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As a Personal Trainer and Pilates instructor in Swindon I often get asked “would Pilates benefit or compliment my existing training schedule?” To answer this question, let me start by explaining what Pilates is all about.

Pilates focuses on what founder Joseph Pilates called the “powerhouse.” Often referred to as the core, this consists of your abdominal, back, buttock and upper leg muscles. Each exercise requires focus on this centre of the body while adhering to principles of concentration, fluidity, balance, centring, breathing and control. The beauty of each exercise is that you focus on using your deep muscles in a very slow and controlled way, Pilates really does make you think about how you move.

Did you know that there are 34 original Pilates exercises which have endless layers starting with beginners’ to intermediate and finally advanced. It is a class that offers constant progression and learning.  I would advise if you are new to Pilates to always start at the beginners’ level to gain an understanding of the fundamentals of Pilates and the exercises.

Mat Pilates classes are non-impact, making Pilates appropriate for all ages (I have class members ranging from 25 to 71 years old), fitness levels and sizes.  Pilates is performed in bare feet (or socks) enabling you to feel every movement and to allow flow from your joints. Instruction is “hands on” to correct and guide you in your movement. It is my job as a Pilates instructor to ensure you are in control, working within the appropriate layer to achieve the full benefit.

Pilates is not about cardiovascular fitness. You will not get out of breath as all exercises are slow and controlled.  However you will be moving in all directions. The main focus is always to lengthen your spine. Even though you will not get out of breath you will certainly feel that you are working and toning your muscles.

As an experienced Swindon Pilates instructor and Personal Trainer, I can adapt each exercise to suit you. I have many members tell me how after attending just a few of our classes they are walking taller, relaxing their shoulders and thinking more about their postures in everyday life WOW. You can see why Pilates is used for prevention and rehabilitation of injuries etc.

What are the benefits of Pilates?

Proper alignment balances your skeleton so your muscles are held at their ideal length, without tension. If your body is constantly held out of good alignment, it places a great strain on your muscles, ligaments, and joints, which will reduce your body’s ability to react to the force of gravity, resulting in aches and pains and inhibited movement.

Pilates is a wonderful body-conditioning programme because you don’t need any equipment in order to strengthen your body. You can simply use your own body weight to create resistance for your muscles and to tone up. This truly does mean that your workout will be only as effective as the effort you put in to the exercises.

We all want to achieve a strong body, but there must be a balance between strength and flexibility, and Pilates is the perfect exercise regime to achieve this. Tight muscles hinder your mobility and can lead to tension, aches, and pain. Flexibility is essential for your overall fitness and vitality. It ensures a greater range of movement in your joints, and will in turn mean your joints remain healthy and fare better against normal wear and tear as they age.

For a lot of us, our muscle tone while at rest may be quite weak. Muscles respond quickly to regular exercise, and after a few weeks of Pilates you should notice visible muscle tone and see your body begin to evolve. Pilates uses your body weight and the occasional prop as resistance for shaping your muscles, but it trains every part of your body evenly – front, back, and sides.

Pilates builds endurance within individual exercises and also within workouts. Focus on improving your concentration to build strength for both – endurance comes first from mental strength and therefore requires determination and persistence. Visualize your success and becoming stronger, and stay strong through challenging exercises.

Stress is one of the biggest negative factors of modern life, affecting your physical and mental wellbeing just as much as disease does. Frequent exercise is one of the best remedies for stress and has many benefits. Pilates focuses on breathing – a deep, mindful pattern of breathing that instantly enhances feelings of calm and release in the body and mind.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Pilates a hands on class?

The instructor will move around the room and correct your movement hands on if needed. 

Will I be able to keep up?

There is no peer pressure in Pilates, if you are a complete novice to exercise, beginners Pilates classes are perfect to get you started. You shall be mainly seated or lying down, with your focus on the movement and flow of the exercise.

I have high blood pressure can I attend? 

Yes provided you have spoken with your GP. Pilates is totally non-impact which will not increase your HR. You shall feel relaxed which will benefit your blood pressure.

I am very overweight will I be able to perform the exercises to the required level?

