I am not remotely biased as a classically taught pilates teacher but Barre is basically based on the pilates concept with straight legs for suppleness and a barre!  It is true.  I have the best sources in the industry - Lotte Berk who originally created the technique has a daughter now in her late 70s called Esther Fairfax.  She looks like a dancer and her mother, lean and supple.
Esther Fairfax

Back to the Barre.  It is the next best thing after zumba for something new and challenging.  I have tried it once and much like zumba i liked the fun factor, the moves and having a different work out.  BUT zumba virtually gave me whiplash as I honestly thought i could copy my hyper flexible cuban teacher in the toronto heat of the summer. Clearly not.  In contrast i never felt the true benefits of barre as it was post back injury and i had to play it safe.  This did not feel like a safe option for weak backs so go easy on both of the above if you have any injury.

I admire any form of exercise based on ballet dancers who i view as elite athletes.  Thing is we are not all built like ballet dancers and most of us require some conditioning before getting to this level of movement otherwise injury happens.  In my quest for the ideal all round exercise class I am going back to our roots.  A time when movement was easy...crawling along the floor as a baby, swinging from the trapeze as a child, climbing trees and running with gay abandon!  Yup.  You can see it now...a class of 8 in the Quaker Meeting house (were i teach) literally climbing the walls.  My classes have not evolved that much but they are varied.  I drip feed in these natural ways of moving after the basics of pilates have been mastered.  You need a strong inner core for this kind of work - it is not for the feint hearted! Fancy a challenge?
Lotte Berk

So Lotte Berk sounds like a strong, feisty and determined lady. After the war her family moved from Germany to England.  It sounds like the only thing she really admired about England was Shakespeare but she stayed so there must have been more to it.  By the 1960s she was alone having ended a destructive love affair, and bored so she came up with the idea of sharing her exercises she used in her dancing days to keep supple and slim. It took off in a big way and she became quite famous among celebrities, royals and the wealthy.  It was a tough regime and her wicked sense of humour that drew them in.  She introduced the cobra (see stretch above) to those with bad backs which worked a treat until one day she hurt her own back demonstrating the exercise.  A Harley street doctor gave her pelvic tilts for relief which re-shaped how she taught her exercises. This is how it became known as the Tilt Technique.

Now Barre is a big name based on Lotte's concept.  Hot barre, booty barre, pure barre...take your pick!


Mindfulness has become the new "buzz word".  My Australian cousins spotted this when they were over here for a six week holiday.  Compared to Australia is was obvious how much emphasis was placed on the mind and health.  I wonder why?  Perhaps in Britain we lack the space to "breathe" and we are less able to "let go" of things.  Peaceful spaces for me are generally the large, open spaces like:
* Oceans
* Countryside
* Mountains

Australia has many of these spaces and I imagine people benefit from the outdoor lifestyle, swimming and exercising.  We have a huge affinity in this country now to cycling.  But the new trend seems to be apps with meditations.  Where ever you are in the world, you are one click aware from a meditation.  As promising as that sounds, I think the focus is less on winding down and taking the time out than squeezing that yoga class and meditation class into an already hectic schedule.  Ever found yourself flying to get to a yoga class on time?  I have!

These meditations talk a lot about emptying the mind so the focus remains on the head where most of our activity is and trying to let go of that shopping list of things to do.  Since teaching pilates, I have noticed that focusing on the core muscles, especially the ones you can actually touch in your lower belly relaxes the mind.  By consciously taking ones attention away from the head, you sink into your stomach.  Here it is possible to let go of thought.  The breath is another form of taking your attention to the stomach.  Although many of us breathe in a shallow way in our chests, with instruction we bring the breath to the stomach allowing for a more natural breath.  One we knew instinctively as a baby.

Relaxing experience
Listening to some inspirational talks lately, I came across a man called Philip Shepherd.  He learnt most of his teachings as a teenager cycling through Europe, the Middle East and Japan.  Here is a experience of moving physically and energetically from your head into your pelvic bowl which is deeply relaxing if nothing else!

