Pilates, baby tossing and butt training? Alessandra Ambrosio has some explaining to do

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There is something likeable about Alessandra Ambrosio. She is Brazilian, a 33 year-old model and a Victoria’s Secret Angel. But that is not why I like her, honestly.

I like her because she is open and honest, and she loves Pilates. The picture above is of her during a workout last week in a Santa Monica gym. She is also honest about her training and lifestyle. She recently said that she never exercised until after her daughter was born. She said: ‘When I started with Victoria’s Secret at 21, I never worked out. Then when I got pregnant with my daughter, I gained about 60 pounds and had to walk the Victoria’s Secret show three months later. That was the first time I had to really fight to get my body back into shape.’

I am very happy to let celebrities help me to promote Pilates, health and fitness. But I have to say that sometimes their lack of knowledge about training astounds me, and the things they say certainly do not help the public to understand what is important. Clearly sometimes money does not buy good advice.

Alessandra says that she doesn’t “do much” for her arms as she doesn’t think people notice them as much as the rest of her body. ‘When you’re in a bikini, your abs are the most important. I like doing bridges, and I’ll also finish a workout with 100 bicycle crunches. I’ll do three sets of 25 “Superman’s” to tone my back. I don’t really do much for my arms; throwing my kids in the air helps already. Plus, as a Brazilian, I know the last thing a man is going to look at – even after your feet – is your arms! I Spin on Monday, go to Pilates on Wednesday and yoga on Sunday. You have all these other things to put in front of [workouts] that you say are more important, but they’re not. Your health is most important.’

Where to start with these comments…. First let’s start with the positive. Regular Pilates and yoga is of course great, as is a varied fitness regime that includes cardio as well. Also “your health is most important” is clearly a good message to be getting out there.

But in my opinion as a Pilates teacher, a holistic exercise regime is vital, so neglecting any body part is flawed and an inadequate approach to health (throwing children in the air is not a recognisable training method and is probably dangerous and maybe illegal? I am sure that one day someone will try to launch it as a mother and toddler fitness concept…)

The part of this interview that I find most disturbing is the concept of training the part of your body that you think people look at most. Whilst I am sure (and I really hope I am right) that she was saying this with her tongue firmly in her cheek, the idea of training your abs and butt only because that is what men look at is not on any level a good message.

I think I should let Alessandra have the final say on this post: ‘Having a perfect body isn’t everything. I want my daughter to be nice, have a good education and be disciplined. That’s what makes people like her. A perfect butt doesn’t make an amazing person. It’s about feeling confident.’

“A perfect butt does not make an amazing person”. Inspiring words indeed. 😉

Chris is an international Pilates presenter and educator. He is the creator of Pilates EVO©, bodyFUNC©, and CEO of Pilates Rehab Limited and Sport Core Strength.  He also organises Pilates Carnival and Fitness Carnival, conventions where all profits go to local children’s charities. Read Just who is Chris Hunt anyway? for more.

 

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Pilates & Heart Rate: Does Kim & Kanye’s Wedding get yours going?

KMAIN

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So it was the celebrity wedding of the year. The biggest celebrity wedding since, err, well, Kim’s last marriage? But of course being serious Pilates folk, we are not bothered about celebrity weddings are we. What we are interested in is why Pilates was one of the topics of conversation at such an event.

I have been accused of dwelling on celebrity too much. So I have carefully and patiently explained to people who accuse me of this that my life and my love is Pilates. I am therefore happy to use whatever means I can to promote our beloved system to the world out there, a large proportion of whom spend a lot of their time immersed in the celebrity culture that pervades our society.

It’s no surprise that this is not the first time that I have written about Kim. In my post Kim Kardashian: Keeping up with Pilates, I talked about her exercise regime which naturally includes Pilates. She is regularly seen leaving a Pilates studio in LA and regained her famous figure after giving birth by again using Pilates-based exercises. I’ve written before about Pilates for pregnancy, see my article Mila Kunis Pregnancy Pilates for more reasons why Pilates can and should be the last exercises that are done before giving birth, and the first exercises after the birth (with some provisos of course).

Today I want to talk about heart rate and Pilates. Kim practises a fusion of Pilates, weight training and circuit training and it’s done to muscle failure with very little transition to keep the heart rate up.

I am not a believer of so-called “cardio-Pilates”; Pilates breathing should be deep and controlled throughout all the exercises. But can Pilates offer benefits to the heart? A study by the American Council on Exercise reached some interesting conclusions. As well as looking at the actual benefit offered to the heart, the study also looked into benefits in terms of calorie burning, as well as flexibility and strength, by including Pilates in the study’s fitness regimen. This study was undertaken to see the actual benefits that Pilates can provide. It attempted to see if regular inclusion of Pilates during exercise could improve aerobic fitness and qualify as good cardio workouts for women.

