Almost every health and fitness class sees an increase in numbers in the new year period as people make new years resolutions to get fit, healthy and shed any holiday-related weight gain. Pilates instructor Claire Gurney met a number of new members in January. Unlike other forms of exercise class she has taught in the past Claire has found the majority of new Pilates class members are still attending into the spring and summer months.
Why? Pilates is more than just a fitness class, whilst it can improve aspects of fitness such as core strength and co-ordination, its has additional benefits for health and wellbeing that other forms of exercise do not. Claire shares some of her examples and reasons people keep attending here:
Pilates is a form of exercise that involves concentration on technique, breathing and posture. This makes it easy to forget any worries you may have had before you came to the class. In a Pilates session you can work at your own pace and learn the movements without pressure to keep up with everyone else, allowing you to relax and improve your mental wellbeing.
Pilates focuses on the areas of the body which are often in need of strengthening, to prevent pain and injury. Pilates exercises primarily work the “core” muscles of the back, shoulders, hips and abdominals. Developing strength and flexibility in these areas can prevent back pain and other common muscle and joint problems, people often keep coming to Pilates because it helps them to feel healthier and more mobile.
Pilates classes can be easily fitted into a busy week. My classes are predominantly in the afternoon and early evening times, with mats available to borrow. Pilates is less intense than some forms of exercise, most people don’t get sweaty and need to shower straight afterwards, or to bring lots of equipment with them. Therefore its easy to attend after a morning of full day of work before you focus on the rest of your day or evening.
If you would like to join a class contact Claire here.
Fitness trackers can help you to monitor your exercise, sleep and even your food intake every day. The best one for you will depend on how much you want to know about your daily health, and
whether you want a simple watch, or a device that links via an app to your phone.
Fitness trackers usually record your daily steps, heart rate, rest and activity levels. Some will also tell you your calories burnt in the day, your sleep patterns, and some come with a food diary app on your phone to monitor how much you’re eating. Here are some of the best currently on the market:
Best features: Daily Heart rate tracking, Step counting and Sleep tracking.
Fitbit's fitnrss trackers work with a Fitbit app for smart phones, which is easy to use and has features to monitor your diet, water intake and daily activity goals.
Fitbit devices are built for everyday use and offer a simple way to help you increase your activity and exercise levels. It has a handy seven day battery and watch face.
Garmin Forerunner Watch
Best features: watch face, GPS, waterproof.
This range of sports watches help you to monitor your heart rate, your running or walking distance (via GPS), and have a smart function to allow for text or emails to be received. It is a watch designed for athletes who want to monitor their exercise levels and training programmes, with additional smart features.
The watches are waterproof up to 50 metres below water. They are simply a watch and do not have any extra apps for your phone.
Moov Now Wrist Band
Best features: Lightweight, accurate sports/exercise tracking, can be worn on wrists or ankles.
The Moov Now is a small activity band that can be worn on your wrists or ankles. It can measure a wide range of exercise types, from running to cycling, swimming and boxing. It has an app which can pick up on your movements and generate accurate data about how hard you’ve worked and how long for.
The band is not made to be worn all the time and doesn’t come with a heart rate monitor or watch face. It does track your sleep and is one of the cheapest on the market, it's purely about fitness tracking and helping you to increase your activity.
People often believe that in order to lose weight and keep it off they need to increase the intensity of their exercise, working harder, faster or heavier in order to achieve results.
Whilst this may work for some people, for those who are already experiencing high levels of stress, vigorous exercise methods such as HIIT training, or long continuous training (e.g. running) may not be the best approach. This is because higher intensity workouts can increase the stress placed on the body, escalating the stress response for people already experiencing high levels of it, which can be detrimental to the weight loss process and even lead to weight gain.
So why is stress an issue?
