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In 1972 I launched my very first slimming class. Click here to read how it all began.


The instruction ‘hold your core tight’ is something we hear frequently when being taught exercise. Pilates is known for strengthening our core and we are often told to ‘engage our core’ before picking up something heavy so that we can protect our back. Having a strong core also helps us to have a flatter stomach and ‘engaging it’ helps us to stand up straighter. So, having a strong core is good news all round!

It wasn’t until I successfully auditioned for Dancing on Ice that I realised I needed to work on my own core if I was to succeed beyond Week 1 of the competition. To give you an idea why a strong core is so important in ice skating, just imagine a male professional ice dancer holding his female partner above his head with just one hand while she lies on it horizontally! She can only do this if her core is so strong her torso is like an iron rod, and his core is strong enough for him to be able to hold her up there!

Now, that’s all a bit extreme and I wasn’t anticipating that I would reach such lofty lifts but I knew I needed to strengthen up. As soon as I knew I was included in the Show in 2012 I asked Mary to give me some core exercises that I could do in just five minutes every day in my bathroom. Longer than that and I knew I wouldn’t do it. Mary suggested the Pilates 100 for my front stomach muscles, the Pilates ‘Breast Stroke’ x 10 for my back and shoulder muscles, and a side ‘scissor lift’ x 10 as I lay down very straight on each side of my body and scissored my straight legs and this strengthened my waist muscles. I did them every day, religiously, and they transformed my core strength. You will find some of these exercises in our Advanced Pilates workout on the website but they should only be attempted if you are very fit and strong!

Once I was introduced to my partner, ice skating professional Mark Hanretty, I soon learned that he was super-focused on posture, knee bend, and extension (that’s extending your arms and legs beyond what you think you can!) and all of those attributes required a strong core. The added benefit was that as well as achieving the smallest waist I had ever had I also toned up my legs like never before. You only need to see an ice skater’s or ballet dancer’s legs to see that this kind of exercise streamlines your pins.

I carried on having skating lessons with Mark beyond my experience on Dancing on Ice but, because he went back onto DOI for six months every year, I decided to find a ballet teacher who could help me keep up my training of posture, knee bend and extensions when Mark wasn't available. And I found Rosie. Some five years on I still look forward to my ballet sessions which I do online via FaceTime every Friday morning.

Now it’s your turn! I am delighted to introduce the first of three new Ballet workouts to our website, taught by the lovely Rosie especially for you. Lessons two and three will follow in the coming weeks.

Important information before you begin your ballet workout:

  • In the likely absence of a ballet ‘barre’, instead, always have the back of a sturdy dining chair or firm surface close by to hold onto if necessary.
  • Practise ballet on a firm floor rather than on carpet as it is easier to balance.
  • If you can practise in bare feet or socks then do so but if you suffer from arthritic feet (like me) wear shoes that are comfortable for you.
  • Each workout has its own warm-up at the beginning and cool-down stretches at the end. Always do these as they will help to protect your muscles and prevent injury.

Recipe of the Week

Serves 1
Per serving: 390 calories, 1% fat
Prep time 5 mins
Cook time 25 mins

180g mixed mushrooms
70g (dry weight) tagliatelle pasta
1 small clove of garlic peeled and finely diced
¼ tsp chia seeds
1 tsp white miso paste
1 tbsp mushroom ketchup
125ml medium white wine
Rapeseed oil spray
Fresh herbs such as chives for garnish (optional)

  1. Bring a medium pan of water to the boil and add the pasta, reduce the heat slightly to a rolling boil.
  2. Heat a small non-stick frying pan and spray with rapeseed oil. Add the garlic, chia seeds, and mushrooms. Cook on medium heat until the mushrooms start to soften.
  3. Add the white wine, mushroom ketchup and the miso paste to the frying pan and stir to combine, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. If the liquid reduces so that it’s dry, add a little of the pasta water – 1 tablespoon at a time - so that you have a light sauce.
  4. Once the pasta is cooked, remove from the heat and drain carefully.
  5. Transfer the pasta to a warmed plate or bowl and top with the mushroom mixture.
  6. Garnish with a few fresh herbs such as chopped chives and serve immediately.
QUICK TIP: Did you know you can access the search function on the website by clicking on the magnifying glass found on the menu bar at the top of every page? 
If you search for "Mushroom" it will find all the recipes which include them.
For more recipes click here to visit the website

Fun, Facts & Fitness from Mary Morris MSc.

