Movement, Postnatal Movement

Finding Your Abdominal Connection After Birth

What happens to my abdominals during pregnancy and childbirth?

As your belly grows during pregnancy, your abdominal muscles stretch and change. 

Your deepest layer of abdominals (TVA or Transverse Abdominis), acts like a corset which wraps around from your spine and joins via a tendon in the front called the linea alba. 

This layer has a close relationship to your breathing and pelvic floor muscles – two key elements of abdominal connection and core strength. During pregnancy, this layer stretches and thins which can impact this relationship. This is what we refer to as diatasis recti or ab separation. 

Therefore, rebuilding your TVA and finding the connection between your abdominals, breath and pelvic floor is an important process in your postpartum recovery. 

Finding your abdominal connection post-birth is crucial to rebuilding your core strength.

How do I reconnect my abdominals?

First and foremost, use the first few weeks post-birth (before you have clearance from your doctor to resume exercise) to spend time on the floor with your bub and focus on your breathing. Here are some ways to do this: 

  • Lay on your back on the floor / mat / towel with your feet up on a couch. Inhale, letting your belly expand naturally. As you exhale, focus on contracting your abdominals (TVA) like a corset being drawn together at the front.  Make sure your spine and pelvis is aligned, and maintain small gaps under your neck and lower back, this is your neutral spine position.
  • Enjoy ‘Tummy Time’ – not only is ‘Tummy Time’ great for your baby – it provides you with great feedback during your breathing. Lay on your stomach with your hands under your head, inhale into your belly, you will feel the pressure into the ground and movement through your ribs as they expand, as you exhale continue that connection of contracting TVA. 
  • The next progression is to move up into the crawl position of 4pt kneeling – hands and knees hip distance apart with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Maintain this same breathing focus, expanding and contracting your abdominals as you inhale and exhale.

Everyone will have a different pre and postnatal journey – some experience no separation and others significant. No matter how your body responds to pregnancy, everyone can benefit from reconnecting your abdominals post birth. 

Once you receive clearance from your doctor to return to exercise, you want to focus on connecting and strengthening your deep abdominal layers – TVA, internal obliques and other core muscles. These muscles lengthen and contract (shorten) as you breathe. Begin by focusing on this contraction and connection to support your movement. 

The pelvic curl is a great exercise to start, with a focus on alignment, mobility and breath – it gives you the opportunity to incorporate this connection into your movement.  Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, knees bent and hip distance apart. Your arms are long by your side and your neck is in neutral, chin slightly tucked. Inhale to prepare and on the exhale, feel the contraction and connection to these deep abdominal layers. Maintain this connection as you begin the movement. Through consistent practice, you will start to reconnect your abdominals and build strength and tone in your core. 

Fluidform’s specialised Pre & Postnatal programs are designed to guide you through each stage of your pregnancy through to your postnatal recovery. These workouts aim to reconnect your abdominals and realign your body, to help rebuild your strength, tone and confidence post-birth.

Your core is your central powerhouse, which impacts your balance, stability and the way you move your body. A strong core will help to improve your posture, overall muscular performance and prevent long-term injuries across your entire body.

Movement, Prenatal Movement

The Importance of Exercise in the Preconception Period

By Georgia Hartmann
Naturopath, Nutritionist & Women’s Health Expert

When it comes to optimising fertility and preparing for pregnancy, there are numerous factors that must be considered一alcohol, caffeine, sugar and trans fat consumption, sleep quality, stress management, nutrient status, underlying health conditions, smoking, exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, weight, the list goes on…

One factor that we can all start prioritising today is regular exercise. Not only is exercise beneficial for reducing the risk of 40 chronic health conditions including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, but it is also incredibly beneficial in balancing hormones.[1-2]

Here’s an insight into exactly how.

Exercise helps to balance hormones associated with excess weight
It is well known that carrying excess weight increases the risk of infertility and miscarriage. We also know that moderate exercise influences IVF outcomes. A recent meta-analysis found a 1.96-fold increase in clinical pregnancy rate and 1.94-fold increase in live birth rate in physically active women compared with physically inactive women. The effect is due to the positive influence of exercise on insulin sensitization and ovarian function. Influencing levels of insulin is incredibly important in those carrying excess weight as this hormone is commonly elevated. [3-4]

