Hip Releases

Achey hips is something I’m often asked about. There are so many reasons why your hips can be hurting. If the pain is severe then you definitely want to go and seek medical advice. If it is a lower level muscular ache then check out my tips and video below.

The impact of sitting for long periods and standing out of neutral posture all adds up to extra pressure on the hips. Hip pain on the outside of your hip, upper thigh or bum is usually caused by problems with muscles, ligaments, tendons and other soft tissues that surround your hip joint. Something is tight and out of balance. The body likes to be balanced and there are fascial lines that show us how it is all connected. A tightness in your hip could be related to how you sit and stand, but it could also be related to your shoulder. So it is worth making friends with your local sports massage therapist to get a good assessment and then you know what to work on. Having the area worked out in massage can then free it up for you to strengthen the surrounding areas and keep the tight part mobilised yourself.

So here are some yummy release moves that you can use to find those tight areas and start to work on them yourself. Or use these at the end of a busy day, before you get into an exercise session or between massage and pilates classes.

To book in for a sports massage do also get in touch.

Pilates and Self-Care

Self care is the new buzz word. Personally I love it. It is something I know I need to do more of. I work my body hard in the week running from clients to classes to clinics. I don’t always build in enough time to relax, never mind time to look after my body in the way it needs, but I’m working on it. One of my new years aims was to have a spa day this year. My older girl actually laughed when I said that… as in “that won’t happen mummy”, but thanks to a lovely friend turning 30, I’m booked on a spa day with some girls – YES. Jokes aside, I am totally lucky that I teach Pilates and can incorporate some self-care into the sessions I teach. Pilates has been shown to help with mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety – why? It centres and focuses the mind in a similar way to mindfulness. I swear Pilates keeps my body working and my mind sane. Here are some tips on how you can make self-care part of your Pilates lifestyle.

Massage:

Seen by some as a luxury (including myself for many years) I’m not meaning that spa aromatherapy style massage (though bring that on too). Instead it’s the the dig deep and release the tight areas kind of massage that helps fix your body. We all get certain, recurrent tight spots in the body. Often these are due to posture or over-using the body in certain ways. Either way a decent sport massage can make a big difference. When the tight muscles are released you can move your body in a new pattern. I know I have certain areas that would benefit from a course of massage treatments (hint hint) – you only get one body.

Breathing:

I’ve totally fallen in love with breathing this year. A lot of time devoted to studying this deeply has impacted my practice as a teacher and my own day to day practice. I find myself pausing at points in the day to breath and reconnect. Just 10 minutes of deep breathing can help calm your mind, work your core and ground you. My personal preference is to teach people to lie down in neutral posture and breath as it helps you relax into it with good posture, however this isn’t always possible in the middle of the day! So sitting on a chair with a high back, breathing into your back, sides and tummy with a relaxation on the inhale and engagement of the core on the exhale.

Move:

We all know too much sitting is not good for us. So building movement into your day is key. This doesn’t have to be a massive workout. Move your body in the way that feels good. I don’t think there need to be any rules, the rules confine people. Instead just know that moving is good for your body, your mind, your soul. Stretching after a busy day, changing postures at work, a 15 minute walk – it all helps.

 

Stretching:

There are times my body is just too darn tired to do a teaser and thats ok. On those occasions it is good to listen. It all depends on how in tune you are with your body. Is it your head telling you not to bother moving today and to sit on the sofa or is it your body letting yoou know it is tired, it needs a rest? We all need a rest day in our week, even God took time to rest in creating the world. I have weeks as a teacher when people turn up to class and they all look tired out. Those weeks we change the pace and although there will still be plenty of core work and a sneaky teaser, there will also be plenty of stretching and release work built in too.

Sleep:

Not something I’ve managed to do much of over the past few years, for which I blame my children 😉 There is so much research now showing us how important sleep is. To be fair it’s pretty obvious isn’t it. When we sleep it’s the time our bodies renew, replenish and restore themselves. So it’s a time of new growth but also a time part of us gets to unplug and switch off. If you are not asleep at night then your body can’t do all its jobs, you are just making it extra hard work! So commit to getting to bed and resting.

Nutrition:

I cannot emphasis enough how key getting good nutrition into your body and nourishing it is. I’m totally biased, confession I’m a dietitian too… which means I have seen first hand how nutrition plays a vital role in healing and in health. Simple things like ensuring you eat plenty of fruit and veggies, stay hydrated and have your cupboard/fridge stocked with nuts, seeds, dried fruit, yoghurt, oats, nut butter to keep you out of biscuit tin on some occasions. I live by the 80/20 rule which states you eat healthily 80% of the time and you relax your approach 20% of the time. There is always room for cake!

 

However self-care works for you, try to build it into your week, your day, your life.

The plague of tight hamstrings

Following on from our last post (where I discovered how tight my husbands hamstrings are) and a few enquiries this week…. I bring you the plague of most of the men who come to our classes and also quite a few women!

So what is going on and why does it matter?

Why do I have tight hamstrings?

