6 Books For Pilates Enthusiasts

6 Books For Pilates Enthusiasts

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In our last post we discussed some of the reasons why practising Pilates is good for you. This week, sticking with the same theme, we thought we’d offer some resources for anyone looking to develop their understanding of the practise and go a little deeper.

So we’ve compiled 6 books on Pilates that we think could really help to expand your knowledge of this wonderful form of exercise. We hope you enjoy!

The Pilates Handbook – Brooke Siler

From the blurb: “Pilates is the new fitness phenomenon with hundreds of studios now opening up across Britain. The devotees include Madonna, Uma Thurman, Sharon Stone, Julia Roberts and Jennifer Anniston. This book offers an at-home guide to the pilates method, giving a whole new body within 30 sessions.”

Who it’s for: home practitioners and those looking for a book with good visual instructions.

In short: an excellent book filled with clear photographs and easy-to-follow exercises from a renowned Pilates instructor.

The Women’s Health Big Book of Pilates – Brooke Siler

From the blurb: “Using the body as the ultimate fitness vehicle and taking inspiration from yoga, dance, and strength training, Pilates transforms bodies in record time. This title guides readers in every step (and leg lift…) of the way. From basic mat moves to the right foods that fuel a lean, toned figure, it is suitable for beginners and experts alike.”

Who it’s for: those looking for a large and diverse workbook with lots of variation.

In short: a thorough and fun guide to Pilates, crammed with hundreds of exercises.

Caged Lion: Jospeh Pilates and His Legacy – John Howard Steel

From the blurb: “Part biography, part history, and part memoir, “Caged Lion” untangles for the first time Joseph Pilates’s opaque life story and the perilous journey of his exercise program known the world over as Pilates.”

Who it’s for: those interested in the history of Pilates and the life of its founder.

In short: a fascinating look at the man who created one of the most famous exercise regimens in modern history.

Pilates Body in Motion – Alycea Ungaro

From the blurb: “Stretch yourself at your own pace with tailored programmes for beginner, intermediate and advanced level. More than 50 exercises are demonstrated with clear photographs and annotated with expert advice showing you exactly what to do and what not to do. Written by a pioneer of the Pilates method, Alycea Ungaro brought the first mat Pilates classes to New York nearly 20 years ago.”

Who it’s for: those interested in developing and deepening a home Pilates practise.

In short: a practical, functional, and helpful guide to the Pilates method, written by one of its early pioneers.

Pilates for Beginners – Katherine Corp & Kimberly Corp

From the blurb: “No matter your fitness level–whether you’re in great shape or have never set foot in a gym–learning to do Pilates means going back to the basics. Teaching you core Pilates exercises and easy sequences, Pilates for Beginners is the ultimate starter guide to confidently practice Pilates at home.”

Who it’s for: those just starting out with PIlates.

In short: a simple and accessible introductory guide to practising Pilates.

Pilates Anatomy – Rael Isacowitz

From the blurb: “With detailed descriptions, step-by-step instruction and stunning full-colour anatomical illustrations, this title takes you inside the exercises and programmes that tone the body, stabilise the core, improve balance and increase flexibility.”

Who it’s for: those looking to learn more about the anatomical side of the Pilates method.

In short: an interesting dive into the physiological aspects of Pilates, revealing how and why the movements affect our bodies.

Practising Pilates

For more on Pilates, why not take a look at these 10 top Pilates workout videos on YouTube.







Why Pilates Is A Great Workout

Why Pilates Is A Great Workout

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Pilates is an incredibly popular form of exercise. It offers an all-round, integrated workout that focuses on core strength, muscle development, balance, and concentration.

It was developed in the early 20th Century by its namesake, Joseph Pilates, and has steadily grown in popularity ever since. Nowadays you can find Pilates classes almost anywhere you go, and with good reason. As the founder himself said,  “[Pilates] develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, invigorates the mind, and evaluates the spirit.”

