PROGRESS - rough, ugly and never linear!

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PROGRESS!

When my son was born 6 1/2 years ago I reckon I would have said I’d be doing events like in the photos above in no time.  I was strong, I had trained through my pregnancy, I had a good base and I felt great.  If I could just ignore and push through all the niggles and sicknesses and constant exhaustion I would be fine.  Everything would be fine, it’s all fine isn’t it?


Well no it wasn’t, I was slowly crumbling and instead of listening to what my body was trying to tell me I just pushed on until I hit a wall, and once I could function no more, that’s when I finally stopped and listened.  It was 3 years until I got moving again with any purpose.  Three years of bouncing from one alternative therapist to another working on diet, gut health, immune health, gentle physical support with manual therapy and also trying to sleep and rest as much as possible.

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In the last 2 1/2 years I’ve been building myself back up from a point of actually feeling more healed.  It’s not a quick process, nor is it easy.  There’s no quick fix, no bounce back, no “if I could just be ….. sleeping 8 hours a night/drinking less/weigh a stone less/once the kids are in school/out of nappies/given up the dummy etc etc etc” it’s a process that moves with you through all those ups and downs, adapting and blending with the tussles of your life, a process in which you figure out how you can now move with the life and body you have right now.

This year I started running again.  I haven’t run and enjoyed it much before, and entering a 10k was quite a challenge especially as I got injured fairly soon after entering.  However what I did do is strength train a lot - rehab every day, strength circuits every other day, glute strength work every other day and walking in the hills with my dog 4 times a week.  I could only run for longer than 3 minutes at a time 2 weeks before the run but it didn’t affect me as much as I thought because running is so much more than running - it’s how your body works as a whole, it’s how you breathe, it’s how your glutes and hams and pelvic floor all work together.  

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This weekend I entered the 4km River Arun swim, a swim that goes with the tidal flow with 500 participants all on a mass start.  I had panicked quite a lot about it before the race, that my wetsuit was too tight, that I wouldn’t be able to breathe properly, that I hadn’t trained enough to swim that far.  All the panicking got me through, the psyche before the race helped spur me on and in the end I had a lovely, smooth swim for 1 hour and 4 mins.

My point is progress isn’t fast, it’s definitely not linear and it sure as hell isn’t smooth.  It’s rough and ugly, filled with tears and pain and anguish, you need help and support from those around you and those in the know and you need to believe in your power.  I definitely lost faith for a good while there but I’m here to tell you now, I thought I couldn’t do this again, I thought I was too broken to push myself hard again, but I can and I did, and I loved it!

Period Power

This week in class I had two conversations with clients that got me thinking about our knowledge around our own bodies. I always encourage my clients to be the advocates of their own health especially, of course, when it comes to pelvic floor dysfunction and any musculoskeletal issues, however I realised this week the scale of the issue when we consider our menstrual cycle as well. 


One client was complaining of severe period pains keeping her up at night - ironic as her baby was now sleeping better - which was a new issue since she had her first baby 14 months ago, and the other has had long standing issues with not being listened to about the pain she experiences with endometriosis and limited treatment prospects offered, mainly “let’s whip out your uterus, that’ll solve everything”!!!

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Thankfully this week I also got Maisie Hill’s new book “Period Power” https://www.maisiehill.com

https://amzn.to/2LEDdL9

which is “the handbook to periods and hormones that will leave you wondering why the hell nobody told you this sooner”.  I LOVE this book, it’s loaded with science backed information and age old wisdom alike (also mainly because there is such a shockingly limited amount of research into “women issues”), it goes carefully through each part of your cycle and also the areas that could be of concern - changing phases in life, and “when things fall apart”.


