The Dangers of Treadmills

In this audio, Charlotte addresses the use of treadmills which are commonplace in most gyms in the country but many people are unaware of their dangers. Constantly using a treadmill can cause repetitive stress injuries and strain due the Read more

Country living in the city

I picked up the March issue of “Country Life”, drawn to its fresh outdoor images. Print has suffered a decline and it’s amazing how this magazine continues to flourish, glossy and bright. And then it dawned on me. Many Read more

The Value of Belief

In the last year, I’ve come across people with different beliefs about health. For example someone had a copper contraceptive removed because they believe it’s harmful, another person disagrees and believes that peace of mind in avoiding pregnancy is Read more

What are YOU hoping for?

Hope it is a powerful thing. It is more than an emotion. Hope is having vision. It's the promise of your vision becoming real. It is what you are looking FORWARD to in the future. This weekend, the question Read more

Why Esther LOVES Charlotte's Kitchen

I have been thinking that my retirement plan is to live on a remote island and eat healthy wholesome food. I started having an appreciation of healthy eating since I began using recipes from Charlotte’s kitchen. In March this year, Read more

The Dangers of Treadmills

Charl's journal, Exercise science Comments Off on The Dangers of Treadmills

In this audio, Charlotte addresses the use of treadmills which are commonplace in most gyms in the country but many people are unaware of their dangers. Constantly using a treadmill can cause repetitive stress injuries and strain due the body not being able to stay naturally aligned. The disadvantages of treadmills far outweigh the benefits for weight loss. Rather walk on a natural surface, try a trampoline or join a Pilates class that includes cardio fitness.

Listen to audio:

For more information:

Country living in the city

Articles, Charl's journal, Destress tips Comments Off on Country living in the city

I picked up the March issue of “Country Life”, drawn to its fresh outdoor images. Print has suffered a decline and it’s amazing how this magazine continues to flourish, glossy and bright. And then it dawned on me. Many South Africans want to live in the country – away from the stress, noise and congestion. This is why this particular magazine sells so well. I’m not in the minority, wanting a simpler, cleaner life.

City living is hard on the soul. But, it’s not really the environment at fault, most of our cities and suburbs are green, lush and well taken care of. It’s how we live in the city. The constant drive and pressure, unending speed and impatience, a disconnect in our closest relationships. All this and more brings a fast-paced futility. Life can become empty-hearted with little joy.

I think the country calls to our essence, and reminds us that less can be more, and faster isn’t always better. However, you and I may not move to a small, quaint “dorp” somewhere in South Africa. We may stay in the city, in our workplaces and homes and schools for our children. The city is projected to grow dramatically in the next 10 years. So, if we are here, what do we do?

Well, I think there is only one simple solution. We can choose to change how we live – take some of those good, old fashioned farm town habits and place them into our blended concrete ‘n grass jungles. I don’t want to be unhappy or pointless here. I’m sure you don’t want to either. So, I’m training myself to set the tone of my life gently, with baby steps. Today, I drove slower and allowed harassed motorists to get onto the road. Tomorrow, I’ll take my lunch break in the garden out of the office. It’s how we live in the city or anywhere else, that determines our experiences.

May you be blessed to find the “country” in your city!


The Value of Belief

Articles, Charl's journal, Holistic wellbeing, Natural fertility Comments Off on The Value of Belief

In the last year, I’ve come across people with different beliefs about health. For example someone had a copper contraceptive removed because they believe it’s harmful, another person disagrees and believes that peace of mind in avoiding pregnancy is top priority. Another young couple express their belief that practising abstinence during fertile days will enrich their marriage. All of these people will have a different experience.

The power, the value of belief is profound. And mysterious. Belief shapes the course of my life, and it shapes yours. I’ve been thinking about my beliefs. What I really believe about a great number of things. Do I believe it’s more important to be polite or honest? Do I believe that people have a right to exercise free will, even when it harms others?

Beliefs based on the facts

What I believe must be reviewed based on the evidence of its truth. There are factual beliefs that you and I are responsible for checking. An interesting example: for years, a global advertising campaign was run to convince consumers about the health benefits of white potatoes. Now, decades later, we have realised that potatoes are not super foods and actually contain very little nutrition.

