Sit like a baby

June 12, 2018

Did you know that most babies of around 6 months in age, have perfect posture? This week we are looking at what we can learn from our little friends and what we forget with age, which can sometimes lead to postural issues.

One of the aims of Pilates is to improve posture through strengthening the body, so we can support our bodies in the way they were meant to be. As we get older our posture tends to become worse.

At 6 months most babies have great posture. They elongate their spine and let their pelvis ground them, allowing them to get into the right position. Their muscles are relaxed.

As a baby starts to become steady on his or her feet, they start to pick things up. They use their legs to go down and glutes to come back up. This is one of the best ways to move, they are using the biggest muscle group in their bodies, their bottom, whilst having very little impact on their back. As we grow up, we stop squatting and start bending. When we bend, our backs are not protected which can cause issues and pain later on.

Life’s bad habits cause further problems. We often spend large amounts of time in front of screens with our backs slumping in unsupportive chairs. In this position, we are not using our pelvis to support us, but our weak back muscles. Instead we should be elongating the neck and pulling ourselves up from the pelvis.

What we need to do is to learn from babies. Start by being more aware of your posture on a daily basis. Sit up straight by anchoring your pelvis, have a long neck, a stacked spine and relaxed muscles. Once you have become more aware of your posture, try to help older children as they are growing, to retain their strong posture of their early years.
Be your child’s role model and show them how to hold themselves. You will both feel the benefits of having a good posture, and it will lead to a more pain free life.

Next week we will look at Pilates exercises specifically for children. The earlier children are aware of their posture, the less likely they are to have any problems later in life.

COMING SOON: A kids Pilates workshop (5-11) Please let us know good days and times that might suit you and your child.

The last bank holiday in May is just behind us and it feels like the countdown to the summer is finally on. Before we know it, schools will be breaking up and you’ll be packing your suitcases and hopefully heading to the sun!

We know many of you have already taken up our amazing summer offer and are well on your way to feeling fabulous for summer. But if the thought of donning your bikini is still filling you with fear, now is the perfect time to start getting beach body ready. And there are only a few more days left in May to take up this fabulous offer!

As we begin counting down to the summer, you can still make the changes that will have you looking and feeling your best for the holidays. Along with Pilates, here are some of my favourite ways to get summer ready.

Looking after your skin

  • Hydration- It’s so important to keep yourself well hydrated and I am a huge fan of taking my water bottle everywhere with me. Drinking plenty of water helps flush out toxins and means skin looks younger and fresher.
  • Exfoliating- As well as hydrating properly, with the summer just around the corner, exfoliation can really help your skin look great. Body brushing is a very effective ways to get smooth skin and as we are approaching the holiday period, now is a great time to start exfoliating. Try using long, gentle circular motions starting at your ankles and working upwards. If your skin is in need of an extra hydration boost, use a body oil after exfoliation.

 

Looking after your fitness

  • If you are just starting, Pilates is the perfect exercise to get yourself summer ready as it gives you a total body work out. Regular studio sessions between now and your holidays, will help you tone and firm up, especially around abs, tums and bums, perfect for your beach body!
  • If you are already well into your summer fitness regime, use this time to really build and develop everything you have been doing. Push that little bit harder with just weeks to go. Go all out, you have your base level fitness in place and now is the time to go further.

 

Looking after your locks

  • Freshen up your look- Getting a new haircut really makes me feel good! And it’s something I’ll get booked in just before our summer hols, a little treat for myself after all the hard work in the studio!
  • Limit damage- Thinking ahead to all the inevitable damage of sun, sea and chlorine that comes with a summer holiday, it’s a really good idea to give your hair a deep condition about a week before you head off. Not only will you look great, but the conditioning will help protect your hair whilst you are away.

Tummy tastic

  • Pre- holiday tanning- Nobody wants to feel pasty white on the beach! A natural looking tan will help you feel more toned in your bikini and is best started gradually, around two weeks before you go.
  • Flat stomach- Avoid a bloated stomach by ditching carbonated drinks in the week before your holiday. Try ginger in hot water to soothe your digestive system or peppermint tea to help prevent bloating.

 

Don’t forget your feet!

  • Our feet often get overlooked. But having put in all the hard work in the studio to firm and tone your body, feet are a relatively easy fix! With a bit of regular buffing, moisturising and a good pedicure you can have your feet holiday ready in no time.