Select 25.55 and press play of the recording.  It lasts approx six mins

Vanessa Mansergh
01491 577480
Last week I went to a conference at The Royal Society of Medicine in London on the impact of sport and exercise nutrition.  May I say this establishment is very grand, and once my coat had been taken on arrival and i had seen the glass atrium i realised i was not on my usual kind of course. It was refreshing to hear speakers who have hands on experience with athletes at the top of their game, like Jennifer Ennis.

Although the focus was Rio and the Olympics, I think so much of what i gleaned can be applied to the recreational athlete.  James Moore is head of Performance Services for GB Rio which means he has a bit of a logistical nightmare from what i could see!  He called it the biggest show on Earth and I see what he means now.  I will pass on some tit bits behind the scenes of the Olympics.  Now Rio is a rather beautiful location with the sea, mountains and a white sandy beach that would not be out of place in California.  In contrast there are the flavelas which perch vacariously on the side of the mountain.  The Olympic location is on the outskirts of the high rise buildings hugging the coast to the right of the picture with the statue.

GB secured its base during the Olympics five years ago.  It is a whole village, the centre of sporting excellence for Brazil which has left the brazilians a little surprised! The meticulous detail to creating this "camp" is phenomenal, right down to the residential part which is a block of flats all interiorly designed with the british flag on every cushion, duvet cover and floor to remind the athletes of home so they focus on their performance and nothing else.   The teams of people helping them achieve their goals is pretty impressive too, from Games Services, Performance Services to Sports and Athlete Services.  The performance centre for strength and conditioning is a site away from the games where athletes can connect with family and have some time out.  I'm thrilled to say there are hot and cold baths at the wet site as part of the recovery program.

The variety of problems that have been identified for the athletes competing in Rio are:

* Travel (jet lag/sleep)
* Injury
* Clinical issues
* Weather/environment
* Catering & food availability
Nutrition is the bedrock of performance and recovery and is a lot more complex than i imagined.  Dr James Morton and Dr Graeme Close belong to the Sport, Exercise and Health Science department at Liverpool John Moores University.  Dr Moore has taken lab research on endurance nutrition to the GB cycling team in competition mode at the Tour de France to see what works.  His conclusions simplified are:

> Unlike runners, cyclists do not ride a constant pace or flat out so requirements will be different
> Carbohydrates play a huge role on competition day
> Eat and drink carbs during the competition on an hourly basis
> Nutrition is decided day by day, meal by meal as fuel for the work required 
> More carbs needed on a cold day
> More carbs for hills, less for flatter racing
> Refuelling required at the end of the race and reflects what the next morning's demands will be
> Athletes need to be able to switch between carbs and fat for fuel
> Protein intake should be continually high
> What does it take to win?  Fuelling and recovery, training adaptations and weight management

For Rio, one of the key factors will be hydration. It could be 35 degrees celsius and 65% relative humidity . It is key to know on a person to person basis their responses to a) heat tolerance and b)sweat rate/composition in order to understand their hydration needs and have a race strategy.  Heavy sweating can cause whole body cramping which will affect performance and high sodium loss.

Vanessa Mansergh
01491 577480

Back in September I was in the stunning Dolomites in northern Italy with my lovely hiking buddies.  This trip was a big one and a long time coming. After our trip to Base Camp Everest in 2011, Tracy summitted Kilimanjaro and Becs and I had a rest.  A very long one. 

The Dolomites are an impressive range of mountains for their sharp peaks and are a playground for novice climbers as they have routes with iron hand bars already in place on some pretty sheer rock faces. In other words anyone can have a go.  This was not on our itinerary with Exodus so i dreamt about it from afar.

Nothing had quite prepared us for the challenge of this week.  Us three pretty confident after Nepal, did not expect the sheer ups and downs and hanging onto the rock face around the precipice corners with rather large drops one side!  The hiking poles were useless on the loose shale in some places and it felt more like skiing downhill without the skies.  It was so much fun.  Some of the uphill hikes silenced us all as we focused on breathing and just getting to the top.  We had two guides and two levels of walks to choose between.  The difference was distinctive.  Eric your slightly shorter and rounder gentleman with cross country skiing behind him enjoyed the scenic route with lots of stops and cultural chats.  While Albert, the tall, very lean leader forged a path up the hill like a billy goat with us almost running to keep up with his casual pace.