So let’s take a look at why Pilates is such a great workout.

What is Pilates?

First things first: what exactly is Pilates? In a nutshell, it’s a slow, low-impact exercise method inspired by calisthenics, yoga, and ballet. It has a particular emphasis on strengthening the core, but is aimed at developing all-round fitness and wellbeing.

There are various types of Pilates that require special equipment such as the Reformer and Wunda Chair, but at its most basic level it can be performed with little more than a mat.

According to the Pilates Foundation, Joseph Pilates based his work on three principles: breath, whole-body health, and whole-body commitment. The whole-body, in this instance, referring to mind, body, and spirit.

It’s believed that more than 12 million people practise the method worldwide.

So, now that we’ve covered the what, let’s move on to the why and look at some of the things that make Pilates such a beneficial and popular practise. . .10

It builds strength, not bulk

Pilates is more about developing long lean muscles as opposed to straight bulk. So it’s an excellent choice for those who are looking for tone and not size.

The movements involved in Pilates also place a lot of emphasis on the core, engaging the abdominal muscles and muscles closest to the spine, which helps to build and strengthen the body’s frame.

Essentially, what you’ll develop from Pilates is the sort of functional strength that’s useful for the physical challenges of everyday life.

Increases flexibility and improves posture

When you practise Pilates, you’re working towards increasing muscle length and improved range of joint motion. By achieving this, you may see an improvement in overall flexibility and mobility.

A strong core supports proper alignment, and proper alignment promotes good posture. By training and strengthening the abdominal and lower back muscles, your posture should naturally come into alignment. This is part of the reason why Pilates is often said to help those suffering from back pain.

It can be modified

One of the best reasons to practise Pilates is its accessibility. Many of the moves can be modified to accommodate a broad range of abilities and fitness levels, which means that beginners can jump straight in without feeling overwhelmed.

Setting your own difficulty level means that you can push yourself as and when you feel like it, and if any of the movements become too intense, you can take them down a notch.

Pilates is also a relatively gentle form of exercise. That’s not to suggest that it’s easy. But the fact that many of the movements are performed from a seated or reclining position means that there’s virtually no impact, and very little external strain on the body.

Pilates is good for the mind

Pilates challenges you to focus all of your attention on the movements you’re performing. The slow, flowing nature of the exercises requires unwavering concentration, and the emphasis on proper breathing introduces an element of mindfulness.

So although it can be very physically demanding and challenging, you may just find yourself feeling a little calmer and more focussed after a good Pilates class.



20 Fantastic Books On Swimming, Sports, And Fitness

20 Fantastic Books On Swimming, Sports, And Fitness

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Sometimes there’s nothing like a good book to get you feeling motivated and inspired. This is especially true when it comes to exercise. Reading a great sports or fitness book can be just the thing to lift our spirits and push us to work harder for our goals.

So today we thought we’d share 20 books all about fitness, sports, and (of course) swimming. We hope you find these titles as enjoyable and inspiring as we do!

Please note that none of the links below are affiliated. We haven’t been paid to advertise the titles listed here, and we don’t receive any money from sales generated through the provided links.


No Limits: The Will to Succeed — Michael Phelps and Alan Abrahamson

Michael Phelps is regarded as one of the greatest swimmers ever, and is the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a total of 28 medals to his name. No Limits is Phelp’s inspiring account of his preparation for the 2008 Olympics and beyond. It’s a motivating advocation of striving for your goals the good old fashioned way: with hard work and determination.


Gold in the Water: The True Story of Ordinary Men and Their Extraordinary Dream of Olympic Glory — P. H. Mullen

This book follows a group of budding California-Based Olympians, chronicling their journey to compete in the 2000 Olympic games. Gold in the Water centres around four swimmers and their coach, and shines a light on the highs and lows of the swimming life. A must read for competitive swimmers!


