60 seconds with... Fiona M.

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You attend Suz and Marco’s classes, can you explain me the difference between the two methods?

It’s a given that both Suz and Marco are 100% dedicated to the fundamentals of their practice. 100% appreciated by me. Given this shared commitment to detail. I would say Marco is more routinely focused on the bricks and blocks- The chords. Suz is more instructive; improvises; more into me flow/movement, while on top of detail. 

 

What do you expect from them?

With Suz – expect the unexpected high energy, fun, an ability to connect and engage on a personal level with everyone. A full assessment of your place, your being. 

With Marco – it is my M.O.B. I know what to expect – value his work highly as a comfort point to Suz. Both methods speak to each other/blend. 

 

Why do you need both of them (class with Marco and 1:1 with Suz)? 

Great to combine 1 :1 with classes – different dynamic, perspective. Appreciate strength with Marco. Sense of ongoing development and settings sights and goals and possibilities with Suz. Back to base, being grinded with Marco. Enjoy my week immensely with Suz. 

Marco is technique, movement conditioning.  Suz is movement, feeling, flow. 

A Brief Movement History by Seb

We all know that exercising and movement is beneficial for our bodies and minds. It provides a psychological and physical benefit, which in today’s fast-paced lives is of huge benefit to our sense of wellbeing. 

 

Throughout the centuries, the rationale and philosophy of movement and exercise have changed dramatically. We went from the Palaeolithic era between 2.6 million and 100,000 years ago – where the movement was utilised very much as a method of survival – to the ancient farming and agricultural times which took hold around 10,000 ago. At this point in movement evolution, actions were still very manual but significantly far more repetitive than for our primal ancestors. As advances in technology improved and machines were used more, there were obvious advantages in terms of profitability, mass production of supplies and time efficiency – but at what cost to our health? We now had mechanisms which we could rely on to keep the world around us functioning, without having to rely on good old-fashioned manual handling skills.  Consequently, human movement efficiency plummeted and the health status of workers systematically declined in line with continued technological advances. All of this is hugely relevant information when it comes around to the question of exercise choice and its role in building resilience for our bodies biological systems.

The fitness and health industry is a multi-million pound one, constantly advertising to us and promoting fancy equipment, all with health claims to be ‘the one’.

What’s important when choosing whether to pursue a regime of physical activity is that it engages you. This must be of utmost importance. The term ‘challenge’ is highly subjective and its meaning has and can mean many different things to a multitude of individuals. One person’s walk in the park may mean another’s marathon. Everyone’s preference for physical activity is going to be different and that’s a good thing.

What’s important for the fitness industry’s reputation going forward is that people don’t feel pressurised into certain activities. Engagement once again is the key term here. As healthcare professionals, we have an obligation to inform, encourage and enlighten when it comes to movement and pain management. Problems begin to arise when trainers, coaches and ‘specialists’ preach and insist that there is one way only as a path to follow. To ensure sustainability of health and a long-lasting sense of well-being, the professional should guide and allow the patients and clients to feel comfortable pursuing and engaging in physical activity safely and with an enhanced understanding of their limits and capability and why it is important for them.

 

·       TRX

·       Kettlebells

·       Medicine balls

·       ViPR

·       Swiss Balls

·       Resistance bands

 

The above demonstrate just a small example of the wide range of fitness toys, which are now commonly used in the gym and healthcare setting. The concept and introduction of these fitness tools can be traced all the way back to where we started this blog article, talking about movement in the Palaeolithic era. Movements from this period were hugely varied with spontaneous bursts of speed, demonstrating joint mobility and ravaging displays of strength. These fitness tools provide other avenues for coaches and clients to be creative through their movement education. An important point to mention here though is that any movement program that is being introduced must have a method and concept to allow appropriate progressions and regressions based on capability and efficiency.

 

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This flow chart shows 7 elements which are key for the attainment of the vital body. By addressing these factors in equal measure, you are providing the body with the best chance of staying not just injury free but flourishing in the exciting, fast-paced and engaging world we live in today.  

In short..... Get moving!

 

Seb Hicks

 

 

60 seconds with... Jane G.

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You attend both Suz and Marco’s classes, can you explain the difference between the two methods?

Marco and Suz have different personal styles as you would expect. But what I love about both is that they complement each other. They start from a similar knowledge base and use the same principles and methods. Sometimes, you see a theme during a week, whether they intend it or not, so you feel you are building on a particular focus as the week goes on.

 

What do you get from each of them?

I always feel fantastic when I leave their classes. Both encourage and push and I always feel that I’ve progressed, even just a little, in each class.

 

Why did you choose our Studio rather than a gym or a traditional Pilates studio?

I originally started at SFStudios on a friend’s recommendation and very quickly feel in love with the personal, friendly approach used by all the teachers. The atmosphere is always a happy energetic one. 

EXHALE - The lost art of breathing out

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If you’re familiar with any of my classes, you might have noticed that there is one thing that I often insist on: keep your ribs down. It’s the main component of the hollow body position, which plays a major role in many athletic endeavours, especially gymnastics. However, the reason why I place so much emphasis on this position - here, as much as in the classes - is not performance, but optimal breathing. 

To do what it’s meant to, the diaphragm needs to be in its neutral position: a dome shape. When the diaphragm contracts, our lungs are pulled down and expand, drawing air into our body. When it relaxes, our lungs are deflated and air is pushed out of our body. We call these two basic actions inhalation and exhalation. 

Pretty straightforward, right? Well, not always. 

If not effectively opposed by our abdominal wall, our ribcage has the tendency to flare, normally on the left-hand side. Within a certain amount, this is normal. In many cases, however, this tendency becomes dysfunctional and generates problems. By flaring out, in fact, the diaphragm loses its dome shape and, with it, its ability to work as a breathing muscle (it essentially stiffens up and becomes a postural muscle). We find ourselves in a state of hyperinflation, a fancy term used to highlight the fact that our back is over-extended and our breathing is compromised. 

