Thursday, 10 October 2013

Go with the flow ..

Katie from Flow enjoying the flat spell this summer!

 “Hi there, I am just ringing to confirm your business as Flow Physio and Pilots.’’
Sorry, it’s actually Pilates.”
Oh right, so what’s that then? Anything to do with aeroplanes?”
Not quite”

A recent, now fairly routine, conversation I had when I ventured into the world of advertising my company; Flow Physio & Pilates.

Pilates is a term a lot of us have heard of, but are not necessarily that familiar with. The Yoga image has really taken off when it comes to limbering up ready to catch a wave. So when Surf Sistas invited me to write a little blog, I thought explaining what Pilates was might be a good place to start.

Pilates was initially built around developing ‘core strength’. It has since diversified and focus has moved onto core control and awareness. Sometimes we aren’t aware of the way in which we move. We can get from A to B on ‘auto-pilot’ and be left wondering how we managed to get somewhere without any recollection of the journey. This movement gives no awareness to our bodies and how we move. We may only notice if we experience pain or altered movement patterns. Pilates is a form of ‘mindful movement’. It aims to draw your attention to how you are moving your body; noticing areas that may be weaker, tighter or stronger.

Pilates works brilliantly alongside surfing. It helps draw your mind’s attention to the present moment and the activity you are about to undertake, as well as prepare the body for exercise through stretching, strengthening and building tone. The Pilates method is based on flowing movement, aiming to improve movement patterns and developing a sense of wellbeing.

In my spare time I am usually at the beach surfing, kite-surfing, stand-up paddle boarding or swimming. Alongside my sport I practice Pilates to help maintain muscle-balance and notice any areas of weakness or compensation. It is also a great way of relaxing the mind and focusing on just you and your body’s movement. 

I also do Pilates on Paddleboards, which was recently featured in the Guardian’s article on ‘Making the Most of the British Coast’. Pilates on paddleboards is the perfect combination of getting out and seeing the coastline as well as using the natural movement of the water with the paddleboard to challenge you further with your Pilates practice – and its a great workout for those flat days between surf sessions!

Here is a great little Pilates routine designed to help improve your control, awareness and flexibility for surfing – enjoy!

Handy hints
  • It is important to remember to keep your body relaxed when you are doing any Pilates movements; if you are holding your breath and tensing up, you are probably working too hard.
  • Pay attention to how the rest of your body is compensating for the movement you are doing, if you are having to make a lot of movement adjustments, you might need to do the exercise more gently. The aim is to keep the body steady and the movement flowing.
  • Unlike yoga, the effort of the movement is done on the out-breath to help you stay relaxed and focus on the movement

Stand with your feed hip width apart, slide your right thumb up your side, then unfurl your hand towards the sky. Scoop down in front of you, sweeping across your body and then back up with your thumb along your side. Repeat 4 times and then do on the left. This is a great exercise for loosening off the mid back and shoulders.

Roll down

Roll Down
Slowly reach down towards the ground, as if unpeeling your spine from a wall, feeling each vertebrae curl down. Bend your knees slightly when you get to your limit, then hand there for a count of 10. Slowly stack back up, then repeat 3 more times, on the last roll down, come down to a lying position on the mat. This is really nice to wake the body up and stretch out the whole body.

Place your hands on the mat as if you are about to pop up on your board. Keeping your hips relaxed, slowly raise your upper body upwards, lengthening through the chest towards the sky. Feel each vertebrae move one at a time, then slowly lower back down. Repeat 3 further times.

Leg Pull in Prone
Leg pull in prone
Come into an all fours position, with your knees directly under your hips and your arms slightly ahead of your shoulders. Curl your toes under, then left your knees off the mat and hover about a couple of inches off the mat.

To make this harder, after you have hovered your knees, you can straighten your legs out and come into a plank position on extended arms, keeping your body straight. Then return to the knee hover position and gently lower down. Repeat 3 further times.

Now roll onto your side, placing your feet together and in line with your back and head. Slowly lift the top knee up, keeping the body still, then lower down. Repeat up to 10 times – you should feel this in your bottom and it is a great exercise for stability.

Spine Twist
Gently then fold yourself into a sitting position, either with one leg in front and one behind or cross legged. Make a praying position or diamond with your hands on your chest, and rotate your upper body round to one side. On the next breath out, try and gently rotate further, as if you are rotating round a pole through your centre. Repeat this on the left, doing 4 altogether.

Come down into the clam position on your other side and do up to 10 clams on the left hip. Then roll onto your back.

spine twist

Shoulder bridge
shoulder bridge
Rest your hands by your sides and your knees bent. Roll your back up from your tailbone so that you are in a ski slope position. Try and keep that position steady, and raise one leg off the ground, reaching away as if turning off a light with your toe.
This is a great exercise to practice isolating movement and build control through range of spinal motion.

cat stretch
Cat stretch
To finish off, come back onto all fours, and tuck your head under whilst arching your back, then breath out and sink your belly button towards the ground. Repeat 4 times then roll back up into standing.

Now get in the water and enjoy your surf!

Katie Watson
Flow Physio & Pilates 

For more information on Pilates, visit or email


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