June 2012 Newsletter
Exercise of the Month
That’s right, folks… The good ol’ Rollup is baaaack!
It occasionally gets a bad rap because certain exercise specialists see it as contraindicated for anyone to do. I’m gonna say right now that is total BS. To quote Martha Graham: “There is no bad movement, only movement badly done”. If done well, The Rollup is one of the best spinal articulators around.
1. MOBILISES THE SPINE: Rolling the entire vertebral column is a great way to keep the entire structure supple and strong, which means your limbs move better, too.
2. LOOSENS YOUR BACK: Particularly the lower (lumbar) region. Similar to The Hundred, the lumbar spine must be lengthening in flexion in order to accomplish this movement. For those of you who know our friend Thomas Myers (of ‘Anatomy Trains’ fame), this is the perfect release for the Superficial Back Line…Google it, folks.
3. PREPARES YOU FOR YOUR WORKOUT: Like The Hundred, this movement gets your spine ready for the movements to come (it’s #2 in Joe’s 35 Traditional Floor Exercises), as well as assists you in your spatial awareness as you shift your body in space.
4. CENTRE FOCUS: Impossible to do without the centre being placed deep in the pelvis, where it’s ‘posed to be.
IMPORTANT: As with any Pilates exercise, ask your instructor if this is appropriate for you to do in a Traditional or modified version.
Persons with pathologies and conditions such as Sciatica, Osteoporosis, Pregnancy (2nd trimester+) and Lumbar Disc Injuries are NOT recommended to attempt the ROLLUP.
1. DO NOT HEAVE OR THROW YOURSELF TO GET PAST YOUR STICKING POINTS.
This is usually done because you haven’t engaged your centre low enough in your pelvis to support the weight of the lifting trunk. But even more, it’s probably due to a lack of mobility in your lumbar spine (ie lower back). Try bending your knees to remove the hamstring tension and hold a theraband tight and at arms length around your feet to assist you in the lifting. But don’t use your arms or your momentum to get through your sticking points or you’ll never address those inflexible ‘bits’ in your spine.
2. KEEP YOUR SHOULDERS LOW ON THE TRUNK, NOT UP IN YOUR EARS.
Nothing worse than seeing folks doing this while their shoulders are pulled up high into their balaclavas! Not only will it assist you in improving the stability of your shoulder girdle, having the neck long and the shoulders low will encourage your centre to be low in the pelvis, rather than drawn up to your sternum; if it’s there, you’ll have a snowballs chance in hell of rolling past that point.
3. TRY THESE PRE-PILATES FIRST Pelvic Clocks/Presses, Tower on the Wall, Chest Curl and Overhead Arm Floats are all useful movements to master before attempting the ROLLUP. Also useful to spend time developing extra hamstring flexibility.
4. START SLOW & BUILD. Joseph Pilates advocated persistance to be key to eventually mastering any of his movements. So if you find you can’t do the full ROLLUP at first, don’t be discouraged. Take your time practicing the preparatory movements like the Chest Curl (kind of like a Sit Up but without the horrible neck fling we see in the typical SU) and in no time you’ll be rolling up and down like a pro.
There are heaps of good modifications (See the Form Tips above as well as the suggested Pre-Pilates movements to prepare you for the Traditional version). Rolldowns and Tower on the Trapeze Table are also excellent preparatory movements to develop the necessary spinal flexibility.
As usual, see your instructor for appropriate, safe modifications designed for your ability and condition.
See you on the floor!
Nuts to You!
As great as nuts are for being one of natures tastiest snack foods, it’s also one of the fattiest and one of the most abused.
We all know how hard it is to get a nut out of its shell. So it’s easy to understand why our ancestors didn’t develop the tolerance to eating massive quantities of those yummy fat-filled foods. The amount of effort needed to harvest and crack open a handful of nuts was about our limit. Time travel forward to today when we can head to Coles or IGA and buy a few trees-worth of nuts in a bag. Not only didn’t you work for those pre-opened goodies (no calories expended), you’ll be eating more fat than normal… AND you’ll also be getting a higher than normal dose of phytic acid. Nuts carry more phytic acid than similar amounts of legumes and grains.
Ok, I know you wanna ask: So why is phytic acid so bad?
Per Mark Sisson’s blog (Mark’s Daily Apple…a must read for all things nutrition, training and Primal):
“Nuts contain a lot of phytic acid, AKA phytate, AKA IP-6, AKA the storage form of a plant’s phosphorus, and antioxidant to the seed in times of oxidative stress.
When something that contains it is eaten, phytic acid binds to minerals like zinc, iron, magnesium, calcium, chromium, and manganese in the gastrointestinal tract, unless it’s reduced or nullified by soaking, sprouting, and/or fermentation. Bound minerals generally cannot be absorbed in the intestine, and too many bound minerals can lead to mineral deficiencies. Animals who produce phytase – the enzyme that breaks down phytate – can thrive on phytate-rich foods. Rats, for example, produce ample amounts of phytase and can handle more dietary phytate without exhibiting signs of mineral deficiencies. Since humans produce around 30 times less phytase than rats, phytate-heavy diets might be problematic for humans.”