Exercise helps to balance hormones associated with high stress
Elevated, uncontrolled stress is associated with infertility, cycle irregularities, poor sperm quality, and miscarriage risk. It can be challenging to find time to exercise when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. However, this is the perfect time to do so. What we know about stress is that it is associated with increased production of cortisol, one of our stress hormones. Research consistently shows us that regular exercise reduces cortisol levels. And if you have exercised prior to entering a stressful situation, your cortisol levels are much lower─ meaning you are able to cope with stress more. A recent study of almost 400,000 individuals also found that those who had a physically active lifestyle had around 60% lower risk of developing anxiety─again, through the positive impact of exercise on our stress hormones. [5-7]

Exercise helps to balance hormones associated with poor sleep
Sleep not only affects hormonal balance, but also sperm function and IVF outcomes. While approximately 30% of the general population experience sleep troubles, a readily-available, non-pharmacological therapy without side effects is regular exercise. Recent randomized controlled trials have confirmed that exercise reduces insomnia severity, and improves ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and overall sleep quality. From a fertility standpoint, we know that both female and male fertility, as well as IVF outcomes may be affected by short sleep duration and shift/night work schedules. In order to have adequate levels of our sleep-promoting hormone, melatonin, exercise is best performed in the morning rather than afternoon or evening.[8-10]

Exercise helps to balance hormones associated with reproductive conditions
Regular exercise is increasingly being recommended to manage a range of chronic health conditions including painful periods and endometriosis. While some research suggests exercise can exacerbate painful symptoms in women with endometriosis, a recent study assessing endometriosis self-management strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic reported that exercise undoubtedly has an overall positive impact on well-being.[11]

In the case of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is a leading cause of fertility difficulties among reproductive-aged women, exercise has shown beneficial effects on lipid profiles, waist circumference, blood pressure and fasting insulin. It has also been shown to balance hormones, particularly androgens and oestrogens. [12-14]

So, if you are considering conceiving, now is the time to prioritise regular exercise.

References:

[1] Ruegsegger, G.N., et al.

Health Benefits of Exercise. Cold Spring Harbour Perspectives in Medicine, 2018. 8(7). PMID: 28507196.
[2] Ennour-Idrissi, K., et al. Effect of physical activity on sex hormones in women: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Breast Cancer Research, 2015. PMID: 26541144.
[3] Harrison, C.L., et al. The Role of Physical Activity in Preconception, Pregnancy and Postpartum Health. Seminars in Reproductive Medicine, 2016. 34(2). PMID: 27169984.
[4] Rao, M., et al. Maternal physical activity before IVF/ICSI cycles improves clinical pregnancy rate and live birth rate: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 2018. 16(1). PMID: 29415732.
[5] Khaled, K., et al. Perceived stress and diet quality in women of reproductive age: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition Journal, 2020. PMID: 32859204.
[6] Wood, C.J., et al. Physical fitness and prior physical activity are both associated with less cortisol secretion during psychosocial stress. Anxiety, Stress and Coping, 2018. 31(2). PMID: 29037088.
[7] Svensson, M., et al. Physical Activity Is Associated With Lower Long-Term Incidence of Anxiety in a Population-Based, Large-Scale Study. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 2021. PMID: 34566716.

[8] Caetano, G., et al. Impact of sleep on female and male reproductive functions: a systematic review. Fertility & Sterility, 2021. 115(3). PMID: 33054981.
[9]
 Banno, M., et al. Exercise can improve sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PeerJ, 2018. PMID: 30018855.
[10] Carlson, L.A., et al .Influence of Exercise Time of Day on Salivary Melatonin Responses. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 2019. 14(3). PMID: 30160559.
[11] Leonardi, M., et al. Self-management strategies to consider to combat endometriosis symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic. Human Reproduction Open, 2020. PMID: 32509977.
[12] Benham, J.L., et al. Role of exercise training in polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Obesity, 2018. PMID: 29896935.

[13] Shele, G., et al. A Systematic Review of the Effects of Exercise on Hormones in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology, 2020. 5(2). PMID: 33467251.
[14]
 Smith, A.J., et al. The Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Estrogen Metabolism in Healthy Premenopausal Women. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 2013. 22(5). PMID: 23652373.

About the author:
Having been diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure two years prior to conceiving her first child naturally, Georgia’s passion lies within helping women overcome their hormonal imbalances through the blend of conventional and complementary medicine. For additional support, you can contact Georgia via:

IG: georgiahartmann_naturopath

W: www.georgiahartmann.com

E: hello@georgiahartmann.com

Postnatal Movement

Movement For Postnatal Mothers

By Georgia Hartmann 

We know the thought of exercising whilst you’re breastfeeding comes with some nerves, uncertainties and fear. Whether you are an active person or not, you may feel pressured around if and how you should be moving your body. The most important thing is for you to understand the effects of exercising while breastfeeding, and finding movement that feels right for you. 

