Friday’s Pilates move for runners

posted in: Pilates, Running | 0

Crikey I haven’t written a post for months – so much going on, so little time…But here’s one now!

There has been a wonderful feature on ‘Pilates for Runners’  in the Dec/Jan Trailrunning magazine and as you can see from the excerpt on the left, the editor Paul Larkin is a definite convert!

I’m often asked what the best Pilates exercises are for runners. There isn’t just one. There are many and once familiar with Pilates and the exercises on offer, you can find and practise the ones that best suit your own individual running needs. Everything you need to know is in my book ‘Pilates for Runners’.

One of things that often occurs when we run, especially when we’re tired, is twisting from the torso. This is a terrible waste of precious energy. So the Side Kick is a good exercise to counteract this as it works the oblique (waist) muscles. The stronger the oblique muscles the less likelihood of this twisting, or pelvis and hip problems too. The Side Kick will also strengthen and lengthen the tensor fasciae latae (TFL) and the Iliotibial band (ITB). The TFL sits at the top of the ITB to the front, by the side of your hip – it’s the muscle that stabilises the knee and flexes, abducts and rotates the hip joint, so we runners need to keep it very happy.

Here you go – an excerpt from ‘Pilates for Runners’ – try this simple exercise and see what you think. During the exercise, if you place your hand on your waist/side muscles as you lift your legs you’ll feel them tensing and working. If you click on to the page below it will grow in size so that you can read the instructions…

a weekend of nutty cheese and mediterranean tarts…

So this weekend me and masterchef decided to have a go at making vegan cheese. I am incredibly curious about these recipes and as I was given Jenny Peppiat’s book ‘this cheese is nuts’ for my birthday, we thought it was time to stop looking at the pictures and attempt the first recipe in the book – which described itself as a ‘spread’ and an ‘all time favourite quick cheese’.

I like quick.

And simple.

Apart from soaking the almonds overnight which requires forward planning – forgetting this rather vital part of the recipe means you are scuppered, it was indeed very straightforward and tasted fabulous. Does it taste like cheese though? Not really. But very good nonetheless. I actually think it would make a good pasta sauce as well. Here’s the recipe – give it a go!


Our mediterranean tarts were another simple discovery, the original recipe courtesy of BOSH who you can access via Facebook here:

I altered the recipe slightly adding raw garlic to the base (as I’m a garlic addict and crave strong tastes) and pimientos (left over from the cheese recipe above) to the topping. Again these tarts could be made even smaller, or a huge one for the whole family. Either way, good, simple, delicious vegan food. The base is puff pastry which you can buy in the supermarket (just make sure it is the vegan variety) and that you roll it thin. Then the tomato puree is mixed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and spread on top. Add a selection of veg like courgettes, tomatoes, olives, capers, red onion and anything else that takes your fancy. In the oven for 20 mins at 180 degrees. And Bosh, you’re done!

Meanwhile I need to improve my food photography!

If you’re interested in plant based eating you can join me on Facebook on my page Not Just a Load of Old Lentils

The joy of trail running

posted in: adventure, Marathon, Mojo, Running | 0

I’m not a fan of pounding the streets or roads when I run, give me a woodland trail or towpath any day. The air is cleaner (usually), the vista preferable and all those tree roots, muddy puddles, twists and turns keep me on my toes. Literally. Nature is everywhere, whether it’s the ducks and swans on the river or the starlings and red kites in the sky. In addition there’s the changing seasons that feed the senses every step of the way – bluebell scent, or freshly rained-on foliage, cut grass or just good old ‘country smells’ – it’s all preferable to carbon monoxide and the constant growl of traffic. Not to mention how trail running can have less impact on the joints.

