What an honour to be asked to teach at the first Southampton Dance Circle Day on May 30th 2017. This was an event run by local dance teachers, all working together to put on a great event for any children in their dance schools and in the local area. I love the collaborative nature of this, the non-competitiveness and the sheer passion the teachers all have.
Pilates is well known to have amazing benefits for dancers. Joseph Pilates himself worked dancers and in fact for a while Pilates was taken over by the dance world. So without a doubt Pilates can help children in dance too. I was excited and slightly nervous to see how a Pilates class would go down in a day of other exciting dance classes. I was part of an amazing line up including: Ballet/Contemporary with Louis McMiller (Royal Ballet Grad), Contemporary with Amy J Ireland, Musical Theatre with Sarah Evans (recommended by West End Star Ricky Rojas), Tap with Viki (trained with Tap Attack), Hip Hop with Cesa Hijo de Lalan.
The children there were a pleasure to be with. The older ones really worked hard and I could see them taking what I was saying on board. I was able to push them quite hard and they even posed nicely for the local paper!
The middle group of children had the definite mid afternoon slump session and so Pilates was great for them as they got a little lie down and some super stretching was done.
The tiny ones were super cute to teach, I could have cuddled them all! At the end of a very busy and active day a few were almost asleep but they gave such concentration to the class, I was super impressed.
Thankyou so much for asking me to come along and teach, I hope the children enjoyed it. Some of the feedback that I have heard so far is it made some of them feel all calm and relaxed, which is a good thing in my book! Maybe we should add in some mindfulness next time too.
Next Dance Circle Day is October half term. I know I will be booking my girl on it.
If you are interested in a Children’s Pilates class then do get in touch, we are launching one soon!
May bank holiday weekend is festival weekend. Well in Southampton anyway. Whilst Common People had all the big names over on the Common, our local park, Riverside Park, had it’s own first festival called Riverfest. This was a wonderful event that brought together so many from our local community and worked to highlight our local businesses, science, arts and celebrate our river and park.
With music from many bands (my fav being the Southampton Ukelele Jam), puppet shows, stalls, cafe’s, spoken word, fruit and vegetables, scientific experiments, boating, whisking (swapping of items you no longer need), yoga and of course, pilates.
This was the first time I’d taught Pilates outside. I’d often thought about it, Pilates in the Park sounds fabulous, but a studio with a comfortable floor, mirrors and easy access to equipment is always easier! We bundled some mats up into our pram and set off to the park with the whole family to give it a whirl. Setting out mats on the grass instantly attracted lots of children, so I actually ended up teaching quite a few small people. It was so nice to see them get involved and enjoy it, showing their parents what to do. I think we need a children’s class added to our studio timetable now!
The event had a real community spirit to it. It was lovely to see so many people (about 4,000 attended) come along, lots we knew, lots who knew who we were. It showed the local talent and amazing businesses we have.
So would I teach Pilates outside again? Totally YES. It obviously presents its challenges, but it was such a beautiful setting and so nice to be in the fresh air doing our thing.
Saggy Tummy skin?
Abdominal separation that hasn’t healed?
Here are 3 reasons you may not be seeing results.
I can’t highlight this enough. Try this out. Place one hand on your tummy muscles. Stand up with poor posture, rounded shoulders, head jutting forward. Now what does it do to your tummy? Those muscles feel taut and strong, or saggy and loose? What changes when you lengthen up through the spine, bring the shoulder blades round and down in your back and straighten your neck? You should feel your tummy muscles are tighter and in a better position to heal up when you have good posture.
If you are not giving your body good nutrition then you aren’t giving it the best chance to heal. Protein, zinc, iron and vitamin C are all important in wound healing and muscle repair. I know as a mum you need quick meals and often have to eat on the hoof, but you can eat still eat healthily. It is all in the preparation and mind set. Step away from the cake and focus on nutritious snacks that give you energy and fill you. Nuts, seeds, homemade granola bars, hummus, egg muffins are good examples. A bowl of fruit, Greek yoghurt (higher in protein) and a small handful of nuts is a fabulous snack. Make overnight oats with fruit and seeds the night before, ready for an instant breakfast. Bake a pile of sweet potato’s ready for lunches, then you can heat them in the microwave for lunch, top with tuna, pile some salad on the plate and it should keep you going. The diagram below is both relative for pelvic floor healing and diastasis recti.