When you become stressed your body goes into a fight-or-flight response, releasing stress hormones from the adrenal glands. These hormones include cortisol, norepinephrine and epinephrine. Our cortisol levels naturally go up and down throughout the day, however for people experiencing chronic stress, their cortisol levels rise and say high. Continuously having high levels of stress hormones is bad news as it leads to reduced insulin production and reduced blood flow to the digestive system, which interferes with usual digestion, metabolism and appetite. This is when problems with weight gain and retention occur.
High levels of cortisol can cause the body to resist weight loss, as our physiological processes believe we are under stress and being starved. If you begin to reduce your diet too quickly or by eating the wrong types of food or cutting out food groups, your body then responds by storing fat and trying to keep it there. When cortisol is high fat stores are usually placed around the abdominal area as it high in cortisol receptors, but this is often the last place anyone wants to gain weight.
So how do we stop the stress?
Although you may not be able to control or stop the factors causing your stress (e.g. work or family issues) you can take steps to counter the physical effects of stress on your body and mind. Initiating a relaxation response can counter-act the stress response. This is because a relaxation response will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms the body after a flight or fright situation.
By relaxing more often and choosing more relaxing physical activities such as Pilates, Yoga or walking outdoors, you can activate the parasympathetic system. This system regulates and slows your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate to restore physical balance within your body. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, your cortisol levels can begin to reduce, which can help to restore you to a state of usual metabolism, appetite and digestion.
How are these techniques effective?
Pilates and Yoga involve elements of concentration and body awareness, as each exercise or pose focuses on lengthening and activating different muscle groups to increase mental and physical wellbeing. They involve breathing techniques to regulate our breathing, so we can take air into the lungs and breathe calmly, to take our focus away from the stressors in our life.
Light to moderate cardiovascular exercise such as walking is also effective as you can focus your mind on your route, surroundings and speed of walking, taking the focus away from any stressors.
If you are looking to reduce your weight but are also experiencing symptoms of chronic stress such as a difficulty, sleeping, palpitations, difficulty concentrating, stomach problems or frequent colds (from a lowered immune system) you may have more success with an exercise programme that combines Pilates or yoga with cardiovascular exercise at a light to moderate intensity (think brisk walking or steady cycling), as opposed to a high intensity programme. This will help to burn some calories and build lean muscle, whilst regulating your body’s physiological responses, to favourably influence and maintain weight loss.
Aim to combine lower intensity cardiovascular exercise on 3-5 days per week with co-ordination and flexibility activities such as yoga and Pilates for 2-3 days. These activities will counter the effects of stress on the body and mind, causing your physiology to favour weight loss and maintenance once more.
For weight loss to be achieved it is also important to follow a balanced, calorie controlled diet.
If you would like more advice on exercise and healthy eating when stressed please contact me:
info@Clairegurneypilates.com / 07776044304
Thanks for reading
Walking is one of the easiest, cheapest and most enjoyable forms of exercise around. We all need to do a balance of "cardio" exercise as well as strength and flexibility exercise such as Pilates. I reccomend walking as a fun, effective way of fitting in some cardio.
As seasoned walkers will know, walking is so much more than just an activity to keep us fit. It has many health benefits, most which can be achieved from as little as 20 minutes of brisk walking each day. Here are some of the best reasons why walking is good for your health.
1. Cardiovascular and Respiratory Health Benefits
Walking strengthens your heart, lungs and blood vessels, known as your cardiorespiratory system. As your CR system becomes stronger your lungs are able to inhale and exhale more air with each breath. Your heart also becomes stronger and able to pump more blood around your body with each beat. These adaptions mean more oxygen to be circulated to your working muscles per minute, for increased energy production and movement. Waste products from energy production can be removed faster too, to prevent muscles tiring and cramping when you “push yourself” to walk faster or longer.
This explains why regular walkers can walk faster and for longer without becoming out of breath - as they have stronger CR systems. Long term walkers also benefit from lower resting heart rates, lower resting blood pressures and lower cholesterol levels.
