Ask The Experts

February 27th, 2018

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Why does my knee hurt when I am doing the Scooter?

The Scooter exercise is great for strengthening the legs, back and improving balance (have you tried the ‘running arms’ variation?).

However, incorrect positioning of the lower limb can cause excessive pressure on the knee and you may feel a tightness, pressure, or pain behind your kneecap. If you experience any of these symptoms, chances are you are not performing the exercise correctly.

Ensure you start by positioning the supporting leg with hips sitting back, vertical shin, and make sure the knee is not turning inwards past the big toe. You should find yourself leaning your weight away from the reformer foot bar. Maintain this position as you are pushing the reformer carriage during the exercise.

– Cerise Li, Physiotherapist

 

Why do I get neck, back and/or shoulder tension during back extension exercises or when pushing up through my hands?

Common exercises like the cat/camel, prone press up, and plank require good positioning of your head, neck and shoulders.

Position your hands shoulders’ width distance apart (or slightly wider), with collarbones widened. Glide your shoulder blades gently away from the ears, shoulder blade muscles slightly hugging the spine. This is a preparatory position for exercises, which require you to take weight through your hands.

– Cerise Li, Physiotherapist

 

Ideally, every segment of the spine should be able to move freely for mobility. Thus, it is important to understand the principle of segmental articulation to avoid hinging to create compression on the mobile part of the spine, commonly on the cervical and lumbar spine.

Emphasise on mobilising the stiff part of the trunk, mostly thoracic segment and stabilising the mobile segment.

-Michele Loh, Pilates Instructor

 

How can Pilates help me with my sports injury?

If you have a sports injury that is chronic, or caused by repetitive strain, chances are it is caused by a combination of the following: inherent weakness in some of your muscles, poor muscle flexibility, poor posture or movement mechanics, reduced body awareness, and poor understanding of movement.

These concepts are at the core (pardon the pun!) of Pilates principles and enable one to improve on postural awareness and strength and develop better understanding of movements and the forces associated with them.

These go a long way in terms of reducing not just sports injuries, but also many aches and pains associated with chronic overloading e.g. recurring neck and shoulder tension, tennis elbow, and some forms of knee pain.

– Cerise Li, Physiotherapist

 

How come I don’t feel the ‘work’ or the ‘burn’ in the muscles during classes?

The various exercises selected by your Pilates Instructor in a session may have different objectives. For example some target specific muscle strengthening, while others emphasise flexibility or body awareness. As such you will feel stronger muscle ‘burn’ in certain exercises, and lesser in others.

However, there can be several reasons why you may not be getting the targeted muscle work during a strengthening exercise:

 

  1. Incorrect positioning – the target muscle will not be in the optimum position to work.

 

  1. Poor body awareness – not being able to recognise the movement or muscle engagement during the exercise.

 

  1. Moving too quickly, or holding the breath – rushing through an exercise makes it difficult for the body to ‘digest’ the movement and its objective. Breath holding interrupts the flow of the movement, causing excess tension and often, compensatory movements.

 

  1. Compensatory movements reduce the actual work that the target area is meant to perform. Addressing points 1-3 above usually help reduce compensatory movements.

 

– Cerise Li, Physiotherapist

 

Why do I get shoulder tension during weight bearing exercises such as a plank or quadruped?

Having a good head, neck, and shoulder organisation is essential when bearing weight; this is to achieve the overall balance and strength necessary for optimal movement.

When performing these exercises, your upper limbs should be properly aligned and the shoulder girdle muscles are activated, making sure that the elbows are not hyperextended!

-Michele Loh, Pilates Instructor

 

 

 

 

 

Bircher Muesli

January 24th, 2018

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We are often motivated to start the new year with the resolutions of eating clean, exercising regularly and keeping our health on track in general. However, eating healthy shouldn’t be difficult, hence we have sourced for you a really simple and good Bircher Muesli recipe that you can have for breakfast! High in fiber and whole grains, Muesli makes an ideal food in the morning for busy individual, keeping you full until lunch.

Try out this bowl of goodness that gives you the nutrients your body needs!

