You’ve probably heard that your ‘core’ muscles are important,
but what actually are these muscles and why are they so important?
The core muscles are made up of your deepest abdominal
muscles. They include the transversus abdominis that is located at the front of
the trunk, the pelvic floor muscles, the diaphragm and the multifidus muscles
in your lower back.
When you engage the core, these muscles work in unison. You
can think of it as putting on a corset. The corset helps to support you around
your centre as you move your arms and legs, just as the core muscles do. They
can help to maintain the natural curve of the spine and are important for
supporting the lower back.
You shouldn’t just think of engaging your core when you
exercise, but also as go about your daily activities. Engaging your core
creates more power and strength through the limbs, making movements easier.
It’s difficult for all of us. I quite often have days when
I’d rather not do any exercise, but on the days I do pursued myself to roll out
the mat, I am always reminded that I never, ever feel worse after exercise.
Exercise has the fantastic ability to lift your mood,
energize you for the day and put a smile on your face. For me at the moment,
it’s all about making exercise a habit. You can make the habit easier by doing
little things that prepare you to make getting into the habit, easier. Here’s
what I do.
Make sure my workout gear is ready to put on
first thing in the morning. I can’t do a serious workout if I don’t look the
Have my mat close to hand. It’s currently living
in the kitchen, rolled up ready to grab when I need it. I see it when I go in
the kitchen in a morning, so it’s there to remind me.
Follow a video. Yes, I follow Pilates videos as
well. Some days I need some inspiration.
Those little things makes it easier for me to stay committed
to my workout, but here are a few other suggestions:
Find you own space. Make sure you have enough
room for your workout. There’s nothing worse than finding you can’t get your
arms out fully without hitting the wall when your halfway through a workout.
Book yourself some ‘me time’. Find yourself a regular
time in the day when you have time to exercise. Remember it doesn’t have to be
too long. Sometime ten minutes might be all you need. If you always do it at
the same time, the rest of the family will come to expect that that’s your time
to workout. Just like it would be if you were going out to a class.
You don’t have to exercise everyday. Have a
change and go for a walk instead.
Join an online community. You’ll find other
likeminded people who are looking for ways to stay active.
Do FaceTime Workout with friends. Have a giggle,
have a chat and make it fun. Each pick a couple of exercises you can contribute
Workout with a family member. You can help to
motivate each other.
Workout to music. Whatever you like, it really doesn’t
matter, as long as it helps to keep you going. If I’m working on strength, my
favourite is Queen!
I hope that’s given you a few ideas. And remember, you don’t have to exercise everyday, just a couple of times a week for 10-20 minutes is enough to keep your body moving. But, as one of my clients reminded me today, the more you do, the better you feel.
Pilates is great to help tone and strength your body. But
what happens if you add hand weights to your workout?
I love to add weight when I’m working out at home because they can help to tone the arms and shoulders. But you have to remember to only use a light weight; so for women 1-3lbs is plenty, but men can use slightly more. It’s important not to use a heavy weight as it can create leverage and momentum challenges that can pull you out of alignment and take away the focus from the core to the extremities.
Weight should be used to bring more focused attention to the
core abdominal muscles, creating controlled movement with extra stability for
the shoulders and pelvis.
Weights can add some variety to you regular workout, so it’s probably best to use them occasional and not all the time. You can also include ankle weights in some of your workouts to tone the hips and legs. But again, a light weight is best.
My favorite hand weights are from Fitness Mad. They offer excellent grip due to the neoprene coating and the added bonus of being soft to the touch. The edges of the dumbbells have a hexagonal shape, so when you put them down they won’t roll away. They come in a great range of colours and are available from 0.5kg – 5kg. The lighter are great value for money start at £7.59 for a pair. Because they are only a small business, they do occasionally go out of stock, but you don’t normally have to wait too long before they come back in stock. For me, it’s worth the wait.
DTX Fitness also have a great range of hand weights for women. Again they have a neoprene coating so are comfy to use and won’t mark or scratch your floor. These are nice looking weights and slightly more expensive, starting at £9.99.