 

Show off all the hard work

  • Grab yourself a killer bikini. Don’t wait until a few weeks before your holiday, find your perfect bikini that suits your body shape now while there is more choice in the shops. Not only will you be more likely to discover one that you love, I find having my bikini ready and hanging in my wardrobe is a great motivator to keep up my summer exercise plan in the final summer countdown!

Nobody said it was easy, and as many of you know this slogan is painted on one of the walls of our studio. Achieving your summer goals won’t always be plain sailing, and achieving a healthy you is about both your mind and your body. We want you to be the best version of you, you can be this summer, and we want to make it easier for you. If you are a new customer, grab our introductory offer – 2 classes for £20 and kick start your summer HERE

 

Summer swaps

May 22, 2018

It’s not just about the exercise you do, shaping up for the summer must be a whole-body plan. One that involves your sleep, your mental health, and your diet. There’s no point putting all those hours in at the studio toning up, if you haven’t thought about other areas of your life too. As summer gets closer we want you to be in the best shape both mentally and physically, ready for the holidays! This week I’m sharing a few handy hacks, where often simple substitutions or just thinking about the choices you make can make all the difference.

Drink Swaps
The Coffee Swap- There are 190 calories in a Starbuck Grande Latte but only 15 calories in a Starbucks Americano. You can still get your caffeine fix, just be mindful of the extra milky ones that add significant calories.

The Tea Swap- Peppermint tea is a great swap just before you head off on hols to banish the bloat and make sure you show off all your hard work with those abs! If you still need caffeine, green tea is a great alternative to black tea. It will give you the caffeine fix but has additional benefits because it is high in antioxidants which can help with long term weight loss.

The Soft Drink Swap- Swap diet drinks for sparkling water and add a slice of lime for an extra boost of vitamin C. By choosing water over low calorie drinks, you will avoid the sugary cravings for sweet things that will come shortly after a diet drink.

Dinner Time Swaps
Lunch Swaps – try making a little extra dinner the night before. Often the main meal you prepared before will be much more nutritious than a shop bought sandwich. If you have to buy a sandwich, opt for a wrap instead of more traditional bread.
Swap Rice for Vegetables – my favourite alternative to rice is to make cauliflower rice. By swapping simple carbohydrates out and vegetables in, it means you get a more nutritious meal and it will also count towards your 5 a day.
Swap Multi-tasking for Mindful eating- It has been shown that if you are watching TV whilst you eat, you tend to eat more. Try concentrating solely on the meal you are having, this allows you to notice the appetite cues from your body, meaning you only eat what you need. Turn off the TV, put away your phone and simply relax and enjoy your food.

Snacks Swaps
Swap out Refined Sugar- Try to think ahead. The biggest reason we reach for sugary snacks is because we have left it too long before we eat. If you know your next meal is going to be over four hours away, aim to have something like a handful of nuts, a couple of oatcakes or some dried fruit, to fill the hunger gap and kerb those sugary cravings. If you leave it too late, your blood sugar levels will drop, and it will be much harder to turn down that big doughnut!

Swap Biscuits for Energy Balls- If you are craving a sweet fix, swap your biscuits or chocolate for an energy ball. Often packed with dates, energy balls will give you the sweet taste you desire but with none of the refined sugar. My favourite recipe for energy balls is here:

Amy’s utterly nutterly cocoa energy balls

Ingredients:

125g Soft dates

100g Chopped almonds

75g Rolled oats

2tsp Nut butter (almond or peanut work well)

1tbsp Cocoa powder

To coat:

Pick your favourites! I love finely chopped pistachios, dried fruit, desiccated coconut, cocoa powder or dark chocolate chips.

Method:

Put the dates, chopped almonds, oats, almond butter and cocoa powder into a food processor and blend until the nuts are crushed and the mixture is fully blended.

Take a small amount of the mixture and roll it between your hands to make bite sized balls. (This recipe makes between 12-15 energy balls).

Once rolled, choose your coating. Place the coating in a bowl and roll the ball around until covered.

 

They only take about ten minutes to make and even my toddler loves them!