Beliefs based on personal values

On a deeper level, there are also values-based beliefs that we form and only we can change. Profoundly, my beliefs determine exactly how my life will look and play out. My beliefs also serve as a keen judge of my actions. I’ve seen this now. The minute I decide to do or not to do something that is in opposition to my beliefs, I feel a certain emotion which could be peace and satisfaction; an inner conviction; or guilt, anger and self-disappointment. And it doesn’t end here. My decisions based on my beliefs move into the proteins of my brain and build positive connections or negative interruptions. This produces a cascade of reactions that then affect the health of my body. I literally become my beliefs, or how my mind responds to my choices. I’ve realised that due to fear, shame, pain, even abuse, so many of us daily are making choices that we don’t really believe in, perhaps because we feel that we don’t have a choice or feel manipulated to choose something we don’t want. There’s a little voice protesting deep within, and although it’s faint, we hear it. The body senses the disconnect, and if repeated we can become ill.

The solution

Live from your heart. Act out your beliefs. Make good choices based on your beliefs.

Here’s an example: if I believe it’s important to be on time and I make sure that I am, for professional and social appointments, I’ll be able to see how important this really is within my own world. But if I allow myself to be delayed, controlled and influenced by a tardy (late) friend or colleague, I’ll feel emotions of resentment, stress, antipathy and self-guilt and feel ill. I’ll feel controlled and condemned.

You can choose!

As South Africans, we can often feel powerless – there’s the government, big business and the whole western world seemingly at odds with us, oppressing our free will and ability to choose. I believe we can choose. I believe that the value of belief is to choose, and it frees you and I to live more honest, health-filled lives. Go choose and become whole!

What are YOU hoping for?

Articles, Charl's journal, Holistic wellbeing Comments Off on What are YOU hoping for?

Hope it is a powerful thing. It is more than an emotion. Hope is having vision. It’s the promise of your vision becoming real. It is what you are looking FORWARD to in the future. This weekend, the question literally flashed across my mind: “what are you hoping for?” I was washing dishes, so I wasn’t really prepared for this profound thought…

I answered the question honestly, a little timidly. And then, surprisingly, joy came cascading into my heart! I felt God telling me, “I want you to hope; I want you to believe that what you truly hope for is good and I will make it happen.” And so I’m hoping again!

There are many dreams that I’ve buried and real desires that I’ve held close to my heart for a very long time. They didn’t seem to be possible. There seemed to be too many obstacles in the way. Trying to live without these dreams in a functional, “paying my taxes” way, I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve realised that there is no life without hope.

There is no joy, there is no beauty, there is no delight without hope. Life receives its bountiful colour and richness in hope.

Let’s hope again. Let’s believe again! What are YOU hoping for?

Why Esther LOVES Charlotte’s Kitchen

Articles, Healthy recipes, Holistic wellbeing, Nutrition Comments Off on Why Esther LOVES Charlotte’s Kitchen

I have been thinking that my retirement plan is to live on a remote island and eat healthy wholesome food. I started having an appreciation of healthy eating since I began using recipes from Charlotte’s kitchen.

In March this year, I was told that I have Candida of the stomach as well as leaky gut. So it turns out that I am allergic to dairy products, wheat and sugar and these will be the death of me if I continue eating ‘junk food’. Therefore I was put on a four month very strict Candida diet in which I had to eliminate my favourite foods. Goodbye bread, cake, sweets, juice as well as certain fruits and vegetables.

I thought… What? I am going to go crazy. What is left for me to eat? Lettuce?

So I began this rather flavourless diet. I did however feel a huge difference, my energy levels were picking up and I was less bloated. After a month of Candida dieting, I could no longer carry on with the tasteless meals. There were just too many temptations and in my line of work I am constantly on the road so it is so much easier to buy already made food. I enjoyed ‘junk food’ too much and my health was further deteriorating.

Healthy, tasty foodCharlotte has been such a life saver, her dishes consist of healthy ingredients, plenty of vegetables, wonderful spices and not forgetting the Kefir, which can be used in just about any meal to bring out the flavour. I have been eating Charlotte’s recipes for about two months now and this is the healthiest I have been. My tummy is happy, I am regular, the bloating has calmed down significantly, I am sleeping better, and I rarely even crave the sweet stuff. Before I used to be bloated to the point where I couldn’t sit up straight at times, it was even uncomfortable to walk properly and I had to refrain from doing any form of physical activity such as running and playing netball.  I also find that I spend less time in bed during the weekends; I have become an early riser, even on the weekends.

Charlotte has written a nutrition and recipe book, Good Food Matters. Find out about the magic that takes place in her kitchen.

And I will even be better once I start exercising again. This week I will join Charlotte at one of her Pilates classes and see how it goes. I am pretty sure my body is ready for this, so much excitement! YAY! I am thoroughly looking forward to it as I do believe that a healthy lifestyle includes physical activity too.

