Tight body or muscle tension? Try these tips!

Do you suffer muscle tightness? Do you feel tight all over? There is a big difference between being tight and being strong. In fact when your body is tight, it can be difficult for your muscles to strengthen. This article explains the difference between muscle tightness and fascia tightness, both of which contribute to a tight body and then includes 6 tips to reduce all over body tension.

Muscle tightness or fascia tightness?

Our muscles are intimately connected to our fascia. Fascia is a thin casing of connective tissue that holds every organ, blood vessel, bone, nerve fibre and muscle in place. Fascia has nerves that make it almost as sensitive as skin, when it is stressed it tightens up.

Muscles attach via tendons and ligaments to our bones and move them. In a horse and cart analogy, the bone is the cart, the tendon is the attachment to the horse and the muscle is the horse.

It can be difficult to work out if your tightness is due to muscle tightness or fascia tightness and the two do impact on each other.

Tip 1 Become aware of where you are gripping

This is probably the hardest one to do. We have to be aware of our our bodies to notice where our muscles are gripping. Common gripping patterns occur in our gluteals or bottom, our lower back, our pec muscles at the top of the chest and our ribs pulling down at the front.

When you notice your muscles gripping make a conscious, relaxed effort to let go. If you notice you are gripping, you relax and then minutes later you’re gripping again, this is a gripping pattern. Our bodies develop a gripping pattern when other muscles are not working effectively, so the body compensates to get stability by gripping with other muscles. Seek help from a qualified movement teacher (Pilates or Yoga) or a manual therapist (Physiotherapist or Osteopath) to release gripping muscles and learn to recruit the right muscles for the job.

Being curious towards your body and which muscles are working or gripping can go along way to finding your own alignment and relaxing your muscles. Awareness is the first step.

Tip 2 Hydrate!

 Drink at least 1.5 L of water a day. Unless you have issues with your kidneys which means you need less water then get to this volume each day. Hydrated muscles are less tight and able to work better to build strength. Start in the morning with a couple of glasses and make this a habit throughout the day to enjoy less tension in your muscles.

Drinking water helps your cells, muscles and connective tissue (fascia) stay hydrated. Tight muscles and muscle cramps can be a sign of dehydration.

Make it part of your routine to drink water throughout your day.

Tip 3 Move enough each day

If you are suffering from a tight body, enough movement each day will be at least 30 minutes per day. This doesn’t need to be all at once but at least 10 minutes of movement at least 3 times through the day is the bare minimum.

Most of us are under moved. We just don’t get enough movement for our physiology. Too much sitting or staying in one position for too long contributes to muscle and fascia tightness.

The easiest movement for most people to get is walking, but it could be Pilates, Yoga or sport that you love. The more variety the better. And of course there is always dancing around the lounge room, one of my favourite movement snacks.

Tip 3 Boost your magnesium

Magnesium can reduce muscle cramping and tightness particularly due to hormonal fluctuations during your cycle and coming into perimenopause.

Muscles that don’t have enough magnesium can’t properly relax and this can cause cramping. Low magnesium can create a build up of lactic acid, usually associated with post workout pain and tightness. Magnesium is part of long term muscle growth and strength.

Natural ways to boost your magnesium is to include green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts, brown rice, avocado, beans, raw cacao, endamame and seaweed in your diet.

Always seek advice from your doctor before starting supplements.

Tip 4 Use a muscle release tool regularly

A muscle and fascia release tool is usually made from wood or rubber, in a shape that is easy massage muscles into.

My favourite muscle and fascia release tool is the Markalu which includes six domes so you can grade the pressure as you get used to it. They are also are magnetic so you can use them standing up against a fridge or filing cabinet.

Any rubber ball either smooth or with ridges can do wonders for example tennis ball. For tight legs and bottom lie down on your back with your knees up, souls of feet to the floor. Place the tennis ball under one butt cheek, then drop that knee gently out to the side (towards the floor) and up again. Repeat about 12 times and then do the other side.

Releasing through your feet brings benefits all over your body.

Standing on one leg (close to a wall to help with your balance if you need) bring your other foot onto the tennis ball and roll from the ball of you foot to your heel and back about 10 times. Then bring the ball back under your heel and stand on it, then move the ball forward just in front of your heel and stand on it again, then move it forward to the middle of your arch and stand on it again until you bring the ball over the ball of your foot to your toes. Transferring your weight (standing on the ball) at different points on your foot. Notice how different your foot feels now! And then do the other side.

The key word here is regularly! Doing this once might feel nice but it won’t make much of a difference. Put your muscle and fascia release tool somewhere you will see it, next to where you watch TV or where you wait for the kettle to boil. Take a few minutes to release tight areas twice a day for at least two weeks to start to feel the difference.

Beware of rollers for muscle release, the they can sometimes be too strong and end up aggravating muscles and tight Facsia.

Tip 5 Less passive stretching

 Passive stretching is when you have no load on your muscle and you try and lengthen them, for example touching your toes. Static stretching can actually engage the reflex in the muscle to contract rather than lengthen to protect the muscle and for an already tight body this is no good. Instead, experiment with lengthening your muscles under load.

