Feb 272018

Well it does seem like such a long time since we were all last at classes, I’m now getting so excited to be restarting classes on….

Monday 9th April 2018!

Just to begin with I will be running the following classes:


11.15am Pilates at Barnack Village Hall

6.15pm Pilates at Great Casterton Village Hall


9.15am Dancefit at Ketton Congregational Hall

10.25am Pilates at Ketton Congregational Hall


9.30am Dancefit at Empingham Audit Hall

I will of course be running my 1-1 Pilates sessions on these days so if you would like to book a session please get in touch with me!

See you all soon!

 Posted by at 4:44 pm
Sep 202017


So I am writing this with great excitement but also with a little sadness as I am saying adieu to my classes until mid January 2018 to have our little one!  This is the last week of our classes, most of which have been running continuously for the last 8 years so I will really miss you all- however I will be back! At the moment my ideas is that I will be back roughly mid January and in the mean time will keep this website and FB updated along with sending regular newsletters to you all.

Ok I’m going to stop now, the emotions are running too high! x

 Posted by at 2:30 pm
Aug 242017

For years, mothers-to-be have been told to cut back on exercise and take it easy despite the positive effects on body and mind. So how much is OK – and what workouts are recommended?
According to NHS guidelines, you can keep up your normal daily physical activity or exercise for as long as you feel comfortable.
 According to NHS guidelines, you can keep up your normal daily physical activity or exercise for as long as you feel comfortable. Photograph: KidStock/Getty/Blen

‘Stop running, kill the wild swimming and be careful about cycling.” I like my GP – he is a funny, hardworking man, practising in a diverse community with stretched resources. But when I walked into his office, six weeks pregnant, his advice on exercise during pregnancy felt a little like being wrapped in a vacuum bag. I didn’t want to stop exercising. I can’t really afford to stop cycling (thank you Transport for London) and I would genuinely fear for my mental health if I gave up running overnight.

Exercise during pregnancy is controversial. Serena Williams, winner of 23 tennis grand slams, made headlines worldwide on Monday, simply for declaring her plans “to keep exercising for as long as possible while pregnant”. For much of recent history, write the authors of Exercise During the Childbearing Year, “pregnant women were treated as if they had an illness and were subjected to a state of confinement. They were advised to relax, avoid strenuous exertion, and minimise stretching and bending for fear of strangling or squashing the baby”. Even in the first few months, when your body remains bumpless, some people will knit their brow and take a sceptical breath if you say you intend to remain active. You will be warned off lying on your back, swimming anywhere but a pool, lifting anything heavier than a feather and putting any sort of pressure on your joints. But is this advice based on evidence?

Modern scanning techniques, longitudinal studies, improvements in public health and monitoring all mean that we now better understand women’s bodies and the effects of pregnancy. The NHS, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the National Childbirth Trust and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence all recommend moderate exercise during pregnancy, to alleviate or reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, high gestational weight gain, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Yet, according to the charity Tommy’s (which funds research into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth), many women still fear that exercise can lead to miscarriage. Tell someone that you are going for a run in even your first trimester and you will be warned to “take it easy” and “be sensible”.

“We go by the principles of Fit: frequency, intensity and time,” says Joan Murphy, co-founder of pregnancy programme Mumhood at London gym Frame. “Reduce the time, distance, weight and how often, but you can keep going. If someone asks ‘can I do this?’ our response is always: ‘Yes,’ followed quickly by: ‘But how does it feel?’”

Murphy’s advice feels like both a licence to behave in a way your body wants and encouragement for when it doesn’t. When she says: “You wouldn’t run a marathon without doing some exercise in preparation, so why go into a marathon labour without getting your body ready?” I find myself slamming my glass on the table and cheering. “If you have a base level of fitness, your body’s used to that,” says Murphy. According to NHS guidelines, you can keep up your normal daily physical activity or exercise for as long as you feel comfortable. There is even some evidence that active women are less likely to experience problems in later pregnancy and labour.

“But there is a list of things you need to be aware of,” warns Murphy. “Stay hydrated, don’t overheat, stop if you feel dizzy. Also, as you get the release of the hormone relaxin, your pelvis will start to move apart and your joints will loosen, so be careful of any impact exercise that will put strain on your hips, knees and ankles. Don’t do anything that really puts you off balance, like skiing or horse riding. This isn’t the time to go for your personal best. This is a time when you have to let go of those expectations. The more you let go, the better it’ll be postnatally.”

Still, there are scores of myths around exercising while pregnant. You may, for example, have heard that exercising on your back after 16 weeks is a no-no. “That’s really old school,” Murphy says, rolling her eyes. “Depending on where the baby is, they could lie on the vein that pumps fresh blood to the heart and stop the blood flow. But when the baby does that – you know. It will be very uncomfortable and you’ll roll over. You will feel if you should be lying on your back. And there are lots of great ways to work on your core without lying on your back, of course. It’s also really important through the whole pregnancy to work on your glutes, because they’re what will hold the pelvis stable. That will help alleviate back pain.”

