Monday, 26 January 2015


So for today - I thought I'd bring a little something different to my blog. As many of you may (or may not) know - I train in aerial on a regular basis. During Christmas time, my training centre closed for a month, now I know what i'm like...I have no motivation to train on my own, I NEED to go to a class and do exercise with people. This is where Katie's classes come in, located in South London - predominantly Balham and Tooting, it was not only convenient for me but Katie is also a good friend of my cousins who attends her classes regularly, so I knew I'd be in good hands. I chose Pilates because of it's benefits on your core (amongst other things of course) and that's what I really needed to keep strong, I knew if I didn't do anything over Christmas attempting to invert a few metres up in the air on a pair of silks could prove to be very dangerous and it worked! I went back to silks feeling strong, not only that, I also found Katie's classes also helped me massively with my Seasonal Affective Disorder - I loved classes so much that I've been going back almost every week. So I thought it would be interesting to have Katie write a little guest post on Pilates and it's benefits in your day to day life or if you're considering starting aerial. This will be a two part post, the first will focus on the benefits and later on in the week I will post the second part of this post - a few exercises from Katie that you can try at home before attending Pilates. Additionally, I would really recommend doing a couple of Pilates classes before starting aerial. So without further ado, i'll pass you onto Katie... 

So, when Natalie asked me to write a blog on Katie's Pilates for her site, I felt honoured and chuffed...but I also thought, yikes, I've never written a blog before, what do I say?! What do people want to read? What will be interesting? I'm not going to throw at you a load of healthy tips on dieting and how drinking loads of water cleanses your body. We have heard and read it all before, right? So I'm going to attempt to give you a little insight to me as a teacher, my classes, and why I think core strength is so important. I hope maybe, just maybe, you will feel inspired. Here goes!

I trained as a professional dancer, graduating with a BA Hon’s degree. Dance has always been a large part of my life; from starting ballet at the tender age of 3, to dancing in the bedroom, putting on shows with my sister for my parents in the garden, to dancing at the weekend on a night out. I just love it!

I’d like to give you a little insight into me and how I was inspired to start Pilates. 11 years ago, when I was 19 (ouch!), I was fortunate enough to go to Fiji to see one of my dearest friends who was on a gap year travelling the world. My goodness Fijians know how to dance! They put rhythm, soul, love and joy into their lives primarily through dancing and food - they have a genuine zest for life that I had never encountered before. Coming from a western, commercial, and one might argue, shallow society this was a breath of fresh air! I loved the fact that the people I was meeting there had next to no material possessions in their lives - a lot of them had never been in or seen a car! They had a real gratitude for life and were happy to be healthy and alive. It taught me a hell of a lot and was the beginning of a personal healing process for me; it allowed me to start loving my body (and food!) again. At the time I was battling an eating disorder - anorexia. I'm not going to go into this in depth, but I will remind anyone who screws their face up or gets frustrated when they hear or see people who struggle with eating - or over-eating for that matter - that it is far more complex than most people realise. It is not something you choose or can control (although you think you are in control at the time!) and it takes a lot of patience from loved ones to get you back on track. I guess I wanted to take this opportunity to say how important it is to love yourself, it has taken a long time for me to do so…and I suppose that is a beneficial bi-product of teaching Pilates; it’s not just a job to me – it’s a lifestyle choice. 

I am now a qualified Pilates instructor. You have no doubt heard of Pilates. It has become more and more popular in recent years. Maybe you think it is the same as Yoga? That’s common, a lot of people do, but really it is very different. In short, Pilates strengthens your whole body, improves posture and helps connect your mind and body. Fundamentally though, it focuses mainly on strengthening your core (your tummy and back). You will work, and maybe discover, muscles in your body that you never thought you had! These muscles are worked in such a way that you will improve your shape, tone and posture. Pilates is mainly performed on a mat (you can get Reformer too, but we’ll leave that one for another day). It isn’t just for girls, I want say that plainly. In fact Pilates was first developed for men, by a man, named Joseph Pilates. I believe that everyone can benefit from Pilates; men, women, athletes, couch potatoes, people of all body shapes and weights, people of all levels of fitness and coordination! It truly does offer something for everyone.

As a Pilates instructor, I get a lot of questions about Pilates: “what is it?”, “how will it benefit my body?”. Recently someone asked me, "What is the best workout I can do for my core?" It's a common question! And no reason it's so confusing. Many of us equate core strength with a flat belly or six-pack abs and there are so many abs gizmos, belly-fat-burning pills, and ab-centric workouts available, that it's hard to make sense of it all. But I do believe that Pilates is the absolute best core workout. Why? Because it includes every aspect of core training. It targets every single muscle group in the core (not just the outer layer of abs, which many exercises target). Now, while I do believe having a toned tummy is a motivating goal, there are so many more benefits that come from improving core strength than how your midsection looks; including improved posture, better balance, reduced back pain and easier breathing.