Pilates equipment is a specially designed to lengthen muscles whilst under load easily. If you are using weights in the gym you may need to consult a professional to help you find how to lengthen your muscles whilst loading them. This develops strong, long muscles that support your bones. Well worth the technical effort.

If you are a fan of passive stretching consider these suggestions.

  1. Be meticulous with your alignment and understand the joint positions you need to get to achieve the length you want.
  2. Go gently. You will never force a muscle to lengthen, you may coax a muscle to release if it is well hydrated and relaxed and the alignment is just right.

Tip 6 Breathe Deep

 Breath will help relax your muscles and fascia. Using breath with muscle and fascia release and active stretching will improve your ability to respond to the load and therefore help you build strength faster. Breath also brings the mind into the body promoting body awareness and mindful movement helping to reduce injury and calm the nervous system. Breathing into areas of the body that are tight can help them release and let go. And can over time change a gripping pattern. Your breath is underestimated as a tool for muscle and fascia relaxation, use it, it’s free.

A tight body from muscle and fascia tightness is not the worst thing to have, but it can be uncomfortable and lead to things like tension headaches and poor posture. The tips in this article are pretty simple everyday things you can do to release tension regularly. Of course there are a bunch other ways such as laughing until you cry, making love and swimming in the ocean but these are not available to everyone everyday.

Developing a relationship with your body where you are listening to what your body needs and responding is the gold standard for managing your all over body tension day to day.

I am Brigid Pearse a certified Pilates instructor, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online. To receive regular body wisdom sign up below.

A woman with good balance is unstoppable

An older woman with good balance is unstoppable. You know it’s true. As we age our balance can deteriorate for a number of reasons. This can reduce our body confidence and stop us maintaining and building strength. There are many factors that contribute to the balance system and lots of things to consider when wanting to improve your balance. This article will outline the systems in the body that contribute to good balance and then cover ideas for working to improve your balance at home and in a Pilates studio.

What makes good balance?

Having good balance relies on three senses in the body operating well and interacting together, these are:

Visual – what we can see

Proprioception – our perception of where each part of our body is in space

Vestibular – how our head is sitting in space and our head righting response in relation to gravity

When one of these senses is not functioning well or is compromised the others tend to compensate. The sense that tends to suffer most as people age is proprioception. As we move less and take on less physical activity the brain has less input as to where each of joints are in space. The more time we spend sitting, the less we activate the pathways to the brain from each of our joints moving through space.

We begin to rely more and more on the visual system which is intimately linked to the vestibular system via the vestibular ocular reflex or the ability of our eyes to focus as we move our head. The trouble is that our visual system can also deteriorate as we age.

It is easier to stimulate the proprioception system than to repair the visual system. For this reason it is important not to rely too much on the visual system for balance. And that is where targeted movement and exercise can develop proprioception and muscle strength to improve balance. Strength on its’ own is not enough to improve balance, improving proprioception is essential.

How to improve your balance – a four step approach

If we take what we know about the senses of the body that contribute to good balance and combine this with an understanding of body mechanics there are a number of things you can do to improve your balance. Many of these can be done at home and some will require specific equipment and guidance in a Pilates studio.

Step 1 – Foot strength

Our feet are our foundation and when you want to improve your balance this is the place to start. We love to overlook our feet (literally!) because they are right under our noses and it is so obvious they are important for our movement. But our feet are often not what we want them to be. Usually our feet spend most of there time in shoes, they lose there agility to cope with different surfaces.

The very act of wearing shoes, makes our feet, weaker. So, to build balance, we start from the foundation. Yes, I want you to kick off your shoes and spend more time barefoot. If this causes you pain you may need to seek some advice and support for this. But generally, spending a little more time each day, bare feet will bring you great benefits for your balance.

This is a great exercise for our feet, that helps bring back some of the suppleness, articulation of the many joints in the feet, and pliability to your feet.

Pilates for balance

Fingers through toes

Bring one foot to the opposite knee and thread your fingers through your toes. This may be quite difficult and painful, so go gently. You can then lift and drop your toes.

Step 2 – Hip strength and alignment

Hip strength and alignment is directly related to our feet, when our feet are weak or not able to respond to the terrain, our hips immediately compensate to find and create stability for our body. This results in tight and immobile hips. This is why we started with the feet, the exercises in the feet will then support your alignment of your hips.

One of the key things to improve your balance is hip alignment or more specifically the position of our thigh bones in our pelvis. When we are in heeled shoes this pushes the top of our thigh bones (femur heads) forward in our hip. This makes it more difficult for us to use our bottom muscles and the backs of our legs. This can cause real strain on hips, and issues for posture, over time.

Once you are able to get your thigh bones to slide back in your pelvis you will begin to feel your muscles in your bottom and the back of your legs working harder. The first place to start is with the hip crease. This is called a foundational movement because it is a foundation for living. They’re also called functional movements, because we use them every day for usual functions getting down and up from the toilet getting down and up from chair, bending to pick something over from the floor.

