By SARA ELLIS OWEN

Olympic Inspiration

It's hard not to be inspired by the commitment of these young athletes

If, like me, you’re eagerly anticipating the , keep an eye out for two special girls. 15 year old Skateboarder (Boipeco Awuah) is the youngest African to compete at the event and 12 year old Hend Zaza is the youngest competitor since 1968 (table tennis).

As someone who runs a Pilates business for teens, I’ve been inspired by the commitment of these young girls along with all the others in Team GB. However, not all of us can reach such levels of athletic prowess but that shouldn’t put us off.

You can start to take better care of yourself. I’ve found that, just carving out ten minutes a day, can help to set the mind and body for the day ahead.

Here are my top tips:

Start with posture.

A recent study found that people who slumped throughout the day felt less self-esteem and had a negative mood compared to people who sat upright. Poor posture can also have a negative physical effect in the form of headaches and digestive issues. Spend a day noticing your posture. I often play a game with the kids at home where we imagine a magnet sitting on top of a door frame. Every time you walk into a room, you need to stand tall, relax your shoulders and look straight ahead.

 

Focus on extension.

You and your children have likely been crunched over your screens and phones during lockdown. Start with lying on a rolled up towel or foam roller and drop the arms out wide to the side. Or lie over the side of a sofa or soft ball and breathe deeply for a count of three. Your spine and tight chest muscles will thank you for it.

 

Incorporate a short stretching regime into your day

A simple hamstring stretch either standing or lying down, works wonders to relieve lower back pain. A quick quad stretch will also relieve common growing pains associated with growth spurts.

 

Start building strength in the core.

Many teens strive for the aesthetically pleasing six pack by performing endless sit ups and crunches. This can often lead to a shortening of the abdominal muscles, causing a pooch. In my experience it is much better to build strength from the deepest abdominal layers first, much like wrapping a Christmas present. Then focus solely on the superficial layer. These deep abdominal muscles act like a corset, supporting the hips, pelvis and spine. Pilates helps achieve this through a combination of breathing, drawing the core up and in, tightening the waist and closing the ribcage on the exhalation, while simultaneously moving the body.

Young people should be inspired by the Olympics – although it’s important to strive for progress rather than perfection. Let this focus on fitness help encourage your teen to move more!

Thanks for reading!