Of course, if you’re training for a road race, then road running is what you need to do. And running, in my experience is an absolutely wonderful way to discover a new town or city (and to get lost), either here or abroad, as long as you stay alert and safe when running alone. But running off-road, amongst nature, accompanied ideally by a silent, calm world with only your own thoughts and bird song, is definitely my favourite form of running both mentally and physically…

Fi says: ‘Trail running? My favourite. Apart from the obvious benefits of no traffic or pedestrians, the sheer joy of being in the middle of quiet surroundings, and the multiple opportunities to stop and appreciate where you are with a quick photo opportunity? Getting off concrete is good for your achy bits, the bits that get pounded by your feet hitting the ground the same way, thousands of times, navigating rougher and uneven ground seems to ease the kinks. Cheap physio! Actually, it’s free physio. I like getting lost too, following paths just to see where they go.’

Carol says: ‘I love trail running – it’s magical. It provides a visual feast which makes running SO much easier. The beauty of the woods and our English countryside makes me feel happy and I’m in awe every time I run these routes. It’s without doubt my favourite kind of running. The change in colours week on week in the woods, the wildlife, the twists and turns just make it so special. It never gets boring and that’s the magic. It slows you down and makes you take in your environment.’

It’s the best.

Age is just a number…get out and run!

Last week at the Virgin London Marathon, according to an article in the Sunday Times, many runners aged between 55 and 64 ran as fast as those in the younger age bracket of 25 – 34.

This is wonderful news for us older runners who always imagine we get slower as we age – if we train well then there is absolutely no reason why our running endurance should diminish. It was Strava who examined the stats of those runners using their tracker app at the London Marathon and they discovered that the 55 – 64 age group ran an average marathon race of 4 hours, 4 minutes and 17 seconds JUST 15 seconds behind the average pace of the 25 – 34 year olds!

I’ll have some of that!

It’s well documented that running increases longevity (according to a study in the Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases Journal) a single hour of running can add seven hours to a person’s life…Crikey! And boosts our cognitive function…There are loads of studies out there that demonstrates this fact – one such from the University of Eastern Finland found that ‘participants who engaged in physical activity at least twice a week had a lower risk of dementia than those who were less active. The research also showed that it’s never too late to start. Becoming more physically active after midlife was shown to lower dementia risk.

So, as I hurtle alarmingly towards a rather big and shocking birthday, this gives me hope and gets me out that door on rainy, cold days. It reminds me too that we’ve just got to keep on keeping on. Which I will certainly be doing.

Age is just a number and it’s never too late to start running…or run a marathon!

Come and join our Running workshop here in Marlow on the 17th June for inspiration –

Running as therapy for depression

posted in: Running | 0

There is no doubt in my mind that running can alleviate and improve many things. I’m talking mental health rather than physical here. If you suffer from depression, going for a run or brisk walk can feel impossible. Hiding under the duvet is way more preferable.

But research shows that walking  – and particularly running – can be immensely curative and make a huge difference to how you feel. Getting out the door, as usual, is the hardest part. But once you’re out, the world, for a wonderful short while, can feel like a better place.

To me it’s the hypnotic rhythm of my feet hitting the ground, the one-two-one-two, simple, even primal beat. The focus on breathing can take me out of myself and gives me a huge sense of freedom – meditative  running, which I’ve written about before in this blog is something I love. I become revitalised by the fresh air, exposure to nature and being aware of my immediate environment, that keeps me in the present moment.

Running or run/walking can be healing. If you’re lucky enough to run or walk in a relaxing, natural environment, then that too adds to the wellbeing.

Matt Haig in his wise and wonderful book ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ talks of how running helped with his panic attacks, he called running ‘his depression-beating power.’ And if you do suffer from depression I urge you to read it, it’s a life-changer…actually, even if you don’t suffer from depression, read it, it’s a very positive, moving and inspiring book.

When we run or exercise, our bodies release endorphins. These are our natural antidepressants. But there’s more… running can be a social activity, it can provide purpose, a goal, improve confidence both mentally and physically and even sleep. I’ve seen it magically transform people who have been going through really difficult, stressful times in their lives, watched them come alive when they’ve claimed to be dead inside, I’ve been privileged to hear and be part of so many life-changing stories. And it’s all down to running.