Practicing getting your thighs to slide back in your pelvis will help you maintain healthy strong hips and they will be a strong foundation for your balance. When the feet are doing their job to respond to the terrain and thighs are rolling well in the hip joint, then the back of your body can be as active as the front of your body when it comes to your balance.

Here is a great exercises for encouraging the femur heads or the top of your thigh bones to slide and roll back in the hip joint.

Pullbacks

Start on your hands and knees, hands under shoulders knees under hips with a long spine. Draw you bottom back to your heels without bending or buckling your spine. Repeat 15 – 20. Go slow to make sure you are not bending your spine. If you do make the movement smaller to keep your spine long. This encourages the top of your thigh bone to glide back in your hip joint.

Step 3 – Core muscles

core muscles strength and coordination is a key part of balance. It is the part that a lot of people focus on to the exclusion of all else. In my approach to balance core strength is just one key part of improving your balance.

When I talk about core muscle strength for balance. I don’t mean a great six pack. What I mean is, being able to activate the very deepest abdominal muscles to stabilise your bones (your skeleton).

Practicing this very deep, stability, doesn’t come from doing a lots and lots of sit ups or ab crunches or exercises that are in a typical gym workout. These smaller stabilising muscles need exactly the right load, and to be in the right position to be activated.

This is why we look at alignment from the feet to the hips and into the core, but also why we work, gently with the load, because if you overload these muscles, they stop working, and the big muscles take over. And when that happens you lose the deep and subtle ability to stabilise your skeleton.

Here is an exercise that will teach you core coordination or how to coordinate your core muscles with your breath. We use the breath, initially to teach the sensation of the core muscles firing. And then as you get more comfortable with that you can do the core firing independently of the breath which is ultimately where you want to be.

This exercises may feel very easy although there is a lot to think about. They’re not the sort of muscles that will give you a deep burn straightaway. This is a more subtle sensation than that. And it is the subtlety that allows you to develop better control of your deep muscles to stabilise your skeleton and improve your balance.

Knee drop

Lying on your back, soles of the feet to the floor, knees bent, neck and head relaxed. Drop on knee out to the side, do not let it drop all the way to the floor. You want to keep your pelvis still while you move the knee. If you feel your pelvis tip as you drop your knee, make the movement smaller until your pelvis can sty still while you drop your knee. Repeat on both sides 15 -20. Go slowly and move with intention and control.

Step 4 – Neck strength and head alignment

In our current lifestyle we spend a lot of time in front of screens or driving cars. It is very common for people to develop forward head posture, this is where your chin, and head starts to slide forward of your body, and the back of your neck needs to become very strong and often quite tight to stabilize your head.

When people take this into an exercise setting, often they continue to hold this forward head posture. Sometimes they’ll get a sore neck from that, but often they are trying to strengthen their neck. To reverse forward head posture we need to strengthen the front of the neck, the deep cervical flexors, in the front of the neck, rather than the sternocleidomastoids that attach the back of the skull to the sternum and collarbones at the front.

Strengthening the front of the neck will re-align your head over your spine, it will take some of the pressure off your upper back and shoulders. This will mean you won’t have the weight of your head pulling you forward and making it more difficult to balance.

Here is an exercise to strengthen the cervical flexors at the front of your neck and some cues or ways to remember about how you are holding your head throughout the day.

Pilates for balance

The head hover

Lie on your back, soles of the feet on the floor and knees bent, head and neck relaxed. Bring one hand to the top pf the back of your head and grab your hair (if you have it!). Pull the top of your head gently with your hand as you tuck your chin, tuck it as deeply as you can. Begin to gently hover your head only about an inch off the floor on each exhale, keep tucking your chin as deeply as you can. The back of your neck should feel relaxed, the front of your neck should feel like it is working. If you get tight and sore in the back of the neck STOP. Do about 8-10.

Now challenge your balance!

Once you have explored some of the exercises from each of the steps above, you can challenge your balance. Start by standing on one leg, if this is easy close your eyes. If this is easy come into a deep squat and come on to one leg and close your eyes! Let me know how you go!

I will be running a COMMUNITY BALANCE CHALLENGE in July where we all get to work on our balance together on Facebook. Don’t miss out on this! Sign up below to hear more.

Post-natal movement & Pilates

I am Brigid Pearse a certified Pilates instructor, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online. To receive regular body wisdom sign up below.

5 Reasons to rebuild core strength gently after baby

When you want to rebuild core strength, especially after having a baby, it can be tempting to go hard. You know, boot camp hard. Intense cardio activity mixed with high reps of challenging abdominal exercises. That’s how you build strength right? Well, wrong. This might be how you go about burning some calories but building strength takes a more focused approach.

To really rebuild core strength and regain spinal stability the best way is gently. Gently doesn’t mean easy. Gently means with awareness. And there are so many benefits:

Core strength and alignment

When you are rebuilding core connection and strength it is really important that you are working the muscles that you want to be working. This is why correct alignment is key to building strength. If you are out alignment it is likely that other muscles are compensating for the muscles you are really trying to get strong. This means you are reinforcing those patterns in your body. When you are pushing yourself in a hard cardio routine, it is very difficult to check your own alignment.

