Daley Blind reveals how he is preparing for the new season.
Man Utd star loves Pilates for men. A headline to warm the cockles of my heart. Regular readers of my blog will know that there is very little I like more than a good Pilates for men type story. My opinion is that more men should be doing Pilates, so any reason to get guys thinking about Pilates is a good thing, and a Premier League Footballer is as good a story as any other to get some headlines.
Daley Blind will return to Manchester United’s Carrington training complex tomorrow having already hit the ground running. The Dutch international enjoyed a short beach break after the season ended, but last week Blind got down to serious solo training, working out at home and pushing himself to the limit on long, gruelling runs.
Blind also turned to his favourite pastime of Pilates for men to make sure he passes all the fitness tests ordered by Man Utd boss Louis van Gaal when his squad starts preparing for the new campaign in earnest this morning. He’s confident he’ll pass the tale of the tape and get down to even harder work before heading off with the rest of the squad for United’s pre-season US mini tour.
Blind said: “The club gave me three weeks off and I’m cautious with what I eat and drink. I make sure I’m responsible. For me, the summer holidays are about letting everything go and spending quality time with my family and friends. I like to relax on the beach, play some tennis or have a kickabout with my mates. My mindset changes so I can recharge my body and mind after a long, hard season. During the last week of my holiday, I started running and stretching to get my body going again”.
“I worked out at home or outside, focusing on Pilates. This helps with stability and agility. And I focused on eating healthy food like fruit and veg. Bad food makes you feel lethargic and bloated and who wants to feel like that?”
Blind is not the only footballer or sports professional to use Pilates as part of their training program. I have written before about other stars including Steven Gerrard and Landon Donovan. I am really pleased to see more and more men attending my PilatesEVO educations and sessions, and there is a growing demand here in Barcelona for fitness and wellness based retreats for specific sports, not only the traditional wellness retreats (see www.barcelonabienestar.com for more) .
As for writing about celebrities, I have said before that even if one man tries Pilates for the first time as a result of reading about a footballer doing it, then that is a success.
So we will keep championing the Pilates cause among men, and wish Daley Blind good luck next season in the English Premier League. But not too much success as I am an Arsenal supporter!
You want to be the best you can be? Mind and body is a 2-way street
My regular readers will know that I have a great interest in the link between mind and body. I have always been interested in this topic, but my interest was heightened following the death of my father from Alzheimer’s (please read Dementia, I lost my father, don’t lose yours).
Here in Barcelona I organise wellness retreats that treat our healt holistically, a real mind and body experience.
It is common to think that our mind is in control and telling our body what to do. But there is a lot of scientific evidence that shows the chatter between mind and body goes two ways, and the body is an integral part of how we think. I was therefore very interested to read a new book How the Body Knows Its Mind, by Prof. Sian Beilock, who provides the latest scientific evidence about the body’s influence on our psyche, drawing on work from her own laboratory and from colleagues around the world.
I give similar talks to senior management when acting as a consultant to business. Until we accept this fact, it is my contention that we can never be the best teacher we can be, or the best manager we can be. There are still many people who operate in the physical plane only, and there is growing scientific evidence that supports my teachings that to do so is seriously and critically impacting on our ability to achieve the results we want, both physical and psychological.
Beilock, a leading expert on the brain science behind human performance, believes the body-mind connection starts early.
“Movement matters with everyone, but it is especially important for babies and young children,” said Beilock. “Mobile kids hit cognitive milestones faster.” She said that simple steps like allowing babies to run around naked — when appropriate — can help them explore their worlds. Beilock said wearing diapers and using baby walkers can limit a baby’s ability to interact with the world and hinder the process of learning how to walk. The more quickly children learn how to walk and explore, the faster their cognitive development.
Incorporating physical activity into more subjects can help kids learn in school, according to Beilock.
“We can’t just keep students confined to their chairs — we have to get them up, out and moving,” Beilock said. “When the subjects are math or physics, getting students to actually physically experience some of the concepts they’re learning about changes how their brains process the information and can lead to better performance on a test.” Movement also helps explain the connection between music and math. Why do kids tend to excel in both? It’s because the brain areas controlling finger dexterity and number largely overlap. Beilock unpacks the latest research showing that when kids exercise their fingers through regular piano play, their grasp of numbers improves.
An area of particular interest to me that the idea that exercise can aid mental health as well as academic achievement. According to Beilock. “The research shows that getting kids moving is important not only for their physical well-being, but for their mental well-being, too.” She said schools need to emphasize “the “4 Rs” — reading, (w)riting, (a)rithmetic and recess. Boys’ academic achievement may especially benefit from recess, she added.
