Note from Rob: With the abundance of information now available through the internet and social media, a 'healthy lifestyle' is one of the hardest things to achieve. Mainly because so many people have their own opinion on what that is! And as opinion is formed from their own very personal experiences, it is always best to consider their advice to see how it matches up with your own goals in life.
A healthy lifestyle is all about a balance in your life and an acknowledgment of all facets that are playing a part. If you pay attention to each facet of your life, this will allow you to have control of your path and begin to foster good habits and positive thinking. A healthy lifestyle includes:
A healthy body
A healthy mind and spirit
Good and productive habits
Because there are so many elements to each of these (and many books written to help you) I am going to touch on what a healthy body means to me and what I can impart on you through your experience with Movementality.
What do I consider to be healthy when we talk about movement?
Fluid and free movement
An elongated, effortless resting posture
Alignment of your bones allowing for;
Flexibility of the joints and surrounding connective tissue.
The ability to rapidly generate strength and power without compromising your bodily structures.
The ability to maintain the generation of movement and strength over prolonged periods of time.
Co-ordination of your limbs in space.
Full breathing capacity.
When we link these features back to Pilates, it is helpful to identify a couple of areas you would like to work on. From there, your exercise program needs to challenge you and your habitual movement patterns in order to keep your brain guessing. By consistently challenging your brain to coordinate your body, a high level of stimulation is created that keeps your body healthy.
The beauty of Pilates, is that it actively encourages you to explore new movement patterns in your own body. This will challenge your brain to discover dormant muscles that may have become redundant due to repetitive movements in our daily lives. This also supports you to move further through your joint range, encouraging your muscles into longer positions and effectively creating an active stretch of the surrounding areas. This in turn allows the spine and joints to find a better resting
position. Often, if we don’t challenge the way we move, our body will stay within the path of least resistance. If this path isn't the one originally intended through evolution, we end up recruiting our neighboring muscles, and this can lead to pain, injury and inefficient movement.
The Pilates experience is different for everyone. The most important first step is to identify your goals and what you want to get out of Pilates.
Are you currently experiencing pain?
Perhaps your experience of pain has been going on for so long, you can no longer clearly identify where it started?
Are you working long hours behind a desk? Do you want to improve your standing/sitting posture?
Do you want to improve your flexibility generally or in a specific area?
Perhaps you want to have better support for your spine by learning how to engage your core stabilizers effectively?
Have a think about an activity you love doing - would you like the opportunity to make it more efficient? How about changes in your running style/golf technique/ tennis serve or swimming stroke?
Identifying these goals is really helpful to keep you motivated and on track to results.
So then how often should I be doing Pilates? Ash wrote a piece on this earlier in the year... We recommend two sessions a week initially to improve your awareness of your posture and alignment. The more exercise you do and the greatest challenge to good movement patterns, the quicker your body will start to change. It takes about three weeks for the brain to start laying down the tracks for new neural pathways and the more opportunity for stimulating your brain, the better.
Another question we get asked is should you stay with the same instructor or change instructors? Initially, it is recommended to work with one instructor if possible, as it’s great for an instructor to get to know you and your body over time, so they can work on the intricacies of your movement and your progressions. But as your confidence and awareness grows, it’s also nice to mix it up occasionally seeing new instructors to get a new viewpoint and challenge your body in different ways. As the classic saying goes; ‘variety is the spice of life.’ Each Pilates teacher will have their own way of teaching - some instructors have a dance background while others have a physiotherapy background. Because their training experiences are as unique as they are, you’re guaranteed to learn something new with every session!
Finally one of our most common questions is; Will doing Pilates regularly look after me as I head into my silver years? For this, we answer a resounding yes! Pilates actively works to balance muscle strength and flexibility to create good postural alignment and gives you an ability to move in any direction with both control and ease.
Sam is a Physiotherapist and Pilates practitioner at Movementality on Wednesday evenings - touch base if you want to learn more!