When it comes to exercise it’s important that we all listen to our bodies and our response to various stressors in life to work out what’s energising you and what’s draining you.  Sometimes we can’t avoid the drains, but we do have a choice when it comes to exercise and that can change week by week in our cycle.  I have certainly noticed that on the 4th day before my period starts I have a limited amount of energy, I can do just what’s needed and little else, that’s my day to take a lie down when I have a spare 15 minutes as often I just need to get off my feet and let my body rest even if just for a short time.  I also notice that I’m much more unstable in the days around the start of my period and so any strength work I do then is based on stabilising and supporting not on stretching or really pushing it.  This is my experience, it may not be yours, we all have different balances of oestrogen and progesterone as well as other androgenic and stress hormones that will affect us and how we respond.  My greatest tip in this area is to get tracking.  You can use a period tracker app on your phone or just the notes section, I use “Period Tracker” but there is also Flo, Clue and Eve which seem to be similar - the important thing is being able to actually record various factors really easily - your cycle, your mood, your feelings, your activity level response, your energy, possibly your temperature and your cervical fluids if you are interested in getting pregnant or avoiding it.  


Another brilliant app is Fitr Woman: https://www.fitrwoman.com  which is especially designed to help women get more from their training by recording their cycle and then giving training plans and nutritional tips to get the best results. If you are serious about your training this is the app for you.


In the first phase of your cycle - “Winter” when you are having your period - exercise helps to reduce symptoms from cramps and keeping moving feels much better for most of us than staying still.  You may not feel like doing anything too heavy, I’d strongly suggest keeping away from the heavy weights, HIIT sessions or Crossfit, but something very nourishing like a walk in nature especially with someone you love will help you to pass this time without depleting yourself.  As I mentioned above, it’s a time to focus on rest and recuperation so do as your body feels and don’t get frustrated by it - all your gains are made next week.  If you are in serious strength training, your needs may be different, you may want to keep lifting and training hard.  Strength capacity is potentially not affected but your response may need to be monitored to check you are not causing further depletion.


“Spring” or your Warrioress phase: this is the time to go for it, you will have a greater training capacity and can make greater gains with more energy, less muscle fatigue and an easier recovery.  This is the week to do HIIT sessions, more intense weights sessions and so on and you may also feel more like doing multiple activities in a day.


“Summer” phase: in the 3rd week (ish) of your cycle from pre-ovulation to a few days after, this is a changing time when you feel full of beans and ready to run that 10k challenge or do 3 circuits of that HIIT class you sometimes struggle with, however around your ovulation it has been shown that ligament laxity can increase offering a potential for injury if you are doing, for example, a trail run on downhill paths or a football/rugby game on a grass pitch.  Just something to watch out for, maybe laxity might be something you would notice and track if you are susceptible to mobile joints or pain related to instability.


“Autumn” phase or your Sorcoress phase: this is the part of your cycle helping you to go inward, connecting to yourself, nature and spirituality and you might notice yourself detaching and withdrawing.  Tracking your feelings and responses may help you to monitor this so that you don’t feel like a highly depressive crazy person or a hermit who doesn’t actually like people - this is completely normal, and understanding what’s normal for you is the important thing.  You may be fine about exercising just as you like, you may find this is a good week for you to keep some consistency, however it is also a week to really notice and feel your responses as you may feel sluggish which might mean yoga, swimming and brisk, invigorating walk outside, or really getting lost in dancing to some music you really connect to is the best thing for you.  As I mentioned above, my experience of this phase is that I need to rest well to get the best out of myself and that rest can help for the following phases of your cycle as well.


I hope you found this very brief guide useful and interesting, I’d love to hear your comments and own experiences, especially if this is new information to you and like my clients you’ve just thought you ought to just “push on through”.  I encourage you to take back the power of your cycle now!

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How does your movement practice serve you?

When clients come to see me and they want to start progressing their strength and build on what they learn in class I always suggest doing some work at home.  Fairly obviously most people don’t have time or the money or the energy to come to a class daily and I don’t think that would be great for you anyway.  What I do think helps is chipping away at strength foundations every day if that’s possible for you. I definitely don’t mean for an hour every day, and I definitely don’t mean an intense session more than 3 times a week, maybe even less. 

