Jun 192017

Image result for cycling

Following Chris Froome’s Tour de France win, and Team GB’s unprecedented medal haul at Rio, cycling has never had such a high profile or been so popular!

Certainly, it’s one discipline that has lived up to the games’ mantra of “inspiring a generation”.

Cycling has been becoming increasingly popular as a sport, as an easy form of training and as a cheap form of commuting and transport. And following the successes in Rio, it can only get bigger and better.

Training for cycling has been traditionally very simple; the more miles the better! But could the introduction of Pilates help the cyclist to train smarter?

The answer to this is a resounding yes – at both an elite level, and also for someone who is using their bike to get to work or for health benefits.

For any cyclist improving efficiency is key – the more power they can produce with less effort, the faster they can travel for longer.

It is easy to spot a tiring cyclist – as fatigue sets in their effort becomes less and less efficient, and as they pedal, their bodies will start to roll from side to side on their bikes. In contrast, riders who are still moving efficiently will have their legs turning the pedals smoothly whilst their head, shoulders and body remain still and secure, in doing so they are wasting less energy to propel the bike.

Clearly, the longer a cyclist is able to maintain good form on the bike, the more efficiently they will use their energy, and the further and faster they can go.
Pilates targets the core muscles that help stabilise the rider on the bike, keeping the spine in a stable position whilst the limbs move. So by improving their core strength, cyclists can increase their power output.

Sir Bradley Wiggins (who knows a bit about generating power on a bike) is quoted as using Pilates to help strengthen his core; as he says “without a solid core you can’t transfer power efficiently.”

An increase in core strength also improves balance and therefore bike handling – always an advantage in both performance and safety cyclists at all levels.

It is not just through the core where performance gains can be found. Pilates also encourages improved limb alignment when moving. Again, the key here is improved stability. Making the movement more stable improves the movement pattern in the leg, stopping the knees and feet from turning or twisting during the pedal stroke. This delivers significant benefits in both force production and efficiency and – equally important – also helps protect against potential knee or ankle injuries.

Cyclists frequently have lower bone mineral density than sportspeople in other disciplines – this means that their bones are softer and more susceptible to fractures. By adding some resistance based training – Pilates works well for this, including our Pilates bands (!) – load will be put through these bones and joints which will increase their bone mineral density, increase resilience and reducing the risk if fractures in crashes. Another advantage of using Pilates for resistance training is that it will improve muscle strength without increasing bulk, allowing cyclists to improve their power to weight ratio (watts/Kg).

Last but not least, let’s not forget that Pilates is known for its ability to improve flexibility and posture, so it’s a great way to redress some of the postural and muscular tightness and imbalances that cycling inevitably brings. Cyclists tend to suffer from tight hip flexors, necks and upper backs, caused by being hunched forward over the frame – it’s a particular issue for racing cyclists. Pilates will help stretch and lengthen these muscles, and also strengthen them so they don’t set tight and short, this is another good preventative measure to avoid injury.

Competitive cyclists can build Pilates into their regimen during both the on- and off-season. In the off-season they can use it to help build strength and improve alignment. During the season, it will help them stretch and release tight muscles whilst improving core strength.

 Posted by at 4:05 pm
May 292017

If you’ve struggled with depression you’ve probably heard the statistics. Depression affects more than 350 million people worldwide.  It can be triggered by a major life event, or can arrive without warning. More than just “the blues,” it can take the joy out of everyday life, leaving you feeling empty and unmotivated.   It is a topic that some of you have been discussing and I’m realising that it is occurring more and more amongst both men and women.

For some people, therapy or prescription medication can help alleviate the symptoms. But some consider dancing!

Dance is considered to be one of the earliest forms of human communication, and it’s also a great way to exercise, get your mind off your daily life, and find others with common interests.

Here are five ways that taking a regular dance class can help curb depression and bring more joy into your life.