Results showed that heart rates rose by 54 percent with basic Pilates, which is below the recommended 64 to 94 percent rise that ensures a good workout for the heart. Oxygen consumption was at 28 percent, which is also below the recommended level of 50 to 85 percent. With advanced Pilates, heart rates rose to 62 percent and oxygen consumption to 43 percent; levels that were still below recommendations. Interestingly, participants’ perception was that their exercising was that of a heavy muscular workout for both the basic and advanced Pilates.

The study was carried out using healthy women participants (where were the men????) who had at least an intermediate experience with Pilates. There is a significant difference between beginner levels and intermediate levels of Pilates training and its effects on the body. Pilates might not have the required cardiovascular benefits, but the exercise regime does improve core strength.

The authors agree that in their study, heart benefits of Pilates were not seen. They suggest that Pilates could be adopted by people who are looking for more strength and suppleness rather than burning calories and benefiting the heart. They said that Pilates is a great form of exercise for most populations especially those looking for some toning and flexibility help. It can be modified somewhat or scaled down to fit everyone’s needs. These exercises make the person feel they are working out harder than they actually are, and there is a major difference in heart rate and oxygen utilization between basic and advanced levels of Pilates. This could mean that each person may choose Pilates according to their fitness levels and benefit by building core strength and stability.

What is your experience with heat rate?

Chris is an international Pilates presenter and educator. He is the creator of Pilates EVO©, bodyFUNC©, and CEO of Pilates Rehab Limited and Sport Core Strength.  He also organises Pilates Carnivals, Pilates conventions where all profits go to local children’s charities. Read Just who is Chris Hunt anyway? for more.

It must be Friday: a bear doing Pilates?

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OK, so it’s Friday and sometimes we all need to relax and chill a little. This brown bear is having a nice work-out, maybe he’s trying teaser? Whilst I am of course a big Pilates and fitness fan, I do not suggest that you make a habit of eating raw dandelions whilst you exercise! But cooked they are nutritious and delicious. 🙂

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Does Gluten insensitivity actually exist? Maybe not…

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In the past few days the results of a very interesting study have been published that really questions the long-held belief that gluten is the cause of so many gastrointestinal problems.

The study was carried out Peter Gibson, the same professor who in 2011 published the study that firmly pointed the finger at gluten as being the culprit.

Click the link at the end of this post to read a very interesting report by Forbes on the latest results.

Chris is an international Pilates presenter and educator. He is the creator of Pilates EVO©, bodyFUNC©, and CEO of Pilates Rehab Limited and Sport Core Strength.  He also organises Pilates Carnivals, Pilates conventions where all profits go to local children’s charities. Read Just who is Chris Hunt anyway? for more.

Does Gluten insensitivity actually exisit?

Bikini Body using Pilates? Jennifer Hawkins knows better

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‘Tis the season for Pilates for Bikinis posts and articles. I cannot seem to open my inbox or look at the net without seeing yet another “5 Pilates exercises to get you into bikini shape” article.

I wrote previous about the claims that Pilates claim give you a flat stomach (see Does Pilates create a flat stomach?) and if you read that post you will know how I feel about people who make such claims. So is “bikini Pilates” any different?

Let’s use Jennifer Hawkins as our example today. She has never been shy about her love of working out, and at the weekend she posted on her Instagram account some nice pictures of her doing Pilates with the comment “Fave toy. Ohhh, lil bit of luv/hate for sure!! #caddy #workout.”

Jen

The 30 year-old is an Australian beauty queen, model and television presenter best known for being crowned Miss Universe Australia and later the same year Miss Universe 2004 in Quito, Ecuador. She is currently the host of Australia’s Next Top Model. She previously told Vogue that early mornings were her favourite time to exercise in between her hectic schedule. ‘I’m definitely a schedule person so I’ll get up really early and do a Pilates class or go for a run. Pilates I love. If I could do that three times a week I would but I just don’t have the time.’

