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.

 

 

 

Pilates in Pregnancy, it’s a must.

I’ve been lucky enough to teach antenatal pilates for 4 years now and in that time I must have worked with over 250 ladies. I’ve also used pilates myself through 3 pregnancies and it has helped keep me strong, shown me which parts of my body needed working on and enables me to keep working and being a hands on mum throughout. The comments we get from some of our ladies are:

“If I miss a class I really notice the difference”

“My hips and pelvis ache less and I can feel the difference Pilates is making”

“Classes help to keep me strong and relaxed during pregnancy”

“I always leave feeling better than when I arrived and with exercises to use in the week”

 

Pilates with Priya: Antenatal Pilates class

 

Antenatal Pilates offers multiple benefits including, developing your natural corset to support your back and baby, helping with the changes to your posture, pelvic floor education, breathing technique, toning the muscles and, thus, helping in weight management. Practising Pilates on a regular basis can improve posture, alleviate backaches, and, ultimately, help with labour and delivery. It can even help the baby rotate in the optimal position. I tend to have a format where I use a mixture of functional exercises that help in daily living, for example moves you will need to bend, lift, rotate, get to the floor, release stretches for the areas I know get tight as pregnancy progresses, core strengthening exercises and some move to help in labour and for baby positioning.

CAT

Lets look at some of the changes that happen in pregnancy:

1. Breathlessness:

There is around 15-20% increase in oxygen consumption during pregnancy. The breathing rate will stay the same, but an expecting mum will breathe more deeply each time. The changes in the blood vessels caused by the hormonal changes together with the changed position of the ribcage and diaphragm may make a mum-to-be feel breathless at times.

The breathing we use in Pilates helps make an expecting mum’s breathing more efficient. Focusing on breathing in an antenatal class also has a relaxing and calming effect which can then be used in labour.

2. Muscle, ligament, joint and postural adaptations: 

Hormonal changes during pregnancy have an effect on muscles, ligaments and joints. There can be more movement, stretching and instability. A safe pregnancy pilates class will help you exercise within a safe range of movement and strengthen the supporting muscles. It can really help with conditions such as SPD/pelvic girdle pain.

3. Core Strength:

Pilates exercises focus on core stability, and pelvic stability. This obviously helps keep the abdominals strengthened  but it also can help keep your pelvis in good alignment and reduce pelvic girdle pain.

4.Posture:

Pregnancy affects posture as the centre of gravity shifts. Some women adopt a posterior pelvic tilt (tucked under) with a flat lower back, whilst others adopt an anterior tilt (bum stuck out) with an increased curve in the lower back. Either way it is not helpful for the body. Knowing about neutral posture will help you correct this in day to day life and pilates will provide you will a range of exercises to strengthen the right muscles.

So if you are pregnant, antenatal Pilates with a specialist teacher is a MUST. If you can’t get to a class or want something to use in between sessions check out my specialst Bump to Birth DVD.

Exercises for combatting rounded shoulders.

Shoulders are one of my picky points. Why? Well firstly because I have had to really work on mine. They have always been a sticking point for me, I remember a Pilates teacher walking down the road with me once saying “Shoulders down” every 2 steps! Carrying, feeding and rocking babies always affects my shoulders and upper back. So I guess you could say I’m a bit picky about shoulders as I know how much it poor posture in this area can affect you.

I would encourage you to look in the mirror at your posture, side on and front on.

1. Are your shoulders level?

2. Are your shoulders rounded?

3. Can you slide your shoulders further down in your spine, so are they too far up towards your ears?

4. Do you stick your ribcage forward? (Ladies, no boob thrusting is needed!)

Here are some exercises to help you strengthen your upper back and focus on your shoulders.

Really good if you sit at a desk for some time and know your shoulderes are suffering. Also brilliant for mums who are feeding, carrying, rocking babies and babywearing.

Postnatal Hair Loss, how to look after those locks.

One of the lovely side effects I had during pregnancy was to have thicker, faster growing hair. My hairdresser was always amazed when she saw me yet again for a trim.

This extra hair growth that some ladies see is due to the hormone levels, specifically the oestrogen. Hair has a cycle of growth and loss. Usually we lose about 100 hairs a day, however in pregnancy this hair loss can be reduced giving you those extra lush locks. All good things must come to an end however and as the oestrogen levels drop so must the extra hair. It is not uncommon for clumps or handfuls of hair to come out when you are brushing or washing it. So do not panic! Your hair will go back to how it was pre-pregnancy, you will not be bald (phew).

For some mums this will happen from birth and for others it will be when breastfeeding stops.

Pilates with Priya: postnatal hair loss

Top Tips:
1. Be kind to your hair, don’t was it excessively (as if you have time to with a baby!) and be gentle when styling it.
2. Try to stay away from hair dryers and straighteners, chemicals and treatments for a while.
3. Take a postnatal vitamins and eat a healthy balanced diet. Essential fatty acids are needed for hair to grow strong and healthy so no low fat diets.
4. Talk to your health visitor or GP is you feel the hair loss is excessive as it could be a sign something else is not quite right.