2. Mental Health Benefits
Nothing boosts your mood and clears your mind quite as much as brisk stroll in the great outdoors. Walking allows you to focus on your surroundings and your physical movements, drawing your attention away from the hassles of everyday life. Focusing on our physical feelings, passing thoughts and natural surroundings are aspects shared with the art of mindfulness, which is known for its mental health benefits. Social walkers can feel happier and better about themselves after a laugh, and chat on a walk with friends and dog walkers can enjoy similar benefits from spending time with their favourite pooch.
3. Healthy Bones
Walking is a weight bearing exercise which can help to prevent osteoporosis for those with or at risk of developing the disease. Osteoporosis is a thinning of the bones which can occur with aging and women are more at risk of getting it than men.
Regular weight bearing exercise such as brisk walking can improve bone density to prevent or improve Osteoporosis. Walking also improves muscle strength, balance, posture and co-ordination and is low risk, to prevent falls and fractures. Brisk walking is recommended by the National Osteoporosis Society as it is a safe and effective exercise to strengthen the bones. (More info at https://nos.org.uk/information/healthy-living-and-risk/osteoporosis-exercises/)
4. Healthy Joints
Walking improves the strength and mobility of your joints, predominantly hips, knees and ankles. Walking reduces joint stiffness, as it warms the muscles supporting the joints and increases synovial fluid production within the joints, which acts as natural lubrication for smooth movement. An appropriate warm up and cool down, with simple stretches and a gradual increase or decrease of walking pace is also advisable to maximise the mobility benefits of walking.
Regular walking also improves the health of the tendons, ligaments and muscles supporting the joints, improving joint range of movement. Walking is a low impact form of exercise as it does not involve running, jumping or high levels of force production. This makes it a more comfortable and enjoyable exercise for people with joint issues such as arthritis, bursitis or cartilage injuries.
5. Long term Health Benefits
Walking can help you to keep your weight under control, maintaining a healthy weight is important for feeling your best mentally and physically. As mentioned earlier walking is good for your heart and lungs, the Stroke Association advise a brisk 30-minute each day to prevent and reduce high blood pressure (which can lead to a stroke).
Walking can help to reduce and control blood sugar levels for those with type two diabetes, or pre-diabetes syndrome, as working muscles use these circulating sugars for energy production and movement. Regular walking can reduce the risk of getting cancer and the cancer charity MacMillan actively promote walking to help people reduce their risk of cancer, or to live well with the disease (read more at http://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/coping/maintaining-a-healthy-lifestyle/keeping-active/health-walks.html)
From 16th March 2017 a new evening Pilates class will be held at treat Norwich, Capitol House, every Thursday 6-6.50pm.
The class will be a small group Pilates mat class, limited to 8 participants. It will run 6 - 650pm and will be tailored towards are beginners and those with some experience of Pilates.
For March these classes will cost £9 per week.
New clients can get their first class for just £5. Booking is advised by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling Claire on 0777604404.
From April these classes will be available at the small group monthly rate of £32 per month, alongside other small group classes at treat Norwich which run:
Find treat Norwich at
Capitol House, 4-6 Heigham street
There are many reasons why a regular Pilates routine can help you improve your strength, fitness, ease of movement and body shape, here are 5 of the best.
1) Strengthen your core
The “core“ is much more than just your abdominal muscles. It includes all the muscles of the torso, from your hips to your shoulders. When your core muscles are strong, you move better, stand better and feel better. Good posture and a strong core prevents back, shoulder and hip pain. It reduces your risk of injury in sports activities and when simply lifting or bending down day to day.
2) Prevent Back Pain
Pilates targets the muscles surrounding the abdominals, back and torso. Physiotherapists, osteopaths and other health professionals often advise their clients to do Pilates. When your abdominal and back muscles are weak or tense, postural imbalances occur within the body. Over time these imbalances can lead to pain and injury. Pilates exercises target “functional muscles” used in every day activities, through practising Pilates you will discover where your weaknesses lie so you can restore balance and ease of movement to your body, without pain.