What to consider when starting/committing to a movement practice:

1) Know Yourself! Personally I really struggle with high intensity exercise - maybe I used up all my intense sessions when I was rowing and doing CrossFit and I’ve got none left now? If you respond well and feel great after intense sessions, that’s great, monitor the best response you get from your body with how many per week suits you - 4 may be too many and leave you depleted, 1 may be too few as it may make you feel a bit sluggish in each session. Again this is my personal experience:  I do respond well to strength workouts, I am slightly hypermobile so I need more strength than anything else (hence Pilates and not yoga for me). Some women come in and talk to me saying they do circuits or running or something similar and feel a bit wobbly and are in pain afterwards, or drained and exhausted but don’t recognise this. At the time I was doing it, Crossfit was not a good workout system for me, I would get constantly injured and feel sore and depleted for days after each session.

2) Does your routine serve you well? If you are recently post-natal or coming out of the pre-school years and now wanting to focus on yourself, monitor how your pelvic floor, abdominals and any shoulder and back pain responds to the new exercise/movement regime. If you are in pain or have issues with leaking or a pooch tummy, don’t accept this as your new normal or just how it will be because of having babies, your movement practice should serve to strengthen and benefit you, helping you to build foundations in the right way, not in a more depleting way causing any further issues. If you start leaking, feel more weak in your centre, have lasting shoulder, neck or back pain and aren’t able to move well in your daily life, take some time to think about your movement practice and whether there might be something there that isn’t working for you.

3) “Listen to the whispers so you don’t have to hear the shouts”!!  After years of struggling to find the right way, I’ve built, over time, better foundations, which I continue to work on all the time: breathing, pelvic floor awareness, rib mobility, spine elongation, glute strength, and now I can build overall strength and dynamics on top of that. Take care not to go in hard straight away, getting over enthused by being unleashed into the world of movement after feeling like your body belongs to someone else for a few years. I totally understand the thinking, it feels so good to move, but this is also a moveable feast, your response to movement will change daily, weekly, monthly and so some exercise will suit you one day and feel all kinds of wrong the next. Of course our menstrual cycle affects that, as well as the physical demands we have from others day to day, as a woman ending her child bearing life phase and moving on to the next we also have influences from post-birthing and feeding hormones as well as the coming peri-menopause symptoms. You may have to become more aware of your needs and responses as you go on.

4) What to do and how often? My personal commitment and what works for me is to do a max 10 minute glute mini workout often in front of the TV in the evening or between working on admin stuff during the day and then 2-3 longer workouts like this one ☝🏼 each week. I’ll do my rehab stuff as often as possible too (there’s always something needing doing) and I run with my dog, as long as I’m not injured, twice a week - this is often a walk and not a run, always on trails and hilly or rough ground. This works for me as I know I can fit in at least 2 longer sessions each week on days that I work less, and I know that if I don’t do some extra glute work through the week, my hips and back get achy and tired, and I need the correct support from my core to be able to move, sit while working for long periods, and do my job. The running happens if I can because I might as well use the time I walk my dog to do a bit of extra sweating. I put no pressure on myself with this, running is not my natural thing, but I do love the enjoyment of moving faster than walking, sweating and pushing myself a bit.

When you are looking at this you may think, “oh I could never do something every day” or “I could never do 2 longer sessions, I just don’t have the time”, so this is where you look at what time you do have, what you’d really love to do, who you could ask to support you to be able to choose that option (see previous blog post) and maybe what you might have to give up to make that commitment. Often if we look at it, there are slack times in our day when we don’t need to spend half an hour scrolling Instagram ( yes, me too, it’s a sap!) or an hour watching TV in the evening - actually a useful time to consciously move. I’ve had good responses with women willing to do a short circuit while cooking dinner in the evening - the trick here is being prepared so you’re at least in comfortable clothes ready to move when you have the opportunity.

