reduce low back pain jennifer dene wellness

Pilates To Reduce Low Back Pain

This 10 minute Pilates workout video will help you reduce low back pain by stretching, strengthening and stabilizing the muscles that support the spine. 

Is back pain putting a real cramp in your style? If so, you’re not alone. Studies show that women are more likely to experience back pain — as well as other forms of chronic pain — than men.

(As if dealing with periods, child-birth and menopause weren’t enough, now we get to bear the brunt of chronic pain. Those men seem to get off so dang easy!)

To be fair, it’s not really the men’s fault. Things like differences in pelvic structure, hormonal changes and the physical impact of pregnancy are all contributing factors.

But just because you’re more likely to experience back pain, doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Whether you’re looking to prevent low back pain or reduce its intensity, a gentle Pilates routine that focuses on strengthening and stretching the muscles that support the spine will go a long way in helping.

So grab your exercise mat and press play on today’s home workout video.

Pilates To Reduce Low Back Pain

 

 

P.S. Did you know that back pain can be caused from having overly tight hips? Try these stretches and feel the difference!

5 Best Ab Exercises For A Strong Core

It’s been a minute since I’ve posted a home workout video. I decided that I needed time to think about my approach to fitness, and how that weaves in to my overall healthy living message.

I wanted to get clear on where I stand on the fitness spectrum, and what kind of exercises I should be sharing with you.

It wasn’t necessarily easy.

On one hand, I knew how to create workouts that ticked all the popular boxes. High intensity, fast and furious, fat burning, calorie crunching, lean machine exercises. On the other hand, I didn’t actually like doing them all that much!

My workouts looked great on paper, but they didn’t feel great in my body. So even though I’d share them with my clients and readers, personally I’d often do something much more simple and gentle in my own routine.

It started making me feel a little hypocritical; you can do this, but I’m not going to. I was worried that if I shared what I really did, no one else would want to do it too. Golly, I’ve been known to break out into dance steps into the middle of a run, and will happily turn any workout into a hour-long stretch routine.

I was also a little concerned about what would happen if I couldn’t maintain my old level of fitness. Can I be an “pro” if I drop to my knees in pushups? Do I even want to be an “pro”?

I’ve decided that I don’t. I’m just your guide on the side for this healthy living ride.

And with that in mind, here’s where I’ve landed: I think that fitness should be simple, fun and functional. Moving your body should be a joy, not a burden, and the activities that you do should make you feel better in your every day life (not just in that 50 minute workout class).

Remember that fitness is a long-term commitment, and as long as you have the gift to be able to move your body then move it you should.

So I thought we could do a little experiment. Let’s train how I want to train for a couple of months and see what happens. It’s not going to be too intense, it should feel good during and wonderful after, and it will challenge us in a self-care kind of way. I might throw in a few curve balls too! Are you game?

If so press play on today’s workout video, where I’m sharing 5 of the best ab exercises to strengthen your core (it’s part two to this Crunch Free Ab Workout). 

The Best Ab Exercises For A Stronger Core

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.

With love,

JDW Signature

P.S. I filmed this video last year. I’m growing out my hair and it’s totally awkward at the moment, too funny for on-camera!

Pilates resistance band workout

18 Minute Pilates Resistance Band Workout | Intermediate Level

Today’s Pilates resistance band workout will  strengthen your muscles, improve your posture, and increase your flexibility. All you need is a resistance band (a.k.a exercise band or Theraband) and your workout mat.

Pilates emphasizes core strength, postural alignment, mobility and breath, making it a really important component of your overall workout routine.

But to fully reap these benefits, your flow should be focused around the six Pilates principles: breathing, concentration & control, centering, balanced muscle development, flow, and relaxation.

Before we unroll our mats for today’s video, let’s take a quick peek at each of these principles.

