Do you carry the world on your shoulders?

I’m certain that you are all familiar with this saying. Where did this saying come from? Well, this expression goes back to Ancient Greece. Slaves were forced to carry very heavy weights as punishment for their “bad behaviour”.


These days, it refers more to “carrying” problems on your shoulders rather than actual weight. It can also mean that you’re overusing your mobilising muscles (trapezius). Unfortunately, this can result in an underdevelopment of the stabilising muscles such as the pectoralis and teresis.

Picture this… you’re sitting for long hours at your desk because you just have to finish that assignment or proposal so, you just keep typing away. What’s happening with your shoulders? Well, I bet they just naturally hunch up as nobody tells them to relax. And the problem is if you do let go of the tension in your shoulders, you are likely to pull them down away from your ears. However, this is not the best solution as you are only activating the trapezius, which may result in an imbalance.

Right now, I’m sitting behind my Mac typing this blog post, and what are my shoulders doing? Of course, they were hunched up almost touching the tips of my ears. Grrr … Luckily, I know I can do better than this. 

Being trained in Pilates teaching, I know how to relax my shoulders in a much more effective way:

- Lean your back into the chair (equipped with the right back support)

- Bring your naval to the spine

- Open your chest

- Activate the muscles surrounding the scapulae

- Breath – breathing is good and healthy

- Smile.

This way, I’m using the stabilising muscles first rather than over-activating the mobilising muscles. Now check in … how are your shoulders while you’re reading this blog post? If they are hunching up, you know what to do – follow the steps above to have a little workout and repeat this routine every 45 minutes.

Not so long ago, we wrote about core Pilates principles. One of the principles is Head, neck and shoulders organisation. You might want to read it again as it might contain some helpful information that your can relate to.

Leave us a comment or share the pain with us as it might help some other people to deal with theirs .. or share this post with your friends if they have tendency to carry the world on their shoulders.

5 tips to stop the back pain

Quite often I hear about back pain – sometimes people mention it during a class or some people may experience back pain while they are doing their usual daily routines (work, travel, housework etc.).

Why do you experience back pain?

The most common reasons are tension or spasm, inflammation or injury. It can also relate to arthritis, osteoporosis, sciatica and stress. Did you know that the most likely back pain actually comes from the muscles, ligaments and joints? The good news is you can certainly prevent this issue from re-occurring. How?


From my own experience, the best back pain relief is a combination of a few different treatments:

  • A good massage
  • A hot bath or heat pack (place on the affected area)
  • Exercise (regularly and not only when the back pain is present).

This approach more often than not will address the problem, however, if your back pain relates to arthritis or osteoporosis, you might need to take medication (pain relief or anti-inflammatories). The best way to find out what is causing your back pain is to visit your local Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist. If required, they will recommend some exercises to relieve the pain.  

My top 5 tips on how you can prevent back pain are:

  1. Regular exercise that is appropriate for your body and fitness level
  2. Maintain your body weight
  3. Avoid sitting for extended periods
  4. Correct posture
  5. A Stress-free life (sometimes easier said than done!)

What about if you experience back pain during exercise? In this instance, you need to discuss this matter with your Personal Trainers or Fitness Instructor who should be able to assess your strength and range of movement. Then, they should prepare for you an individual program including stretching and muscle strengthening to help stabilise and support your back.

REMEMBER – your back pain can affect your overall wellbeing and it’s crucial to act promptly and prevent it from getting any worse. 

  • Active Pilates has a SPECIAL OFFER* for people suffering from muscle-related back pain:
  • FREE 30 minute Fitness Assessment (value $40)  
  • Unlimited access to our group Pilates classes for ten working days. Check our current timetable.
  • The cost $36.

Call Active Pilates on 0415 128 804 or send us an email to claim this offer.

* Terms and conditions: All bookings must be made prior to each class (maximum ten people per a class). This offer is valid during April 2014. Only new clients can claim this offer.  

Ultimate fitness for our kids

When I was growing up, I had a very active life. When I came home from school, I was very lucky to be able to go out on the street and play safely with my friends. There were mishaps of course. I can still “feel” the pain – falling out of a tree, having scratches all over my legs and arms. However, we had fun and we could play just across the road in our local park while our parents were still at work.

I was very fortunate to have all four grandparents in my life when I grew up. Time with them was the best time ever as we used to go to a beautiful and healthy looking forest to pick mushrooms and berries or we took a train or bus and went to visit our relatives in the next village. And of course, they had kids so it meant more play and fun outdoors whilst the adults stayed indoors chatting. I absolutely loved those visits.

