Do your toes articulate? Each foot is made up of 26 bones, 30 joints and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments, all of which work together to provide support, balance and mobility.
I always like to start classes with a bit of foot awareness – our feet connect us to the ground and our distribution of weight across the sole of the foot can help to inform us how we’re standing and how our joints are stacked.
As with a lot of aches and pains much can be related back to faulty foot mechanics and whilst we do some exercises in standing it’s good to be able to put some of these things into play outside of class as well as look at things we can be doing day to day to improve issues such as plantar fasciitis, bunions, flat feet and ‘bigger picture’ problems at the knees or hips.
We have more joints in the foot that we do in the rest of the body Our big toe is crucial for balance, walking, running and jumping. It is required to go through a large range of motion as we transfer our weight forward over our foot and propel ourselves forward when walking/ running. It stabilises the foot and creates a large amount of force necessary for push off. When the big toe becomes stiff, the weight of the body has to be distributed to other areas of the body and force for push off is produced by other joints within the lower limb. As other areas begin to compensate for lack of mobility in the big toe and abnormal loading transpires through the leg complications may arise in ankle, knee hip and low back.
Another key area to maintain is the main tendon of the foot – the Achilles tendon, which runs from the calf muscle to the heel. The Achilles tendon makes it possible to run, jump, climb stairs and stand on your toes. Regular calf stretching (dorsi and plantar) and ankle mobility is vital to keeping the Achilles in good working order.
Alignment socks for repositioning misaligned, shoe compressed toes! These will help you to realign & straighten out toes that have become malformed from cramped toe boxes. You may find that as your toes lengthen out you actually need to go up a shoe size & you should try to get shoes that you are able to abduct (spread your toes apart) inside your shoes. You can wear the socks at night time & get some physical therapy whilst you’re sleeping! – https://amzn.eu/d/4NybZEv
Balls to roll feet on – either golf balls or a spiky ball
Shoes!! Wear shoes that do not ‘cast’ your feet into unhelpful shapes – try to have a flexible sole and wide toe box. Have a look at barefoot shoes for a true foot re-wilding – https://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk/
Pilates is a great form of exercise to help our bodies as we get older. There are a number of ways that Pilates helps facilitate an active, independent lifestyle. Pilates provides a great framework for focussing on function by servicing all of our moving parts as a foundation from which to move for life and sport. From the fundamentals of joint stabilisation and control through an optimum range of movement we can use the Pilates repertoire to help in several key areas that affect us in later life.
Posture and Alignment – It’s not so much ageing that creates bad posture or alignment as much as time spent in sub optimum positions. Pilates helps to restore movement and balance to areas in need of attention and helps us reconnect with and find our alignment.
Osteoporosis – An estimated 3 million people have Osteoporosis in the UK with over 300,000 fractures per year due to the condition. After the age of 40 peak bone mass diminishes and so it’s an important consideration to add to your fitness goals. The reason why Pilates is so helpful is that in order for our bones to increase in density they need load, if your skeleton is not aligned then it becomes hard to load your bones optimally. So whilst there are a number of factors which will help improve an osteoporosis prognosis if you want to improve your bone density with weight bearing exercise you need to first check in on your alignment.
Pelvic Health – A key element of Pilates is the integration of the breath in conjunction with a core and pelvic floor connection. This helps exercise our pelvic floor muscles and helps prevent incontinence issues. So often we accept the odd leak when coughing or laughing but there is much we can do to help prevent and improve on the problem by retraining the pelvic floor muscles. This engagement of the deep abdominals, deep spinal muscles, and diaphragm is also very helpful to help strengthen the prostrate in men.
Falls Prevention – Having good balance and confidence in your ability to balance well is hugely important as we get older. Working on creating healthy joints and a sense of where you are in space is key to not having a fall. It also feeds into the Osteoporosis care to help prevent fractures and bone breaks by not falling in the first place.
Heart Disease – Research has shown that Pilates improves heart health through enhanced respiration, decreasing physical and emotional stress, and through improved metabolic function.
