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The secret sect

Since starting specialising in postnatal womens recovery I feel like I’ve discovered a secret sect. An un-talked about condition that is just normalised by ladies and it shouldn’t be. It has become something these ladies accept and life their life around. Why? Often I think life is busy, most of these ladies are mums and when you are a mum you are no longer at the top of the pecking order. The children come first, there is a lot less time for focusing on yourself and you learn to put up with those annoying niggles and problems.

Incontinence, leaking and those accidental moments should not be a normal part of life. Whether it be having to avoid the trampoline, “sneeze pee”, not being able to wait until you get in the door for the toilet or needing to wear a pad when you run, it is not how your body is built to function and it can be improved upon.

Maybe you have had some help in the past and it has not worked? Or you have squeezed your lady parts over and over with no improvements? Well it’s time to start over. Yes those kegels/pelvic floor exercises are important but if you are not doing them correctly they won’t work and there can also be other muscular imbalances in your body that are the sticking point. Our bodies are connected from head to toe, this means that your foot position and your neck position impact your pelvic floor! So if you feel you need a fresh approach then here are my tips:

  1. If you have any heaviness or dragging in your pelvic floor region go and get checked out by a womens health Physiotherapist. Yes this costs money but it is well worth knowing what is happening in your body. I recommend a Mummy MOT for ladies who want a once-over post baby.
  2. Be committed. Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles like any other in your body and it takes time to see progress. However after a few weeks you should be noticing improvements. It takes work all of your week and not just the session you work with someone. I encourage people to do daily, focused work using the exercises we do in a session and to also focus on their posture as much as they can in the day, plus some dedicated breathing time. So you need to carve some time into your day to do all of this.
  3.  It is NOT all about the work however. For some people it is all about the RELAXATION. Over-working a muscle leads to it being tight and weak. So if you live life in your stressed place the relaxation phase can be the key.
  4. Get your breathing assessed. Oh my days, so many of us do not breath properly and all kinds of funky things go on connected with this. It could be you are pushing down on your pelvic floor when you breath out and it needs a re-train.
  5. If you aren’t a fan of lying on your back doing Pilates moves then it doesn’t have to be that way. There are plenty of ways to incorporate your pelvic floor rehab work into variations of the exercises you like.
  6. Find a practitioner who you can work with, someone you like, who really knows their stuff, who has worked with lots of ladies with success and who you be open with. Facebook can be a great place to get recommendations. I work with women on a 1-1 basis and via the Holistic Core Restore courses.

Get in touch if you need to chat or to find someone who can help. Most importantly do not suffer in silence and get some support.

Dr Anders Professional Foot Care

As a pilates teacher I’m well aware of how important it is to have flexible feet and to pay attention to the grounding and position of my feet… but the busyness of life meant I hadn’t been looking after the skin on my feet. Or to be honest my legs! My feet are always in use and they rarely get a pedicure, by rarely I mean like once a year. So I was pleased to try out Dr Anders range of professional foot care, perfect timing for summer.

Now one of my big foot issues is the skin on my heels. It was pretty rough and dry. I wasn’t expecting anything much from a cream but you know, it’s worked. After a couple of weeks using the intensive rescue balm my heels are smoother and look better. The whole of my foot is softer. The cream is lightly fragrance and nice to use. I’ve used it morning and night for 2 weeks with good results. I did find I then needed to keep using it regularly for this to be maintained but the nourishing daily spray also helps with this.

So if you are looking for a good foot range I’d recommend this one.

Disclaimer: I was sent this product range to review, all views are my own. 

Southsea Fitness Festival

How my life has changed!  Once upon a time I avoided PE lessons like the plague, hated getting sweaty and would never have gone to a fitness festival for fun! I did enjoy certain types of exercise but they were not the standard ones included at school. They were not accessible and I couldn’t just pop in somewhere to try things out.

