How Core Workout can Help Reduce Stress

Competitive athletes often feel enormous amounts of stress. They may feel anxious and nervous in the lead up and right before a big match and then subject their bodies to tremendous pressure when the time comes to perform.

Learning how to manage mental and physical stress is probably one of the most important skills an athlete can have. Preparation and training means nothing to an athlete if they can’t perform during competition, no matter what level of contest.

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In the right amounts stress can actually be beneficial to an athlete, keeping them more alert and focused. [1] However, too much stress – both physical and metal - can be very detrimental to performance, impairing cognitive process, decision making and reaction time. [2]

Telling someone to ‘stay calm’ and not ‘stress out’ is much easier said than done. There are many strategies that top athletes use to stay mentally tough and focused, but one of the lesser known treatments for managing stress is core workout.

It is commonly said that exercises like Pilates or Yoga are ‘good for stress.’ How we move, think and feel has a real impact on the stress response in our bodies…but why is this exactly? An interesting article recently delved into research between the neurons located in our body’s axial muscles (the core) and their connections to our adrenal glands. [3]

“There’s all this evidence that core strengthening has an impact on stress. And when you see somebody that's depressed or stressed out, you notice changes in their posture. When you stand up straight, it has an effect on how you project yourself and how you feel.  Well, lo and behold, core muscles have an impact on stress. And I suspect that if you activate core muscles inappropriately with poor posture, that’s going to have an impact on stress.”

– Peter Strick, Professor of Neurobiology

What Professor Strick and this research tells us is exercises that consciously activate the core have a direct effect on stress levels. The professor, once a sceptic, has actually started practicing Pilates himself! Pilates not only activates the axial muscles of the core that link to neurological pathways that control stress, it also incorporates mindful breathing, a technique that releases accumulated stress within the body.

If you would like to learn more about how core workout can help you manage stress, we recently wrote an article about the 6 Core Principles of Pilates. [4] In it we illustrate how the discipline of Pilates unifies the mind, body and spirit, providing everyone from novice to competitive athletes a proven way to manage their mental stress and improve their physical well being.       

At Active Pilates we understand that everyone comes to us with their own fitness goals. We can create a custom program that will improve your performance and suit your abilities and fitness level. Call us on 0415 128 804 to discuss your needs.

 

[1] http://www.peaksports.com/sports-psychology-blog/how-stress-can-affect-sports-performance
[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/roger-covin/stress-sports_b_892562.html
[3] http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/08/cortical-adrenal-orchestra/496679/?utm_source=nl-atlantic-weekly-123016
[4] http://www.activepilates.com.au/blog/2017/1/9/6-core-principles-of-pilates    

 

5 Key Benefits of Small Group Classes

There’s been a lot of research recently into the benefits of smaller class sizes on the academic performance of school students. Studies have proven that smaller class sizes increases student achievement, boosts grades and improves attendance records. [1]

When practicing Pilates and Yoga the benefits of smaller group classes can also be seen.

With less people in a group you are able to receive more individualised attention giving your instructor the space to focus on specific problems and assist more readily in stretching and proper alignment.

If you’re thinking of enrolling in a Pilates or Yoga class for the New Year, here are 5 key benefits of smaller group classes for you to consider:

Customised program

Being able to customise Pilates or Yoga exercises to the individual will allow you to maximise your workout. Everybody’s fitness goals are different. You may be doing Pilates to lose weight, tighten up specific areas or rehabilitate an injury. With smaller classes your instructor is able to customise exercises to suit your specific needs.

Greater Understanding

Smaller group classes afford your instructor a deeper understanding of your strengths and limitations. Smaller classes means more individualised attention. You won’t get lost in a crowd of people and your instructor is better able to track your progress and abilities.

Personalised Approach

Active Pilates group classes are limited to a maximum of 12 people per class. We stick to this limit because we want the ability to address our client’s distinct needs. This personalised approach allows you to feel safe and secure when you come to the studio, confident in the knowledge that we have the time and focus to provide you with a workout that suits you, not just a generalised class with routine exercises.

Transferable Environment

With smaller group classes it is much easier to move around. A balance of indoor and outdoor settings keeps things fresh and interesting and provides a more varied workout.  When indoors you have access to our equipment and studio environment, whilst outdoor training offers many benefits such as increased mental stimulation, exposure to Vitamin D and a healthy mood boost. [2]

Social Interaction           

Smaller classes provide an opportunity to connect with others that isn’t afforded with large, crowded classes. Smaller groups nurture collaboration and cooperation and allow you to forge relationships with greater ease. Because of our smaller groups we often find that our clients continue to build friendships with each other outside of their Pilates classes!

