LIFT, LENGTHEN + NOURISH WITH SHONA VERTUE
From the upbeat vibes that radiant from Shona Vertue Lift, Lengthen and Nourish is a mantra we should all try to live by. We’ve been fans of Shona for a long time from taking her classes at the Detox Kitchen to her following her behind the scenes on Instagram, and are so excited to be sharing an exclusive from her book with you.
Introducing weights into my fitness regime changed my shape, my yoga practice, my body composition, my confidence and my headspace – I guess it changed my life.
While there are certainly plenty of incredible bodies out there that train without weights, including gymnasts and dancers who usually only train using their body weight, I believe that lifting weights is a really efficient way to get both the body and the body confidence you want.
I want you to fall in LOVE with training and the empowerment it can liberate from within you. Strengthening your body gives you that Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive kind of spring in your step (if you’re too young for a Bee Gees reference, think Beyoncé-level swag). Being strong physically is a confidence booster like nothing else.
Firstly, before I bust this myth, I actually want to say that I do understand what you mean when you say ‘bulky’. A lot of women don’t like the look of mountainous trapezius muscles sitting atop their shoulders. In addition to this, lots of women don’t want big quadzilla thighs or hulking pecs, because they feel as though those sorts of muscles are associated with a more masculine physique and, ultimately, ‘bulkiness’.
However, I want to assert to you that you can grow the ‘right’ type of muscle to develop your ‘right’ kind of shape. In the Vertue Method I focus on activating your glutes (rather than relying on the quads), working your triceps (rather than your pecs) and maintaining flexibility and awareness of posture to ensure that you develop a shape that resembles a dancer rather than a power lifter (though there are some very athletic, lean and sexy power-lifting women out there who don’t look bulky!).
THINK HEAVY, GET LEAN
A little side note for the women here: nothing peeves me off more than exercise methods that encourage women to lift no heavier than 1.5kg. Not only is it completely impractical – most things that women need to lift on a daily basis weigh more than 1.5kg – but it’s also anti-feminist and kind of demeaning! Put down the pink 1lb (500g) dumbbell and get ready to reap the benefits of picking up a 10kg, cast-iron kettle bell. No, you will not become bulky, you will become femininely bad-ass.
One of the main goals that I have with this book is to debunk the misconceptions there are around growing muscle, and ghost-bust the hell out of the fear women have around lifting heavier things. Bottom line: growing muscle is good. Let’s just be clever about the ones we choose to grow. Form is key.
LENGTHEN – HEALTHY + UNHEALTHY POSTURE
The upper spine has a natural C-shaped curve, but over time the curves within the spine can become exaggerated. While hyperkyphosis can be caused by a deformity that occurs in the womb, it can also come from constant unconscious movement patterns in response to lifestyle habits. Does this posture remind you of how you scroll through Instagram?
Lumbar hyperlordosis is actually quite common. It is a position where the natural curve of the lumbar region of the back is slightly or dramatically accentuated. Often this posture is also associated with ‘flaring ribs’. A flaring rib cage can cause major middle back pain as well as shoulder, neck and headache tension. I also like to call this posture the ‘high-heel, night-out, shake-what-yo-Mumma-gave-you’ posture – it can very often be deemed sexy, but my goodness have I seen it cause a lot of pain (in my body and the bodies of my clients). There are a number of causes, including tight hip flexors, weak lower abs, weak glutes and sometimes just poor postural awareness.
Perfect posture is almost indefinable, because we all have very differently built bodies. However, there are a few cues that can help you to find a healthier stature: Firstly it’s imperative that there is a natural curvature of the spine as well as correct rib cage alignment. Too much extension (Diagram 2) is just as bad too much flexion (Diagram 1) as it inhibits the diaphragm’s ability to contract and relax, ultimately affecting your breathing patterns. This can then result in neck and upper chest breathing, which can place increased stress on the nervous system.
Stand with the back of your head against the corner of a wall. I say the corner here so that if you are blessed with a booty, you can still allow your tailbone to touch the wall. You will do this by enabling the wall to slide in between your butt cheeks – look, it’s not the most elegant description but I assure you it will be helpful for those of you with booty.
Place your feet hip distance apart. Your tailbone and mid thoracic spine (the spine in between the shoulder blades) should be against the wall.
There should be less than 5cm between your neck and lower back against the wall. A larger gap could indicate poor postural habits or structure.
To correct it, try taking a deep exhalation, allowing the rib cage to pull inward as you keep the chin tucked in and head against the wall. At the same time, think about aiming to get your imaginary ‘belt buckle’ towards your breast bone.
To really nourish ourselves I believe we need to feed both our bodies and our minds. The Nourish pillar is divided into two categories: dietary nourishment (for the body) and mental nourishment (via meditation, for the mind). And in fact, when you meditate you support your body and when you eat well you support your mind, so the two things are deeply and intrinsically linked.
Before I tell you how to nourish yourself, as always I want to break down the why and a little of the science. I think that education creates the best motivation; when we understand the reason for doing something we are just way more likely to do it. For me, staying motivated to lift, lengthen, meditate and eat well is because I know how and why it benefits me.
The word nourish is itself derived from the Latin verb nutrire – to nuture.
The truth is, I could write you the most perfect diet in the history of diets, and if you couldn’t follow it, well – it wouldn’t be so perfect would it? Likewise, demanding that you dedicate an hour a day to sitting cross-legged on the floor for meditation practise, when you find it uncomfortable to sit for even one minute in a chair, isn’t going to help you unlock the joy-enhancing powers of meditation – it will just make you dislike mediation and probably make you dislike me too.
The word nourish is itself derived from the Latin verb nutrire – to nuture. So let’s learn to nuture our bodies into health and into an improved life experience.
For more on sports nutrition, click here.