This is part of what Luke from Sweat Southsea made accessible at the Southsea Fitness Festival. Different forms of exercise were made accessible. From high impact to upside yoga, from power plates to a dualathon. It was truly fabulous and the best part, free and family friendly. Having this festival outside also meant that people could just walk by and take part, or just watch! I saw mums with newborns, pregnant ladies, gym bunnies in Lycra and older adults all soaking up the vibe.

Quote from Luke:

“We created the Festival to inspire and celebrate active and healthy lifestyles. It was apparent from the outset that it needed to be a free and fully accessible event. There are many barriers to exercise which as fitness professionals we try to break down – so why create a barrier by charging an entry fee? Our goal is to make a major difference first and foremost in our hometown which has some pretty shocking childhood obesity health related statistics. We hope to show that there is a sport or activity for everyone. The event is also an opportunity to support other local businesses and to create a network of like-minded businesses which can work together in a positive way.”

Highlights for me included taking part in the dualathon with my kids. Again, not something I would normally enter (though I am tempted) but so much fun to do this without the pressure being on.

We need to be on a mission to get children active. It’s a huge part of how we will help with their health. In my opinion (with my dietitian hat in) its no good putting everyone on strict diets. Instead it’s about making long term changes to eating patterns AND long term changes to the whole lifestyle. So finding ways for children to be active EVERYDAY is part of this. My kids loved it all. They went on gym equipment, they tried wobble boards, they loved the TRX, my girl did a body balance class, dance and some yoga. My boy spent a long time just running and playing in the fountains getting wet 😂


Thankyou Southsea for having us. We will be back. More of this please.

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Pre-Postnatal Specialists

 

Priya is the one to come to if you want to stay strong in pregnancy or need fixing after baby. She has worked with over 1000 pre/postnatal ladies and with a very high level of training you can be sure you are in safe hands.  If Priya doesn’t know the answer she will know someone who can help.

Our classes are small and focus on a mixture of using your core correctly, building strength in those areas you really need it for mummyhood, releasing tight muscles and Pilates movements that will really make a difference.

If you are suffering with back ache, sciatica, pelvic pain, hip pains, shoulder issues or muscular imbalances then our pregnancy classes are focused on helping, so let us know what to focus on.

Postnatally our classes are aimed to help rebuild you, using breathing, functional work, core strength, posture and pilates. All classes are safe if you suffer from diastasis recti or pelvic floor issues.

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Small classes with highly trained teachers

 

At Pilates with Priya we pride ourselves on keeping our numbers low. We have a maximum of 8 people in our main Pilates classes, this means you get more support and input from the teacher.

All our teachers are experts in their field, with a minimum of a level 3 Pilates qualification, we only like to take on the best we can. Any medical issues you have can be catered for. Priya personally works with any new teachers to help mentor them and as a team we like to keep up our own personal practice and learning.

You will find our studio is welcoming, non judgemental, calm and “bijoux”. We use a variety of equipment including rings, bands, balls and rollers.

Before starting classes with us we ask that you go on our introductory course or have a 1-1 induction session so that you have a good grasp of the basic principles before going into a class.

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Prepare to Plank

Let’s talk planks.

An amazing exercise for building core strength, for working the whole of your body and there is so much you can layer and add into a plank.

Also one of the exercises that therefore needs great technique or a lot can go wrong. All too often people are encouraged to dive head on into a full plank without knowing the hows, why’s and why nots. I love a challenge, but I don’t like the planking challenges. Personally I do not see the benefit to being able to hold a static plank. I have a body that rarely stays that still and so far more useful is a moving plank with levers and motion.

Many people are just not strong enough to launch into planks. These are not beginner exercises. Done incorrectly the intra-abdominal pressure will build up and it has to go somewhere, so if you have weak abdominals these may sag and bulge or the same with your pelvic floor. I remember attending a mums and babies fitness class with mums there 6 weeks after having baby – all being told to plank for 1 minute. If your core is not ready, do not do a full plank, if you have recently had a baby and you are rebuilding your strength, do not plank, if you have a weak pelvic floor, do not plank. Now that may sound harsh and rather black and white… so here is the softer version. There is a version of a plank that everyone can do, it is just finding your level and knowing which muscles to use plus ensuring you breath.

