Hi! I'm Sophia - a British born, London trained, Californian living Pilates Instructor, Personal Trainer and lover of all things fitness & wellness. I'm wife to John and Mama to baby Theodore. I workout to keep my body strong and healthy and my (over-worrying anxious) mind calm and focused. My approach to fitness is to listen to my body and move it in a way that makes it feel good - some days this means slow, controlled mindful Pilates and other days this means a higher intensity, sweaty workout! But the main thing underpinning every workout I ever do is good form - moving well means maximising the benefit of every exercise (and workout) reducing the risk of injury and, ultimately, feeling much better in mind and body....'move well, live well' as I like to say!
Anyone who knows me well knows that I LOVE food! I have a semi-serious chocolate addiction and am currently working my way through every Californian Pinot noir and Chardonnay available. To me, living a healthy life doesn't have to mean excluding the things you love; to build a positive, life-long relationship with fitness and food, nothing should ever be considered 'bad' and you shouldn't ever be made to feel guilty about what you ate or the workout you didn't do (rest days are super important!)! Yes, of course, we must consider the nutritional value of our food and make sure that we include as much nutrient-dense food in our daily diet as possible (for optimum energy and health benefits) and, of course, if we become overweight for our height/build then we might need to consider whether we're consuming more calories than we're expending and look at reducing daily calories consumed from certain foods (as well as increasing activity levels to create the calorie deficit required for weight-loss). BUT....if we exclude the less nutrient-dense (but super yummy and soul-nurturing) foods from our diet completely, we will only ever end up wanting them more and (more often than not) will end up developing a very negative, unhealthy (and potentially disordered) mindset towards food. And, let's be honest, food is one of THE most wonderful things about life so let's enjoy it!
My approach to wellness is just as much about my downtime on the sofa with Netflix and a glass of wine as it is about my workout program....I get anxious and overwhelmed pretty easily (even more so since having a baby!) and so downtime is SO important to me for my mental health and overall wellbeing. We moved to the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area last year for my husband's work and I had my gorgeous baby Teddy last summer. So life is currently pretty much all about new Mama life and figuring out how I maintain my fitness and wellness as best as possible now I have my mini-man to look after (without being able to call my Mum to come and save me when I can't cope...argh!). I hope you enjoy my little blog - I don't find the time to update it half as often as I'd like to (I only wash my hair once a week these days so sitting down to write a blog post is nothing short of a miracle!!) but take a peek below for my thoughts and top tips on all things fitness and wellness, including advice based on my recent pregnancy and postpartum journey.
Oh, and I'd love to hear from you - get in touch if you have any questions, requests for content or want to connect or collaborate!
Big virtual hugs, Sophia x
“Breathing is the first act of life and our last..our very life depends on it. Since we cannot live without breathing it is tragically deplorable to contemplate the millions who have never mastered the art of correct breathing” Joseph Pilates
Inspired by Joseph Pilates (who based his method of Contrology on breathing as the first step to mastering complete control over your mind and body) I am a huge advocate of the power of breathing. I am very passionate about teaching my Pilates and PT clients how to connect their breath to their movement to ensure that every exercise is mindful and controlled. Utilising breath correctly can aid a stronger connection to the deep abdominal muscles (that make up part of your core) which will help stabilise and control your movement. Breathing can, therefore, help provide more power and dynamics into your training. For example, using a strong/dynamic out breadth on the concentric/pulling upwards part of a pull up will aid a connection to the deep-abdominals (Transverse Abs) and help provide power and strength for this part of the movement. Using an inhale on the eccentric/release part of a pull up will help control the lower back down. Breathing also helps enormously with stretching; slowing and deepening the breathing during post-workout stretching will increase blood flow to the muscles and help remove any lactic acid build up. You can use your breath to increase the intensity of your stretches; move into your stretch on an exhale, every time you inhale, hold the stretch and then on each exhale, try to go a little bit further into the stretch, without forcing your muscles.
