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.
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!
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
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
So 3 months ago, virtually to the day, I received an email from a local, potential client who said she would like to start running. Nothing unusual in that. I get many enquiries all of which I respond to, some come back to me and others disappear. But what struck me about this particular email was that the woman in question spent the whole message describing to me why she couldn’t ever run: too fat, flat feet, rubbish at school sports, boobs too big, no time, unfit, bad diet, can’t diet, too old – I kid you not. Perfect I said, meet me at such and such time on Friday and I will show you how to run and feel fantastic!
Would she reply I wondered?
How brave, I thought, to actually make the decision to send me the email – that couldn’t have been easy to reveal so much. That takes guts.
She would be fine, I knew it, if only I could get to meet her.
I get so sad when people and not just women, men too, find themselves in this negative body-image life-is-shit downward spiral. Sometimes it’s just easier to go with the flow down the slippery slope of low self-esteem, bad health, dodgy diet choices, depression, give up. To make a decision to change, possibly against the odds, is more than hard. But once you’ve decided to change, you’re on your way.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, we met, we run/walked, we talked about goals, about sports bras, about running shoes, we talked about commitment to fitness and health and diet and life changes, looked around at the beautiful countryside, the blue sky, the birds, and laughed about our children and the state of the world. She did it. She bloody did it.
We met weekly for 3 months. She has lost over a stone in weight. And next weekend she runs her first 10k.
She is happy in her own skin.
Running has changed her life. And she doesn’t need me anymore.
Running can change yours too. If you let it.
My book ‘Pilates for Runners’ will be on sale in April and I’ve been sent a few early copies. Very excited to have my first book actually in my hands and I’m so pleased with it. The team at Bloomsbury Sport have done a wonderful job.
So, what’s it all about?
Do you run? Do you want to run faster for longer? Are you prone to injury? Then have a go at Pilates and see what a difference it can make to your body.
Maybe you like to run but don’t feel strong enough? Practise Pilates and your strength will improve, along with your coordination, flexibility and balance. I promise you, it does work.
Do your shoulders ache after a run, or do they end up around your ears? By practising Pilates you will learn how to keep an eye on your posture when you run.
Are you wasting energy when you run by twisting from your centre? Pilates exercises can target this problem.
Finding it hard to relax after an adrenaline-fuelled run? Pilates will help you relax.
And those are only a few things that Pilates can help you with – try it and see.
Buy the book, it will tell you how!
You can pre-order the book from Amazon UK, it is published in April and I will share some of it on here later on nearer the time, to give you a taster…Pilates for Runners
If you live in the USA you can pre-order from Amazon.com: Pilates for Runners
Need motivation to start running in 2017? Well look no further!
Or maybe you just haven’t managed to get out there for a run lately and you need an achievable goal?
How about a virtual race?
This is such a brilliant idea because it means that you can run the race on or around the suggested date(s) anywhere in the world, at any pace, in any old pair of trainers or tatty t-shirt, with a group of friends, your dog, your children or alone!
Then register your result with me and receive a medal.
There are none of the usual irritants of racing that can include the long queues for the loo, traffic jams en route and the time it can take to travel to the race venue, or too many runners, bottlenecks during the race, cut-off times and rules (you can wear your headphones!) And you can relax because you won’t feel intimidated by other more experienced runners, and let’s face it we’ve all experienced that.
Virtual Racing allows you to be who you are and to run your own race, on your own terms, anywhere in the world!
What better way to keep fit and healthy and motivated in 2017?
I’m just trying out some virtual races at the moment to see how they go – but why not kick off with the Harri’s Running Team New Year Resolution 5k or 10k? Or both! Take a look at my webpage for suggested dates (these aren’t set in stone, you can choose a different date if you prefer but I’ve set dates so that you have time to train) and you’ll also find out what you need to do (visit: Harri’s Virtual Races) to enter the race – it only costs £12, payable by Paypal (20% will go to charity) and then I’ll post your medal out to you when you’ve proved to me that you’ve completed the distance.
Doesn’t matter whether you run the whole way, walk some, jog a bit, have a sit down…Whatever works for you. Or you can set the clock and go hell for leather!