We are here to help! 

Did you know?

Exercise reduces postpartum fatigue and depression.

Not only is exercise beneficial whilst breastfeeding, but plays a large role in balancing postpartum weight, improving energy, and reducing feelings of depression.[4] Specific research shows that partaking in 30-minute Pilates classes, five times per week, for eight consecutive weeks can reduce postpartum fatigue and improve sleep quality. [5-6] We also know that resistance-style training increases strength and improves our physical health.[7]

The intensity and duration of exercise matters.

Provided you are maintaining adequate nutrition, moderate to vigorous exercise most days does not negatively affect breast milk composition or volume.[4] Rather, exercise improves the mother’s overall health and sense of wellbeing. The concern occurs when one undergoes intense exercise and does not meet their caloric intake (as seen in extensive fasting) that we see changes in milk proteins, immunoglobulins, lactose, and micronutrients (including zinc, magnesium, and potassium).[8] 

Postpartum is a time of nourishment. Focus on nourishing your body with nutrients and moving it in a way that feels energizing over exhausting

Exercise benefits the preconception period and during pregnancy.

Preconception exercise helps to manage insulin resistance and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), supports healthy weight which affects ovulation and optimizes fertility. Regular exercise during pregnancy prevents and helps to manage preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, has positive effects on labour and birth (including reduced interventions) and is associated with improved neonatal outcomes (including a 31% reduced risk of having a large baby). And of course, exercising postpartum positively influences breastfeeding, energy, mental health and quality of life.[4]

References:

[1] Nguyen, P.T.H., et al. Physical Activity During Pregnancy is Associated with Improved Breastfeeding Outcomes: A Prospective Cohort Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2019. 16(10). PMID: 31100948.

[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013. Australian Health Survey: Health Service Usage and Health Related Actions, 2011-12. Retrieved from www.abs.gov.au/ausstats.

[3] World Health Organization. Breastfeeding. 2021. Retrieved from www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding.

[4] Harrison, C.L., et al. The Role of Physical Activity in Preconception, Pregnancy and Postpartum Health. Seminars in Reproductive Medicine, 2016. 34(2). PMID: 27169984.

[5] Ashrafinia, F., et al. Effect of Pilates exercises on postpartum maternal fatigue. Singapore Medical Journal, 2015. 56(3). PMID: 25820848.

[6] Ashrafinia, F., et al. The effects of Pilates exercise on sleep quality in postpartum women. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 2014. 18(2). PMID: 24725785.

[7] LeCheminant, J.D., et al. Effect of resistance training on body composition, self-efficacy, depression, and activity in postpartum women. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, 2014. 24(2). PMID: 22738284.

[8] Lee, S., et al. Biological underpinnings of breastfeeding challenges: the role of genetics, diet, and environment on lactation physiology.American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2016. 311(2). PMID: 27354238.

About the author:

Georgia Hartmann 

Naturopath, Nutritionist & Women’s Health Expert
Having been diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure two years prior to conceiving her first child naturally, Georgia’s passion lies within helping women overcome their hormonal imbalances through the blend of conventional and complementary medicine. For additional support, you can contact Georgia via:

IG: georgiahartmann_naturopath

W: www.georgiahartmann.comE: hello@georgiahartmann.com

Movement

Finding Your Deep Abdominal Connection

Do you struggle to get that little tremor in your tummy when doing ab work?

We often hear people say “I’m not feeling it in my abs” or hear they are regularly “smashing through 100 sit ups at the gym” and not seeing results. 

If this sounds like you – you may be doing them all wrong. 

Here are my top tips for mastering a chest lift, finding that deep abdominal connection and finally feeling the little shake in your tummy.

BREATHING

Breathing is one of the most important points in finding that deep abdominal connection. 

Here are my tips on breathing, practice this and you will feel the difference:

  1. Place your hands onto the sides of your rib cage.
  2. Inhale – Breathe back and up into the rib cage – your rib cage should expand wider.
  3. Exhale – Draw the rib cage back together and deepen through the abdominals.

This type of breathing means you breathe up and down rather than the tummy going in and out. 

WATCH HERE to see how my rib cage moves when I breathe.

NECK POSITION

The placement of your hands and elbows during a chest lift is super important to reduce any pressure on your neck and ensuring your abdominals are doing the lifting and not your hands / arms.

Your fingers should be interlaced and hands cradling the base of your head with thumbs running down the back your neck and your elbows in your peripheral vision. 

Your neck should remain neutral – lengthened at the back, not tipping forward or back.

