Today I went for a run to remember my purpose.

Today I went for a run.

Today I went for a run because I was so overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I have taken on at the moment that I knew I needed to take a time out from it in order to tackle it with renewed spirit and energy.

Today I went for a run because I have been a bit slack and haven’t run for about three weeks. I’ve made excuses.

Today I went for a run because I’ve been in a really negative place in my head for a few days owing to a) overwhelm; b) women’s troubles; c) anxiety. When anxiety strikes I take every little thing personally. It can feel like I’m failing everyone.

Today I went for a run because I knew it would make me feel better.

Today I went for a run because I can!


Today I went for a run because I’m leading a team for this year’s Race for Life in July and I can’t very well encourage if I turn up and am out of shape.

I ran faster up hills even though it made my lungs hurt because I was chasing endorphins not training goals.

I ran faster down hills because I was trying to beat the recycling vans home to get my last bits of rubbish out that I knew hubby had forgotten to do.

Today I switched on my ‘tunes’ when I ran. I didn’t want the mind chatter.

As I ran through a favourite stretch of my regular 20-minute run route Candi Staton’s ‘You got the love’ came on. I ran with renewed vigor!

As a mum in business it can be very easy to slip into the mindset of having to do it all in your own strength. But do you know what? I can’t.

I love mummy entrepreneur sites, sisterhoods, female empowerment, all that jazz. But sometimes for me I need to step away and remember that it’s not all about me.

It’s when I’m trying to do it all on my own that I get overwhelm. I get anxious. I get ratty. I pick fights and get defensive.

So today, as blood coursed through my body, Candi Staton reminded me that I am a strong woman and a bold woman but that I need a bit of help from others and from God to be the awesome woman He wants me to be.

Today I went for a run because I needed to remember this. That I’m not on my own.

So this week I’ll tackle my to do list (which if I’m honest only scratches the surface) with renewed vigor and spirit knowing that I am working hard for a greater purpose. I can only do this because I went for a run.

Running and exercise isn’t all about results and I don’t always feel like it. Sometimes my hubby literally shoves me out of the door. Today I ran to remember my purpose.

When can I start running again after having a baby?

It is a question I get asked a lot by my post natal clients. When can I start running again?

It’s a toughie. On one hand, I completely understand the need and want to get out running again. If you love being active, pregnancy can feel like a life sentence of inactivity and then some miserable person (like me) suggests you wait a little bit.

If you use running to boost your mood, then surely when your new mummy hormones are running riot, a run is a great idea. Right? Hmmnn… (puzzled emoticon).

I’ll be honest with you. The day after my 6 week check after having Isaac I put on my trainers and ran like a crazy person. It felt sooooo good. But subsequent training for a 10k left me pretty sore. I ignored my painful pelvis and had weird stuff going on in my hips until I stopped running completely when I got pregnant with Naomi. I wish I had listened to my body.

I’m going to give you the facts and leave you to make your own choice based on your body.

There are four things to consider about running and the post natal body.

1. Your pelvic floor

C-section or vaginal delivery, your pelvic floor will have been under pressure throughout your pregnancy due to the changes in your posture and the way your full uterus will have put pressure on your pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscles and a pelvis that would have already been weakened by the hormone relaxin.

Excess weight, the size of your baby, the age at which you delivered your first baby, intervention like forceps/ventouse or for some, a sensitivity to pregnancy hormones can all put extra strain on your pelvic floor.

Running on an already weakened pelvic floor is a really bad move. It’s just likely to put extra strain on the area and could increase pelvic floor dysfunction like incontinence or prolapse.

Not convinced?

One of the reasons I became so fascinated with the post natal pelvic floor was my surprise at the number of fit women in their late 30s and early 40s who came to me, having starting running/getting active after their babies were born and realised they had a minor prolapse. It’s really common.

2. Your posture

Your posture inevitably changes during pregnancy. There’s all that baby weight pulling your spine forwards and tipping your pelvis. Running on a wonky skeleton will only exacerbate any issues and probably lead to the physiotherapist’s table. Your body is different post baby to pre baby, it won’t feel the same.