And tell your friends because they might like to join you.
You might also like to join our closed Facebook group page Harri’s Virtual Races Facebook page or I’ll join you when you sign up – you can write about your goals, tell me and your fellow runners about your training, post some pictures, ask for advice, and then when you’ve completed your race post your garmin/strava/running/walking apps/Fitbit or Vivosmart data, or just a photo showing me that you’ve done it, I will send you your first medal of the year! And if you’re local, who knows I might even run it with you, if you’d like me to.
Soon I plan to produce funky bespoke medals and maybe even some embarrassingly themed races – here’s one medal I have my eye on (below) so continue following and watching so that you can keep running and make 2017 the year you start collecting fabulous bling and staying fit, healthy and strong by running the Harri’s Running Team Virtual Races!
For more information and to sign up visit this page on my website:Harri’s virtual races
I always do.
Yes, yes, I know there’s so much to do and for those of you with kids, they’re up at 4am high as kites while the partner/husband/wife/dog/special person in your life is oblivious to this.
When he was tiny, my son used to wake throughout the night on Christmas Eve. He would look out of the window to see if Santa was on his way. And one year he insisted that he had seen him. Which is odd really because from an early age we decided to tell him that Santa Claus was just a story – controversial I know. But we weren’t going to lie to him. Anyhow, he still saw him!
But back to whether you should run on Christmas day. Well I think you should, whether you have a big meal to cook, presents to open or the in-laws are coming round and bringing with them the Aunty who always drinks too much and ends up with her knickers on her head. Maybe that’s actually a reason why you SHOULD run! There’s too much to do/cook/drink/apply yourself to.
A 35 minute run will make you feel wonderful. Empowered, happy, energetic and loving…Do it!
And don’t forget, if you can run on Christmas day, then you can run on any other day of the year.
Santa Claus was in a terrible tizzy.
It was the night before Christmas and his computer had crashed. All his emails were in a muddle. And he couldn’t find his Santa Nav app for the sleigh. How would he work out who wanted what present and which chimney to go down now? This had the makings of a global upset.
He looked at the list to see if he could make any sense of it. Donald from down town New York wants a fake mulberry handbag. That can’t be right, he thought.
Mrs May from Maidenhead wants a new wife. Nothing wrong with that but Santa’s Christmas instinct told him that maybe this was part of the muddle-up too.
Roberto from Rome wanted a Smart phone – oh, that one was more than likely correct Santa thought. Until he read that Roberto was a dog.
And the Queen had asked for a rocket.
Now he was stumped.
He could understand that and where she’d like to stick it, if truth be told.
Santa scratched his beard and a welcome crumb of mince pie jumped out, followed closely by a cheese and onion crisp. He quickly popped them both into his mouth.
His beard always felt itchy when he was worried.
Mrs Claus found this itching habit of her husband’s very annoying. Well, actually she found a lot of his habits very annoying. But this is a Christmas story, so we won’t go there. Luckily she was busy with her Christmas Eve chores organising Rudolph and the other reindeers. Polishing antlers, painting hooves, attaching bells and giving them their special night-before-Christmas snack of peanut butter popcorn and pink cider. It was go-faster food she said.
It made Rudolph fart loudly. He preferred pizza.
Mrs C’s go-faster food was gin. She was on her fourth.
This year there were also the Christmas Drones that needed to be polished then decorated with red and green baubles. These strange machines were going to speed up the parcel delivery process. Everyone is so greedy these days, the reindeer and Santa struggle to get all the deliveries made on time. Not to mention the delay caused by the detour that the sleigh has to make around the melting ice caps, wars, Trump’s International erections and the road works on the Milky Way.
Anyway back to Santa and his dilemma.
He consulted the computer helpline elves. They shrugged their shoulders and told him to turn his computer off, then switch it back on again while singing Jingle Bells ten times and standing on one leg. Which he did.
Everything was still a muddle.
It was getting very late. At this rate everyone would be receiving their Christmas presents on Boxing Day. And that would never do. He would be disappointing people all over the world.
‘Mrs C, I have a problem,’ he said to his wife with tears in his eyes – ‘my computer has crashed and all the people who sent me their Christmas lists via email have got in a big, confusing un-christmassy muddle’.