When you are extending over the ball – the neck remains neutral and the head doesn’t tip back.

Then when lifting, the chin stays lifted with your eye-line towards the ceiling, not tipping the head forward.

The position of your neck doesn’t change throughout, the movement comes from your waist – hello abs!

WATCH HERE to see my neck stay in a nice lengthened position.

PELVIS POSITION

A neutral pelvis is key to finding that deep abdominal connection.

What is a neutral pelvis? 

This position is where your pelvis is flat and open. If you place the heel of your hands on your hips bones and your fingertips on your pubic bone, your hands should be in a flat position, parallel to the floor – not tilting forward or back.

When chest lifting, your pelvis needs to remain in this neutral position to allow for the deep abdominal connection. Keeping this neutral position means you may not be able to lift as high, but remember the key here is not about the height of the lift, but about breathing effectively to engage the abdominals and allowing the abdominals to lift the head and chest. 

Your pelvis should remain still throughout – not gripping and tilting to get the height in the lift. 

If you struggle to maintain this position when chest lifting, place a small rolled up towel (tea towel or hand towel) underneath your lower back to give you feedback and help you maintain a neutral pelvis. 

WATCH HERE to see my pelvis stay still while I lift and lower my chest.

So remember, it is the combination of effective breathing, holding a neutral neck position and maintaining a neutral pelvis that will help you find your abdominal connection.

Movement

FLUIDFORM FILES: Pilates For Men

Did you know?

Pilates was created by a man, for men. Invented in the 1920’s by Joseph Pilates, who believed that lifestyle, bad posture and inefficient breathing was the cause of poor health. Pilates was first used to help rehabilitate injured German soldiers during WWI. Joseph Pilates methods were based on functional movements to improve posture, breathing and strength, based on his training in gymnastics, martial arts, bodybuilding and boxing. With a vast popularity amongst women, a stigma has formed around Pilates as a gender specific exercise, with a perception that all you do is lie flat on a mat and breathe.

Pilates for men.

In our studios, with men we commonly see inflexibility, tightness through the shoulders, ribcage, spine, hips and hamstrings, and limited mobility and range of motion. We see strength in global muscle groups and large compound movements, and weaknesses through the smaller stabilising muscles and difficulty controlling small, isolated movements. This is due to the type of training men typically endure, any heavy lifting, intense weight training and cardio.

So, how can Pilates help?

Pilates holds many benefits, for men. 100 bicep curls may sound impressive, but there are over 600 other muscles in your body that need attention. Some of our muscles are stronger than others and a big part of Pilates is finding those neglected muscles. Pilates is a way of developing these neglected muscle groups, balancing our muscles, mobilising the spine and joints, and improving our posture. Often neglected by other forms of training – Pilates focuses on the deeper muscle groups known as slow twitch fibres responsible for supporting the body and helping to correctly activate and support those larger muscles also known as fast twitch fibres. The improvement of slow twitch fibres ensures that the fast twitch fibres can work harder for longer and also help aid the recovery of the fast twitch fibres. Pilates builds strength and improves flexibility across the entire body – both necessary for ease of movement. Postural imbalances are formed from sustaining unnatural positions for prolonged periods of time (commonly sitting too long at your desk), in turn leading to pain and discomfort. Pilates focuses on correcting these imbalances, restoring optimum mobility, and alleviating pain. Pilates works to drive power from the core to stabilise the trunk and protect the back, providing a strong foundation for strength and resistance training. Through Pilates, we are able to correct our posture and breathing, allowing us to hold ourselves properly, move and train more efficiently.

Pilates for sporting performance.

Professional athletes incorporate Pilates into their training regimes to help maintain their body shape for optimum performance. Pilates provides power and stability from the core, enabling quick direction changes and superb control – heightening performance.

Competing at high levels takes a huge toll on the body, so combining low impact and less stressful workouts helps to improve coordination, balance, functional strength, and power, correct muscular imbalances, and a sense of self-awareness.

For example…

  • LeBron James uses Pilates to increase his functional strength and power, and helps him with the mind-body connection, enhancing body awareness, concentration, and focus.
  • Tiger Woods claims Pilates helps him to deliver speed, strength and stability in his core, a crucial factor for smooth rotation in his swing.
  • David Beckham maintained a supple and injury free body for 20 years as a world-class footballer. He used Pilates to help him make England’s World Cup team at the age of 35, competing against younger and faster players.
  • New Zealand All Blacks found Pilates helped them to maintain fitness, improving stability and avoiding injury during the rugby season.
  • Eamon Sullivan used Pilates to increase his range of motion, flexibility, breathing and balance in his swimming.
  • Andy Murray used Pilates to help recover from back surgery and found that it helped build his core strength and stability making his movements on the Tennis court more efficient.
  • Cyclists use Pilates to draw their shoulders back, open through their chest and lengthen out the hips and hamstrings.
  • Running (cardio) is great for building cardio fitness, Pilates helps runners to improve core strength and stability to prevent injuries (commonly Patellofemoral pain syndrome) and help with recovery.