Breathe to rebuild core strength

When we are pregnant there are some things that get moved around internally to accomodate the baby! Our ribs widen, our abdominals stretch, sometimes to the point of non engagement, the position of our pelvis can change. When the baby is out these things don’t always bounce back. All these changes can ultimately change the way we breathe and the functioning of our pelvic floor, leaving us with a shallow breathing pattern that fails to connect to deep abdominals.

To rebuild core strength focus on reestablishing a deep breathing pattern can help to engage your deep abdominals, get your diaphragm and rib cage working again and can return natural function of your pelvic floor. This approach can help with stress incontinence, lower back and hip pain and tight and painful neck and shoulders.

Getting the load right

Once you have established a great deep breathing pattern you can begin to load your abdominals whilst keeping a close eye on alignment. Learning to feel your own spinal alignment and ways to fire your deep abdominals is something you can take into all your movement everyday. And let’s face it, being a mum there is a lot of lifting , twisting and running!

Adding load gently helps you to target the right muscle groups without other muscles jumping in to help. This means your core gets stronger more quickly. If you overload your core, other areas jump in like your neck and shoulders, leaving you with a sore neck. Or your butt muscles will clench and grip rounding your spine, leaving you with a very tight mid back.

Moving with awareness and going more gently helps to be more targeted with your efforts to get better, results faster.

Avoid prolapse and continence issues

About half of all women who have had a child have some level of prolapse, and 1 in 3 women who have had a child suffer from some level of incontinence (The Continence Foundation of Australia).

Using the approach outlined above, reestablishing a deep breathing pattern, learning your own optimal alignment and gradually increasing load will help to avoid stress incontinence and prolapse. These are great reasons to start gently and work up to a more strenuous routine.

Enhance sexual function

Reconnecting with your pelvic floor muscles after giving birth can enhance your sexual experience and confidence. Your pelvic floor is part of your deep core, and a healthy pelvic floor increases blood flow and sensation. A healthy pelvic floor is not a “tight” pelvic floor. Learning to relax and lengthen your pelvic floor in addition to contraction = a better orgasm.

A strong centre (360 degree core) helps with all the positions. Better breath helps distribute oxygenated blood through your body, reducing stress and increasing feelings of euphoria. A strong core helps you stand taller, which results in more confidence. Strong, flexible hips help with everything! Oh also one more point, body fat stores oestrogen and healthy levels of oestrogen increase sexual desire so hang onto some of that baby weight.

Let’s just say your hard core workouts to get back your pre-baby body and six-pack abs can’t do all that!

I am Brigid Pearse a certified Pilates instructor, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online. To receive regular body wisdom sign up below.

Post-natal movement & Pilates

Neck pain from exercise? Never again!

Do you get neck pain from exercise? There is nothing more frustrating than doing your workout and then having a sore neck for a few days afterwards.

The worst things about getting a sore neck after exercise is it means that your neck is probably compensating for your core muscles. This means they didn’t work as well as they could have. Also having a sore neck means that your neck was out of alignment when it was working so it isn’t getting stronger either. It’s just getting tighter.

See what I mean? Frustrating right! If getting a sore neck after exercise is normal for you, you might not believe that it is possible to work really hard without getting a sore neck. I used to think that because I often used to get a sore neck after any exercise. I know what it feels like!

It wasn’t until I went through my Pilates teacher training that I learnt proper technique to align my neck. It was a revelation to me! And now I know that it is completely unnecessary to get neck pain from exercise I make sure my clients know how to work hard and look after their neck at the same time.

How to reduce neck pain from exercise:

1. Self Assess:

What is your posture like? Take a photo of your self from the side standing in a relaxed position. Does your ear line up with your shoulder or is it more forward? Do you have forward head posture that looks anything like the image below? I love this image because it demonstrates the additional weight the upper back has to carry the further forward the head is.

Neck pain and Pilates
Neck pain and posture

2 Chin tuck – long neck

If you have regular neck pain after exercise it is likely you have some forward head posture going on. You can see from the image above that the further forward your head the harder the front of the neck has to work to support your head. The true job of the muscles at the front of the neck (cervical flexors) is to contract to tuck the chin and lengthen the back of the neck.

To practice a good chin tuck, lay down on the floor with you knees bent and soles of the feet on the floor. Place a small towel roll under the curve in the back of your neck, this is simply to support your neck to rest with it’s natural curve, do not prop the head up to tuck the chin. Ensure the back of your head is still on the floor. Then proceed to tuck the chin down toward the chest, leaving the back of the head on the floor, lengthening the back of the neck as much as possible. Practice this twice a day for at least 1 minute.

3 Neck and head hover

Once you are comfortable with the chin tuck you can progress to the head hover. This progression is to continue to find the deep chin tuck and then hover the back of the head off the floor ONLY 1 CM! This is hover not a chest lift, and the low hover is designed to strengthen the deep neck flexors at the front of the neck. So if you lift too high you will miss them altogether. See this video for more information. Add these head hovers to your twice daily practice of your chin tucks.

