Thursday 1 August 2019

Holiday movement practice.

We holiday for lots of reasons. A break from work, a change of scene, a change of pace, a chance to discover, to explore. We holiday for our mental and physical health. Holidays are often a reward for all the work and stress of modern life.

Holiday movement can often involve a lot eating, drinking and lazing. Movement wise that only involves bending at the elbow and rolling over. Some will use a holiday to do a massive amount of a single activity, e.g. cycle , ski, climb. In such cases holidays can be a time of self abuse rather than self nurturing . People go home needing to detox, sleep, hydrate exercise or call their massage therapist!

How does this help?

I need to recuperate and I take my holidays seriously. They are a recovery time where I can re-balance my energy and my body.  Some use holidays as a time to indulge 
themselves and I do that, but not by over-eating, over-
drinking or over-strenuous physical challenges. Such things do not nurture a person, they are distractions. 

I find I like to indulge myself in healthy movement, explore delicious nutrition, I find time to be in nature, to earth myself and to be present. Finding time to stretch and breathe every day is a bigger reward than you can find in any bottle or sugar laden treat or large plate. Because you feel better afterwards not worse. 

Bodies talk, learn to listen to yours. Do not be distracted by what you think you want. Your body will let you know what makes it feel good and what destroys its energy.

A morning stretch or yoga practice is always a good start.

Be active, challenge yourself with new activities but recuperate too. That means stretching out and encouraging good circulation and a full range of motion. Book a massage or a hot spa.

I am not preaching. I have done the overindulgence. I am inviting you to learn from my experience.
Come back from your hols feeling good. Not in need of a detox and some serious gym time. 

Enjoy your body, love moving!

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Injury or Adaptation post 2

In the last post I talked about how our daily lives - whether it be sitting in front of a monitor, welding, or bending over young children -involve a lot of repetitive action. The body adapts to this repetitive action by adding support for those often repeated moves. Our bodies intelligently strengthen the most used muscle systems and lay extra tissue where there is most stress.

Similarly if  we train for a sport our bodies adapt by adding strength where we require it. This highly intelligent adaptation allows us to train, become stronger, more efficient and highly skilled, but it has a couple of drawbacks.

The first issue is explained in the last blog. If we do not balance this adaptation process, things can go wrong.

The second is how this intelligent adaptation can inhibit us returning to full functionality after an injury.

Consider every movement that we perform as a set of neurological instructions. Imagine those instructions forming pathways in the nervous system. The paths we used most often become big open highways, well developed and easy to find. Newer movements are tiny little broken tracks until we perform them repeatedly and thus create bigger paths, which is in fact a movement skill. The more random movement we perform, the more track we lay, the more roads we build and the better we become at movement. This is movement intelligence.

So to illustrate how this goes wrong, a simple example would be:-

Seeley damages her right ankle. She has a plaster over the ankle and she has to hobble on her left leg and foot for some weeks. Seeley's left leg, ankle and foot become stronger, they adapt. She has effectively trained her left leg to work more. In time, Seeley becomes adept at hopping and hobbling, although her back may hurt initially from the uneven and unaccostomed strain. Once the plaster is removed the ankle is still painful. This is no big problem as Seeley has a strong left leg, it takes the strain when she climbs the stairs and lifts things. As time goes on Seeley's ankle becomes fully healed but by then Seeley is so accostomed to overusing the left side that she is still stepping from the left, lifting from the left and generally prefering that side. The right is weak and she has lost confidence in it.

Seeley' brain has made new nerurological paths, it has found new routes to make movement occur and as that has been happening a while those new routes have become dominant. They are her brain's preferred pathway.

The problem is that the added strain is now taking it's toll on her left side - the power in this side, now so much more than the other, is literally pulling her out of shape, stressing muscle and joint systems.
Seeley has recovered but she is in pain!

To bring dynamic balance back into her body, Seeley will have to mindfully work the weak side. She will have to force it to be the lead leg with focussed awareness and breathe until it becomes as strong as the now powerful left side.

Monday 3 June 2019

Injury or Adaptation? Post1.

One of the reasons that we are so successful as a species is our ability to adapt: to environment, to circumstance and to the demands made on our bodies.

A simple example is starting a new job or activity that requires heavy lifting. This will result in some body discomfort for a short while but soon the body strengthens the most often used muscles. The body will add extra fascia on any structures that need strengthened. The body adapts.

