By Nic Conroy, Studio Founder & Lead Instructor
This summer I was approach by Hadrian Stiff, Director & Founder at Elite Squash to teach Pilates to some his clients during their summer break in Bristol. Hadrian coaches a number of elite squash players, including the current World Number 1 and has an amazing, holistic approach to get the best out of the best.
One philosophy I live by is ‘efficiency’. If we can walk through life with the most ease for the greatest output then this has to be a good thing right? What if I said “you can do less, and achieve more”? This so often goes against everything we’ve been taught in life: “No pain, no gain". But actually working with Hadrian has cemented my view because this is exactly his approach and he’s working with top flight athletes who are hugely successful at what they do.
My first thought when asked to teach his players was “what on earth can I teach these guys, they are the creme-de-la-creme of their sport?”. But it turns out that even top flight professional athletes have movement patterns which aren’t as efficient as they could be. This can lead to injuries or just feeling more achy after a long tournament which means they don’t go into their next tournament feeling on top form.
I worked with a number of players over the summer, and am continuing with my work with them this Autumn and here are the benefits I’ve seen from their work in the Pilates studio.
Ease of Movement
We want movement to feel easy and smooth. Bringing the mind into the body, and the body into the mind, is a huge part of this experience. Often we are so driven by our head that we fail to notice what the body is feeling, what it is sensing. Being asked to describe a feeling, to notice a feeling, to be given time to check in with yourself pre-and-post session is a huge part of this journey to learn and sense how we 'feel'.
Often we stay in the head asking ourselves things like, “what muscle is this working”, “what should I be engaging” - this isn’t the point. When we move, whether it’s to play top level sport or walking down the street we don’t tell our bodies to “engage this glute to move this leg” we just have the aim of walking to get somewhere. This is even more prevalent in any sport or high intensity activity - you’re so focused on your game, or your run that you will fail to check in with your posture, your movement or the strategy to move more easily.
Posture is not something we can consciously control. We need it to just be there. Our bodies really do want to be efficient but sometimes they need a little re-calibrating to realise that movement can be easy. In order for the nervous system to recalibrate, it needs to have time to sense the patterns it’s learned so that it can start to pick up these new patterns and next time it’s asked to walk down the street, walk up the stairs or play the biggest game of its life it just finds the efficiency.
Improved Squat & Lunge Patterns
Squats are a bit of a buzz word in terms of functional movement and really something we should all be looking to improve. A deep squat is an incredibly efficient rest position for our bodies - just look at a toddler and you’ll see this is how they bend down and stay in one place - it’s the easiest way for their joints to rest. But a lifetime of sitting and staying away from these patterns means that for most people squats and lunges feel really tricky which results in the body compensating to achieve the aim.
And when it comes to Squash, where when you spend a good chunk of your game lunging to reach those low shots they matter even more. And here is where we spend time focusing on the pelvis. Where is it, how it moves, where do muscles connect and how do we use movement to create space and efficiency.
By Nic Conroy, Studio Founder
We love to see you working on what you've learned in your sessions at home. Here are some handy reminders on the key points we're looking for in each of these exercises.
By Andrea Jones, Soul Pilates Instructor
Learning a new skill can be a daunting prospect. Not only do you have to put yourself in a very vulnerable position of admitting that you know absolutely nothing about something, but you also have to be willing to try things that may make you feel very uncomfortable.
There's a model in psychology* used to explain the stages of learning and acquiring any new skill; the process you have to go through to get good at something.
The last 5 years of my life have been an ongoing example of this model which goes something like this:
STAGE 1: UNCONSCIOUS INCOMPETENCE
This is all of us at the beginning of any new endeavor. Unaware of just how not good we are at it.
By Studio Founder & Lead Instructor Nic
We are passionate about moving, about HOW you move and about how you FEEL about moving.
So we decided to put on a full day of free classes, postural assessments and 1-to-1s to celebrate movement with you.
We had over 90 people attend the day and it was amazing to see so many old and new faces trying out some tried and tested class formats and some brand new such as PHIIT - combining Pilates with High Intensity moves.
Thank you to everyone who attended, I am looking forward to getting to know you more.
Some of our favourite feedback from the day....