Breathing

In the words of my old mate Joe Pilates: “Breathing is the first act of life and the last. Our very life depends on it.” Breathing calms our wandering mind and allows us to focus on our physical body. In Pilates we INHALE through the nose and EXHALE through the mouth; a strong exhale activates the deep abdominal muscles. If you get confused with the breathing just remember to exhale on the most challenging phase of each movement.

Concentration & Control

Intentional movement focuses on form and alignment, rather than speed and repetition — it is better to do five perfect reps of an exercise, than 20 without paying attention. I encourage you to listen to your body, maintain your alignment, and modify any exercises that feel too challenging.

Centering

The core is the center of the body and acts as both your anchor and your compass. In Pilates we initiate the core before every movement, even for something as simple as lifting an arm or a leg. To activate your abdominals, exhale through your mouth while drawing the belly button towards your spine. If you notice your belly push out during an exercise, stop what you’re doing and reconnect your abs.

Balanced Muscle Development

Our body is designed to move in multiple directions, and we can use our Pilates workout to honor that. In today’s video we are tapping into EVERYTHING: front and back, side to side, bend and flex, and stretch and strengthen… it’s going to feel great!

Flow

Rhythm and flow is my favorite aspect of Pilates. It feels so natural for my body to move in a way that is fluid and functional, while also creating a calm sense of balance for body, mind and spirit. At first you may feel a little clunky trying today’s routine, but after repeating it once you will be able to flow with ease.

Relaxation

Remember, Jennifer Dene Wellness is about feeling fit, feminine and fabulous in the simplest way possible. Don’t make exercise harder than it has to be, and don’t believe the hype that workouts need to be exhausting to be effective. Use as much effort as you need to in order to perform each exercise correctly, but then no more. Relax your shoulders, relax your jaw, and at the end of the session take a few moments to simply lie on your mat and enjoy the stillness.

Choosing The Right Resistance Band

In the video I chat about choosing a the right resistance band for Pilates workouts. The bands that you can buy in a set of three, with three different weight tensions, tend to be too heavy and short for Pilates. Instead, I buy a long roll of Theraband and cut it into three generous lengths; blue is a nice weight for intermediate fitness levels. (Purchase your exercise band here.)

Now let’s do it to it!

Pilates Resistance Band Workout

This is an intermediate Pilates mat workout. If you are a beginner, move more slowly and take the most basic option in each exercise. I wanted to get as much done in 18 minutes as possible so I’m moving at quite a clip, you can always pause the video if you need a little more time. I recommend repeating today’s workout three times this week.

 

Now I’d Love To Hear From You

Did you enjoy today’s Pilates workout? I hope so! Which of the six Pilates principles do you find most challenging, and which comes most naturally to you? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

With love,

JDW Signature

Upper Back Stretches Jennifer Dene Wellness

4 Feel-Good Stretches For A Tight Upper Back

In today’s workout I’m sharing four upper back stretches that will make your spine feel divine. All you need is an exercise mat, so come on in and join the fun!

Remember a few weeks ago when I shared three stretches for tight hips? In that post I talked about how our sedentary lifestyle is really doing a number on our muscles and joints. Sitting is the new smoking and it’s wreaking havoc on our bodies.

Another side effect of our habitual postures is tightness in the upper back, neck and shoulders. Here’s why:

Most of our day-to-day tasks keep our arms in front of our torso (hello computer work, texting, driving, ironing, and cooking). This contracts the muscles at the front of the body and weakens the muscles of the back, which are constantly being lengthened.

Yep, lengthened. Your “tight back” might not be a symptom of muscle contraction, but actually of muscle strain.

Rounding the shoulders or low back when sitting or standing (and constantly reaching forward) over-stretches the spinal extensors and weakens the shoulder stabilizers. Rather than being a good thing, this “flexibility” is a sign that your spine isn’t properly supported and your own weight is dragging your body out of alignment.

What happens then?

Our fascia — the connective tissue that wraps around the muscles, bones and organs  — gets stiff and inflexible from being stuck in the same position all day. Imagine the fascia as a cobweb that has wrapped around your muscles. Cobwebs that get ignored get more and more dense; fascia that gets ignored also gets more dense (or knotted) creating tension and reducing mobility.