So back to Pilates for bikinis articles. Of course such an evocative claim is not far from the truth. We all know the benefits of a regular Pilates exercise regime. Such benefits can and will be increased by integrating other exercise systems (including cardio) into a weekly practice, and by eating a healthy diet. For sure the body will respond over time and for sure you will look better in a bikini. What gets my goat is the headlines about “5 Pilates exercises to get in shape”. This for me categorically goes against the principle that Pilates is a holistic practice, especially as typically those “5 exercises” will focus on abs and butt. Such headlines and articles are simply trying to grab attention, and as is typical in today’s culture, give the impression that you are only 5 exercises away from the body you want.  Jennifer Hawkins has achieved her body thanks no doubt with a little help from genetics, but also hard work over a sustained period of time.

The other dangerous thing is that it is now, in spring/early summer that these same old articles and miracle cures do the rounds, clearly suggesting that you only need a matter of a few weeks to achieve that wonder-bod for the summer. Such claims, in keeping with other “New Year” diet nonsense (see my blog “Another Year, another new diet….) only serve to fuel the misconception that there is a quick fix, and of course this only leads to failed diets/exercise regimes and ultimately disappointment.

The simple truth is that there is no quick fix. Any lasting changes we seek to achieve in life usually take time and lot of dedication and sometimes sacrifice. Whilst “Get a bikini shape in 12 months” might not get me many clicks, it’s a far better target to be aiming for next summer and be able to maintain a body shape change than it is to con people into thinking change is easy.

And as a final point, why do I never see “exercises to get fit for your swimming trunks” articles?!?! I can feel another blog coming on….

Chris is an international Pilates presenter and educator. He is the creator of Pilates EVO©, bodyFUNC©, and CEO of Pilates Rehab Limited and Sport Core Strength.  He also organises Pilates Carnivals, Pilates conventions where all profits go to local children’s charities. Read Just who is Chris Hunt anyway? for more.

Chinese Medicine on the NHS? Whatever next! Pilates?

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Chinese medicine could be available on the NHS if there is enough evidence to prove that it would benefit patients, UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has suggested. Let me repeat that. Chinese medicine could be available on the NHS. It’s not April 1st and I am not still suffering from an overdose of wine and cake after my birthday this week.

So, the NHS, that bastion of all that is traditionally British and not what you would ever describe as being particularly cutting edge when it comes to new therapies or treatments is considering integrating traditional Chinese medicines with Western medical techniques. Jeremy Hunt said his frequent travels to China (his wife’s home country) had taught him that it is important to “follow the scientific evidence” concerning Chinese medicine. He said that taxpayers’ money should never be spent on the traditional techniques if there was not “good evidence” that they would be beneficial.

He made the comments in the Commons on Tuesday in answer to a question from the Conservative MP David Tredinnick.“In your travels to the People’s Republic of China, what have you learnt about the integration of Western medicines with traditional Chinese medicine?” Mr Tredinnick asked. The Health Secretary replied: “What I’ve learnt is that the most important thing is to follow the scientific evidence and where there is good evidence for the impact of Chinese medicine then we should look at that but where there isn’t we shouldn’t spend NHS money on it.”

This is truly music to my ears, but why? As a Pilates teacher why do I care so much? The reason is that Chinese medicine can involve methods such as herbal remedies, acupuncture and massage therapy. The very fact that it is being discussed at the echelons of UK Government shows a huge shift in the way the Western world is thinking about health and healthcare. You could say that thinking is coming full circle.

I am Buddhist and I have studied Buddhism and spirituality. I am also qualified in Thai Massage. If you read my blog regularly you will know that I have a profound belief in the link between the mind and the body. You will also know that that I think tradition and science both have a vital role in our thinking. We all know that Pilates is holistic, mind and body. I have long believed that the mind connection is understated. This is why that in my system Pilates EVO I integrated NLP, meditation and most importantly for this article meridian exercises and stretches.

So what are meridians?
Meridians (also known as collaterals) circulate in each of us, and can be thought of as paths in which energy flows.  The central idea in Eastern medicine is the assumption that all physical problems are due to an inhibition of the energy flow and that the revival of this circulation can contribute to improving health and well-being. Meridian exercises can also be used as preparation for meditation. In a traditional sense Meridians are functionaries without substantial structure as most people cannot feel or see them. The discovery of the meridians was made possible only by a very sensitive perception of Chinese people and their close relationship with the nature. The twelve meridians in the YIN-YANG pairs are responsible for six basic functions. Six of the basic functions with six yang meridians and their associated organs refers to the more superficial layers of the body. The other six basic functions with six yin meridians refer to organs, and so are more inside the body.

It is my opinion that a knowledge and use of such ancient methods as meridian and meditation can perfectly complement modern exercise science and psychological methods such as NLP, which is why Pilates EVO includes all of these.

