Why Oestrogen is your super power

As soon as we think hormones, we think period right? Cue eye rolls and heavy sighs as we are reminded of those dreaded few days us women have to endure every month. But what a lot of women don’t actually consider is that a period, aka menstruation, is only one small part of a great quest your body makes through different phases around every 28-29 days, a little something better known as the menstrual cycle. Your period may be the opening and closing chapters of your cycle but there are actually three other key phases in-between that never seem to get as much attention, those being the follicular phase, ovulation phase and the Luteul phase. 

image – 3

Think of the menstrual cycle as a relay race, where many different hormones are working together to try to fertilise and implant an egg, estragon being one of the main players. Our hormones are molecules produced by the endocrine system that send messages to various parts of our body. They help to regulate processes such as hunger, sexual desire and blood sugar. Though essential, hormones aren’t bound only to the reproductive processes of the body, they are also fundamental to ALL bodily systems right down to how you breathe, sleep, expend energy, even when you eat and drink! So surely, if our hormones are constantly shifting and changing throughout our cycle, it makes zero sense to constantly repeat the same routines week in, week out. You wouldn’t wear a big wooly jumper slap bang in the middle of summer or hit the beach mid winter….so why would you thrash your body with a crazy CrossFit workout when your in your Luteul phase and have considerably less energy due to lower oestrogen and progesterone levels? Is it all that different if you really think about it? 

The truth is we actually have an opportunity to use our hormones, oestragen especially, as a sort of super power. If we are aware of exactly where we are in our cycle, we can better understand what our body needs in terms of nutrition, sleep quality and exercise. A 1995 study actually showed how Oestrogen can skyrocket female muscle and strength building capacity during the follicular phase.1 The study found that women who front-loaded volume in the first two weeks of their cycle (the follicular phase) to then train at a lower frequency for the following two weeks (around the luteul phase) gained an additional 33% to their maximal strength compared to a 13% gain with regular frequency training. 

It’s crazy how much we can gain from working with our body when its at its best and cutting it some slack when it needs a little more down time. Oestragen is at an all time high in the follicular phase and has been the talking point of hundred of pieces of muscle physiology research studies demonstrating anabolic to muscle tissue (muscle building). Oestragen also aids in muscle repair and is anti-catabolic, a property protecting muscle mass in the body from being broken down. It’s worth noting that during Ovulation your testosterone and oestrogen levels are peaking, making it a great opportunity to maximise your potential. This is the time for workouts such as HITT, Cross fit and spin. 

Turns out this genius idea even has its own name, they call it cycle syncing and claims its beneficial for all women to do, but particularly for those who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), are overweight, are overly fatigued, want their libido back or want to conceive. They even advise on how to tailor your food choices to your cycle, suggesting that when you’re menstruating you should avoid or limit fatty foods, alcohol, caffeine, and salty foods and drink soothing tea, like chamomile, to combat cramps. For the follicular phase they suggest incorporating foods that will metabolize estrogen such as sprouted and fermented foods like broccoli sprouts, kimchi, and sauerkraut. When you’re ovulating and oestrogen levels are peaking they suggest eating foods that support your liver. Mainly anti-inflammatory foods like whole fruits, vegetables, and almonds. To aid that Luteul phase they suggest eating foods that will produce serotonin, like leafy greens, quinoa, and buckwheat and pointing your focus towards magnesium-rich foods that fight fatigue and low libido, like dark chocolate, spinach, and pumpkin seeds.2 

As it happens the art of tailoring your lifestyle habits around your cycle has been around for centuries, predating modern medicine. For me, this was a massive wake up call to how much power us women hold to harness our health and maximise our fitness potential. I think the big word here is awareness. The more we learn about our body, the more we learn about our cycle and our hormones, the more power we hold to use our hormones to our advantage. Fuelling the body for its needs and ultimately making us feel unstoppable in the process. Let’s stop being casualties of our own bodies and start embracing our hormones as our superpower. 

Side note: having recently stopped taking the pill and switched to the fertility awareness method, via the natural cycles app,I have felt an enormous sense of empowerment from taking control of my body and my overall health. This article is written from the perspective of someone not on birth control. Birth control prevents ovulation and hormone fluctuations of the menstrual cycle are practically non-existent therefore this method of cycle syncing may not be as applicable. 


