A Fit School Christmas – after the party

What a night! After a lot of planning and preparation, our first health and fitness evening was a lot of fun and a real success.

I loved Rochele’s crazy Zumba party. Rochele ‘I had a baby eight weeks ago so need to take it easy,’ who proceeded to exude energy only slightly greater than that of our youngest participant, Maya (21 months) who had no intention of going to sleep so Zumba’d in her PJs.

It was also fantastic to meet some new faces and to see so much willing participation in our taster classes and talks.

I know a lot of you made a massive effort to get there last night. Taking annual leave; arriving direct from hospital visits; leaving five day old babies at home; bringing sleeping tots when babysitters weren’t available; bringing husbands to look after babies; and above all, just coming. Then there were those of you who couldn’t make it but still donated money and good wishes. The list goes on. I always endeavour to support new ventures and events, so support is something that means a great deal to me.

Now we’ve done one, it will be easier to do more. So watch out for Fit School roadshow 2013. We’re comin’ at ya’!

 

 

 

Multiple Sclerosis – What it means to me

When Chris and I first discussed what our fitness business would look like we knew we didn’t want to run just another gym, neither did we want the focus of our business to be sales. We’ve always believed that an ethical, customer service focused fitness business based on results, programming and community was key for us, both for the success of our clients and for our personal job satisfaction.

As part of this focus on community, we want Fit School to support charities. From offering our services, or funding other professionals to coach in local schools and clubs, to national charities, which mean a lot to us and to our clients.

Earlier this year my Aunty Brenda lost her battle with Multiple Sclerosis. She’d had it for over thirty years. I remember my Aunty fighting MS. She used to drag herself on her elbows around her kitchen rather than give in to a wheelchair. She refused being fed through a tube until her body couldn’t take anymore. And in the end, in May this year, she refused resuscitation.

I write this, very aware that my emotions are insignificant compared to those of my cousins Emma and Simon and my Uncle Ian. Their lives were so different to mine because of the constant support, help, care and above all love, they showed my Aunty. And whilst my experiences of Aunty Brenda’s MS were at a distance, the impact of the illness on her family is not lost on me.

I was privileged to visit her when she was finally admitted to hospital with pneumonia. The sense of acceptance from the whole family was immense and put life into perspective.

My Aunty was full of life, she was creative, alternative and even when she couldn’t really eat, still loved cake!

Around the time that Aunty Brenda got really poorly I found out that a good friend had just been diagnosed with MS. Treatments are different now but the uncertainty remains, not to mention pain, sickness and tiredness that go hand in hand with mega doses of drugs.

I didn’t want to call tomorrow Brenda’s evening because it’s still too raw for many people, but that’s essentially what the charity part is about – my Aunty Brenda, who was a bit alternative and loved cake. x

About MS

MS affects the nervous system and is more common in women than men. It usually strikes between the ages of 20 and 40. The causes of MS are still uncertain. It’s not a directly inherited condition but it’s thought that a combination of genes are responsible. More evidence now is pointing to a lack of Vitamin D (MS is virtually unheard of near the equator) and possibly a link to sweeteners like aspartame.

http://www.mssociety.org.uk/

Harlow Food Bank – working to restore dignity and hope

Before Friday’s big event I thought it was important to say a little about each of the charities we’re supporting.

We aren’t asking for any entrance money but have asked for a contribution for the Harlow food bank. This means anything from a tin to a packet of pasta.

I found out about the food bank through this year’s Epping United Reformed Church toddler group, harvest collection. All the children brought tins, tea-bags, dried food and biscuits. The sorts of foods that might sustain a family or individal in crisis, in the time it takes for more permanent financial help to be put in place.

The Harlow food bank, organised through the Michael Roberts Charitable Trust, has fed over 6000 people since it started in 2009. Last year the charity reported a 35% increase in demand for support. It’s doing brilliant work, at a community level, to ensure help gets to the right place and the people who really need it.

Please give generously. Here’s a list of what is really needed http://www.mrct.org.uk/harlowfoodbank/foodlist.htm

We’ll see you on Friday.

 

A Fit School Christmas – the line up (so far) …

We’re getting very excited at Fit School HQ. Not only about our first, official event next Friday (Friday, 23rd November, 7-10pm) but also about the prospect of launching our first courses, in Essex, in the new year.

Here’s the latest line up for next Friday’s healthy extravaganza so you can decide what you want to do and when to sample our finest mince pies and mulled wine!

See you next week!

FitSchoolChristmasLineUp

Ante Natal Pilates: What’s all the fuss about?

So you’re pregnant. Yay!  Congratulations. How are you feeling?

Nauseous? Overwhelmed? Excited? Relieved?

It’s a time of your life when there are so many expectations on you and of how it will feel to be pregnant but when it actually happens, and your body is invaded by a beautiful, yet essentially parasitic baby who is draining all your resources, it can leave you feeling, well, confused.