I noticed another example at the massage course I have been running recently. The course is uncertified, but designed to give people a feel for how fascia systems work in the body. I teach them to look/feel for adaptations that are so powerful they pull the body out of shape. We then learn how to manually correct that tension.

The students always remark on how demanding the hands-on treatment is. Many are themselves in good physical shape, strong athletes who can run far and fast, they can be fitness instructors yet they find an hour of massage demanding to perform.

They have trained their bodies for their own chosen skill and it has adapted. They are often dismayed that they don't have the same strength that I have and wonder at my stamina. I too am well adapted for my activity, I would not be so strong at theirs!

When we move, exercise and train our bodies, we are encouraging them to adapt to the demands we put upon them. The human body adapts very well. This allows us to develop skills and strengths.

As I see it there are 2 problems with adaptation.

The first is if that adaptation/training is not balanced. Then the strong structure will pull others out of place and strain the opposing structure.

An easy visual analogy for this would be an old fashioned tent. Imagine the guy ropes on one side being a thick strong rope elastic and the other side being little elastic bands. Clearly the elastic bands will be under tension, they would be the painful muscles, they would be the muscles that tear.

The second adaptation is about how we adapt to injury and fail to unadapt. More about this in the next Blog.

It is important to mindfully work towards a healthy balanced body. If you spend your working day at a terminal, shortening the front line of your body, make sure you do not choose only to train in a way that encourages this front line tension. Things like cycling and boxing will encourage front line tension. That is not to say they are bad activities. Like all they have merits but be aware of  their impact on your body and that you need to put some effort into balancing this if you are to be wothout injury. 8 hours in front of a terminal and an hour of these activities will cause a lot of adaptation that cannot be counteracted with a 3 minute stretch.! Try yoga, dance, acro, learn to handstand, climbing - anything that opens up the front of your body.

My advice always is to choose an activity that undoes the negative impacts of your most trained activity (remember that sometimes a sport involves repetitive activity). Once your body is balanced, you can do what you like.

Enjoy living in it!

Monday 19 November 2018

Body Mindfulness and how to avoid injury

I listened to a fab podcast by Kit Laughlin as he discussed steps to injury recovery.

It is always affirming to hear a respected professional telling the same stories that you preach to your own clients.

He discussed the steps to recovery, with an eminent break-dancer (whose name I have forgotten but his luxurious beard lives in my memory) which I will highlight in the next blog.

However what struck me was how they discussed the path to complete recovery and the acceptance of pain. I think of this as body mindfulness - it needs to be taught to athletes who want any longevity to their career, and to coaches who need their bodies to remain on form in order to teach and practice.

has become a bit of a mantra of mine. 

Being present in your body, feeling where there is tension, breathing into that spot, consciously relaxing the structures you are not using and moving mindfully into stretches, lifts and movement should be the norm. If you spend time in a gym you will hear grunting and swearing you will even hear some coaches encouraging their clients to work through the pain and give more. More what? and for what?  This causes stress and tension, and tension is the precurser to strain which comes before damage and injury.

Practices like yoga and tai chi have been preaching this for years, but often for the practitioner the emphasis is on the form of the movement rather than the feel of the movement. This is necessary for performance but for the rest of us, awereness of how movement feels is where all the pleasure lies.

Exercise without experiencing the feel, leaves us tired and often strung out on endorphins, it gathers rather than dissipates stress. It leaves us exhausted, and in need of rest to recover and relax. Exercise done mindfully is relaxing itself, it is meditation for the body and it feels good.

Once you learn how to listen you will know when to challenge yourself, you will know when to hold back, you will know when to test your limits and when to nurture and rest.

I would encourage practitioners and coaches to find you new cues. Cues that help your clients to experience the joy of movement, help them celebrate the abilities of their body and relax into themselves.

Cues, that include words like:

  • experience
  • feel
  • open
  • release
  • let go
  • be aware
  • let the weight move through you
  • adjust into balance
  • breathe out the tension
....make up your own!

Monday 25 June 2018

Coaches & Therapists - Learning through Shared Experiences

Within my therapy practise, I sometimes see a series of individuals from the same sport or activity with the same or very similar ailments. I thought it was important to figure out why, after all, understanding the cause is more effective than constantly treating the injury.