Moena was our base and a beautiful one it was too.  It felt like an Austrian ski resort in summer with flowers everywhere , a huge fast flowing river and chalet like houses.  A chocolate box village.  From there we caught buses to the bottom of the slopes and often ski lifts up to gain some height before heading upwards.  With 6-8 hours of walking a day I couldn’t resist asking Eric about his stretching routine.  His theory was stretching pulled muscles so no point doing it.  That was a short conversation!  I naturally spent ages stretching out my muscles after the walks.  I failed to cotton on to the fact that as you walk uphill steeply you are stretching your calf muscles.  Warm muscles give so much more than cold which is why bikgram yoga (hot yoga) is not for everyone.  By day 3 of hamstring stretches i had pulled a muscle much to Eric’s amusement.  Thank goodness for the spa in the basement of the hotel with a sauna, steam room and cold jets.  Heaven for muscle recovery in my books!  I warmed up after the bus journey back, and used the cold jets to stop the blood pooling in my lower legs which leads to DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness).  That dream combo of hot and cold temperatures which i use in all my massage treatments.

We had 5 days of walking and a gorgeous rest day bang in the middle of the week.  A perfect combination.  Being such sensible people, we had a pretty normal day eating amazing food (and lots of it) as the meaty Austrian type food we were eating in the hotel did not quite hit the spot, having a stroll to the next town along, visiting the church and enjoying the views.  Well...we knew it would take a lot to beat that view, so we tried!
Monkton Wyld, Dorset
Quite a few years ago when I first started running my own business, I decided it would be a good idea every few months to take a couple of days away on my own to recharge and reflect.  I used a book called "Imperfectly Natural Woman" by Janey Lee Grace ( radio 2 presenter) as my inspiration.  I found places that were good value and used them much like a B & B....a very cheap alternative.  My first trip was to Monkton Wyld Court in Dorset.

I remember clearly my sister waving me off one Sunday with the Sunday papers giggling away at the thought of me joining a vegetarian community.  Arriving on a Sunday meant no other guests there which had not crossed my mind.  Her prediction came close as there was little point eating alone in the dining room so I was invited to join the residents who ran the retreat around their lovely wooden table.  I felt quite at home eating really good home cooked pizza among a friendly bunch of souls.  The porridge was there in the morning for me to help myself and I left with a bread receipe that I never quite used.  It wasn't just the food, and the people that made the place, it was the old rustic charm and no tv.  I took myself off on a decent walk to Lyme Regis as I got completely lost but the sea beckoned me closer and suddenly I was surrounded by noise and people!  Admittedly by day 2 of entertaining myself, I was ready to head home to some home comforts.  I did repeat my trip to Monkton Wyld but there was talk of the building repair work being too costly for the residents and having to close it down.  The building had quite a history as had been a school during the War, a Steiner school.  Second visit I was asked to join the community which amused me no end.  I like the retreats but not that much!

Deer in the Quantock Hills, Somerset

What I gained most from these retreats was perspective.  I had time to design my business logo, and work out which direction I was heading.  The deer in my logo was inspired by a retreat in Somerset.   So from a practical perspective retreats can inspire creativity and be productive even while you are relaxing.  Recent retreats for me have all been centred around a specific activity or course.  Sound and sacred dance retreats in Glastonbury, and Croatia have been transformational.  Retreats can be very therapeutic leaving you in a very positive place, whether you like yoga, hiking, painting  or playing drums.  By joining a group of people you have never met before, you gain a sense of freedom to be whoever you want to be.  There are no preconceived ideas, no labels so you become who you are deep down at heart.  The added bonus of a retreat abroad is a new country to explore and sunshine!

Sunset from the island of Iz, Croatia
The good news is I am exploring the idea of holding my own retreats with Jennifer Hoodless, a personal trainer (www.livelypt.co.uk) who is as passionate about exercise as i am about massage and relaxation.  We both value the great outdoors so are on the look out for a beautiful and affordable location.  If you want to get involved with suggestions, please feel free to contact me at vmansergh@hotmail.com, 01491 577480 or visit my website Complete Worx Pilates. 