You can find out about Charlotte’s Pilates classes in Horison: Better4life Pilates

As for my no make-up challenge, I went two days without make-up this week thanks to the wonders of Charlotte’s Africa Grace natural skincare range.

Thank you Charlotte!

Esther Machileka

Is Saying ‘Yes’ Killing You?

Articles, Charl's journal, Holistic wellbeing Comments Off on Is Saying ‘Yes’ Killing You?

A few weeks ago, I lost my hubcap in Bloemfontein. A friendly young lady screamed out of her mom’s car, “Jammer dame, jy’t jou wiel verloor!” (Sorry lady, you’ve lost your wheel).  At that point, I was feeling rather chuffed with myself, making it all the way to the conference centre with no mishaps or detours. A long drive, a tired brain and rusty Afrikaans combined to make me wonder,” How on earth have I been driving on 3 wheels only?” Stopping my car, I got out ready to discover the worst, and there it was: 3 hubcaps and not 4. That happy hubcap was nowhere to be seen. I kept looking for it. I think it’s in some Bloemfontein “woestyn” (desert) now!

Long story cut short, I’ve felt like a beggar ever since I lost my hubcap. I feel embarrassed about my car, and ashamed about myself. It’s not a strong feeling; it’s just there like a grating reminder at the back of my mind. And during this time, I’ve felt a loss of power myself. People must be judging my car, and they must be judging me. JHB is a real car city. We don’t really drive dinged up or even old cars here. Everything new and shiny. In this strange place of irrational shame, I’ve found myself almost saying yes to things I haven’t thought through or really don’t want to do. I’ve been wondering about this, and the mysterious connection to my sense of reduced power. When I speak about power, I mean my personal autonomy. My ability to choose and say yes and no with freedom. It seems that this place of powerlessness attracts the controlling or co-dependent (excessive emotional or psychological reliance on someone else) like bees to nectar! You don’t want to know the messes I’ve walked into, or just narrowly avoided these last few weeks. Now, I don’t know a lot about this, and I’m just beginning to study more on the concept of personal power, but I’ve really got to say that it’s real and true.

Bullying, manipulation, control and co-dependency are all symptoms of powerlessness. A bully isn’t powerful. Neither is a person with a victim mentality. However, they are attracted to each other in an unpleasant dance. Saying “yes” or “no” to doing things when I don’t mean it is also a symptom of powerlessness. This makes me sick – in a state of disorder – because my mind registers the difference (cognitive dissonance) between what I said and what I really mean, and my emotions respond with resentment and a loss of control. Shame or guilt steps in and my body becomes filled with toxic, negative thoughts – thoughts centering on loss of quality of life versus receiving joy and contentment.

So many of my clients are stressed because of powerlessness. Just this week I saw how my own responses hinge on how powerful I decide to be or not. It IS a decision, but it’s really subconscious. An abusive boss, a destructive relationship; a co-dependent colleague; even a damaging view of good food – all of these are floating torpedoes on the sea of life, waiting for our response. My “yes” could be killing me, slowly or swiftly. And my “no” or “I can’t” could be getting in the way of what I really want to do.

A famous Proverb reads, “A desire fulfilled is like a tree of life.” So when I desire something, I can really state YES and my body is filled with life. A simple remedy is to examine my heart and my choices. Are my “Yes’s” really yes (I want this), and my “No’s” really no (I don’t want this)? I believe we can each build ourselves to be people of legitimate power, who encourage those around us to be equally powerful. Can you imagine a society that looks more like this? More truth, more freedom and more dignity? Beautiful!

Fitness Guidelines For Your Age Group

Articles, Exercise science, Pilates Comments Off on Fitness Guidelines For Your Age Group

Every wondered what the right exercises are for your age-group? Here is a thorough breakdown of the recommended exercise for each age group.

Preschoolers (ages 3 to 5)

Already from the 1970s, activity levels for preschool children began to drop and the amount of obese preschoolers is increasing worldwide. This is due to decreasing levels of physical exercise with indoor-based activities such as watching TV and playing computer games growing in popularity. Many schools have also cut their outdoor activities and indoor areas are perceived to be safer with less supervision needed. There is a call back to the outdoors and parents and teachers alike need to encourage preschoolers to have fun being active by teaching them physical games, building safe play areas, and inviting little ones to explore the outdoors. Toddlers (12 to 36 months old) also need to exercise with 60 minutes of informal activity and 30 minutes of structured playtime daily. Little children, in particular, need to build motor skills, coordination and balance with a need for healthy muscles and bones through a number of different cardiovascular and strength activities (e.g. jumping, running and hanging from the monkey bars). Doing just one thing for an hour can get boring and tedious, so it’s best to break this up into bite-sized time periods e.g. six 10 minute playtime sessions doing different things.

