HOW TO SIT WELL!

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I have written time and time again about how we have not yet evolved to cope with the demands of modern living. There simply hasn’t been sufficient time and evolutionary pressure for us to manage the radical changes we have made to our diet, movement patterns, stress responses and living environments in the last few hundred years.

It is sad that in the Western world we are made to sit at desks from the moment our schooling years begin. The scientific research supporting just how important movement is for children’s development alone is astounding. I believe it is the lack of movement that causes humans to age far too quickly and lose their gross and fine motor skills. Movement not only gives us confidence, but is also a form of creativity and expression – all of which are being stifled by the fear-based human need to create order and control.

WHY SITTING IS BAD FOR US

Loss of power and strength in the legs, butt and lower back

When we sit we’re squashing the weight of our torsos down onto our pelvis and legs. This tightens our lower back, hip and thigh muscles and weakens the muscles down the back of our legs (hamstrings) and butts.

Because the muscles in our hip region are our prime movers, where all power and locomotion originates, sitting for long periods greatly reduces our ability to move quickly, carry load and absorb shock correctly through our spines.

Hunched backs and no necks

When our upper bodies slump forward, the top of our spine gets particularly squashed down by the weight of the head. The back of the neck becomes short and weak, the front neck becomes saggy and weak and the upper back muscles long and tight.

This imbalance causes instability and dysfunction throughout the whole torso – we can experience tension headaches, irritability, anxiety, fatigue and nerve pain and numbness through the arms…

Dysfunctional breathing

The compression through the chest and thoracic spine that accompanies a hunched back  impairs the muscle that facilitate full healthy breathing.

Reducing the amount of oxygen we breathe greatly affects all manner of bodily functions such as digestion, regulating the nervous system, energy production and detoxification.

Reducing energy, oxygen and blood flow

Slumping the upper body forward also squashes the internal organs which inhibits their ability to function.

The liver struggles to detoxify, the intestines struggle to digest food effectively, the sex organs are deprived of sufficient blood flow, and waste removal becomes stagnant.

PHYSICAL SIGNS OF STAGNATION FROM LACK OF MOVEMENT & POOR POSTURE

  • Fatigue, difficulty focusing and poor productivity
  • Weakness, joints ache or are easily strained post exercise
  • Stiffness, loud grunting and exhaling to gather energy to get up and down from a chair / the floor / bed
  • Upper back and neck muscle tension
  • Sore butt bones and tight lower back and hip muscles
  • Feeling agitated, irritable, wired or anxious

HOW TO SIT WELL

1. Stick your butt out and push it to the back of the chair

2. Bring your upper back backwards to rest on the back of the chair

3. Sit with your either your feet on the floor and legs at a 90 deg angle, OR sit with both legs crossed (as in the photo above), OR sit on your feet, OR sit with your legs outstretched and resting on another chair or leg rest.

4. Point your elbows towards the floor

5. Suck your face into the back of your skull – or avoid jutting your chin forward

6. Imagine you are a pillar and your head has to hold the ceiling up while your shoulders are dropping downwards

7. Keep your eye-line level – you may need to lift your computer screen

8. Draw your belly back towards your spine and up into the roof of your mouth

9. MOVE FROM THIS POSITION REGULARLY! The biggest problem with sitting, second to posture, is the duration of time being stuck still in one fixed position!

OTHER TIPS

  • Get up and walk around as much as you can
  • Turn your head from side to side, twist to look behind you, squeeze your arms together behind your back
  • Stretch your butt – cross one foot over the opposite knee, stick your butt out and lean forward
  • Have standing or walking meetings
  • Join a morning, lunchtime or evening movement class

3 WAYS TO HELP HEAL BACK PAIN NATURALLY

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Back pain, particularly in the lower back, is one of the most common physical complaints. There are a number of factors specific to the individual, however there are some common threads running through each case that can be managed with my three-part protocol.