1. Reis et al 1995




The low down on nasal breathing 

We ALL breathe ALL THE TIME, roughly 25,000 times per day in fact. Breathing is one of the most basic functions of the human body and whether we are conscious of it or not we are breathing, we’d be quite dead otherwise……so why is the way we breathe so vital to the quality of our overall health and wellbeing? Turns out the difference breathing through your nose, nasal breathing, rather than your mouth, oral breathing, can have an enormous effect on so many aspects of your health from the quality of your sleep, your ability to focus, your fitness levels, the functioning of your immune system, right down to the alignment of your teeth and facial structure, crazy right? 

image. 5

On the other end of the spectrum being a habitual mouth breather can lead to some pretty off putting attributes such as snoring, bad breath, sleep apnea and a wondering mind. Now, if you’re reading this breathing away with your mouth wide open, panicking that you’ve been breathing this way your whole life and have now failed yourself as a human as a result, don’t panic. All is not lost, mouth breathing is something thats actually incredibly simple and easy to shift, along with all the hindrances mouth breathing brings. How do I know? Because I’ve been there. I used to be a habitual mouth breather and I can honestly say since making the switch to nasal breathing both day and night, including during physical exercise, life has never been so bright. 

So let’s dig a little deeper in to why mouth breathing is such a problem and why nasal breathing is where its at…

Since we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, it seems apt to mention that the nose is actually your front line defender of your internal respiratory organs against pathogens and pollution – great news! 

The nose is a miraculous filter lined with tiny hairs called cilia. The cilia have many functions: they filter, humidify and warm or cool the air (depending on the temperature) before it enters the lungs. It is estimated that cilia protect our bodies against about 20 billion particles of foreign matter every day!1 Gwen Laurence 

Knowing the nose is so miraculous it only seems appropriate that we should use it for its primary functionand steer clear of making mouth breathing a habit as it delivers cold, dry, dirty and possibly infected air to the lungs. You wouldn’t drink dirty water, the same applies when it comes to your breathing.  Athletes have a higher risk of inhaled pollutants due to a combo of oral-nasal breathing and increased minute ventilation.2

Nasal Breathing is also known to supercharge your fitness levels, before you’ve even left the couch to concur that 5K, due to increased resistance that allows the body to use inhaled air more efficiently, resulting in a 10-20% greater oxygen uptake in the blood. Patrick McKeown, founder of the Oxygen Advantage explains in more detail; 

Since nose breathing produces more efficient oxygenation, it makes sense that it is preferable to breathe through the nose. Scientists have shown that nasally restricted breathing can be used during training to improve endurance, stamina and performance, especially where economy is a key factor. In 2018, Dr. George Dallam, professor of exercise science, triathlete and coach to some of the world’s top athletes, published a study that examined the potential of nasal breathing in sport. His subjects were ten recreational runners who had raced and trained using only nose breathing for six months in the run-up to the experiment. Most people breathe through their mouths during rigorous exercise, switching to mouth breathing when their breathing volume reaches around 40 liters a minute. This is because mouth breathing creates less resistance, and so it’s easier to take in more air more quickly through the mouth, which is an instinctive response to feelings of air hunger.

In Dallam’s study, participants were tested after six months using only nasal breathing, which meant their bodies had adapted to the practice. Results were taken when subjects breathed only nasally, and only through the mouth. Just like in the study that examined broncho constriction, default mouth breathing was ensured by asking each subject to were a nose clip. The results showed that:

  • Breathing rate was much slower during nasal breathing than oral breathing. When the athletes nose-breathed during running, they took 39.2 breaths per minute, compared with 49.4 breaths per minute in oral breathing
  • The percentage of carbon dioxide in expired air, called end tidal carbon dioxide, was much higher in the nose breathing trial (44.7mmHg compared with 40.2mmHg in mouth breathing)
  • End tidal oxygen pressure was lower when participants nose-breathed. Less oxygen in expired air means that more of the inhaled oxygen is being absorbed into the bloodstream
  • Speed of breathing was 22% lower in when breathing was through the nose2
Picture from the Oxygen Advantage

Asthmatics in particular can benefit from developing the habit of nasal breathing whilst both at rest and during physical exercise. Oral breathing significantly increases bronchospasm whereas nasal breathing protects against any decrease in lung function.3 

It seems counterintuitive, that someone who already struggles to breathe in the first place should add resistance to their breathing, but by breathing through the mouth during physical exercise asthmatics are likely to be adding to their symptoms by breathing in excess of their metabolic requirements and expelling too much carbon dioxide meaning ultimately less oxygen delivery to the working muscles, tissues and cells. 

We all love doing things that we’re good at. As a personal trainer and fitness instructor I see countless cases of people who couldn’t think of anything worse than going to a spin class until, they started to see results. Their fitness levels improved, they had more energy and those jeans they couldn’t button up six months ago finally fit like a glove and all of sudden they became addicted to the bike. Coincidence? I think not. 