Sleep habit swaps
Swap out Technology at Bedtime- Switch your phone or tablet for a real book and a small bedside light for a better night’s sleep. Leave your devices outside your bedroom so that you are not tempted to flick through your apps and wake up your mind. And maybe swap that extra hour of TV for a lovely hot, bubble bath or an early night.
These are some of my favourite habits and swaps for a healthier body and mind. Do you have any small daily changes that are making big changes in your life? What is working best for you on your summer plan? We would love to hear what is working for you!

 

We are nearly half way through May, which means you only have two more weeks to bag our amazing summer deal! We have a discounted package on offer right now which is designed to help you feel and look great for summer. Whether you have already started your summer workout or are just thinking about joining us for our beach body offer, I wanted to go back to basics this week and remember why Pilates is so good for you and how it can help you achieve your summer goals.

Why Pilates is great

1. Tone up- Pilates will build tone and definition without bulking you up. If one of your summer goals is a flatter tummy, the exercises can help by engaging and strengthening your deep ab muscles, helping you get a sleek, flat stomach. It can also help build definition in your upper arms, tone up your rear, as well as working on your legs. It is low impact on your joints, so it avoids stressing your body and tones rather than bulks out muscles.

2. Build strength- By regularly engaging the full range of muscles, your body will grow in strength with every workout meaning you will have the power you need in the right areas to help you move in the best possible way.

3. Improved flexibility- I truly believe that even after one class you will feel better. Stretching is a key component of Pilates and something that is hard to find time to do. The benefits are huge, and regular stretching will help maintain long term mobility throughout life.

4. Better posture- As your body gets stronger, you are more able to support a better posture which means you will walk taller and look slimmer. But even in the early days before you have fully gained that strength, Pilates gives you the knowledge and the tools to make changes in everyday life. You’ll find yourself sitting better at your desk and perhaps thinking about how you are lifting and bending, an awareness of which is so important for better habits and improved posture.

5. Mind and Body- The thing I love most about Pilates is that it is a true workout for every part of your body. It is not just the physical exercise which is important, but also the mental work you undertake as well. Pilates is one of the few exercises that works on your mind and your body at the same time.

I could go on! Pilates can help prevent injury, it can help you cross train for other summer sporting events, it can be taken up at any age and it’s a great stress reliever. I’m a passionate advocate of the benefits of Pilates.

If you are curious about what Pilates could do for you this summer, or are wondering about what a class would involve, drop us an email (amy@reformerpilatesbrentwood.co.uk) or pop into the studio and have a chat with me or any one of our friendly instructors. Until the end of May we have a special summer offer, with discounted rates and classes. What better way to come and try it out or get ready for summer? I guarantee Pilates will make you feel great!

 

Three breakfasts to boost your summer fitness programme

 We are regularly told how breakfast is THE most important meal of the day, the one we really shouldn’t skip. But sometimes I feel bored by breakfast. I don’t fancy another bowl of cereal or I am simply running a bit late and I don’t make time for it. Making sure my two kids are both fed and watered before we leave the house is always my priority and somehow along the way my own breakfast gets forgotten. A quick piece of toast or left overs from children’s plates, sound familiar?

But I know this is no way to start my day, and in working towards the summer body I want, I am determined to start making breakfast part of my everyday. Without it I’m more likely to snack unhealthily and if I head straight to a class, I don’t feel I have the energy to exercise to my potential and I know my body doesn’t have what it needs to recover afterwards. Breakfast provides us with the energy to start our day in a better way, it jumpstarts your metabolism and lets your body know that the calories will be coming regularly throughout the day so there is no need to start conserving stores.

In an effort to make breakfast more exciting and help us all get set up for the day, I am sharing with you three tasty and nutritious breakfast options. These are healthy breakfasts which I want to get up for, or ones I have no excuse not to eat as I can prepare them the night before. They’ll give you the energy to start the day well, whether you are heading straight to your Pilates class, or out to work or have an energetic day ahead with the kids. I hope these three recipes bring some variety and excitement to your breakfast times!

Overnight Oats

A super quick, nutritious breakfast which can be prepared five minutes before you go to bed. Just pop it in the fridge and it will be ready and waiting for you in the morning. It also travels really well just in case you need to eat on the go, at your desk or on your way to the studio!

1 mug of oats

100 mls of milk

I mashed up banana

½ tsp of ground cinnamon

2 tsp of maple syrup

1 tsp of chopped hazelnuts

Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl, add the mashed banana, maple syrup and milk and mix with a spoon. Place in an airtight container or cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge. In the morning you can add anything extra you like. Things I enjoy are raisins, goji berries, chai seeds or coconut shavings.