How about weights? The official advice is to avoid any heavy lifting when pregnant, including children, if you have any. But, as many pregnant women know, this isn’t always practical or desirable. “The risk is pulling muscles; everything is connected in there,” says Murphy, nodding at my stomach. “But strength is more important than anything else in pregnancy. You have to hold this body together. The risk is bringing heavy weights over the head, introducing tension and straining when you’re not used to it. But if you lift weights already then bring it down by 20% as you go through your pregnancy.” By the third trimester, recommended exercises for pregnant women move more into yoga, stretching and practical muscle work to prepare for what is to come.

From experience, the link between physical and mental health – which can become even more important during pregnancy – seems to be the least considered aspect in the broader conversation. The Royal College of Psychiatrists recommends exercise as a key factor in maintaining mental wellbeing during pregnancy, while recent research from the University of Southampton has shown that moderate intensity exercise is associated with lower rates of antenatal depression (which affects around one in 10 women at some point during pregnancy). “We’re all operating on a mental health spectrum and where you sit on that spectrum will change, of course,” says Murphy.

“Fitness can offer you time out, away from your phone, in an environment where you are comfortable, but number one it is about breathing. If you’re feeling stressed or depressed or anxious, you need to breathe properly. And exercise can help you regulate that.”

 Posted by at 5:31 pm
Aug 242017
It is with a really really heavy heart that I have decided to temporarily stop running my Tuesday Dancefit class at Empingham, it was one of my first classes that I ever started so to stop it was a really hard decision.  However this class WILL restart in the New Year when all of my other classes restart.  The lovely people at Empingham Audit Hall are keeping this session open until I come back…….with a vengeance!  So our last Tuesday class will be on Tuesday 29th August.  Please don’t despair as my two other Dancefit classes at Ketton on a Wednesday and at Empingham on a Friday are going on with so much strength!
 Posted by at 5:29 pm
Aug 242017

Bank Holiday on Monday 28th August
As ever classes will be running as normal this bank holiday – so that means that we will be meeting at Barnack Village Hall for Pilates at 1115am and at Great Casterton Village Hall at 615pm.  So if bank holiday traffic or the weather is making you stay at home, you will be guaranteed a warm welcome at our classes!
 Posted by at 5:27 pm
Jul 262017

Well there are lots of changes this month aren’t there?  Just to let you know that our Pilates class at Barnack Village Hall on Monday 14th August will be at a different time, just for that day only.  On this date we will be meeting at Barnack at 1pminstead of the earlier time of 1115am – this is just because I have a hospital appointment early on in the day where I am not allowed to eat all morning and I really don’t want you to have to suffer a class with me where I haven’t eaten – it will be awful trust me, eurggg low blood sugar!

 Posted by at 3:43 pm
Jul 262017

Well there is some exciting news adrift – Empingham Audit Hall is having a spruce up in the way of a new lick of paint!  This means that the hall will be closed to us for the 2 weeks that the maintenance will take place.  Please do not despair as I would really not like for you to miss out on your Dancefit fix, we are taking our classes on tour to …………Edith Weston Village Hall!
We used to have our Zumba classes there years ago so I know what a lovely hall it is.  The hall can be found at 1 Rectory Lane, Edith Weston, LE15 8HE – there is onroad parking.

So this means we will not be at Empingham Audit Hall on the following days but will be at Edith Weston Village Hall:

Tuesday 1st August
Friday 4th August
Tuesday 8th August
Friday 11th August.

After these dates the classes will resume as per normal at Empingham.  No other classes will be affected.

 Posted by at 3:43 pm
Jul 262017

I tried pilates to cure my bad back – here’s what happened next

Watch and learn

On a Friday afternoon around this time last year, I pressed send on the weekly weather column I write for the Telegraph and leant back in my office chair to notice a curious burning in my shoulder that stretched all the way down to the elbow.

I dismissed it as nothing more than a mutated version of the typical aches and pains any writer gets after a long spell in front of a screen.

My right shoulder had seized up so badly overnight that it was clamped against my chin in the manner of Lurch from the Addams Family.

It was only when I was cycling home that evening and discovered I couldn’t lift my neck properly to assess the oncoming traffic that I realised there might be a more serious problem.

The next morning I woke up with a right shoulder that had seized up so badly overnight that it was clamped against my chin in the manner of Lurch from the Addams Family.