Mouth breathing has been largely associated with snoring and sleep apnea due to increased collapsibility of the upper airways. Mark Burhenne, a dentist and sleep researcher in Northern California had been studying the relationship between mouth breathing and sleep. He found mouth breathing to be a massive contributor to periodontal disease and bad breath along with being the no.1 cause of cavities, even more damaging than sugar consumption, bad diet, or poor hygiene. Burhenne recommended his patients tape their mouths shut at night to ensure nasal breathing during sleep. 4

Picture from the Oxygen Advantage

My experience of mouth taping

I know the concept is a little freaky, it seems like some odd new kinky trend, I thought so too at first but I can honestly say taping my mouth shut at night has revolutionised my sleep. For years I used to wake up with a dry mouth in the morning, often have chapped lips and wake up feeling tired. Mouth breathing causes up to a 40% loss of moisture compared to nasal breathing. By putting a postage stamp piece of tape on my mouth at night my morning croak and dry lips have been totally eliminated and I generally wake up feeling well rested, refreshed and energised. I would highly recommend giving mouth taping a try. I’d recommend using myotape for all you first time tapers. (

Nose breathing is nothing new

Inspired by what James Nestor so beautiful writes in his book Breath: The new science of a lost art; Eastern cultures have been celebrating the glories of the nose and its secret powers for millennia, the Western culture however didn’t catch up till around the 19th century, thanks to an explorer and researcher named George Catlin. He spent six years traveling thousands of miles throughout the Great Plains, covering more distance than Lewis and Clark to document the lives of 50 Native American tribes. Despite having no access to doctors or dentists the tribal people had perfectly straight teeth – “as regular as the keys of a piano,” as Catlin described. Sickness, deformities and other chronic health problems appeared to be rare or non-existent. The tribes owed their vigorous health to a medicine they liked to call the “great secret of life”. The secret was in fact, breathing. The Native Americans explained to Catlin that breath inhaled through the mouth sapped the body of strength, deformed the face, and caused stress and disease. On the other hand, breath inhaled through the nose kept the body strong, made the face beautiful, and prevented disease.

I think the last page George Catlin ever wrote of his life long research sums this post up well; 

“And if I were to endeavor to bequeath to posterity the most important Motto which human language can convey, it should be in three words— SHUT-YOUR-MOUTH… Where I would paint and engrave it, in every Nursery, and on every Bedpost in the Universe, its meaning could not be mistaken.”

“And if obeyed,” he continued, “its importance would soon be realized.”4

I’d like to dedicate this post to James Nestor for constantly inspiring me to keep spreading awareness of the importance and power of the breath. 

Love Georgie x



3 and 4.


Short attention span? You’re not alone.

 It’s becoming more and more evident how breath work is needed more than ever considering our ability to focus and engage in one given task is decreasing at a rate of knots. Don’t get me wrong, it’s undeniable that the power of social media has been a driving force for spreading important, groundbreaking messages across the globe, especially when we started to see the rise of platforms like Facebook in 2004 followed by the notorious eruption of instagram in 2010. 

Fast forward to 2020, creative ideas, inspiration and positivity is flooding our screens by the thousands every minute of every day and ,of course, thats only a fraction of it. Everyone has a voice and everyone has something to say so whats not to like? When yesterday’s news is now last minutes news our attention span can start to wear a little thin. A 2015 study by Microsoft revealed how since the rise of the mobile revolution our ability to focus has almost halved. Worse still, a shockingly large number of people today have a shorter attention span than a goldfish.


“The average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish is nine seconds, but according to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the affects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain.”2

“Researchers in Canada surveyed 2,000 participants and studied the brain activity of 112 others using electroencephalograms (EEGs). Microsoft found that since the year 2000 (or about when the mobile revolution began) the average attention span dropped from 12 seconds to eight seconds.”1

Flitting mindlessly from task to task, struggling to focus and fully engage in any particular given thing, never really switching off from an endless stream of notifications, memes and emojis….sound familiar? How could this, all too common, behaviour be effecting our day to day lives and long term progress? By giving SO much time to social media, how much time are we sacrificing from relationships, personal development and generally experiencing the world around us? How can we expect ourselves to really master a new skill or explore the depths of one particular topic when can only focus for eight seconds? The goldfish has a better chance! Though it’s not all bad, the report says our ability to multitask has drastically improved in the mobile age. The study also confirmed the generational divide when it comes to being tech savvy.

The survey also confirmed generational differences for mobile use; for example, 77% of people aged 18 to 24 responded “yes” when asked, “When nothing is occupying my attention, the first thing I do is reach for my phone,” compared with only 10% of those over the age of 65.