What to do?

  • Playing tag or chase: preschoolers can also hop, waddle, or dance instead of running
  • Playing catch or kickball with different sized balls
  • Swimming/water play, such as running in a sprinkler or washing the car
  • Riding a tricycle or scooter in a safe and contained area
  • Crawling through a cardboard-box tunnel or obstacle course
  • Dancing to music with friends with scarves and ribbons
  • Building an indoor obstacle course e.g. with sofa cushions, hula hoops and chairs lined up to form a tunnel or a balance beam

How long?

  • A minimum of 60 minutes daily on organised physical activities (e.g. soccer, kickball, riding a tricycle/scooter)
  • At least 60 minutes a day to several hours on unstructured physical activities (e.g. crawling, running, dancing, gardening)


Tweens (ages 6-12)

In most countries, with the influence of video games, fewer school playing fields and fewer physical education activities, research shows that most primary-schoolers do very little physical exercise or nothing at all. During this age group, a wider range of activities is preferable to build up as much mineral density as possible, core strength, muscle and joint coordination and calcium reserves. It must also be noted that before puberty, children do not produce lactic acid and so their energy reserves are much greater – meaning they can exercise for longer periods without tiring.

What to do?

  • A variety of cardiovascular activities in exercises that involve hopping, running, skipping and jumping with rapid twisting motions and high intensity and energy e.g. dancing and ball sports
  • All sports, especially those that develop coordination, core body strength, balance and fine motor skills and which are enjoyable e.g. athletics, tennis, badminton, hockey, football etc.


How long?

  • Stretching for 20 minutes should precede and follow all weight bearing and cardio activity
  • Cardiovascular exercise 4-5 times weekly leading to sweat-production 60-90 minutes each session
  • Children who are training for sports can do an additional two one-hour weights sessions per week


Adolescents (13-18)

Young women build their greatest amount of calcium before their 20s and so frequent weight-bearing activities which stimulate calcium production and core muscle strengthening, which establishes posture are vital. Weight training (including free, static and body resistance weight) is effective to build bone, muscle and joint health while skeletal structures grow to their maximum length. From puberty, teenagers begin to develop lactic acid and experience a variety of hormonal changes that place a demand on their energy and mineral stores. They will begin to tire quicker and need shorter, more frequent exercise. Sweat producing exercises stabilize hormones and effectively utilize sugar and insulin deposits (to counteract possible weight gain of puberty). High intensity exercise balances mood through endorphin release and stimulates the lymphatic system.

What to do?

  • High intensity cardiovascular and strength development exercises e.g. sports such as volleyball, hockey, tennis, netball, basketball, water polo, running, dancing, swimming, sprint and long distance cycling, aerobics and fast walking
  • Weight training with lighter weights (1-3 kilograms) joined with pre (fluid stretching) and post stretching (static stretching as the body is warm).

How long?

  • It generally takes 30 minutes of high intensity exercise for the body to begin burning fat and so daily 30-60 minute sessions of cardiovascular activity are ideal
  • 10-20 minutes of stretching daily pre and post high intensity exercise (see note above)
  • 20-30 minutes of weight training preferably before cardiovascular activity, but can be done separately with 6-10 repetitions of each movement. Higher repetitions versus heavier weights are advised


Young Adulthood (ages 18-28)

Exercise scientists state that weight maintenance is easiest during the first decade of adulthood: the metabolic rate works most efficiently; stress to the body parts is minimal with quick injury recovery time; calcium is more easily absorbed and stored for later use in preventing osteoporosis among women. Women need to focus on cardiovascular activity to burn fat, stabilize sugar and insulin to improve fertility; they also need to build bone health through regular weight-bearing activity, maintain flexibility for later years, release stress and condition their posture. At this age, women may be desk slaves, so developing good postural habits is really important.

What to do?

  • Weight-bearing activities e.g. running, walking, football or martial arts
  • Posture and balance work e.g. Pilates, Alexander technique
  • Dancing – e.g. modern, ballroom and contemporary styles
  • Regular cardiovascular exercise e.g. cycling, aerobics, brisk walking, or fast-paced sports

How long?