By Nic Conroy, Studio Founder
What’s brought you here today? Are you looking to be toned, to be thinner, maybe it’s to not be in pain or are you seeking a bigger (or a smaller) bum…?
When I was in the planning for the opening of the Soul Pilates studio three years ago, I looked around at the wider industry and these were the kinds of messages I was constantly bombarded with. And, from a marketing point of view this is the kind of message that sells. People mostly want to be a better version of themselves it seems. But this wasn't my vision and it wasn’t my reality.
Rewind 8 years and I was living in Leeds as a Digital Director for a prestigious marketing agency. I drove a convertible, ran for my train in sky scraper heels, flew between Leeds and Geneva for meetings, went to the gym almost every day and weighted 2 stone more than I do now.
Now I can reflect and see that I was unfulfilled and living an incredibly stressed out life. But I didn’t see it like that then. I thought I was living the life I’d always worked for. I was a girl with good grades who was always going to go to university and have a big career - and I did: prestigious clients, dinners at 3 star Michelin restaurants, generous clients entertainment budgets to spend and have fun with, nights out until 3am and up again at 6am for a run before presenting at a board meeting. II’ll admit it was fun at times, but it was understandably exhausting now I look back and I constantly felt burnt out, yet frustrated at myself for being, too tired to cope with this life. “Surely other people could manage better than I was?” was something I often told myself.
There are certain parts of the body that always get more attention than others.
The pelvic floor (especially in the female demographic) is definitely a popular area of discussion in pilates, yoga and physical therapy. This is a good thing as so many women and men suffer from pelvic floor issues.
There are whole practices dedicated specifically to pelvic floor health. In pre and post natal pilates sessions it’s very common that the pelvic floor is the central focus ensuring the muscles are strong and well co-ordinated.
In contrast to this, I have also taught thousands of women that have left the hospital after having had a baby or pelvic surgery, with the instructions to 'do their pelvic floor exercises'- with absolutely no clue what that actually means, other than stopping the flow of water?!
In this blog, I aim to give you more support around how to train your pelvic floor to improve continence, pelvic and lower back support, balance, flexibility and even force absorption!
Studio Founder Nic talks through her home birth and trusting her instincts and her body in the face of induction of labour for being overdue.
“I must strengthen my core”, “my physio told me I have a weak core”, “my back hurts so I need to do sit-ups to strengthen my core” - these must be some of the sentences I hear the most as my role as an Instructor at Soul Pilates. And the outcome that most clients end up with is to think (or actually start acting on) that they must do a million sit ups EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. to fix their back.
So what is this infamous ‘core’, why does it need strengthening and how the hell do you strengthen it? Your 'Core' is your tummy right? Well… actually the abdominal area is only part of the core story…
Not many of us can continue to run every day and stay fit at the same time. Running has the tendency to put considerable stress on joints and lead to all manners of pain and aches if you’re not careful. The repetitive movement involved can be brutal, especially as you age and your bones become weaker. This is where Pilates can better condition your body to deal with this stress.
Pilates is a functional routine that is all about strengthening the core. It improves your stability, flexibility and allows you to be in total control of your body’s movements. Read on to learn how and why Pilates benefits runners.
There is a common misconception that horse riding requires little effort with many people believing that the rider merely sits while the horse does all the work. This could not be further from the truth and horse riding is a great way to develop a strong core and build strength in the legs, glutes and back. The body is strengthened through a rider’s need to balance and control the horse. Many athletes use Pilates as a way to improve their overall fitness levels. In this article we look at how Pilates will benefit horse riders.
The muscle groups most affected by horse riding are those around the pelvic and hip joints. Popular horse magazine Horse & Hound spoke to Pilates expert Lindsay Wilcox-Reid about the effects of riding on the body. She told the magazine “you may not even be aware of this, yet the far-reaching effects through your back and shoulders can cause twisting, tilting and an inability to maintain an elastic contact.” In her article on Pilates exercises riders could try at home, she went on to explain how a few simple warm up exercises for Pilates could help: “these preparatory exercises are designed to be used before starting Pilates to ‘normalise’ your fundamental pelvic and spinal mechanics.” Lindsay Wilcox-Reid instructs the readers on two exercises that focus on the glutes and piriformis muscles at the side of the hip. Both these muscle groups benefit hugely from Pilates as they can get overused and potentially injured during riding.