To see Chinese methods and also meditation (a future blog about this is coming…) potentially moving into the mainstream of Western healthcare is for me a wonderful step in the right direction. A shift away from drugs can only help us all as Pilates and yoga teachers as our holistic methods will increase in their value and acceptance.

If you want to talk more about Pilates EVO, meridians or Pilates then you know where I am 🙂

Chris is an international Pilates presenter and educator. He is the creator of Pilates EVO©, bodyFUNC©, and CEO of Pilates Rehab Limited and Sport Core Strength.  He also organises Pilates Carnivals, Pilates conventions where all profits go to local children’s charities. Read Just who is Chris Hunt anyway? for more.

Felicity Kendal at 67: Pilates better than botox

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So it’s my birthday today, but there is nothing I like to do more in life than to champion the benefits of Pilates!

Today I am writing about the British actress Felicity Kendal. She has always looked amazing, and she has now revealed some of her secrets. She naturally uses Pilates as part of her routine, and she says some very intelligent and interesting things about health and beauty. So for once I will let someone else do most of the talking!

She used Botox and fillers earlier in her career to try to halt the ageing process, but last week the 67-year-old actress admitted she has now dispensed with cosmetic surgery, claiming she wants her complexion to ‘match the rest of her body’.

Miss Kendal, who shot to fame in cult BBC sitcom The Good Life in 1975, said she now prefers to use a combination of yoga, Pilates and weightlifting to help maintain her striking looks. Speaking about pressure to maintain her youthful appearance, she said: ‘There is pressure in the movie business, but I’m not in that. I haven’t done fillers or Botox for ages. There comes a point where you have to match bits of you with the other bits, otherwise you get a terribly random situation. All that is off the cards now.

‘I do a combination of yoga, Pilates, and weights. Very often I don’t feel like it, but you get to the point where you either get stiff and stop, or you keep going. And it’s so worth it, because it makes me feel good. If I don’t do it, I feel yuck, the jeans don’t fit, and I’m lacking in energy. I’m fitter and stronger now than I was 20 years ago, and I’ve never felt so good. ‘Women have become incredibly independent. We’ve really come a long way in almost every walk of life in the past 30 years, and society is more equal now. But we’ve still got this hang-up about what women look like. I do it myself. There is still an obsession with women’s looks, and that’s never going to go, but we could be a little more generous.’

As well as appearing as Barbara Good alongside actor Richard Briers in BBC hit The Good Life, which ran between 1975 and 1978, Miss Kendal has made numerous stage appearances. She also starred in the 2010 series of Strictly Come Dancing where she impressed viewers with her athletic dance routines.

Talking about her approach to staying healthy, she added: ‘My pleasure is a glass of red wine… maybe two. After that, I can’t remember! But I don’t believe in guilt. I used to feel guilty: I should do more exercise, I shouldn’t do this, I should do that… But now I just think, this is who I am, and give into it. There’s a liberation in that. At my age, women get to a point where we don’t make decisions to impress somebody else, but to please ourselves. Like when I got my tattoo four years ago. It was the opposite of trying to be younger and ‘with it’, it was about celebrating the fact you’re not young anymore, so you know what you want to do. It’s something I did totally for myself.’

Chris is an international Pilates presenter and educator. He is the creator of Pilates EVO©, bodyFUNC©, and CEO of Pilates Rehab Limited and Sport Core Strength.  He also organises Pilates Carnivals, Pilates conventions where all profits go to local children’s charities. Read Just who is Chris Hunt anyway? for more.

Happy Mother’s Day Mum

Mother's Day

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My mum was the first person I saw in this world, and it was love at first sight.

Chris is an international Pilates presenter and educator. He is the creator of Pilates EVO©, bodyFUNC©, and CEO of Pilates Rehab Limited and Sport Core Strength.  He also organises Pilates Carnivals, Pilates conventions where all profits go to local children’s charities. Read Just who is Chris Hunt anyway? for more.

Sugar Ray and Pilates for the over 50’s

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Anyone who reads my blogs regularly will know that there is nothing I love more than a good Pilates story about men doing Pilates. One of my aims in life is to get more men doing Pilates, to convince more men of the benefits of Pilates, and to dispel the myth that still perpetuates that Pilates is only for girls.

So what better example than one of the most famous boxers alive today?

Sugar Ray Leonard, the five-world champion, is now 57, but he needs to exercise and eat like a champ. He still describes himself as “vain” and still a “disciplined athlete,” which is a combination that inspires him to exercise and practice moderation in all things. Health and fitness after 50 he says is about attitude, fortitude and being realistic about what your body can do. His advice? “Check your ego at the door” and “use what you can.” This is an excellent attitude for the over 50’s. It’s about balance. Sugar Ray again speaks wisdom when he says “People say ‘Oh God, I can’t do anything, also, they try to maintain what they were doing when they were 20 or 30”.