This Is Me: The Autoopbiography — Ian Thorpe

Much like Michael Phelps, Ian Thorpe is swimmer of legend. His achievements (11 World Championship titles; 10 Commonwealth Games gold medals; 22 world records; and 5 gold, 3 silver, and 1 bronze Olympic medals) are nothing short of extraordinary. This Is Me focusses more on Thorpe’s 2012 comeback as opposed to his early career. But it’s an honest account of the life and struggles (especially those outside the pool) of a world class athlete.


Age Is Just a Number: Achieve Your Dreams at Any Stage in Your Life — Dara Torres

This one’s for anyone who thinks they’re too old. It’s a story of stepping up to the challenge, despite your age and the age of your competitors, and following your dreams. It sends a wonderful and inspiring message for us to continue competing and staying active in older age.


Swimming in Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer — Lynne Cox

You don’t need to be a swimmer to be inspired by this story of unfaltering motivation. By the age of 16, Lynne Cox had broken all records for swimming the English Channel. She then went on to become the first person to swim the Strait of Magellan — and that hardly scratches the surface of her achievements. This is the story of a passionate, determined, and daring individual, and one that should strike a chord with all readers.


Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen — Christopher McDougall

In short, Born to Run is the story of a journalist who sets out to Mexico to discover how Tarahumara Indians can run hundreds of miles without needing rest or injury. But it goes much deeper than that. It’s a fascinating journey into the heart and science of long-distance running.

Non-runners, don’t be skeptical. You don’t need to enter ultra marathons to benefit from these pages. There’s something here for everyone — but who knows, it might just inspire you to dust off those old running shoes!


The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding: The Bible of Bodybuilding, Fully Updated and RevisedArnold Schwarzenegger  (Author), Bill Dobbins

Known as “the bible of bodybuilding” and written by one of the most famous bodybuilders of all time. Not much more needs to be said about this one, except that it’s an invaluable resource for weight trainers of all levels and abilities.

It’s true that this book will naturally appeal more to bodybuilders. But it’s worth noting that it does go into detail about aerobic training for fat loss too, which may be beneficial for exercisers with different goals.


Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? — Alex Hutchinson

A pop science book all about the science behind exercise. Simplistic, informative, and presented in a Q&A style, Which Come First dispels lots of fitness myths, and calls on reliable scientific evidence to provide information, insight, and advice on all things exercise.


MEN’S HEALTH Power Training: Performance-Based Conditioning for Total body StrengthCSCS Robert dos Remedios MA

Men’s Health is an online fitness juggernaut, and this volume is a brilliant resource for gym enthusiasts. It explores lots of different exercises, detailing how to perform them and their benefits. You’ll also find nutritional information and training session examples.

There’s a strong focus here on building functional strength, as well. Which makes it perfect reading for everyone, from pro athletes to furniture lifters!


Unstoppable: My Life So Far — Maria Sharapova

An honest and inspirational account of Sharapova’s rise to international tennis stardom. It documents everything from her humble Siberian roots to her first Wimbledon win, and everything in-between and beyond.

For tennis players, athletes, fitness enthusiasts, or anyone who simply enjoys an interesting life story, Unstoppable is an absolute must read.


The Boy on the Shed — Paul Ferris

Winner of the The Telegraph Sports Book Awards Autobiography of the Year 2019, The Boy on the Shed tells the story of Newcastle United’s youngest ever first-teamer, Paul Ferris.

Dealing with his entire life, both on and off the pitch, this autobiography tells the story of a unique and interesting life, warts and all.


They Don’t Teach This — Eniola Aluko

Eniola Aluko has achieved some incredible things in her life. First class honours law degree, 102 appearances for England women’s national football team, UN Women UK ambassador to name but a few.

The book deals with themes of dual nationality and identity, race and institutional prejudice, success, failure and faith, and aims to inspire confidence in a new generation of women.


Think Like A Warrior: The Five Inner Beliefs That Make You Unstoppable — Darrin Donnelly

This is an excellent book for anyone with an interest in (but not necessarily an understanding of) sports psychology.