Breathing can also be an extremely useful tool for remaining mindful and calm during moments of stress and/or anxiety. I, personally, struggle with moments of intense anxiety, often brought on by a busy London lifestyle, rushing around and often feeling overwhelmed by being pulled in too many directions. To manage my anxiety, I practice daily mindful breathing (yes I'm that weirdo on the tube with my eyes closed, breathing heavily!). Anxiety and stress is, unfortunately, a huge part of many people’s lives as we continue to feel the pressure of balancing a successful career with our family and personal life. Take it from someone who once experienced such a severe anxiety attack that I called my manager from the top of ski run to hand in my notice, that breathing REALLY DOES HELP!! How? Well, without going into a scientific thesis, basically practicing slow, deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (the system which calms us down) and will reduce anxiety and lower cortisol levels. Simply taking a few deep breaths engages the Vagus nerve which triggers a signal within your nervous system to slow heart rate, lower blood pressure and decrease the stress hormone cortisol. So next time you feel yourself in a stressful situation that activates your ‘Fight-or-Flight’ response, stop and breathe! Or even better, introduce daily breathing into your routine as a proactive mechanism for managing stress and anxiety.
Wellness Writer, Alice Muskett, takes us through a simple, effective breathing technique below.
A simple stress busting exercise is to take a few moments to focus purely on your breath. You can do this any time of the day and as regularly as you like - you can even do it in the toilet cubicle at work if you need a quick break from office mayhem. Close your eyes if you feel comfortable doing that, or just soften your gaze, and focus on your breath as you slowly breathe in and out. You may want to focus on the sensations of air coming in and out of your nostrils, or you may want to put a hand on your belly and feel it moving up and down. You can count 1 as you breathe in, 2 as you breathe out if that helps. Do whatever feels best for you. There's no right or wrong here. The aim is to simply take a mental break. This slows down your thoughts and refocuses your energy. It is a calming, nourishing, exercise that you can use whenever the need arises. For an added boost, silently say 'I am' as you breathe in and 'at peace' as you breathe out.
Check out Alice Muskett's self care blog: The Self Care Life
When it comes to health and wellness, we tend to only think about exercise and nutrition. However, getting enough sleep is also key! It's difficult in our busy lives to get as much sleep as we'd like but maybe after reading this post you'll stop your next Netflix marathon an episode earlier for that extra hour of shut eye! Amongst many others, here are my top reasons for making sleep a priority in your life:
1. Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain - studies show that sleep deprived individuals have a bigger appetite and tend to eat more calories. Sleep deprivation disrupts the daily fluctuations in appetite hormones and is believed to cause poor appetite regulation. This includes higher levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, and reduced levels of leptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite.
2. Good sleep can maximize problem solving skills and enhance memory - poor sleep has been shown to impair brain function. Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function. This includes cognition, concentration, productivity and performance.
3. Good sleep enhances athletic performance - longer sleep has been shown to improve many aspects of athletic and physical performance. A study of over 2,800 women found that poor sleep was linked to slower walking, lower grip strength, and greater difficulty performing independent activities.
4. Poor sleepers have a greater risk of heart disease - sleeping less than 7-8 hours per night is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
5. Sleep affects glucose metabolism and type 2 diabetes risk - sleep deprivation can cause pre-diabetes in healthy adults, in as little as 6 days. Many studies show a strong link between short sleep duration and type 2 diabetes risk.
6. Poor sleep is linked to depression - those with sleeping disorders, such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea, also report significantly higher rates of depression than those without. Poor sleeping patterns are strongly linked to depression, particularly for those with a sleeping disorder.
7. Sleep improves immune function - Getting at least 8 hours of sleep can improve immune function and help fight the common cold.
8. Poor sleep is linked to increased inflammation - sleep affects the body’s inflammatory responses. Poor sleep is strongly linked to inflammatory bowel diseases and can increase the risk of disease recurrence.