Joe Shute still trying to perfect that 'mermaid' pose
Joe Shute still trying to perfect that ‘mermaid’ pose CREDIT: ANDREW CROWLEY

The eventual diagnosis was a slipped disc between the C5 and C6 vertebrae in the cervical spine. I was in agony and to compound matters due to get married the following month.

My physio told me if I was to sort myself out in time, avoid surgery, and ensure that the same thing didn’t happen again, it was time to start making some major changes. If I didn’t, she warned, I might no longer be able to do the thing that I love the most (after my wife): write.

And so I embarked on the long and – often painful – path that 12 months later has brought me to a mat in an upstairs studio of the Light Centre in Belgravia, being urged by my instructor Sam Webster to perfect a mermaid stretch and trying not to whimper about the ache in my hamstrings.

For I am now a pilates man. And I am not alone.

As ever more of us sit down and stare at screens for a living, back pain is becoming the great leveller of our age. Humans are evolved to move, twist, bend and roam, not sit hunched in an office chair for 12 hours a day.

In the technological era we have moved from a species that is dependent on our bodies to our brains. And the damage we are doing to ourselves in the process is profound.

The latest Health and Safety Executive figures show nearly 10 million working days are lost each year for adults aged 25-64 due to back paincosting the UK economy some £12bn a year. Around 80 per cent of us will suffer from back pain at some point in our lives. 

It is men aged between 45 and 54 who are deemed most at risk of developing problems, an age bracket that is creeping down all the time.

Pilates builds strength whereas its close cousin yoga builds flexibility
Pilates builds strength whereas its close cousin yoga builds flexibility CREDIT: ANDREW CROWLEY

I am 32 and have always been reasonably physically fit but my physio tells me she is increasingly seeing people my age with degenerative conditions a decade earlier than they would typically have been afflicted a generation ago.

Pilates and its close relative yoga (the former is a western invention that focuses on strength and the latter an eastern one that places greater value on flexibility) are increasingly seen as crucial weapons in the war against back pain.

Accordingly despite being an activity traditionally perceived as restricted to women, ever more men are now taking up pilates. Not even necessarily as a hobby, fun though it is, rather a necessary tool of keeping going in their lives.

The 2016 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence  guidance on the management of back pain recognises a combination of approaches often works best – exercise, psychological therapies as well as manipulative therapy. This ties in with a new authoritative study published in the US this month, which proved regular yoga classes relieves lower back pain as effectively as physiotherapy.

I consult a few of my fellow male attendees at the Light Centre and hear stories remarkably similar to my own.

Nick Medd, 54, is a former banker for HSBC and nowadays works as a head-hunter. The married father of three says his back pain struck in his early 40s, at a time when he was sitting at his desk for 12 hours a day.

“I went to see an osteopath who just told me I was spending my whole life sitting down and if I wanted to continue to work I had to change my lifestyle. I would sit on the train to work be at a desk or otherwise be on a flight. My wife told me to start standing on the commute in from Basingstoke but it didn’t make a difference.”

Instead he started pilates and now attends classes two or three times a week in between work. He thinks it would be far better if businesses encouraged their staff to take up pilates to prevent back problems before they emerge. “The benefits to me are so obvious,” he says.

Pilates was, in fact, the invention of a man. The early 20th century German pioneer Joseph Pilates patented the technique of using control of the body to strengthen and condition it. The concept also owes something to the “medical gymnastics” developed in 1813 by Per Henrik Ling, a Swedish fencing master and romantic novelist.

It focuses largely on breathing and developing core strength. I realised how seriously this was something I lacked in my first class when a mass of cramp formed in my gluteus maximus sending shockwaves down to my calf. I leapt up from the mat yelping in pain, much to the amusement of my fellow classmates.

That was in a local leisure centre where I am often the only man out of 20 women in the room. In my experience the more expensive classes in the city tend to be more mixed sex affairs.

Pilates forces you to pay attention— focusing on your breath while working through each movement
Pilates forces you to pay attention— focusing on your breath while working through each movement CREDIT: ANDREW CROWLEY

I supplement these occasional pilates classes with my own stretches in the morning and night, and as regularly as I can during the day as well.

So what differences have I noticed? Firstly, my posture. I stand far straighter than I used to and sit better, too. My body feels stronger, and I have developed small bulges of muscle around the shoulder blades where there was none before. I still can’t touch my toes – and on busy writing weeks feel occasional stabs of pain in my shoulders – but I am getting there.

Pilates focuses on the deep postural muscles, under the abdominals.  The author Martin Amis, another devotee, described the strengthening effects as while not sufficient to make his gut disappear, certainly enough to enable him to suck it in when an attractive woman walks by on the beach.

He also once neatly surmised what pilates had done for him. “I stopped groaning,” he said. “When I get out of the car now, I don’t go arrggghhh.”

And for us devotees that, quite simply, is what it is all about.

 Posted by at 3:38 pm