The core message of the book is wrapped inside a fable, and is designed to build the reader’s self-confidence and mental resilience. Great for anyone with lofty goals!


Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable — Tim S. Grover

Tim Grover has worked with some of the world’s greatest athletes, including Michael Jordan Kobe Bryant, and shares his thoughts on how to achieve mental and physical dominance.

This is a book designed to show you what it takes to reach your goals and achieve your dreams.


The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive — Jim Afremow

This book is a must-read for anyone looking to improve their mental performance. In a nutshell, it’s a mind training book with the goal of boosting your athletic potential beyond the realm of the purely physical.

Providing a window into the minds of champions, and offering science-backed tips and techniques, Jim Afremow’s  book is there to help you excel to new heights.


The Little Black Book of Workout Motivation — Michael Matthews

A book that does exactly what it says on the tin. If you’ve ever found yourself frozen on the sofa with indecision, straining over whether or not to get up and go to the gym, then consider giving this one a read.

It’s the perfect companion for anyone who, from time to time, needs a firm push in the right direction, just to keep themselves on track.


100 No-Equipment Workouts — Neila Ray

Neila Ray, who is involved with Darebee (an amazing free online workout database), has authored a very practical book, filled to the brim with great workouts that can be performed pretty much anywhere.

Another book that delivers exactly what the title promises, this is an excellent option for those who are less worried about theory and personal stories and more interested in bare bones workouts.


The One-Minute Workout – Martin Gibala

In this book Martin Gibala, one of the world’s leading HIIT (high-intensity interval training) researchers, shows us that getting fit and strong doesn’t necessarily require hours of daily commitment. Instead, Gibala offers strategies for achieving our fitness goals in much smaller time intervals. This one’s essential reading for fitness buffs on a tight schedule.


Ready To Run: Unlocking Your Potential To Run Naturally – Kelly Starrett

Whether you’re a longtime runner or complete beginner, this book is an essential companion. Starrett focuses on helping runners avoid and navigate obstacles common to the sport. Notably, you’ll find guidance on how to stay injury free through proper conditioning.


Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery – Christie Aschwanden

What’s special about this book is that it approaches fitness from the other side of the treadmill. Focussing on the science of sports recovery, Christie Aschwanden shows us how to best utilise our time outside of the gym. From “ice baths and cryogenic freezing chambers to the science behind Usain Bolt’s love of chicken nuggets”, this book demonstrates the importance of recovery, and why it might be one of the most essential elements of an effective fitness regime.


Off the page and into the gym

All these books left you feeling motivated to push your exercise routines to the next level? Then take a look these 8 exercises for lower body strength. Or try 15 Plyometric Exercises To Turbo-Boost Your Workouts.

Tips On How To Self-Motivate

Tips On How To Self-Motivate

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Motivation is one of the biggest obstacles to effective exercise. But what are the methods for overcoming lethargy, impatience, and demotivation, and how can we apply them?

In this post we’re going to look at some simple and effective tools that anyone can use for maintaining motivation and keeping up a sustained workout routine.

Keep an exercise journal

This can be as basic or as in-depth as you’d like, but the key is to always record how you feel before and after an exercise session. It could be a page-long diary entry, or it could be a simple smiley-face sketch of your current emotions.

The secret here is that it’s almost guaranteed you’ll feel better after exercising. And by keeping a journal of these emotional changes, you can refer back to them whenever you’re not in the mood for exercising. By doing that you’ll be reminded of how your mood always changes for the better after working out. So you can say to yourself, “Even though I’m feeling down now, I’ll feel great afterwards.”

Set small goals

If your lack of motivation is arising because you can’t bear the thought of 30 minutes on the treadmill, shrink your goal. Bring it down from 30 minutes to 10 minutes. Chances are that after the 10-minute-mark you’ll keep going, but setting the smaller goal is what will get you exercising in the first place.