However, communicating that information to coaches or instructors is often a challenge. Coaches can be very sensitive to what they perceive as criticism and can sometimes get very defensive. This is understandable as they are doing their best with what they have been taught, what they have researched and for what they need to achieve.

Shared Information

We learn best through personal experience, but there is always opportunity to learn through others’ experiences too. Shared information can be very beneficial.

If health professionals feedback their findings to coaches, the coaches can act on it. If coaches feedback their observations to health professional then that health professional can adjust their treatment accordingly.

It sounds like a simple and effective plan for improvement but it can be surprisingly difficult to put into practice.

The Gymnasts

In a short time span, I treated a series of young female gymnasts with similar knee injuries. They all came from the same club or training facility. I began to ask myself. Is this is something associated with their training practice? Do I approach the coaches? 

The Ruggers

Another time, I treated several young men from the same rugby club. Their ailments were not similar but a lot of their best players were spending too much time on the bench due to injury.  At first, the coaches were defensive that their training regimes were being questioned or criticised, but they were keen to understand this and open to discussion. Eventually, we did come to some conclusions and the injury rate plummeted.


I get to treat some of Edinburgh’s finest Parkour athletes. The movements involved in this activity are very natural, a changing variety of powerful and flowing motions.  Nonetheless, training will involve repetitive movements to improve skill and strength like all other practices. I treated a handful of women with the same right shoulder issue. Troubleshooting the problem with them and investigating training practice we concluded that the problem probably arose from wall climbs. Fortunately, I already have a strong relationship with the coaches and practitioners and feeding back is a little less sensitive.

What did the parkour coaches say?

The coaches were absolutely aware of the need to work on both sides of the body equally and believed that they did. But their students in the early stages did not have the upper body strength to pull themselves with effort through both arms.

Thanks to Donald Dalziel Media for the photo

So they all pushed up through the left foot and relied on the stronger right arm to get to the top of the wall. Their left arm couldn’t do the movement and so they could only practice on one side. Preferring one side and practicing so relentlessly is likely to have created an imbalance. Even though these athletes are now strong enough to lift and pull through equally on both sides the likelihood is that they still habitually pull harder through the right side, especially as they tired.

The Feedback Loop

If we want to progress and improve, coaches and therapists need to set up a dialogue, be prepared to take on new information, evaluate it, and change practice where required.

A feedback loop is required for best practice. Coaches who receive information from therapists about the physical health of their athlete or client need to use that information to alter their programme and potentially make changes their wider practice. Coaches can also feed information back about the imbalances that they encounter in their practice and engage the help of therapists for best results.



Sunday 31 December 2017

New Year Resolutions

As the New Year hits us and we start to feel heavy and grim after the holiday indulgences, many people will be making resolutions.

Getting fit and eating healthier are usually top of the list. Many people will be grinding food into smoothies and taking out gym memberships full of good positive intentions.

 Whoop!whoop! A good start, positive steps are good.πŸ˜πŸ‘πŸΎ

Most often after a few weeks down the line we are off course skipping the gym and munching cheese and chocolate before bed and feeling bad about ourself. Nothing positive in that.πŸ˜ŸπŸ‘ŽπŸΎ

So here are a few tips.