These exercises begin to teach the bones in your neck to re-align themselves so the right muscles can start working. If you are practicing twice daily you will start to feel improved alignment in other positions like sitting and standing. Allow your chin to tuck more and lengthen through the back of your neck.

Then you can bring this awareness in as you exercise. If you do you chest lifts and sit ups you can start with the chin tuck and head hover. Make sure you pass through these positions on your way to the chest lift to get your neck aligned and the right muscles switched on. If you are playing golf or lifting small children from the floor, bring in the chin tuck to align your neck. If you are surfing tuck your chin whilst lengthening the back of your neck, see if you can lift your head with the front of the neck rather than the back.

There are so many ways to learn and apply great alignment! Get in touch for more ideas.

I am Brigid Pearse a certified Pilates instructor, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online. To receive regular body wisdom sign up below.

Post-natal movement & Pilates

When you need to get strong fast!

When you need to get strong fast it can feel like the only way is to push like hell. Well, the surprise I have for you is that the fastest way to get strong is gently. When you are in a hurry to get strong fast it is usually for a reason.

You may have just had a baby or maybe an illness or injury has laid you low for a while. You may be going through menopause and feel your muscle mass decreasing or maybe your life has become too sedentary. What ever the reason, when you need to build strength fast, here are some tips to help you reach your goals.

In my thirties I had a number of abdominal surgeries. Each one meant I had to let the muscles recover before working them and then it was like starting again to rebuild my strength. I learnt a lot during this time about the downfalls of pushing too far too fast. I want to help you avoid the setbacks so you can get strong fast.

Tip 1 Set activity goals

When setting goals for our physical strength and fitness it is most helpful to have an ‘activity goal’. This means identifying something that you want to be able to do, or do with more ease. Activity goals can be as diverse as running a half marathon to wanting to walk up stairs without discomfort. What is important is that you set your sights on an activity you WANT to achieve. This is different to goals like I want to lose x amount of weight, or I want to have strong arms, or I want to have a toned butt.

Activity goals are different because they are not about how you look, they are about what you can do. Activity goals are easily measurable because they are practical activities you can test yourself on. As soon as you achieve one you can set another one to spur you on. Pilates is amazing for this because there are always more advanced exercises to learn and master.

Tip 2 Get strong fast – set a timeframe

When do you want to achieve your activity goal? Take into account your current level of fitness / wellness and how much work you will need to do to achieve your activity goal. The sooner you want to achieve it the more often you will need to work. To a point, the more often you exercise the more quickly your body will reap the benefits. The great thing about deciding to work gently towards strength is that you are less likely to injure yourself and experience setbacks that interrupt your regular commitment to exercise and towards achieving your activity goals.

Tip 3 Find a teacher who will teach you alignment

Finding a guide is important when you want to get strong gently. The key to building strength effectively is finding your own proper alignment. Most of us need the help of an extra set of eyes to help us when we revert to bad posture or to an old pattern of misalignment in our bodies. A teacher who can explain proper alignment is the best foundation you can have for achieving strength (and your activity goals) through gentle exercise. Building strength is never passive, even when you are working gently. Finding alignment and staying active in your muscles is something your teacher should help you with, every class.

Tip 4 Learn to feel the right challenge for you

Once you are being guided to find the alignment that activates your muscles most effectively you can start to develop a sense of the right challenge for you. This is important because when we overload our muscles, particularly our core muscles, we don’t make them stronger, usually other muscles jump in to compensate for the ones that are overloaded. This reinforces existing weaknesses and can lead to injury. Learning to find your activated alignment and sense just the right load for you today is the pathway to sustainable strength and to reaching your activity goal gently and quickly.

Tip 5 Learn the difference between good sore and bad sore

Finally, how you feel after exercise matters. If you feel some tenderness in your deep abdominals, where your bottom meets your thighs, between your shoulder blades or even in the muscles under your ribs, these are good signs that you are working muscles that need to worked. You are on the way to reaching your activity goal.

If you feel tenderness, tightness or pain in your neck, calves or lower back, these are signs that these areas are compensating due to lack of alignment or overloading. If you continue to push harder, you are likely to experience some kind of injury or the work out will become so unpleasant you won’t maintain it.

My goal is to have as many people reaching their activity goals as quickly as possible. I hope you have found these suggestions helpful.

I am Brigid Pearse a certified Pilates instructor, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online. To receive regular body wisdom sign up below.

Post-natal movement & Pilates

Get more from your exercise routine

You want to get more from your exercise routine? Or may be you don’t have an exercise routine but you want to get started? I am here to tell you that your attitude matters. Not only for how you stay motivated but also how you measure your progress and what work outs you choose. Our attitude to exercise is most often shaped by our attitude to our own bodies.

What attitude?

How is your attitude towards your own body going? Have you thought about it lately? Do you catch yourself looking at other peoples bodies and just wishing you had theirs? Do you experience frustration from not being able to do things that you love? A while back I had terrible plantar fasciitis (inflammation in muscles in the feet). This stopped me from walking on the beach everyday. I loved walking on the beach but when my feet were tight it was agony. And so I stopped.