Naturally the next question is, what do we do about it? Social media certainly isn’t going anywhere and, I think its worth mentioning that, i’m no saint when it comes to my phone, my screen time is just as dismal as anyones but I do have an awareness of it which is the first step in growing towards a healthier balance. I personally think it’s all about adaptation. How can we bring clarity to the chaos of this ever-growing technological age we find ourselves in? Well, as little as ten minutes of meditation a day is widely known to improve levels of focus and concentration drastically, as stated in a 2010 TIME article;

A recent paper in the journal Psychological Science tries to identify brain functions that are actually enhanced by meditating. The study shows that intensive meditation can help people focus their attention and sustain it — even during the most boring of tasks

They go on to reiterate how little commitment it takes to see real change; 

Past research suggests that meditation doesn’t have to be intensive to have an effect. One recent study by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte found that students were able to improve their performance on tests of cognitive skill after just four days of meditation training for only 20 minutes per day. On one particularly challenging computer test of sustained attention, students who meditated did 10 times better than a control group. They also did significantly better on timed information-processing tasks that were designed to induce deadline stress.3

All is really not lost in regaining our focus and concentration, we simply need to invest a fraction of our day into ourselves and our breathing in order to bring ourselves back to a calm, focused mind. The benefits of meditation truly are endless and I can say from personal experience they tend to have a positive ripple effect on every other element of life. Relationships deepen, the quality tasks you perform sky rockets and situations that once seemed stressful become blissfully insignificant. So why not try logging off for ten minutes a day and putting all your attention on what we were born to do…breathe. 

For free weekly guided breathing sessions join my Facebook group GET SOME AIR.





FLOATING – my experience

‘Floating is scientifically proven to increase our mental and physical wellbeing in as little as an hour. It can leave us feeling more happy and relaxed, with fewer aches and pains, and confident of a better night’s sleep. It can help us gain a better perspective on things, too. We hear day in, day out, from our customers that it’s transformed many aspects of their lives. That’s why we started Floatworks, and that’s why people keep coming back.’ 1Floatworks

I was lucky enough to visit the Floatworks centre, in London, last week to experience the well renowned relaxation technique that is floating.

The Pod

Floatworks was founded in 1993 by Tim Strudwick, the creator of world-leading i-sopod – the pods still used by Floatworks (but of course, the latest models!) When Tim closed his successful London Bridge site to focus on perfecting the i-sopod, good friends Chris Plowman and Ed Hawley had just fallen in love with floating. 

Finding floating a powerful antidote to the strains of modern life, they joined forces to keep London floating, opening Floatworks Vauxhall in 2016. They opened their second centre in Angel in July 2019.2

As I approached the gorgeous setting of Floatworks in Angel, Islington, I felt as nervous as I did curious. I had heard it was revolutionary but the idea of shutting myself in a white tank was a somewhat foreign concept to me, despite the fact I wouldn’t consider myself as someone who was particularly claustrophobic. The Floatworks staff, or ‘float guides’, instantly made me feel at ease and I judged that by the bright, plant filled meditation space, filled with the most gorgeous array of cushions and blankets – Floatworks was going to be right up my alley.

The concept of floating itself is that the water in each pod contains half a tonne of Epsom salt, allowing you to float effortlessly. It matches the temperature of your skin and the air, giving you the feeling of complete weightlessness. It’s usually pitch black and silent in the pod too, unless you wish to have relaxing music, or the light on.3

Angel relaxation room

My soft-spoken float guide guided me to my private room where it was finally time to see the pod and it wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I had once imagined, it looked to me like my personal hot tub and ,at this point, I was itching to get floating.

I was given some straightforward instructions, some tips on how to position myself in the pod for the ultimate relaxation experience, taken through a few simple safety measures and it was time to float! I took a quick shower and climbed in, wearing absolutely nothing ,which in itself was quite liberating! As it was my first time, I decided to use the optional halo for extra neck support, I stepped in, closed the pod, turned out the lights, which you have full control over during the float, and laid back.

The next hour was like nothing I have ever experienced before. In the first few moments of levitating effortlessly in the salt filled pod I found myself thinking… ‘What on earth am I going to do for the next hour?’ and then I realised…. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, that’s the whole point! As I allowed my body to surrender to the feeling of being totally weightless, allowing my mind to clear as I took my attention onto my breath, for the very first time I believe I experienced true relaxation. All muscular tension released, my breathing slowed and I allowed myself to lavish in the beautiful space and silence we seldom experience in the rush of modern day life. In ,what felt like, the space of about fifteen minutes the atmospheric music signified the end of my session – it had been a whole hour!