3. Relaxin

It’s estimated that relaxin, the hormone that makes your joints/muscles/blood vessels lax remains in your body for up to four months after you give birth or stop breast feeding. High impact exercise is not nice on joints which are already under strain and could lead to inflammation.

4. Your energy/tiredness

Running takes a lot of energy, both calorific and get up and go energy. If you are breast feeding, it’s important to re-stock any lost calories fast after you exercise. If you don’t you’ll feel shattered and probably reach for the chocolate box. If you aren’t getting much sleep and start running regularly, it could add to the exhaustion.

I don’t want to be the miserly running police but I do want to ensure you get the best advice out there. Running is awesome. Exercise is awesome. But do give yourself time to recover before you get back to it.

Check out the New Mummy Diet for more help on getting back into shape after having a baby.

For information on classes check out Karen’s About page.

Pay As You Go Pilates

“I must be right. Never an aspirin. Never injured a day in my life. The whole country, the whole world, should be doing my exercises. They’d be happier.” – Joseph Hubertus Pilates, in 1965, age 86.

Pilates isn’t a ‘drop in’ option

Well my classes aren’t anyway. I used to teach in gyms but always got frustrated that I couldn’t help my regulars progress as much as they could have done because of the restraints of newcomers popping in and out each week.

This isn’t a criticism on beginners wanting to get started (or on my lovely committed gym goer participants). Regular readers will know I love beginners and I’m all for just moving a bit more. That is indeed my fitness mantra. But Pilates is a system of exercise best served with regular practice and experience and it’s no surprise to me that the participants who re-book, reap the rewards of Pilates, rarely (if ever) get injured and who are my class superstars, are those who are there week after week and NEVER ask, ‘do you do pay as you go?’ [The answer, by the way, is no].

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And here’s why:

Consider gardening. You could dip your toe in, plant a few bulbs and hope for the best. Spring comes and a few bloom but you never really figure out why they’re a bit average and what happened to the 80% that have just bolted and failed to flower. Or perhaps you plant some herbs. Another good starting point. You get a bit of fresh rosemary but your mint goes to seed, the thyme dries out and caterpillars destroy what was left of your basil.

This is pay as you go gardening. There’s a little reward but when it goes pear shaped you wonder why you bothered.

If however you learn from your own mistakes and experience, ask advice and questions from those with more experience, immerse yourself in books or magazines and just get out there a bit more often to spot the garden critters and changing environment, your efforts will bear much fruit.

And so of course it is with Pilates, as with any structured exercise programme but particularly with Pilates (and I know of course I’m biased here), commitment and practice lead to progression, results, understanding, awareness and that all important flow. Suddenly an hour slips by in a couple of breaths; an advanced exercise you’d previously considered impossible feels achievable and really great; and your body feels – well just amazing!

It’s like your body can breathe and you sleep so deeply.

If you’ve experienced our Fit School ways, you know we’re about progression. Our classes are programmed to progress and build. There are tweaks and different ways of doing exercises. There may even be a change of instructor or pace but it’s all leading to the same end. A little progress from the week before.

I do of course understand that work commitments or childcare can make ‘drop in’ or ‘pay as you go’ the only realistic option and of course it’s better than none at all. But if your back is troubling you, you plan on running a marathon or you’re trying to get to grips with your post natal rehab, regular, committed practice is key to bearing that magic Pilates fruit.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.fit-school.co.uk

The cure for back pain

BACK pain is one of those nasty conditions which bites most of us at some point in our lives but for some it’s chronic, debilitating and just plain miserable. Is Pilates really the cure all that we hope for when we’re suffering?

Second to post natal rehab, back pain or back injury is the most common reason that newcomers find my classes and take action. As a very dear friend of mine always said, ‘pain is the best motivator for exercise’ and she had a good point.

BUT (and yes it’s a big but), Pilates does not cure backs, improving core strength does not make pain go away and Pilates is definitely not a replacement for physiotherapy.

