Car Tyres and Bunions

On the surface you’d think that there’s no way that car tyres and bunions have anything in common. Allow me to enlighten you!

Let’s start by thinking about the direction of your feet – your ‘feet tracking’.

Feet tracking

Just like car tyres, our feet need to be pointing forwards and in the same direction for a smooth ride!

Have you ever driven a car where the wheel tracking is off? The misalignment of the tyres’ direction causes visible damage. Tyres wear out in places that they shouldn’t and before you know it, you’ve got yourself a hefty bill. If only you’d sorted out the tracking when you first noticed that it was a bit off!

You can apply the same principle to your feet. When they are not pointing forwards as they’re intended to, they too will cause harm and premature wear and tear.

How clever are our bodies?

Over thousands of years our bodies have evolved perfectly to match the way we use them.  And our feet have evolved too, not just to support us, or help us balance, they’ve evolved so that we move in the most energy efficient way possible – and that’s to walk.

To walk efficiently our feet must make contact with the ground. This causes force to travel up through our legs, our pelvis, our spine, and our shoulders.

When the feet make perfect contact and are pointing forwards, the walking action and the force is optimised. But if our feet tracking is out of alignment, the force alters which has a negative impact on our muscles and joints, in particular our ankles, knees, hips, and spine.

Toes that turn out

When you walk, your feet should move through an ‘S’ shape.  As your heel strikes the floor, your foot should roll to the outer edge, becoming more mobile as it curves across to the base of your big toe via the ball of your foot. Here it becomes stiff again as your big toe pushes off to propel you forward.

But what if you’re not walking efficiently and your feet turn out as you move forwards? Without realising it you’ll be leaning into your inner arch more, preventing your foot from becoming stiff and propelling you forwards correctly. Pressure will increase around the joint of the big toe and as our body’s protective response kicks in you’ll build more bone – a bunion!

Parallel is best

Do you remember when you were little being taken to the shoe shop to have your feet measured? You’d be sticking your feet into that machine before you knew it and praying that the moving metal strips stopped when they touched your feet!

Well, that’s the position we should aim for. Feet that point forward with the outside edge of our feet in a straight line between the ankle bone and the outside edge of the little toe.

Ways you can improve your alignment

There are ways that you can perfect your walk and posture, but be patient! Here I’m going to tell you how you can work towards this goal, but you shouldn’t rush it, or force any change in position as you will end up putting pressure onto your joints causing even more problems.

Sadly, unlike taking a car to a garage for an afternoon, there’s no immediate fix when it comes to our muscles, joints, tendons, nerve endings, etc. Our ultimate machine needs careful handling! And the thing with solutions that are developed to bring balance to our bodies, like Pilates, is that they do take time – but making that first step to improve our bodies is so important.

Ok, here’s what you can do:

  • Find a straight line on the floor.
  • Take off your shoes and socks.
  • Set the outside edge of one of your feet along the straight line.
  • Place your other foot so that it matches the position.

If you don’t walk in perfect alignment, you may think that the positioning of your feet looks strange – it may even feel strange. It’s quite common for someone with an imbalance in their feet tracking to experience some discomfort in their knees doing this exercise, this is because more things are being forced to move in a different way other than the feet.

Use this awareness to make small adjustments. Focus on your feet and work towards the correct alignment. It’s good practice to consider your stance when you’re standing – do some shuffling until you’re standing correctly, and the weight balance is optimum.

Remember, little and often, and you’ll get there!

Good luck

Come to Ormskirk Pilates

Here we take a full body approach which trains the core muscles in the most optimum way.

Please, come and join us and allow your body to get back to working the way it was intended.

If you feel that you could benefit from discovering more ways to strengthen your core to support your pelvic floor function, feel free to get in touch with me at

Save Your Feet. It’s time to back your hips up!

We don’t pay as much attention to our feet as we could. It seems that the only time we take notice of them is when they start hurting, aching or worse when we develop a blister after wearing unsuitable footwear.

But when you think about them, they’re pretty amazing. They’re relatively small in proportion to the rest of our bodies, yet they manage to hold us up. They really are our connection to the world.

The right connections

The way your feet make contact with the ground directly effects how the force travels up your body. And the way we hold ourselves also influences how the feet make contact.