First and foremost it is important to recognise that your pain is there for a reason and is something that will not be remedied by long-term use of painkillers or other numbing agents. It is also important to note that most back pain is caused by muscle tension and imbalance rather than spinal problems. Thus, we need to bring awareness and understanding to the postural habits as well as emotional tensions that lie beneath the physical tension and be proactive in heeding our bodies needs.

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THREE PART PROTOCOL

  1. Calming the nervous system and gently relaxing the back muscles.
  2. Resetting the tone of the back-line muscles.
  3. Switching on other muscle groups so the back feels safe and supported.

As you go about this process you want to be aware of the thoughts and feelings that arise. Perhaps nothing arises and you just feel stronger and happier as your pain disappears, but be open to the potential for ‘re-experiencing’ stored emotions.

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PART ONE: CALM THE NERVES

Calm belly breathing :

Lie on your back on the floor, ideally with your lower legs resting over a couch / chair

  • Breathe in for 4 counts. Pause for 1 count. Breathe out for 6 counts. Repeat for at least one whole minute. For more in-depth info on breathing look here.

Magnesium spray or salt options :

* If you have low blood pressure consult your Doctor before using magnesium

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PART TWO: RESET THE TONE

  • Massage feet on tennis ball
  • Stretch your calf muscles by standing on the edge of a step and dropping one of your heels off the edge. Breathe into the release for 20 seconds then swap sides.
  • Gentle butt stretches. Ensure lots of height under your head – cross one foot over the opposite knee and bring the legs in towards you. Repeat other side.

Images and explanations of all these stretches can be found here.

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PART THREE: STRENGTH SUPPORT

*It is important that you listen to your body – do not work into pain. Reduce the reps or play with the movements to suit you if they don’t feel 100% comfortable.

Abdominal activation breathing / lateral breathing

SET UP: Lie on your back, arms long beside your hips with palms down, legs bent, feet flat on the floor, place a firm pillow between your knees.

EXERCISE: Belly breath in through the nose allowing the belly to rise, breathe out through the mouth feeling the abs sinking, wrapping and lifting (t-shirt should get baggy). Lateral breath in down the back of your throat and down the spine without disturbing your ab connection, breathe out and engage your abs even deeper. Lateral breath in, breathe out sink and engage abs deeper. Lateral breath in, breathe out to the very end of your exhale really squeezing all of the air from your lungs. Big belly breath in to let it all go.

REPS: Three sets of 10 lateral breaths

CUES: The aim is to be able to keep breathing while your abs stay connected. The stamina is in being able to breathe in without losing your ab connection. Aim to feel your abs tightening with a long slow exhale (especially lower abdominals drawing upwards) without squeezing your butt, hips, shoulders or jaw.

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Pelvic tilts or lifts

SET UP: Lie on your back, arms long beside your hips with palms down, legs bent, feet flat on the floor, place a firm pillow between your knees.

EXERCISE: Take a belly breath in, on your exhale use your lower abs to pull your pubic bone forward so your lower back squashes into the floor (stay here if the next step is too uncomfortable), lateral breath in and on the exhale sink your belly, press through your feet and continue to use your abs to reel the spine vertebra by vertebra away from the floor. Hold the pelvic lift for 10 lateral breaths. Breathe out and gently massage the spine back into the floor vertebra at a time.

REPS: 3-5

CUES: Press through your feet to activate the back of your legs. Keep your front ribs heavy, breast bone down, back of the neck long/chin down. Plug and hold the legs into the sides of the pelvis by wrapping under the bottom – don’t squeeze your butt, instead work under the butt, back of the legs and lower abs.

If this exercise fees uncomfortable on your back, try lifting up into the lift without tucking the pelvis under. Just come up on one piece.

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Small hip rolls

SET UP: Lie on your back, legs bent, feet and legs together, arms long beside hips.