5) Values - in the end your choice of movement comes down to your values for yourself. Where do you want to get to? What does your future look like and your ideal week of movement entail if time and money were no object? Moving in a nourishing way is a show of self-love, loving yourself enough to honour the adventure that you and your body have been in through your life, showing yourself how brilliant you are for housing, nourishing and nurturing another human and giving yourself the space to rebuild with all that you have experienced inside you now.

Have you found your way with your workout/exercise/sport/movement routine? Are you struggling to work things out? Do you want help and to find a way?

As a post-natal corrective exercise specialist I see women 1-1 in both my studio in Sussex and online from anywhere in the world, get in touch to chat over your needs and how I can help you.

What do you really need ... and how to get it

Image courtesy of: Catie Atkinson, Spiritysol

Image courtesy of: Catie Atkinson, Spiritysol

Writing this from my breakfast table on the terrace outside the lovely holiday house we rented in Tenerife, its a funny thing to be thinking about “needs”.  This particularly phase of life is pretty near perfect - husband around for a whole 8 days, plenty of sunshine, kids happily playing safely and we have miraculously found somewhere with 2 other children the same age as ours for them to be entertained by.  However, the reality is this escapist week is the tonic to our full tilt lives, with my husband commuting for nearly 4 hours each day, me teaching 16 classes a week plus all the extra admin and life stuff, and our kids doing after school activities on all but 1 weekday.  I have had a few new clients recently coming in talking about how they’d like to be doing more to help themselves get stronger, but they just can’t find the time, or my client who hasn’t had a full nights sleep in 4 1/2 years whilst her husband has not helped out.  One of the most powerful tools I learnt that helped me break through the cycle of needing - feeling unfulfilled - feeling resentful - expressing anger - was the realisation that I could ask for what I needed and those who were able to support wanted to help.  Most of the issue as a Mum who has her finger on the pulse of everything in the household is that we don’t let go easily.  Think of the last time you went out for a bit and left your partner in charge - did you micro-manage the entire time so they had food, things to do, washing already done and clothes already laid out?  Or did you just leave the house?  For those with little kids I suspect the answer is the former, I know I wasn’t alone!

Asking for support with what we need is a fundamental change of tack for a previously independent woman who didn’t really need someone else’s help just so she could go to do some food shopping alone, or buy a nice top for a party so she felt good about herself.  I believe learning how to express what we need and want can change our own lives and of those around us.

I learnt through the One Of Many coaching system that writing a “needs creed” is the first step, so here I am passing that tool on to you. 

Write out a list of all the things you need/want/desire  - anything and everything from water, fresh air, daily movement, a massage, an evening out with girlfriends, a good book, 8 hours sleep, going for a walk by yourself, regular sex, an evening spent talking with your partner, individual time with your kids, going to see a therapist because you need some extra help, getting a cleaner etc etc.  You can write as much as you can possibly think about and in no particular order to begin with.  Then divide your list into “essential needs”, “wants” and “desires” - your essentials are those things that you would not feel complete and fulfilled without, for example, it might be essential to you that you are able to take one evening a month to chat to or connect with your best friends in some way and without that you’d feel adrift, or moving in your most nourishing, chosen way at least 3 times a week otherwise you’ll feel sluggish and foggy.  You shouldn’t feel that anything is a luxury and not really a need or that you feel selfish writing these down - if you feel that is what makes you, you and you wouldn’t feel your whole self without it then it’s a need.  Your “wants” are things that are slightly down on that list, for example, a new top to help you feel better about your breastfeeding boobs, or a massage once a month, these are things you can get by without but you may spend your time feeling resentful if you are not able to make room in your life for them.  Your desires might be things that are visions for the future, or wants that you have for the way you will be living.  Not “once I lose 5kgs I will ...” but things like “I need 8 hours sleep, our baby hasn’t slept through yet, I don’t think it’ll happen tomorrow, it might take a while, how do we get there?” Aim towards the positive desires rather than negative outcomes - I want to feel healthier, not I want to be slimmer - then your goal orientation will always be positive rather than negative.