So what can we do about it?

I’m so glad you asked! We need to take a three-pronged approach to tackling these aches and pains:

  1. Strengthen the spine. A tight back is different from a strong back. Do these three upper body exercises (and pay particular attention to move #1 “Cactus Glides”) 
  2. Strengthen the core. This is going to support your spine from your abdominals, and help you to improve your posture throughout the day. Here is a 10 minute crunch-free core workout. 
  3. Stretch the upper back through a variety of movements. Mobilizing the thoracic spine (upper back) through flexion, extension and rotation will help to take your fascia from sticky to supple. Try adding the four exercises in the video below to your daily routine.

Download Your Stretch Series

I’ve created a nifty one-page PDF for you to download, which includes instructions and photos of the four stretches from today’s video. That way you can keep it on your computer to remind yourself to stretch your spine throughout the day! Click here to download your free PDF.

Now I’d Love To Hear From You

Once you’ve had a chance to do these stretches I’d love to know how they felt in your body. Let me know by leaving a comment below.

With love,

JDW Signature

Crunch Free Ab Workout

Crunch Free Ab Workout | 10 Minute Workout

Last year I wrote an article for Mind Body Green that has since been shared over 20,000 times. Basically I’m explaining why, despite being a Pilates and personal trainer, I never want a six-pack. I guess it struck a chord with some people.

While you may think that having a six-pack equals strong abs,  it’s not necessarily the case.

A six-pack is formed by strengthening the outer layer of abdominals — the superficial rectus abdominis — through crunches and similar exercises. And while it’s great to have strong outer abs, it’s what’s underneath that really counts.

Side note: You can absolutely have strong outer abs without seeing a “six-pack”. Usually a healthy level of body fat will prevent us from seeing this definition. And if having a six-pack means giving up cheese, bread and wine… I will always choose the cheese, bread and wine!

Before you press play on today’s workout,  let’s take a peek underneath the hood at why core-strength is the new sexy:

The six-pack is the least important muscle for spinal support.

Without getting too technical, the deep core muscles (transversus abdominis and erector spinae) are what matters most when it comes to strengthening and stabilizing our spine. Here’s why they need your attention…

Core strength:

  • Improves posture — and reduces shrinking as we age
  • Eases back and neck pain
  • Stops the rounding-forward of shoulders
  • Corrects pelvic and knee misalignments
  • Is good for activating that nifty little pelvic floor muscle
  • Helps with breathing and digestion, as correct postural alignment gives your organs room to do their thing!

A strong core can reduce the likelihood or severity of diastasis.

Diastasis is a separation of the outer abdominal muscles, which often happens during and after pregnancy.

While you shouldn’t be alarmed if you’ve experienced diastasis, you do want to get on top of it as soon as possible.* If ignored diastasis can lead to chronic low back pain, lumbar instability, digestive issues and hernias.

(*Note: please get medical clearance before beginning any new workout routine, especially post-pregnancy or surgery.)

So, how do you fix it? Crunches exacerbate diastasis and can further weaken an already weak core. To draw the outer abs back towards midline you need to use flexion-free core exercises, such as those that I’ll show you below.

There’s no point in building the house on a rocky foundation.

The real benefit to starting with crunch-free ab exercises is this: you can do hundreds of sit-ups every day, but without a strong foundation you won’t be getting any benefit.

Now let’s train!

10 Minute Crunch Free Ab Workout

Here Are The Moves

Seated Abdominal Breathing: Sit comfortably with your hands on the belly and your spine nice and straight. Inhale and let the belly expand towards your hands, exhale and engage your abdominals to pull the belly back in towards the spine. Repeat 10 – 12 repetitions.

All-Fours Abdominals: Start on hands and knees, with the wrists under the shoulders and knees under the hips. Keep the spine straight and still. Inhale to let the belly hang down, and exhale to engage your abdominals and pull the belly up towards your spine. Repeat 6-8 repetitions.