Breakfast Smoothie

A smoothie is one of my favourite ways to start the day and I love packing them full of fresh fruit and veg. The recipe below is just a guide, and one that I like, but you can experiment with your own flavours and mixes. However you mix them, smoothies are super healthy and take less than 5 minutes to make.

Two handfuls of fresh spinach leaves

2 handfuls of blueberries (frozen or fresh)

2 teaspoons of nut butter

Half fill with almond milk (or milk of your choice)

Top up with water

Handful of ice

2 teaspoons of chai seeds

Place all the ingredients, except the chia seeds in a blender and blend. Pour the smoothie into a glass and sprinkle the chia seeds on top just before you drink it.

Power Porridge

And if you don’t fancy any of these, how about some of my favourite porridge toppings? There’s always a way to make your porridge taste even better!

Sliced fresh or dried apple, a few raisins, and a teaspoon of cinnamon.

Bananas, dried dates and chopped hazelnuts.

Fresh or frozen mixed berries, coconut shavings, chia seeds and a drizzle of honey.

If you have any favourite breakfasts, we would love to hear them! Come inspire us with healthy new ideas, share them in the comments below or share them with us on social media, we are excited to see what gets you going in the morning!

Unlimited classes available starting for 4 weeks in May. To find out more go HERE

Are you joining us on our countdown to summer? At CONOUR we are already excited about the summer holidays. It may seem a little early to be talking about it already, the sun has only just come out after our horrendous winter. But in terms of fitness and exercise plans, now is exactly the right time to be thinking about the summer body you want.

Maybe you’ve already started your summer exercise programme, maybe you are just thinking about getting going, wherever you are with your plans we are here to help. The benefits of having an exercise plan and a goal are immense. A plan can make you accountable and having a schedule in place helps exercise to become a habit, and when it’s a habit your kit is ready, your class is booked and you are much more likely to complete it!

But what happens when life gets in the way and your plans seem to go awry? A few weeks into your summer plan you may get ill, you might have to go away or things could unexpectedly start to ramp up at work, all of which could push your exercise programme onto the back burner. Once you start to fall behind where you want to be, it’s very easy to start feeling overwhelmed and anxious.

We are here to help you through these weeks, when life takes over, when things don’t go to plan and you feel like giving up. The main thing is not to worry! Most studies show that after taking as many as seven days off, there is very little reduction in fitness. Even after two weeks the losses can be minimal. A few short, low intensity sessions when you feel up to it will get you back to where you were.

How to get through setbacks

Illness strikes

Whether you have come down with something, or your kids are sick and you have been up all night, your body will need a break. This may be a reduction in intensity of exercise or stopping completely for a few days. Look after your body and listen to what it is telling you. Trying to push on with exercise can make your recovery time longer, especially if you have a temperature. A good rule of thumb is to stop exercise completely if your symptoms are ‘below the neck’ for example muscle soreness, a chesty cough or a stomach upset, whereas if your symptoms are ‘above the neck’ such as a sore throat or blocked nose you may be ok to do some light exercise. But it’s always best to check with your GP if you are in any doubt.

Unexpected Travel

Travelling can throw any well thought out training plan up in the air. The main thing is not to panic. There may be options to work out where you are going, you may be able to sneak in a few unexpected exercise sessions if you are lucky. Have a look at our Pilates mat exercises HERE which can be undertaken wherever you are and can help maintain body strength and tone when you can’t make it to the studio. Don’t try to build on your training as you will put unnecessary pressure on yourself, just focus on maintaining fitness whilst you are away. If mat Pilates is not possible, remember a simple walk or a light jog can really help maintain fitness and it’s a great way to explore new places!

80:20 rule, be good most of the time…

The sun comes out and the weekend has brought unexpected ice-cream, treats and perhaps a boozy picnic or BBQ. You’ve had a great weekend, but it’s not been ideal for your training plan. But when a weekend like this comes along, just learn to embrace it. Soak up the sunshine, enjoy treats with friends and get back to work next week. I find the 80:20 rule works for me, I try to stick to my exercise plans

80% of the time and allow flexibility for the rest of the week. If that means relaxing with friends in the sunshine then that’s ok, as I know I’ll stick to my routine for the rest of the week. Having flexibility rather than a very rigid summer exercise plan, means you will be much more likely to achieve your goals.

