hips, pelvis and bottom. Pilates will build up the back muscles evenly, align as well as elongate the spine for better stability, and increase overall flexibility, strength and balance. Pilates will increase the range of motion in hips and shoulders whilst strengthening them at the same time and it will expand the diaphragm. It will also enhance concentration through the focused breathing technique that is fundamental to the practice.
If you have a stronger, more stable core you will run more efficiently uphill with a stabilised musculature, run more efficiently downhill with a strong and more balanced sciatic area, experience less tightening in the neck and shoulders, and increase oxygenation and stamina with a diaphragm that is able to expand fully. You'll also decrease fatigue because of less strain on your body, and be able to focus on correct technique as you develop better kinaesthetic awareness. There’s no doubt core training can pay huge dividends and in the long run your body will thank you for it. And the best bit of all?
You'll shave seconds off your times because you simply move better and more efficiently.
Now that can’t be bad can it?
© Rachel Lawrence. All rights reserved. No reproduction without permission.