It was around this time I realised that I didn’t really care about the shape of my bum that much, but I really wanted to walk on the beach without pain. My motivation for exercise shifted from wanting to look a certain way to wanting to do a certain thing (without pain). This shifted my attitude to exercise, I was more willing to go more slowly and work with my body to achieve the outcome rather than override and push my body to achieve a certain shape.

Body image:

In our society most of us carry some body image issues. We are bombarded by images of an ideal body shape achieved by certain work outs that are most relevant to younger bodies. Our body as an object is pushed hard, particularly at girls, from an early age. We learn to focus on what our bodies look like to others, not what they can do for us. This view of our bodies then influences how we sense our own bodies and how we interpret what we feel.

The exercise industry has not sought to help women with body image issues. In general the exercise industry has exploited the view of women’s bodies as objects and continues to perpetuate the promise of buff arms, a firm butt and chiseled thighs as the only goals worthy of pursuing when it comes to exercise.

Think about function over form:

If you are heading into exercise with the view that you want to change your whole body, you basically want a knew one, this is a set up for a pattern that isn’t kind and may make a sustainable path to regular exercise difficult. If you head into exercise appreciating what your body can do now, with a clear idea of what you want your body to be able to do, you have a better chance of reaching these goals.

When setting your exercise goals think about function over form. Think about activities you would like to do with more ease. It may be you would like to get up off the floor more easily or you might like to run a half marathon. These specific goals give you and your movement teacher or trainer something to measure your progress. This gives real information to your teacher or trainer about where to focus and what work outs to develop for you.

Working with a teacher or trainer who helps you set clear, practical goals for your what your body can achieve can be a tremendous help. These goals can then become a way of monitoring your progress.

Achieve your goals

Get more from your exercise routine by checking your motivation and your attitude. Set goals that have real outcomes for your everyday life rather than ideal body shape. Notice as you start to achieve those outcomes in your everyday life, this is you achieving your goals and it is the best motivation for an active life there is.

I am Brigid Pearse a certified Pilates instructor, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online. To receive regular body wisdom sign up below.

Post-natal movement & Pilates

How to make a new exercise habit with Pilates

Trying to make a new exercise habit now it’s the New Year? It’s a great time to set a new routine and prioritise your health. If you haven’t found exercise that really works for you this can be really difficult. About this time every year I used to sign up for the gym or a bootcamp and brace myself to get fit. I felt lethargic, I didn’t move enough everyday and I thought I needed some high intensity exercise to get strong. I would turn up and do a few work outs, I go very red in the face when I do cardio, so I got very red and hot. I’d do exercises that didn’t feel good just to keep up and afterwards I felt like a wobbly lump of jelly with very little inner connection or control.

After these workouts I would often be very sore for days. Sometimes I couldn’t sit down for the best part of a week. After I had my child I felt like my inside would get all moved around and not in a good way. Then I would have to rely heavily on my willpower to keep turning up. And there were days that it felt better for my body not to turn up and then I would find it very hard to make it a habit. This made me feel frustrated and down on myself and less confident about exercise in general. As a person who loved dancing when I was younger I knew this wasn’t right.

Then I discovered Pilates with a great teacher who wasn’t afraid to take things slowly. I tried Pilates in dance college but didn’t feel the need or have the patience for it at time. When I was ready for it, I knew I needed help to get strong. I had finally given up on the bootcamp vicious cycle and I was ready to BE in my body.

Make a new exercise habit

Healthy habits are how we live healthy lives. When beginning a new habit here are some tips:

  1. Start small. Don’t aim for an hour hard cardio class when you haven’t worked out for 6 months. Find a mindful Pilates class that will challenge you where you need it. ( More about Pilates later).
  2. Find an accountability partner. Either book into a class or find a friend who will meet you to exercise. The power of having someone who is expecting you to show up is very helpful when you are trying to start a new exercise habit.
  3. Connect this activity with something you already do daily. It may be when your feet touch the ground in the morning or when you get home from work in the evening. Choose your time and get organised for it.
  4. Use a prompt. Place a prompt in the location where you will be when it is time to exercise. Put your walking shoes or your movement clothes next to the bed or next to where you put your work bag down so these remind you of your habit and then get ready.
  5. Once you have done the exercise, note how you feel in your body. Do you feel like you have been challenged enough but not so much that you have lingering pain or discomfort. Recognise yourself for showing up and doing the thing! This part is important, give yourself a smile or do a happy dance so your brain knows you have done good. Our brains love that recognition and over time your brain will begin to associate exercise with feeling good.

Why Pilates? And what type of Pilates?

Pilates is so great for beginning a new exercise habit! And yes there are different types of Pilates. Although rather than being fussy about different styles, what is more important is how it is taught. Is it a packed class in a gym that is really a bootcamp or circuit workout (circling through a range of exercises sometimes using props or machines) with a few Pilates movements thrown in. Or is it in a space that encourages you to relax, connect with your body and learn techniques to deepen the work in each exercise. The latter is a great practice for helping you to develop a new exercise habit.