For the weeks when you are flying through training, things will be great and your summer goals will be getting closer. But we wanted you to be prepared for the weeks where things may not go to plan. If you are struggling or losing motivation at any point, come down to the studio and have a chat! We have some great summer offers to get you back on track but most of all we are always here to offer friendly encouragement. Come say hi, have a chat to one of our instructors or try a new class. It’s easier together and at CONTOUR we really want to help you achieve your summer goals.

Try an UNLIMITED amount of classes for 4 weeks starting in May HERE

Alternative carbs for that summer body

Now is the perfect time to start thinking about how you want to feel when summer comes. It may seem like summer has started this week and thank goodness! But with around three months to go before the summer holidays officially start, it’s a realistic amount of time to make some real changes and get a strong and healthy summer body.

Toning up is not just about the exercise we do, it’s also about our diet. Food and exercise go hand in hand, and this week in our summer blog series, we have some simple ideas to help you with your holiday diet. If you are thinking of increasing your exercise regime in the run up to the holidays, it’s important to consider your eating habits and make sure you are fuelling right.

Carbs or no carbs?

A question that often comes up, is Carbs or no Carbs? Is cutting them out of your diet the way to get that perfect summer body? Or are they essential as part of an active lifestyle?

For me as an avid fan of exercise, I come down in favour of maintaining carbohydrate in my diet, without it I lack the energy for exercising.  Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet, your body uses carbohydrate to make glycogen which is stored in your muscles, and during exercise it provides your body with the energy it needs.

But not all carbohydrates are created equal! More traditional sources of carbohydrates such as white bread, white pasta and white rice are highly refined and as such have low nutritional values. They often release energy quickly and cause a spike in blood sugar levels, followed by a slump.

To sustain exercise over longer periods and be generally healthier, it is much better to look for slower energy releasing carbs. Recently I have found some interesting alternatives to the highly processed ‘white’ carbohydrates and I wanted to share these more nutritious carb sources with you. You can still make all your favourite recipes, but here are some simple substitutions to make your dinner a healthier one!

Alternatives to traditional carbs

Lentil Spaghetti is one of my new favourites and has been an interesting alternative to white spaghetti. It is very flexible in how it can be used, it’s high in protein and can be used in dishes such as bolognaise or carbonara. If you try this, make sure you choose one without added cornflour as that simply provides empty calories. You can buy lentil pasta at Holland and Barrett.

Brown rice pasta is a delicious alternative to white pasta and is also a good source of protein.  It is available in most major supermarkets, I’ve found it in Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose, but I’m sure there are others too!

Another great alternative is quinoa pasta, it has a nice texture and it has more protein in than most of the other options so it’s great for muscle repair and recovery. Spelt pasta and whole wheat pasta are also worth trying and both are rich in fibre.

I love the choice of alternatives to white rice that are currently on offer at a lot of supermarkets, I have just recently discovered sweet potato rice which has been a big hit in my house, it tastes great with a vegetable tagine!

I have started making my own bread too, which far from being the difficult process I had envisioned, it’s actually pretty fun and takes less than 10 minutes in the evening to prepare. We chuck all the ingredients in our new breadmaking machine and have a lovely fresh loaf in the morning. No more processed supermarket bread. Our loaves tend to last around 3 days, so I only need to make it twice a week. I never thought I would have time to make bread, but it is so quick and is worth it if you are looking for a less processed bread that will sustain energy over a longer period.

The great news is there are so many nutritious products on offer at the shops and supermarkets, and it’s often exciting to try out new alternatives. For me, I’ll be keeping carbohydrate in my diet in the run up to my summer exercise goals, I’ll just be finding more nutritious options. Have you got a favourite alternative to more traditional sources of carbs? Do you have a favourite recipe to share with us? We would love to hear from you, just comment below or send us a link to one of your go to alternative carb recipes.

Try UNLIMITED classes for 4 weeks starting in May – HERE  

Or email amy@reformerpilatesbrentwood.co.uk if you have any questions

Finally, the sun came out this weekend! We were able to ditch our winter coats, stay out all day with the little ones and even have our first BBQ of the season. It was beautiful, and I finally started to believe that there may be some good weather on the way.