Glastonbury at dusk with the Tor in the background

Since I started Complete Worx Massage in the summer of 2007 the way i work has changed.  Over the years i have trained in shiatsu for massage in pregnancy, thai yoga massage, deep stone massage, pilates teaching, and sound therapy to get better results for my clients.  I have expanded my knowledge on the sports orientated techniques out there and received some brilliant one to one tuition, notably from a Gyrotonics teacher in London.  Shame it was too pricey to continue permanently! 

My one constant in 8 years has been the use of  hot and cold stones in a therapeutic way, merging them with deep tissue sports massage techniques or for deep relaxation.  They have consistently surprised me with their ability to:
  • ease tension in the tightest of muscles
  • speed up muscle tissue recovery post exercise (marathon, recreational run, long distance bike ride etc)
  • prepare muscles for endurance exercise
  • reduce the occurrence of injury
  • relieve stress and fatigue in the body
  • recharge the batteries
  • improve circulation, lymphatic drainage and revitalise a tired face
The new additions have been sound therapy, pilates style exercises and working in a more intuitive manner.  They have all contributed to:
  • a deeper sense of wellbeing
  • the ability to switch off quickly and recharge the whole body:  body, mind and spirit
  • a greater awareness of which muscles to engage to create a stronger, more robust body for exercise of all types
  • better sense of self, and what is needed to keep the body healthy and moving fluidly

To better understand the way i work now, here is an interview with an existing client (female, age 40s)

Q1. Was there a particular reason for seeing Vanessa for massage?
I was seeing a physio for a shoulder niggle, and he recommended i see Vanessa for more regular sports massage.  I was training for an Ironman at the time and needed some TLC to keep everything moving.

Q2.  How long have you been having treatments?
Since about 2010

Q3.  Do you usually come for the same reason each time?
At the moment yes, but it has changed a lot - from sports massage, to relaxation, healing  and more recently for one to one pilates sessions.

Q4.  What is it about Vanessa that is different to other practitioners you have seen in the past?
My treatments always feel really personalised, based on how i am feeling at the time.

Q5.  Are you a sporty person?  Explain a little about what you do and have done in the past sports wise.
I am sporty, although less so than i used to be.  I have done a number of endurance events in the past and Vanessa was a key part of my overall regime.  I still run and cycle, and have a personal trainer - seeing Vanessa helps to manage the effect of this (and age) on the body.

Q6.  Do you think the hot and cold stones go deep enough to reach areas of your body that have been overworked, are tight or stiff?
I do - i find the stones really effective.

Q7.  Is there something appealing about going to a home clinic?
Intimacy is not there in a separate clinic.  It helps to relax both of us.

Q8.  What has been the most important/beneficial treatment and why?
Hard to answer.  As treatments have evolved, i have had very different benefits - from injuries, relieving stress from work.  Over the last couple of years, Vanessa played a key role in my healing and was an invaluable source of support as i was treated for breast cancer.

Q9.  Anything else you would like to add?
The fact i still try to see Vanessa regularly, five years later, says it all!

* Disclaimer:  no bribery used!
Feet do an incredible job from the moment we start walking after that crawling phase.  They take our "load", run with us, walk or sit dormant under the desk for hours at a time.  So what anatomically are they made of, what crops up when they are ignored and how can we keep them happy?

The Anatomy:  Foot and Ankle

Although similar arrangement of bones to the hand and wrist, the build is heavier for strength & weight bearing stability instead of being as precise and mobile as the hand.

Sole of the foot is supported by 5 metatarsal bones  for the 5 toes (see diag below) and the heel is made up of the calcaneus bone.


3 main bone groups:
  • tarsus (ankle)
  • metatarsus (sole)
  • Phylanxes (toes)
Ligaments are strong bands or straps of fibrous tissue that provide support to bones and link bone ends together in and around joints ie ankle joint.  They are made of collagen - a tough, elastic protein.  Many ligaments bind together the ankle joints.  The foot ligaments store energy as they stretch when the foot is placed down and use it to recoil and shorten to create that spring in the step!