At Active Pilates our small groups of a maximum of 12 people are set up to ensure we can provide you with personalised attention and a customised exercise program that will suit your needs. We offer a supportive, calm and nurturing environment that will help you achieve your goals so you can feel good about your body and your mind.

Learn more about what you can expect from our classes.

[1] http://www.classsizematters.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/benefits-of-CSR-6-10.pdf

[2] http://the-fit-foodie.com/5-benefits-of-training-outdoors/

 

6 Core Principles of Pilates

Pilates is a safe, low impact exercise that is suitable for every age and fitness level. It can be used to rehabilitate injury, tone and strengthen muscles and improve flexibility, balance and body awareness.

Pilates is built upon 6 core principles that create the foundation of the Pilates discipline. The goal is to unify mind, body and spirit by integrating these principles into your Pilates workout.

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The 6 Core Principles of Pilates

1. Breathing      

Deep, diaphragmatic breathing during Pilates exercise helps to awaken muscles, increase blood flow and maintain focus.

2. Axial Elongation/ Core Control

Axial Elongation puts your body in the optimal position to increase freedom and efficiency of movement, ensuring your exercises are performed with precision, and conscious, deliberate action.

3. Spine articulation

Spine articulation is about strengthening and supporting the spine by performing exercises where your focus is on stacking your spinal vertebrae one on top of another

4. Organisation of head, neck and shoulders

This principle refers to the practicing mindfulness regarding proper alignment and organisation of your head, neck and spine. Focussing your full attention to each movement you make will reduce risk of injury and overextension and ensure you  get the maximum benefit from your exercise.

5. Weight-bearing and alignment

Weight-bearing and alignment of the extremities (legs and arms) refers to exercises that involve a certain percentage of your body weight, supported by your legs and arms. When done with proper alignment the results are a more balanced muscle tone throughout the body

6. Movement integration

Movement integration relates to the development of a strong relationship between mind and body. Once you establish the correct feeling for a movement, you only need to recall the sensation and your body will automatically respond. 

Men and women of all ages and fitness types can benefit from a customised Pilates workout regime. Pilates compliments other exercises so even if you’re already engaging in another form of training like running, boxing or swimming you can still benefit from developing correct posture, core strength and flexibility.

With proper medical guidance, Pilates is a safe, low impact exercise to engage in even if you have a pre-existing injury. You can work within the limitations of your injury and benefit from the rehabilitative effects of strengthening and stabilising your body’s core muscles.

Pilates is also great for your mental wellbeing as it promotes mindfulness, which can lessen the effects of anxiety and depression and boost your body’s natural healing processes.

Whether you’re already a fitness enthusiast , or just starting out, you can benefit from practicing the principals of Pilates exercise.

Our next introductory program starts in February 2017, so if your New Year resolution is to make better, body positive choices now is a great time to register your interest and secure your spot.

These Pilates classes are a great introduction to Pilates Principles, which will be applied through all of our exercise, so you can achieve the best possible outcome. The key objective of these workout classes is to build core strength, address existing injuries and prevent strain, as well as improve your breathing and movement integration.

Click HERE to register your interest.

We’d like to thank all of our students for being with us in 2016 and wish them all a safe and happy Christmas and New Year

Why is it important to look after your lower back?

Back pain is very common, and 80% of us will experience it at some time during our lifetimes.[1]Most lower back pain is acute, or short-term, lasting a few days to a few Back pain is very common and 80% of us will experience it at some time during our lifetimes.[1]Most lower back pain is acute, or short-term, lasting a few days to a few weeks. However, the increase in modern sedentary occupations and lifestyles has led to a rise in chronic, longer lasting conditions.

Factors that can contribute to back pain include:

  1. Bad work practices and lifting techniques
  2. Poor posture
  3. Being overweight
  4. Lack of exercise
  5. Pregnancy
  6. Stress
  7. Smoking[2]

When should I start to worry about my lower back?

If your lower back pain is starting to affect your movement and enjoyment of your normal activities, then it’s time to seek help. While lower back pain is rarely dangerous, it can be very uncomfortable, and you should seek assistance from a doctor to see if arthritis, ruptured disc or other spinal issues are the underlying cause of your back pain.

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Prevention

There are many treatments for lower back pain including medication, acupuncture or chiropractic. But often, the best cure for lower back pain is prevention.

Research shows that Pilates exercises that specifically target the core are effective in the prevention and management of lower back pain[3]

One of the main causes of lower back pain is the weakness in the core stabilising muscles. With a custom  Pilates exercise regime you will learn how to ‘switch on’ your core, become more mindful of your posture and strengthen the muscles that support your lower back.