If you’d like to try out some ankle weights, Fitness Mad offer a really comfortable neoprene pair that could also be used as wrist weights. When you’re not using them for Pilates, you could wear them when going out for a walk to strength the legs even more. The lighter weight pair are great value at £9.99 for a really good quality product.
When you hit your 50’s, it usually around this time in our
lives when we suddenly notice that it’s not as easy to do certain things as it
You might find that getting up and down off the floor isn’t
as easy on the knees, you find that you wake up feeling stiff and achy in the
mornings, you might have trouble reaching up high because you have discomfort
in your shoulder or arm, and bending down hurts your back.
All this creeps up on us slowly, sometimes over a long
period of time. You’ll start to feel those aches and pains one day and wonder
what you’ve done to make it hurt. In fact, you probably haven’t done anything.
It’s just built up over time.
A lot of the discomfort we feel in our bodies is just a
muscular issue from the muscles get tighter and tighter. This is a common
problem if you spend your day sitting at a desk. Muscles tighten up in the neck
and shoulders until one day it really starts to hurt.
Your body can carry a lot of tension before you start to
notice a problem. Knots appear within the muscle fibres as they start to stick
together. If left, this just gets worse, putting even greater strain on
ligament and joints, which can then lead to wear and tear or the joints.
The best way to prevent this is to move your body as much a
possible. You don’t need to do really vigorous exercise; some gentle and
controlled mobility exercises may be all you need to keep the joints healthy
and the muscles free from tension.
This is why I find Pilates so beneficial for the over 50’s
and anyone else in their 60’s and 70’s can find great benefit as well. The
exercises can easily be adapted if you are new to Pilates or even new to
Check our my standing warm up for beginners to get a better understanding of Pilates exercise.
If you have been to one of my classes, you’ll now that at
the beginning of every session, I recap how to stand tall with excellent posture,
so you are ready to exercise. It’s so important to recap this, because, let’s
face it, ten minutes after leaving an exercise class you forget what you were
doing, and don’t often carry those ‘standing tall’ principles with you every
The same applies to the basic exercises. You can think of
them as re-training your bodies movement patterns, and over time, muscle memory
takes over, and suddenly, the exercise becomes easier. The basic exercises also
give us time to think about everything that we’re doing. Focusing on your
breathing makes the exercise easier to perform, co-ordinating your arms and
legs to work together, but most importantly learning how to engage and control
the ‘core’ muscles. These muscles are your powerhouse. They are the deep
underlying abdominal muscles which help you to control all your movements,
ensure that you are well supported around the centre of your body and avoid any
injury, especially to the lower back, while exercising.
I feel that everyone should have that solid foundation of
basic exercises that they practice regularly when first starting out, even if
it seems very repetitive, each time you perform that exercise you’ll learn
something new, or you’ll be able to add in different elements easily.
You may watch one of my beginner exercises and think it
looks really is. But even the easiest of exercises can be challenging if done correctly.
far as I’m concerned, Pilates is the best type of exercise you can do. It’s
great for everyone, regardless of your age or fitness level, there is always
something suitable for you.
is a mat based practice that teaches you how to use your stabilising muscles
(the core) to control movement through the arms and legs. It can be a great
full body workout, as it helps to build stability and strength throughout the
It’s a form of exercise that’s suitable for
everyone, including seniors, helping to change the way you look, feel and move.
It is not a”quick- fix” and you do need to persevere, but the results will be
worth it in helping to improve strength, flexibility and decreasing stress.
power and strength come from your ‘core’ or ‘centre’, working the deep
abdominal muscles to allow following movements while exercising. Pilates
focuses on improving your posture, so when you finish a workout, you’ll feel
like you’re standing up taller, and overtime the strength in the postural muscles
will improve making it feel easier to stand up tall and help reduce any muscular
Pilates is excellent for the rehabilitation of
injuries and can help relieve pain and muscular discomfort. Pilates works all
muscle groups in your body, teaching you to focus, gaining better awareness of your
body and release any muscular tension.
Pilates encourages you to perform movements in a
flowing and controlled way which co-ordinates mind, body and breathing. Quality
of movement is vital, re-learning correct movement patterns and postures,
improving balance, mobility and co-ordination.