Weight training.

Weight training and gym training can often cause muscle imbalances, which Pilates can help to resolve. Men typically weight train with a focus on specific parts of the body – think leg day, upper body. This type of training works in concentric contraction (muscle shortens as it overcomes a weight or force) creating that ‘bulk’ and ‘muscle-y’ aesthetic. Pilates works the opposite, focusing on eccentric contractions (muscle lengthens as it resists force) to work those deeper, stabilising muscles. A strong core will improve posture, eliminate back pain, and allow you to lift heavier and hold positions for longer. Pilates supplements weight training – building a strong foundation so that your weaknesses don’t get in the way of heavy compound lifts.

Flexibility and injury prevention.

For many of us, and particularly men, stretching is a low priority. However, poor flexibility and tightness is a major cause of muscular pain and injury. Improved flexibility not only enhances performance but makes every movement in your day-to-day life feel more comfortable. Men often neglect training glutes in isolation, despite playing such an important functional role. When our glutes are weak, other muscles such as hip flexors, quads and ITB can become overactive – in turn affecting our posture, causing knee and back pain, and increasing the risk of injury in muscles being overworked. Through resistance training and movement, Pilates effectively supports and strengthens weaknesses and imbalances that have developed over years of neglect.

Pelvic floor health and sexual confidence.

The activation of deep core muscles during Pilates exercises are not only associated with lowering the risk of prostate cancer, but significantly effective in preventing urinary leakage and erectile dysfunction. By strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, men gain greater control allowing them to last longer during intercourse, creating better sensation and maximising sexual fulfilment.

Mental clarity.

Practicing breath-work and slow, controlled movements allows time to think, reflect and set goals to achieve. This ripples into other aspects of life beyond exercise, improving mental clarity, self-awareness, and motivation. The release of endorphins (happy hormones) during Pilates leaves you feeling mentally refreshed, improving your concentration and self-control. Further to this, breath-work helps to aid relaxation and calmness.

Pilates has become integral to the exercise routines of men worldwide, from athletes including David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo (football), LeBron James (NBA), Tiger Woods (golf) and Andy Murray (tennis) to actors including Hugh Grant and Robert Downey Jr. Fundamental to the training programme of NRL teams South Sydney Rabbitohs, Newcastle Knights and Sydney Roosters, along with Rugby Union team New Zealand All Blacks, the benefits of Pilates for men is no secret.

Pilates was created by a man, for men.

Movement

FLUIDFORM FILES: "Will Pilates...?"

‘Will Pilates…’

We broke down the top google searches about Pilates to discuss exactly what Pilates does to your body, how you can benefit the most from Pilates and the process behind building your ‘PILATES BODY’. 

Will Pilates help me lose weight?

Will Pilates give me abs?

Will Pilates build muscle?

Will Pilates make me bulky?

Will Pilates tone my legs?

Will Pilates tone my arms?

Will Pilates change my body?

Will Pilates give me a good body?

WEIGHT LOSS

The regular practice of Pilates in tandem with a nutritionally balanced diet will help with weight loss. Weight loss is about balancing the energy we burn versus the number of calories we consume. 

Our tip: add in a Boxing workout or a safe cardio workout to elevate your heart rate and burn extra calories. 

Muscle is more metabolically active than fat. This means that increasing your muscle mass will help speed up your metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day (even when at rest). 

Focusing on your breathing is essential to Pilates. This simultaneously calms the nervous system, improves your sleep quality, and prevents rising cortisol levels. Cortisol stimulates glucose production which can then turn into fat. 

Pilates trains your intercostals (muscles that help you breathe). By increasing your lung capacity and flexibility through your ribcage, you are increasing the exchange of oxygen into carbon – which in turn helps to burn calories. 

The Pilates mind-body connection is key to weight loss. As you start to become more aware of your body, stretching and strengthening muscles you never knew existed, your attitude lifts, motivation increases and mindset improves, naturally generating a holistic, healthy lifestyle. 

ABS

Effective breathing WILL build core strength. 