Pilates that helps you connect with your body will get you strong, because that’s what Pilates exercises do. It will also develop your body awareness (sensing more of what is happening), your proprioception (knowing where you are in space) and improve your balance. I look carefully at students in my classes to observe exactly what challenge they need and I give option for students to try. This helps you learn what the right challenge is for you.

Learning the right challenge for you is so important because this is the key to your progress. When you can feel your comfort zone and what is just beyond that without overloading yourself you build strength quickly. You can challenge yourself safely and once you have learned that connection with your body you can always have it (as long as you use it!).

Where to start?

Book into a Move to Nurture Pilates class in the Ballina / Byron area or online via zoom.Follow the tips above for starting a new habit and click below to receive your free guide to Pilates at home right now!

New Year! New goals – alignment with the same beautiful you!

I am not a fan of New Year resolutions but I do love the reset that a new year brings. A moment to refocus on what is really important. At this time of year I love to clarify my values for the year, set goals that create the life I want for me and my family and start some great new habits.

Bringing in the new year with clear intentions is so FUN. This is not about setting heavy expectations on yourself that you feel you must live up to! It is about uncovering the things that inspire the hell out of you and bringing them front and centre. It’s about finding alignment between your values and how you prioritise everyday. This kind of alignment is just a important as physical alignment of your body.

This might feel hard after the year that 2020 has been. With the scary forecasts it might feel terrifying to start to really go for what you want. But the truth is now is the best time to be clear, to choose your way forward and stay true to yourself.

Here are some ideas about how to bring in the New Year with light intentions that fill you with inspiration:

Journal a day in your new year

Journalling is a great tool to help uncover your values. Journal writing is like looking in a mirror that reflects the things we cannot see any other way. A regular practice of this can be enlightening. It can help to uncover the things you really want in your life that might be hiding behind your fear.

A fun place to start is just writing down what you imagine as your ideal day 12months from now. What time do you wake up? What time do you do first thing? What does family time look like? What does your ideal work look like?

Be on the lookout for your critical voice. You know the one that says ‘I can’t do that’ or ‘that will never work’. Just acknowledge the voice and keep playing the game of imagining your ideal day.

This practice gives us clues about what our goals could be for the year. Once you have gone through your complete imaginary day from waking to going to bed in as much detail as you can, put it down and leave it for a day or two.

Look for the clues in your ideal day

When you go back to your writing about your ideal day look for clues that can build your ideal routine. Notice where you have imagined time for yourself, or what sort of exercise is in your ideal day. Notice your waking time and how you balance you time, work time and family time in your ideal day. Look at what your work looks like. How different is it from what you are doing now?

Now this is the really fun bit! We can use the answers to the questions above to start to understand our own goals. If your ideal day started with you sleeping until 11 and playing in a jazz bar until 2am that tells you a lot about where you need to be focused!

For me, my ideal day starts early with some quiet time before the general day begins. This means earlier nights and teaching my six year old what quiet time means in the morning.

I imagine business collaborations with other people and businesses who support women to love themselves and care for themselves. I see more clients who come to my home studio for movement that is truly tailored to their goals. I see flexibility around my family and a lifestyle that connects us to nature everyday.

Decode to discover your new goals

Sifting through the details of this future imaginary day it’s time to summarise these details into yearly goals. For example my yearly goals look something like this:

  • Create a morning routine that works for me and my family
  • Grow my studio clients
  • Maintain a schedule that balances work with family time
  • Create 2 collaborations with aligned local businesses that share my ideal clients

Then you break it down…

So if you have some goals that feel right then it’s time to get out the calendar. Think about when in the year you want to have achieved these goals. Yes there is work / change involved in getting there so check in with your stress levels here. You want to keep it light, when you write it down you don’t want to feel an impending sense of doom. Butterflies in your belly on the other hand are totally acceptable. You have just written it down and you are committing!! Excitement and fear is A okay. A sense of doom might mean you need more time.

I want to be trying out my morning routine in January so I have to get busy with that now. But I am giving myself until March to tweak it and try things out. So Jan and Feb there will be a strong focus on my morning routine, what works and what doesn’t.

I want my studio schedule to be full by June so there are a bunch of marketing steps to do for that plus at least one of the collaborations need to happen early in the year.

And so you work through to break down your monthly goals.

And then you schedule it

And now for the most important bit. At the beginning of each week you look at your monthly goals and you schedule time in your schedule to work on them. It sounds easy doesn’t it? And it might be but it also might not be because maybe that monthly goal might scare the pants off you!

Staring down a goal that you really want but your fear is in your face, this is where the magic, I mean the work is.

Above all make it your own

I hope this has given you some ideas about how to think about your own goals. Take any part of this that you like and change it in anyway you feel to make it work for you.

Setting intentions in this way is a remarkable way to grow, give to yourself and give to others. In my view the more of us who know what we want for ourselves and how we get there, the more we all have to share with the world.

Wishing you all the best for 2021 and I can’t wait to see you move towards your dreams and goals.