I’m trying to remember how much time I used to spend in front of a TV. For me “being outdoors” was really the most enjoyable thing I could do back then. Especially when I came home from school – no more “sitting” was required!

Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that kids are living the same way as we used to.  On the contrary, children are leading more and more sedentary lives – eating fast food, playing video games, texting friends or watching TV. Consequently, children are becoming overweight and in some cases obese due to a lack of physical activity.

What are parents doing? In most cases, they’re doing their best – encouraging them to engage in rigorous exercises to try and balance this increasingly sedentary lifestyle. However, this might not be an ideal way to keep your children (6 to 11 years old) fit as their bodies are not quite developed enough to handle some demanding exercises.

So which exercise is more appropriate and why? You might want to consider a low-impact exercise routine such as Pilates. It can actually achieve two objectives – develop a stronger body and a relaxed mind. It can also help increase a child’s self-esteem - so widely promoted in our media these days.  

Some other benefits of Pilates for kids:

  • Spinal alignment and better posture
  • Moving more efficiently
  • Increased strength and flexibility
  • Body development in a more symmetrical way (building muscles equally)
  • Improved performance in their favourite sport
  • Understanding their body and its limitations.

Where do you go from here? Active Pilates will be rolling out new classes ‘Pilates for Kids’ (6 to 8 years and 9 to11 years) during the upcoming school holidays in April. These classes will be 45 minutes long and limited to a maximum of six children in each class.

CALL Active Pilates on 0415 128 804 or send us an email to receive more information about these classes. 

Why we love flexibility (and you should, too!)

There are many factors that can influence your flexibility including joint structure, ligaments, muscles and tissues. With age, our overall flexibility decreases and so we can be prone to unwanted injuries and strains. In particular, our hamstrings (a big muscle group that runs from your hip joint towards your knee joint) can impact significantly on our daily functions such as sitting, walking and running. Therefore, it’s important to maintain flexibility and strength in your hamstrings. 

According to Gigi Berardi, there are three limiting factors that can impact our lack of flexibility: occupational demands, movement demands and training oversights. We need to work with our existing range of movement and build it gradually, avoiding injuries that might result fromextreme challenges to our flexibility. 

It’s important to maintain our level of flexibility by regular practice as you can lose it pretty quickly. I can talk from my own experience when I was recovering from my recent knee surgery. I wasn’t able to use my right leg properly and had lost all my muscle strength in only ten days! I could not believe it and it was a true example of “use it or lose it”. 

How do you know if your hamstrings are too tight?

Well, you might not know it until you try to do certain exercises. On the other hand, if you’re experiencing any pain in the lower back area or at the back of your hip it might relate to tight hamstrings or a possible injury. The best way to find out if your hamstrings are tight is to see a physiotherapist who can assess the strength and flexibility of your hamstrings. 


How can you avoid hamstring injuries long-term?

The best way to avoid injury is to increase your range of motion and to strengthen your core and lower back muscles. Physiotherapists and exercise professionals recommend an active exercise to build your hamstring strength. This approach will also teach you how you can stretch them in a safe and effective way. 

This is really not rocket science and it’s one of the reasons why I decided to study Pilates as I wanted to maintain a reasonably good level of flexibility for as long as I’ll be around. 

Some people worry about their appearance as they age and turn to plastic surgery to feel younger. I really think that it’s much more important to look after your body from the inside out to keep going strongly for a long time. 

So which exercise can improve your flexibility?

I strongly believe that the most effective exercise routines are yoga or Pilates. Both disciplines work towards the same goal – increasing your range of motion, flexibility and strength, with better co-ordination and balance. 

What is the difference between yoga and Pilates?

YOGA - by practicing regular Yoga, you can gain stamina and flexibility and improve your concentration leading to a calm outlook. It's quite common to see outdoor athletes practicing yoga. Through stretching opposing muscle groups people practicing yoga develop strength through weight-bearing postures. Once you learn the basics, you can commence more advanced postures. Some advanced styles of Yoga (Vinyasa and Ashtanga) focus on fluid movement and are ideal for climbers and surfers, as these sports require strength, great body awareness, and maximum flexibility. 