Kneeling Hovers: From the all-fours position, keep your abdominals engaged and hover the knees one inch away from the floor. Lower them down. Repeat for 6-10 repetitions.

Plank Step Backs: From the all-fours position, step one foot at a time back to plank position, without releasing your abdominal engagement. Repeat a total of 8-10 repetitions.

Single Leg Lifts: Start lying on your back, and gently press the low spine into the mat. Engage the abdominals before lifting one knee at a time to 90º (“tabletop position”). Return the feet to the mat, keeping the belly flat and the spine neutral. If the belly pops out (i.e. you lose core engagement) only lower the toes halfway.  Repeat 8-10 repetitions.

Marching: Start with both knees in tabletop position. Tap one toe at a time towards the mat, before pulling it back up. Keep the belly flat and the spine neutral. Repeat 8-10 repetitions.

Frog Presses: Start lying on your back, with the knees lifted and the heels together, knees slightly open. Keep the low back against the floor and extend the legs away on a high 45º angle. Pull them back in. If the belly pops out (i.e. you lose core engagement) take the legs higher to the sky. Repeat 10-12 repetitions.

Now I’d Love To Hear From You

What kind of ab exercises are part of your workout routine? How did the moves from today’s video feel? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

With love,

JDW Signature

P.S. Want 1:1 Access To Me & A Personalized Workout Routine Each Week? Schedule a free consult…
Release Tight Hips

Got tight hips? Try these stretches.

Thanks for joining me for another JDW blog post! I’m really enjoying sharing this new content with you each week, and I hope that you’re finding it fun and useful. (If so, perhaps you can leave a comment below!)

In today’s post I’m sharing three exercises that you can do at home to release tight hips. These exercises will improve mobility in the hip joint, reduce aches and pains, and allow you to move more freely.

These days it seems that everyone has a problem with their pelvis. Whether it’s weakness, strain, feeling tight, or being out of alignment, having a dud hip can put a real damper on how you feel physically.

Of course this is exacerbated by our daily habits; sitting for too long — guilty as charged — and not taking the time to stretch each day only makes things worse.

Here are some other factors that might be putting the grip in your hip:

  • Weak core strength
  • Weak legs
  • Imbalanced muscular development
  • Past injury
  • Overuse of the hip joint
  • Incorrect seated posture

A Quick Anatomy Lesson

Don’t worry,  this won’t take long and I’ve made it super simple 🙂

The hip joint has two main functions: it provides mobility for the lower body and stability for the pelvis. It’s also a major weight-bearing joint.

As you take steps to improve the health of your hips I want you to keep four things in mind:

  1. Having “tight” hips (particularly at the side of the hip) is not always a bad thing; if they are too loosey-goosey then your pelvis isn’t supported, which puts pressure on the low back and the knees during movement.
  2. Yet the hip joint should also have a wide-range of motion, to allow the legs to move freely. Over time, repetitive movements in the same range, and planes, of motion will decrease hip mobility.
  3. Having tight hip flexors (those muscles at the front, either side of the groin) doesn’t mean you have strong hip flexors. Sitting keeps the psoas muscle in a state of constant, and passive, contraction, making it tight but also weak.
  4.  Ultimately we’re looking to strike a balance between pelvic stability and mobility. You can improve the stability of your hip with exercises that target the gluteus medius (aka the side of your bum), and increase mobility with targeted stretching, regular movement — try to stand as much as you sit — and being mindful of your posture throughout the day.

Moves two and three in this Killer Leg Workout will strengthen the gluteus medius.

Bonus Tip

Tight hips are not only the result of physical neglect, your emotions play a part in the health of your hips as well.

When you have a stressful experience your body tends to react with a muscular contraction, either tensing muscles to fight, or contracting inwards to hide.

But because that contraction isn’t always followed by movement — unless you get up and do jumping jacks after each stressful email — stagnant muscular energy gets stuck in your body.