XBrigid

Stress relief for you this Christmas

Christmas is supposed to be a very happy time of the year but it can also be the most stressful. As everyone tries to get everything done before the holiday shut down the stress levels rise. Stress relief is important for everyone over Christmas. Our usual. supports sometimes aren’t available during the holidays, our routines get interrupted and this year our usual get togethers may have to look quite different

So let’s talk about tricks and tips to manage your stress everyday during this so that we avoid accumulated stress.

Tip 1 Limit multi-tasking

I know, I know it feels amazing to get all the things done. A few months ago I was cooking dinner with one hand, playing with my six year old, texting a client (with the other hand). When my partner came in and grumbled about the washing not being hung out I LOST MY SH*T. When we multi-task we raise our expectations of ourselves, we become more tense in our bodies and our fight or flight system kicks in. We can run like this all day, trouble is it depletes our energy and our ability to cope.

Do one thing at a time, if you can’t get it all done, look at your expectations and re-prioritise. Approaching your day in a calm, mindful present way is essential for managing stress. This can take a lot practice. Every evening I write a list of things for the next day, if it goes on the list I make sure I do it, so I am very mindful about what goes on my list. Is it really important? Does it fill me up or deplete me? Does it have to done on that day? The less items on my list the better and the more the items on my list are connected to my values and long term goals the better.

Tip 2 Get a movement routine for the holidays

The evidence is all there, exercise and movement is a fantastic antidote to stress. This can be tricky during the holidays as your routines are interrupted, but there are opportunities. If you are home with younger kids make some time for physical play, tip in the back yard or lounge room dance parties . A morning or afternoon walk is a great routine you can create for the holidays, either on your own or with older kids.

Choose a time of day to do a pre-recorded Pilates class with me! 2020 has inspired me to teach online and this year I have created a number of pre-recorded holiday classes. Sign up below to get them FOR FREE in your email this holidays!

Tip 3 Practice mindfulness

So, mindfulness is all the rage right now. What does it mean? Being fully mindful with the moment and experience you are having right now. There are lots of different ways to do this, such as:

  • Focus on your breath coming into your body and going out
  • Take a moment to note 3 things you hear, 3 things you see, 3 things you feel
  • Think of one thing that you are grateful for right now and focus on the sensation of being grateful
  • Give your full attention to the task in front of you (Yes this links to Tip 1 and it is a wonderful practice)

Mindfulness helps us to breathe more fully and reduce the stress hormones that trigger the fight or flight system in the body. As a daily practice mindfulness can increase the calm you feel.

Tip 4 Expect less

This is a hard one as our expectations of ourselves tend to get a little out of control at this time of year. It’s worth checking what pressure we are putting on ourselves and why. If something is feeling stressful see if you can lower your expectations of yourself a little, instead of cooking the whole Christmas meal ask guests to bring something to complement the main dish. Lower the bar, as much as you need to.

Tip 5 Practice self compassion

I have spoken of the compassionate hands meditation before because it is one of my favourite. The idea is you take a quiet moment and feel all the love you have for others in your life and notice the way you show that love with your hands. Then put your hands on yourself (usually your belly or heart and imagine the love you pour out to others coming back to you. Hold yourself with the loving compassion that you can hold others with. This might take some practice but it is a wonderful way to learn to be more compassionate towards ourselves.

I am Brigid Pearse a certified Pilates instructor, an ex-dancer and a mum. I run a fully equipped Pilates studio from my home in Lennox Head and I run community Pilates mat classes in Byron Bay, Ballina and online. To receive regular body wisdom sign up below.

Post-natal movement & Pilates

The ultimate PILATES Christmas GIFT GUIDE

The ultimate guide to gifts that support a healthy you and a healthy planet!

Pilates for Xmas

Honey Hunt Style

These gorgeous leggings are locally made and designed by Jules Hunt. She has a new shop in the Byron Arts and Industry Estate (where the baby shop used to be). Shop local and treat (yourself or) someone to this fantastic active wear.

Pilates gift guide

Pilates Nerd Down Under

Pilates Nerd Down Under is the go to online shop for the coolest Pilates gear in the world. These guys know and love Pilates and their themed tops are so fun. When you want to impress the teacher…

Pilates for Xmas

Makarlu

If you come to my studio you know how much I love the Makarlu. Invented by my dear friend and mentor Carla Mullins, the Makarlu is the best home exercise / muscle release prop you will find. Made from sustainable materials it is a beautiful object that is designed to add layers of depth, release and challenge to your Pilates practice. Use the code MAKMTN to get 10% off.

Pilates for Xmas

Move to Nurture Pilates

Gift Certificates! Gift someone you love a Private Studio Pilates Session with Brigid. Give the gift of nurturing movement and connection to self! Click the link to purchase and receive a beautiful gift certificate.

Pilates for Xmas

Foam roller

Superb for muscle release and adding balance challenge to your at home work out. These foam rollers are soft and firm for comfort and support. Order here by 11th Dec from Move to Nurture Pilates to ensure pick up or delivery before Xmas.

Stay connected through the holidays and sign up to our newsletter to receive free holiday work outs for all levels.

Post-natal movement & Pilates