PILATES puts more emphasis on the balance-boosting core muscles of the back and abdomen. Pilates can effectively correct the strength imbalances that some athletes develop. This discipline is suitable for the ballet community, skiers, and trail runners who need to build strength without bulk. But you don’t have to be an athlete to benefit from Pilates. Pilates is beneficial for pregnant women, post-pregnancy or anyone recovering from injury or looking to tone their body.

For people who have never done either of these two disciplines, I recommend you start with Pilates which will teach you how to build core strength and stabilise your muscle groups. Then, you can commence Yoga which enables you to use your strong stamina, to create calm and focus. 

Do you have any questions or comments about the above post? If so, you can write them in the comment section below. Alternatively, you can send us email about your particular issue and we’ll be in touch in next 48 hours with our best possible solution at no cost. 

Seven signs you should invest in strengthening & conditioning

A lot of people believe that the main reason for building muscles via strengthening and conditioning our bodies is to look and feel good. And it is true. However, we also need to do regular conditioning for other reasons as it can improve the quality of our sleep, our memory, reasoning and problem solving as well as our overall mental health. It can also guide us in making better choices about our food. Let’s have a look at a few of the most common signs that should ring alarm bells.   

1. Lack of sleep - can influence your ability for attention, alertness, concentration and problem solving. A good night’s sleep can also enable you to learn more efficiently.  If you don’t sleep enough, you might not be able to remember certain things and so, it might feel like you’re not learning fast enough. It’s important to know that sleeplessness can increase the symptoms of depression particularly if you’ve missed sleep over an extended period of time. Therefore, it’s crucial for both body and mind to be able to rest at night.

2.  Full-on (non-stop) training without a break – my life philosophy is ‘all things in moderation’. Therefore, I strongly believe that your body needs a break in between exercises. How much of a break is required in between training sessions? It really depends on what sort of training you do and what you are trying to achieve (for example, weight loss, muscle development; strengthening and conditioning). It’s important to also do some targeted strengthening and conditioning exercise routines (yoga or Pilates) to enable your body to use all your muscle groups properly. To give you an example, think of cyclists or runners who are fully dedicated to their chosen sport, yet don’t do any other exercise. This might not be beneficial to their body long-term. It might be worthwhile to integrate some complimentary exercise routines as well as their focused training.


3. Setting up impossible goals – be realistic about your training goals. Do you want to run a 10km race? Great – go for it and make sure that you allow your body to develop your fitness, strength and endurance to finish the race with grace and without injury. I love running and it’s not just about moving your legs fast. It also means that the rest of your body has to be in sync with your legs. How are your gluteals, hamstrings and calves? How much conditioning do you do with these muscles?

4. Eating junk food – can cause a lack of energy, weight gain and a lot of other health issues including diabetes, arthritis and heart disease. Consequently, if you have no energy to do the usual things how can you get motivated to do any exercise? It’s a vicious cycle. For your overall health, it might be better to avoid junk food altogether and establish healthy eating habits. Let us know if you need some help and we’ll be happy to guide you in your new eating routines.

5. Lack of commitment (inconsistent training) – does it sound familiar? You announce your New Year’s resolution – “I want to do more exercise!” – and after a few months you go back to “no exercise”. Half-way through the year, you realise that you haven’t exercised for over two months. Well, I know we all have a long “To do list” including family, work or other commitments. And it’s so hard to get back on track. However, perhaps you could consider finding 20 to 30 minutes three times a week. You could dedicate this time to doing the required conditioning training. This way, you can make sure that your body gets what it needs and so it can serve you better long-term.

6. Giving up because your chosen exercise is too hard – I’ve been there and done it. Have you seen the movie “Billy Elliott”? One of my favourite movies. It’s about passion, drive, commitment and determination. Billy knew what he wanted and he understood that it takes a lot of practice to make it on the top. Once he got there he still had to dance, dance and dance some more. And that’s what I learned about anything I wanted to do in my life (not only sport). You need to practice, practice and practice until you feel like there is nothing else to do. If you believe that you can do it- you certainly can. So don’t give up! Here is for you a clip from the movie - dont' you love it? 

“If dance were any easier it would be called football. - Anonymous

7. Over-training muscles (muscle fatigue) –it usually happens when you push yourself to do more than you should and your body doesn’t get a chance to recover. It’s simple maths – if you work your muscles hard, you must allow enough time for recovery and growth by resting. Listen to your body and take care of it.

Do you need help with your exercise routines or want to commence some complimentary conditioning to increase performance in your favourite sport? Send us email and we’ll contact you in next 48 hours to discuss the most suitable option for you.