EXERCISE: Exhale, take the legs gently over to one side. Lateral inhale. Exhale bring legs back to centre. Lateral inhale. Exhale take the legs to the other side.

REPS: 5 to each side.

CUES: Aim to massage the back of the pelvis in and away from the floor. Keep butt muscles relaxed, use abs to support the release of the lower back.

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All fours + knees hovering a few inches off the floor

SET UP: Knees under hips, hip width apart, hands under shoulders, shoulder width apart.

EXERCISE: Lift your knees about 3-4 inches away from the floor. Stay for 5 lateral breaths. Bring both knees back to the floor at the same time.

REPS: 5

CUES: Aim to strengthen back extensors and shoulder stabilising muscles.

To help get the arm bones connecting well into the shoulder sockets and the shoulder blades well placed, bend your arms and point the elbows out to the sides then turn the arms so the elbows point in towards your body, straighten the arms.

Think of the spine being pulled out through the crown of the head and out through the tail bone.

Keep shoulder blades wide on the back of your rib cage, ie. don’t pinch shoulder blades together.

Always think of pushing the floor away from you, ie. don’t collapse the body towards the floor

Make sure head isn’t dropped – keep chin in towards the chest to lengthen the back of the neck and lift the whole head up.
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Squats

SET UP: Begin standing; legs just wider than the outside of your hips, feet slightly turned out, hands on hips.

MOVEMENT: Bend your legs to what feels like half a squat for you. Bend deeper if you can do so without your heels coming away from the floor and without your knees knocking inwards. Press through the middle of the feet and heels to come back up to standing. Exhale through the mouth to go down, breathe in at the bottom, exhale to come back up. Click here for more info on squats.

REPS: 3 sets of 5

CUES: Knees point over third toes (ie. don’t collapse the knees inwards), knees behind toes/weight in heels, spine stays straight, head neutral. Aim to really work the leg and butt muscles and use your abs and deep back muscles to keep your spine stable.

READING YOUR BODY’S POSTURE

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I recently wrote an Instagram post about how being super physically flexible isn’t necessarily always a good thing. In it, I wanted to express how there is an absolute connection and continuity between your physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual and environmental worlds.

Bringing awareness to our posture or physicality can tell us a lot about our approach to life – the way we respond to stress or threats, what kind of company we keep, how our upbringing was, why we experience certain illnesses, what habits we have, and so on. Thus, decoding and making positive changes to our posture will help optimize our quality of life and ability to thrive.

CUES YOU CAN GLEAN FROM YOUR BODY:

Do you know what your posture looks like? Do you hunch your shoulders forward, or burst your chest forward? Stick your butt out, or tuck it under? Hold your arms in front, beside, or behind you? Where is your line of vision most commonly? Do you stand and walk with your feet turned out, parallel, or in? Do you know where you find it difficult to move or breathe in to? Do you have common areas of tension or weakness that play up whenever you’re feeling stressed or run down? Do you avoid certain movements such as sitting on the floor because it’s hard to get up? Do you prefer fast and intensive, or slow, deep forms of exercise? Are you mindful of how you hold your body when you are moving around, stood still, in conversation with a friend, an enemy? …

Use the answers from these questions to understand yourself more deeply. They may give clues to help your healing.

For example: a painful, weak lower back may want to feel stabilized by stronger legs, or a knowing that you can depend on and support yourself. Or it may be craving better connected abdominal muscles and some attention to what you truly love doing. Reoccurring headaches and tense shoulders may want more support from gaining stronger back and arm muscles, and perhaps some attention to what you’re resisting in life, or where you feel pressure to perform. An upset digestive system might be craving some loving and nurturing attention to help build courage and self-confidence. An imbalanced exercise routine such as a fast paced gym class + running + weights might indicate an addiction to stress and always needing to ‘feel’ something superficial in order to resist feeling a deeper, older pain. An inability to touch your toes may suggest a few stored emotions could be holding you back.