  • Three one-hour sessions of cardiovascular activities a week such as dancing, running, walking or swimming where the heart rate is increased to 60-70% (talking is difficult)
  • Three 30-40 minute sessions of posture and balance work weekly combined with weight-training (10-20 minutes) three times weekly


30s and 40s

Women will notice that their metabolism declines by at least 2% per decade after the age of 30. The good news however, is that we can still stimulate the metabolism with high-intensity aerobic interval exercise until 50. At this age, the effect of wear and tear becomes noticeable, and recovery time may take longer. So, strength training becomes more important for maintaining joint stability and increasing lean body mass and stretching exercises will help to improve core strength, flexibility and postural alignment.As professional athletes will tell us, it is possible to play top-class sport until one’s mid-30s. Post 35, women’s resting heart rate increases and muscle mass and strength decrease, mostly caused by a decrease in the human growth hormone. Strength training continues to be important at this age at it triggers the human growth hormone.

What to do?

  • Cardiovascular activities like indoor rowing, running, swimming or triathlon training
  • Weight training activities using gym resistance machines or free weights
  • Pilates for building core strength and flexibility

How long?

  • Two to four one-hour sessions of free or static weights weekly (note that body weight can also be used as is done in Pilates)
  • Three to four 30 minute cardiovascular sessions weekly
  • 10-15 minutes of stretching morning and evening
  • One to three 30 minute sessions a week of Pilates, Alexander technique or tai chi


The 50s

 Most women in this age group feel more intense aches and pains due to the wear and tear on their joints. This is a key stage of life for modifying aerobic workouts to include non-weight-bearing activities, such as swimming, rowing or cycling in addition to weight-bearing activities that improve bone density and help prevent injury. Menopause is likely to occur during the late 40s and early 50s, and hormonal changes can cause weight fluctuation. Portion size for meals should be watched carefully with calorie intake reduced by 15% percent with every decade of age unless physical activity increases. The more muscle mass a woman has, the higher her metabolic rate will be and the more fat burned when resting: but if new to weight training, though, women need to start slowly and precondition their body. Stretching is key as flexibility is vital for long-term physical independence and exercise specialists say it’s as important as brushing one’s teeth.

What to do?

  • Strength training and weight-bearing activities (e.g. walking, dancing and aerobics)
  • Regular dynamic stretching, deep breathing and core body strengthening e.g Pilates, tai chi or the Alexander technique

How long?

  • Free weights of four sets of each exercise 6-10 times, 30 minutes three times weekly
  • Two to four one-hour sessions of more gentle cardiovascular work weekly (can talk with effort while exercising) with weights/resistance and stretching
  • Core balance and posture exercises e.g. Pilates, Alexander technique or tai chi one to three times weekly for 30-60 minutes per session
  • Light stretching before bedtime 5 minutes each night and on waking when the muscles are warm


The 60s

Investment for later life is the motto as women approach their retirement age. Nerve conduction and reflexes slow down as women age, but effective exercise can slow the rate of decrease. Elderly women become injured due to falling because of loss of balance but by stimulating the nervous system, they can remain balanced, stay agile and be stable on their feet.

What to do?

  • Pilates, Alexander technique and core-stability exercises three times weekly for 30-40 minutes each session
  • Proprioception-based exercises such as standing on one foot and/or with eyes closed several times daily for as long as possible
  • Strength training with lighter weights, or rubber resistance bands and aim for 20 to 30 repetitions of movements for 30 minutes.
  • Gentle cardiovascular e.g. walking and swimming

How long?

  • For cardiovascular fitness, gentle swimming, walking, cycling and rowing indoors or on water is recommended 3-4 times weekly for 30 to 40 minutes as low-impact exercise is best to protect knees and hips
  • Generally, 2-4 one-hour cardiovascular and weights/resistance sessions, followed by stretching is advised
  • Pilates, Alexander technique or tai chi one to three times a week for 30-40 minute sessions


The 70s

Between the ages of 30 and 70, the average person loses 25% of their muscle mass. In this decade alone, women can lose 15% of their strength. Relatively speaking, though, endurance increases, which explains the number of veteran runners in marathons. Ultra-distance challenges to boost fitness levels, working on weaknesses, example strength, should take priority in this age group. Balance, body awareness and ability to function in daily life can be enhanced by strength work and high-intensity sports at this age are to be avoided as they can lead to joint deterioration and repetitive stress injuries.

What to do?

  • Swimming and gentle water aerobics for cardiovascular fitness
  • Lighter weight training and gentle cardiovascular and combined weights/resistance sessions
  • Postural realignment and muscle conditioning exercises e.g. Pilates, Alexander technique or tai chi

How long?