Once you have your list, the fun begins, this is where you get to involve others.  Write next to each need/want/desire what that looks like to you - eg. Water - 6 pints every day (especially if you’re breastfeeding), sleep - in bed by 9:30, lights out at 10pm every night, movement - that yoga class you love every Saturday morning, or that online workout programme you’ve been considering that’ll cost £20 a month.  Then work out who can help you with this and ASK them.  Sleep is the most fundamental, important and potentially contentious one here, if you are up in the night with babies, up at the crack of dawn with them as well and then have to entertain them during the day and your partner comes home at 8pm preferring you to eat together when he/she is back, and then he/she will watch TV and chat with you until at least 10/11pm and so you don’t get into bed until 11:30/12pm, this is a pattern that is not serving you.  You and your partner have different needs, and whilst I sympathise with wanting to connect together at the end of the day, there are other ways to do this other than eating late together and going to bed late together.  Talk to your partner about what you need “I need to get more sleep, I’m so tired, and feeling depleted” then show them what they can do to help “I would love it if you could help me by encouraging me to go to bed at 9:30pm, it would help me feel so good and happy” and how this could work “I would like to eat dinner with the kids so that I’m not eating late, then I’d love to sit and chat about our days when you eat later on” then check in if that could work for them “what do you think, how would that work for you?”

No-one would refuse you this, the people around you want to help, would love to facilitate an easier life for you, and need the specifics - no more assuming they will “just know” or wondering why they can’t just tell what you need!  Do you need time to go to a class each week? Who can help - a Mum friend, a neighbour, a relative, your partner - you never know until you ask, try it out, adapt as you go along, you are not alone.  It does take a village to raise a child, sometimes it’s not obvious what that village looks like, or who is in your particular village, and sometimes you need to build it, but it’s there.

All that junk!

Fergie working it with Will.i.am in the “My Humps” official video

Fergie working it with Will.i.am in the “My Humps” official video

So many songs have been written about the shape of a woman’s derriere we can be reminded fairly frequently that having some “junk in your trunk” is a good way to go.  Whether your butt is big or small the most important thing is that the muscles within work really well as those muscles are pretty central to everything else that happens in the body.  As a Mum the tendency is for our butt muscles to sag (let’s face it, everything else is!!) and “Mum Bum” becomes an actual reality, often accompanied by low back pain, pelvic floor weakness and posture changes through the rest of the body.  Now I don’t care what your butt or mine looks like, what I care about is that the flat look indicates underused muscles and when your buttocks are underused your whole system is not working cohesively - your buttocks are 3 set of gluteal muscles, plus a number of deep hip rotators in the pelvis most recognisably, collectively called your “glutes” and they attach in and across the pelvis and out to the hip joint, also connecting with the fascia (connective tissue) of the quad, hamstring and hip flexor muscles and upwards they connect with the fascia of the lower back, core system and large shoulder organising/moving muscles of the lats.  Plus very importantly when in comes to the movement Mums do and need to do on the daily, the glutes/deep hip rotators are completely connected with the pelvic floor - tight glutes = tight pelvic floor / weak glutes = weak pelvic floor.  In general terms we know that all muscles in the body are connected but the glutes/buttock muscles drive movement up into the trunk and upper body and down through the hip, knee and into your ankle.  So if you have a weak ankle that often rolls, look to strengthen the glutes, and if you have a clunky, hard to strengthen shoulder, look to work on exercises that strengthen both the glutes and shoulders together keeping in mind the fascial connection between the 2 areas.  

When it comes to the pelvic floor and the glutes connection, there are 3 things you can consider:

  1. How do you stand?  The standard playground posture for Mums is hips swayed forwards, knees locked back and ribcage dropped back and down - when you’re tired and this is your 4000th trip to the park that week you go into energy saving mode which means hanging off your hips.  The problem is to do this posture your glutes stay squeezed on all the time and they are not those sorts of muscles, they don’t like being switched on all the time so they get weakened by holding that position.  When we stand with hips pressed forwards it also means the pelvic floor is locked on and unable to relax or contract. 