Pilates is centred around effective breathing to engage the abdominals, with your core becoming the powerhouse for movement. Pilates strengthens your deep, intrinsic muscles, stabilising your spine, pelvis, and core. Pilates is not about creating a ‘six-pack’ but more about reducing back pain and imbalances, firing your glute muscles, and drawing your shoulders back to improve your posture – creating the most functional version of you. A strong core is a product of this. 

TONE, MUSCLE & BULK

Pilates is geared towards toning your muscles rather than increasing your muscle mass. This is achieved by using your bodyweight for resistance and focusing on both smaller muscle groups and global muscles. A specific combination of stretching and strengthening effectively builds lean muscle mass without the ‘bulk’. 

Pilates works muscles in an elongated position under tension (eccentric contraction). This type of contraction builds long, strong muscles – the muscles lengthen as they resist force. In contrast, a concentric contraction is where the muscle shortens as it overcomes added weight or force – this shortening muscle contraction is what causes the ‘bulk effect’. 

Pilates works the body as an integrated whole – ensuring balanced muscle development across the entire body. 

BODY

Pilates was originally designed for injury rehabilitation, with a focus on stretching and strengthening muscles through a controlled approach. This approach is a combination of strengthening musclesstabilising weaknesses, and correcting imbalances. Pilates delivers a unique blend of strength training, balance, coordination, and postural work that creates a long, lean physique. 

We can pick up a lot of bad habits in day-to-day life from sitting down for prolonged periods of time, lifting incorrectly, staring down at a screen and so on. Pilates can help to undo all these bad habits and correct our posture by strengthening the core, shoulders, and glutes, and stretching out the chest, spine, and hips. This combination allows us to feel taller, leaner, and more energised. 

Pilates increases muscle tone, balances the muscles in the body, supports our posture and teaches us to move with ease. The combination of all these things contribute to feeling and looking good. You will feel the change before you see it. Reduced pain, feeling talle and a general sense of increased strength and flexibility – we call this building your ‘PILATES BODY’ – long, lean and toned. 

Health, Movement

Welcome To 'Ask Kee'

1. Do you have any plans for Pilates training? 

I am definitely looking into Pilates teacher training. I absolutely love teaching and would love to share my knowledge with more people. Stay tuned.

~

2. Can you recommend any anatomy resources?

Pilates Anatomy Paperback (2011) by Rael Isacowitz and Karen Clippinger

Anatomy Flashcards by Bryan Edwards Publishing

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies 

Trail Guide to the Body by Andrew Biel

~

3. I’m wanting to get into Pilates post injury – where do I start?

This really depends on your injury. If you send me an email at ffah@fluidform.com I can put together a personalised program for you based on your injury and current level. 

~

4. Top tips and cues for engagement and maintaining a stable posture?

Listen to my cues during the workouts – I am always adding in tips for your posture and how to best engage each area of the body the movement is targetting. Slow down your movements and move with purpose.

~

5. Top self talk tips to get moving?

Think of that post-workout feeling you get. It’s a rush that makes you feel alive and accomplished. Remember both the physical and mental benefits from daily movement. Create a routine for yourself, the more you practice the more addictive it becomes.

~

6. What is the best way to activate my glutes rather than overworking my quads?

The best way to activate your glutes over your quads is to start by working on the relationship between your glutes and quads and then balance this relationship. 

If you are quad dominant – ensure you are stretching your quads daily. You should always start with a glute workout before a quad or leg workout to make sure that the glute is awake and active. Isometrics holds are another great way to activate the glute. Working in a neutral spine will also ensure that the glute is active and working.

~

7. How do I ‘roll up’ from lying flat?

If you’re struggling to roll up from lying flat, this usually means either your abs are not yet strong enough, your back chain is too tight or your hips flexors are too tight.

In each of these cases you will need to modify the exercise so that you can properly achieve it and your body can feel it, build strength and work your way up to completely a roll up.

Here are a few things to try when doing a roll up:

– Use your Pilates ball in between your shoulders or at the base of your shoulders.

– Place a pillow under your head to start, to stop your neck recruiting.

– Start will ‘roll backs’ (with bent legs) to build up strength in your core.

~

8. How do I fix a one sided weakness as a result of injury? Do I double up on the weak side or will this stress the area? (hip/glute related injury)

Yes – double up on the weak side to build strength more rapidly on this side to catch up to your strong side. Always start with the weak side. 

~

9. What does the perfect plank look like?

Hands under shoulders with fingers wide spread.

Legs hips distance apart with the 10 toes connected to the floor.

Hips at shoulder height.

Spine in neutral.