On a personal level I know that if I don’t run for a while I begin to feel ‘low’ – I crave those endorphins. Which could of course be seen as verging on addiction. It probably is. But I would rather be craving a naturally caused endorphin rush than a bottle of whisky, a cigarette or pill, wouldn’t you?

Incidentally, these pictures were from my magical, meditative run the other morning. Nothing beats it.


Running workshop

posted in: Running workshop | 0


Our first Running workshop is taking place here in Marlow on Saturday 17th June. We’re starting off with limited places – so book early to avoid disappointment!

The time will be from 9.30am until about 12.30/1pm – venue will be my studio, depending on numbers.

This first, small, morning workshop is aimed at those of you who need motivation to get back at this running malarkey, are new to the sport, have maybe been injured, want to find out more about running and nutrition or just want to come along because you love all things running and there’s always something new to learn…

Pencilled in for the morning so far, we have marathon runner Brian from our local running shop Runners’ Retreat who will educate us about the right kind of running shoes and Sports bras AND there will be a prize draw for two lucky people to win a new Sports bra kindly donated by Shock Absorber (sorry guys); we have local Nutritional Therapist (Zest4Life) and runner Ann Garry who will talk with you about key nutritional principles that support running and a healthy lifestyle. And local Osteopath and runner, Jane Kaushal who will discuss injuries with us and do a Q& A sesh; and I will make sure you leave feeling more motivated to run than ever. We’ll discuss running jargon, how to train, cross train and lots more…NO Pilates though – just a talkie event and a few running drills at the end on the local excuse for a green space. Tea, coffee, water and snacks are included and the cost to you is £25…oh yes, and I’ll probably try and flog my book to you too…

Numbers are limited, so to book a place and to find out more please visit this page: Running Workshops

Could running help you get a job?

posted in: job hunting, Running | 0

So how does that work?… I wondered as I began to read the article ‘Could taking up running help you get a new job?’ written by Maddy Savage for the BBC News. (Link to full article at bottom of page).

Of course! It’s all about networking, camaraderie, chatting to those you run with, sharing stories, tips, gossip, news and finding out about each other’s lives while puffing along those trails or pavements isn’t it?

So certainly it’s possible that taking up running could help you get a new job.

I think one of the biggest things I’ve noticed about our group runs and the always constant, supportive, group of runners, is the friendships forged. I wouldn’t have met so many different individuals, women mainly, and amazing women they are too, every single one of them, if I hadn’t taken up running and set up Harri’s Running Team.

We all, predictably, have busy lives, totally separate from our running. Potentially, some of us would never even have made contact in a million years or possibly found things in common if it wasn’t for our love of running. But we all come together for these one or two sociable hours a few times a week, sometimes less, sometimes more, and we are all running friends. Bonding over races that we’re going to run, or local events that we’re considering. Injuries sustained or personal bests achieved. Sharing news about our children, partners, dogs and yes, jobs. Laughing together (a lot), feeling positive and alive.

Through their running networks, some people have made life-long friends, socialising outside of their running. By sharing our personal running achievements on social media we can now connect with like-minded people from all over the world, even meeting up and putting faces to names at races – what other pastime or activity does that? Running is a truly amazing sport, Totally inclusive and anyone can do it. And if you think you can’t run, talk to me and I will show you how….Because you can! And who knows, you might even find a new job! Should you want one…

Pilates is for men too! Sylvester, David and Andy do it…

posted in: Pilates | 0

Sylvester Stallone attended a Pilates class for the first time with his daughter last week and described it as ‘brutal’!

This made me smile!

He posted on Instagram that throughout his life he’d lifted weights, boxed, trained on track and field, played football and many other sports but found that this workout pushed him to the limits.

I would suggest that being a body builder, all his muscles are taut and inflexible.

David Beckham and Andy Murray do Pilates…

But Pilates is designed to benefit absolutely everyone. It really is. I teach beginners, some old, frail and determined, while others younger, some of whom who are strong, athletic but totally inflexible! And everyone in between, including teenagers.