If you’re interested in Dynamic Ageing classes do get in touch with CYC:D to find out more and book a class held on Wednesdays 13:15.
An update on our Men’s Pilates! Every Tuesdays 13:45 – 14:45 at Healthflex, The Edge, Woolmer Hill.
The Men’s Pilates classes at Healthflex are open to all men who are keen to work on their flexibility and core strength. Typically we will start the class with some flexibility and mobility drills reviewing the Pilates Principles which we will layer through all the exercises in the class.
We’ll be working on all the key core muscles involved in improving your balance, alignment and peripheral joint stability and whilst there will be a range of exercises, the Pilates ruleset will remain constant throughout all the classes. This means you’ll be able to transition the same ideas we use in class to align our bodies with your daily activities. For example aligning your spine, breathing out on effort and integrating your core muscles with movement throughout your day. It’s about understanding how to move optimally and creating habits and a practice that facilitate a positive change in the way you move and feel.
Pilates creates a great foundation from which to move and play sports, to rehab, maintain and progress.
For more information do get in contact and for class bring along a mat, water, and ask at the Healthflex Clinic reception about small equipment which we use in class.
This week I’ve been incorporating lots of ankle mobility drills into my classes. Ankle mobility refers to the flexibility of the ankle joint and its surrounding muscles and tendons. When your ankle is flexible, you have a greater range of motion during your activities.
Having optimum range at the ankle joint allows for better movement higher up the chain at the knees and hips and will prevent them from weakening. All of which will improve your walking and running movement patterns.
Poor ankle mobility is caused by a general lack of flexibility in the muscles in the calf and back of the lower leg, ankle joint issues (or stiffness) from prior injury or surgery, or inflexible footwear and footwear with any sort of (high or low) heel.
As well as stretching your calves (think heel drops off a step) The Foot Series is a great way to condition the ankle complex by building strength through your range of movement and improving your endurance.
In standing (near a wall for balance if you need it) engaging your ‘Pilates posture’ – lengthened tall, shoulders relaxed, eyes front and weight evenly distributed across the soles of your feet –
Heel raises x10 (control the descent)
Knee bends x10 (keep knees in parallel don’t let them converge)
Combination: Heel raise – knee bend – heels lower – stand tall x10
Reverse combination: Knee bend – heel raise – stand tall with heel still raised – lower heels back down x10
As we return to work and our usual routines it can feel a lot like a ‘return to life’, which is also the title of Joseph Pilates’s book on his exercise system ‘Contrology’ now commonly known today as Pilates.
So what do we get from a Pilates workout and what should we expect? If you’re looking at starting Pilates or evaluating your existing routines here’s a quick summary of what his original body of work was intended to promote:
Improve Body Mechanics
Optimise Spinal Flexibility
Blood circulation – in the words of JP, Pilates “is the equivalent to an internal shower” !
It’s worth noting that Pilates today is often used as a vehicle to facilitate different goals rather than a pure interpretation of JP’s original work (known to many as The Classical Repertoire). As with anything there has been an evolution of Pilates via the Pilates elders and different teachers down the line since his death in 1967. As our lifestyles have changed they have cast our modern day posture so that perhaps our requirements from Pilates have facilitated a different expression of the original work too?
Joseph Pilates prescribed his exercises in a certain way and order to elicit as specific corrective result. This means just because we’re doing Pilates exercises doesn’t mean it matches up with JP’s intended format – which is fine but it’s important to understand the difference. Too many reps and sets takes us toward a more traditional fitness/gym model, too many exercises done in isolation can become closer to a more medicalised approach.
To be most effective (and authentic) Pilates must be performed regularly (3x per week), accurately and with mental focus and, as Joseph Pilates stresses, along with good sleeping habits, diet and fresh air. In fact the chapters on health entitled ‘Your Health’ were first published in 1934 and start with JP berating the amount of conflicting information broadcast on the radio, newspapers and magazines to the world about how to maintain their health. Not much has changed today particularly with the winning combination of the internet and New Year’s Resolutions!