Before you start Pilates following a back injury you’ll need a diagnosis and/or a sign off by your medical professional that you are fit to exercise.

Back pain requires a long term management strategy. I’d be lying if I told you Pilates could fix you, rather it can be fantastic as part of a long term pain management approach alongside other lifestyle changes. Dull hey? There’s no fad or tabloid worthy headline here. Back pain is not an injury you can fix like a broken leg when you were 12. Instead it’s a condition you need to accept and find ways to work around.

Do bear in mind however that most adults have some degree of disc bulging or wear and tear. We could all be exercising with a minor disc prolapse but never know it. Our backs are strong and designed to last a life time. 

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STAGE 1:

So you first visit your GP and get referred or you go straight to a physiotherapist. In a nutshell, physiotherapists are like musculo-skeletal doctors. They cure with physical treatments and exercise recommendations not pills. This might sound blindingly obvious but a physiotherapist can not cure your back like a course of antibiotics might cure a throat infection. So at stage 1 of back pain you already have exercises to do, at home, between sessions which will help the repair process. The more you do your exercises, the quicker you’ll be on your feet.

STAGE 2:

When you are beyond the acute (really painful) stage you might be referred on to a hospital based Pilates programme or you might be signed off with a recommendation for Pilates or similar. So at stage 2 there are still exercises to do. At home or at the gym. But you need to keep doing them.

STAGE 3:

You get advised to improve your core strength. You may have even skipped stages 1 and 2 and gone straight to here. This is where Pilates becomes an option. However, core strength is a bit of a fad that doesn’t really exist, I’m not sounding very positive today am I? Core strength conjures images of a super iron girdle which you can get so strong by doing Pilates that you’ll never feel back pain again. The problems with this theory are that a) this girdle doesn’t exist; and b) immobility is the enemy of back health. I’m not suggesting it’s time to launch yourself into a dynamic Pilates class but fixing (as in making more rigid) your painful joints will not serve you long term. Instead we can use Pilates and physiotherapy exercises (that you need to keep doing between sessions) to get your body to a place where you can move, rather than using it to make you even more stiff.

STAGE 4:

Keep doing your exercises … forever! Visit your occupational health team at work and get a work station assessment. Can’t fit Pilates in at home, get a group together and get a Pilates instructor in to you. Consider what else you could do to help your back. Is there another health concern you need to get sorted in order to get you more mobile? Could you swim during the week? How’s your bed, your shoes or your bra? These can all be massive contributors to back pain.

Fit School is planning a seminar on long term back pain management (we hope it will have a sexier title than that) so if you’d like to find out more visit our Facebook page or contact us via the contact form below.

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Get updates from the alittlefitter post natal newsletter: http://eepurl.com/YVmD9

Are you an encourager?

ABOUT 13 years ago I first learned to run. Before then I would try but would set off all keen and then have to stop and walk for a bit. It was very discouraging. Years of school inter-form running or cross country (AKA running around the school) had hammered into me that I was pretty useless at it (as for most sports) and my memories are of getting really cold, falling in muddy ditches and generally never getting clean or dry before I then had to go straight to band practice! I wanted to enjoy it but couldn’t get a rhythm. I’d get a stitch or couldn’t breathe. I loved dancing, aerobics and training in the gym but running – no. It was my nemesis. So when – with the help of a keen runner, Mike Hall (no relation) who was on my team at the PRS whilst we built them a new IT system (these were the days of Karen, the management consultant) – I completed my first ever 5k Corporate Chase Challenge back in 2001 it was a really big deal.

The team

(clockwise from far left) Amy, Nicola, Simona (Simona’s mum not in shot), Sally, Gemma, Hayley, me (Karen), Angustias

Roll on to 2014 and I somehow sit here with a snoozing six month old next to me and a three and a half year old at preschool. I run my own business and can remember little about coding in java or C (these are probably outdated now) but I do remember I always loved getting the team ‘on board’ and getting results. So when on Wednesday, we had our first little Fit School team running in the North Weald Race for Life it might not have seemed like a big deal to many but to every woman who had never run that distance before, or taken part in a ‘race’, or felt like they were a bit rubbish at sports, I knew how it felt. I also knew, that a now very dear friend, who lost her mum to cancer last summer, would be running 10k. Amy is a sunshiny, giving person and I wanted to be there for her too.