So what about if you really want to plank or if you are in a class with planks and you need a variation? Here are some plank progressions for you, including a standing version that I use with my pregnant and postnatal ladies.

 

I’d love to hear how you find these. For more videos and tips do follow me on Instagram and Youtube.

 

 

 

Postnatal Care – is it enough?

I’m not even sure where to start with this post. So I will start with my own experience. I’ve had 3 babies in the past 7.5 years and my youngest is about to turn 2 yrs. With each baby, my own recovery, my own postnatal journey and the care offered to me, has been different. I’ve had 3 babies who have lost weight post-birth, 2 of which required a period in hospital, each baby has had a tongue tie and it’s always been a stressful start in those initial weeks. Now I’m a well-educated, opinionated, determined (or bloody stubborn) kind of girl, which has got me through. What I have been, and continue to be surprised at, is the lack of support that is out there for new Mums. I had a hyper-tonic pelvic floor before babies, after babies I was complete unprepared for the change in my pelvic floor! I also had a diastasis recti after baby 2 and 3.

Having baby 1 is overwhelming, you are learning new skills constantly and becoming a new family. Subsequent babies are also equally overwhelming, suddenly you have to balance everyone’s needs. The babe becomes the most important in all of this and Mums come way down the list. But they shouldn’t. The early postnatal period is a critical time for recovery, by offering good support at this stage and preparing Mums we could actually help prevent some problems later on. Even by helping Mums with some simple stress management and practical ideas it could help them feel looked after, nurtured and reduce their cortisol levels. I know I was highly stressed after having my 2nd baby and it really had an impact on my body. Techniques such a deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness and just having time off for Mum can make such a difference. I now recommend Mums have a 2 week chill-out after baby as much as they can and call in lots of help.

Mums are usually offered a 6-8 week check, however this is often more for baby than for mum. It’s a quick assessment and I think a lot more could be offered at this stage, however resources are thin on the ground. The Mums that I see and my experience is that pelvic floor is not really discussed, perhaps a cursory “are you doing your exercises”, abdominal separation is rarely checked but there is a screening for Mums mood and contraception.

Whilst it is great that Mums and babies are seen by the GP and continue to be monitored by the health visitors, I feel we are missing a vital opportunity. A chance to talk to women about their bodies, what is not right, where could they be signposted to get more help. I’m not suggesting these teams can provide the answers but they could link in with NHS or private services who could. For example, local women’s health physiotherapists and postnatal fitness instructors who really specialise in this type of rehabilitation.

We need a revolution in postnatal care, more chat, more information sharing, more love, more respect for how women’s bodies change and more holistic care. I’d love to know your stories and thoughts.

Why being flexible isn’t always the aim.

Some people come to us thinking that Pilates is all about the stretch and that they need to be super flexible to be any good at it. Confession, ahem…. whilst we have super flexible people who teach for us and I envy their ability to do the splits I’m not a bendy ballerina.

Whilst I totally can work on my flexibility and improve it, I’m also aware that being super bendy is not always a good thing and you can overstretch for your particular body. Yup, I’m saying it doesn’t always pay to s–t–r–e–t–c–h.

 

Let’s think about that over-stretching:

