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 Read more

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 Read more

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 Read more

Why we want to hibernate in Winter

Take a break… Your body works hardest in winter. Sometimes we forget that the internal combustion engine has been modelled on the human (and mammalian) body. And we forget, that exactly like a cold car feels on a winter morning, Read more

The remedy of joy

Last night I was playing my piano, and I felt it. Joy unpressed, unrushed and whispering to me gently as a butterfly would. Joy had come to visit me. Bundled up in my heavy, winter pyjamas and nursing a Read more

Inventive Ways to Exercise on the Job

Articles, Exercise science, Pilates Leave a comment  

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 Northcliff or Horison. Contact:

By Charlotte Jean

What the car guard taught me

Articles, Charl's journal, Finding worth Leave a comment  

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 Leave a comment  

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.

Why we want to hibernate in Winter

Articles, Charl's journal, Holistic wellbeing Leave a comment  

Take a break… Your body works hardest in winter.

Sometimes we forget that the internal combustion engine has been modelled on the human (and mammalian) body. And we forget, that exactly like a cold car feels on a winter morning, we too are working hardest when the air is coldest and driest.

The instinct to hibernate

Listen to yourself. We’ve done enough separation of body, mind and spirit. Human beings have the gift of functioning in tandem with all our parts, all the time. Winter comes approximately half-way through the year in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s a good half-way point pegged for rest and reflection. The body knows that it’s now time to battle viruses, lower temperatures and less viable air for respiration. This means greater output, and in a way, greater “fuel consumption” – more calorie-rich foods, like our winter squashes and meaty stews. We need more to stay in balance and maintain homeostasis (a balanced body). So, the desire to hibernate is good, instinctual and a healthy guide for activity. Reduce the length of our overall day,  spend more time at home, warm and resting and  generally breath deeper and working more restfully. This will keep our immune system humming and allow us to reflect and process on an emotional and spiritual level. No reflections= no direction.

The desire for a lower gear

Other seasons of the year, especially Spring (renewal) and Summer (harvest) speak to us of super- energy and great physical- holistic stamina. It’s easy to get caught up in this kind of thinking and “energy hype” all year round. I always use the ocean as an example of ebbs and flows. We would have no tides, and ultimately no life in the ocean without ebbs and flows. Human beings and all creation, to a certain degree, are oscillating creatures. We move from first gear to second, to third and beyond. To stay in one gear will completely and very quickly wreck a good engine. Continuing with our car metaphor, one gear can only provide a specific output of power (speed) flat and torque (strength) uphill.  When the landscape and conditions change, you and I need a different gear. My mechanic would physically remove my car if I chose to stay in second or third gear on the highway. This is abuse! And so too is our expectation to stay in one gear all the time. This is self- abuse. Gear down. Listen to your “revs” and celebrate the ebbs and flows in you!

The value of old fashioned sense

I recall growing up with an understanding that “gran will know” or an older neighbour always had a solution for a cold, a burn, rash or some other ailment. There were plenty of people who continued with the old traditions of protecting and celebrating life. Simple things like growing lemons, grapefruit and paw-paws in the garden. Filling the house with dried herbs and taking out carpets and rugs weekly for a good “dusting”. And also eating heavier vegetables ( eg. butternut, pumpkin, winter squash) in winter, and easier to digest foods like soups, bone broths and casseroles. Now, the “collagen diet” is doing the rounds and the medicinal world is singing its praises. But my grandmother knew all about saving the chicken carcass, boiling marrow bones and adding dried peas, lentils and pulses to soups. Old fashioned sense took a backseat to technologically driven medical research. Now this very same research is proving its validity. Do what your grandparents and  great grandparents (if they were healthy) used to do. Have a look at how artisanal (DIY) communities function, and take some simple pages from their books. To stay healthy, is more about maintaining your wonderful engine-mind, body and spirit – all year round – than jumping for the vitamin C or antibiotics. Above all, rest! Your body needs it.

The remedy of joy

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Last night I was playing my piano, and I felt it. Joy unpressed, unrushed and whispering to me gently as a butterfly would. Joy had come to visit me. Bundled up in my heavy, winter pyjamas and nursing a head cold, even heavier, I let the piano hold my hands. I was alone. There were no people, programmes or purposes leading me. The cosy silence surrounded me. And I drank it in. The cool, sweet delicious silence. A cool hand to a feverish brew. Then I felt the playing. My friends, poetry and sound, joined me in a still, graceful dance. My hands learned the steps as we went.  Joy came visiting. I had no motive, no mandate, no agenda. Only the need  to rest. To breathe.  To lay my hands down onto my old confidante. When I played, my heart wept and danced. And in those tears I found joy. Unpressed, unrushed and whispering. “Come apart and rest a while,” Joy said to me. And so I did. And in the quietness, my strength is being restored. It’s the quietness, the grateful solitude and the conscious choice to be still, that calls Joy home. To visit. And to stay. Here. Always.

So, dear friends, today if you dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!

Your life is an infinite gift with an eternal, one-time edition purpose. Fill your heart today with joy. Wrestle it from the circumstances you’re in: stuff your pockets with joy. Joy is hope made real in a wild, beautiful world. Joy is delight in life. In the simple gifts of friendship, belonging and the ability to heal. Joy is grace and the expression of love for yourself and others. Joy is strength. Joy is peace.

Go get your joy and keep it close! Celebrate your life. It is a gift, no matter what.


Why I became an entrepreneur

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For me, becoming an entrepreneur and starting my business was not an intentional decision. I did not wake up one morning and decide, “I am going to start a company. This sounds exciting.” I simply took more and more steps away from the formal economy, without realising it because of what I believe. I was a diligent employee for 7 years and followed the traditional trajectory in studies, work and career planning. Then I left it all and took a personal development break.