Hence, the real problem is quantity. Eating a small amount of these “fatty, phytic goodies is fine “(say THAT 5 times fast!).
Suggestion: Keep your nut intake to a small palm-sized portion per day.
September 2011 Newsletter
Exercise of the Month
Ok, stop rolling your eyes right now! This classic Pilates exercise is the first one of Joe’s original mat sequence for a variety of reasons. Get it right and it makes the perfect warm-up to your workout.
1. Challenges your lungs This is the one Pilates move that really gets your breath going. Driving a desk all day hardly does that…
2. Loosens the back Your back, particularly the lower (lumbar) region, must be lengthening in order to accomplish this movement. And the moving rib action of the forced breathing creates mobility and space in the entire spine due to rib movement.
3. Prepares you for your workout The breath focus and vigorous arm movements increases your internal heat and forces you to ‘think’, making it the perfect warm-up for the kickass session to follow.
4. Oh yeah… And it really blasts your core/abs!
1. Look between your knees, not at the ceiling. The more vertical the neck is maintained and the more flexed the spine to do so, the less strain is held in the neck muscles.
2. Keep your lower back pressed into the floor. One of my big bugaboo’s is watching this lovely exercise being taught or performed badly. You are not meant to rest on the tip of your coccyx like a version of Teaser; you’ll use almost no abdominal strength and over-tighten your hip flexors in the process. If you doubt me, try it. Instead keep your sacrum flat on the ground, tail reaching across and up from the floor, encouraging a softening of the lower back to the floor. You’ll elongate your back musculature, strengthen your abdominals AND be able to safely support your lumbar spine/pelvis.
“But Neil, I can’t do The Hundred…” The Hundred is a strong exercise. Period… End of story. And in some cases, such as extreme disk protrusion or pregnancy, is contraindicated and not to be attempted. However the majority of us CAN do it in a modified fashion and receive its benefits.
Here are two ways that you can modify The Hundred and get the best from them without hurting yourself:
1. If your neck hurts when you lift your trunk you can support it with your hands behind the neck. Or use a TRIADBALL® or pillow under your shoulders to support your upper trunk.
2. If you find a Pulsing Breath option difficult, use the Traditional Long Breath option. Practice this by placing your hands on either side of your trunk and push them apart with your ribs during inhalation and draw them in when you exhale.
See you instructor for appropriate, safe modifications designed for your ability and condition.
See you on the floor!
Dump the Boxes & Bags for a Healthy Heart
According to the Australian Heart Foundation, heart disease is the leading cause of death in women and is one of the top five causes of years of healthy life lost. In addition, cardiovascular disease (CVD) claims a life in Australia every 10 minutes1 and though decreasing, is statistically the number one killer AND categorized as avoidable.
Here are four dietary tips for a healthy ticker:
1. Cut Those Carbs Everyone knows that carbohydrates, especially simple carbs like refined sugar, are major culprits when it comes to weight gain. What has been underappreciated is that carbs—heavily processed and refined sugars, like high-fructose corn syrup—may be playing a bigger role in heart disease than we originally thought.
TIP Keep your sugar intake to 36 grams per day. This is equivalent to 1 banana and 1 large slice of watermelon, or 2 handfuls of strawberries and 1 large apple. If possible choose fruit and fruit-sugared options rather than those with refined sugar, such as soft drinks and biscuits. Your heart—and your waistline—will thank you.
2. Decrease Sodium Recent data indicates that Australian’s consume an average of 5.5g of salt, which is less than the recommended 6g (equivalent to 2,300mg of sodium)… Yay us! However, according to some health experts, most people’s sodium intake should be closer to 3.9g of salt. The foods that contribute most to that sodium intake are processed foods, such as breads and packaged/canned products that sit in the middle of your typical market. But following the guidelines has a big payoff: Lowering sodium intake, combining that with exercise and a healthy diet, acts like a blood pressure–lowering medication.
TIP Substitute strong flavours such as garlic, oregano, and lemon for salt. Your taste buds will eventually not need a huge amount of salt for flavour.
3. Increase fibre A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggested a high-fibre diet could decrease overall mortality by about 22%; not only is fibre good for your heart, but it’s also helpful in lowering cholesterol and preventing death from infectious and respiratory diseases
4. Shop on the edges of your market for the healthiest food options…that’s where your vegies are. The closer you get to natural sources of fibre, the better it is for you. Getting fibre from pizza crust- bad idea. Go for green, leafy vegetables; oatmeal; brown rice; and apples.
It’s evident that the amount of processed foods in our daily diet is contributing to a host of unhealthy conditions in our population. In the next newsletter, I’ll talk more about the reasons why these consumables are bad for you, why you crave them anyway and some strategies on how to break the cycle.
1. Supplement Plus Complimentary Healthcare Council of Australia, Vol. 1 No. 3; Spring 99.
2. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Measures of Australia’s Progress, 2010.
3. Food Standards Australia New Zealand, Fact Sheets 2009.
4. Dawn.com, “High-fiber diet may cut risk of premature death: Study”, 16 February, 2011.
5. Dr. Brett Fenster (cardiologist), National Jewish Health, Denver Colorado, USA