Personal trainer Susan Wallace puts ex-international goal keeper Dai Davies through a Pilates exercises.

The Client

Name: David (Dai) Davies

Age: 61
Occupation: Ex-professional footballer (Everton, Swansea, Wrexham and Wales). Owner of The Llangollen Natural Health Clinic and Pilates Studio (North Wales), Bowen Practitioner, Pilates Instructor, Football Commentator.

UF: You’re a Pilates instructor yourself, why hire someone to train you rather than train yourself or join in a class?

Dai: Classes are fantastic on a number of levels, but ‘1 to 1’ sessions mean the focus is entirely on my body and me. It can be hard to find time for yourself and having Susan (PT) booked in each week ensures I get that time. Even as an instructor it can be difficult to identify areas of my body that require attention and that’s where Susan comes in.

UF: So what have you been working on?

Dai: At 61 and having lead a very active life my initial aim was simply to maintain and possibly improve strength and suppleness so I can enjoy playing with my grandchildren. We are achieving this using Pilates and other strengthening and stretching exercises.

In addition Susan has improved my body awareness and has addressed the muscle imbalances I’ve developed from years of professional football. It’s more than just strengthening and stretching individual areas, Susan has honed in on what my body needs to function effectively and efficiently as a whole.

UF: You’ve been working with Susan for 3-4 months, what have been the main benefits?

Dai: It’s been great. Our sessions have been invaluable and I’ve benefited in many ways. Firstly, we are achieving my aims and I feel stronger and more flexible. By working on muscle imbalances my posture has improved a surprising amount, plus my belt is looser and I’ve dropped a trouser size!The response I’ve had from other people commenting on my weight loss has been surprising, especially as I’ve not even been doing cardiovascular exercise.

The important thing is Susan doesn’t just put me through exercises, she teaches me how to move and how to use my muscles correctly – enhancing the ‘mind-body’ connection.I’ve gained a much better understanding, which has helped my own practice. All of this has ultimately rekindled my commitment to Pilates, my teaching and myself.

UF: What is the most enjoyable part of your training?

Dai: I look forward to seeing Susan as it’s my set ‘day off’ in the week, and I’m a believer in making ‘ you time’. As a therapist, I think it’s extremely important that you ‘treat’ yourself and the training I do with Susan is just like having a treatment. It’s my time to focus on myself. I’m constantly finding things out about my own body and although Susan always has an outline for our sessions, she adapts this depending on how my body is and what it needs at that particular time.

UF: The sessions seem to focus on Pilates, but what is unique about the work Susan does with you?

Dai: Susan has been able to see specific areas requiring attention, but works on my body as a whole. I think her varied experience as a personal trainer, physiotherapist and a tutor for Future Fit allows her to draw on her vast knowledge of the human body, and how it operates.

UF: How does this training differ from the training you did as a professional footballer?

Dai: As a goalkeeper, I trained hard in a team environment and we basically did what we were told. There was never any mention of core strength or stability, or working on balancing muscle groups, so we definitely developed imbalances.

UF: Who would benefit from this type of training?

Dai: Who wouldn’t? I’m 61 and have always had an interest in my health and fitness. However, even with my background I’m still learning how to improve my body. I think that’s important no matter your age. Pilates is nonimpact and would benefit anyone who cannot or would prefer not to take part in impact exercise. It’s also great for someone looking to improve their posture or who would like to have more control and awareness of their body.

The Trainer

Name: Susan Wallace
Occupation: Physiotherapist and Pilates Instructor in North Wales, and a Pilates Tutor with Future Fit Training.

UF: What work have you been doing with Dai?

Susan: I wanted to address Dai’s aims. I looked at his whole body and histoy. Dai had developed a certain posture due to muscle imbalances, probably relating to his goalkeeping days. One of the main issues was a tight/braced thoracic (mid-back) and ribcage, tight chest and lengthened upper back muscles. This resulted in a loss of mobility and imbalance in the movement of his spine.

I’ve focused on strengthening weak muscles and stretching and mobilising tight areas. I addressed Dai’s thoracic/rib immobility with breathing exercises and thoracic extension and rotation exercises. With particular movements I’ve also retrained the involvement of certain muscles.This can be a long process and won’t happen overnight – but it can happen.

UF: Describe 3 exercises you’ve performed with Dai:

1 The ribcage is attached to the thoracic spine so we worked on lateral thoracic breathing to Improve the use of his lungs and ribcage, stretch and strengthen his intercostals muscles and help mobilise his costovertebral joints

2 Using the foam roller along the length of Dai’s spine and , at the various at levels perpendicular to his spine, has helped relax the surrounding muscles and release the facet and costovertebral joints

pilates exercises_

3 The chest opener has many benefits.I used it with Dai to stretch his chest, strengthen the movement.

What’s so special thoracic spine so we worked on about Pilates and how lateral thoracic breathing to you use it?

Susan: I use Pilates combined with knowledge biomechanics (how the body should function) to train and reeducate my clients. Joseph Pilates was a believer in the mind ruling the body and I agree. It’s important to help people understand how to perform a movement – knowing which muscles should and shouldn’t be working improves control, and repetition will create new muscle memory.

I also work the body as a whole – this is based on the theory behind myofascial connections, which suggests that individual areas of the body are ultimately connected and impact on one another.

How has Pilates developed in recent years?

Susan: Traditionally Pilates was popular in dancing, however the benefits are becoming well known in the fitness industry, professional sports and for rehabilitation. For example, the New Zealand Rugby team, England Cricket Team, Tiger Woods are known to be taking the Pilates method on board within their training schedules and with very positive results.

What are the benefits of Pilates?

Susan: In a nutshell Pilates focuses on strengthening and lengthening muscles. Some of the many benefits include:
*improved muscle tone
*flexibility and mobility
*stronger muscles
*improved posture
*body awareness
*injury prevention
*improved sports encouraging segmental performance
*stress relief

Pilates is often used in the prevention and rehabilitation of back pain through strengthening the core muscles (deep abdominals, pelvic floor, lumbar multifidus and internal obliques), which creates intra abdominal pressure, providing strength and protection to the spine. It can also be a safe method of exercise for those with certain medical conditions such as arthritis, MS, and more.

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