 

Serves 2

– 1 cup of oats (120g)

– 1 over ripe banana

– 1 and a 1/2 cups of homemade almond milk (375ml)

– 2 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey

– 1 tablespoon of chia seeds

– a handful of sunflower seeds (30g)

– a handful of pumpkin seeds (30g)

– 1/4 of a cup of raspberries (40g)

– 1/4 of a cup of blueberries (40g)

– a handful of cacao nibs (20g)

Instructions:

  1. Place the banana slices into a mixing bowl with the almond milk and raspberries. Using a fork, mash the ingredients.
  2. Add in the oats, seeds, cacao nibs, chia seeds and honey or maple syrup and stir them.
  3. Place the mixture in the fridge overnight.
  4. Top up more berries and seeds to your liking and serve!

 

Recipe and image courtesy of deliciouslyella.com.

 

 

Getting “Back” to Fitness

January 24th, 2018

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Back pain is one of the most common forms of pain that affects most of the population. The problem is not many people know when to get it treated and what are the treatments available. In this February edition, we’ve rounded up two insightful blog articles written by our qualified team to give you an idea on how our rehabilitation treatment, which combines Physiotherapy and Pilates method can help you recover from your injury and improve your fitness level.

For more information or for bookings, contact our studios today at info@focuspilates.com.sg.

 

Follow-up Running Assessment

January 2nd, 2018

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In the last issue, we did a RUNITY running assessment on our Instructor, Mayoly to identify the issues in her running technique. A set of conditioning exercises and drills were prescribed to her for her training after her first session. If you have not read the article, you can check out the blog here. A follow up assessment with Mayoly was done four weeks later to re-analyse her running form.

Check out her progressions and improvements, which I explained through our movement analysis software verbally and through freeze frames in the comparison video. A written summary can be found in the below.

 

Cadence

An increase of 167 to 178 spm, bringing Mayoly into an ideal cadence (between 170 to 180 steps per minute), allowing her to significantly reduce the force of each step travelling through her foot and legs more evening through her body

 

Initial Contact

Where her foot comes into contact with the ground is now closer to the centre of gravity (reducing horizontal breaking force) improving running economy and reducing load through the body. There is also slightly less heel strike (less impact through the heel and foot).

 

Posture and Alignment

Significantly improved posture when running, a more upright spine and improved use of hip range of motion.

 

Injuries

“Runity made me feel better about my running technique, knee and shin pain disappeared, I don’t feel stress in the lower back during and after running, and I can feel other muscles working more efficiently like glutes, hamstrings and abdominals” – Mayoly, Pilates Instructor

 

For full details on our Running Assessment package or Running Conditioning classes, please click here. This programme is ideal for anyone who is looking to improve their running efficiency and to run painlessly, be it a recreational or existing runner. Should you have any questions regarding our packages and classes, drop us an email at info@focuspilates.com.sg.

 

 

– Runity Master Trainer, Daniel Dittmar

 

 

What do we look at in a running assessment?

December 5th, 2017

 

In this blog article, we are going to show you what a Runity Trainer looks at in the video analysis part of the Running Assessment. We’ve got Mayoly, one of our instructors who was a frequent runner but had to stop her running completely due to her previous running injuries, where she experienced pain and discomfort in her shins and knees as well as tightness in her back to train with us.

During the first session, movement screening and video analysis were done and the following issues in running technique and skill were identified:

 

Cadence

Mayoly’s cadence is 167 steps per minute, which is a little on the low side. Running at an optimal stride frequency reduces load and force that passes through the body. Increasing cadence by as little as 5% can reduce the amount of load passing through the foot by 565 times the person’s body weight per mile.

Goal: To increase cadence by 5% to 175 steps per minute.

 

Ground Contact Time

When we are running the more “air time” we get the better, the more your feet are in contact with the ground, the body will absorb more force from running. Mayoly’s ground contact time is 300 milliseconds, which is definitely on the high side.

Goal: To decrease ground contact time to around 210-230 milliseconds.

 

Initial Contact

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Initial contact is when the front foot comes into contact with the ground. In Mayoly’s case where her foot touches the ground (red line) is quite a distance from her centre of gravity (the green line) and her lower leg is not vertical (yellow line) shows that she has some “over striding” from both the hip and the knee, which means she has a lot of horizontal breaking force. Coupled with the fact that she lands a little on her heel (note her toes are lifted when her foot touches the ground) produces huge amounts of force and load passing up through the knee, hip and back.

