Jan’s Top TipsJan Bowen
#1 WHEN TO START PILATES ?
Welcome to the first of many Top Tips of 2023 and a Belated Happy New Year to all.
Well it is the time when New Year’s resolutions are made and quite often by the end of the
month are broken or at least bent. We hear that gyms are very busy at the moment but
that Personal Trainers expect things to be quiet by February.
It is certainly the case that the real benefits from Pilates come from regular practice with a
combination of classes or private lessons with some practice at home.
We have just started classes for our Winter Term which runs until Easter and its pleasing
to welcome back our regular clients and some new starters too. However, to answer the
question of when to start it is perfectly possible to join classes at any time and in the case of
our studio your first class is free. Our classes are graded at five different levels and we
are always keen to ensure that new clients find a class that is at the right level and we don’t
favour large “mixed ability “classes.
If you have particular fitness aims in mind or you want to exercise after illness, injury or
surgery then it’s a good idea the start with a private lesson so that your condition can be
properly assessed and this ensures that your lesson is bespoke for you. We are always
glad to provide home exercise programmes too.
Now may be the time when you are thinking of a particular fitness goal associated with
sport or perhaps a sponsored event for charity. Pilates is ideal as cross training and our
Pilates Reformer machines provide extra resistance and challenge to help build a strong
core and stretch out tight muscles.
Returning to the question of ‘When to start Pilates?’ there is the issue of age. I always say
that Pilates is a broad church and accessible to most people. We have clients varying form
12 to 80+ so age is no barrier. If you are unsure if Pilates will suit you then call me on
07703 549499 or email email@example.com or you can arrange a free trial lesson.
However, the real answer to the question ‘When To Start Pilates?’ is NOW
Jan is Studio Director of Alderley Pilates
#2 PEACE AND CALM
We have experienced some Winter weather in recent days with eerie mists and fog, now followed by frosts and snow. All tend to bring a sense of quiet and stillness. From our studio windows looking out over farm fields we enjoy spectacular views of white. Peace and calm is also something we aim to provide in our Pilates studio and we deliberately choose calming colours and fragrances. Currently we have The White Company’s Winter fragrance, and we still have some of the pinecones and berries decorations.
Pilates is a type of exercise that needs concentration, so we have no music (and no one wears headphones). Instead you aim to pace your movements not to the beats of music but to the rhythm of your breath.
We take our breathing for granted and it just happens but it’s not quite that simple. When you become anxious or agitated your breath becomes quicker and shallower and you don’t use the full capacity of your lungs. Indeed, shallow breathing can contribute to a feeling of stress. You often tense your shoulders too Pilates uses deep abdominal breathing which we describe as “wide and full” so you are using the full capacity of your lungs. It is inherently calming. Indeed, if it was the only thing your learnt from Pilates it would still be a valuable skill. Exercises are paced by your breath and correct breathing facilitates the movements. So, your Pilates class or private lesson can be an oasis of peace and calm in a busy week. To book a class or private lesson with Jan call 07703 549499 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
#4 PILATES AND DANCE
Pilates has always had a strong connection with dance and I was reminded of this when Peter and I went to The Lowry in Salford to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet dance Swan Lake. It was superb with its fabulous music and dancing by the corps as a flock of swans. A sad ending but in the end good triumphs over evil and fidelity in love was rewarded.
Joseph Pilates set up his studio in New York in 1927 and soon had dancers as clients. Indeed choreographers sent dancers to him to help them prepare their bodies for specific roles. Pilates exercises were brought to the UK in the 1970s by Alan Herdman, a dance teacher, who was concerned about young dancers being injured. He saw Pilates as the way to give them stronger bodies so that they could dance safely
Indeed for many years Pilates in the UK was confined to studios used mainly by performers and it was only in the mid 1990s that it became more easily accessible.
The link with dance remains and most ballet companies have a Pilates teacher on their team. Having several times seen the Royal Ballet company in their daily class many of their floor exercises were immediately recognisable for their similarity to Pilates. We are fortunate that we have two formally trained dancers in our team and they certainly bring new insights and grace to their teaching.
So I would encourage you to take the opportunity to watch some dance performances and see what bodies can do. We are always amazed at the back extension that ballet dancers can achieve for example.
It is also important to support your local dance companies and venues. If you are around Greater Manchester The Lowry has an excellent programme as well as being a centre for aspiring dancers. Still to come this year is Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet as well as the Rambert company, whilst next March will be the Birmingham Royal Ballet dance Sleeping Beauty (we can’t wait!).