  1. Exercise.
    You’ve certainly heard that the best way to fight depression is to get up and get some exercise. Aerobic exercise elevates levels of both dopamine (the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward) and euphoria-inducing endorphins. But if you suffer from depression, you also know how difficult it can be to get motivated.Dancefit classes help erode away that resistance because they take place at a certain time and the I will guide you through whatever the movement sequence is that day. You don’t have to track anything, program any elliptical machines, or remember which weight machines you should be using.
  2. Music.
    Our dance classes take place with musical accompaniment from our legendary beatbox! Rhythm, the most basic of musical elements, gives our brain something to focus on, and certain tempos can even induce trance states.
  3. Finding flow.
    Dance classes are like a moving meditation, even the most vigorous ones. During an hour-long dance class, you’ll be so focused on following the structure of the class that time will fall away. You won’t even have time to feel distracted by your depression inertia. It can be sometimes called being “in the zone.” It’s also characterized by a feeling that you have the potential to succeed, which will help you feel better about yourself.
  4. Other people.
    Sometimes interacting with other humans seems like the last thing you want to do when going through a depressive episode. However, the structured nature of a dance class allows you the experience of being in a room with others without the awkwardness of having to make small talk or you can chat as much as you would like!
  5. The joy of improvement.
    When you struggle to remember a complex movement sequence or stay balanced during a turn, you have two choices: get frustrated and quit, or keep coming back to class. And when you feel like we’ve done something well that you once struggled with, your brain floods with feel good dopamine – dopamine spurs you to want to seek that sense of reward again, so you’re more likely to go back to dancing. And when you do, you’ll be bringing more activity, music, and community into your life, hopefully keeping depression at bay!8525322_orig
 Posted by at 3:46 pm
May 172017

Thank you David H for finding this really interesting article on exercising whilst pregnant!

  • 11 May 2017
Exercising outdoors

As a growing number of pregnant women are joining prenatal exercises classes, the BBC’s Sarah Porter – 34 weeks into her pregnancy – attends a boot camp in Singapore.

It’s 8.45am on a Saturday and Singapore’s Botanic Gardens are alive with people and activity.

Local walking groups chat furiously in Mandarin, while gaggles of women push prams, coffees in hand. No-one seems particularly deterred by the rising heat.

I’m here to join a brand new exercise group called Mom In Balance. It’s a franchise business founded in the Netherlands that specialises in outdoor exercise programmes for pregnant women and new mothers.

As I sit and wait for others to arrive, a group of five or six women run by me, overtaking everyone in sight. They are being led by a tall blonde woman wearing a t-shirt that says Mom in Balance. I start to panic a little.

I’ve done a reasonable amount of exercise throughout my pregnancy, including some swimming and a (very little) bit of running. But there is absolutely no way I’ll be able to keep up with the group I’ve just seen sprint past.

Jantien with Sarah Porter

Thankfully, a heavily pregnant woman decked out in running gear comes and sits next to me. I’m at the right spot, she tells me, at the right time. The 8am class I’ve just seen run past is for mothers getting back into shape soon after childbirth.

The tall blonde instructor returns to take the 9am class – a group which is now made up of three or four quite visibly pregnant women, together with some others.

As we set off on our warm-up, we are already dripping with sweat. As it is far from usual to see groups of pregnant women exercising outside in Singapore, passers-by stop and stare.

“Don’t worry, we’re famous here,” one woman says to me. “Some people even stop to take photos of us.”

‘Powerful growth’

Despite well-documented studies that show the benefits of exercise during all stages of pregnancy, globally the prenatal exercise industry is relatively new.

In fact, while a mass of data is readily available on the $542bn (£418bn) world fitness industry, it is very difficult to find any about prenatal classes.

For example, the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) reports extensively on the fitness industry, but has no statistics whatsoever on the prenatal sector. Nor could they find any for me, from any country.

Women take part in a Mom In Balance back in shape class

However, GWI’s director of research Beth McGroarty, says the sector is definitely now expanding strongly.

“Programmes are being added at existing fitness centres and there are more prenatal yoga, Pilates and other gentle workouts available,” she says.

“And given the powerful growth in prenatal fitness programmes, one can assume there will be research on this market in the future.”

Founded in 2006, Mom in Balance now has franchises in 11 countries, including the US, Japan and Germany, as it tries to meet increasing demand from mums-to-be.