3. Breathing and Stress.
How much attention do you give to your breathing? Probably very little. Yet thoracic breathing can be a deal breaker. When you breath into the ribcage and not the belly you activate the intercostal muscles instead of forcing the tummy muscles out. As you breath out your pelvic floor lifts and you core activates. So breathing alone can work to strengthen your pelvic floor and lower abdominals. Stress leads to shallow breathing higher in the chest. It also affects hormones, posture in a lot of people and eating. A triple whammy. So taking time to relax, bring your cortisol levels down and calm down can be a factor. A bath, reading for 10 mins, a pilates class, it all helps.
If you want a 1-1 session for posture assessment and exercises you can use at home then get in touch I can even work over Skype.
Being a mum is amazing, it teaches you so much about yourself, it challenges you the furthest you have probably ever been challenged. There can be moments of joy, fear, hilarity, excitement, frustration and annoyance all in one hour. Your little ones are the most amazing gift and a true miracle to watch them grow.
So it is not surprising that in the midst of all the hard work of mummy hood that YOU, the mummy, can be the one that gets forgotten. Perhaps you don’t have time to eat properly, you aren’t getting proper sleep, you don’t have the time to look after yourself and there is very little You time.
The problem is your body is in recovery. For 9 months it has carried and nurtured a growing baby. That’s a lot of work. Your body has provided nutrition, your muscles have been stretched and strained by carrying the extra weight, your breathing has even adapted and your blood flow. Your hormones have been altered. Then you have given birth. No small feat, in fact a massive achievement and a massive ordeal for the body to then recover from. Mums are expected to spring back to full form in a matter of weeks – but it can take the body a good 9 months to a year to recover nutritionally, hormonally and in strength.
So how can you help yourself?
Nourish yourself with nutritious and delicious food. It can feel like the last thing you have time to do but the inside of your body is your powerhouse. If you are not sustaining yourself then you will not be able to look after anyone else well.
Base your meals around: good lean protein sources, wholegrains and fruit and vegetables. Plan your meals out, there is nothing worse than being starving hungry, having little time to cook and now having a clue what you are going to make.
Meal plan like a goddess: I like to meal plan on a Sunday and then bulk cook – cooking 2-3 meals in one hit works for me as it means it can all be done in a hour or so, I do all the mess, chopping and clearing up at once and can stock up my freezer too. For example today I have made a large batch of minced beef : half for a lasagne, half for the freezer, then a chicken soup using the chicken carcass and some roasted vegetable pasta sauce. So I have meals for Mon, Tues and Wed then on Thurs we may eat a meal from the freezer and Friday is a relaxed affair in our house so may be baked sweet potatoes with tuna and salad.
Stop the chocolate cake: Snack instead on proteins (nuts, seeds, yoghurt, hummus, egg muffins) and fruit/veggies. It can be hard to break the habit but it will make you feel better. Find a system that works for you – make up snack boxes ahead of time, buy in ready made snack boxes, bulk bake healthy snacks such as healthy oaty bars or my Cocao Power Balls. For that sweet treat switch over to a little bit of dark chocolate, you won’t eat as much of it and it is packed with antioxidants.
Move away from the caffeine and sugar rush club. It can make you feel better initially but it really doesn’t give you long lasting energy or health. Eating protein and low glycaemic index foods such as oats will lead to you having more sustained energy levels, more stable mood and will help regulate your appetite.
Sleep is the queen. Having had 2 babies who did not sleep well I know what a nightmare sleep deprivation is. Literal torture, your brain doesn’t function properly, your appetite steps up a gear, you are cranky and still have a whole day to get through. Find a way to get a decent nights sleep in, see if you can take it in turns with your partner or have a family member help in the day so you can nap. That magical work, nap!
Wine o’clock. Maybe this should be whine o’clock?! You know that 5/6pm moment when it’s all just too much and you wish bedtime would hurry it’s ass up? That’s the point I want a glass of something. I don’t see anything wrong with a glass of wine now and again, but it’s remembering that it is also a toxin and when your body is trying to recover you don’t want to overload it with other work to do. So enjoy that glass of wine, but don’t go OTT.
Relaxation Hour. Well you may not have an hour, but building in regular time for you to unwind and relax is vital. When your stress levels are high you respond to things differently. Try using a meditation app such as Headspace, go swimming, get your nails done, read a new book, go for a walk – whatever you can manage. Just do something that calms, chills and centres you.
Mummies, you are amazing. Your bodies are amazing. Go love them, nourish them and enjoy your babies.