MY PHYSICALITY

I was always attracted to stretch exercise classes, I hated strength work! I stood with hyperextended legs (snapped into the back of my knees), tucked my butt under and pushed my chest forward. With very weak leg muscles my left knee would often slip in and out of place and my hips often clonked when doing certain movements. Despite being slim, my belly was never toned, and I had little power and stamina behind explosive movements such as jumping or sprinting.

WHAT IT WAS REFLECTING

In some aspects of my life, I was unstable and ‘too flexible’. I was a ‘yes’ person for fear of upsetting anyone, thus I frequently put others before myself to my detriment. I found it difficult to make decisions; I over or under ate to ‘feel full’ or check out; I often attracted energy vampires and was pushed and pulled by people’s moods. I overworked and faked confidence to distract from not knowing what direction to take in life.

MY ROUGH HEALING PLAN
1. Physically – I practise more strength exercises and focus on the stability aspect of stretch poses; I practise eating mindfully and choose grounding, nutrient-dense foods.
2. Emotionally – I practise mindfulness, I look at the motivations behind my behaviour and decisions without judgement; I am more selective with the relationships I have in my life.
3. Mentally – I use NLP to help re-route my thought patterns.
4. Spiritually – I practise transcendental meditation.
5. Environmentally – I organise my work schedule according to what else is going on in my life; I schedule regular breaks away from the city.

If you want more help decoding your body’s posture, I highly recommend the work of Caroline Myss. She has a great chakra chart here that you can follow and learn from.

And remember:

‘What is always speaking silently is the body. Listen to it’ – Norman. O. Brown

FEELING WIRED OR ANXIOUS POST-EXERCISE?

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Have you ever experienced post-work out panicking or an inability to wind down? Or have you ever connected the two? Unfortunately it can be one possible side effect of overworking your upper body or working with incorrect alignment.

Overstimulating your upper back and neck muscles, particularly for stressed people, can send the body into panic mode as these are the same muscles that activate when we sense danger. The brain takes this tension as an indication that you’re about to go into some kind of battle, and floods the body with stress chemicals such as adrenaline.

Increasing the blood flow, and thus relaxation around these tissues, helps reset the nervous system back into cruise-control by flooding the body with relaxation chemicals and endorphins.

Try the following to help keep you strong but calm

1. Give equal attention to all parts of your body

Instead of just having an ‘arm day’ or ‘back day’, work the whole lot – you’re one whole body after all. Good instructors and classes will work this way.

2. Practise correct alignment

Your arm tissue begins at your tailbone and also has strong connections into your deep abdominals so whenever you’re using your arms be sure feel how they feed into the rest of your body.

For help with understanding and to practise correct form read my previous post here

3. Make time to re-balance

Stretch your neck, chest and upper back muscles to flood them with fresh blood, to reset the tissue tone, and to assist the detoxification of those stress hormones. Look here for the ideal upper body stretches to help wash away upper body tension.

Take a deep shoulder covering bath, with epsom / magnesium salts too if possible. Bathing in warm water helps relax your muscles and fascia, encourages deeper breathing offering a clearer, less fear-driven perspective on your problems. Epsom salts are a 100% natural muscle relaxant, they lower blood pressure and take the acidity out of the body helping you feel way more chilled out – just be careful if you have low blood pressure.

4. Breathe

Taking gentle full belly breaths in and out through your nose will send a message to your brain to say you’re in a safe place. In turn, the brain will produce your calm chemistry which allows your muscles to relax and your whole system to soften and ease.