The Issues

Heaps of them no doubt but i'm only going to mention a couple that can cause discomfort.
Morton's Neuroma:  a tumour growing from a nerve made up mainly of nerve cells causing pain on the top of the foot with pressure.  Running, walking and jumping can all place stress on this area so can ill fitted shoes.
Solution:  see a professional for diagnosis first, rest, ice and wearing the right footwear that gives room for the toes so no high heels!

Inflammation of the tendons surrounding the sesamoid bones:  these bones are not attached to another bone but are embedded in a tendon or joint.  There is one on each side of the foot back from the toes. The pain is felt over the bone and increases with activity. It can be caused by high arches causing you to run on the balls of your feet.
Solution:  see a professional for diagnosis first, rest and ice and wearing padding inside the shoes may be necessary.

Plantar Fasciitis:  plantar fascia connects the heel to the base of the toes and when it comes under stress pain is felt in the heel when walking or running on hard surfaces & with tight calf muscles.  It can also be felt with high or fallen arches, wearing the wrong shoes and with poor flexibility.
Solution:  rest, ice and then heat and massage to promote blood flow and healing

The Alternative Approach to Feet

The feet are where spirit meets matter.  So a sole turning away from the Earth (club foot) or where it is very high (claw foot/ pes cavus)  can indicate someone who is very sensitive and in need of reassurance to keep their feet firmly planted on this planet.

Flat feet and fallen arches on the other hand indicate people who are rooted to the Earth and often down to earth who may be a little too structured.  Dance, movement and a good sense of humour is helpful!
I recently went to a Therapy Expo in Manchester where I was tempted to purchase some very expensive "gait trainers" that would encourage me to walk correctly, a wobbly chair that looked like a toad stool which was "perfect" for the office to reduce back tension and keep you on the move literally and a whole host of other temptations.  Does this sound vaguely familiar?  It certainly will if you have experienced chronic pain - pain anywhere in the body that has lasted more than a month or so.

The Good News - Chronic Pain can be cured
There is no need to spend copious amounts of money on "gadgets" and "gizmos" as not all physical pain is real.  I know how controversial this sounds!  Physical pain is obviously real when you can feel it but the good news is it does not have to stick around long term and can go away forever.  For anyone who has changed their lives to accommodate a condition they have, this is incredible.  This does not apply to auto immune diseases, fractures or cancer.

My Story
My belief in this comes from personal experience. Once you have experienced pain, the body has the capacity to remember it in the muscles, so any repeat "episodes" such as playing football on the beach which aggravated my back sets you back to the time the pain was at its worst.  This is disheartening and by addressing it with lots of routines like daily exercises specifically to ease the back, and only wearing trainers to comfort the back which i did, you are only perpetuating the cycle of pain and actually "feeding it".  It never was simply a physical problem, it was always an emotional one as it caused so much stress and disruption to daily life.  What if my back pain was an emotional issue that set it off in the first place?  Since meeting a physiotherapist at the Expo called Georgie Oldfield who has written the book "Chronic Pain, Your Key to Recovery", i have recognised the direct link between an emotional upset in my life and the back collapsing.  It is a fact that most of us given an MRI scan would see disc degeneration, and disc bulges where the disc contents have come out of a tear in the cushion which sits between each vertebra in your spine.  The difference is, most people are not aware or in pain, so it is not a logical explanation that you have disc degeneration in your neck or back and therefore chronic pain.  I am letting go of any attachment to this injury by not spending all my savings on expensive trainers and a private plane to whisk me around the world (i wish).  I will keep you posted on the results.  So far, so good!

How Helpful Massage Therapy is for you!

I am naturally biased about this but any source of emotional discomfort or stress needs an outlet.  What better way, than spending an hour having the tension physically released from the muscles while mentally letting go of stress.  They are the perfect combination and the mind can never be separated from the body - whatever you are thinking, worrying about or losing sleep over will directly  transfer to your body as tension.   If left unaddressed, over time it will become a chronic condition. Stay on top of things with a monthly massage or whatever relaxes you mentally and physically.  Simply having your muscles pummelled is not enough!  Sport is often a good alternative to holistic therapies but too much can increase the adrenalin levels too much which are already elevated by the stress causing a host of other issues from digestive problems to insomnia.