But as a Pilates instructor I am delighted to see more and more people, not just men giving it a go – it’s not easy, I know walking into a class full of women (usually) who have possibly been practising Pilates for a while can be intimidating. But once you’ve given it a go and begin to feel the amazing benefits, I promise you, you’ll be hooked.

Simple, effective Shoulder Bridge exercise to ease an achy back…

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There are many versions of the Shoulder Bridge, some more challenging than others but this basic version can benefit us in so many ways. It mobilises the back, ironing out any kinks, or achy/tight muscles post-activity, or from sitting at your computer all day. In addition, the Shoulder Bridge lengthens the quads (front of thighs) and strengthens the hamstrings (back of thighs). It also improves core strength, pelvic and torso stability and gets those pesky glute muscles (buttocks) working.

Glutes have a habit of being a bit lazy. Maybe you’ve been told by your physio or osteopath that your glutes aren’t firing properly… Sometimes this can result in an achy lower back or tired, tight, hamstrings after a long walk, run or other sporting activity. Well this exercise can sort you out, it’s also a really lovely post activity stretch. Try it and see…

Apologies for the dog in the picture, but he wouldn’t move!

Lie on your back. Arms down by your sides and relaxed.

Tilt your pelvis back and forwards a little on the mat and come into neutral spine (if you don’t know what neutral spine is because you aren’t familiar with Pilates, don’t worry…for now!)

Engage your abdominal muscles (this means pull your tummy muscles in a little way…by doing this you will be protecting your spine.) And engage (squeeze) your bottom muscles

Slowly peel your spine off the mat, one vertebrae at a time, raising your torso into the bridge position.

Hold it for a second or two, keeping your tummy muscles engaged and your torso stable (no wobbles), plus you need your bottom muscles to remain squeezed/activated.

Then gently lower yourself back down with control, to the mat.

Try to breathe! Don’t hold your breath – if you attend a Pilates class then you will know about the lateral thoracic breathing – but if you don’t, for now, just breathe!

Repeat the above movement as many times as you wish – concentrating on those tummy muscles and bottom muscles – feel the lengthening of the spine and the stretch in the front of your thighs. Try to keep the shoulders relaxed and yes, have I mentioned it before? Breathe! It’s a really relaxing exercise too…

‘In 10 sessions you will feel the difference. In 20 you will see the difference. And in 30 you will have a whole new body.’ Joseph Pilates

Bad back? Try Pilates…

posted in: Pilates | 0

‘If your spine is inflexibly stiff at 30, you are old. If it is completely flexible at 60, you are young.’ Joseph Pilates

Many of my clients come to Pilates because they have bad backs. Sometimes as a last resort. Or because their physio or osteopath has suggested that attending a Pilates class will help

In my experience, it usually does. But if you have a bad back of any kind, a back that goes into muscular spasm, or something more serious like a slipped or prolapsed disc it can be easy to spend your life being terrified of doing more damage and ending up in chronic pain.

And so you don’t go to Pilates.

This fear can manifest itself in even more tension, making the back tighter as the muscles surrounding the injury become protective – a vicious circle if you like. Both mentally and physically.

So what to do?

Pilates can and does help – simply, it strengthens the core which supports your back, it relaxes and lengthens the muscles allowing healing to take place. And eventually the confidence you gain will help you to move better, improve your posture and return to all the things you used to enjoy before you hurt your back.

Check with your osteopath, physio or medical practitioner that your condition can be helped by Pilates (most can). Continue to take their advice. Make sure you talk with the Pilates instructor at length before you start the sessions, so that she/he understands your condition and possible limitations. And then give it a go!


‘I started Pilates because of my chronic and sometimes acute back pain. I can do a lot more because I’m not going to be in pain afterwards. Pilates has given me freedom to play sport and run a half-marathon.’ SH


‘I slipped two discs picking up something heavy and was referred to a consultant who said either I would need surgery, or because I was fit, I could just have physio and do Pilates. So I chose the latter. After about a year of Pilates I didn’t need painkillers any more – a 6 month scan showed the discs had naturally gone back in. Although my back will always be weak Pilates made it happen and taught me so much.’ JL

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