Often we feel demotivated simply because we’re daunted by the task at hand. We might feel tired, or too busy, or just plain lazy, and our regular goals can seem too much — in these situations it’s important that we respond to our unwillingness by altering the goal instead of simply foregoing the exercise. By making the workout session as easy as possible to complete, there’s more incentive to actually get up and do it.

Set big goals

Contrary to the above, big, overarching, long-term goals can also work wonders for our motivation. The trick here, however, is not to make them too big. And don’t be confused, these aren’t big daily goals, they’re big long-term goals.

A great example of an effective, larger goal would be a 30-day challenge. With a 30-day challenge, the time commitment is enough to keep you going, but not too much to be off-putting. So on those days when you aren’t feeling up to it, you can simply remind yourself that it’s only for a month, and you only have X-days left to go, so you might as well just do it.

By setting goals like this, where the finish line is reasonably far away but close enough to be within touching distance, you’re more likely to keep up with a daily routine. Just the knowing that you haven’t got long left to go can be enough to get you through.

Listen to audiobooks or podcasts

This is a great way to pass the time. Audiobooks and podcasts are excellent tools for making tough workouts more bearable. They help to shift your attention away from your current physical circumstances, thus lightening the burden of difficult exercise. And by focussing on something other than your own pain, the time will fly by much quicker.

A good trick is to set aside certain podcasts/audiobooks that you’re only allowed to listen to whilst exercising. That way, if you don’t want to work out, but you do want to listen to your podcast, there’s only one solution. . . . The reason this method works so well because it provides indirect motivation to exercise. It’s a way through the back door.

Get inspired by the success stories of others

Want a super-fuel injection of motivation? Read the success stories of fellow exercisers! Research people who have achieved the same goals you’re aiming for. Read about their experiences and listen to their advice. Or talk to people who are at a similar stage in their fitness journey to you. Talking with others, seeking encouragement, looking at before-and-after pictures — all these things can help keep you motivated!

Get dressed for exercise

Basic but highly effective. Whatever we do in life, wearing the right clothes for the job can help to get us into the proper frame of mind. The opposite is also true. Just think about pyjamas – how motivated do you feel to do anything whilst wearing pyjamas?

In the same way, putting on workout gear before exercising is a perfect way to get your mind and body ready for what’s to come.

Remember your intentions

Whenever you’re feeling particularly uninspired and demotivated, it can be extremely helpful to recall all the reasons why you started exercising in the first place. This is often crucial for maintaining long-term motivation.

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain muscle, or simply stay healthy, remembering why you workout is essential. Visualising your end goal, or recalling how things were before you started exercising in the first place, can often be enough be keep you moving.

The important thing is to simply remember why you’re doing what you’re doing, and to remind yourself what it’s all for.

Use your workouts for the good of others

One of the most effective ways to motivate yourself to do anything is to do it for others. This could mean running a marathon for charity, doing a sponsored walk, or taking part in a charity sporting event. You could even raise money yourself by throwing a bit of loose change into a jar every time you workout and then donating it at the end of each year.

Whatever the case, doing something for a cause is a powerful source of motivation. It allows you to push through difficult times in the name of selflessness. And it’s a fantastic way of holding yourself accountable for doing the work. If you’re training for a marathon, for example, it’s probably far more likely that you’ll see it through to the end if you’re doing it to raise money for a good cause.

More motivation!

If you’d like to keep reading about motivation, take a look at our posts on personal trainers and beating the workout blues. Otherwise, hopefully this post has given you something to work with. Happy exercising, and keep focussed!

Why Exercise Is Important For Desk Workers

Why Exercise Is Important For Desk Workers

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According to On Your Feet Britain, 45% of women and 30% of men spend less than 30 minutes a day on their feet at work. In the long term, this level of workplace inactivity can lead to a host of physical and mental health problems.

To begin with the bad stuff, and to learn a little bit more about the negative impacts of sitting, here’s an excellent Ted Talk on the subject:

But desk dwellers need not despair. The positive news is that, according to studies, regular physical exercise may help to alleviate the negative impacts of sedentary working environments.