In this scenario, we are unable to use our diaphragm. Without realising it, we adjust our postures and movements in ways that help us compensate for that, turning our neck and shoulder muscles into our main ‘inhalators’. This extra duty adds up to the already heavy workload of these structures, causing local stiffness and soreness, and a general increase of tension and stress. We find ourselves in constant “fight or flight” mode, which causes chronic anxiety and depletes our energy levels, making us sleepy and drowsy. 

 

 ©FitnessGenes 

©FitnessGenes 

What should we do? The short answer is: we need to breathe out - more effective, more consistently. 

For that to happen, our ribcage and spine have to allow our diaphragm to assume its natural dome shape and work as it should. Once the shape has been restored, we can practise our diaphragmatic (or belly) breathing to get a sense of what it means to breathe without using neck and shoulders. Once also good function has been re-established, we can get fancy and reinforce it through some exercises. 

The hollow body position mentioned initially is a good starting point: it activates the abdominal wall, especially oblique and transverse abdominal muscle. These muscles offer a dynamic control of the position of our ribcage, and, therefore, support the regular activity of our diaphragm. 

 

Marco Litto

Thoughts on Perceptions

HOW WE APPROACH SOMETHING MENTALLY CAN HAVE A HUGE IMPACT ON WHAT WE GET OUT OF IT - by suz

What’s your perception of the photo above? We've had so many comments – from “great picture” and “fantastic shot” to “intimidating”, “elitist”, “a little creepy” and “super strong”. 

Does it inspire you? — "I want to be able to do that!" Or did it terrify you? — "I could never be able to do that! 

How do I respond to the comments about the picture of Marco and me? I am chuffed that people think we are elite however it alienates us, which is so sad – I certainly don’t want people to feel that we are out of their league because it’s absolutely not like that in our work at all. 

The greatest gift in my life is having a connection with another person, helping them overcome whatever stands in their way to being the greatest, happiest, most confident person they can be — living and enjoying their life.

I meet so many great people on a weekly basis and hear their mental struggles: ‘I want to lose weight first and then I will come”, “I should get fitter first and then I will join a class”, “I do not want to be the weakest in the class” or "will I be that weakest person, hiding in the corner?” They are all common themes. 

Believe it or not, I too was like that at one stage in my life but then I realised that there were so many people with the same thoughts, the same fears, trepidations, inhibitions and feelings of “I am not good enough” or “I don’t want to make an idiot of myself” or just feeling embarrassed. 

I too was making that yearly promise to myself of ‘I will do this and this and then I will go the gym’ but finding myself one year later in exactly the same place. When you get so far away from that place that you want to be, the simplest thing is to give up and walk away from your dream. We can create new excuses like “I am too old now” or “I never had the time”.

At SF Studios, everyone is welcome. There are no superheroes or super athletes here. We are what we are and we are where we are because of our passion, commitment and desire to improve. 

At the end of the day it is a scientific formula — the more you put in wisely and correctly, the more you get out.

Start by turning up. Get onto your mat. Get into your shoes. Get onto your saddle. Just start and then keep on going.  

The Backbend: Overcoming Fear to Fulfil an Ambition

To BE ABLE TO DO A backbend I, like many of my clients, had to overcome what was going on in my head as well as in my body. I had to learn to overcome my false beliefS. - by suz

My body was so over-developed on one plane by running, doing triathlons and so much Pilates — that I overdeveloped my core muscles in the front of my tummy. It looked great and everyone was super impressed. My ability to perform sit-ups was off the chart in terms of strength BUT my back was aching so much in bed at night and the only comfortable position I could find wasn’t so good for my neck. Nurofen became my short-term solution. 

Back in the studio, I looked at people doing backbends with great admiration but I was the one shaking like a leaf when I was standing with both arms above my head, aiming to bend backwards, even just a few degrees.

My mind said “my back is not built for that". Also everything in my upbringing – my parents, the media, my physio and teachers around me, taught me that these types of movements were ‘inadvisable’ as they might damage the spine. (Yes, they can cause damage when performed wrongly and too vigorously, as with any other exercise.) So I consoled myself with my impressive core instead. 

Finally I acknowledged my fears to Marco and was so surprised when he shared with me how he had struggled too, and how long he had worked to get to the point of backbend.

We stripped it down, I took a leap of faith and Marco helped me. He guided me from the foundations of a back bend and encouraged me to stay with it. Of course it was tremendously hard and uncomfortable but amazing to remove the barrier and it gave me such a feeling of self-empowerment. And guess what – my back never broke! 

Not long after we started, I noticed that my back pain in bed had subsided. No more rolling about, adding pillows and trying to find a comfortable position. I was not aware of my back in any position, in fact when I was aware of my back, it felt great. I started to experience flexibility in my spine at all levels and my neck also felt better. 

I also realised how weak and stiff I was in the sides of my body (lateral flexion) and finally understood how important these muscles are to my core and started to focus on them instead. 

The beauty now is that I still have a six-pack without having to train. That’s because these muscles work in so many other ways. My sleep is pain free. I have confidence that I can move my back in any direction and feel strong, yet light. 

My back-bend journey still continues because I love a challenge and will always see if I can squeeze something more out of a single bone – that is my nature! I am a confident back-bender now, I never ever in a million years thought I would ever say this. 

We want to give this gift of “empowerment and freedom” to you too. All those people out there who think you're not fit enough, skinny enough, strong enough or not good at coordination — it does not matter how old you are.

If there is anything inside of you that wants to be able to do something, whatever that is… turn up, be honest, trust, commit and start the journey.