 

SIMPLE BUCKWHEAT PANCAKES (gluten, sugar, dairy free)

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Here’s a delicious, nutritious pancake recipe you can use this Pancake Tuesday!
I’ve listed some savoury and sweet filling ideas below. Remember that choosing a sugar-free breakfast is crucial in keeping insulin levels balanced and keeping you fuller for longer. It also helps you better tune in to what your body truly needs – sugar often craves more sugar so watch out!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup coconut or rice milk
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Coconut oil to grease the pan

Savory filling ingredients

  • Sauteed spinach and grated courgette
  • Scrambled egg with turmeric
  • Avocado and mixed leaves

Dessert filling ingredients

  • Stewed apple
  • Smashed blueberries and almond butter
  • Raspberries and coconut cream
Directions
  • Preheat a non-stick chemical-free pan / cast iron pan.
  • Whisk all the ingredients together.
  • Turn the heat up – moderate to high.
  • Grease the pan with a decent amount of coconut oil. Pour in the batter to fill the pan, cook, flip, plate, stuff with your choice of filling, consume.

CHANGING THE STORIES

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We have all created narratives throughout our lives that keep us locked into unhealthy thought patterns. Even though these stories make us feel fearful, angry, sad or anxious, we love them because they feel like home: they’re comfortable, familiar & predictable.

One of the stories I love to run is that life = worry. I pick through my day to find something to hyper focus on and build into a worry story. This story is great at keeping me occupied and stopping me from venturing out of my comfort zone. Another common story people love, is to find ways of blaming other people for the misfortunes in their own lives. As long as they can blame others they’ll never have to look at their own part in the story and change their ways. There are many, many stories we tell ourselves…do you know yours?

Despite our stories having strong pathways (due to constant use!) it is totally possible to re-write them, I can vouch for this. The steps outlined below have been incredibly helpful in rewriting new nourishing stories.


1. AWARENESS – noticing when you are acting out of habit.
2. BREATHE – take a deep full breath in through your nose and a long slow sigh exhale through your mouth.
3. CHANGE YOUR POSTURE – move away from the hunched, heart protecting posture to mimic one of strength & confidence – lift your vision, stand tall, move with direction. Or, if you have a puffed out, armored rib cage hiding away your fear, then try softening a little, relax your eyes, jaw, throat, chest and move with ease.
4. WRITE A NEW STORY – get detailed about how you want to be feeling, what you want to be seeing, doing, saying, tasting, smelling…who you want to be there. The story will feel good, there will be zero fear, resentment etc. Repeat this story over and over until it’s the first file you pull from your brain!
And a bonus one: FORGIVE – forgive the person or people who may have played a role in the creation of your story…it may be yourself you need to forgive? And don’t forget this amazing quote: ‘When you forgive it doesn’t mean you approve; it means you’re giving yourself permission to move on with your life’

SIMPLE FRUIT CRUMBLE (gluten, grain & sugar free, paleo, vegan)

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This dish is my current obsession: fresh, flavorful, gooey stewed fruit, topped with a crunchy crumble topping. It’s the perfect light dessert for the summer or cosy winter pudding drenched with organic cream. It also doubles as a delicious and healthy breakfast alternative for cereal addicts, as it is far superior in bio-available nutrients, fats and minerals than most commercially produced cereals.

CHOOSING YOUR FRUIT

It’s best to choose fruit that is organic or spray-free. Manmade chemical pesticide sprays are foreign to the human body and thus require huge amounts of energy to deal with. Because our immune system is expending energy getting rid of these chemicals to protect our vital organs, it has less time to do its other daily chores such as fighting bugs, viruses, allergens, and clearing out old cellular debris. If this still hasn’t put you off – these chemicals which act like estrogens also increase cellulite and excess belly fat.

GO SEASONAL

It’s a great idea to eat seasonally so we are in-sync with the natural rhythms of nature. Mother nature always knows best! In the spring she produces loads of fresh greens to help alkalize and “spring clean” our systems after winter hibernation, and in the summer she hands out cooling and hydrating cucumbers, watermelons, zucchinis and berries. Eating with the seasons also means the fruit and veg can fully ripen and thus be at their highest nutrient count and full of flavour (rather than being picked early so they can be shipped across the world without going bad). I especially love choosing seasonal produce as it keeps meals interesting and varied.

