Ask the Experts – Functional Training with Pilates

As originally seen in “Total Sports Nutrition” magazine – Oct/Nov 2012 – Issue 3 


“Functional Training with Pilates” discusses weight training combined with Pilates. How to get the flat abs without getting big muscles?

Weight training for women has so many advantages. Let me first say that you will not get big by lifting weights. Body builders take years with very structured routines and eating plans to achieve their physiques. As a recreational resistance trainer you will tone your muscles, decrease body fat, strengthen bones and increase your metabolism without gaining huge mass. There are other benefits as well such as healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Visualise a very simplistic picture of the body in layers with the skin being the first, followed by fat cells and then muscle below. As you increase your muscle mass, your fat cells will begin to shrink which means an overall toning and “slimming”effect around the body as these layers re-shape.This, along with the increased metabolism, occurs because muscles burn more energy than fat cells. The article was meant to convey the integration of the body as a unit rather than segments.The combination on of mindfully working the core muscles whilst doing weight training moves plus the overall body benefits of lifting, along with a healthy nutrition plan should achieve the flat abs you are ooking for. And again, I can assure you, as a woman lifting weights, you will not become huge like a body builder.


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Health Essentials

As originally seen in “Bodyfit” magazine – Oct 2012 

The inside scoop to keep you in peak condition

Hunched over a desk all day, or lugging around a heave handbag? Your back might be under a lot of stress and strain. Luckily there are ways you can strengthen your spine…

Start the strengthening process at home with some ballet-like stretches in the shower. lt may seem strange, but while washing your armpits lean over to the side and bring your rib cage closer to the top of your pelvis. Hold this for around 15 seconds and then switch sides. Next, while brushing your teeth, stand with what you feel is good posture by holding your shoulder blades back towards your spine, shoulders away from your ears, rib cage floating over your pelvis and tummy muscles gently engaged. These positions get
your posture set for the day ahead by using your own strength to pull your shoulder blades back, open your chest and get your core muscles firing. All these elements are important if you’re after better posture at your desk or hunched over a keyboard.

stand tall
Posture and core strength can be improved throughout any exercise or movement you do. The key positions to remember while active, whether you are at the gym, swimming or doing a brisk walk, is to retract and depress your shoulder blades before you begin your exercise. Hold this position while you’re moving, then gently tighten your abs, by pulling your belly button back to your spine

go for a walk
At work you can focus on strengthening your back and stretching your chest during these desk breaks. Try standing in the corner of a room or a doorway, and placing your forearms and hands on the walls. Then, step through into the corner with one foot or through the doorway, keeping your abs engaged and your elbows below shoulder height. Allow your chest to stretch and lengthen your collarbone.


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Bodyfit Magazine reader re-vamp

As originally seen in “Bodyfit” – May 2013


Dilini Ratnayeke asks:

I’m a dancer and also do lots of rowing. During the day I have an office job and sit for long periods of time. But, no matterhow often I train, I continuously have tight hamstrings – how can I improve my flexibility?”

Charlene answers:

The reality is that sitting in a chair forces your hamstrings to shorten. Improving the flexibility of any muscle group takes regular practise and the correct combination of exercises, stabilisations and dynamic and passive stretches. If you are weight training regularly, be sure to have a balance of quad (front of leg) and hamstring (back of leg) movements. I suggest you downplay the hamstring work for a few months. Still working with them, but less and with different moves to your normal routine. Avoid old fashioned machines where you isolate the muscles to a single (such as knee) joint action. Instead perform bridges on the floor and hamstring drags on  a Swiss ball. These bring more core stabilisation (abs and back) into the movement, allowing for more strength through your back. What this means for you, is that your hamstrings won’t be able to pull your pelvis down, but be balanced more by the back muscles that pull your pelvis up. Even strength between these muscles creates a neutral balance where the hamstrings don’t take over.

