Three exercises for necks

Before starting, please see this disclaimer.

The exercises

Start by lying in your back with your legs bent, your arms resting by your sides and your head supported by a cushion.

Neck Rolls (to mobilise your neck) – gently roll your neck as far as you can from side to side – 6 reps

Chick tucks (to strengthen your deep neck flexors) – tuck your chin towards your throat and then push the back of your head firmly into the cushion – 6 reps

Figures of Eight (to mobilise your neck) – draw a small figure of eight in the air with your nose – 6 reps, then turn the ‘eight’ on its side and repeat – 6 reps

Exercise Recovery

After a tough workout or FitSteps® class, resting may seem like a great way to recover.  However, studies have shown that this is not the best way to recover from an intense workout – Active Recovery is what you want!

Active Recovery means engaging in low intensity exercise after workouts.  This also means on the days following intense workouts.

By doing, this you encourage recovery and reduce muscle lactate levels faster than your body does at rest.  Low intensity activity assists blood circulation, which in turn helps remove lactic acid from the muscle.

And low intensity means LOW INTENSITY!  Around 20-30% of your maximum output.

Injuries and sprains

Injuries can occur even in top class athletes.  You must always take every precaution possible to ensure this does not happen.  However if an injury or sprain does occur, you can follow this technique known as RICE!

R – Rest the injury or sprain, making sure the muscle and surrounding muscles are in a relaxed state.

I – Ice.  A suitable ice pack or even a small bag of frozen food will do.  Make sure you wrap it with towel or clothing, never place directly on your skin.

C – Compression.  Putting pressure on the injury with the ice pack.  This may be easier to do by wrapping the area with a belt or tape.

E – Elevate the limb and ensure the muscle is relaxed.

Applying something cold to the injury site provides short-term pain relief.  It also limits swelling by reducing blood flow to the injured area.

Keep in mind, though, that you should never leave ice on an injury for more than 15-20 minutes at a time.  Longer exposure can damage your skin.  The best rule is to apply cold compresses for 15 minutes and then leave them off for at least 20 minutes.

Mark Foster
Exercise Recovery
A Health Tip from Mark Foster

Warm Up Myths

“Stretching is the best way to warm up before exercising”

Stretching is not the best way to warm up, particularly before any type of training, because your muscles are cold. Stretching cold muscles can be like trying to stretch old elastic bands. They can snap!! The best way of warming up your muscles is light aerobic exercise. Not high intensity but hard enough to make you sweat and make sure they’re progressive.

“I don’t need to warm up”

Not warming up is one of the biggest exercise mistakes anyone can make. It’s like asking someone to drive a car around the block when they’ve never driven before. Warming up with aerobic exercise will increase elasticity in your muscles, allowing them to work harder and longer before fatigue sets in.

“I don’t need to warm up my legs because I use them all the time”

Your muscles are not being challenged in the same way by just walking around or by normal, everyday movement.

“ I don’t need to warm up if I’m exercising indoors”

Light aerobic activity produces heat in your muscles; the warmth of your home or studio does little to increase your internal temperature, regardless of how high the thermostat is!!

“If I warm up I lose strength”

When your body is at rest only 15 per cent of your total blood supply is going to the muscles. In order for your muscles to work at optimum performance when doing any physical activity they require up to 80 per cent of the total blood flow.

The correct way to warm up

Aerobic exercise for 6-10 minutes, depending on surrounding temperature. If you’re training outside on a cold morning it’s important to take longer before pushing yourself harder.

Mobilise joints by moving them through their normal range of movement; for example, shoulder circles, hip circles, knee bends. The FitSteps® warm-ups are designed to prepare your body for the class ahead. This part of your workout will enhance performance and prevent injury.

Mark Foster
Warm Up Myths
A Health Tip from Mark Foster


Two popular carbohydrate myths…

1. Eating carbs makes you FAT!

Carbs have received a bit of a bum rap recently, as medical research demonstrates that lower carbohydrate diets are more effective for obese people who seldom exercise. However, for a reasonably healthy individual aiming to build metabolically active muscle tissue, carbs are an absolute must-have. Carbs fuel the body for exercise and help drive protein into muscles for essential repair and growth. They also prevent the breakdown of muscle mass, which is key to burning fat stores. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean that you will bulk up; more that you will look nicely toned.

2. Eating carbs at night makes you FAT!

must do
Many dieters restrict their carb intake at night, limiting themselves solely to protein powder, poultry, fish and vegetables after 5pm. The widespread belief is that carbs eaten at night will unequivocally be stored as body fat, which is generally true, as insulin sensitivity decreases at night.  But here’s the problem: if you exercise after work at 7pm and finish by 9pm, you must eat carbohydrates in your post-exercise meal in order to kick-start the muscle-building process.  If you avoid carbohydrates, your body will fail to support the growth process and, even worse, it could increase your cortisol (a hormone that lowers testosterone levels and chews away muscle mass), thereby causing a drop in your metabolic rate. When your metabolic rate declines, your body becomes more efficient at storing body fat, so this is a very real concern.


If you have a hardworking lifestyle and tend to exercise during the evening, make sure to include some carbs in your workout meal.
Mark Foster
A Health Tip from Mark Foster

Strictly Come Dancing is back!