Yes, beginners’ Pilates is perfect for overweight and obese attendees. You are performing each exercise slowly whilst seated or lying down. A good instructor can tailor the exercise for you.

Am I too old to attend Pilates? 

Not at all, the only pre-requisite is that you are able to get up and down from the floor.

 
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I was delighted to hear last week that Simon Stevens, the new head of NHS England, has highlighted the role that business has to play in addressing the obesity crisis. 

Having called for greater “upstream preventive action” on obesity shortly after starting the role back in June, Stevens’ language has hardened.  Referring to obesity as “the new smoking”, he warned that it now represented a serious threat to the financial viability of the NHS.  Not surprising, given that the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes alone, strongly linked to excess weight, costs the NHS around £9 billion per year (an astonishing 10% of its entire budget).  Prevention is always better than cure.  So when NHS spending on bariatric surgery starts to exceed that of national lifestyle intervention programmes, it is time to take stock. Amongst the ideas to be presented this month in the NHS “Five Year Forward View” will be the introduction of financial incentives to employers to provide effective NICE-certified workplace programmes for employees.  Such initiatives could include running clubs, diet clubs, group weigh-ins or weight-loss competitions.

Not everyone welcomes the concept.  Chris Blackhurst of the ’I’ newspaper responded to Stevens’ speech with an article titled “obesity is none of your boss’s business”.   Arguing that the proposals represented “an extra mound of red tape that they could well do without”, Blackhurst accuses Stevens of passing the buck to business.Although reflecting the historically prevailing view, such an attitude is simply no longer credible.  Quite aside from the £29bn annual cost of sickness to UK business,  companies have a duty of care to their employees.  We spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else.  It is naïve to suggest that the workplace environment and culture has anything less than enormous influence on our wellbeing.   Office workers are commonly expected to sit for 8 hours or more per day at their desks.  We are simply not designed to do this.  Recent evidence suggests that prolonged sitting is an independent risk factor to our health, that cannot be compensated for even by regular intense exercise. Progressive employers are already trialling potential solutions to mitigate this risk. Innovations range from exercise ball chairs and stand up desks to even more radical concepts such as treadmill desks.

However, activity levels are only one part of the equation.  As someone who experienced 12 years in the corporate world, I am only too aware of the constant flow of sugary treats  when it comes to food in the office.  Colleagues would seize upon any opportunity to bring in cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets.  With offices becoming increasingly open plan,  practically every day someone in the room would have a birthday, a leaving do, or some other pretext to trigger the latest indulgence!  It takes a lot of willpower never to surrender to these omnipresent trays of temptation in a weak moment.  Of course each individual is ultimately responsible for what goes in their mouth, but research studies into the influence of proximity and visibility of food on consumption volumes cannot be ignored.  The seminal work of Brian Wansink in this area has demonstrated that our consumption is significantly and consistently affected by environmental factors.  It is time to face the facts - in the modern world of sedentary employment, obesity has inevitably become your boss’ business.

How progressive is YOUR employer in tackling these issues?  Is your workplace making you overweight?  We would love to hear your thoughts on what improvements you would like to see in your office.  Please share your comments via our Facebook Page.

 
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The drizzle didn't spoil the finale to our latest Couch to 5K course at Lydiard Park this weekend!  Spurred on at Swindon Parkrun by fantastic support from Team JB and their running leaders Becky and Kim, our novice runners did themselves proud, completing their first 5km run in style!

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Other Run JB members put in some great performances despite the rain, with personal bests for Barbara Kirkup, Alison Wade and Amanda Kemp and magnificent first time Parkruns for Laura Shimell and June Lawrence!

Check out the full results from Saturday here and the Run JB results history.  If you aren't included in the Run JB list, don't forget to change your Parkrun registration to include Run JB as your club!

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Huge congratulations to Sarah Mathis, Liza Cording, Joanne Parker, Sharon Northwood, Tracy Holt, Anne Bradley, Sonia Slimmon, Lauren Mann, Sarah Roberts, Emma Smith for graduating from Couch to 5K!  We look forward to welcoming you all to Run JB on Wednesday evenings!