Post float, I took a hot shower to wash off any excess salt and prepared myself to step back into the big smoke in a lovely little dressing room, providing hair dryers, straighteners and a few other little cosmetics. As I strolled to Highbury and Islington tube station ,and for the rest of the day actually, I felt like I was literally walking on air. That night, I slept like a baby. I would definitely recommend, and will most definitely be returning to float works.

You can find all Floatworks locations and price lists at



Busting the deep breath myth

Could your “deep breath” actually be the thing stressing you out?

Life can be stressful sometimes, especially with all the uncertainty we’ve faced over the last few months during lockdown. Perhaps, the bank balance isn’t looking so healthy, public transport’s causing you grief the one day you had that important meeting or perhaps you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, there’s too many plates to spin and it all just gets a bit much. What ever your battle, we’ve all been there. We’ve all felt that pounding heart beat, the sweats, shakes and have likely blurted out in frustration ‘I can’t think straight!” – sound familiar? Now, its not unusual for a well-meaning by stander to tell you to ‘take a deep breath’ when these heightened moments arise and of course it’s meant with the best of intentions. It’s meant to calm you down. 

The phrase ‘take a deep breath’ is one we all know to be a sound piece of advise, but turns out it actually might not be the most helpful. What if what we’re physically doing when we ‘take a deep breath’ is actually upping our stress rather than dismantling it? How could that be? How could something that’s so widely known to be helpful actually be worsening our symptoms of stress? The explanation is simple. There is a wide spread misconception about what a deep breath actually is. In this blog post I hope to bust the deep breath myth, with clarity and simplicity, and suggest a breathing technique that actually will have the desired calming effect when you are feeling anxious, stressed, overwhelmed, or when the day is just not going in your favour. Please note that none of the research I am about to share is my own, its the work of experts in the field who have been studying this stuff for decades. 

Let’s kick off with the misconception so many people are falling victim to on a daily basis. Most of us make the mistake of assuming that taking a deep breath means taking a big breath usually resulting in inhaling as much air into the lungs as possible and exhaling just as much out with brute force. The idea being that more air equals more oxygen and by upping our oxygen levels we evoke this serene state of calm. Unbeknown to most, this could not be further from the truth. 

The truth is in fact the opposite. The harder we breathe, the less oxygen actually makes it to the tissues and organs. The biggest misconception here is the idea that we need more oxygen at rest, when we’re not engaging in physical exercise. Patrick Mckeown derails this brilliantly in what, in my opinion, is the best book out there about breath. He  says 

“Oxygen saturation (Sp02) is the percentage of oxygen carrying red blood cells (heamaglobin molecules) containing oxygen within the blood. During periods of rest the standard breathing volume for a healthy person is between 4 and 6 litres of air per minute, which results in almost complete oxygen saturation of 95 to 99 percent.”1

Patrick then goes on to explain why 100 per cent oxygen saturation is not always feasible. 

“An oxygen saturation of 100 per cent would suggest that the bond between red blood cells and oxygen molecules is too strong, reducing the blood cells’ ability to deliver oxygen to muscles, organs and tissues. We need the blood to release oxygen, not hold on to it.”2

Say what? 

This can be a tough concept to get your head around, so here’s an example that might be of benefit. The idea of taking bigger breaths to take in more oxygen is akin to telling someone who is already eating enough food to provide their individual daily caloric needs that they need to eat more. 

So, when the stress hits, you take these big deep breaths, in an effort to get more oxygen (which you don’t actually need) but what goes in must come out, in this case if you breathe all that air out too quickly you exhale too much carbon dioxide.

Inna Khazan Ph.D., BCB, summarises this perfectly in phycology today

“Turns out, in order for your organs to get the oxygen they need, you don’t need more oxygen; you need to conserve your carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide—the one typically portrayed as Public Enemy number #1—is actually super important to maintain proper breathing chemistry.” 3

Who knew right? Carbon dioxide is in fact a key component to the distribution of oxygen. Meaning, if you don’t have sufficient quantities of the stuff in your bloodstream, the oxygen circulating in the blood will be released in lesser quantities and your tissues, muscles and organs become deprived of oxygen causing an elevation of all those symptoms associated with stress. Not quite the calming experience you had in mind, right?

So how do really calm ourselves down when the going gets tough? The word deep literally means how far from the top. In terms of breathing, it’s simply referring to the use of our main breathing muscle ,the diaphragm, situated just below the lower ribs. 

1. Imagine a string gently lifting you from the top of your head, see if you can balance the crown of your head over the centre of your pelvis. 