And with the temperature set to get even warmer this week, what better time to start thinking about the summer? With three months to go before the start of the summer holidays (how did that happen already?) are you ready to start working on getting stronger and healthier for the holidays?

At CONTOUR we are ready to help you with your summer fitness plans. Whether you want to get in shape for a holiday, tone and strengthen your body or simply feel better and move better and be more active, we can help you. Over the next few weeks we will be launching our incredible summer offers, with discounted classes and savings on monthly passes for new customers. This is the perfect opportunity to be the best ‘you’ you can this summer.

Pilates is one of the best forms of exercise to strengthen up and improve general health and wellbeing. As Joseph Pilates himself said, in 10 sessions you’ll feel better, in 20 sessions you’ll look better, and after 30 sessions you’ll have a completely new body.

Starting now means you’ll have plenty of time to be fit and feel incredible for the months ahead. Unlike many ‘beach body’ and ‘summer-ready’ promises we know these types of changes do not happen overnight. Three months is a healthy period of time in which to make effective changes and see real results, and a little forward planning can really help you set goals and achieve what you want to.

In line with our exciting new offers we will also be running a mini blog series to fire up your enthusiasm and give you all sorts of ideas and hacks to live an all-round healthier lifestyle in the build up to summer. We are here to help you develop healthier habits and support you to achieve your health and fitness goals.
Come join us at CONTOUR, celebrate the sun coming out and take the opportunity to decide what body you want to have this summer.

Nearly 4 months ago I was lying in a hospital bed giving birth to my second son Angus. Only a few months on, that moment feels like a lifetime ago! The sleepless nights and the frequent feeds are not behind us yet, but I feel much better than I did at this stage after the birth of my first child. And one of the reasons is because I have focussed some of my time post-birth on my own recovery.

I have come to realise that it is not selfish to take a little time out. As a new mum you need to be kind to yourself, give yourself a little break and don’t feel guilty. Our role can be completely overwhelming at times and it’s so important to carve out some time that is yours. This will probably seem impossible at the beginning but as you and your little one get into your routine together, small pockets of time will start to appear. Grab them and make them yours!

For me my favourite release is to come to the studio and get stuck into a Pilates class, be it with one of our lovely groups or on my own. Over the last six weeks I have been documenting my postpartum exercise journey as I regain my strength and fitness through Pilates. I can’t pretend it hasn’t been tough at times, but by making a plan and finding ways to stick with it has really helped. In the last of our postpartum exercise series, I wanted to share the things that have helped me to keep on track.

Make exercise a habit

The first time I got back to the studio to start exercising again, I was more than a little excited. My body was ready and I felt mentally prepared to get going. But it’s all too easy to ride this wave of enthusiasm and then crash and burn a few weeks down the line.

At the beginning of my journey I chatted with Claire, our CONTOUR instructor with a specialist interest in pre and post-natal Pilates. Together we made a sensible and achievable exercise plan. At the start of each week, I work out what sessions I need to do and how they are going to fit in. Most importantly I have started to treat my Pilates time as non-negotiable, in the same way I would an appointment or a feed for Angus. This helps me, and also my family, and means I am less likely to skip it. Having an overall plan with a goal has made it much easier to make my exercise routine a habit again.

Listen to your body

If something doesn’t feel right your body is telling you something. Stop and slow down. Although you have a schedule, be flexible about how you achieve it, and think about alternate ways to reach your goals for the week. For me, if I have missed a daytime class, I try to stretch at home and do some core work when both boys are in bed. Returning to exercise is journey and one that you need to take at your own pace.

Support exercise with a healthy diet and good sleep

Work on the things that help to support a healthy exercise routine. In the past I have concentrated much more on the exercise part when trying to regain fitness, but I have come to realise the importance of sleep and diet as core components of my journey. If I don’t get these right it is hard to exercise well and my body doesn’t get the maximum benefit or have what it needs to recover. In my last blog post I shared one of my favourite healthy snack recipes. These super-easy-to-make energy balls are helping me avoid the cake that seems to fill a lot of the first few months of motherhood and provide a much more nutritious snack for my body!