  • Use lighter weights (1-3 kgs) and do up to 30 repeats, with a longer recovery time between sets, and rest days between sessions.
  • Work the upper body once or twice a week, and the lower body once or twice on different days, so they have lots of recovery time.
  • Two to four one-hour cardiovascular and weights/resistance sessions, plus Pilates, Alexander technique, yoga or tai chi one to three times a week are also recommended.


The 80s

For the 70s and 80s, social aspects become an important driver in staying active and it’s more important to stay active in activities such as walking, swimming and hiking groups. Postural realignment and stretching exercises are all beneficial – any exercise that promotes the standing up, balancing, stretching and breathing with coordination. Tai chi and Pilates in particular are recommended. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that this gentle movements like tai chi increased physical confidence and reduced falls by 47.5% in people aged over 70. Club activities such as table tennis clubs can be played with limited level of mobility and a really good cardiovascular workout and socializing is still possible

What to do?

  • Pilates
  • Table tennis, walking, swimming and badminton
  • Golf is also popular, but with caution as it can lead to hip injuries

How long?

  • Two 40-60 minutes classes each week of Pilates and
  • 30-40 minute sessions of cardiovascular exercise 3 times weekly


80s and Beyond

As women enter their beautiful sunset years, it’s more important than ever to exercise with the correct clothes and shoes. Aging means that thermoregulation isn’t as efficient, so it is more important to wear more layers of sports clothing when exercising. Nordic walking, marching along with sticks like ski poles for balance and propulsion is highly recommended for the over-80s and the right walking or running shoes are especially important at this age. Exercises like Nordic walking can have a great effect on cardio fitness and endurance as the balance and stability that poles or sticks provide helps to reduce the risk of falling, which improves the motivation and confidence to exercise. Swimming is also good exercise for this age group as is stretching after exercise: elasticity in muscles and tendons decreases with age therefore suppleness needs to be increased.

What to do?

  • Nordic walking, gentle swimming, and static stretching when the body is warm every day
  • Gentle Pilates and deep breathing

How long?

  • Stretching exercises 2-3 times weekly for 30-40 minutes
  • Daily gentle cardiovascular exercise for 20-30 minutes per session


My favourite exercise is still Pilates as it can actually been safely done at any age and gives a full body workout. Join one of my classes in Horison, Johannesburg: Group Pilates classes.

Charlotte Jean Steenekamp

Inventive Ways to Exercise on the Job

Articles, Exercise science, Pilates Comments Off on Inventive Ways to Exercise on the Job

Modern day living means that most people work within offices. Regardless of their design, offices all have one thing in common: desks, chairs, and usually computers within a limited area. Although some organisations have invested in gyms and rest areas for their employees, for the most part, facilities to exercise at work are scarce, over-crowded or unavailable.

Staying active while working is vital: We spend the greater part of our days on the job and extended periods of sitting turn off a vital fat-burning enzyme in the body, resulting in accumulated mid-section and abdominal fat. So what can we do? Is there any hope for those of us who are office-bound? Exercise specialists say, “Yes, there is”! There is a range of inventive ways to use your office space to get your body moving and avoid the pitfalls of inactivity.

The key to effectively exercising on the job is to be creative. Devise an easy system for yourself that you write on a post-it, stick somewhere you can see it, and stick to each day. Any movement is better than none at all. Adding short stints of exercise throughout the day will help to burn more calories, release tension, strengthen the immune system and reduce stress. All benefits we can live with, but not without!

Get Moving!

Don’t sit for longer than an hour at a time. Set alarms to remind you to get up, stretch, and visit the kitchen or the bathroom. Swing your arms as you take a short walk and focus your eyes on something far away to alleviate eyestrain.

Stand as you Chat, Walk as You Talk

Take “standing breaks” every hour and work standing up for 5-10 minutes. You’ll burn 25% more calories by doing this. Don’t lean over your desk as you stand: find tasks that make you stay upright, e.g. stand while speaking on the phone, reading or jotting down notes using a clipboard. In addition, if you pace as you work, or walk as you talk on your cell phone, you’ll burn almost four times as many calories as when you are sitting. Grab a colleague and go walking around the block during your lunch break.

Calf and Arm Raises

Standing, place two heavy files of equal or similar weight in your outstretched arms and stand up on tiptoes for 2-5 counts and then come down. Repeat 10-15 times. Two 1-2 litre water bottles can be used, one in each hand as you raise the bottles above your head and bring down to shoulder level. You can also use your handbag in the same way, lifting it above your head and bringing it back down again. Repeat 10-15 times 3-4 times daily. Remember to pull in your stomach muscles as you do this, keep your back straight and your neck and shoulders relaxed.