After travelling to Korea and teaching English for two years, I realised that I am a person driven by purpose. And purpose resides in the heart. I have always loved nature, people and healing. Seeing people sick worried me. Seeing them recover gave me the deepest joy. After spending 3 years in the NGO sector and working with vulnerable children, communities and vast tracts of arable land, left uncultivated, while poverty was all around, I realised that tending the land and working with sustainable health solutions is one of the most powerful interventions we can use. Simply, there were no companies doing what I wanted to do. Every time I applied for a position in another field, I felt sick to my stomach. I constantly thought about the needs I saw in people’s lives, communities and countries. I seemed to care about these needs more than most people I knew, and yet, I knew that I was not a better person: I just had a different vision, for my life, and the life of our world. There was a point that I came to, the signpost of “It’s now or never.”

So I took the step, filled with all sorts of dread, but knowing that courage is forged in the valleys of fear. I first started my nutritional therapy practice, Better4Life, and then after 3 years of researching, product formulations and testing, I registered Africa Grace as a company to take my heart for Africa, our natural resources and my vision for every person to have the CHOICE to use pure, organic skincare and healthcare. It’s a company that encapsulates many different aspects of my vision for my continent and appeals to the human spirit. I took many small steps, a few big steps. Sometimes, just standing where I was and reflecting. People encouraged me. I did a great deal of inner questioning, reading, experimenting, studying. I needed to make sacrifices: buy a small car, move back with my parents for a while, learn to live with far less and spend whatever I had on studies and starting my two companies.

It has been the most extraordinary journey of faith, perseverance and patience. It still is. Sometimes, I’m not sure where it will lead. But, I know, as long as I choose this ship, I will learn the most about myself, what I believe and what is truly, honestly, uniquely important in life.


There are No Negative Emotions

Articles, Charl's journal, Holistic wellbeing 1

Only Negative Responses


I’ve been thinking about emotions lately. How we’re quick to call some good (positive) and others bad (negative). I’ve done my best to keep the “negative” emotions out of my life. Like hate, rage, sadness or depression. Aren’t these the bad emotions we shouldn’t have? And so I pursue the “good” emotions of love, peace and contentment. But they don’t come without a fight.

Without a resolution of the less popular emotions, I find I cannot respond authentically. My realisation: there are no negative emotions. Only negative responses. There will be times when you and I are called to love, or to hate, to feel anger or to express peace. Emotions (e=motion) mobilise us to action. It’s HOW we react that determines the outcome. An ancient biblical proverb says, “When you are angry, do not sin.” It’s guaranteed that you and I will feel anger. It’s in how I respond that makes my anger positive or negative. Here’s an example: We need to get angry about things that are wrong; about injustice, about someone abusing us or someone else, or even our own failings. When we are positively angry, we do something constructive about the problem. If we don’t get angry, we don’t do anything. If we do get angry, and decide to resolve the anger negatively e.g. blaming someone else, pretending the problem doesn’t exist, we bring the opposite of life – death – into our lives. And our heart is shaped by this.

So I’ve been digging deeper. I’ve been asking myself, “What determines how I respond to life?” I’m sure most people know this, but I need to be reminded. The answer: It’s my values. What I believe. What I hold as most important. Values sit deep inside of me, hardly speaking at all, until there’s a challenge, and I need to choose. I’ve realised that I don’t know all of my values. Values are very deep. Some are thoughts; some are convictions. Others, we’ve simply taken on. What I’ve learned from this recent season is that I can choose my values and know them. They help me navigate powerful emotions according to my conscience and my true self. This means I grow, mature and become a safe person. Know your values. Know your heart. Live your values. Become the person you’d like to know.

Horison Pilates Awards Ceremony 2017

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Pilates athletes were recently awarded for their faithful endurance. Some even received a 5-year commitment award! Well done ladies!

Examining our choices

Charl's journal, Destress tips, Holistic wellbeing Leave a comment  

There’s a great sense of hurry, of stress and anxiety wherever I drive. People I see are rushing on the roads, shopping in a hurry and trying to pile as much activity into one day as possible. I see unhappy faces and families living past each other. Groups of people sit together but are on their phones and might as well be miles away from each other. “What is going on here?” I ask myself. Well, it is stress, that I know. That I can see but it’s also choices. The choice to spend time social networking when your wife or child is right there, longing for real interaction. The choice to treat every day like an emergency with an impossible deadline. The choice to be a slave to your work and not free to do your calling. I see choices in food, health, recreation, relationships. I see and make choices everyday. Leaders, politicians, business people, parents… everyone is making choices and they count. They affect them and those around them. The stress and anxiety is a choice too. We don’t need all the things we think we do. We need more love than luxury and less food than we need peace. Take a good look at your choice cupboard and see what is really hanging there. Is this what you really need? Do these things make you whole, happy and excited to do life? Or have your choices left you numb, empty, isolated and in despair? Make good choices. Choose life!

Spring clean your life

Charl's journal, Holistic wellbeing, Nutrition Leave a comment  

I’ve been listening to the sounds of a vacuum cleaner next door. My neighbour’s really getting into the dust and dirt! Cleaning. It’s a vivid picture for me of how my life gets dirty and dusty quickly, and I need it cleaned – inside-out. My tendency is to leave the dirt. Go another day or two before I really can’t ignore it anymore. What struck me is that a house is always needing cleaning. A little here. A little there. Then everything stays ordered and pleasant to live in. It’s the same for my health and my moment by moment life. We need to remain motivated to look after our health. Interestingly, if we are clean on the inside it will show on the outside. Eat right and you’ll see it immediately on your skin. You will feel it in your body.

Try the Better4life Nutritional Therapy Programme and see the difference! Contact