GO LOCAL

Supporting local farmers (especially those who are spray-free) is not only a wonderful way to support family businesses but also allows you to cast a vote towards protecting the environment. It is of course a great boost for the local economy! My recipe below calls for apples and plums and is suitable for those living in England during the summer to autumn period. Depending on where you are in the world other nice combinations can be made with pear or rhubarb (base fruits) with berries, nectarines or oranges (more flavoursome fruits)

Ingredients for the topping:

  • 2 cups almond flour OR 1 cup of almond flour + 1 cup of desiccated coconut
  • 2 TBSP coconut flour OR 3 TBSP corn flour (if you can tolerate grain)
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil OR butter (if you can tolerate dairy)
  • Sweetener is optional! 12 drops of stevia OR 2 TBSP maple syrup OR 2 TBSP rice malt syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon OR mixed spice (optional)
  • Salt

Ingredients for the fruit:

  • 2 cups of small sized slices of apple (6 apples)
  • 1 cup of medium sized slices plums (6 plums)

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 180deg
  • Combine all the crumble ingredients together with your hands, massaging the mixture together with your hands ensures everything is well mixed. A great tip from Hemsley + Hemsley is to place the crumble mix in the fridge to harden it for a better crispy texture.
  • Add the sliced fruit to the baking pan, giving it a good stir to make sure the different fruits are well mixed.
  • Using your hands again, crumble the dry mixture over the fruit then press down well to seal the fruit in like you would a pie.
  • Place in the oven and cook for 45 minutes. Turn the grill on for the last five minutes for a definite crispy topping! If you can bear waiting before serving, I sometimes turn the oven off but leave the crumble inside the oven for another 10-15 minutes – this makes for exceptionally gooey tasty fruit!

I love this crumble as is, or with my plum cream, but I know a lot of people love it drenched in double cream! Other delicious accompaniments are nut butters, greek yoghurt, coconut cream or coconut yoghurt. Enjoy!

PRE AND POST RUN TIPS & EXERCISES

 

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There are a lot of contradicting views regarding stretching out there, especially stretches associated with running. In my opinion, what will assist you most seriously, as always, is enjoying and connecting with what you’re trying to achieve. There is no point in making yourself run if you hate running and there is no point in racing through your stretches if you’re not paying attention to what you’re trying to feel and achieve during them.

In an ideal world, our bodies would be balanced and able to move easily and freely through movements because everything is correctly aligned, flexible and stable. However, the majority of us have dysfunction around our bodies: the muscles around our pelvis are weak due to the amount of time we spend sitting,  our feet are stiff and lack bounce from squashing them into shoes and pounding around on hard concrete pavements, our ribs are tight from not breathing fully…and so on. So this means we need to spend a little time un-doing our poor postural patterns, and re-learning how to move with ease.

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Before I give you a break down of how best to warm up and warm down I want to remind you of the four essential points you need to consider when engaging in any kind of stretches (be it slow, dynamic or assisted):

1) Keep stretches dynamic and not static – this way your brain will always remember the length at which the muscle lengthens to.

2) Never EVER stretch into pain, aim for 6/10 pain level – this means you won’t activate the fear response, where although you’ll be feeling a stretch, the muscles will be shortening in order to protect from the danger sensed in over stretching.

3) Breathe, relax and release into the stretch – this allows the nervous system to send calm messages around the body letting it know it is in a safe place to let go – in this place you will achieve long term space and flexibility.

4) Keep focused on what you’re trying to achieve – the brain must have a clear objective if it is to achieve any lasting results.

For a deeper break down of these points read here.

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To keep things simple, so you can remember and familiarise yourself with the stretches, I have chosen the same stretches for before and after your run. The major difference is that before your run you will keep the stretches more dynamic (moving) and you will keep them very gentle and within a small range.