  2. How you use your glutes.  As I’ve said above, the most important thing with the glutes is whether you are “switching them on and off”. Your glute muscles work best - and that means support your body and help it function well - when they go from some stretch to some contraction.  To really wake the glutes up we need to stretch them in all directions they can go: twist, lengthen and flex, and then contract them in all ways.  During strengthening exercises and movements we need to set the body up so that the pelvis is in a “neutral” position to be able to help the glutes lengthen and then work and we work the whole buttock muscle group in 3 dimensions as frequently as possible - think of the actions football and rugby players do around a pitch: side to side, sprinting fast, jogging slow, one leg standing, jumping and diving.  I’m not saying that’s the only way to get good working glutes, but if you only work your muscles by going forwards to stand/sit, walk, occasionally jog and also stand with poor posture, your glutes are not going to be working optimally.

  3. Glutes = pelvic floor. If you go to squat, sit on a chair or the toilet, walk up stairs, bend down to load the dishwasher, pick up toys from the floor, or go to pick your kids up you are using your glutes/pelvic floor over and over again.  As we now know from all the above, we want our glutes to work well when we do use them so that means going through the squat movement with a fairly “neutral” spine, hinging at the hip joint instead of tucking the pelvis under (which would be the pelvis moving rather than the hip joint) and then lengthening through the back of the legs and glutes while you bend down/squat/sit which gets the glutes/pelvic floor in the right place to work strongly as you stand up.  This is especially important if you are holding a load - a large, screaming toddler for example - as you don’t want your pelvic floor to be in a weak position causing leaking, or for it to tighten up too much as a reaction to poor patterning so while the pressure builds up in your abdominal cavity it presses down on your pelvic floor causing you to be susceptible to prolapse.

If you have low back pain, can feel tightness or weakness in your pelvic floor, or get aches and pains in your hips, knees and feet, making glute strengthening (with the right form) a priority will be a major part of your rehab, preferably under guidance.

Breathing for mind and body!

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When it comes to breathing in running it would seem simple enough that you just breath and your breathing gets bigger as you need more oxygen through exertion.  However, how many times have you got a stitch, felt some weakness in your pelvic floor, or felt that you don’t have enough breath left in you to keep going?  These are all symptoms of a problematic breathing pattern and you can do something about it really easily.

Why is breathing correctly so important? 

  1. Full breath = more oxygen - pretty obvious but the more of your lungs you use the more oxygen you get in and so the more your muscles have available to use up.  Often I find runners will breath into the upper part of their lungs and use their shoulders to heave their upper ribs up and down which creates a shallow, short breath, this is fine if you’re sprinting shorter distances but not if you’re running a 10k or marathon.

  2. Diaphragm and Pelvic Floor (PF) need to work together.  Your diaphragm is a large sheet of muscle sitting and curving with the base of the ribcage and attaching into your spine, and your pelvic floor is a set of different muscles that all sling like a hammock between the bony parts of the base of the pelvis and spine.  The pelvic floor muscles and the diaphragm mirror each other and work most effectively and completely when they mirror each other exactly both in alignment (being over the top of each other on the same plane) and movement pattern.  When we breath out the diaphragm draws up and this is mirrored by the pelvic floor drawing up, and as we breath in and the diaphragm comes down opening the ribs out to the sides, the PF also draws down between the bony landmarks of the pelvis giving a feeling of expansion or release.  In this way the PF works in the most effective way, allowing for the management of pressure in the abdominal cavity - if your PF and diaphragm work in opposites to each other (with the PF pushing down on the breath out) then the pressure in your abdominal cavity is increasing and pressure going into the PF can be hard to manage possibly resulting in PF dysfunction, leaking or potential to prolapse.  