Consequences of untreated lower back issues

Without treatment or prevention the destabilisation of the spine, which causes lower back pain can trigger pain in other parts of your body and in some cases lead to chronic pain.[4] People dealing with long-term, chronic pain can have trouble concentrating, are unable to perform daily tasks and often experience emotional side effects such as depression and sleep issues.

Pilates exercises to strengthen and stabilise your lower back muscles

  • The Pelvic Tilt – uses the abdominal muscles to support and lengthen the lower back
  • Chest Lift – strengthens core abdominal muscles
  • Swan Prep – strengthens the back extensors – the muscles that keep us upright
  • Child Pose – gently stretches the lower back
  • Kneeling Arm & Leg Reach – promotes core stability
  • Cat/Cow – encourages spine flexibility
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Want to take action?

We have a new gentle workout class beginning in February 2017! This class is an introduction to Pilates Principles with its key objectives being to build core strength, address existing injuries and prevent strain, as well as improve breathing and movement integration. Check out this class and other classes for 201

  • [1] http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/backpain/detail_backpain.htm
  • [2] http://www.health.vic.gov.au/edfactsheets/downloads/lower-back-pain.pdf
  • [3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2684152/
  • [4] http://www.emedicinehealth.com/low_back_pain-health/page5_em.htm

Five tips to invite positivity into your life

Having been a Pilates teacher for over five years now, I’m still amazed and humbled by the positive change I can make in people’s lives. Acting on the decision to improve yourself through exercise can have far-reaching effects – not just on your physical appearance, but also on your body and spirit. I consider this one of the most important lessons that I give to my students and the local community. Providing an outlet and a means for people to improve their physical and mental well-being so they are more confident within themselves and their body is one of the most rewarding experience for me as a teacher.

HERE ARE SOME TIPS HOW YOU CAN INVITE POSITIVITY INTO YOUR LIFE

  • EXERCISE DAILY

Joining a group class is a wonderful way to meet new people, connect with your body and self and improve your physical and mental wellbeing. The great thing about Pilates is that it not only tones and sculpts your body, but it also makes you more aware of your posture. Being mindful of how your body moves and supports itself can help with your body’s natural healing processes.  [1]

  • CELEBRATE LITTLE ACHIEVEMENTS

When you first make the decision to focus on your health and well-being it’s important that you not expect huge change straight away. If your expectations don’t fit your reality you open yourself up to disappointment. Rather, to maintain your motivation and positivity, try to celebrate little achievements. For example, if you’ve started exercising and eating well because you want to lose weight you might start to feel frustrated that it’s taking a long time to achieve your goals. Rather than focussing on this negative emotion, celebrate the fact that you feel stronger, fresher and more vibrant just by making the effort.

REMEMBER:

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. ~Benjamin Franklin
  • FOCUS ON YOURSELF, NOT OTHERS

Comparing ourselves to others is a hard habit to break, as it’s very natural to compare ourselves to the people we come in contact with. However, if you’re holding yourself to some standard of beauty or success that makes you feel bad about yourself, it’s time to break the toxic habit! To invite positivity in your life, try focussing on your own body and what it can do, rather than comparing yourself with your neighbour or a glossy magazine cover girl. We are all unique in our appearance and abilities. Focus on you!

  • SOCIALISE

Socialising has a strong influence on our health and wellbeing! Socialising can reduce symptoms of depression, alleviate stress and increase cognitive function. [2]  There is a certain energy that surrounds positive social interactions, we’ve all felt it. It has an intangible quality, hard to define but we know it’s there! Socialising can help you feel more hopeful and optimistic so don’t pass up every opportunity to get out there and mingle. And remember – smile with your eyes and encourage those positive connections!

Photo by g-stockstudio/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by g-stockstudio/iStock / Getty Images

  •   BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

Self-belief has incredible power. It helps you to be more resilient, goal orientated and responsive. Believing in yourself helps to strengthen your self-esteem and confidence, opening you up to receive positive experiences that you may not have had if you’d let doubt and uncertainty rule. To build confidence and belief in yourself try repeating positive affirmations during your day like:

  • I approve of myself and love myself deeply and completely.
  • I am unique. I feel good about being alive and being me.
  • I appreciate everything I have. I live in joy.
  • I choose to be happy right now. I love my life. [3]

Are you ready to invite positivity into your life and want to get fit and healthy and meet new people check out our classes.

 

[1] http://www.mindful.org/the-healing-power-of-mindfulness/

[2] http://blog.citysocializer.com/why-socialising-can-make-you-happier-and-healthier/

[3] http://businessheroinemagazine.com/27-daily-affirmations-to-boost-self-esteem-and-develop-self-confidence/