This is where someone like me steps in. A fitness professional with a passion for all things women’s health, which basically means I care about you being as comfortable and happy as possible during your pregnancy. I also care about ensuring your experience of labour and birth is the best it can be for you and perhaps most importantly, I care about you, as a woman, recovering after birth and getting back to being you!

Yes, ostensibly I’m a Pilates teacher, but given my experience of now 100’s of different pregnancies (I hasten to add just one of my own but 100’s of women I’ve seen through classes and one to one training), my second and third jobs of health writer and mummy, and my growing networks of fellow health professionals I can call on for advice, I like to think of myself as a one stop shop.

So, back to Pilates, if you’ve never done it before you might be puzzled as to why it’s so damned good for those in the pudding club.

Here are just a few reasons based on my experience and the experiences of my beautiful bumps and ladies!

MAKING YOU MORE COMFORTABLE DURING PREGNANCY

  • Pilates is a gentle, mat based class (although can be adapted to use swiss balls etc), and as such is very controlled form of exercise. Perfect for mums-to-be who want to do something positive for their bodies, without risk of injury.
  • When you’re in a class, you’re not exercising alone, so if anything does happen, there are experts on hand to support you.
  • Pilates specifically focuses on muscles in the trunk and pelvic floor, which can all help mum’s body to support a growing baby.
  • During classes we focus on exercises to relieve common aches and pains, like back ache or pelvic pain. Many women, after trying a class, find the relief so great that they sign up for two a week!

LABOUR AND BIRTH

  • Pilates focuses on breathing and relaxation, some of the techniques we use can be used during labour to help you relax, thereby enabling you to cope with pain better (or just take in gas and air without feeling sick)!
  • We incorporate exercises that encourage optimal baby positioning for birth and you can do these at home too. We’ve had quite a few stubborn breach babies go head down after class!
  • We also do gentle pelvis mobility exercises which are essential for easing baby’s head out of that very small space!
  • A strong and healthy pelvic floor is better equipped to both stretch and push during birth. In my classes we don’t just squeeze, we all understand how to train and engage our pelvic floor muscles. Did you know they go virtually all the way up to your cervix!

POST NATAL RECOVERY

  • Whilst Pilates won’t strip belly fat, healthy abdominal muscles do make your waist appear smaller. I’ve lost count of the number of women who have received compliments after doing Pilates because they appear slimmer, even when they’ve not lost any weight!
  • Getting your abdominals and pelvic floor strong again post delivery will ensure you can go back to all your favourite activities without fear of incontinence or prolapse and without risking distended abdominals.

So what would you do in my ante natal Pilates classes? Here’s my take on things: Pilates for Pregnancy

For more general information on exercising safely during pregnancy, check out https://alittlefitter.com/pregnancy-health-fitness/
For more information on classes visit https://alittlefitter.com/classes-and-training/

How to Zumba without fear

What do Zumba, aerobics, trampolining and tennis all have in common?

They all require a certain amount of jumping. Not just jumping up and down with your legs together, in a controlled manner, but launching yourself, legs akimbo and hoping for the best.

Whilst this might have sounded like fun when you were twelve or even before you popped little Lola out of your fandango, if the thought of spread eagled exertion fills you with fear, you are not alone.

A am -of course – referring to that pesky pelvic floor. It might just about hold things together when you sneeze or run but the spontaneous jiggling or jumping in some exercise classes or sports can prove a slightly damp hop too far for some women. And, quite frankly, can put you off.

Now I’m all about getting you moving. And not just you, but your buddies, your grannies and your great grannies too. Your body loves to move about in lots of different directions (in the biz. we call this multi-planar movement) so Zumba, aerobics and multi-directional sports are really good for you.

Here is my plan for strengthening your lady bits so you can enter your next local Zumba-thon without fear:

STAGE ONE: Identify your pelvic floor muscles.

This doesn’t mean do a quick squeeze, this is about getting to know your pelvic floor muscles. A common misconception is that they are just on the outside, controlling your vagina, urethra (wee hole) and anus. However, they go way deeper than this and according to Blandine Calais-Germain, author of The Female Pelvis, it is the deeper pelvic floor muscles, inside your pelvis that are often the cause of prolapse.

As you engage your pelvic floor muscles, imagine the intensity comes from behind your perineum, forwards, as if you were drawing everything up from your tailbone to your vagina.

If you’re not confident that you can engage your pelvic floor take a look at these posts:

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/09/04/ten-ways-to-find-your-pelvic-floor-for-your-friends/

https://alittlefitter.com/2012/08/01/why-women-should-get-intimate-with-themselves/

When you perform the exercises (below) focus on holding the middle layer of your pelvic floor muscles, as if you were trying to hold your bladder, uterus and rectum in position.