JANS TOP TIPS
TOP TIPS 2 WHAT TO WEAR
A common question from new clients to my studio is” what do I wear” ? As a starting point you need something that will enable you to stretch and move.There is no need to wear skin tight lycra ! Equally though you don’t want anything too floaty or baggy since the teacher wants to be able to see you move in detail. Pilates generally isn’t an aerobic exercise so you aren’t going to get hot. However it still makes sense to wear layers of clothes so if you do warm up during class then you can take off an outer layer to be more comfortable. We all have favourite brands and for many years Ive worn Sweaty Betty outfits when Im teaching. I use the layering principle with two or three layers which I can adapt depending on the pace of class I am teaching or if Im teaching a private lesson. We have an excellent Sweaty Betty shop in Water Lane in Wilmslow and the staff are really helpful and most have done Pilates with us too. As an extra Tip they are currently in Sale ! I’m posting my Top Pilates Tips weekly and previous ones are posted on the blog spot on our website www.alderleypilates.co.uk
TOP TIPS 3 WHERE TO DO PILATES ?
The setting does make a real difference since Pilates requires concentration, peace and calm.So noisy or cluttered environments are not really suitable. Indeed in many ways the ideal Pilates space is an empty room with muted colours.Mirrors do help too so that you can see yourself and check if your spatial awareness is giving you proper feedback.Since much of Pilates involves lying on a mat on the floor I lay great store by
studio cleanliness and our studio has hourly , daily and weekly cleaning routines. This remains important since COVID hasn’t gone away and we use NHS standard anti viral cleaning materials.
There is of course the question To Zoom Or Not To Zoom ZOOM was a godsend when the pandemic hit and we adapted to live streaming all our classes . So you can join a class online or in studio and we also record some classes and post them on the website. From my Body Control Pilates training I prefer to teach people in person since it is then possible to observe client’s movements from all angles, which isn’t possible on ZOOM. It is much easier to guide and correctly clients in person. However we recognise that fro some clients ZOOM is convenient and is helpful if clients are still shielding or have health issues..
Hall of Studio ? We started with hiring village halls as many teachers do and candidly they can vary in quality and comfort. We soon decided we wanted our own dedicated space where we could set our own standards of cleanliness, hygiene and indeed warmth ( some halls can be quite chilly ) Pilates is not aerobic so you don’t get hot and if you are cold your muscles will tighten So its up to you but questions t ask are Is the venue clean, tidy, warm and peaceful ? What are the cleaning and hygiene standards ? Try face to face lessons as the ideal
Then of course there are the practicalities like car parking and for our studio its onsite and free
TOP TIPS 4 WORKING WITH RESISTANCE
A recent article in The Times reported the results of a review by Public Health England which concluded that bone strengthening and balance activities have huge health benefits for all adults including those over 65 and over.Exercises to work the major muscle groups around , legs, hips, back, abdomen ,chest and arms should be done twice a week. You can make the exercises more effective and work the muscles more effectively by adding some resistance or weight. So in Pilates we can use stretch bands ,of different strengths and you may well have done hamstring stretches using one. There are many more ways of using stretch bands to create resistance and opposition in familiar exercises so have a go and experiment. It is also possible to add hand weights or weighted balls to familiar exercises such as side reaches and rotations and weights help to burn off some more calories too. To help you give resistance ago I have 5 stretch bands to give away. So email me via our website www.alderleypilates.co.uk with your address and I will send you one free.
TOP TIPS 5 – PILATES AND BACK PROBLEMS
I started Pilates because I had a spinal problem , a displaced disc in my neck needed surgery and so I first met a neurosurgeon. Pilates helped me with my rehabilitation and in due course I decided to follow the example of my husband Peter and trained as a Pilates teacher. Pilates can be great for stretching and toning and building core strength and a Pilates Body is long and lean and good posture gives a great look. However many clients who come to us have movement issues such as tight muscles, stiff joints or back pain. Pilates can genuinely help with these and provides the tools and exercises to look after your body. My neck problem does flare up from time to time so recently I met a new neurosurgeon who recommended a steroid injection to reduce inflammation and reduce pain . I mentioned that I was a Pilates teacher and he told me he always recommended Pilates exercise for lower back pain. Praise indeed I’m always pleased to help clients who have spinal problems and its always pleasing to see clients feel the benefits and Im always happy to work in
conjunction with consultants and therapists to help with rehabilitation.
TOP TIPS 6- HOW OFTEN TO DO PILATES?
This question was posed by a client returning after injury.