The Facts
Dr Sarno, a rehabilitation specialist in New York has been pioneering his work since the 70s with a condition called tension myoneural syndrome (TMS).  His theory is that repressed emotions can trigger the unconscious part of the nervous system to create pain.  Basically bottling things up turns into a physical symptom which becomes the focus of our attention intsead of the underlying cause. Georgie Oldfield with Dr Sarno's blessing set up her own recovery programme for patients called SIRPA.  Hippocrates - the father of modern medicine said " it is more important to know what sort of person has the disease than to know what disease the person has".

There are 2 myths about chronic symptoms:
  1. they usually have a physical cause
  2. they can only be managed not cured
A study carried out in 2013 showed that 'patients suffering chronic pain are at high risk of suffering long-lasting emotional disturbances characterised by persistent low mood and anxiety'. When an abnomality is found on an MRI scan, symptoms are often attributed to this, despite the fact that many healthy people with these same structural conditions experience no pain.  Without this knowledge, patients fear they may need an operation or that their symptoms will get worse with age rather than recognising stress as a potential cause for their symptoms.  For some time, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended doctors should not routinely refer patients with back pain for MRI and other diagnostic  scans unless there are clear indicators surgery may be required.  The reason being that studies since the 70s have shown spinal "abnormalities" are present in a high proportion of people who do not have pain.  Spinal degeneration is a normal sign of ageing due to the wear and tear of joints.  Most pain-free people by adulthood have disc degeneration (including bulges, protrusions and prolapses).

RSI or repetitive strain injury
This was unheard of 30 years ago when heavy typewriters were used yet nowadays it is so prevalent even though light , easy to use keyboards are used!  How does it suddenly appear?  You may have been working with computers for years before feeling pain in the wrists or forearms which is a physical symptom but often there are no signs of actual physical change in the arm/hand which indicates there is a non physical cause.

POwer of the Mind
You have an interview to go to for a job you have your heart set on, you are about to take an exam in a subject you want to study at University, or you need to make a speech in front of employees or wedding guests,  the chances are your heart is beating fast, and you may have been to the toilet a few times!  Your emotions have directly affected you in a physical way.  This is how stress turns into symptoms.

Please call Vanessa for a chat on 01491 577480 or 07906186912 if you are wondering whether a deep tissue stone massage is for you.
If you have ever seen a group of people here or abroad in a park waving their arms around in a slow fashion, then you know what Qigong looks like.  The Chinese swear by it as part of their health care alongside acupuncture.  In China, it is quite common to see a group of about 200 practising together, about half over 60 and the rest all ages.  In this way, it breaks down barriers between different age groups - something the West could probably benefit from.  It also teaches the art of moderation - the 70% rule which means less energy is used for each movement unlike the "no pain, no gain" attitude in the West! 

The Benefits
  1. Loosens Muscles and Builds Muscle Power:  Unlike aerobics and vigorous stretching which build muscle strength and flexibility, gigong builds effortless power and looseness.  In gigong, the goal is allow the muscles to open up as opposed to straining them.
  2. Strengthens the Organs:   such as the heart and the lungs through slow, deep regular breathing and energy movement.
  3. Improves circulation:  by working on the elasticity of the blood vessels so helps those with high or low blood pressure
  4. Helps prevent injury to joints, ligaments and bones:  People tend to lock their joints when falls or accidents happen which makes the injury worse.  Ligaments can be easily overstretched and getting them to bounce back is hard.  Through better balance, gigong teaches you to turn correctly without straining your joints
  5. Speeds up recovery time from injury and operations:  by increasing the circulation , improving the immune system, and helping the body and mind to relax which is key when you feel tense
  6. Eases sress and balances the emotions
  7. Benefits sedentary lifestyles:  by helping with concentration and enabling a sitting posture to be more comfortable
I thoroughly recommend it for relaxation, concentration and tension!