And where does that energy go? To our hips, one of the largest joints in the body and the connection point between our top and bottom halves.

Now you know why and how you need to give your hips a little more TLC, let’s jump into these three stretches. Props for this workout include: a chair, a tennis ball/lacrosse ball/fascial release ball, and a foam roller. Don’t have the equipment? Get creative and join in with the moves that you can!

Now I’d Love To Hear From You

Are you enjoying our at-home workouts so far? Let me know by leaving a comment below. There you can also share any kinds of exercises that you would like to see more of!

See you soon,

JDW Signature

If Like Training At Home, You’ll Love These:

Low Impact Cardio Workout

3 Fun & Effective Arm Exercises Using The Wall

Want To Kick Your Health Up A Notch? Check out my 1:1 health coaching program here.

Low Impact Arm Exercises

3 Fun & Effective Arm Exercises (Using The Wall)

Today’s upper body workout will target your chest, shoulders and mid-back, without putting too much strain on your wrists. You can do these three moves back-to-back as a mini-workout, sprinkle them individually into your normal exercise routine, or add it to last week’s low impact leg workout for a full body strength series.

I used to hate upper body work. I couldn’t do a pushup to save my life and planks were the bane of my existence … naughty Pilates instructor.

But one day I grit my teeth and set my mind to getting stronger, and that’s when I began to see real changes.

O.K, so I’m by no means “jacked”.

Obviously!

And I don’t think that anyone will ever call me The Jenninator — which is probably a good thing, come to think of it — but I am satisfied and a little proud of myself to have gotten to where I am.

These days, if you’ll allow me to brag just a little, I can do full pushups, lift some fairly heavy weights, and rock out a 5 minute+ plank. That’s nothing to be sneezed at.

But it took time. A couple of years in fact. Which is a nice reminder that yes, slow and steady does win the race when it comes to fitness.

The three moves that I’m sharing with you today are the kind of low impact arm exercises that helped me build that strength. While they’re not overly complicated, they are surprisingly challenging, and are a perfect addition to your current routine no matter what level of fitness you are.

These are the kind of exercises that might not look like much, but after 10 reps…phew! Just remember:

Moving slowly, and maintaining excellent form, will get you stronger faster than smashing out dozens of reps incorrectly (which will just lead to injury).

Below the video I’ve added a few tips about each move, so be sure to read them before you get started.

Then I would love to hear from you, so please join in the discussion at the bottom of the page!

Cactus Glides

This is exercise is terrific and surprisingly challenging, especially if you do a lot of work that keeps your arms in front of your body (hello computer time, driving, ironing…).

The constant forward position that we adopt during our daily activities tightens the chest and weakens the mid back, which is why cactus glides should be a part of your daily routine.

Tips:

  • Keep your ribs pulled in and press the mid back (i.e. the section in between your shoulder blades and around the bra line) firmly against the wall.
  • Your hands may not be able to touch the wall at the beginning. That’s ok and it gives you something to work towards.
  • If you need a little elevation you can sit on a few cushions. This will help you lengthen your spine.

Spinal Balance Push Up

The primary focus here is on lengthening the spine and maintaining a neutral pelvis. To do this:

  • Push the heel of the extended leg firmly in to the wall with all 5 toes pointing straight down.
  • Both hip points are also pointing directly down to the ground.
  • Lengthen the crown of the head away from the foot, maintaining a flat back.
  • Firmly press into the hand that’s on the floor, and spiral the inner elbow forwards, keeping a little bend in that arm.
  • To advance, lift the arm, without changing anything else in the body.
  • To advance even more, bend both elbows, tucking them in towards the ribs, for a narrow pushup. The leg lifts in opposition so the spine shape has not changed, it has simply hinged.

Wall Push Ups (Clap)

These may not seem challenging at first, especially if you tend to do regular push ups, but it’s all about the technique.