A simple answer is that our classes and private lessons last for an hour and this is an ideal duration. We aim in the period to work through all the major muscle groups and take your joints through all their different ranges of movement. We also use different positions on the mat from lying on your back ( semi supine with knees bent ) lying on your front ( prone ) side lying, four point kneeling , sitting and standing. So plenty of variety and we usually do about 2 dozen exercises in the hour. In Pilates we don’t do a lot of repetitions and often 6 is plenty but we do a lot of exercises. In a small class if there is an exercise that isn’t suitable for you your teacher should offer an alternative. Perhaps the only exception to an hour class is the Joseph Pilates classic Full Mat sequence of 32 linked exercises where you flow from one exercise to the other. This usually takes 45 minutes and represents a full workout. This forms an Advanced class but we often use individual exercises from the sequence in our Intermediate classes. If you want to make rapid progress in Pilates and have a specific fitness target then the ideal is to do 3 hours a week and this can be a mixture of class, private lessons and home practice. It can be useful to do some work on the Pilates Reformer machines as well as matwork. However returning to the original question its fine to do just a short sequence if you are recovering from illness, injury or surgery. Joseph Pilates said that if you do Pilates for 10 minutes a day for 30 days you will see changes in your body. So 10 minutes would be perhaps between 4 and 6 exercises and you could just do some simple stretches in standing for example. Then you could progress on to say 20 minutes and perhaps 8 exercises. I am always happy to advise our clients on suitable exercises for home practice and its good idea to have a suitable mat , head cushion and a stretch band to help with this
Best Wishes Jan www.alderleypilates.co.uk
TOP TIPS 7 -FIND A GOOD BOOK
My Top Tip today is about books and a new one which would make a good Christmas present if you feel like dropping a hint. My husband Peter and I have trained , and indeed still do , with Body Control Pilates ( BCP ). BCP really created the Pilates market in the UK particularly for group classes. It started in a small Pilates studio in Kensington and was founded by Lynne Robinson working with studio owner Gordon Thompson in 1995/6. It created the first structured teacher training programme which we still think is the Gold Standard for Pilates teacher training. Besides her teacher training work Lynne has also been a prolific author and
her books have generally been the top selling Pilates books on Amazon. A book enables you to remind yourself of the detail of exercises and contains useful programmes for home practice and we do recommend that you practice at home as well as in class. There are many Pilates books out there so how do you choose ? Different
authors, particularly American ones can use different names for the exercise you find in class. Some too plunge straight in to some of Joseph Pilates’ advanced exercises which may not be suitable for everyone and may be contra indicated if you have a bad back for example. So we recommend that you look for a book by Lynne Robinson who has been described as the” Queen of Pilates “. We have had the pleasure of welcoming Lynne to present workshops ( and sign books ) at Alderley Pilates. Lynne’s latest book ,Pilates Express ,has just been published so I recommend that you add it to your Christmas List
Studio Director Alderley Pilates
TOP TIPS 8- WHAT DOES THE TEACHER MEAN BY ?
When you start Pilates , or indeed perhaps if you have had physiotherapy
treatment, you may come across a number of new terms. In our classes we try to use the same exercise name consistently across all our classes irrespective of teacher. However the important thing to understand is what is the purpose of a particular exercise and what we are trying to achieve. Our aim is to give you , for example, a good range of movement, through you main joints including your hips and knees, shoulders and of course your spine. You might like to see how far these joints move before you start class and the repeat after class and note the difference. Pilates also aims to stretch tight muscles and of course if your muscles are tight they can’t help your joints to work smoothly. We work too on your deep core or postural muscles which can give you stability around your pelvis and the base of your spine. Another feature of Pilates is to improve your posture. When we mention this clients immediately try and stand up straight !. It’s very easy to slouch or hold
tension in your shoulders. So try this shrug your shoulders up to your ears, then let the release and stretch your fingers down towards your toes helping your shoulders relax. Your shoulder should sit near the bottom of that range of movement. Or stand side on to a mirror and visualise a straight line through your ear, shoulder, hip, behind the knee cap and down to your ankle joint. Adjust your position so that all those points are in a straight vertical line. There are other terms like Hypermobility ( where joints have and excessive
range of movement but may be less stable ) and Scoliosis where the spine curves to the side , more often seen in young girls rather than boys. This is a special interest of mine and I have worked successfully with number of teenage clients. I will talk about Hypermobility , Scoliosis, Osteoporosis and Arthritis in my future Top Tips. However a final Top Tip thoughts is that as we get busy in therun up to Christmas don’t let your Pilates practice slip.
Best Wishes Jan email@example.com