2.Keep the breath slow, light and deep, feel the lateral expansion of the lower ribs on the in-hale and feel them return on the ex-hale. 

3.You shouldn’t be able to hear the breath, if your breathing is audible try to lighten the breath. 

4.Allow all your attention to come away from the stressful situation and on to the breath, notice any sensations within you as you slow down your breathing. 

Continue breathing like this for 4-5 minutes. 

By breathing this way, you are allowing yourself to take in just the right volume  of air whilst conserving your carbon dioxide levels so that the oxygen you are inhaling can actually make it to the tissues and organs. By slowing down the breath and making better use of the diaphragm you are stimulating your vagus nerve and activating your parasympathetic nervous system, bringing you that sense of focused calm that can be quite the life saver when you feel like your losing it. 


1 & 2:

3.& image:

Should we be planning our workout regimes around our menstrual cycle?

Apart from the odd pricey boutique fitness studio, the workout world is still primarily a male dominated arena. An article on the gender gap in gyms suggests the typical ‘male focused’ design of gyms puts women off of getting their sweat on; 

‘Picture weight racks dominated by sweaty dudes while women are corralled near the cardio machines and stretching areas. “I have often been the only woman working out in rooms of 15 to 20 men,” says Chrissy King, a 33-year-old powerlifting coach in Milwakee, “and the conversations in those rooms can be very uncomfortable, involving a lot of misogynistic, homophobic language.”

Personally, I tend to stick to the more female occupied boutique studios, as an instructor and participant because, unsurprisingly, I too have felt the discomfort of wondering eyes, wolf whistles and whispers in what’s supposed to be a general workout space. After a quick google search it appears most workout programmes dominating the nations gyms are designed by men too, i.e Les Milles, Insanity, Boxercise etc. despite females needs differing from mens when it comes to physical exercise. 

PC: Tracey Lea Model: Georgie Lawlor. Cykl Haus instructor. Personal Trainer.
psssst…the weights room isn’t reserved just for men.

A 2006 study (Slatkovska.2006) found that our sensitivity to CO2 levels can increase significantly when in the Luteul phase of our menstrual cycle resulting in hyperventilation which, in turn, can lead to a significant dip in sports performance. The luteul phase can last about 14 days (unless fertilization occurs) and typically ends just before a menstrual period. During the study, 17 physically active, non-smoking, eumenorrheic women (meaning they had regular menstrual cycles) aged 20-35 were tested during two different phases of the menstrual cycle, the Folliculer phase (1-6 days) and the Luteul phase (20-24 days), for their sensitivity to CO2. The study stated that;’The transition from the stages is characterised by increased minute ventilation and reduced arterial PACO2 in the resting state’ they concluded that ‘phasic menstrual cycle changes in resting minute ventilation and PACO2 may be due to the stimulatory effects of progesterone’ 2

Progesterone is known as a respiratory stimulant. Meaning, as progesterone levels rise, breathing gets faster and harder and as a result CO2 levels drop. Breathing is then less efficient and consequently less oxygen gets delivered to the tissues during rest causing a quicker onset of breathlessness and fatigue when exercising. 

Those who suffer from PMS seem to really get the short end of the straw in this sense. Another 2006 study, from the medical university of Innsbruck, Austria, found that;

‘Symptoms of the chronic hyperventilation syndrome are remarkably similar to the symptoms observed in some women with PMS.’3 

A comparative graph from the 2006 research paper: Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome may be caused by hyperventilation. 

(pay particular attention to the bottom half of the graph, the dotted line shows the drop in CO2 of those with PMS, the shaded area shows the drop in CO2 of normal healthy women as a comparison.)

Chronic hyperventilation is linked with feelings of anxiety, tenseness and a racing heartbeat which could well contribute to a lack of motivation when it comes to sticking to that new workout regime. However, if our bodies naturally occurring changes throughout our menstrual cycle have such an impact on our athletic performance, should we not be tailoring our workouts to meet our fluctuating needs? Especially during the LP when progesterone is at its height. It’s food for thought whether a few days rest could actually bring a lot more benefit over thrashing an already struggling body with a hard core workout. 

An even more recent study in 2012, from the Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway, revealed that those suffering with respiratory problems, such as asthma, could also experience an elevation in symptoms during the Luteal Phase of their cycle. Reporting that; Wheezing symptoms were most severe on cycles day 10 to 22’.4

Upon reading this research I began to ponder the possibility that these unexplained decreases in progression could be the prime confidence knocker when it comes to our fitness. Self criticism and perfectionist tendencies are all too common among the modern western world, especially with the epically disproportionate ideals we see on social media on a daily basis. Could a dip in our PB scores, leading to potential self deprecation – a total motivation killer, simply be put down to something as basic and naturally occurring as our monthly cycles? More importantly, is it possible that just by being aware of our bodies own rhythms, patterns and shifts, and the imbalances we experience with them, could we perhaps be a little kinder to ourselves in our approach to fitness?