She stared at his messy computer desk. And stifled a hiccup.
‘Have you been snaffling mince pies again while sitting at the keyboard? And is that Christmas pudding and custard stuck to the screen? Look at all those crumbs! No wonder your computer has jammed.’
‘Oh.’ Santa said, looking guilty. ‘I better clean it up.’
Everyone gathered around once the crumbs had been swept away to see if Santa’s computer would reboot. Rudolph crossed his painted hooves which caused him to accidentally fart louder than ever before making Dasher and Dancer giggle. Even the computer geek elves looked up from stuffing Christmas stockings with Ipads and Iphones and held their breath.
‘If we don’t get this right nobody will believe in me anymore’. Santa said looking sad. ‘It was so much easier in the old days when I received handwritten letters from everyone.’
Mrs Claus pressed the restart button on Santa’s computer. The machine coughed, spluttered, pinged and sang itself slowly back in order. Everyone stared at the screen as Santa sat down to scroll through his emails.
‘To think that a few crumbs nearly ruined Christmas – it’s Mrs May that wants the handbag, of course and it’s a new wife for the Donald person – look the Queen no longer wants a rocket, and it was a bone for Roberto! The night before Christmas is once again fully restored.’
He pressed the snowflake app and the Christmas carol app and the world was once again spinning in Christmas harmony ready for the biggest day of nonsense ever known to man.
But running speed or pace is relative. What’s fast for one is slow for another. Obvious really, but not if you’re new to the sport.
Unfortunately, we runners do tend to obsess over our speed or pace – studying our Garmins or Sports watches with the hope of any increase in our personal bests at the end of a race or training session. Calculating the negative splits. Growling at the loo stops that hold us up. Or bottle necks where we are forced to walk.
My beginners are particularly intimidated by the word ‘speed’. As far as I’m concerned speed doesn’t matter. At all. Unless you’re elite or competitive, obviously. But if you run to keep fit and stay healthy, then enjoy your running at whatever pace suits you and find a running partner who matches your speed. There, I’ve given you permission. Never worry about speed again.
How often do you notice your environment if you’re legging it though? You can only see and feel what’s around you if you’re running at a leisurely pace (and that’s relative too, of course.) How often do you absorb your surroundings? Not often, I bet. Slow down, be in the moment, listen to your breathing (that hopefully won’t be too huffy puffy – if it is, you’re going too fast!) Turn off those ‘shopping-list’ thoughts or whinge-gremlins trying to sabotage your effort. Take in your surroundings, breathe and feel free. That’s what running is all about to me. Freedom. Not speed. Not Beetroot.
Yes, dear readers, I like crime.
Well reading it. And trying to write it!
The place was brimming with talented crime writery types like Val McDermid, Martina Cole, SJ Watson, Rachel Abbot, Ann Cleeves…The list of writers appearing on the day was phenomenal. There were workshops ranging from ‘how to pitch a novel’ to ‘building suspense’, alongside events featuring debut crime writers like Paul Burston, Agnes Ravatn, Michelle Davies and Chris Whitaker. I’m currrently reading Michelle Davies’s’ novel ‘Gone Astray’ – full of suspense, twists and turns, an excellent page-turner, loving it…Looking forward to reading the other authors books too.
There was something for everyone at the Festival, writers and readers alike. I highly recommend it.
Go next year!
So why did I attend?
Well currently, for starters, I am writing non-fiction – ‘Pilates for Runners’ published by Bloomsbury in April 2017 and another one hopefully nearly in production as most of you know… and some (fiction) short stories and articles. But of course, a novel, the novel, my novel, is calling my name…I’ve started it. It’s crime. Hah! But I look at what other writers produce and immediately feel totally inadequate – there is so much talent out there. Though by attending courses and festivals the confidence slowly grows and I begin to feel inspired, because I hear how other authors managed to become published and how hard it is. But that it is absolutely possible to do. I pick up snippets of writery guidance and tips and hope that I can stop procrastinating long enough to get down and write it!
So a big thank you to the organisers of the 2016 Killer Women Crime Writing Festival – see you next year!