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.