I’ve run in events since my first 5k but I’ve always felt pretty nervous due to the ‘pressure’ of doing a time. This event was different. I was going to get everyone round because that’s what I love doing. I could never have imagined just how incredible it was to see the perimeter of North Weald Airfield covered in little pink running and walking dots as runners, joggers, plodders and walkers just got out there and did something defiant and amazing.

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The team all made it round and all felt amazing afterwards. I got laughed at for running in the wrong direction at times but then I wasn’t going to leave anyone out there on the field!

It’s very easy to sit back and think, ‘It’s okay for her – she’s thin,’ or, ‘it’s okay for her, she has the time,’ or, ‘I can’t run because …’ but events like this are great for just getting everyone out, off their behinds, and sharing time, effort and hugs.

So perhaps you need a little encouragement to do some exercise or you’d like some guidance – or perhaps you’re feeling a bit low, or maybe a lot low. That’s okay. It doesn’t make you stupid or a nuisance. It makes you human. And there are always people like me who get a complete buzz out of being an encourager because I had enough of feeling like I was useless at sports when I was a teenager.

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Oh and for all my cross country efforts, I’ve since discovered that endurance events are in my genes – so it’s time for me to stop making excuses, learn how to run and just do it!

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Get updates from the alittlefitter post natal newsletter: http://eepurl.com/YVmD9

 

Want a flat tummy? My top 5 dos and don’ts.

DON’T EAT SUGARS OR REFINED CARBS. This one’s simple. Cut it out for a week and then tell me you haven’t lost fat on your tummy.

DON’T EAT PROCESSED FOODS. Yes even and especially diet ones. Flat tummies start in the kitchen.  No amount of exercise can out do a poor diet.  The cleaner your diet (this means no chemical nasties, unknown salts or sugars) the leaner your belly!

DON’T GIVE IN TO STRESS. It’s hard but stress, especially long-term, low level stress is a trigger for storing fat around your tummy. It can also be a trigger for comfort eating. Minimizing stress could mean letting go of commitments that aren’t serving you, booking in a weekly yoga or exercise session, or just taking time out to unwind but consider it as important to your health as cleaning your teeth (stress arguably causes more disease than bad dental care).

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DON’T DRINK ALCOHOL ON A REGULAR BASIS. ‘Ha ha,’ you think … but it’s true.  A glass of wine a night is like eating a chocolate bar before you go to bed. Empty calories which don’t fill you up but will keep fat on your tummy. An occasional tipple is fine but not if you’re serious about finding your waist.

DON’T SNACK. Cows graze, lions feast and famine. Unless you are training for an endurance event or pregnant, eating little and often is a misnomer. Cut out all snacks and aim to leave at least 4 hours between meals to regulate your insulin production.

DO GET PLENTY OF SLEEP. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can make you feel more hungry and crave calorie dense, fatty and sugary foods.

DO WORK ON YOUR POSTURE. Rounded, stooping shoulders lead to saggy boobs and extra belly rolls. Likewise a deep arch in your lower back makes it hard for your abs to work and can leave you with a permanent poochy belly. Lift weights and do Pilates!

DO DRINK LOTS OF WATER to keep you feeling full, flush out toxins and prevent water retention.

DO EAT A SELECTION OF HIGH QUALITY MEATS, FISH AND VEGETABLES – especially dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach and watercress, which are all great alkalisers.

DO CHANGE YOUR HABITS. If you’ve read all of these Dos and Don’ts and thought, ‘well I sort of do that but I can’t change that,’ then enjoy your belly roll.  Changing shape = changing habits.

Related posts:

How to alkalise your diet.

Is sleep deprivation making you fat?

Why can’t I stop eating sugar?

Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

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/