Include Pilates, yoga and both passive (non-moving) and dynamic (moving) stretches in your repertoire. Another tip is to have regular Thai and/or deep tissue massages. They’ll keep your tissues supple through the stretching and release of pressure points which can cause tightness.


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10 minute tummy tighteners

As originally seen in “Woman” magazine – June 2012 


Take inches off your waist in no time with these super-quick tricks…

Start the day with yoghurt for breakfast

‘Low-fat dairy products may help lower the levels of fat that get deposited around the abdomen’ reveals Charlotte Stirling-Reed, a registered public health nutritionist and founder of SR Nutrition. ‘Try a breakfast of low-fat, plain yoghurt with some oats and fruit.’

Imagine you’re in a ‘corset’

‘While standing, imagine the muscle tissue from your ribcage to pelvis as a corset,’advises Charlene Hutsebaut, a Pilates instructor and personal trainer. ‘Now, imagine the corset being pulled and tightened fiom behind, and try to move the muscles in the same way. This will help strengthen the tranwerse abdominal muscles and help give you an internal ‘corset’ making your stomach look firmer.’

Skip sugar-free foods

While loading up on refined sugars is a sure-fire way to land yourself a spare tyre, you aiso need to be aware of the dangers of some sugar-free options. Sweeteners such as
sorbitol are broken down and absorbed very slowly by the human body, meaning they can feed the gut bacteria that produce belly-bloating gas.


Ready to take your own action?! 

Press here to start my 6 Sneaky Steps to Slim your Tummy Series 


Try a super-powered plank

‘To work your stomach muscles, try an alternative side plank’ says Charlene. ‘Lie on one side and push yourself off the floor, while one hand reaches up and the other supports you with your fingers facing forward and pull your tummy towards your spine as you bring the top arm up and over towards the one on the floor. Go as far as you can without dipping. Hold for 10 secs.’

Lay off the leggings

While skin-ti9ht leggings and skinny jeans can hold you in, they can also make your core muscles relax and sag as they become lazy. Switch to clothes
where you have to hold your tummy in yourself to help tighten those midriff muscles back up.

Flush out fluid

To deflate a bloated belly, try adding foods with diuretic properties to your diet to help ease any fluid retention. Watermelon, celery asparagus and cucumber are all good choices, plus they taste great!

Hang up your killer heels

Yes, we know a pair of shiny stilettos can make your legs look longer and leaner, but experts say they can also turn a taut tum into a pot belly thanks to the way they encourage your pelvis to tilt, pushing your abs forward. Switch to f lats for an instant tummy trimmer, and try to go barefoot at home.

Can the cola

It’s easy to reach for caffeine when you need an energy hit, but by ditching the coffee and coke you could minimise your midriff. Studies have suggested that caffeine could cause levels of the stress hormone cortisol to spike for a shocking 18 hours after you’ve finished sipping your drink. Secreted by the adrenal gland, excess levels of the hormone can mean fat cells get dumped in your tummy.

Talk more sl-l-o-w-l-y

It might sound far-fetched, but researchers at the American College of Gastroenterology have found that nattering away can increase the amount of air you take in, making your belly balloon.

Shop yourself slim

For a no-fuss way to instantly slim your stomach, shapewear is getting better and better. Our fuvourite waist whiltler is Miraclesuit’s new lightweight Sheer Hi Waist Brief,£31.95,

Get minted

If cravings are stopping you from sculpting that stomach and keeping flab on your abs, try taking a sniff of peppermint. Research from the States found that people who sniffed mint or certain fruits when they had a craving lost more weight than non-inhalers.

Go wholegrain

Switch processed white bread for wholegrain. Studies show that wholegrain-rich diets are linked to a smaller waist circumference.


Ready to take your own action?! 

Press here to start my 6 Sneaky Steps to Slim your Tummy Series 


View the original article here (Woman, June 2012)

View the original article here (from Woman Diet Special, April 2013)