Top 3 Pilates Errors and how to correct them.

Losing the Baby Weight Week 6: my first training session.

So I’ve reached the 6 week post baby place. This is usually when you get an appointment with your GP and hopefully are given the green light to exercise. In my GP surgery the 6 week check is carried out at 8 weeks. Fortunately as a specialist in the antenatal and postnatal fitness arena I know what exercise is safe to do at this stage, so this weekend I made a start. I’d love to go for a run and do some high impact work, but I’m very aware that my core is not as strong as I’d like it to be yet and my pelvic floor is still regaining strength. Also Relaxin is still in my system making my joints prone to overstretching. So I’m being patient and holding back. Doing high impact activites such as running, jumping, aerobics can put extra strain on your pelvic floor and joints. So my thoughts and advice are to take it easy and go for low impact options after birth until you have regained some core strength first, this is like your foundation for all other exercise.  My Exercise this week: I’m doing some Pilates pretty much everyday. Just 15 minutes is really making a difference and I am now so much stronger than I was. I’m loving 1/2 roll ups, swimming in hands and knees and shoulder bridges with knee folds. I’ve even done a bit of Pilates with baby asleep in the sling 😉 Hard work indeed!

Pilates with Priya: Pilates with a Sling

At the weekend I did my first weights session. I focused on squats, lunges, chest presses, shoulder rows and modified press ups. My toddler joined me with her imaginery weights and baby kicked along to the music on his playmat. Exercising with children can be done! It was nice to feel my muscles the next day! Walking is key for me too, I’m making sure I get a walk in 3 time a week, usually this is with baby in the sling or pushing the baby and toddler in the buggy – both make for a good workout 🙂

3 Band Exercises to Tone and Tighten

My Top 3 Pilates Exercises for Pregnancy.

I’m a huge fan of Pilates during pregnancy, it really kept me strong, active and held my pelvis together throughout 2 pregnancies. In fact in my second pregnancy when I was teaching 11 Pilates classes a week and doing Pilates daily I had no lower back pain or pelvic pain. It  really does work!

So here are my top 3 Pilates exercises to do in pregnancy. These were filmed when I was 34 weeks pregnancy myself and are safe to do throughout all 3 trimesters of pregnancy and after birth too.

 

 

You can buy my “Bump to Birth” Pilates in Pregnancy DVD here.

Antenatal Pilates Clothing Review.

I recently found Mums 2 be Fitwear on Twitter, perfect timing seeing as I’m now 20 weeks pregnant. Having chatted to them they seemed like a lovely company so I agreed to review their clothing. With the amount of classes I teach it’s important to have clothes that support me, show my body shape and make me feel good too.

Very quickly Mums to Be Fitwear sent me a top and some below the knee leggings in black. These clothes are lovely in terms of their look, feel and quality. I couldn’t want to try them out.

As a fitness instructor I currently teach Step Aerobics and Pilates (3 being antenatal) classes plus I attend ballet. So from cardio work to strength, core, dancing and flexibility, I’ve tested these clothes out.

Mums 2 B Fitwear

My verdict?

I absolutely love the leggings. They stretch very comfortably over my bump and I can tell these will be a staple in my wardrobe throughout my pregnancy. They feel soft to the touch and fit my calves nicely. They could also be comfortably worn just around the house or for a sport look out and about.

The top I really like the look of and the feel but I found it is slightly too high cut under the arms. I found this slightly uncomfortable for Step Aerobics but fine for Pilates. The rest of the top is very flattering and fits very well. I wonder if I just need a slightly larger size as although I am usually a size 8 my boobs have certainly grown a lot more than they did in my first pregnancy!

Overall I would highly recommend these clothes, especially the over the bump style trousers.

NCT Nearly New Sale and Us

Today we had a trade stand at the Southampton Nearly New Sale…. probably doesn’t sound that exciting, but it was the first time we had done something like this.

I’ll be honest….James did all the hard work, he got all the literature, DVD’s and forms together. I just turned up with a toddler and a smile on my face, did my thing of chatting, demonstrating moves and chasing a small girl around.

We’re such a small business, we don’t yet have lots of fancy giant posters, stands or amazing things to give away, but we do love to talk to people and help them. This morning it was lots of chatter about pelvic girdle pain, weaning and tummies!

As a result it looks like our antenatal classes will be full and overflowing, great news as a lot of our current mummies to be are about to give birth. I also sold a few DVD’s and hopefully we may have got some interested in our Weaning EBook – Baby Breakfasts.

A lovely morning, talking to lovely people. Thankyou to all who said Hello. The added bonus – meeting some of our Pilates babies and seeing their mummies!!