Ab Attack to Fight the Fat

Do the ab strengthener: contract your ab muscles six times slowly for 6 counts each, then six times quickly for 2 counts each, then six times very slowly for 10 counts each and repeat.

Subtle Tucks For Firmer Butts

Contract your gluteals (rear posterior muscles) any time you need to wait for something, sitting or standing. This means, simply tighten your buttocks as you stand or sit, hold for 5-10 counts and then relax. Repeat 15 times. Remember that if you are wearing figure-hugging clothing with someone behind you, this may attract unwanted attention so be aware of this.

Sit on a Pilates Ball

A firmly inflated exercise ball can serve as a good chair. By exchanging your traditional chair for a ball, you will improve your balance and tone your core muscles while sitting at your desk. During the day practice lifting one foot off the ground to improve balance.

Handy Fitness Equipment

Keep resistance bands (also known as therabands) or small hand weights in a desk drawer or cabinet. Do arm curls and arm stretches using these between meetings or during your lunch break. Lift your arms outwards at shoulder level, hold each side of a theraband with your hands about 10 cm apart, and stretch your hands further apart and bring back to starting position. Do 2 sets of 10-20.

Regularly Raise Your Heart Rate

Improving your heart rate variability (your heart’s ability to jump from resting to 60 or 70%) has been shown to increase longevity and decrease heart disease risk. To do this, while seated, pump both arms over your head for 30 seconds, then rapidly tap your feet on the floor, drill style, for 30 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times. Or do jumping jacks for 60 seconds or running on the spot with knees high.

Smart Steps for Firmer Legs

1) Do one-legged squats (hold onto a wall or table for support) while waiting for a web page to load, the copier to print your reports, or faxes to come through. 2) Stand with one leg straight and try to kick your buttocks with the other. Repeat 10 times each leg. 3) Sitting in your chair, lift one leg off the seat, extend it out straight, hold for 2 seconds; then lower your foot (stop short of the floor) and hold for several seconds. Switch; do each leg 15 times.

Subtle Chair Workouts

1) To work your chest and shoulders, place both hands on your chair arms and slowly lift your bottom off the chair. Lower your body back down, but stop just before the seat and hold for a few seconds. Repeat 15 times.

2) To stretch your back and strengthen your biceps, place your hands on your desk and hang on. Slowly push your chair back until your head is between your arms and you are looking down at the floor. Then, slowly pull yourself back. Repeat 15 times.

Let’s not allow our fear of embarrassment or disapproval discourage us from exercising at work. The more you invest in your body’s health now, the more quality of life you will reap in the future. Your colleagues may even admire your efforts, be inspired or ask to join you. If on the rare occasion, one of your colleagues does find you in a less conventional position, for example, sitting on your chair two feet from the desk, stretched out, staring at the floor, you could pretend you dropped a pen, but how about telling them the truth, exclaiming “This feels great! Why don’t you try it.’

Live in Joburg? Join one of my Pilates classes in Horison. Contact:
Or order my Pilates DVD for easy home use.

By Charlotte Jean

What the car guard taught me

Articles, Charl's journal, Finding worth Comments Off on What the car guard taught me

He was standing in the queue, waiting for the teller to count his change painstakingly. A collection of silver and bronze coins. In his hand was a pie and a Coke – lunch for the day. Everyone was waiting with our “superior” notes and plastic money. In that moment, a dozen different thoughts and feelings struck me. I read a story in those few minutes. This man had courage-real and pragmatic. I marvelled at it. How ashamed would I feel paying with little pieces of change? He was actually helping the teller with her cash float, and this showed me he’d worked out a beneficial partnership from a potentially embarrassing context. She appreciated his change, even though it took longer to count.

Then there was his dignity. Shamefaced, I faced my own prejudices. I’ve always struggled with the concept of paying floating, and unofficial car guards to watch my car when I believe each shopping centre should do this for their customers. In that moment, I saw the validity and real value of his work because this man needed to eat, just like me, and who is to say my work is better than his?

And then there was the peculiar realisation of change. All change is a collection of little steps in one direction, just like the pile of change (loose coins) I saw being counted. It all added up to the right amount (the impact) needed to pay for this man’s lunch, and the change needed to satisfy customers like me. I know he had no idea, as he stood with slumped shoulders, but this car attendant taught me a weighty lesson. As I reversed my car, and waited for one of his co-workers to guide me out, I paid, bit my lip and said, “God bless you”, this time really meaning it.