A Safe Exercise Programme

Setting aside time to exercise is something we have created in our life times.  Back in the cave man basis of any safe exercise programme which is flexibility and stability. Without these two cornerstones, you set yourself up for possible injury from repetitive strain of one part of the body.  Simply add a few pilates/yoga exercises into your programme and a good stretching routine.  It is better to do little and often than blitz the core work and stretching.

What they lack is the days, simply acquiring food required huge physical effort.  There were no gyms, zumba classes or triathlons.  Man has become more sedentary with desk based jobs so exercise has filled that gap.  The gym has become the mecca for office workers short on time.  A quick calorie burning work out, spin class or some weight training.  The feel good factor is felt as the post exercise endorphins kick in around the body post work out.  These types of exercise are good for the heart (cardio work and spin class) and muscle strength (weight training).  

lumbar roll


side bend
Functional Exercise
Think about normal day to day life.  It starts with rolling over in bed, some side flexion as you sit up and pushing up from the bed to standing position.  That is the equivalent of a lumbar roll in pilates, side bend to seated position and a reverse squat.  Lifting heavy weights or a spin class is not going to help with this manoeuvre!  Breakfast may involve reaching up to get some cereal out of a cupboard or bending down to get the milk from the fridge and sitting down on a  chair to eat it.  I think you get the gist.  As strong as you are in the gym, this heavy weight training does not equip you for day to day life without good flexibility and a strong centre.

Being Centred vs a 6 Pack!

Although a strong core has been used throughout gyms to focus on increasing muscle strength in the abdominal muscles, the focus has been on the 6 pack muscles called the rectus abdominis muscles that run down the front of the stomach.  These do not create a strong centre to protect your back.  The hidden gems or muscles that do are: the transverse abdominis that wrap around the abdomen, the pelvic floor muscles that create a sling beneath the pubic area , the multifidus that run down either of the spine, the internal /external obliques, the psoas  - a hip flexor muscle and the diaphragm beneath the rib cage.  Together these create a cyclinder of muscles that anchor the body so we can safely lift up a baby from the pram, get in and out of the car and dig a flower bed without causing discomfort. 
Few people have strong centres, whatever their muscle bulk is as the body takes the path of least resistance.  It uses the muscles that are strong and not necessarily the weaker stabilising muscles.  To get an even better idea of what i am talking about.  Imagine a canoe on a still lake surrounded by trees.  The canoe has no anchor so is bobbing along with the gentle ripples caused by the wind.  A cannon is placed inside the canoe and a cannon is fired.  The cannon ball just pops out and dribbles over into the lake as there is nothing to fix the canoe securely in place to create distance from the cannon and where the cannon ball falls.  An anchor is then attached to a rope which is securely fastened to the canoe.  This time the cannon ball flies out and lands a good distance away.  Your centre consisting of those muscles i mentioned earlier is the anchor that allows for all movements.  In order to fire the muscles in the correct order so the stabilising muscles fire first, you have to train your body and switch off those big strong muscles that want to do all the work.  It requires skill, and concentration and slow movements.  It won't surprise you to know that few strong muscular people have the stamina to do these focused exercises!

Top 10 Ways to Prevent Injury in the Gym
Think Stability - Flexibility - Muscle Strength - Power
  • Good technique.  Incorrect technique can pull, rip or wrench a muscle particularly if you are stress loading a limb with weight
  • Ensure you progress slowly, ideally under guidance
  • Change the work out on a monthly basis
  • Adequate warm up to increase blood flow to muscles eg stationary bike, jogging
  • Muscle specific stretches at the end of the work out
  • Recovery time needed so no more than 3-4 sessions a week for an hour
  • Good nutrition - eat a balanced diet with plenty of protein and water to rehydrate
  • Concentrate - feel how the muscles are working
  • Avoid static machines like seated shoulder /leg press, and ask for alternatives from the gym instructor.  Most of these machines put the joints in an unstable position and a more functional work out challenges the whole body ie squats, throwing a medicine ball against a wall, or using your own body weight in the plank
For any pointers on good pilates exercises specific to your posture or sport, contact Vanessa on 01491 577480 or 07906186912.