As a professional boxer, Leonard’s typical workout consisted of a 5-mile run, hundreds of sit-ups and push-ups and hours pounding bags at the gym. Today, he recommends an age-appropriate variation on that intense training: a half-hour on an elliptical machine because it’s easier on the knees, combined with bicep curls and 10 to 20 squats, sit-ups and push-ups.  But back trouble, arthritic knees and a torn rotator cuff signal the wear and tear of aging. Two years ago, he experienced pain and tingling in his back, arm and chest. He was told that he had an issue with his back because of all the punching he did.

To address this, he started Pilates. Did he find it hard? “(Bleep) yeah! I said, ‘I can’t do this’ — because I turned 50, and I hadn’t used those kind of muscles. I’d been a fighter like this for 40 years. So, now I look in the mirror and straighten it up … and I incorporate all those (exercises) into my training.”

So like many people, Sugar Ray came to Pilates because of an issue with his body. It’s a shame he didn’t know about Pilates all those years ago because it would’ve no doubt helped to improve his performance and condition. I work with many athletes via my business www.sportcorestrength.com and the improvements that even an Olympic athlete can make are nothing short of astounding.

But the moral of my story is that it is never too late. In his own words “It’s all about dreaming. If you don’t dream, you get old. You have to dream.”

If you want more information about Pilates for sport, rehabilitation or anything else, then please contact me via my website, Facebook or the form below.

Chris is an international Pilates presenter and educator. He is the creator of Pilates EVO©, bodyFUNC©, and CEO of Pilates Rehab Limited and Sport Core Strength.  He also organises Pilates Carnivals, Pilates conventions where all profits go to local children’s charities. Read Just who is Chris Hunt anyway? for more.

 

Vanessa Hudgens: Does Pilates create a flat stomach?

Chris Hunt Wellness

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Pilates brings many benefits, most people know that. In my experience most people come to Pilates because they have an existing issue with their body that they want to rehabilitate from, they want to improve performance and quality of life (especially in a sporting sense), or because they want to change their body shape.

Pilates can achieve all these things. But I think it is always vital that clients understand exactly what Pilates is and exactly how it achieves what it does.

I am often asked the question, “will Pilates give me a flat stomach?” To help answer this question, I will use the example of Vanessa Hudgens, as she is a Pilates fan and is regularly complemented for her great figure. She was pictured this week leaving a Pilates studio in LA.

First of all, if you are not familiar with Vanessa, she is a 25-year-old American actress and singer. She rose to prominence playing Gabriella Montez in the High School Musical series and has also appeared in various films and television series for the Disney Channel.

So, back to the question, will Pilates give you a flat stomach? The simple answer is it will help for sure if it is done properly, as the abdominal muscles are trained as part of the holistic exercise system. But, and it is a big but, exercise alone is not enough. I like the saying that flat abs (or even a six-pack) is creates 20% in the gym and 80% in the kitchen. It’s an obvious fact that we all have a six-pack, of course some are genetically blessed with a head-start, but we all have one! The problem is some people’s six-packs are a little shy, they like to hide behind a layer of fat! This is why diet is vital.

I think it is important not to simply equate a stronger core with a flatter stomach. For most people, flatter abs means weight loss as well as exercise. I do not think that Pilates teachers should advertise Pilates simply to get flat abs, as this demeans the whole system. It makes me very angry when I see headlines like “5 Pilates exercises to get a six-pack”. What we should be saying is that Pilates is a holistic system that will make your body stronger, more flexible and healthier. A nice side-effect of this is often a slimmer more toned body and in turn a flatter stomach, something that is also helped by the improvement in posture that Pilates will bring. If most people simply learn and are able to stand up straight in a neutral position, then hey presto their stomach will often flatten.

Also, Pilates is about how to use your body and body awareness. This is what I really stress through NLP and mindfulness when I am teaching my system, Pilates EVO. Pilates can give you swagger!

Something that many gym goers are unaware of is that the abs should also be flexible. It’s a dangerous myth that to be strong and look good muscles should be tight. Nonsense. Every muscle needs flexibility. If we have no flexibility and balance in our bodies then eventually our bodies will break-down, often not in the area of the inflexibility.

As always, if you want more advice on anything Pilates, or about how exercise and diet can help change your figure, then please drop me a line via my website, Facebook or the form below.