Goal: Bring the Initial Contact of the landing foot closer to the centre of gravity (green Line).

 

Low Heel Height during Swing Phase

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When the foot leaves the ground to swing forward, we are aiming to have the ankle of this leg pass close to the height of the leg that is still in contact with the ground. In Mayoly’s case it is only just above her ankle. This means the hip flexors and quads are working excessively when they are already quite dominant. It effectively means that your legs are “heavier” than they should be, so it will affect your running efficiency. It also inhibits the hamstrings ability to store and recycle energy into the next stride, decreasing your running efficiency and adding extra load into your body.

Goal: Increase the heel height and improve running efficiency.

 

Body Alignment

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Many of the above issues are caused by some decreased “flexibility” of the hips, and the fact the pelvis is too far behind the trunk (ribs). Note the hips are slightly behind her ribs and trunk; the lower back is also arched. This limits the ability of the “core” to provide a strong base of support to produce and recycle power into the legs.

Goal: To decrease load into the spine by getting the pelvis shifting forward to improve and make better use of hip mobility and core control.

 

Mayoly has promised to diligently do her Runity exercises and practice the drills over the next few weeks. Stay tuned for our January blog as we will be re-analysing her running form in a few weeks to see how she has improved after doing her prescribed Runity exercises a few times per week.

 

A video of Mayoly running before the Runity assessment can be found here:

http://www.hudl.com/technique/video/view/QBss7PSy

 

– Runity Master Trainer, Daniel Dittmar

 

 

 

Detox Broccoli Soup

November 28th, 2017

Broccoli Soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is nearing the end of year (once again) and the gloomy, drab rain is starting to roll in. We all need that little pick me up, and this soup will give you just that, or more! Warm and rich, it will definitely warm up your tummy and keep you satisfied as you count down your workdays to that Christmas break that we have all been waiting for. This soup is great for the annual Christmas parties as well!

 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlicminced
  • 1/2 an onionchopped
  • 1-2 stalks celerychopped
  • 4-5 large carrotschopped
  • 1 large potatopeeled and chopped
  • 2-3 cups broccoli florets
  • 2-3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • Croutons 

 

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic, onions, celery, carrots and potatoes. Sauté for 10 minutes or until softened.
  2. Add broccoli, vegetable broth, and almond milk. Simmer for roughly 5 minutes, until bubbly and broccoli is bright green.
  3. Using tongs, pull out most of the broccoli pieces and set aside. Blend the soup to a creamy, cheesy-looking consistency, and then add the broccoli to mix it back in.
  4. Add nutritional yeast and salt to taste. Serve and you are all done!

 

Recipe and image courtesy of pinchofyum.com.

 

 

Diastasis Recti – A Common Finding in Postnatal

October 2nd, 2017

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Heard of Diastasis Recti but not sure what it is? In this article, one of our internationally qualified physiotherapists, Candice will share with you on this common condition that sometimes occurs as a result of pregnancy.

What is it?

Diastasis Recti (also known as Rectus Diastasis) is a separation of the rectus abdominus muscle, or often known as the ‘six-pack’ muscle. During pregnancy, the belly expands to accommodate the growing baby, which causes stretching of your connective tissues. Sometimes, the rectus abdominis muscle can stretch so much that it pulls apart in the middle. It occurs most often in the second and third trimester and can persist after birth. For some women, it closes naturally on its own slowly after birth but for others, a mild to severe gap can linger unnoticed. Symptoms such as low back pain, hip pain, and urinary incontinence can also be associated with this condition.

 

What does it look like?

You may notice a bulge or doming in the mid-belly region, especially when you transition from lying to sitting. A simple test that you can do is to lie on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Place your index and middle fingers at the belly button and lift your head up. Do the same test while placing the fingers a few centimeters above and below the button. If you notice there is a gap of about two finger widths or more at any of those areas, then you likely may have diastasis recti. However, if you are still very early post-partum, this can be a normal finding. A trained health care professional such as a physiotherapist can also help you test for this and gather a more detailed assessment of the diastasis recti gap as well as your overall posture and strength, especially in the pelvic girdle region.

 

How can I treat it?