Look out for my next post on postnatal nutrition – the micro’s and macro’s.
Squats Rock. Period. One of the best exercises if you are pregnant or postnatal. They strengthen your legs, bum, thighs, work your pelvic floor and your core. Just to add in a bit extra I’ve used a resisitance band to work the upper back too. A fabulous all-rounder of an exercise.
If you aren’t pregnant/postnatal this is ALSO a fabulous exercise. Try it out and let me know how you find it.
Squats are back people and they rock. I’ve always been a fan of the squat, now that I’ve learnt even more about the body I’m an even bigger fan…. and it’s not just me, squats are everywhere I look. Why?
1. They work your pelvic floor without you having to think about switching it on… this happens when you push up to standing from your squat.
2. They’re simple and safe to perform throughout pregnancy, post-natally and beyond.
3. They work your thighs and glutes, perfect for toning those areas and for helping with weak gluts which is a frequent issues I see in people.
4. They are functional, so they train you for everyday activities. I squat when picking things up, and putting the washing in the machine for example.
Start in neutral with your feet hip distance apart, in parallel. Check your pelvis is in neutral, your shoulders blades are down in your back and your core is engaged.
Now sink your weight back, letting your hips go back and feeling the weight go right into your heels so your gluts engage. You may feel you are about to topple over so try it out near a chair or windowsill to start with, preferably with a mirror nearby.
Now in that squatting position check in a mirror that:
- your back is not arched
- you are not leaning too far forward through your upper body
- your knees should not be further forward than your toes, if you can keep them over your ankles
- your heels are down
- you have bent from your hips and not your back
- your core is still engaged
If you are pregnant the added bonus is… They prepare your body for labour (particularly useful if you’re wanting an active birth where you’re encouraged to stay active and move around during labour).
Now get squatting!
Quite often in class people tell me that they have got cramp, usually in their feet or legs. It’s a common Pilates issue but one that can be avoided or worked on.
Cramps in your feet can be due to:
1. Dehydration. I find myself that if I have not drunk enough water before class I can get cramp. Make sure you stay well dehydrated and see if it makes a difference.
2. Your foot muscles are out of shape and are fatiguing. If you are not used to Pilates style exercises they can be hard work for your legs and feet. These exercises often work eccentrically, they focus on lengthening the muscles which cna lead to more cramping than concentric exercises that focus on shortening muscles.
3. Overly pointing and flexing the feet or pointing too much through your toes. When you point try not to fous on the toes but move through the ankle instead. Sound odd? Give it a go. Practise pointing and flexing in this way when sat at home.
4. Weak arches or fallen arches. Wearing high heels and standing for long periods of time can exacerbate this issue. Walking barefoot is great for strengthening your feet. Also you can do some simple foot strengthening exercises, these are described below.
Foot Strengthening Exercises:
Tennis Ball exercise: Stand with your foot over a tennis ball or spikey ball. Drape your toes over towards the floor and push your weight down through your foot. Repeat with the ball further back towards your heel.
Cherry Picking: Lie on your back in neutral with one leg up in the air, foot flexed towards the ceiling. Point the foot, now scrunch up the toes as if picking up a pen with them. Keep them scrunched for as long as possible whilst you draw the foot back to flexed. If you are pregnant try this one seated on the floor or on a chair/ball.
Bodyweight workouts are those that use your bodweight as the resistance and challenge instead of equipment. Think of lunges, squats, press up, planks. These types of exercises help you tone up and build muscle. Muscle increases the metabolic rate of the body so you burn more calories. The more muscle you have the more fat you can burn so the leaner you become!
Pilates is one of those types of exercises where we often use our own bodyweight as the resistance. This offers quite a few benefits:
1. You get to know your own body and get in tune with it.
2. You don’t need expensive equipment to do it at home.
3. Using your bodyweight has been shown to be an effective way to workout in a short period of time.
4. You can modify the exercises if you feel you are not strong enough whereas it can be harder to reduce the weight of some equipment.
Good Pilates exercises to do that use your bodyweight:
Planks: 1/2 planks, full planks, planks with leg lifts.
Press ups: against a wall, half or full.
Front leg Pull Back
The hundred with pumping arms
Double leg stretch
Next time you do Pilates think about how you are using your body as a weight/resistance and how you can work against the resistance to work even harder. Think about your arms/legs being heavy as you stretch them away or them being the weights.
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.
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.