Confessions of a Recovering Gym Bunny

Articles, Charl's journal, Exercise science Comments Off on Confessions of a Recovering Gym Bunny

So, there’s an overwhelming amount of information available – in the beautifully broad and general virtual world and in the formal printed book industry, about all things related to exercise, wellness and fitness. You begin to get the feeling that you may also need a PhD, just to stay fit and in shape.

Somebody is always modifying something – a better ab crunch, a shorter, more intense workout. More sophisticated gym equipment. Optimised protein shakes. Paleo-atkins-macrobiotic diets shaken up and stirred and served again with another twist. The psychology of exercise: what you think when you work out. Right down to the multi-million dollar industry of exercise clothing, personal training and exercise studios.

No wonder many people prefer to sit on the coach than get exercising.

My confession: I was one of those gym bunnies who spent years in many different gyms, with different programmes and different goals.  I remember feeling awkward; unsure of what I was doing – hilariously avoiding the personal instructor hovering nearby – convinced I was doing the right thing, but not really convinced. There was always this frustration in my mind that I was working out so hard, so diligently, but not seeing the results I wanted. Or I thought I needed. So, what happened? Did anything change? Can I share any pearls of wisdom with you today.

Hmm, maybe not pearls, but certainly some clinchers that changed my perspective:

 #1 Your Ideal Body is Probably False.

The body you think you should have, and what you’re working so hard to attain is usually false. It either doesn’t exist outside of a designer’s Photoshop lab, or it’s been attained by eating things what wouldn’t sustain life for even a cockroach beyond 30 days. And gentlemen, this isn’t exclusively reserved for the appearance-mad fraternity of women. It affects men and women alike. And it’s mean and needs a beating.

#2 The Body is a Lever System Designed for Movement.

This may sound too scientific, but it changed the way I see exercise. I don’t even refer to it any more as I speak to clients. Movement is what we need and it’s what we should aim for every day. Some of my clients are teachers at schools and very few of them are overweight or weak – because they keep moving and stay active. Most don’t go to a gym (what a thought!), but they also don’t suffer from central obesity or laxity of ligaments like the rest of our chair-sitting office-bound workers.

# 3 You’ll Know Your Right Body Type Intuitively.

I look at my childhood photos and already I see a predisposition to a certain body type, a certain diet and a certain muscular-skeletal structure. It took me years to come back to how I should look and what I should be eating etc. But when it was clear, I shed the false expectations (along with some muscle mass) and began to feel truly comfortable in my own frame. If you were long, lean and skinny as a child, chances are you should have a long, lean, slimmer frame as an adult. If you really enjoyed meat and veggies growing up, it’s good to keep to them now in your later years. We get lost in the hype and bubble of nutritional science and need to remind ourselves that we were designed to know what we need.

# 4 Good Movement is Simple, Natural.

Lose the pseudo-science, mumbo-jumbo rhetoric designed to scramble your brain and all of the psycho-jargon often crafted to make you buy things you don’t need. Human movement is the simplest thing in the world. We were designed to walk, to jump, to lean, to carry, to stretch, to swim – a long stroll, a fast trot, and to run – for short distances (unless you’re from the Masai tribe or have Ethiopian genes). We don’t do too well exercising on artificial machines – which, and I know I’m standing on controversial ground here – includes bicycles. Example: Long distance cyclists run the risk of overdeveloping one side of their heart’s ventricle. And the best immune response from exercise is moderate – just in the middle of our heart rate low and high, and not longer than 40 minutes, done frequently. Like living and breathing. Moving every day. Making movement and exertion a normal, natural part of our lives and encouraging our bodies to move, even while we work in offices and drive cars to work.

 # 5 You’ll Enjoy What’s Good for You

If you’re not liking it after you’ve got beyond the beginning point of the difficulty of change – it’s not good for you. I teach many different people – of all sorts of shapes and sizes, ages, genders. You name it. Those that ENJOY their movement, their food and their lifestyle choices are HAPPY and WELL. Those that are trying to put on more muscle mass than their whole family tree combined are miserable – because it’s not natural and it takes a gross amount of misplaced resources – including chickens and whey protein – to make them get there.

It takes some experimenting, some testing and some firm “No’s” and “Yes’s” to fit into the right shape and quality for your life.

My favourite exercise now? Pilates hands down! It truly is a full body workout! Hey, why not sign up for one of my classes if you are in Joburg:

Go for it. Find comfort and gentle truth in your movement, and be well.