The moral here being ladies… next time you’re a little frustrated by your progress slipping by the wayside, don’t sweat it! Its just a phase and it will pass. Put your feet up, run a bath and enjoy some well deserved, guilt free down time. 



2.Phasic Menstrual Cycle Effects on th…ka. 2006.pdf

3.Symptoms of premenstrual syndrom…tt. 2006.pdf


Optimal breath = Optimal movement, could Pilates be the key?

Today, I spoke to Caroline Hunt, the founder of Principal Pilates. Caroline is a Pilates Instructor (Modern Pilates CYQ Level 3) based in South Oxfordshire  (Didcot, East Hagbourne and Milton).1

Caroline Hunt – Principal Pilates

Sat in Caroline’s gorgeous cottage on a rainy day in the countryside village of East Hagbourne, in Oxfordshire, with a steaming cup of peppermint tea, I started to pick her brains about the benefits of a regular pilates practise and, in her point of view, the importance of breath in functional movement.

Whenever I hear the term ‘functional movement’ ,a buzz word regularly thrown around in the health and fitness sector with no concrete agreement on its exact definition, in terms of exercise my mind always drifts towards slower practises like pilates and yoga, but I still don’t think I fully understood the term or why pilates is considered the ideal method for functional training for life.2                         

As it stands functional movement is generally associated with movements deemed ‘natural’. Others hold the view that a functional exercise is one that teaches or reinforces a movement pattern that is useful, and health enhancing, beyond the execution of that particular exercise.3 Joesph pilates created his system of exercises from a want to create an ‘every(wo)man system’ – one that would offer general physical fitness to everyone and anyone. An article from pilates in motion suggests that ‘the skills, strength and mobility that we have to develop to perform these exercises are highly transferable to not just daily life but sports as well.’ and emphasises the ‘fun’ element in functional movement that surely deserves a mention. Stating that compared to the monotony of bicep curl repetitions, ‘enjoying the freedom of rolling through your spine, or the whole body strength and control of so many pilates exercises feels marvellous.”4

In terms of breath, I don’t think we give nearly enough attention towards how connected breath is to the way we move, both in and out of our workout regimes and just how vital a role the diaphragm, our main breathing muscle, plays when it comes to functional movement. If breathing isn’t optimal, movement isn’t optimal. It didn’t come as a surprise then to hear that Caroline’s first port of call with clients is gaining an understanding of how easy it is to take a full breath and to acknowledge any points of tension. ‘I asses a client’s breathing pattern first. Then work with them to find a fuller, more optimal pattern of breath that will also help create a shift to their parasympathetic nervous system. Movement comes next’  Caroline explained how not only did this help her clients heighten their body/breath awareness when being asked to look inwards, it also brought a shift in mindset, a certain readiness that allowed them to relax and engage fully in the practise, reaping all the more benefits as a result.  

A key component to pilates is stabilising and aligning muscles and joints to avoid wear and tear and reduce risk of injury.5Caroline explained how breath is stability “if you are optimally aligned and breathe well (which go hand in hand) then you have a deep system that functions well and works as an anchor for everything around it – eg working out in a gym to define superficial muscles.”; Superficial being the key word here as thats referring to all those ‘body beautiful muscles’ i.e the six pack. Caroline uses Julie Weibe’s image of a calm bell when referring to ideal neutral alignment (meaning your ribs are living on top the pelvis allowing your diaphragm and pelvic floor structure to maintain a relative relationship)6. The problem is the stresses of modern day life leaves the majority of us living out of alignment, whether that’s hunching over a computer for hours at a time or binge watching Netflix for a whole weekend. Weibe describes misalignment as your bell ringing up or down. When we stick our chests out and force our shoulders back military style, the bell rings up (causing lordosis of the spine), when our shoulders round forward and our chest caves in, our bell tilts down (causing kyphosis of the spine). 

Change in alignment changes the way we breathe and it can optimise or restrict our lives in so many more ways than we might think; from improved digestion to increased energy levels, even to an increase in lung capacity, whats not to like! Its crazy to think that we breathe around 20,000 gulps of air per day and depending on our alignment we can either use them to our advantage or lose them. A note to all those gym bunnies racing to their local workout hub post lockdown; if you’re thrashing muscles on a daily basis with nothing underneath it, you are building on a weak foundation, that foundation being optimal alignment which equates to optimal breathing, you could be doing your body more harm than good. It may be worth swapping the HITT classes for a few pilates sessions to save yourself the strain. 