3) Practise anywhere
Pilates mat work can be done anywhere! In your living room, garden, local park, or even at your desk (shoulder shrugs and seated rolls downs?!). Pilates uses body weight and functional movements to create an effective exercise routine – hence you do not need any equipment just you and a bit of space to stretch.
4) Healthy hips
Many people have weak gluteal muscles (found in your bottom) and tight hip flexor muscles (at the front of your hips). This imbalance can occur from spending to long sitting at a desk, or from performing repeated sports and exercises which do not effectively target the gluteal muscles. Weak gluteals and tight hip flexors can lead to instability, weakness, and pain in the hips. Many Pilates exercises act to strengthen the gluteal muscles, and other surrounding muscles of the trunk, back, and hips, training your body to move effectively and improving the balance and function of your hip muscles, to prevent pain and injury.
5) Body awareness
Body awareness is something can be developed through focused, mindful movement. Pilates exercises are performed with control and often at a slower pace than traditional fitness exercises. Exercising in a controlled focused allows you to slow down and observe your abilities, strengths and weaknesses so you can target your weak areas, to improve your overall fitness and well- being.
To see how Pilates can improve these and other areas of your health, fitness and lifestyle try adding a weekly Pilates mat class to your schedule. Make sure you attend on a regular basis and see the benefits build up over time.
For details of Claire’s Pilates classes at treat Norwich visit
Simply mentioning the word posture usually makes us sit taller or stand straighter.
However it is difficult for most of us to maintain a good posture for most of the time as our environment encourages us to slouch, lean and stand in bad positions (e.g. slouchy armchairs and badly positioned desks), placing excess strain on our bodies.
Good posture is important for a healthy back. Maintaining a good posture whenever you can throughout the day can also help to prevent neck, back and shoulder pain, as poor or unnatural postures place strain on the joints and ligaments in these areas. Poor posture can also lead to tension headaches and pain in other joints (e.g. knees).
By moving standing and sitting in better postures we can prevent these unpleasant issues and often appear taller, slimmer and fitter from a few simple changes.
Here are my tips for improving your posture:
1.Check your alignment- When you stand try to keep your hips, knees and feet inline, your weight even between your feet and your hips level with each other.
Often we point our knees slightly in or out, or tip or hips to one side when standing, try to avoid doing this!
2.Stand tall – To avoid slouching imagine a piece of string lifting your head to the ceiling when you sit or stand. This will help to prevent you from dropping your chin towards your chest, jutting your head forward or rounding your upper back. All of which we often do when slouching.
3.Maintain a neutral spine –When standing, sitting or even lying down aim to keep your back in a natural position, with your upper back fairly straight and your ribs positioned above your pelvis. There should be a small curve in your lower back.
Check you are not moving your back into un-natural positions by arching your back, jutting your hips forwards or rounding your upper back.
4.Check your shoulder placement- Cold weather, heavy bags and stressful lifestyles can cause our shoulders to become tense. This results in us holding our shoulders upwards towards our ears, or rounding them forwards.
Aim to draw your shoulders “back and down” and imagine your shoulder blades drawing closer together across your upper back. Simple exercises such as shoulder rolls, shoulder shrugs or arm circles can also help to relieve shoulder tension. Pay attention to your shoulder position throughout the day and perform these movements if you notice your shoulders feeling tense.
Paying attention to these posture points though out the day can make a big difference especially if you have suffered from back, neck or shoulder pain in the past.
Try thinking of your posture when you are working at a desk, driving, commuting or carrying items for the best effects.
Getting fit staying fit- it’s all in the mind-set!
Now its January you can be certain gyms, classes and parks everywhere will be full of people making their new year’s resolution to get fit in 2017.
Although they may be full of determination now, according to statistics only 8% of these new-found fitness enthusiasts are successful, in making their new fitness routine a lasting success. So what causes the other 92% to give up?!
The answer is mind-set. Many people have deep-seated negative views about exercise and their ability to do it. These people have learnt throughout their lives to view exercise as a chore, a punishment or something that is difficult to do well. Often people believe they are no good at sport or exercise, they class themselves as “not the sporty type” and doubt their ability to succeed at anything physical.