As you know, Pilates is my passion and I believe it is has been essential to my postpartum recovery. I am really pleased with where I am after 3 months, but more importantly I am sticking with my exercise plan and slowly regaining my strength and fitness. What do the next few months hold? More of the same I hope in terms of Pilates! My motto for 2018 is ‘Get Stronger, Move Better’ and I am determined to keep going.

We would love to hear how you are getting on. Have you just returned to exercise? Are you a little further on with your journey? Feel free to share what you have learnt or struggled with in the comments below and we can help support each other. If you are returning to exercise after giving birth and want to come talk to us, drop by the studio anytime and myself or Claire our pre and post-natal Pilates instructor would love to chat more!

What you eat makes all the difference to how you feel, and just like sleep, diet is an essential part of your exercise journey. I have always been a big fan of food! I don’t function well without it and I like to eat at regular intervals throughout the day. Everyone is different however. Not every way of eating will suit everyone. In my postpartum return to exercise, I have learnt that the most important thing is to listen to your body. By listening and being mindful about what, and how you eat, you will find your own optimal fuelling which suits your journey and recovery best.

There are a lot of complicated diet plans out there and there is always a new food fad just around the corner. But the basics of a good diet haven’t really changed in decades and science consistently shows the best thing for your body, especially when exercising, is to eat real food. A diet high in wholefoods, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, beans, nuts and grains is optimal. On the flipside, it’s also a good idea to avoid highly processed foods and take it easy on sugar and red meat. But don’t forget to include the odd treat, I find a relaxed approach rather than strict rules help me the most.

Make time for food

Time is something I think most of wish we had more of. I’m very guilty of eating at my desk or rushing a meal, but a few simple changes have really helped me make sure that even if I’m struggling for time, I am eating well. By re-framing how I think about my diet; as an essential part of my goal of regaining fitness, rather than a separate part of my life, it has become easier. As a result, I have been aiming to block out time to plan, shop and prepare nutritious meals and I find batch cooking at the weekend really helps. This way, if I have to eat at my desk, at least I am eating a nutritious meal rather than a hastily bought sandwich.

Hydration

Keeping hydrated is just as important as maintaining a healthy diet. When you exercise you lose fluid as sweat so it’s important to consider your needs, and just like food, being well hydrated not only improves your workout but also your recovery.

The current government guidelines suggest aiming for between six to eight glasses of water per day. But remember to listen to your own body. If you are thirsty, your body is telling you that it is not fully hydrated and so I find drinking to thirst is one of the best things you can do.

Pre and post workout

When you eat is almost as important as what you eat, and this is something I have been keen to take more notice of in my postpartum journey. I try to spread out my calories throughout the day and have started thinking more about what I eat before and after my work outs to get the maximum benefit.

Eating too much, too close to your class can result in bloating as your body has to divert energy away from digestion and towards your workout muscles. If I am booked into an evening class, I aim to have a good meal (including protein, fats and lots of veggies) two hours before. The protein and fat are slow burning energy and by having them two hours before your workout, you are ensuring your body can use the energy effectively.

If you are looking for a quick pick me up in the run up to your class, I find a snack around thirty minutes before really helps. My favourite snack at the moment is a couple of energy balls. These nutritious nibbles are super easy to make and are packed with goodness to help you with your work out. In case you want to make your own, here’s my own recipe, they provide a healthy mix of carbohydrate and protein, along with useful vitamins and minerals such iron and B-vitamins. The balls will last for a few days in an airtight container in the fridge but can also be frozen for up to three months, ensuring you always have a healthy snack at hand.

Amy’s utterly nutterly cocoa energy balls

Ingredients:

125g Soft dates

100g Chopped almonds

75g Rolled oats

2tsp Nut butter (almond or peanut work well)

1tbsp Cocoa powder

To coat:

Pick your favourites! I love finely chopped pistachios, dried fruit, desiccated coconut, cocoa powder or dark chocolate chips.

Method:

Put the dates, chopped almonds, oats, almond butter and cocoa powder into a food processor and blend until the nuts are crushed and the mixture is fully blended.

Take a small amount of the mixture and roll it between your hands to make bite sized balls. (This recipe makes between 12-15 energy balls).

Once rolled, choose your coating. Place the coating in a bowl and roll the ball around until covered.

Enjoy!

Let me know if you have any favourite recipes for fuelling and re-fuelling or how you get on if you try my energy balls, we would love to hear from you.

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