Hmmmm, there might be more to standing and walking than meets the eye!

But let’s take a look at how our feet are designed to work. When we maintain a good alignment in our body our feet will support our entire body, provide us with ultimate balance and gift us with complete freedom of movement.

What’s in a foot?

Inside just one of our feet is 26 bones, 30 joints and over 100 muscles, tendons, blood vessels, nerves and ligaments.

Most of the smaller bones, joints and soft tissues are found at the front of the foot, these help us with movement and mobility. While at the back you’ll find the heel bone which is just one big dense bone designed for weight bearing and stability.

Take care of the toe bones!

You may be guilty of doing this yourself, or you may have noticed others do this – I’m talking about using our forefoot to hold ourselves up instead of bearing our weight in our heels.

Putting weight continuously on the smaller bones and tissues of the feet forces the feet to work in a way that they’re not intended to.  Another way of looking at it, is that they’re preventing their feet from performing the role they’re designed for.

This constant pressure on the forefoot may result in stress fractures, bunions, plantar fasciitis, and other foot related issues. You’ll know if you develop any of these as they are super annoying and quite often very painful!

What causes someone to walk and stand on their forefoot?

It’s usually associated with a forward shift of the pelvis. This habit not only transfers the body weight forward into the forefoot, but it can also reduce mobility in the lower back and negatively affect the glutes’ (the muscles that make up our buttocks) capacity to be engaged.

And as the glutes’ muscles are our body’s most powerful this is pretty serious! We can’t afford for them to be in poor health as we need strong glutes for movement, to help support the spine and pelvis, and to ensure our pelvic floor functions correctly.

Find out where your weight is

It pays to establish where you distribute your weight. Fingers crossed it will be at your heel, but you never know! And finding out now before it becomes an issue could really pay off.

STEP 1: Ideally get a belt or something similar like a phone charger that’s long with a bit of a weight on the end.

STEP 2: Stand side on to a long mirror.

STEP 3: Let the heavier end of the measuring object drop towards the floor and place the end you are holding onto your hip.

STEP 4: Notice where the weight ends rests.

If the weight rests ahead of your ankle bone, your weight is forward of the heel and into the forefoot.

Should the weight be ahead of your ankle bone, try to shift your weight back into your heels. To do this:

  • Shift your pelvis back until the belt is over your ankle.
  • Then bring your upper body back over your heels.

Take time to notice how this posture feels different. Many of my clients say that they feel as if they’re about to fall backwards. This is because their brain has adapted to a different positioning setting over the years.

With awareness, and continuous adjustment, your body will change in the same way it adapted to getting there in the first place.  I encourage you to keep doing the exercise with the belt, or a phone charger, to keep you on track. The more you do the exercise the more you’ll be aware of your posture even when you’re out and about doing your usual daily activities.

Your feet – and your entire body – will thank you for it!

Free your spine and the rest will follow

You know when you’re about to do something really brave and someone says to you, ‘well, you’ve got the backbone for it’, you know that what they’re saying in a roundabout way is that you’ve got the strength to do it.

And there’s good reason why the word backbone is used in this sense. It’s because that column of small, linked bones that runs down the middle of our backs is crucial for our sturdiness, power, and agility.

The pivotal link to everything!

Did you know that your spine is made up of 24 moveable bones? These are connected to a total of 120 muscles, 220 ligaments, and more than 13 million neurons. Pretty impressive, eh?  So, when we take care of our spine, all these other bits of circuitry stay in peak health too allowing us to twist and turn with ease.

Aren’t columns usually straight?

You’ve probably heard the term, ‘spinal column’. But our spines are anything but straight. Spines have 3 curves – actually 4 if you include the sacrum. It makes no sense for it be to like a column. Imagine trying to tie up your shoelace if that was the case – impossible!

Next time you walk past a full-length mirror, or brave enough to look into a scrupulously clean shop window to see your reflection, turn to the side to reveal your curves.

  • Starting at the top you’ll see the first curve which is your neck. It curves inwards and is known as the cervical curve.
  • Moving down you’ll see a curve at your upper back. This curves outwards and is known as the thoracic curve.
  • Next there’s the curve at your lower back which curves inwards. This is known as the lumbar curve.
  • And finally, there’s the sacrum. This is made up of fused bones that form a connection with the pelvis and attaches with the tailbone (coccyx).