  3. Breathing from the base of the pelvis helps to connect with the lower abs as well as reducing pressure in the abdominal cavity.  Place one hand on your lower abs, and one hand on your upper abs and then breath heavy enough to be able to feel the movement of your belly while your breathing.  As mentioned above, it’s important for your PF to move down during the breath in and draw up on the breath out, you want to feel that the hand on your lower abs moves before your hand over your upper abs, drawing inwards.  The cue I use is “breathing out from the base of your pelvis”.  When you do this you are helping to manage the pressure in your abdomen again so that it doesn’t get pushed out to the wrong places (forwards or down) and helps your PF to connect with the lower part of the deep abdominal muscles below the belly button.  

  4. Reduce strain on the shoulders.  As mentioned in point 1, runners often breath by heaving their shoulders up and down, by the end of a run you may find you have neck and shoulder aches and strain which can be quite tiring and require you to do something to soothe your aching shoulders!

What’s the solution?

  1. Think of breathing 360 degrees all the way round the base of your ribcage imagining your ribs are like bucket handles lifting up and out to the sides, so you are not just breathing to the front but sides and back of your ribs as well.  You need to also think of feeling your ribs expanding out to the back of your body as well so mobility in this area is important - how do you get that?  More back body breathing of course!

  2. When you’re at rest get used to practicing the movement of your PF and diaphragm so that they move synchronously up together on the breath out and down together on the breath in.  When you feel you’ve got that well practised, use the same breath pattern in all strength exercises you do and then also when you are moving dynamically.  Running might be the last step in that progression particularly if you’re having difficulty with it.

  3. As in step 2 practice breathing from the base of your pelvis when at rest, then when doing strength exercises - supine lying, on hands and knees, sitting and then standing would normally be the progression for this as standing is the most complicated, but not always with all people.  Then progress to dynamic movement, always feeling the breath from the base of the spine.

  4. If you are doing all the above you will be focussing on breathing down and low which is great and will release the strain on your shoulders.  Think of your shoulders as an American Football players shoulder pad frame that sits on top of your ribcage, unconnected to your ribs and so you are able to breath underneath your shoulders without involving them.

I hope all these points help you to breath with more control and more comfortably, able to run for longer and potentially faster!  

Let me know what you think, if you have any questions and if you have tried out these points and have any comments.

“Something’s got to give"

This week a client messaged me to say she had loads of work to do, and then used the phrase “Something’s go to give” so she was cancelling her class with me that week.  When I next saw her and we talked about it she said she’d had to cancel her swimming lesson that week too and that her 4 1/2 year old had had a terrible fortnight of poor sleep since the clocks went back too, while furthermore she said he has not slept through the night yet in his whole life, and she has been up with him every single night, her husband only did 1 night when their son was 18 months old and that’s it.

It got me thinking about why the answer to the problem of terminal exhaustion, work overload, and taking the brunt of the emotional load of the household is to drop what nourishes you and makes you feel like you - why is it not “please can you help me” to a friend, or “can you give me some extra time today by taking the kids in” to your partner?  Why is it that what gives is us? We have to be the one that yields to others, that bows to the pressures of the household, and capitulates without question.  I’m not suggesting we should never yield and should make our lives even more complicated by continuing on with all the plates we have to spin just so we are not conceding to others, however, we would have a greater sense of wellbeing if, as a result of asking for help and support now and then, we were able to have 1/2 hour of breathing time to do nothing, to keep consistent with our movement and self-care practice or take some time in nature to nourish our senses mindfully.  

I have seen and taught too many women over the years who have come to class literally on the edge, tense, exhausted and anxious, who burst into tears when they can’t understand instructions about exercises because their brains just can’t take one more thing.  These are women who have full time jobs and babies and toddlers to care for then something has tipped them over like managing their baby starting at nursery, a child with allergies having reactions, their partner away on business for 2 weeks, or a sick parent some distance away.  At times like that we need to be prepared to reach out, to have a friend, colleague or relative that we have set up in better times to give us support.  Try them out on easier occasions with plenty of notice, see how it feels to ask for help and their reaction to being asked, you can then create a network - a village to help you spread the burden when the proverbial hits the fan.

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You are the wonder woman who keeps the house together, don’t take that lightly, think as if you are the Queen, all those in your realm would do everything to keep you/The Crown working well for many, many years.  Wear that crown with honour your majesty!

