Personal trainer and Fitness Pilates instructor Caroline Fullerton shares two gut-boosting workouts made exclusively for The Gut Choice — no equipment needed
Want to boost your fitness levels in 2021 or improve your gut health or are you simply fed up of searching for different at-home workouts? Look no further — Fitness Pilates could be your new exercise MO.
Fitness Pilates is based on the same principles as Pilates, a mind-body exercise system created by Joseph Pilates that works on strengthening the whole body with an emphasis on core strength. You will often hear instructors say “engage your core” during movements. There’s a good reason for this; Pilates teaches you to activate your core whether you’re doing a core-focused move or not. This helps to stabilise the rest of your body and enable you to have more control over movements involving your other limbs. Pilates also includes tailored midsection moves such as plank variations, slow mountain climbers and half roll back.
Pilates can also provide benefits for gut health by stimulating the digestive system through encouraging deep breathing and by massaging the abdominals with twisting exercises and inversions.
Aside from increased core strength and enhanced gut health, Pilates can help build strength, promote better balance, increase flexibility, improve posture and joint mobility as well as relieve stress. And, I don’t think you need me to remind you that stress can be a major contributor to gut issues.
Fitness Pilates instructor Caroline Fullerton has kindly created two 20-minute video workouts exclusively for The Gut Choice to help you increase your fitness, strengthen your core, improve your gut health and enhance your overall wellbeing within the comfort of your own home. I guarantee you won’t have done this virtual workout before!
Look below the workouts for an exclusive interview with Caroline.
Fitness Pilates standing mobility workout | Caroline Fullerton Fitness
Fitness Pilates floor mat workout | Caroline Fullerton Fitness
Behind the workouts with Caroline Fullerton
When did you first become interested in fitness and why?
I’ve always been interested in fitness. I loved PE and sport at school; I was in the netball team, the rounders team, the athletics team and the basketball team. I didn’t like Maths or English or anything else, I just loved sport. Also, when I was about eight, I joined a gymnastics club and I used to do gymnastics three times a week. I took part in the County Championships and did competitions throughout the year. Then, when I was about 15, I coached younger children in gymnastics.
Wow, you did such a lot from quite a young age! Did you know that you wanted a career in fitness back then?
Sort of. I wanted to be a PE teacher or some form of sports teacher, but my Auntie talked me out of it because there wasn’t much work or money in it. At that time as well, there weren’t many gyms about. So, my mum encouraged me to do a secretarial course at college. It was useful and I got a job in a recruitment consultancy, then with NatWest Home Loans, then I worked in Land Rover’s offices. I used to go to a lot of aerobics classes [while I did office jobs], then I moved to Dublin with my sister in 1998 because my family is from Ireland. [While living there], I went to an aerobics class and spoke to the instructor. She said there was a course starting, so I did it. I was taught how to become a fitness instructor and [learnt about] step aerobics, circuits, anatomy, physiology and energy systems; we did everything in that year. The next year, I took a personal training course and started doing this in gyms and at people’s houses.
How did this lead you to Fitness Pilates specifically?
I did a weekend Fitness Pilates course before I left Ireland. At the time, I thought it was a bit slow and boring because I was younger and so used to doing higher intensity workouts. When I moved back [to England] after 10 years, I started teaching spin, aqua and LBT (legs, bums and tums) classes in a gym and became qualified in LES MILLS BODYATTACK, BODYBALANCE and BODYPUMP. At one stage, I was doing 28 classes per week. I also covered some [Pilates] classes, but I didn’t take on my own Pilates class until a year or two later and as the years went on, I enjoyed it and it’s actually my favourite class now. I have learnt you don’t need an energetic [workout] to strengthen your muscles or get fitter and leaner. Next, I did my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Pilates and I’ve never looked back.
It’s amazing that it became your favourite class. What makes Fitness Pilates different from traditional Pilates?
Generally, a lot of [traditional Pilates] is on the floor and you’re on your back a lot in supine [position] or on your front in prone [position] and on your side. Whereas, Fitness Pilates has been adapted for this era [and follows a] functional training style. Our body moves in three different planes — sagittal (sidewards), frontal (forwards) and transverse (backwards), and it also rotates. So, we work with those three planes in a standing position [primarily].
That makes so much sense. Have you noticed any benefits to your own gut health since taking up Fitness Pilates?