Different designs for different functions

Where the function of the spine changes, the design does too, and these are the spots where the spine can get stuck resulting in us experiencing irritation or pain.

This discomfort may be fleeting meaning that we don’t really notice it, but there may be times when the discomfort can quite literally stop us in our tracks!

Now, thinking back to the curves mentioned above and the changes in design, let’s take a closer look at the functions:

  • The role of the cervical spine (the neck) is to support the head and allow movement. The bones are small and offer a lot of mobility.
  • The bones of the thoracic spine (the upper back) are larger at the top and smaller at the bottom. Their role is to support the rib cage.
  • The largest bones of the spine are found in the lumbar spine (the lower back). They carry the load of the upper body and provide the link with the lower body.

The front and the back of the spine is also designed differently.

  • The front comprises of denser, thicker bodies of bone, designed for load bearing and stability.
  • The back of the spine has much more space and provides attachment points for many of the back muscles and connecting bones. It handles the forces of tension that are created when we move.

By now you’re in no doubt that the spine is made from lots of different parts. So, it makes sense for us to do what we can to keep it as healthy as possible. Think of exercising your spine the same as spraying WD40 on the moving parts of a machine.

What to do when you’re feeling stiff

Most of us can relate to feeling stiff every now and then. We automatically do a little squirm and shimmy to try and loosen things up. But when that doesn’t work, we end up working other parts of the body even harder as a work around. This solution is never sustainable, and even more aches and pains will start to appear.

Here’s what you can do every day to free your spine:

  • Ideally do this standing, but if you do this sitting down make sure that your feet are flat on the floor and that you’re lifting yourself tall through your spine.
  • Place your hands on your chest and keep your head and hips still. Rotate your rib cage side to side.
  • Arms down by your side, slide one arm down the side of your leg. Pause for a split second when you get to the top and repeat on the other side.
  • Rock, tuck and tilt your pelvis back and forward keeping your shoulders in the same place.

Our information superhighway

And finally, let’s not forget about our internal superhighway – aka the spinal cord. Made up of soft tissue it extends from the base of our brains and contains nerve cells. Its job is to support our every movement and the structure of our bodies. Without it we simply can’t function.

Every vertebral bone of our spine has its own specific role as you’ve discovered, all with the purpose of helping us perform daily activities as efficiently and effectively as possible. And when you think that it’s our vertebrae that surrounds the spinal cord to protect it and keep it safe, it really is worth investing in the time to keep it in peak condition.

If you feel that you could benefit from discovering more ways to strengthen your core, feel free to get in touch with me at

Are your ribs and hips connected?

‘Of course they are!’  I hear you cry. ‘All my insides would fall out if they weren’t.’

And you’d be right, they are connected. But after reading this, you’ll discover that there’s more to it than you think.

To enjoy the best health and a wide range of movement you need to keep that connection in tip-top shape!  The alignment and positioning of your ribs and hips in relation to each other is key when it comes to the development of good core function and your capacity to effectively manage intra-abdominal pressure.

The core muscles have been designed to work in harmony

 Let’s take a closer look at your ribs and hips, and in this example, I’ll be talking about them as your breathing diaphragm and your pelvic floor.

Your breathing diaphragm and pelvic floor are designed to work together. Now imagine that you have an internal tin can – your breathing diaphragm is at the top of the can and your pelvic floor is at the bottom of the can.

When you breathe in your diaphragm lowers and flatten, this causes an increase in the pressure within your abdomen, and this pressure pushes downwards onto your pelvic floor. The muscles of the pelvic floor work under the tension by lengthening and lowering in support.  And then as we breathe out, a passive vacuum is created that creates lift on the pelvic floor.

When muscles work together effectively the shape and pressure of the tin can remain at optimum levels.   For this to happen your hips and ribs need to align with each other.

Create balance with optimum positioning

To understand what’s going on inside your body, it’s good to know that your diaphragm attaches to the inside of your rib cage and to your spine, and the muscles that make up your pelvic floor attach around the inside of your pelvic bowl.