How not to hurt yourself when you run!

I hear from many women (myself included at one point), that they are worried about running because they don’t trust their pelvic floor, or they can’t run very much before it all going a bit pear shaped.  I get that, I wasn’t sure my pelvic floor would hold either, but now I know that you can start running whenever you like or whenever you need to without worry because if you set yourself up well you’ll be using your body efficiently so your pelvic floor will be in the right place. 

“But surely my pelvic floor is always in the same place, how can it be in the right or wrong place?” - ah well that’s the thing, the way we stand, walk, go up and down stairs, get out of a chair and run can all influence whether our pelvic floor is in a position where it can do it’s job well or in a position that there’s not a hope in hell it could hold on and so most likely it won’t!  So let’s set you up right and then off you go!

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  • Ideally I would have you take a photo of yourself side on so you can see the curves of your spine - if not a photo, at least stand side on to a mirror and take a look.

  • Our spine has natural curves from the joint between our skull and neck curving slightly forward, the area around the back of our ribs curving slightly back and then a low curve behind our pelvis which curves forward again.  In some people these gentle curves can become exaggerated and a head forward posture leads to an increased upper back curve and increased lower back curve to balance all the way through.  In others the spine can be very flat through the upper half and with a steeper curve in the low back to compensate.  In others, and this is more common in post-natal women, the curve in the low back travels up to behind the belly button and either their butt sticks out or, more commonly they tuck their bottom under to compensate for the excessive curve higher up.

  • So when you look at your spine, what do your curves look like?

  • When you’re standing, walking, running and all the rest of your daily movements you want to think about keeping your ribs connected to the pelvis at the front.  In 99% of my clients we focus on ribs down - this is through expanding your back as well as connecting through your front.  So when you walk and go to start running keep your ribs dropped down so you have that connection and control set up right.

  • Then check in with where your pelvis is, if it’s stuck out you’re going to have problems with the impact of running on your low back, and if it’s tucked under - surprisingly common! - you’ll have problems with your pelvic floor struggling to hold strong enough with the weight of your trunk going down through your pelvis. Start from the ribs and then you may find the pelvis stacks correctly underneath.

  • What about your head?  Remember your head is pretty heavy, if you run with your head stuck out forwards that’s going to increase the slump down through your upper back and make it heavy to keep picking up each step - like holding a bowling ball in your arm all the time!  So keep your chin tucked slightly and back of your neck long so your head and ribs are all in a line.

  • As you start to run, make sure you drive your legs back out behind you each step instead of scooting your feet forwards.  It helps if you start from where your foot lands - make it mid or fore foot instead of heel which means you are best to strike the floor almost under your body rather than out in front.

  • Last thing - arms - do they swing across your body or do you use your arms forwards and back like pistons to help propel you.  If you are doing the cross body swinging thing you are potentially lacking mobility in your upper back to get enough counter rotation to your pelvis - ie. your pelvis and ribcage should rotate opposite to each other each step - but if you don’t get enough of this then your arms have to swing to get more momentum.


Having someone take a video of you running is a brilliant tool to help you learn.  You often find that what you think you’re doing and what you’re actually doing are a world apart from each other and seeing yourself can help you close that gap.

Don’t be afraid to run, here’s my top 3 tips for starting out:

  1. Go by feel not distance, speed or what your technology says

  2. Walk then run, walk, run, walk, run - slow to a walk when you feel your alignment (all those points above) is failing to hold.  There’s only any point in running while you’re doing good technique rather than ending up in a sloshy mess at the end.

  3. Breath into your ribs to the side and back under your shoulders - more of that in the next post - not by tightening your neck and dragging your shoulders up

Have fun, running is a brilliant way to get some headspace, take an easy amount of time out to do something for yourself and most importantly enjoy spending time in nature whatever the weather. I will post more soon about conditioning exercises for running so you can make sure you’re strong enough all over to keep going.

Happy Running!