  1. If you are hypermobile or have Ehler-Danos Syndrome then pushing your body past it’s normal range of movement into the hypermobile zone is possible for you but not a good idea. Over time moving out of the normal range can increase your risk of injury, sprains, dislocation, joint pain and can lead to the joints popping out. Pilates is one of the best forms of exercise for these conditions as a good teacher will watch your range of movement and help you work out exactly what you need to strengthen. By strengthening the areas around the hypermobile joint it can help you stay strong.
  2. The effect of hormones. When you are pregnant and postnatal you definitely do not want to be overstretching. At this point of life your ligaments are laxer and you may have a greater range of movement. But moving too far and stretching too much can lead to your muscles becoming overstretched. This leads to pain/injury for you which can then be an ongoing weakness in your body. Relaxin can take up to 4 months to leave the body after you stop breastfeeding. This can also mean your body is not as strong as you expect it to be. I remember after baby 2 really struggling with some of the harder pilates moves until I stopped breastfeeding (I fed baby until he was 16 month) and then a couple of months later my body was at it’s peak once again. So don’t rush things and risk a lasting weakness.
  3. If your body is causing a muscle to be tight for a reason. Sometimes the body is protecting itself. Much like we do not work muscles in isolation, it can be detrimental to stretch a muscle in isolation too. Instead we need a whole body approach and to think through why an area is tight. Is it due to a certain posture you adapt most of the time – in which case work on the posture. If it is due to pain elsewhere in your body and you are compensating, then the area of pain needs to be dealt with too.

Anyone can overstretch their bodies. Our collagen make up is genetic and we just aren’t all born with stretchy joints, ligaments and bodies. So whilst stretching is of course good for us, listen to your body.

Tips on the Pilates Roll Up

Roll Ups are trickier than you initially think. Few of us, once past toddlerhood, are blessed with a spine that perfectly articulates. Over time the postures we adopt and the movements we do on a daily basis affect lead to tightness in parts of our spine, the space in between the vertebrae gets cramped, it gets sticky and our movement is affected.

Just being able to get up and down in a Roll up is not the be all and end off of the Roll up. I know it often feels that way and that people will use all parts of their body to get themselves up…. however the Roll up is also about moving your spine segment by segment. The aim is to be able to lie your spine down one vertebrae at a time and then pick it up one vertebrae at a time. In order to do this, your spine needs to curve and flex. With our stiff backs from sitting and slouching this is hard to do. I know I have a section of my spine that is stiff and doesn’t like to curve and I’m working on getting it moving properly.

So here are some tips on improving things.

  1. Use a rolled up towel under your mid spine, this is so helpful at helping you not to hinge up from the mat.
  2. Use a band to firstly help you get up off the mat but also to help you focus on curving.
  3. Focus on the half roll up with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Going just half way back can help you find those sticky points and work on them.

Where the head lead the body follows

Hands up, who uses a smart phone daily? Or sits at a laptop/computer? I know I do and although it isn’t great for my posture it is something that I need to do in order to work. Modern life is not good for our bodies, so the best thing we can do is to be aware and to combat our bodies compensations. Or all give up technology…. not going to happen!

One of the main issues is the position of your neck. Leaning to look down at a screen is causing the vertebrae in the neck to jam up and get stuck for space. It increases the wear and tear in the neck. It is the same when you wear a heavy rucksack, to compensate you jut your neck forward. (Note to parents, keep your children’s rucksacks light!).

Do you get headaches, have a pain at the base of your skull or tight neck/shoulders? All this can be linked.

Our head weighs 10-12lbs but when you change the angle if increases this effective weight, so a 15 degree angle changes this to 27lbs and a 60 degree angle makes it 60lbs!!!

Try placing your fingers on the very base of you neck, just above the big boney first part of your spine. How do your vertebrae in your neck feel? Jammed up or with space between them? Trying drawing your chin back so you have a double chin and then lengthening up through the crown on the head, how different is it?

When your neck is forward jutting you should feel that pressure on the back of the neck and the vertebrae are very close together. As you lengthen back to neutral spine the load and pressure is released and there is space for those vertebrae once more.

Our heads set the tone for the rest of the body (as do the feet) so if you head and neck posture are not in good alignment then it can affect the rest of the kinetic chain. The body is like one of these baby toys…. when you push one part it affects another area too. It’s all connected!

The solution? Start eavesdropping! Well at least pretend to. Assume the posture of standing tall and thinking about eavesdropping on someone behind you and it should help you draw your head and neck back into alignment.

Also try out this exercise: