Virginia Sherriff, senior physiotherapist and director, Pilates on Macquarie (www.ssop.com.au), tells us how to come away from a Pilates sesh feeling taller, strong and more flexible… minus any pain.
ACE IT: NEUTRAL SPINE
Completely flattening your spine or arching your back too much are easy ways to end up with unnecessary stress on your spine (ouch!). For perfect neutral spine, make sure the base of the ribs and hip bones are in alignment as you work in any posture.
ACE IT: PULLING IN YOUR CORE
When you’re instructed to ‘pull in your core’, it just feels right to suck in your tummy at full throttle. But as the deep abdominals play a big role in posture and stabilisation of the spine (and are designed for endurance) you won’t be able to hold this for very long… not to mention, you might not be able breathe! Research tells us that working our core at 20 per cent is about right if we want to work consistently and continuously.
ACE IT: A NON-FLARING RIBCAGE
If you’re sucking in your tummy too much, you’re probably also flaring out your ribs in your best bird-strutting pose. This can throw your centre of gravity out, which equals you hinging from your spine. Correct it and dodge any build-up of pressure to the joints of your spine by letting your ribs soften down towards your hip bones.
ACE IT: YOUR BREATHING
Our breathing isn’t always scoring an A+ during exercise. The fix? Pay attention to where you’re breathing from. If you notice short, fast breaths coming up around the shoulders, actively reset and direct your breath towards the base and sides of the ribcage. Hello more efficient breathing, and goodbye muscle tension building up around the neck and shoulders.
ACE IT: THE PELVIC FLOOR CONTRACTION
We can’t actually see the pelvic floor muscles contracting, which makes it pretty hard to know if they’re engaged. It’s a common mistake to end up super-squeezing your glutes instead, but this brings you no closer to strengthening your core than when you began. The contraction should be more of a drawing inwards and upwards between the legs, as if you’re trying to stop yourself from peeing. Resist relaxing your muscles between contractions and you’re all set.
ACE IT: LOWER BODY ALIGNMENT
As there’s a lot of emphasis placed on your core during Pilates we can get a bit lazy with posture around the rest of the bod (this is no good for joints, muscles and ligaments!). Don’t forget to set your body position each time you change posture and exercise. For the lower body, place an equal amount of load through each side and align the knees and feet under the hip bones.
ACE IT: HEAD, NECK AND SHOULDER BLADE POSITIONING
Crick neck, tired shoulders and an aching upper back… all avoidable by setting your head back slightly, tucking in your chin and softening your shoulders (roll them forward and back from one extreme to the other to find a happy mid-point).
If in doubt, ask your Pilates instructor for help. And don’t forget to enjoy!
From navigating your way through platters of festive treats, to finding the cure for cocktail-induced headache, WF has got you covered for the silly season. In the first installment, WF expert and nutritionist Susie Burrell shares her food dos and don’ts for the next few weeks.
1. Continue exercising: The warmer weather and daylight saving hours present a perfect opportunity to do more acvivity, not less. So make it a priority to maintain your fitness commitments.
2. Limit alcohol intake: Even at this time of year, try to have two alcohol-free days each week to give your liver a breather.
3. Get back to your routine quickly: If you do take a break, aim to return to your usual diet and exercise regimen by January 2.
4. Balance your food: Constantly remind yourself that the party season only lasts a few weeks. Enjoy good-quality treats in controlled amounts, but balance them with nutritious foods, including salads, fresh seafood and fruits, and feel better.
1. Go to parties hungry: Avoid overeating at functions by ensuring you don’t arrive starving. Try a highly filling food 60-90 minutes beforehand, such as a meal replacement or protein shake, apple, cheese and wholegrain crackers or a handful of nuts.
2. Overindulge for months: While stores have been stocked with treats for weeks, all of these are celebrating one day, not months.
3. Buy too much food: Remember, if food is there, you will eat it. Hampers, snacks, chocolates and lollies in the pantry are a recipe for disaster. Purchase only what you need.
4. Eat everything on offer: Ask yourself: “Do I really feel like eating this?” This is often enough to help control your intake.
For more tips for surviving the festive season tune in next Friday for Part 2!
Of the active-wear kind, that is.
By deputy editor, Samera
Ah, Hump Day. You bring us equal parts joy (yay! The end of the week is near!) and sorrow (if we’ve made is thus far and haven’t been gymming it like we’d planned to. Might as well throw the towel in and eat that chocolate cake today, right?). So now that you’re up to speed with my tortured relationship with Wednesdays, picture the smile that appeared on my face when I learnt I’d be spending yesterday morning doing a Pilates class ocean-side at (you may have heard of it) Bondi Beach, thanks to Running Bare.
Kitted out in fresh Running Bare tights, crops and tops, WF editorial coordinator Sam and I got our best planks on to celebrate the brand’s winter 2014 season launch. Here’s a little back story: Running Bare celebrated its big three-oh this year. Thirty years ago its founders (we met Corin, one half of this duo yesterday) saw a gap in the active wear market and set out on a mission to fill it – with cool, stylish threads that were functional to boot. Fast forward to 2013 (and, er, winter 2014) and you’re spoilt for choice if black tights just aren’t cutting it in your sporty wardrobe. And next season you can expect the unexpected (think: leopard and geometric print, watercolour and skulls) mixed in with the bold brights that Running Bare has become famous for.
Midway through a four-point kneeling pose, I looked up and caught a glimpse of the sea of colour around the room and thought, “This is what working out should look like”. There ain’t nothing that makes me happier on a dreary day than throwing on a bright flippy skirt, and this is an attitude that doesn’t have to be limited to getting dressed for work/social events. Research shows there’s an 89.6%* chance a lime green tank will help you kick Wednesday’s butt… just like we did this week.
*This statistic may or may not have been made up. But go forth and make the stat a reality!
Is it taking forever to see results? Speed things up a little with these five easy tweaks.
A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that low-zinc diets can negatively affect cardiovascular fitness. Nosh on oysters, red meat and beans to up your intake.
During sleep, your muscle cells grow and repair, allowing you to get ready for the next session and progress. What’s the point of all that sweat if you’re not reaping the benefits with some shut-eye? Pull back the covers and jump in!
3.Work the floor
Cardio? Check. Strength? Check. Core training? Before you tick this off, make sure you work your pelvic floor. These muscles are a big part of your core, yet most of us neglect them. Squeeze them for 10 seconds at a time.
Performing ‘complexes’ with your weight training is a great way to increase results. Simply do sets of different exercises back to back to place a higher demand on your body, elevating your heart rate as well as boosting your strength.
5.Make a recovery
Post-workout food is the fuel that helps your body to recover from the stress of exercise, which in turn allows you to train more consistently. So top up on protein, good carbs (sweet potato) and healthy fats (nuts and seeds).
2-3 handfuls mixed leafy greens
2 spring onions, sliced
cup snow pea shoots
or micro greens
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed
300g organic chicken breast,
poached and thinly sliced
handful pistachio nuts, chopped
Lemon parsley mint salsa verde
Makes 1 cup
1 bunch parsley leaves
1 bunch mint leaves
zest and juice of lemon
cup cold-pressed olive oil
or macadamia nut oil
sea salt and pepper to taste
To make the salsa verde
1.Combine the parsley, mint, lemon zest, juice and oil in a high-speed blender. Season with sea salt and pepper.
2.Blend until green, then pour into a glass jar. This will keep for 1 week in the fridge.
To make the salad
1.Combine leafy greens with spring onion and snow pea shoots in a large bowl. Slice the raw asparagus into fine strips, using a potato peeler, then add into the bowl with the rest of the greens.
2.Add the poached chicken breast and toss through lightly with your fingertips to combine. Arrange onto serving plates and sprinkle with pistachio.
3.Serve with a light drizzle of salsa verde and enjoy.
How to poach chicken
1.Place two chicken breasts, 3 cups of cold water, pinch of salt, and juice of 1 lemon into a saucepan – making sure the water fully covers the chicken. Bring to the boil gently, then turn down the heat to very low. Simmer on a gentle heat for 15 minutes without boiling.
2.Turn off the heat and allow to rest for a further 5 minutes.
3.Remove the chicken breasts and use as required. Serve and enjoy hot or cold.
The Lowdown (per serve):
1,410kJ; 37g protein; 4g carbs; 5g fibre; 18g total fat (3.8g sat fat)
½ cup shredded coconut
2 packets of microwave brown rice
1 red capsicum
Handful fresh mint
Handful fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Cracked black pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
2. Spread the coconut over a baking tray and roast in the oven for a few minutes, stirring every couple of minutes until light brown. Remove from the oven.
3. Meanwhile, cook the brown rice as per packet instructions.
4. Cut off the peel and core of the pineapple and cut the fruit into small pieces.
4. Dice red capsicum, discarding the seeds and core.
5. Roughly chop fresh herbs.
6. In a salad bowl, mix all the ingredients together, toss well and serve.
Super easy and delicious, this salad goes really well with chicken, meat or burgers on the BBQ.