The launch show for series 12 is on BBC One this evening at 8pm. Tonight, the 15 new celebrities will find out who their dance partners will be. This year the celebrities are:

  • Alison Hammond, This Morning presenter
  • Caroline Flack, The Xtra Factor presenter
  • Frankie Bridge, The Saturdays singer
  • Gregg Wallace, Masterchef presenter
  • Jake Wood, EastEnders actor
  • Jennifer Gibney, Mrs Brown’s Boys actress
  • Judy Murray, Tennis coach
  • Mark Wright, TOWIE ‘actor’
  • Pixie Lott, Singer-songwriter
  • Scott Mills, Radio 1 presenter
  • Simon Webbe, Blue singer-songwriter
  • Steve Blackshall, Naturalist and wildlife presenter
  • Sunetra Sarker, Casualty actress
  • Thom Evans, Former rugby player and model
  • Tim Wonnacott, Bargain Hunt presenter

If you’d like to waltz, quickstep and cha cha along with the celebrities this season, then come to FitSteps every Wednesday at 7pm, Mundford Village Hall. All ages and abilities welcome. It’s great fun and you don’t need a partner.

Small equipment links

For those of you who enjoy using the small equipment at our Pilates circuit classes and are interested in buying any of it to use at home, here’s where you can get it:

From me

  • resistance bands @ £7 each (the same as those we use in class, approx. 175cm)


Some of the above come with instructions or you can do the exercises that we do in class or search YouTube for exercise videos.

Links checked and updated on 6th April 2021

Three exercises for backs


These exercises are intended to help those of you who wish to do some practice at home. You should already be familiar with them having attended a regular Pilates class. If not, I recommend that you start with a qualified instructor before attempting them.


Whenever you practice Pilates, remember your ABC’s:

Alignment – start in good alignment; that is pelvis/spine neutral and legs hip-width apart
Breathing – breathe wide and full into your ribcage; in to prepare, out to centre then move
Centring – contract pelvic floor and abdominals, drawing your navel towards your spine

The exercisess

Start by lying in your back with your legs bent, your arms resting by your sides and your head supported by a cushion.

Spine curls (to mobilise your spine) – curl up* through your spine into a bridge position, keeping your weight even through your feet, moving one vertebra at a time up and down – 6 rep’s

Knee pulls (to strengthen lower abdominals) – knee fold one leg so that it is bent at 90° above your hip, reach one arm forward so that the palm of your hand meets your thigh, breathe out to draw your abdominals in towards your spine and pull your knee against your hand – 3 rep’s on each leg – then do another 3 rep’s with legs in a double knee fold

Hundred (to strengthen abdominals, warm up and get your circulation going) – with both legs in a double knee fold, curl up* and float your arms off the floor, reaching towards your toes, beat your arms and breathe in for 5 counts then out for 5 counts up to one hundred counts – as you get stronger you can straighten your legs towards 90° and then begin to lower them towards the floor


  • Strong abdominal muscles help to support your back.
  • You can adapt each of these exercises to suit your level and how your back feels on the day, e.g. for the hundred you can start with just 20 or 30 counts and gradually build up.

*If you suffer from osteoporosis then don’t curl up, just lift straight up and down with a flat back for spine curls and keep your head down for the hundred.

Essential Post-Exercise Recovery Tips

Need to know!

When we talk about recovering, we are not just talking about one factor; it is multi-faceted. In simple terms, you are trying to return your body to the pre-exercise state.

You should aim to:

  • Remove any residual waste products from your muscles
  • Refuel and re-hydrate
  • Minimise any muscle or joint damage caused by the exercise itself
  • Refresh your brain

Some of these factors can be taken care of whilst you are still at the gym, others need to be addressed over a longer period of time. However, you must remember that if you train and don’t recover properly prior to your next session you will struggle to get the best from your next workout – and it will feel really tough!

Nice to Know!

After an exercise session, you should not just stop – even though it may be appealing at the time. You will suffer over the next 48 hours! A cool-down is essential. This will facilitate the removal of the waste products created by the exercises your muscles have just completed.

Following a session, a 10–20 minute tapering period is recommended. Basically that means you need to do some lower intensity activity (walking/jogging/cycling) for 5–10 minutes.

As part of your ‘cool down’ you’ll need to stretch all the major muscle groups that have been used during the session. It has been shown that stretching post exercise can aid muscular development and will help to reduce any post-exercise muscle soreness. It is actually more beneficial to stretch post-exercise as muscles will be warm and therefore more amenable to the stretch.

If your muscles and joints ache after exercise it may be due to swelling that comes with minor tissue damage. Applying cold treatment to the area or alternating hot/cold treatment may help. However, it is probably advisable to check with an instructor before you begin your next session.

Finally, you need to rest – music to your ears no doubt! Getting sufficient sleep is as important as the exercise itself. If you have worked your muscles during the day, they will need adequate rest not only to recover from the exercise but also to aid in the repair of damaged tissue and the generation of new tissue.

Fun Facts!

  1. Sleep not only aids physical adaptation to training but also allows time for mental adaptation, such as cementing movement patterns, and recovery.
  2. From the age of 35 you start to lose brain cells at a rate of around 7,000 a day – that’s 2,555,000 per year (you only have 100 billion to start with) and they will never be replaced! But you can help keep your brain cells in peak condition by getting enough sleep at night.
  3. It is recommended that you get 7–8 hours sleep per night but apparently Margaret Thatcher ran the country on just 4!
  4. 41% of resistance to range of movement comes from the muscle and its associated fascia, with another 10% coming from the tendons. This means that less than half of the resistance you encounter can be changed.

Mark Foster
Essential Post-Exercise Recovery Tips
A Health Tip from Mark Foster

Talent on Tap

Check out this article from the Sunday Express about how Ian Waite first got into dancing. and more about what he has to say on FitSteps: “So many women tell me, ‘I’d really like to go to a ballroom class but I don’t have anyone to go with.’ With this, you can do all the dances from Strictly and you don’t need a partner.”