So how and why will taking part in Pilates classes help you achieve a stronger core - well as with anything you need to make a commitment to attending classes along with a healthy diet. In fact, I don't like to use the word “diet”. I believe the key word is balance! You can balance eating good food 80% of the time and naughty stuff 20%! Find a percentage that works for you. Do not count calories and don't deprive yourself - we all need a treat from time to time! I am against any kind of “replace meals with juice” calorie-restricting nonsense. In other words: eat clean; regulate your intake of processed foods, sugar, dairy, caffeine, gluten and alcohol.

Your core is the vital “foundation” of all your body’s movements and there are many ways that you can work on core strength, through a variety of Pilates exercises.

What, and where, are your core muscles, you may wonder?
Many people mistakenly think that their “abs” or abdominal muscles are the only core muscles. In fact, the core muscle group also includes all of the muscles that are located in your torso (pelvic muscles, mid and lower back muscles and even your hip muscles) that keep the body stable and balanced.  It makes sense when you think about it; it takes many different muscles working together to keep your body well-aligned during different daily activities. Your core muscles can be split into two types of muscles: stabilisers and movers. The stabilizer muscles attach directly to the spine and support its movement.  The movers are the muscles that support the stabiliser muscles and work with them to move your body. Ok, that's about as biological I am going to get…!

Why is core fitness important?
Think of your core as a muscular corset that stabilizes your entire body, helping to give you a centre of gravity whether you’re at rest or moving your limbs: just as the ballet dancer uses his or her centre of gravity to keep balance as he / she spins across the floor, you draw upon your core strength whenever you walk, sit, exercise or perform pretty much any activity. These days, as our lives become increasingly sedentary, we spend more and more time sitting, with our core muscles relaxed.  This sedentary time happens at home, in vehicles and at work. Reversing the trend towards more sedentary lifestyles is a challenge; a vital part of meeting that challenge is to engage those core muscles that relax while we are sitting.

A great way to start working your core can be as simple as being aware of your posture throughout the day.  For example, several times a day, take a minute to stand tall, relax your shoulders and think about your posture. There is some evidence to suggest that core stabilisation and core strengthening can help to improve back health, balance and overall functional fitness. 

Researchers continue to study the various ways core strength improves health and wellbeing. Here are a few of the proven benefits of having a strong centre:

Alleviates Back Pain: Research shows that people with weak core muscles have an increased risk of back ache and injury, since they lack adequate spine support. Core-strengthening exercises and core-engaging workouts, like Pilates, can help reduce discomfort, improve mobility and improve support for the spine in people with both acute and chronic pain.

Improves Posture: Core-strengthening exercises work all of the muscles of the torso from top to bottom and front to back, helping you stand tall with your limbs in alignment. By improving posture you decrease your risk of disc herniation and vertebrae degeneration. Another benefit to better posture? Better breathing. That same balance that helps you stand up straight also opens your airway, making inhalations and exhalations easier.

Better Athletic Performance: You’d be hard-pressed to find a sport that doesn’t rely on core strength for performance. For example, core exercises can keep runners’ legs and arms from tiring quickly. Rowers engage their cores as they paddle; a stronger core allows them to pull harder and faster. Baseball pitchers get the power for their curveballs as much from their cores as they do their arms - maybe more. Your core is the link between your upper and lower body, it is what allows a golfer to swing the club to strike his ball, or a tennis player to serve and optimize her racquet speed. It’s critical to sports performance.

Improved Balance: Poor balance is a complicated condition, but lower body weakness, vestibular dysfunction and neurological deficits are often contributing factors. Studies have shown that dynamic balance improves as core strength increases.

Safer Everyday Movement: Daily tasks - such as maintaining balance on an icy road, carrying all your shopping, hoisting children and walking up a steep flight of stairs - are easier and less likely to result in an injury when you core is strong. Not only do you have better control of your muscles, but you can more easily find your centre if you’re caught off-balance. In addition, being able to rely on a strong core will make it less likely that you’ll overtax other muscles.

If you attend one of my classes, I should probably warn you, the first 5mins will be all about connecting with yourself while you stand, engaging your core, inhaling, exhaling and simple stuff like that. In fact, it’s so easy you might actually nod off. Enjoy it while it lasts, because it gets a lot tougher from then on! Men in particular, pay attention to that...I am all too aware that you may be of the misconception that Pilates is easy and you’ll breeze through it. That is certainly not going to be the case, and as soon as you’re instructed to raise those legs while your back is pinned to the floor, you’ll be in serious trouble! You’ll be instructed to hold your legs at a 45 degree angle to the floor for 30 seconds, and of course, you’ll realise how out of your depth you are! Ha! It’s going to hurt where it shouldn’t so just accept that the only way to learn is to go again the next week and probably for the next 10 sessions…and remember to breathe, okay?!

In Katie's Pilates classes I will remind you of the six main Pilates principles, which are:

As you move through the exercises in class, try and apply these principles and perfect your posture.

I have listed some exercises to help strengthen your core, hope these help and inspire you to look after your body. Keep an eye out for those in the second part of this post. 

Thanks for reading, keep well, stay safe. Love, Katie x


  1. Great post. xox

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