Pilates exercises (not for first timers!)

A little routine for my own clients, please do not use this if you do not normally do Pilates with us at BackFit. This is a mix of exercise to practice and perfect at home. Good luck, do not strain or push past your normal ability; everything will improve with practice, determination and continual repetition.

One of the most frequently asked questions about Pilates is: Will Pilates help me lose weight? The short answer is yes, Pilates is supportive of weight loss. In many cases just beginning Pilates class, or a home routine, is enough to jump start weight loss. However, as time goes by you may find that your body becomes accustomed to your workout level. Then, you will need to increase the intensity of your workout enough to help you continue to burn extra calories. Here are some ideas to help you amp up your workout:

1. Pelvic Tilt from a neutral position

 (courtesy of Peak Pilates)
The warm-up exercises are very important in teaching the foundations of Pilates movement. They also prepare the body for safely executing more challenging exercises later. I suggest that you choose at least two or three to begin each Pilates routine you do.

2. Chest Lift

 (by Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios)
Muscular focus: abdominals - especially upper abs
Tips: This is not a crunch. The abdominals must be pulled way down into a deep scoop as you use them to control a slow, smooth curl up and roll down.

3. The Hundred

 (courtesy of Peak Pilates)
Beginners please use the knees in a table top position.
Muscular focus: abdominals, breathing
Tips: Your abdominals will be deeply pulled in, so you will have to use your full lung capacity by breathing into your back and lower ribs. Use your abs to hold yourself up--don't get caught up in your shoulders and neck.

4. The Roll Up 

 ((c)2006 Marguerite Ogle)
Beginners please bend your knees
Muscular focus: abdominals
Tips: Use your abdominals to roll up and down with control. Do not rely on momentum or letting your legs lift off the mat.

5. One Leg Circle

 (courtesy of Peak Pilates)
Beginners bend the non active leg.
Muscular focus: abdominals, thighs, hip flexors
Tips: The abdominals keep the pelvis stable as the leg moves. No rocking and rolling!

6. Rolling Like a Ball

  (by Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios)
Beginners put your hands behind the thighs. Round the back and breath in as you roll back, breath out on the return to balance point.
Muscular focus: abdominals
Tips: Stay in your curve for the whole exercise. Initiate the roll back with the abs and not by throwing the upper body back.

7. Open Leg Balance

 (courtesy of Kolesar Studios)
Practice from the balance point you used with the roll back position and start by straightening one leg at a time.
Muscular focus: abdominals, hamstring stretch
Tips: Use you abdominals to control the pose. Try not to pull on your legs for balance.

8. The Side Kick Series

  (by Peter Kramer, courtesy of Kolesar Studios)
Do not over stretch the leg, focus on keeping the leg long and strong.
Muscular focus: abdominals, all thigh muscles - especially inner thigh
Tips: The ribs should stay lifted throughout each exercise. Do not let them sink to the mat.

9. Front Support/Plank  the press up the position.

 (courtesy of Peak Pilates)
Muscular focus: back extensors, abdominals, shoulders, arms
Tips: Stay in one line from your heels to your ears. Though the focus is somewhat on the upper body, if you engage the legs and imagine squeezing the sit bones together, the exercise will be easier.

10. Saw 

 ((c)2006, Marguerite Ogle)
Beginners can soften at the knee and just do rotation, without the flexion (moving forward to the toe)
Muscular focus: hamstrings, inner thigh, oblique abdominals, back stretch
Tips: Keep your hips anchored and level as you turn to the side. Extend energy through the back arm even as you reach forward.

Spring into Action

Back pain Versus Gardening

It is that time of year when we are excited about the prospect of getting out in the garden, being creative, feeling free and alive and fearing the outcomes of over doing it. Every year the same things crop up and it is a lucrative time for the back manipulator. But does it really have to be that way?

Having spent a long (certainly this year) winter indoors and many hours sitting for whatever reason, computer, sofa, chatting, it is time to get physical again! So let’s get to it, in a much more informed way. Don’t just march out into the garden and tackle it full on for 8 hours!!!

A few basic exercises could help warm you up ready to start, maybe a brisk walk around the block first to get the blood flowing through your system, just 5 minutes or so. Then some simple joint mobilisations, ankle and shoulder rotations, knee and hip flexion and extension ( sit down and stand up a few times) gentle looking from side to side with your head to warm up the neck and then simple side bends, keeping the body straight, with soft knees.

These few exercises before you start and thinking about how you will position yourself whilst working, the body/back doesn’t like to be static, so changing your posture regularly and taking breaks every hour, will ensure that your body isn’t being misused and if you feel discomfort, stop stretch and take a break.

Sounds too simple, that's why nobody does it! But looking after "you" doesn’t need to be complicated!

Love and energy,
Liz and Jessica x

A Three Legged Stool

Being healthy is a bit like sitting on a three legged stool - if one of the legs has a bit missing you will be very uncomfortable, your spine will probably twist and you will end up hobbling through life.

Those three legs are Nutrition, Exercise and your Mind.  Surely they all need to be in balance and tip top condition if you are going to be fit and healthy and enjoying all life has for you?

There are many foundational principles for good nutrition yet in my opinion the number one spot has to go to WATER.  Most people are probably dehydrated, meaning that your internal organs are changing from 'plums' to 'prunes'.  Here is a simple self test to see how hydrated you are right now - pinch the fleshy bit of skin on the back of your hand about half way to your wrist between your thumb and first finger for about three seconds.  Now count the seconds until the skin returns to normal.  Anything over 10 and you had better run to the nearest tap!

Unless you have a kidney or heart problem you would be well advised to increase your filtered water consumption (including fruit / herb teas) to around 2 litres a day, more in hot weather or with exercise.  The older you are the more gradually you should increase.  Some people will need to plan the WC route for a while but I assure you things do settle down.  So drink up.

Love and energy,
Liz and Jessica x