  1. Genetic. Some people are born with tight hamstrings. Generally men have tighter hamstrings than women. Sorry guys. However you can do something about it!
  2. Too more sport and not enough stretch. It is really, really, really important you stretch properly after sport or any physical activity such as walking and cycling.
  3. Lower back problems and sciatica can cause those muscles to tighten up. Also tight hamstrings can lead to back pain. A bit of a circle there.
  4. Sitting. When your legs are bent, your hamstrings are shortened and flexed. If you have a job where you sit, then you commute to work, seated and then you sit again at home it will add up to a lot of sitting hours!

Problems it can cause:

  1. Tight hamstrings can pull the pelvis back, causing lower back pain.
  2. You are more prone to an injury as the muscles are tight and not working at optimal capacity.

How to help?

  1. STRETCH. Either standing, lying or using a band.
Hamstring Stretch

Hamstring Stretch

  1. Foam rollering can help release stuck fascia.

photo

  1. Try a sports massage on your legs to help loosen up those muscles.
  2. Stand up more and move around when you can. Find ways to reduce your sitting hours. Can you have a standing work station or build a walk into your working day? Can you change the way you commute to work or what you do in the evenings? If you do sit a lot then may sure you build some stretching time into your day.
  3. Try these moves out:
    1. Legs straight up wall with back on the floor – Lie on the floor and maintain this position for 15 minutes. You may notice your pelvis, hips and sacrum realigning and adjusting, too. When the hamstrings lengthen, it reduces the strain on your lower back. Nice.
    2. Straddle while sitting with back up wall – Sitting up tall with legs wide (The Saw starting position). Try to relax your legs and maintain this position for 5-10 minutes to stretch your adductor (inner thighs) and hamstrings.

What your shoulders are telling you

Shoulders. Officially one of my picky points. Why? Well firstly because I know what it is like to feel you are carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders and secondly because it such an easy thing to spot.

Sitting in a meeting today I could see that 90% of the people in the room were sat with rounded shoulders and their necks jutting forward. Over time that becomes a habit and that habit leads to a muscular imbalance.

This week I have taught a few classes that are not my usual ones. It’s given me a fresh insight into how many people struggle with their shoulders and upper back posture. If you are in a class with me “Shoulders” is one of my common cues!

I used to have awful upper body posture. I can remember back to being 18 and having a massage. Even then the masseuse told me how tight my upper traps were. Sitting at a desk, working long hours at a computer and not exercising enough really did not help. Fast forward 10 years and Pilates found me. Walking down the road next to a Pilates teacher I remember being told “Shoulders” every 2 steps. Finally I got it 😉

I now spend time focusing on my shoulder function, strengthening my lats and traps in my back. It really works wonders. I also know my triggers – stress, feeding babies and carrying children. In any of these situations I really need to overfocus on my posture.

So how are your shoulders and what are they telling you?

Take a look in the mirror at a few points in the day and check out those shoulders. Are they level or do you have 1 higher than the other? Do you have any pain or tension in them? How do you sit, stand and move your arms?

Some great shoulder function exercises include: Chicken wings, Diamond Press, Sphinx and using weights for a chest fly and ribcage closure.

Here is one of my fav’s at present:

 

How to change your exercise habits for the better.

I often describe Pilates to people as a “back to front type of exercise”. Usually in exercise working as hard as you can means as fast and hard as you can, as many times as you can. The opposite is almost true in Pilates. This is one of the reasons I love it.

Coming from a fitness instructor background I was used to teaching aerobics, spin and step classes. If you weren’t creating a sweat pool, you weren’t getting the most benefits. You know those classes, and DVDs where they say things like “your legs should be crying right now” and “push, push, go faster” or “you should be feeling like you want to collapse right now”, well that wasn’t quite my teaching style but I loved all of that. In fact I still do.

Pilates has taught me so much about my body and how it functions, how I can get the best out of all forms of exercise, how to breath correctly, the mental clarity of exercise and how to slow things down to get maximal gains. All of this I carry over into any other exercise I do. In short, Pilates has completely changed my view on exercise and improved my technique all round.

FOR EXAMPLE….

Let’s take a crunch. Often you see people aiming to do 50 crunches in one go. Pilates has taught me that if you do a sit up/curl up/crunch correctly you only need to do 8-12 repetitions to get the benefits. It is the technique and speed that changes things.

Pilates curl up

With simple arm movements if you focus on your posture and using your body in a functional way then you will actually strengthen the right muscles AND work the core.

A side lying leg lift is someone often put into a LBT style class. Performed whilst keeping your core engaged and your waist lengthened it turns into a completely different exercise.

Side lying leg lift

How to change your exercise habits for the better:

1. Be mindful. Slow down and connect with what you are doing. What muscles are you meant to be working? Is your core switched on? You very much still need your brain in gear when you exercise.

2. Posture check. You can injure yourself or at best not get the most out of a movement by ignoring your posture. You can do a great squat but have your back arched, so pull your lower back. Think about your starting, ending, and your posture during the movement. Video yourself, watch in a mirror or get a PT/fitness instructor to check.

3. Slow it down. Now I don’t necessarily mean running here! However slowing down large compound movements can make you work harder. Try a fast and a slow press up for example.

4. Breath. The breathing really is key. By breathing out on the hardest part of the exercise you recruit those core muscles that little bit more.

5. Use your core in all your cardio and lifting movements too. Core work is not something you leave behind at the end of a Pilates class, but should be something that you take into other movements. Hopefully it will also become a natural reflex so that when you lift something you engage your core.