Try to avoid exercises that place excessive intra-abdominal pressure on the front abdominal wall. Avoid doing your traditional sit-ups, crunches, and planks as well as challenging exercises such as double leg lifts, which can also cause too much strain for the abdominals. Start by focusing on simple exercises that engage the deepest core muscles such as your pelvic floor and the innermost abdominal muscle called your transverse abdominis. Your physiotherapist can provide you with treatment in recruiting these muscles properly and guiding you through specific exercises that are aimed at closing the diastasis recti gap. They will also be able to provide feedback on how to improve your breathing pattern and posture and recommend safe ways for performing your daily activities such as lifting the baby and getting in and out of bed. With large gaps of about four finger widths, an abdominal binder that is fitted properly is recommended to help with approximating the two sides of the abdominal wall.

 

-Candice Kwok, Physiotherapist

 

 

 

Healthy Double Chocolate Cookies

September 22nd, 2017

 

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You know that feeling when you are craving some guilt-tripping, chocolaty goodness but you just refuse to give in to the temptation? This wholesome double chocolate cookie recipe will do the trick as you indulge in its brown richness without any of that refined sugar, eggs, butter, and gluten! They’re safe for you nut-allergic cookie lovers as well.

 

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Prep time: 5 min – Cook time: 15 min

 

Ingredients

  • 2-3 large, ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup barely warm coconut oil (not solid)
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup ground sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup cacao powder
  • 1/3 cup coconut, finely shredded & unsweetened
  • 1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 170 grams chocolate chips or dark chocolate bar chopped

 

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix the bananas, vanilla extract, and coconut oil in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oats, sunflower seeds, cacao powder, shredded coconut, salt, and baking powder. Add the mixture and stir until combined.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chunks/chips.
  5. Drop 1-2 tablespoons dollops of the dough for each cookie, an inch apart, onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 13 – 15 minutes or until golden on the bottoms.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

 

Recipe and image courtesy of 101cookbooks.com.

 

 

 

Exercises for Stronger Abdominals

August 24th, 2017

Juggling between work and life have made keeping our bodies healthy day-to-day even harder, causing us to become more injury prone due to our unhealthy movement patterns. One of the most common forms of pain people experience is lower back pain, however, do you know that by strengthening your lower abdominals can help to support your back better and prevent it from injury?

First of all, to locate your lower abdominal muscle (Transverse Abdominal), lie down on your back; bring your knees up towards the ceiling, feet flat on the floor. Bring your index and middle fingers onto the muscle just inside of your hip bones and cough. You should feel a muscle contract; this is your TA, and the muscle we use to focus on in Pilates.

Here are some basic exercises, which are perfect for strengthening your lower abdominals, this will take no more than ten minutes so you can easily do them lying on your bedroom floor at home with a mat or towel underneath you.

Check out the video and follow the three simple exercises to stronger abdominals!

 

 

– Georgie Kahvedjioglou, Pilates Instructor

 

Barley Crepes with Yoghurt and Cinnamon

July 20th, 2017

Barley crepes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you can’t decide between a cup of Greek yoghurt and a plate of delectable crepes for breakfast, why not have them both? A barley crepe with yoghurt and cinnamon is an irresistible pancake recipe that is sure to love! Barley Flour is used in this recipe and is a great alternative to wheat flour as it has lower gluten content and packs more fibre. This is also especially suitable for those who are allergic to wheat.

Top it off with bananas and cinnamon, a sweet spice, which is rich in antioxidant and you are ready to enjoy this incredible goodness!

Ingredients

  • Crepes
  • 1/4 cup Barley Flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp walnut oil
  • 1 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
  • 2 medium bananas
  • 4 tsp honey
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon

Instructions

  1. In a bowl, add barley flour, salt, eggs, milk and oil and whisk until smooth. Heat the pan and lightly grease with oil. Pour ¼ cup of batter to cover the entire pan and cook for about 30 seconds. Flip and cook for another 15 seconds.
  2. Peel and cut banana into 1/2 slices. Mix with honey and cinnamon in a pan and simmer over medium heat until bananas are tender for 3-4 minutes.
  3. On one side of the crepe, spread 1/4-cup of yogurt and layer a few bananas on top, folder over, and repeat with remaining crepes. Drizzle honey and remaining banana slices over crepes and serve.

 

Recipe and image courtesy of naturallyella.com.