Both Rosemary and I hope that this Newsletter every week motivates you to lead a full and active life, following a whole host of different activities to ensure a good level of strength and stamina, whatever your age. 

We always encourage you to take up activities that you really enjoy or what is the point?  So, Rosemary's extraordinary love of ballet lessons, and the wonderful physical (and mental) benefits of it, is a joy to hear.   Now, not all of us may feel the same passion to take it up regularly but I do encourage you to give it a go because the benefits to your posture, your balance and your overall core strength will be amazing.

As a child I did ballet lessons until I was 14 years old but the aim then was not to have a strong core and good balance - it was because I wanted to be a Prima Ballerina!  Puberty came along of course and I grew too tall and too much like a 'heffalump' to realise my dream!  But my love of movement and dance was ‘set’ in those early years and that is why I always encourage you all to keep youngsters engaged in any form of regular physical activity. When they do, they are much more likely to carry it through to adulthood.   
What is Core Strength?
The route to a strong core means that you have to strengthen the muscles that lie deep in the body.  These muscles 'stabilise' the body giving it a strong foundation for all the other muscles that we use for everyday movement.  For example, when you go to pick up something heavy you may think your arms need to be strong to take the load but in fact, and far more importantly, you need a strong 'core' if you are to protect the entire rest of your body, particularly your back! You need to strengthen the deep muscles of your abdomen, your hips and your spine. The Pilates programmes on the website target all of these important areas in each session.

You also need 'core mobility' and this is where you take your joints through a FULL range of movement on a regular basis.  Fully extending your joints does not happen in everyday life so it needs to be practised.  Rosemary found it a revelation that ice skating and ballet required this full extension. Our Pilates programmes always start with full-range joint movements whilst lying down, so your joints are put through their maximum range.  This means that when you stand up you can hold those joints in the correct place, giving you the best posture.
The Importance of Good Balance
It is a frustrating fact that our balance will get worse as we get older but the good news is that we can easily improve our balance with practise.  When we do, our risk of falling reduces significantly and this, in turn, will improve how long and how healthily we will live. You can find some exercises to improve your balance on the website along with our new ballet and Pilates workouts. Activities like Tai Chi and Yoga can also help improve our balance.

Our brain uses three different types of information to keep us upright:  Our eyes, our vestibular system (a sort of spirit-level we have in our inner ears), and proprioceptors in our limbs that send signals to our brain, telling it what is going on.  The very best and easiest way to improve our balance is simply to stand on one leg with eyes open, or for more of a challenge, with eyes closed.  Keep some support close by in case you need it!  See below for what we should be able to achieve according to our age:

  • Age 40-49   45 seconds eyes open.  15 seconds eyes closed.
  • Age 50-60   41 seconds eyes open.  8 seconds eyes closed.
  • Age 60-69   32 seconds eyes open.  4 seconds eyes closed.
  • Age 70-79   22 seconds eyes open.  3 seconds eyes closed.

This Week's Fitness Challenge

  1. Do the 'Standing on one Leg' exercise every day this week and see how you compare with the age-related times set out above.  You will do better by the end of the week!
  2.  Try the Ballet – Level 1 workout twice this week.
  3.  Do the level of Pilates that suits you 3 times this week.
  4. On your 30-minute daily walk, if you can, try a more challenging terrain forcing you to transfer your weight in a way that improves your balance.  A local park or hike in the country, maybe?
Did you know...

This week's newsletter is being sent out on Good Friday.

Good Friday is a Christian day commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus and his death - so why is it called Good Friday? What was good about it?

The explanation is that 'Good Friday' comes from the obsolete use of the word 'good' to mean 'pious' or 'holy' as in the use of the term "the good book" for the Bible. Good Friday is just one event in Holy Week that starts with Palm Sunday (when Jesus rode into Jerusalem) and includes Maundy Thursday (marking the Last Supper) and leads up to the resurrection on Easter Sunday.

And finally...

It is very easy for us to default to an easier life as we grow older but it is extremely satisfying to take on new challenges. Whether it is cooking a new recipe or trying a new type of exercise, we always feel good when we’ve done it!

Happy Easter and have a great week!

With love and best wishes,

Rosemary Conley CBE DL


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