Love, Kee xx

Health, Movement, Women's Health

Let's Talk About Pelvic Floor

By Madison Cutmore (Physiotherapist in Women’s Health).

Pelvic floor exercises – we all know we need to do them, but they’re the last thing we think about as we (finally) drift off to sleep, and that thing we laugh off with our girlfriends after not making it to the bathroom in time (again).

Pelvic Floor health is usually ignored until problems arise, but, like most things when it comes to health care, prevention is key and those occasional kegels at the traffic lights just aren’t going to cut it.

So what should you be doing? Firstly you need to understand some anatomy. Your pelvic floor is a group of muscles and fascia that form a ‘sling’ and run from your pubic bone to your tailbone and help support all of your internal pelvic organs, help prevent leakage and are important in sexual function.

The easiest cue for activating your pelvic floor is to simply think about stopping the flow of urine when you’re on the toilet. Whilst you don’t want to train your pelvic floor on the toilet as this can create bad patterns, you do want to visualise this cue and think about the contraction in three parts: squeeze, lift, relax. It can be helpful to link your training to your breathing; your pelvic floor naturally descends when you inhale and lifts when you exhale, so cueing your breathing with your training to inhale relax your pelvic floor then exhale contract, squeeze and lift, can help you learn the correct patterning.

Like any other muscle in your body, your pelvic floor needs regular and consistent training. You need to train your pelvic floor at least three times a week, just like you would your arms/abs/legs. Training is most effective when completed in a block, with exercises focussed on strength, endurance and coordination. And, the good news is that it actually works – pelvic floor muscle training has been shown across many studies to cure urinary stress incontinence in 50% of women and improve symptoms of leaking in 75% of women (Cochrane, 2018).

It’s important to note that your pelvic floor, while often weak postnatally, can also be overactive. It is common for highly active, anxious or Type A women to experience hypertonicity or overactivity in their pelvic floor musculature. Basically, this means your pelvic floor is working from a position of ‘tightness’ and training these muscles to contract over and over again will actually be more damaging than beneficial. Common symptoms of an overactive or tight pelvic floor can include: frequent urination, constipation, pain or reduced sensation, low back or hip pain and pain/difficulty with penetrative sex or using tampons.

Given the variation in women’s pelvic health, there is no perfect program or exercise for everybody and It’s important that you consult a women’s health physiotherapist to do a vaginal exam to assess the quality of your pelvic floor. This exam creates the starting point for your at home training. Because if you don’t know where you’re at, how do you know what you need to train?

If you have an underactive pelvic floor, here’s an example program to help increase your pelvic floor strength!

Repeat for 5 mins:
● Pelvic tilts x10
● 5 second Pelvic floor holds x5
● Bridges with pelvic floor contraction x10
● Pelvic floor in childs pose (quick ones to fatigue) x10

Lifestyle, Movement

Experiencing Burnout? Time To HIIT Pause

By Georgia Hartmann

Naturopath, Nutritionist & Women’s Health Expert

Burnout is a whole body response to prolonged, uncontrolled stress. It can be experienced as feelings of overwhelming exhaustion, cynicism and detachment from work, and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. [1] 

Left unaddressed and unmanaged, burnout leads to anxiety, depression, poor sleep, and overall low quality of life. It is also well documented that burnout is more prevalent in women than men. [2] 

The problem I commonly see in clinical practice is that women just keep pushing. They are juggling many balls一work, household duties, children, relationships, ageing parents, the list continues. 

They’re also trying to manage their own health, often starting their day at 5 am with a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) class, because they’ve been told it’s the way to a younger body. And while they persist, they don’t reap the benefits of this type of exercise一often left feeling more fatigued and with extra centimetres around their waist.

You see, while exercise is incredibly important for mood, stress management, weight, hormonal balance, as well as reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer, the type of exercise you partake in is key to your success. [3-6]

Although HIIT studies have revealed favourable results in people with coronary artery disease, heart failure, hypertension, metabolic syndrome and obesity, HIIT can also exacerbate fatigue and burnout. [7,8]

How so? The higher the intensity of training, the more cortisol is released in the body. Cortisol is a hormone that in healthy levels maintains blood glucose and energy levels throughout the day. However, in the presence of prolonged physical or psychological stress, cortisol levels are elevated and can have crippling effects, including fatigue, burnout, anxiety and depression. [9-12]

If you are experiencing burnout, the best thing you can do in terms of exercise is to avoid HIIT. That doesn’t mean avoid exercise altogether though. Recent research out of the Netherlands shows that physical activity is beneficial in overcoming burnout. [13]

Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden suggest a combination of low, moderate, and vigorous exercise improves burnout, stress response, and feelings of depression. This may look like a combination of walking, gardening, swimming, and pilates[14]

Other research reveals the combination of strength and flexibility exercises, such as that gained from pilates, improves burnout and overall sense of wellbeing.[15]

So, tune in and listen to your body. Are you burnout? Do you need to pause HIIT and focus on more low and moderate intensity exercises?