STAGE TWO: Hold-Wave-Quick-Relax-Fatigue

There are five key elements of pelvic floor conditioning:

  1. Start by performing controlled holds of your pelvic floor muscles. Keep a note of how long you can hold before you start to fatigue and each time you train, try to beat your time.
  2. Progress to slow wave like movements, where you slowly squeeze up and then release in as controlled a manner as you squeezed. Again, keep a note of how many you can do before tiring and progress with every training session.
  3. Then comes the sprint finish. Quick, strong squeezes, all the way up and all the way down. Make these intense and perform until you lose intensity.
  4. Always relax completely between each contraction (some pelvic floor or even back issues are caused by pelvic floor muscles that are too tight at the top).
  5. Always perform your pelvic floor exercises to the point of fatigue, just like you would with any resistance training.

STAGE THREE: Legs akimbo

Once you’ve mastered the exercises standing or seated, challenge yourself by standing with your legs wide. It makes the exercises much harder but will prepare you for those wild and crazy Zumba thrusts!

Weird and wonderful facts about pregnancy

I love my ante natal Pilates classes. We often digress onto the weird and wonderful side of pregnancy. And women often say to me that it’s this, ‘beyond Pilates’ education that they find so relevant and useful about my ante natal Pilates classes.

So rather than keep them to myself, as a avid follower and information hamster of all things pregnancy, here are a few of my favourite facts about the wonderful ride that is becoming mum to start us off.

  • Your placenta is amazing! It exists only to perform the function of raising your unborn baby and then immediately dies.  It is responsible not only for nutrient transfer and waste disposal but also for ensuring your body does not reject your baby as a ‘foreign body’.
  • The wound your placenta leaves when you give birth to it, is the largest wound the human body ever recovers from, usually without medical intervention.
  • Carrying out front or wide has nothing to do with the sex of your baby and everything to do with where your digestive system gets squidged to during pregnancy. This also usually means that an out front, torpedo baby’s mummy gets dreadful wind and indigestion!
  • Eating yams will increase your chance of having twins, so says a 1996 study from Yale University student Obinwanne Ugwonali, M.D. The student was so fascinated by the high rate of fraternal twin births amongst the Yaruba people of Nigeria that he investigated diet and cited yams as the answer!
  • The most common day to give birth on is a Tuesday. The last recorded data was in 2004 from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention which cited Tuesday as the most popular day with Wednesday, Thursday and Friday not far behind.

That’s all for now folks.

Every junk food meal you eat increases your risk of a heart attack

Whilst granny might have said, “a little of what you fancy does you good,” actually, when it comes to fatty foods that’s just not the case. Scientists at the University of Montreal have found that even one meal rich in saturated fat affects the way your arteries function and could therefore be increasing your risk of developing cardio-vascular disease.

The study, presented at last week’s Canadian Cardio Congress, compared the results of eating a junk food meal to consuming a mediterranean style meal, rich in healthy fats like mono and polyunsaturated fats (think olive oil, nuts and fish).

During the study, scientists measured vascular endothelium function (the inner lining of blood vessels of the heart) after each meal, which is a key indicator of the long term risk of developing cardio-vascular disease.

Following the high fat meal (test subjects ate a sandwich of sausage, egg and a slice of cheese with three hash browns), vascular endothelium function was reduced by 24%.

So, now that I’m sounding like Little Miss Misery Knickers, what can you do to minimize the effects of binge eating and protect your heart health?

GO ALTERNATIVE

The thought of a sausage, egg and cheese sandwich actually makes me feel pretty queasy. If you’re desperate for a fry up, consider a good quality, high meat content, free range sausage with a free range poached egg and tomatoes or baked beans. Or perhaps go for fresh tomato and garlic topped bruschetta with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Yum!

GO FOR QUALITY

I for one am rather a fan of pork belly (as is my 8% body fat husband), but we only ever buy the best quality pork we can find. For us, this is from Sparks’ butchers in Blackheath. It’s happy pig belly from piggies who have eaten the best there is to forage and generally speaking free range = healthier fat. It’s the same as eating eggs from free range hens, they’ll be higher in omega 3 and essential fatty acids due to a free range diet.

GO GREEN

Surround your Christmas Turkey with all things green. The study showed the results of a meal that was 58% saturated fat. So rather than fill your plate with meat, roasties and sausages, fill your plate with veggies. Green, yes but all different colours too. Filling yourself up on vegetables will increase your vitamin quota, help your body to alkalise the meat and reduce the overall fat percentage of your dinner.

CLEANSE YOUR SYSTEM

If you have had a blow out, consider fasting to give your system a break and then fill your diet with artery cleansing foods. Oats, beans, nuts, oily fish, whole grains and colourful vegetables like sweet potatoes, broccoli and spinach literally clean your blood vessels from the inside.

Read the original study information on Science Daily’s website.