  1. Don’t be afraid. 😬When you take up a new event . No one is looking at you or judging. Everyone else is just as self obsessed and self absorbed as you are. Even if they do notice your efforts, the size of your bum or whatever.  Smart people will applaud you and no one cares what the stupid people think.
  2. Do not rely on others. 🧐You don’t need a mate to go to a class or a studio or for a workout in the park. The place is full of potential new mates who have already made the decision to be there.
  3. If you don’t like the gym don’t go.πŸ€ͺ Don’t punish yourself trying to do some thing that doesn’t give you pleasure.  If you enjoy team games find a local team and join in. If you like to dance do that. If you are more solitary you can climb or run or walk a dog.( there is a website called borrow my doggy that helps if you don’t have a canine of your own.) If you like to be different then do something different. I am involved with an adult parkour class it’s great fun and there is an aerial  class on at the same time that has lots of laughter. The world is full of weird activities. You don’t need skills, you don’t need special gear and you don’t need an age range or particularl body shape. Our class has 16 to 70 year olds and we applaud them all.πŸ‘πŸΌ
  4. Be honest.πŸ˜‡ How much time can you afford to give this without getting to the point where you have to miss out due to other commitments? If you have one hour a week do that and enjoy it. You will be happy that you have achieved your goal. If you have 5 minutes a day then do a 5 minute good body workout.  (I’ll be blogging about some excellent start up moves throughout 2018, that are just a few minutes a day and make a huge difference.) If you promise to hit the gym every morning at 6 and you hate getting out of bed then don’t! You are going to feel terrible if and when you fail. Instead run up the stairs daily and go climbing at the weekend. And enjoy it.
  5. Don’t dump on others. πŸ€¨If your new health regime takes away from family time, you may piss off a partner or kids. So find a family thing to do. Hillwalking, swimming, frisbee. I work from a gym  and parents sit and drink coffee while their kids are at judo lessons. There is a rowing machine right there! Access Parkour has family classes in Edinburgh you can get fitter whilst playing with your children as they too develop movement skills, win, win!
  6. Get the order right.  πŸ‘‰πŸ½ If you want to give up eating the bad stuff first learn how to prepare the good stuff. You need a replacement because you can’t stop eating. Learn how to prepare healthy food quickly. E.g.  Roast veg. It is easy to put chunks of veg into oil and seasoning and put them into a hot oven. Some cook faster than others, you’ll soon learn to cut the slow cookers into smaller chunks. Eat them straight from the roasting tin with sauce or meat. Make some into a salad with fresh leaves nuts and fruit for lunch and the rest are for soup. 3 great meals from one pan. There are so many simple healthy options! You can learn to prepare one a week or one a month. Substitute these for your poorer choices
  7. One change at a time. πŸ€—We are creatures of habit. It will be uncomfortable to try to make many changes. We crave the comfort of the familiar. In fact the body will demand the familiar. So make one change and once adapted choose another. Better that you manage just one positive change than failing many.
  8. Substitution. πŸ€œπŸ½If you eat chocolate every day at 4pm your body is going to demand it every day at 4. If you offer a couple of satsumas instead you will soon find that your body is  craving satsumas at 4pm. Once you have cracked that bad habit move on to the next substitution. 
  9. Employ tricks. πŸ€« eg If you want to reduce your alcohol intake, try a glass of water before the first glass of wine.  You are less likely to guzzle it if you are not thirsty.  Drink a pint of water before and then between every pint of beer. It will slow your intake and do your body some good. When you fancy a late night snack have a nice shower or a bath and go to bed, you may well be craving calories because you are tired.
  10. Don’t buy it.πŸ˜‰ Don’t buy stuff you don’t want to consume. Because you will consume it and then you’ll feel bad.
 I could go on. I hope this has given you some ideas. Success and achievement are wonderful motivators. So keep it simple and attainable and have a successful and healthy 2018.

Sunday 17 December 2017

What shape are you in?

I have a problem with this expression. It is judjemental but not just that one person judges another, we use it to judge ourselves. The best athletes I know are; tall, short, squat, wide, skinny, rangey, petite, fat, thin and scrawny and broad. The best human beings, the happiest people, the kindest people, are also tall, short, squat, wide, skinny, rangey, petite, fat, thin and scrawny and broad.

Fit isn't a shape. It is a description of capability. It isn't necesarily healthy. You can be fit to play football, fit to climb a mountain or fit for a game of scrabble or fit for bed. Being fit for one element is not fit for another as different body and mind preparations are required.

A pair of jeans may fit your body but not your image.
A car might fit your lifestyle, or image but not your budget. It is about compatability it is not about shape.

A fit body does not have a specific shape. We train to make our bodies to be compatable with what we  wish it to accomplish. This will result in different functional shapes that depend on many factors.

A fit body is compatible with the demands of your life. Some of these demands can be extreme.  You may wish to lift heavy weights, you may wish to cycle very long distances. These events will put a strain on your body that pulls it out of healthy balanced state and causes pain. That is not healthy but it is still fit for a particular purpose.

A healthy body will be able to cope with all normal human tasks and range of motion without breakdown and it will be without pain or disease. It will be a good place to enjoy life and it doesn't have a particular shape.

I like to tell my clients that in any society there had to be a guy who chased the deer and another to carry it home. There was one who climbed the cliffs and one who roamed for hours collecting fruits and herbs. All are valuable but they all have to be in their own particular shape.