References:

[1] Maslach, C., et al. Understanding the burnout experience: recent research and its implications for psychiatry. World Psychiatry, 2016. 15(2). PMID: 27265691.
[2] Norlund, S., et al. Burnout, working conditions and gender – results from the northern Sweden MONICA Study. BMC Public Health, 2010. PMID: 20534136.
[3] Chan, J.S.Y., et al. Therapeutic Benefits of Physical Activity for Mood: A Systematic Review on the Effects of Exercise Intensity, Duration, and Modality. Journal of Psychology, 2019. 153(1). PMID: 30321106.
[4] Mücke, M., et al. Influence of Regular Physical Activity and Fitness on Stress Reactivity as Measured with the Trier Social Stress Test Protocol: A Systematic Review. Sports Medicine, 2018. 48(11). PMID: 30159718.
[5] Ennour-Idrissi, K., et al. Effect of physical activity on sex hormones in women: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Breast Cancer Research, 2015. PMID: 26541144.
[6] Warburton, D.E.R., et al. Health benefits of physical activity: a systematic review of current systematic reviews. Current Opinion in Cardiology, 2017. 32(5). PMID: 28708630.
[7] O’Leary, T.J., et al. Endurance capacity and neuromuscular fatigue following high- vs moderate-intensity endurance training: A randomized trial. Scandanavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sport, 2017. 27(12). PMID: 28207951.
[8] Weston, K.S., et al. High-intensity interval training in patients with lifestyle-induced cardiometabolic disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2014. 48(16). PMID: 24144531.
[9] Hill, E.E., et al. Exercise and circulating cortisol levels: the intensity threshold effect. Journal of Endocrinological Investigation, 2008. 31(7). PMID: 18787373.
[10] Hannibal, K.E., et al. Chronic Stress, Cortisol Dysfunction, and Pain: A Psychoneuroendocrine Rationale for Stress Management in Pain Rehabilitation. Physical Therapy, 2014. 94(12). PMID: 25035267.
[11] McEwen, B.S., et al. Central effects of stress hormones in health and disease: Understanding the protective and damaging effects of stress and stress mediators. European Journal of Pharmacology, 2008. 583(2-3). PMID: 18282566.
[12] Koutsimani, P., et al. The Relationship Between Burnout, Depression, and Anxiety: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 2019. PMID: 30918490.
[13] Naczenski, L.M., et al. Systematic review of the association between physical activity and burnout. Journal of Occupational Health, 2017. 59(6). PMID: 28993574.
[14] Jonsdottir, I.H., et al. A prospective study of leisure-time physical activity and mental health in Swedish health care workers and social insurance officers. Preventative Medicine, 2010. 51(5). PMID: 20691721.
[15] Bretland, R.D., et al. Reducing workplace burnout: the relative benefits of cardiovascular and resistance exercise. Peer Reviewed & Open Access, 2015. PMID: 25870778.

About the author:
Having been diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure two years prior to conceiving her first child naturally, Georgia’s passion lies within helping women overcome their hormonal imbalances through the blend of conventional and complementary medicine. For additional support, you can contact Georgia via:

IG: georgiahartmann_naturopath

W: www.georgiahartmann.com

E: hello@georgiahartmann.com

Movement

Benefits To Finding Neutral

If you’ve been doing Fluidform or any Pilates for a while, you’ve likely heard the phrase “stay in neutral” numerous times. It might seem simple – but this is one of the most important positions when it comes to your form and technique.

Finding and maintaining neutral through your practice will allow you to transform your body, workout safely and correct your posture.

The main benefits to finding neutral:

  • Allows the right muscles to work, as opposed to the ones that like to overcompensate. When you’re in neutral, the right stabilising muscles have their best opportunity to fire and engage and recruit correctly, making your workout a success.
  • Whether you’re laying down or standing up, neutral spine helps to position your joints to provide minimum stress on the structure of the body. Holding your body in neutral means all the right muscles are working to ease the load that comes with holding your body upright.
  • Improves your overall posture and balance – while you’re moving but also across all aspects of your life. Whether you’re carrying your toddler, desk-bound or spending time sitting in your car – maintaining neutral and becoming aware of the position of your spine will keep your posture and body strong and healthy.