Emma and Jantien exercising

While the bulk of its 7,000 members are in the Netherlands, founder Esther van Diepen, is aiming to see that figure hit at least 10,000 by the end of this year, as it continues to expand around the world.

Here in Singapore, the franchise is just four months old, with 75 active members. Jantien Kroese-van den Berg, a fitness instructor and the country’s new Mom in Balance franchise owner, hopes to double those numbers by the end of the year.

At 150 Singapore dollars ($108; £83) per month for a variety of classes, Jantien says she is expecting to rely more heavily on Singapore’s expat community than its locals for the initial growth in numbers.

Word of mouth, she hopes, will then see more Singaporeans joining, despite some cultural opposition to pregnant women doing exercises.

‘Defend themselves’

In Singapore, where the population is about 75% ethnic Chinese, together with minorities including Indians and Malays, it’s very rare to see pregnant women en masse taking part in rigorous activity outdoors. Prenatal yoga and Pilates is popular, but not more vigorous exercise.

Jantien says: “There is sometimes a general feeling that you should do nothing because that might be better to hold on to your pregnancy.

Mom in Balance prenatal class

“The Asian-born ladies in my classes – they all have to defend themselves to their families, even to their friends.”

A 2015 research paper that analyses the differences in beliefs, attitudes and intentions towards prenatal exercise between women in China and Australia explains a little of what’s behind this.

“In traditional Chinese culture, pregnancy is considered a vulnerable period that requires rest and recuperation, with many antenatal taboos, some of which may contrast with international guidelines on exercise in pregnancy,” the report says.

“Two relevant taboos intended to avoid spontaneous miscarriage include ‘not walking too fast’ and ‘not walking too often’, which have been reported to be adhered to by the majority of Chinese women,” it continues.

But Mom in Balance member Richa Nair, a Singaporean Indian, explains it’s not only a traditional Chinese belief that prenatal exercise can be dangerous.

“My friends sounded a bit shocked when I described the exercises we do, but soon that turned to admiration,” she says.

“With regards to my family, they are mostly horrified and believe this is a time to relax and slow down the pace of life. Their eyebrows shot into their foreheads when I told them about my prenatal exercising.”

‘No high impact’

Dr Ann Tan, a leading obstetrician and gynaecologist in Singapore, says attitudes towards prenatal exercise are definitely changing, though perhaps more slowly in parts of Asia.

Like most medical professionals, though, she is guarded with her advice.

“Usually I don’t like any high impact in the first trimester. I like walking, you can swim too. But no high impact stuff,” she says.

“The second and third trimester depends very much on the lady herself. If she’s perfectly well and she’s been active all her life, then she can actually resume some of her exercise, but tail it down to about 60%.”

Singapore-based personal trainer Aaron Rolley, the boss of International Fitness Consultants, has worked with pregnant women for about 20 years.

Aaron and Sarah Porter

Charging 100 Singapore dollars for a one-on-one session, he has built a reputation as a leader in his field.

“Training during pregnancy is not about losing fat or going for a personal best,” says Aaron.

“The workout for each mother will look very different, some will just stretch, foam roll and mobilise, while others will be doing chin ups and push ups. It depends on the individual and their training history.”

 Posted by at 1:18 pm
Apr 102017

Happy Monday everyone! Just a reminder this is my last week of classes because I am on holiday next week (from Monday 17th – Friday 21st April)  but don’t despair I am back on Monday 24th April and all this week we will be having Easter treats!

easter eggs

 Posted by at 2:20 pm
Feb 152017

New Mummy and Me Pilates starts on Wednesday 1st March, Tinwell Village Hall 1pm – 2pm just £30 for the 5 week course


What does a typical Mummy and Baby Pilates Class contain?

*  a warm-up to mobilise stiff joints and prepare your body for your session
*  toning exercises to help keep your arms and legs strong
*  Pilates exercises to help re-align your posture and fix those rounded shoulders!
*  pelvic floor sequences to really focus on these vital muscles,
*  mat-based Pilates exercises to help tone your abdominals and pelvic floor,
*  stretching exercises to increase flexibility, And
*  relaxation to help ease those worries away after a long, stressful day…

Please contact me by Thursday 23rd February to book your place!

 Posted by at 5:52 pm