After endless chatter of the enormity of benefits that optimal functional movement can bring I asked Caroline whether young gym bods would be better off turning their attention to function over aesthetics. “Yes, I think we need a shift out of gyms and more focus on bodies that function well rather than just chasing an aesthetic. We could start to look outside of our bodies more, try to leave the aesthetics and the limited diet of exercise behind, and start to become movers instead.” I was inspired to hear Caroline speak of using movement for a higher purpose, cultivating a curiosity for who and what you could connect with on say, a long walk or a fundraising drive. It made me wonder if we stepped out of the gym doors and into the world using movement to contribute to something bigger than ourselves, what kind of world could we be living in? 

Caroline offers small class sizes (maximum of 12 per class), modified Pilates exercises tailored specifically to you, online termly exercise programmes as well as both in person and online 121s. After ,both me and my mum, doing her summer pilates series I couldn’t recommend her enough. You can find her at




3. Pilates for Functional Training? | PureFIT Studios



Can breath work really make you smarter? Or does mouth breathing make you stupid?

Now, stupid is a bit harsh but it’s not my wording, a new study is genuinely suggesting that mouth breathing can decrease the development of brain cells and make people generally a bit slower in terms of focus and attention.

Pictured in the NYT Article

A New York Times article relating to the benefits of nasal breathing reported that “a new study suggests there may be a legitimate basis for ‘mouth breather’ being slang for stupid. Japanese researchers obstructed the nostrils of young rats, forcing them to breathe through their mouths, and two weeks later found that the rodents needed twice as long to navigate a maze and had developed fewer brain cells than their underestimated counterparts.”

In the same article Nicholas Michalak, chief executive at Somnifix, a company that sells adhesive strips for people who want to tape their mouths shut at night to enforce nose breathing. Says “there are very few things that people can do better to improve their health than simply switching to nasal breathing.” who also tapes up his mouth every night to encourage nasal breathing during sleep.1

When advising the public to make the switch to breathing through the noggin (that’s your nose by the way) the article advises that ‘You’ll notice that you’re working harder; the nasal route adds at least 50 percent more resistance to airflow, which turns out to be beneficial for your lungs, heart and even the biochemistry of your brain’

Perhaps the researchers aren’t making such a bizarre claim as it would first appear. Countless studies and researchers have proved mouth breathing will more often than not lead to over breathing alongside a host of other issues. Patrick Mckeown, one of the worlds leading breath re-education experts confirms; “Over-breathing means regularly breathing a greater amount of air than the body requires, and is characterised by breathing through the mouth, regular sighing, and upper chest breathing. The long-term effects of over-breathing may lead to organ damage, resulting in the development of illness, respiratory problems, heart disease, high blood pressure and other health issues.”2 We need both oxygen and carbon dioxide to deliver oxygen effectively to the tissues, getting rid of too much carbon dioxide by over breathing is much less advantageous. The harder we breathe the less oxygen is delivered to the muscles and organs, including the brain.

So how do we stop killing our own brain cells? The answer is so simple it will blow your mind! (pun intended) I had never thought to connect breathing and the brain before geeking out on all the research, but turns out breathing actually does play a big role in enhancing cognitive function and increasing brain activity but only when performed through the nose!

A brilliant summary, by the breathing diabetic, of a 2016 study on how nasal breathing effects cognitive function states that ‘taken together, the iEEG measurements and cognitive tasks suggest that nasal breathing promotes coherent brainwave oscillations in the piriform cortex, amygdala and hippocampus. This coherence leads to improved cognitive function, especially during nasal inhalation.’ A direct quote from the researchers revealed that, ‘We also found that the route of breathing was critical to these effects, such that cognitive performance significantly declined during oral breathing.’3

(The Amygdala and Hippocampus form parts of the limbic system and are associated with emotions)

The Piriform cortex relates to our sense of smell.

So there you have it! If getting better sleep wasn’t a good enough offer for you to make the switch to nasal breathing, could you be tempted by a higher functioning brain? Smart is the new sexy after all.


Noriko Tsubamoto-Sano et al., “Influences of Mouth Breathing on Memory and Learning Ability in Growing Rats,” Journal of Oral Science 61, no. 1 (2019): 119–24; Masahiro Sano et al.

1“How to Be a Nose Breather,” The New York Times Magazine, Apr. 23, 2019