Exercise is equally important for older adults, as it can promote healthy aging mentally and physically. “There are clear differences in brain health in fit, older adults compared with their more sedentary counterparts,” said Beilock. “And these differences carry consequences for thinking and reasoning as well as for memory.” Beilock stressed that aerobic exercise, which can alter the structure and functioning of the brain, is key for improving mental health. Activities like swimming, running, cycling, walking briskly or even doing household chores at a vigorous pace can benefit the brain, in addition to keeping the body fit.
There are some simple mind and body ideas that you can incorporate into your training, or you everyday life:
• Take active breaks from work or vexing problems to give your brain a chance to regroup and reboot. Physically walking away from the problem for a few minutes may help you solve it.
• Your body’s posture and expressions are not just reflections of your mind — they can influence your mood. Stand tall to help give yourself confidence and to send a signal to those around you that you have brought your “A” game to the table. And be mindful of your facial expressions. Your brain uses your expressions as cues to feel emotions. Smiling can actually make you feel happier.
• Practice in the real conditions under which you will have to perform — whether it’s public speaking, a test or an important match. It’s also good to practice in front of others so when all eyes are on you, it’s nothing new.
• Write it out. Journaling can help you deal with the stress of a test or your worries in daily life. Physically downloading worries from your mind (by putting pen to paper) has positive performance outcomes and reducing that stress affects your health in good ways, too.
• Spend time in nature as often as you can, and find time to meditate. New science shows that a walk in the woods rejuvenates our minds and improves our ability to pay attention and focus. Meditation for even a few minutes a day can help alleviate anxiety and chronic pain. It also can help with self-control that may be helpful for working to break bad habits, like smoking.
“Little things we do can have a big effect,” said Beilock.
We do not have to spend hours every day in order to improve our physical and mental health. By applying some simple techniques, we can begin to make a major shift in our life.
When we create something ourselves, it can be a difficult step to share our creation with the world. What will people think? Will they like it? Will they criticize or praise? Will it be a success? I have always followed the words of Aristotle, who famously said, “there is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing and be nothing”.
When I was young, I suffered from a lot of back pain. I was born with a spine defect and that led to poor posture which made my problem worse. Hours spent playing sports and practising the piano further added to my problems. I tried many things to help, but Pilates was the thing that really changed my life. It enabled me to live a full life, to run marathons, to snowboard, surf, play golf and never think twice about my back before trying something new. From that day forward, I had a passionate belief that Pilates could help many people improve their quality of life.
In the early days, whilst still practising and studying Pilates I was worked in the City of London as an Insurance Manager. I continue to this day working as a Senior Business Consultant so my life has an excellent balance.
I travelled the world teaching Piates and learning (we never stop learning, and anyone who says any different is very sadly mistaken). As well as Pilates, I was interested in kundalini and other methods of functional training. I also developed a deep love of meditation which took me to the Buddhist Temples of Thailand. Whilst there, I also discovered and studied meridians, becoming qualified in Thai Massage. It was not just the body that interested me. I had always been interested in psychology, in what I saw as “total fitness”. I studied Buddhist psychology and other modern concepts such as Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).
As I travelled teaching Pilates, within my subconscious there was a seed that was growing, an idea that I could use all my knowledge to create a different type of Pilates that reflected the ancient and modern. I am classically trained, and it pains me to see some of the new systems that claim to be “Pilates” when they are clearly nothing of the sort. So I took my time to think about how my new system could stay true to the principles of Pilates, to my principles, but how I could add to the experience my own knowledge, character and ideas.
It was important for to me to create a system from my heart, a system where everything has meaning and purpose. In my opinion there are too many systems and teachers who teach not from their heart, but from their bank balance. To quote Einstein, “Nothing truly valuable arises from ambition or from a mere sense of duty.”
Music has always been a massive part of my life. I am a classically trained pianist and I play guitar, sing and write songs. I wanted every detail of EVO to maximise the total experience, so it has its own unique uplifting soundtracks mixed in London designed to enable clients to really connect with how their body is moving and working, giving a deep and rewarding experience.
Since its birth around 100 years ago, the Pilates method has been modified and arguably made more effective by some distinguished presenters, but diluted and the basic principles largely ignored by less scrupulous teachers.
It has more flow and movement with sequences of moves made up from the sacred numbers 3, 7 and 21, and it uses unique, uplifting soundtracks mixed in London by DJ Shameless to enable clients to really connect with how their body is moving and working, giving a far deeper and rewarding experience. Most moves have different levels progressing muscular fitness using repetitions, range of motion, rate and resistance. This creates a system that will remain challenging to a wide range of training goals from elite athletes, people seeking everyday fitness, to clients rehabilitating following accident or injury.
This system increases muscular strength and endurance as well as flexibility, and helps prevent injury and improve performance with movements that are applicable to life and sport.