For some bad experiences with PE teachers or fitness instructors have scared them off exercise, and they associate it with being treated unfairly – anything but fun. Although they may start a new form of exercise, they view it as a chore and their heart isn’t in it long term because they feel they would rather be doing something else.
The fitness industry hasn’t done much to help this either! In the past fitness experts have advised us to exercise in a very prescriptive way. We have been told to do certain amounts, at a certain intensity, breathe hard and sweat or what we are doing won’t count.
Thankfully there is growing evidence to show that for all of us “something is better than nothing." Every flight of stairs. Every step from the car park or bus stop it all counts. Perhaps it’s time to stop thinking of exercise as difficult, unachievable and not fun?
Positive thinking – exercise is fun!
Perhaps to be successful, people who chose new year’s resolutions need to start something that is active but also FUN, something they will enjoy! By thinking positively about our exercise time and our ability to be good at it, we become more motivated to exercise and put the effort in. If we remember moving feels good it will help turn our negative mind-sets and views of exercise into something positive. Ok the first few minutes of exercise can be hard but often at 10 minutes or 10 steps we are feeling warmed up, physically and mentally good and glad we started.
These days fun is being taken more seriously by instructors too. Most have started to recognise that if their clients dread exercising and find it too hard, they will lose confidence quickly and drop out from the exercise routine, not good for instructor or client.
To help stick at our new year’s fitness resolutions we all need a “positive mental attitude”. How we view exercise and the activities we chose is important for our long term commitment. If we are positive about our choices of exercise, believing we will have a good time when we work out, we can actually look forward to our time in the park, or gym or class.
Imagine, thinking “I really want to go for a jog - it will make me feel less tired and stressed.” Perhaps if we look forward to doing our new forms of exercise this January we can keep the routine up, and make successful changes to our health.
Self-belief is also important when it comes to starting a new exercise routine. Whether you’ve resolved to start a class, jog through the park, or spend half an hour in the gym twice a week - if you believe you can perform well and feel good in the process, you will be more likely to complete your workouts and see progress. Believe you will fail, inure yourself or struggle and of course TV is more appealing.
The same can be said about the whole idea of a new year’s resolution! If you expect yourself to fail and quit by February then of course you will quit. If you truly believe you can keep the exercise going and make lasting changes expect to still by working out next January.
If we understand that our mind-set and expectations about exercise influence how we feel when we do it and think about it, which further influences whether we sustain it, then we can start to use positive thinking to help us stick to that new year’s exercise routine. We can look forward to experiencing pleasure and meaning from exercising and being active – what could be better than that?!
Festive Fitness Tips 2
December is a time we are used to getting together and celebrating with friends and family. This can often mean temptation to eat less healthy food than usual, and less time to exercise. Here are more of my fail-proof tips for staying on track with your health and fitness plan this Christmas and new year.
1: Aim to get at least 10minutes of exercise each day
And make your week as varied as you can exercise wise- whether this 10 mins is a brisk walk round the block, 10 minutes of Pilates or 10 minutes dancing to party music on the radio, look for opportunities to be active.
10 minutes really is achievable for everyone and you will feel better physically and mentally for getting your body moving.
2: Take some time to yourself each day
Keep your mind healthy and limit stress– try a 10 minute walk, reading a chapter of your book or taking a long relaxing bath Stress is not good for our health, especially for those looking after their weight.
When we are stressed the body releases more cortisol into bloodstream. If cortisol is regularly present in our system, this “stress” hormone can lead to increased fat storage especially around our mid-section, blood pressure fluctuations and sleep disruption, hence mental health is just as important as physical.
3: Make your health a priority.
Do you really have to take every chocolate offered to you, or buy all of the extra chocolate, cake and sweets?
Avoid buying high sugar, high fat food so you wont be tempted to “eat it all up” after the big day! Practice saying no to repeated offers of less healthy food – as practice makes perfect, if you really can’t resist limit yourself to just 1-2 chocolates/biscuits, so you can have fun but not ruin your hard work this year.