And exercise could do more than simply offset the risks of sitting at a desk all day. In fact, it may contribute to an altogether more rewarding and effective work life.

Here’s why exercise is so important for desk workers (or anyone who sits down a lot).

Exercise makes you more productive

Amongst other things, exercise makes us more alert, gives us energy, and helps us maintain emotional balance.

When we exercise, blood flow to the brain increases which gives us the mental boost necessary for tackling a hard day’s work. It’s also widely acknowledged that regular exercise can help keep our mental health in check. Which is especially useful for office workers, considering that one of the major contributors to modern mental health issues is work-related stress.

So by exercising regularly we stand to improve both our mental and emotional wellbeing. Which, in turn, may increase our motivation and enthusiasm to work!

It also improves concentration and memory

We’ve all experienced the mid-afternoon slump. Reading an email four times in a row, completely unable to focus our attention on account of our post-lunch fatigue. But exercise may help us see the end of that problem.

In one interesting study from HEC Montreal, researchers found that workers who walked on a treadmill whilst reading text and emails not only perceived themselves to be more attentive, but actually demonstrated increased levels of memory and attention.

Another study, this one by UCI researchers, showed that a single burst of moderately intense exercise improves all-round memory function.

It enhances cognition

Other research has shown that regular aerobic exercise actually increases the size of the hippocampus. That’s the part of the brain associated with learning and verbal memory.

Investigators have found that irisin (a molecule believed to have neuroprotective effects) is elevated in the brain though endurance exercise. Experimenting on mice, they “found that raising levels of irisin in the circulation caused the molecule to cross the blood brain barrier, which then increased the expression of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) and activated genes involved in cognition.”

The results of these investigations suggest that increasing BDNF improves cognition and prevents the brain from degeneration. And it seems like one way to encourage this increase is by exercising.

Also, of course, improvements in cognition means improvements in work!

Small changes can make a big difference

Get Britain Standing says that just a few tweaks to our workday can make a big difference to our health. Here are some minor things we can do around the office for positive change:

  • Standing for phone calls.
  • Using the stairs instead of elevators and escalators.
  • Taking a standing break from your desk every 30 minutes.
  • Conducting standing/walking meetings.
  • Stepping away from the desk to eat lunch.
  • Walking to colleagues’s desks instead of phoning/email them.

Get up and get moving

There’s nothing like exercise to keep us feeling healthy, happy, and productive. If you work at a desk, or spend a lot of time sitting down, then it’s important to move and exercise as much as possible. And if you’re struggling for time, then take a look at these 15 exercise routines that can be performed in less than 10 minutes.

6 Wonderful Walking Routes In Newcastle Upon Tyne

6 Wonderful Walking Routes In Newcastle Upon Tyne

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Last week we discussed the many health benefits of walking. So this week we thought we’d share some great walking routes in and around the city of Newcastle Upon Tyne to get you feeling inspired to explore the great outdoors!

Ranging from easy to medium difficulty, and covering areas from Jesmond Dene to High Heaton, we’re sure there’s a walk in here to suit everyone’s taste. Enjoy!

Jesmond Dene Short Circular – 2.13 miles

Length: 2.13 miles
Difficulty: Easy


Ouseburn Valley Short Circular – 1.2 miles

Length: 1.2 miles
Difficulty: Medium


Newcastle City Walls Circular – 3.14 miles

Length: 3.14 miles
Difficulty: Medium


Three Parks – 6.88 miles

Length: 6.88 miles
Difficulty: Medium


Newcastle Rurban

Length: 7.72 miles
Difficulty: Medium


City Walk

Length: 4.3 miles
Difficulty: Medium

Don’t forget to hydrate!

Of course, when you’re out on a walk (especially when it’s hot) it’s always important to talk something to drink. For all the reasons why, take a look at our post on the importance of hydration.