  • Maintain the long spine that you created in the previous exercise.
  • The only thing moving is the bend and straighten of the elbow joint.
  • As you power away from the wall and take that clap think about your abdominals doing the work, and draw the belly button in even more deeply.
  • Need a little extra? Lift one leg a couple of inches, but don’t change the hip position.

Now I’d Love To Hear From You

Is upper body training part of your current workout routine? What upper body exercise have you struggled the most with in the past? And what has been your favorite?

Let me know by leaving a comment below!

With love,

JDW Signature

P.S. Want full-length workout routines delivered to your inbox each week? Check out the Healthy Living Made Easy Program.
How To Strengthen The Pelvic Floor | Jennifer Dene Wellness

How To Strengthen The Pelvic Floor & Reduce The Urge To Pee

I am having a chuckle to myself as I write this post.

I was at the gym this morning, sitting on a physioball doing my kegel exercises, eyes closed and deeply concentrating.

I was using my breath to contract my abdominals, and tapping my toes in a rhythmic beat that matched the lift and lower of my pelvic floor muscles.

That’s when I started to giggle.

You can imagine how strange it must have looked, this girl sitting, tapping, and huffing and puffing with her eyes closed.

Pretty weird!

Remember when I told you that we all feel awkward and out of place at the gym sometimes? Well, this was a prime example!

Want to know what I did? I started lifting and lowering my arms, just to make it look like I was exercising.

Talk about dorky.

But a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Here’s why these exercises (and knowing how to strengthen the pelvic floor) is so important:

  • The pelvic floor muscles act like a hammock that supports the internal organs. A weak or damaged pelvic floor can lead to prolapse, where the pelvic organs actually fall out of the vagina.
  • Regularly doing kegels can reduce or even prevent incontinence, which is super important when you’re out-and-about and trying not to pee.
  • These muscles play an important role during intercourse and orgasm.
  • And they are one of the primary core muscles, meaning that they help to stabilize the pelvic girdle, strengthen the abdominals, and support the back.

Today’s video is important for everyone to watch (yep, men should know how to strengthen the pelvic floor too), and the exercise that I’m teaching you should be done every day.

With that in mind, here’s a tip to remember:

Choose specific daily activities that you associate with practicing your kegels. This will make it easier to remember to do them. Tweet this. 

Here are some of the activities that I use:

1. At traffic stoplights
2. When I make a cup of tea
3. And when going to the loo … you might as well feel them in action. (Too much information?)

Watch the video below to learn how to strengthen your pelvic floor muscles with kegel exercises, to support your internal organs, improve your sex life and reduce the urge to pee!

Questions, Comments, Insights?

This isn’t a topic to be embarrassed about, and the more we share the more we learn. If you’re finding it hard to engage your pelvic floor muscles, or have any questions about doing kegels or preventing leakage, I would love for you to leave a comment below so that I can help.

And, if you’re open to sharing, I would love to know what is your go-to activity to remind yourself to do these exercises each day!

Pelvic Floor Exercise: Lift, Hold + Release

  • Sit comfortably on a chair, with your legs apart and your spine straight up and down.
  • Keep your bum and abdominals relaxed, and then inhale through your nose.
  • As you exhale you will contract the pelvic floor muscles (imagine the feeling when you’re trying not to pee).
  • Hold on to that contraction for a full inhale, exhale, inhale and then slowly release the muscles on the next exhale.

Hint: As you’re contracting visualize a helium ballon, rising internally from the vagina to the naval, where it hovers as your cycle the breath.

Repeat this exercise twice a day, for 10 repetitions each time. As you get stronger your goal is to keep that contraction for a greater number of breath cycles, ultimately working up to 10 full total breaths (inhale-exhale) per lift.

It’s been such fun chatting with you today and I can’t wait to do it again soon!

Make sure that you’ve signed up for Jennifer Dene Wellness updates so that every new workout is delivered straight to your inbox. You can do that by clicking here.

With Love,

JDW Signature

P.S. Don’t forget, you need to treat your P.F. like your B.F.