The main two reasons you want to save your slower and deeper stretching for after your run is because 1. you can easily injure yourself if you lengthen your muscles then ask them to contract and power you off down the road shortly after; and 2. your muscles relax, release and lengthen far greater when you are warm and have more oxygen, blood and lymph moving around your body.

TIPS WHILE RUNNING

  • Think of your joints as springs and your muscles as elastic bands (which they do in fact mechanically resemble)
  • Keep your vision eye-level so as to not have the weight of your head dragging your spine into a hunch and your energy down into the ground
  • Keep your chest wide and crown of the head reaching to the sky to help keep a sense of space and uplift
  • Let your spine and ribcage twist and spring naturally as your arms alternate swinging forward and backward
  • Find your rhythm – be it with your breath, the sound of your feet hitting the pavement or internal bouncing
  • If you feel the need to rest try instead to keep the flow by opting to walk – try stretching the arms up in the air, or behind your back. This will help give your tissues a bit of space but still challenge your cardiovascular system by having to hold the weight of your arms above or behind your head.

PRE AND POST RUN MOBILISING

The stiffer you are and the colder the temperature is, the more important you spend time warming up. The idea is to go gently; slowly wake your body and nervous system up. Spend roughly 30 -60 seconds on each stretch, but of course spend longer if you are enjoying the stretch and can feel there is more release to be had.

FEET

  • Massage your feet (one at a time) on a tennis ball or a spiky ball. Press into the ball as you massage from the front to back of your foot (you may want to hold onto a wall so you can really get in to your feet).

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  • Sit on your heels with your toes pointing in the same direction as your nose – this stretches the sole of your feet and will help to open the back line of your body (the back of the legs, butt, spine and head)

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  • Sit on your heels and the front of your feet so the toes are pointing backward – this stretches the front of the feet and will help open the front line of your body (front of the legs, belly, chest, neck and face). Alternate sitting on your heels and tops of your feet for one minute (if this is difficult to do sitting up right then lean forward and rest your hands on the floor)

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CALVES

  • Stand the front of your feet on the edge of a step, rise up onto your toes and alternate dropping your heels down off the step for one minute (keep your feet pointing forward, eye line level, draw belly into spine and reach the crown of your head to the sky)

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LOWER BACK AND SIDES 

  • Standing with feet parallel a foot or more length distance apart, belly drawn gently in towards your spine, gaze straight ahead. Arms above your head, take hold of your right wrist with your left hand, breathe in, and on the exhale side stretch over to the left, inhale back to centre swap hands, exhale stretch over to the right. Repeat 5 times to each side. Keep arms beside or behind your ears (not in front of your face). Make sure you are not twisting – keep feet, knees, hips and armpits all facing forward. Think of stretching diagonally up and out rather than in a collapsed curve towards the floor.

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THIGHS AND HIPS

  • Begin standing with your hands on your hips, or on the wall in front of you (shoulder width apart and at shoulder height). Take a step backwards and hold. Point both feet, knees, hips and shoulders straight ahead. Have your spine absolutely upright as if you were standing. Eyes looking straight ahead. Bend both legs, tuck your bottom under by drawing your lower abs upwards. make sure both feet, knees, hips and shoulders are all pointing straight ahead. Have your spine absolutely upright as if you were standing. Eyes looking straight ahead. If you don’t feel much of a stretch, take a bigger step and play with straightening your back leg (see the second image below). Click here for more info on lunges.

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SPINE TWIST

  • Lie on your back with your legs bent and ‘glued’ to each other – beginners keep your feet on the floor, others take them up in the air, arms wide out to the sides. Exhale – take legs to one side and head to the opposite side, inhale – bring your legs and head back to centre, exhale – go to the opposite side. Every time you exhale make sure you gently sink, wrap and lift your abdominals – your shirt should get baggier! Gently massage the spine into the floor as you go from side to side (i.e. no arching the back).

