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.
It’s that time of year where we start to reflect on the year which has just been and inevitably plan resolutions for the year ahead. Looking at the statistics on the most popular New Year’s resolutions, it seems that we believe (or possibly are led to believe) that each year we need to do more to be a better version of ourselves with mantras like “Lose Weight”, “Get Fit” or “Spend Less”, essentially adding pressure onto an already long list of things which we should be doing. And whilst I can see the appeal, to me, there is clearly a reason why they all inevitably fail: they do not address any of the reasons why you are already amazing and already a rather excellent version of yourself.
I’ve never believed in New Year’s resolutions but that doesn’t mean I don’t set intentions for the year ahead or reflect on the year which as just been. Like many clients have talked to me about, and even the media has reflected upon, 2016 was a year where the universe decided to throw a lot my way. I positively try to tell myself that maybe it was a year where my soul needed to learn some valuable lessons. Despite loss, grief, death, burglary, car theft, illness, dog attacks and hospital stays, I reflect upon 2016 as a year where a lot of good happened: where I found love and unwavering support, where I learned a lot about myself and found strength from even greater depths, where I learned who my real friends were (they are often the people you least expect) and where I found my calling through the success and wonderful clients I’ve met through Soul Pilates. And for this I offer the universe my utmost gratitude. It’s all too easy to focus on the negatives in our lives but the real essence of joy and positivity for the future comes from finding the things to be grateful for in every situation – and yes sometimes that is really, really hard.
We all know that Pilates is great for us but so is Ballet, put them together and it’s a match made in heaven…….we’ve seen numerous ‘ballet fusion’ workouts pop up, particularly in recent years, so what makes ‘Soul Ballet Barre’ different?
Firstly, I am both a ballet (and dance) teacher and a Pilates instructor so when I was approached to teach a ‘Ballet Barre’ class, I thought long and hard about just what that should entail, especially as I was to be teaching at a designated Pilates studio. I wanted to ensure the class brought all the benefits of both, the safety of the Pilates principles with all the discipline and FUN of Ballet…..
To give you a bit of background, I took ballet classes from the age of 2.5, taking exams in RAD Ballet and continued to study RAD as well as ISTD Ballet during my 3 years at full time dance college. Finishing at age 21, having studied through to the grade known as Advanced 1.
When I was 19, my mum trained as a Pilates Instructor. Already fascinated by the body and movement, I got stuck in to studying alongside her as I lived at home during my college years and took her Pilates classes whenever I could. It was years later, after a 10 year career as a professional dancer that I finally undertook the full Pilates training myself as a way to understand how to protect my body and take these principles not only into the Pilates world, but the dance world as well.
I so often get asked by clients “what Pilates exercises can I do while I'm away?” There’s usually 2 reasons for this:
1 - To stop everything stiffening up: those who have a regular Pilates practice know that feeling after two weeks away when everything doesn’t seem to move like it did when you come back to your first class.
2 - To help you feel body confident while you're away.
I’m writing this as I sit by the pool on the last day of my holiday in Majorca, and for me having a short Pilates routine really helps me to feel good, keeps my energy flowing and generally helps me justify the Sangria I may, or may not, have consumed the night before.
Overall I like to try to stay active on holiday as I don’t find lying by the pool all day, everyday too relaxing. For me it's nice to have time to do the things I can't always fit in when at home, so during my 10 day holiday, I’ve done a few 5.5km (VERY hilly) morning runs, walked to and from places wherever possible, tried to do 30 laps of the pool every other day (I'm not the best swimmer so for me this is a challenge), used a day at the beach to incorporate some Stand Up Paddle Boarding (my thighs hurt for days!) and found a local 11km hike into the hills with spectacular views to get my pulse racing.
As for my Pilates practice, I usually try to condense this into 15 minutes which I do every evening on the balcony before I get ready for dinner. This year I forgot to bring a mat and it occurred to me with just a tiled balcony and a towel for support that there are a lot of exercises which don’t feel too good without the support of a mat, so here are my top exercises to keep everything moving and help you feel even more bikini confident…
When we decided to add a "Barre" class to the timetable we knew we had to find the right teacher. I've done lots of Barre in the past and whilst I loved the burn and toned bum it gave me, I often felt like I wasn't actually learning the strategies to perform the ballet moves in the right way and without putting any undue strain on my body.
At Soul Pilates, finding the strategy to make a movement feel 'easier' is a key part of our offering. Movement shouldn't be hard: if I want to challenge myself I take a solid movement strategy and maybe add some additional load or change my orientation. We move around all the time - we need it to be effortless!
So when Katherine emailed me to say she was a Pilates teacher looking to work for us I jumped at the chance. As a professional dancer and dance teacher, with a background in Ballet, as well as a Pilates instructor I knew we were onto a good thing.