Tips to keep fit this festive season
Family to visit, presents to wrap December can be a busy time. With so many things to do and only 24 hours in a day it can be hard to find time to exercise, especially when xmas related events start clashing with your usual classes.
However there are many ways you can get some time to exercise, here are my 5 tips to staying fit this festive season.
For an idea try 1 minute jogging on the spot, followed by 10-15 reps of each of the following Pilates exercises:
By looking at your diary at the start of the week you will be able to see which days you have the most time to exercise. Try booking a Pilates class or arranging to go swimming with a friend. By committing to something and then putting it first when last minute event invites come up –you will be more motivated to follow through with your December exercise plans.
Good luck - i know you can acheive your goals and stay motivated - just stay positive and make time for yourself. Claire x
Book December and January Pilates classes at treat Norwich here
Pilates and Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a time of significant change for the body and Pilates is the perfect form of exercise to help maintain your strength, fitness and energy levels as your body changes with each trimester.
Pilates is a low-impact form of exercise, it strengthens and stretches the body, improving posture and mobility without placing stress on the joints. Pilates exercises can be easily adapted during pregnancy to suit changes in your posture, body shape and energy levels, as your body changes with each trimester.
Varied and less intense than standard classes, specialist pregnancy Pilates classes are planned with pregnancy in mind. Exercises are chosen and adapted to provide an effective workout, completely safe for mother and baby. These classes are an excellent way to help your body cope with the changes you’re experiencing and prepare for the stresses to come.
Benefits of Pilates during pregnancy
Pilates has many benefits for mums- to-be, it strengthens the pelvic floor and abdominals, helping to prepare the body for a smoother pregnancy and birth.
Mothers-to-be who regularly exercise these core muscles often experience shorter labours and reduced lower back pain or pelvic pain. Attending classes will help to boost your immune system, circulation, and provide the energy levels you need to enjoy your pregnancy and become better prepared for labour.
Regular practicing Pilates before birth can help you to cope with the demands of labour and childbirth. Pilates improves your body awareness, retrains your muscles to activate properly, and strengthens your abdominals and pelvic floor. Women who exercise during pregnancy often recover quicker from birth, feeling more energetic and able to return to being active sooner after birth.
Lasting benefits for after pregnancy
By training your body to stay strong and function correctly, you will be more able to cope with not just labour and childbirth but also the exciting months to follow. Pilates keeps the, legs, back arms and shoulders strong and flexible, in preparation for the physical demands of being a mum - such as breastfeeding, carrying your baby, lifting heavy bags or pushing a pram.
Attending classes throughout pregnancy will also provide social support and a sense of mental wellbeing, whilst helping your body to get back in shape faster after childbirth.
Classes at treat, Norwich
Small group Pregnancy Pilates classes are available at treat on Fridays 10.30-11.30am, mums-to-be can benefit from extra support, advice and guidance in a smaller class.
Drop in classes on 11th and 18th November £5 per week - booking advisable
4 week block 25th November-16th December , £32 - booking essential
Classes are suitable for all levels of fitness, providing you have not had any complications during your pregnancy.
Beginners are welcome to attend in their first or second stages of pregnancy. Pease note if you’re in your 3rd trimester and have not attended Plates classes during the earlier stages of your pregnancy, it’s not safe to start now.
To book or for more information email instructor Claire email@example.com, or visit http://www.fitternorfolk.co.uk/pregnancy-pilates/ alternatively call treat on 01603 514195
Classes will be held at "treat" clinic, Capitol House, 4-6 Heigham Street, Norwich, NR24TE. Parking is available nearby. Mats are provided but you may wish to bring a towel or pillow to use as a head or back support.
One to one Pilates sessions are also available.
"Good service and great advice"
"I like the intimacy of Claire's small group classes, it's nice to be able to ask quesitons"
"I love Claire's classes! I always leave feeling tired but happy"