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BUTT

Lie on your back. Cross your left ankle across your right knee and hug the legs in towards you. Aim to keep your hips square, try to keep your butt on the floor. If you can’t do this without your head or butt coming off the floor then put a pillow under your head and keep your right foot (underneath leg) on the floor.

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ROLLING LIKE A BALL

  • This is great to get massage and stretch the spine and to also get the abs deeply connecting. Lie on your back, hug your knees into your chest, curl your upper body forward, press your knees gently into your hands and hands into knees, shoulders down, elbows wide, keep your belly deepening back towards the spine and gently rock forward and backwards. Inhale forward, exhale back.

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BACK OF THE BODY

  • Find a bench top or wall and press your palms against the edge of it whilst stepping backwards so you have enough space to bring your spine parallel to the floor. Legs wide apart and at a 90 deg angle to your spine. Softly bend and straighten your legs, trying to stick your butt up to the ceiling.You will feel a stretch happening down the backs of your legs, spine, arms and shoulders. Try to keep your ears between your arms ie. don’t collapse your head down, keep the back of your neck long, gaze to the floor.

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SQUAT

  • Begin standing; legs just wider than the outside of your hips, feet slightly turned out, arms long beside you. Bend your legs to what feels like half a squat for you, fold at the hips, spine stays straight, head neutral, knees behind toes, weight in heels, take arms forward to shoulder height, palms facing each other. Bend deeper if you can do so without your heels coming away from the floor and without your knees knocking inwards. Press through the middle of the feet and heels to come back up to standing. Exhale through the mouth to go down, breathe in at the bottom, exhale to come back up. Click here for more info on squats.

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POST RUN INNER THIGH AND LOWER BACK RELEASE

  • If you fancy going a little deeper than a squat after your run then take a wide squat position, aiming knees over your second to third toes, abs gently drawn in. Heels can be on the ground or not – just go with what feels most comfortable. Rest your forearms into your inner thighs and use them to press your legs gently out to the sides keeping your weight through the outsides of your feet (do not let your knees fall inwards). Gently sway side to side to help tease open more release through the inner thighs, pelvis and lower back.

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RUN GENTLY ON THE SPOT FOR AT LEAST ONE MINUTE BEFORE YOU START YOUR RUN AND END YOUR RUN WITH A FEW MINUTES OF WALKING (TAKE SLOW CALM BREATHS)

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BONUS RELEASE FOR AFTER YOUR RUN OR AT THE END OF A DAY

SIDE AND FRONT OF LEG MASSAGE – this is of utmost importance if you suffer from shin splints or knee pain.

  1. If you don’t have a soft tennis ball, spiky ball or foam roller then you can make fists and gently punch and massage up and down the outsides of your hips, thighs and shins. This line often gets tight with running and can cause the knee pain as the knee is being pulled out to the side.

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OR 2. Use a soft tennis ball, spiky ball or foam roller to gently massage into the outside of your hip and down the front of your thighs. The key is to relax into the release, if you’re tense and resistant the fascia will struggle to soften and re-set.

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PLUM CREAM (dairy, sugar, grain & gluten free, paleo, vegan)

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I’m always trying to find healthier options for desserts as a way to help with sugar addictions and sweet dependencies among us all! So I’ve come up with the below recipe which I think is a great alternative to the normal sugar laden ice-cream or yoghurt. Of course you can play around with different fruits – ideally choose what is in season – or if you are fructose sensitive then berries are a good choice.

Ingredients: (serves 2)

  • 2 plums (or nectarines are delicious too!)
  • 2 TBSP water
  • 2 TBSP coconut oil
  • 4 TBSP almond flour
  • pinch of salt

Directions:

  • Blend with a hand blender into a smooth creamy mixture then leave to set in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Consume as is, or as an accompaniment for crumble or cake! It is also really lovely with a sprinkle of  toasted coconut, nuts or seeds for a healthy breakfast option.