Their positions within your body will be highly affected by how and where your muscles rest.  For instance, if you have muscles tension and stiffness in your upper back, neck and shoulders this can create a shift in the rib cage position.   Any shift from the optimum resting position is going to result in an imbalance.

Changes in the alignment of your diaphragm (the top of the tin can) or your pelvic floor (the bottom of the can) will change pressure in the middle.  It’s easy to imagine as we’ve all seen a squished tin can – some areas become compressed which changes the internal pressure. This is exactly what happens inside your body when you’re out of balance.

Let’s look inside!

The images below demonstrate the more common alignment changes.  You can see in each image that our positioning impacts the relationship between the diaphragm and pelvic floor.  The blue arrows show the impact on our spines as a result of directional changes of the rib cage and pelvis which is shown by the black arrows.

Positioning and alignment is key

Our bodies are incredibly adaptive to the positions we adopt frequently during our day.  Prolonged sitting, driving long distances and standing are all times when we may develop adaptive alignment changes that are not facilitative to good core support and function.

But help is at hand.  Understanding what’s going on inside our bodies is a great first step. The next step is to do the movements that bring about the mobility in the body that creates a better alignment.

If you are experiencing back, core and pelvic floor issues (stress incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, diastasis recti) addressing the relationship between these areas of your body can have a big impact on your symptoms.

If you feel that you could benefit from discovering more ways to strengthen your core to support your pelvic floor function, feel free to get in touch with me at

What does core strength mean to you?

What does core strength mean to you?

 If you look in a dictionary the word ‘core’ relates to the central part of something that is deemed to be the most important.  But I also found this explanation, ‘… the part of something that has to be understood before the whole thing can be dealt with.’

For me, that sums it up perfectly – to fully understand the function of the core and how our muscles have been designed to work together is a key step to achieve optimal health, increase strength, and to experience a full range of movement.

Maybe it’s time to rethink what core strength means to you?

In general, your core is the area of your body between the ribs and the hips.  Many people who get in contact with me at the Pilates Studio tell me they need to improve their ‘core strength’ to provide a solution to a pain they are experiencing, to prevent injury, to stop symptoms associated with pelvic floor problems, to achieve a flatter tummy, to have the ability to lift heavier weights, or maybe to improve their mobility.

But what exactly do you know about the ‘core’, and when you mention ‘core strength’ what is your understanding?

Your core is more than your abdominal muscles

Let’s say you’re after a more sculptured look: a toned tummy with visible muscle definition. Without understanding your core’s function, you may have been tempted previously to adopt the more traditional abdominal-centric approach which focusses on training your abdominal muscles through sit-ups, planks, etc.

The traditional method builds and tones these muscles through voluntary movement to provide and can contribute to increased strength of those muscles.  However, the strength of the ‘core’ comes from the muscles to co-ordinate, to be supportive and the capacity to relax when needed.

What may also be happening whilst performing more isolated ‘core’ exercises is:

  • Training muscles in isolation potentially creates increased tension in the muscles, preventing them from releasing when needed and preventing them from working effectively with the other muscle. All muscles have an opposition to work with and against.  If there is too much tension in one muscles there will also been too much in the opposing muscle.  Either both start to be inhibiting in their capacity to be fully supportive when needed.
  • Our daily activities and working positions encourages a developmental change in alignment and muscle balance in the body. Isolated ‘core’ exercises then train that body position further.  This can compromise the capacity for the deeper stabilising muscles of the ‘core’ (multifidus, the pelvic floor, the diaphragm, and the transverse abdominals) to perform their roles of supporting the spine and control the pressure within the body and hampering the ability to attain optimal core function and strength.

In a nutshell, traditional methods of core exercise have the potential to create an imbalance which can compromise the body and lead to experiences of discomfort, limited movement, and problems with your pelvic floor.

Doing ‘core’ exercises is not wrong, completely depends on what you are trying to do. However, they need to be considered in relation to where movement does or doesn’t already happen in the body and how the body is achieving the exercises.  I can think of many more effective muscles for the ‘core’ that incorporates the function of the body and I don’t know about you but I would always rather do one exercise that gives more ‘bang for my buck’ than spend longer doing several isolated exercises!