In the meantime, have a read of our earlier blog post - "I've run my first 5K - what next?" and start planning your next challenge!

Inspired by our latest group's fantastic achievement? You too could go from Couch to 5K in just 8 weeks - join us for our next Run JB Couch to 5K course!

Keep on Running!

Shona

 
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Mention a step fitness class and it usually conjures up images of aerobics-style choreographed routines introduced by Gin Miller in the Eighties. 

Luckily, with JBPT PowerStep, you don't need legwarmers OR dance-style coordination to enjoy the benefits of step exercise!  

We use simple step movements in all planes of motion designed to improve both cardiovascular health and muscular endurance. A great example of compound exercise, stepping focuses on the largest muscle groups in the body: the glutes in the bottom which extend and abduct the hip, and the quadriceps in the thighs which extend the knee as you step up.  This makes it perfect for toning both the bum and the thighs.  You have the choice to perform each step exercise using a height of either 15cm (for beginners), 20cm (intermediate) or 26cm (advanced), making it suitable for all fitness levels.  Low impact options are offered for each exercise for beginners or anyone returning from injury.

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In JBPT PowerStep, the step is complemented by another deceptively simple piece of equipment - gliding discs.  These discs are designed to slide or "glide" across a hard floor surface with low friction when pushed or pulled under the hands or feet.  By elongating the muscular time under tension, they offer a highly effective method of core training. Gliding disc exercises such as "Froggy Circles" are becoming firm favourites amongst our class members!  Join us and stay one step ahead on your fitness mission this summer!

 

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Running your first 5K gives an enormous sense of satisfaction.  Many of those who have completed our Couch to 5K beginners’ running course find it hard to believe that only a couple of months previously they were daunted by the prospect of even a couple of minutes continuous running!  So knowing you have completed over 3 miles running non-stop is a tremendously tangible achievement.  However, the period following the race can be crucial in determining whether or not running becomes a lifelong habit. 

Key Success Factors

After any big event, there is a risk of anti-climax once the initial euphoria has worn-off.  At this point it is vital to start planning how to maintain your running going forwards.  Consider the factors behind your success so far, which may include

  • A realistic goal with a fixed timescale
  • The camaraderie and support of running in a group/ with friends
  • An achievable but progressive training plan
  • Having a safe environment in which to run
  • Being organised e.g. having your kit ready the night before

According to the latest research, it actually takes longer than previously thought to form a habit.  On average, you have to keep a behaviour up for 66 days (nearly 10 weeks) for it to become automatic.  So make sure you keep as many of the contributing factors in place as possible to ensure ongoing success.

Changing the Variables

So what would be a suitable next running goal?  It doesn’t have to an increase in distance, although that is often what springs to mind.  There are several other ways to continue to challenge yourself, which involve changing at least one of the following variables: distance, speed, frequency, type.  Targeting a 10K as the most obvious example of an increase in distance, as such events are increasingly popular (see our Facebook page events for inspiration).  However, just as valid a target would be to stick to the 5K distance and simply aim to get faster.  With the Parkrun movement expanding throughout the country, there will always be the opportunity to test your progress over this distance.  For added motivation, use the level playing field of the Age Grade percentile results if you enjoy a competitive edge.  You could also aim to run more frequently – three days a week rather than two, for example.  If you are planning to exercise more than three times per week, I would always recommend additional cross-training (e.g. resistance training, swimming, Pilates or cycling) in preference to further running sessions.  In my experience this gives superior results in terms of both overall performance and injury prevention.  Lastly, there is tremendous scope to vary the type of running you do.  This is a relatively overlooked element to progressing as a runner.  Shorter, sharper sessions such as tempo runs and hill intervals require you to work at greater intensity and push the limits of your lactate threshold.  Over time this will improve your lung capacity and the ability to maintain a faster pace for longer.

So what are you waiting for?  Get planning your next challenge!  In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.”

 
Run JB Club membership offers structure, support and guidance to those who have recently started running (for example via our Couch to 5K course) to continue and develop their running. Our women-only training sessions are fun, safe and non-intimidating. For further information on how to join visit our Run JB Membership webpage.

 
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