I find my gut health [improves] once I do any exercise. I suffer from terrible constipation sometimes but if I eat healthily and exercise, I keep myself a lot more regular and that is [mainly] through Pilates and aqua. If I don’t do it, I feel a massive difference.
What Pilates move you would recommend for gut health if someone is feeling bloated or constipated, for instance? Why?
Any exercise will help with gut health and bloating. Bloating could be to do with diet as well. I would recommend breathing; I know it’s mad to say breathing but when you’re exercising, you’re breathing a lot more and it increases your heart rate, [pumps] the blood round your body, moves things a lot quicker and makes you feel good; lateral breathing [also helps as] you place your hands onto your rib cage and breathe deeply in, taking the breath deep into your rib cage rather than just your nose, then exhale and draw your navel in, contracting your abdominals at the same time. Breathing definitely helps and is calming as well. It’ll relax you and your muscles and, hopefully, things will move better.
Should we still be doing Pilates if our stomach is unsettled? Are there any moves we should avoid?
Well, it depends on how unsettled [your stomach is]. I’ve had people who’ve come into my class and said they’ve had a dodgy stomach that morning and they’ve had to leave. So, if it’s that unsettled then no, I wouldn’t [recommend] exercise. If you just feel a bit bloated or a bit constipated, all [Pilates] is recommended for it.
What are your top three moves for a strong core?
- Plank – “Everybody knows the plank; there are lots of different varieties and levels,” says Caroline. Mix up your plank with these variations.
- Single leg stretch – This exercise involves lying on your back and alternating between legs as you bend one leg in toward your chest and extend the opposite leg out in front. Click to see Caroline’s demonstration. Caroline explains: “This works your TVA (transverse abdominal) muscles, but you can adapt it to just toe taps to the floor or you can extend your leg further out. The longer the leverage, the more you’re working your core.”
- Spinal twist – This involves lying in supine position and bending your knees to a 90° angle as you gently rotate your knees from side to side. Watch Caroline’s short video guide. “It’s like a massage for your stomach,” says Caroline.
These sound fab. A lot of people may have over-indulged, been feeling sluggish or have unsettled tummies following the festive period, how can we get started with Fitness Pilates? Do we need to be a certain fitness level or have specific equipment?
No, not at all. You can find a Fitness Pilates [instructor] nearby or come to me; I now do classes online. You can be a beginner, intermediate or advanced. I always try to provide different levels [suited to different abilities]. I [sometimes] give out equipment [to people at my classes] or people buy equipment, but you don’t have to have equipment. With Pilates, we’re using bodyweight and this will increase muscle tone and muscle tone increases bone density and that increases metabolic rate.
It’s very accessible for everyone then! How many Fitness Pilates classes would you recommend per week for someone looking to improve their core strength?
Obviously, one class a week is better than nothing. Because we are in lockdown, people are probably walking every day and doing more exercise because they can. It depends how fit a person is, but I would say two Pilates classes per week and two cardio per week which could be swimming, cycling or HIIT. You will definitely feel a benefit [of doing Fitness Pilates] twice a week and you will feel a massive difference after three times a week. You’ll feel so much stronger, your core will feel stronger and your back will feel stronger. If anybody is trying to lose weight, it’s not a fat-burning exercise; it will make you toned and lean, but you need to incorporate [Fitness Pilates] with a cardio exercise.
Sounds great. So, all of your classes are online at the moment. Why is it important to take part in online classes?
It’s more important now than any time. It’s important for your mental [health] and your physical [health] as no one can get to the gym. It’s more practical and convenient. You don’t have to jump in your car, drive [to a class] and drive back which could take half an hour. And, you don’t have to do my classes live, they’re always on record so you can do it whenever you’re ready. It’s getting me to exercise as well which is a good thing and I just love doing it for everybody. There are a lot of people who do my [online] classes who are from Ireland and that would never have happened if I were doing classes face to face.
Caroline Fullerton Fitness
Caroline Fullerton Fitness was founded by 49-year-old personal trainer and fitness instructor Caroline Fullerton. She is originally from Birmingham but lived in Ireland for 10 years where she began to turn her keen interest for fitness into a career. Caroline is qualified in a number of different exercise programmes with over 20 years of fitness training experience. She currently runs two live online Fitness Pilates classes per week, along with two live online Lift Lean classes. See her website for prices and further details and to be the first to hear when her physical classes are going to resume. Find Caroline on Facebook and Instagram @carolinefullertonfitness.
Enjoyed this? What do you think of Fitness Pilates? Get in touch.