Saturday, 31 December 2016

New Year, New You - Dealing with Resolutions

New Year approaches and everyone will soon be thinking of their resolutions. Often this involves 'getting in shape' - I have some advice:

Be realistic.

If you haven't managed regular exercise for the last year due to time constraint, do not promise yourself to get to the gym every day. If you have one hour a week to spare then do 2 half hour sessions, do them well and enjoy them. You'll feel good about keeping it up, you will get results and you will be able to maintain the commitment - success all round. Promising to do too much ultimately leads to underachievement and a sense of failure, you'll give up and it is a negative experience.

Choose something fun.

If you are not a gym bob, do not punish yourself by choosing to go there. If you don't enjoy jogging then don't! There are a lot of exercise and healthy movement options. There are lots of classes available in martial arts, dance, parkour. All of which offer a good quick overall workout. If you want try something different - how about circus skills? Why not learn to handstand or juggle? You can get a super workout doing an aerial class. There are local walking groups and social running groups or if you don't fancy that you can just take yourself up a nearby hill, learn to climb. Perhaps borrow a dog once week (check out and get to the woods or a park. If you stick to what you enjoy, you are more likely to stick it out!

Variety is best.

The body likes a challenge. It very quickly adapts and becomes efficient at any one activity. Therefore to maximise the benefit choose a variety of different skills or something that has many movement skills involved. Here, I am again thinking of dance and parkour and martial arts, circus performance, climbing rather than something like cycling or swimming. Having said that, refer back to the last instruction - if you enjoy cycling or playing football, and new things make you uncomfortable - stick to what you like to ensure you keep it up.

Don't do it all in January.

if you plan to make lifestyle changes get the hang of one before you start another. So if you intend to give up coca cola and reduce alcohol intake you might find yourself in a bit of a social pickle. So reduce the alcohol while experimenting with other drink options. Give up the coke when you have found a healthier substitute that you enjoy. Be patient with yourself without procrastinating and enjoy experimenting with new healthier food and drink options.

Give up giving up

If you take something out of your life that you have enjoyed then you will feel a loss. This makes it hard, so ensure that you have a list of of other treats instead. For example if your vices are crisps and chocolate and you wish to stop or meaningfully reduce your intake. Then actually put the cash you would normally spend on these items into a clear jar, watch it mount up and use that money for another treat. A handbag, a meal out at the weekend, a haircut at the expensive place that you've never afforded before. Give yourself a reward for your efforts. Everyone loves to have their efforts recognised and rewarded, even by themselves.

A little of what you fancy does you good!

A wise lady once told me,' Everything in moderation, including moderation'. Do allow yourself a little treat. One lovely chocolate or a bag of salt 'n vinegar as a Friday treat. If you've had a hard day or an exhausting week, if you've accomplished something or if you've been very good at keeping to your resolutions, then give yourself a reward (ie book a massage treatment -

Below is a list of local groups that I know well and recommend. There are of course lots more to choose from:

Monday, 14 November 2016

The knee is the Fall Guy

People will often first notice discomfort in their knees whilst walking downhill. Or they notice a terrible jarring as they step down or jump from a ledge.  They may notice pain whilst twisting to get out of the car or feel that odd inside the knee side pain when you turn or stand up.

For the most part knees are great. They are fabulous! They offer a lifetime guarantee if used correctly. However when misused, abused or overloaded your guarantee is lost and your way to the surgeon’s table is found.

But! We don’t use knees correctly! We abuse them in 2 very common ways

1 Function./Range
The knee is designed to go through almost 180 degrees of motion from fully flexed- knee bent all the way closed to knee extended- leg straight. This can viewed as a simple hinge movement. (In reality it is a lot more clever)

2. Strength/Power
The knee should be able to easily propel at least our full bodyweight through this range of motion. If the leg is kept flexible and powerful enough for the knee to perform within these parameters it behaves well.

But 1!
The biggest range of motion we put out knees through is chair to upright, this represents about half of its functional ability, Furthermore, we often take the weight from our legs by using our arms to help push up.  (armchairs are bad for legs!)  Even that good old gym favourite, the squat doesn’t go through a full enough range of motion. (The squat  has to be performed to perfection one can easily overuse the hamstring and gluteals- i.e the back of the legs and the bum- and go easy on the quads allowing the muscles that control knee extension to remain weak.)We let the system  get weak.

But 2!
We all get overtight hips from sitting too long and performing repetitive movements (most sports involve a lot of repetitive movement). This means that the hips can’t/don’t rotate and the knee may take up some of the rotation… ouch!

Abused and neglected knees fail.

It is not necessary to spend hours in the gym sweating it out on a torture rack trying to solve this problem. You can put your knees through a full range of motion doing regular daily activities.
I work out while I tidy and do laundry and even going to the loo!

e.g/Don’t bend in front of the washing machine.

Squat and distribute your weight across your whole foot. Your knees will be slightly wider than your feet.

Straighten your back push the knees forward and out over your feet,balance there as you work.

You have to come up from this knee forward position.
This will ensure that those big muscles in the front of your leg are really working

To come up  straighten your back and come straight up.
Feel your feet pushing into the ground as you push the ground away.

Similarly when putting things into low cupboards, sitting up from a chair or from the toilet-something we all do everyday! - Don’t use your arms, instead. Straighten the back push the knees out over your feet, push into the ground, come straight up and pull your hips forward under your shoulders.
 If you are weak you will want to come up bum first then pull your upper body over your hips.

Try to come up from the floor with a straight back forcing the legs to work. The muscles are in there you just need to keep them capable.
It's like that old saying, 'Use it or lose it!'

Friday, 28 October 2016

Never assume that you are fully functional.

I often come across a scenario where a client presents with lots of issues. Sore knees, a dodgy hip, a bit of back pain. Often this client is very active. They may play a game regularly or take part in many classes; Bodypump, bootcamps, bodyvive, circuits..  It is therefore surprising to discover in the course of the consultation that an entire muscle system is hypertonic or inactive. How are they managing?

They manage because the body is wonderful at adapting and compensating. This ability is a blessing in times of desperate need but it can also result in overuse of one particular joint. It pulls the system out of balance and causes wear and damage. This is the sort issue that results ultimately in joint replacements. Fitness instructors, however well qualified and well-intentioned, are not able to spot your body's clever compensation in most class systems.

If you feel out of sorts or that you are collecting ailments after exercise this is NOT a ‘to be expected’ sign of age, it is a sign that you need some help. A qualified sports therapist should be able to clarify your issues. A personal trainer with a remedial qualification may be able to help. 

I discovered a major imbalance attending an adult beginners Parkour class in Room to Move.  There is no hiding unbalances in parkour. I had no idea my left quad was so weak. I spend a lot of time in a partial squat while doing massage and I would have guessed both were strong. But that does explain that little ache on my left side!

Don’t live with discomfort…Get it Fixed!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Prepared to Run

As it gets warmer the running season gets under way. People enter races to provide motivation and to force themselves to stick to a training plan. Blogs are written, and there are suddenly many posts full of advice on running technique.

Most often mentioned are;
  • Heel strike
  • Cadence
  • Keeping the body weight centred over the feet
  • Relaxing the upper body. 

Excellent advice often discussed in detail and debated a little.

From my side of the fence, the therapists side, I want to ask:
  1.  "Is your body up to the task?"
  2. "What preparation have you put into place to ensure that your body can cope with being beaten off the ground for 6 hours at a time?"

If you are going to hit something off the ground over and over without that thing being damaged, you are likely to choose something like a rubber ball, and certainly not a brick.
Few of us live the kind of life where our day to day activities keep as supple, flexible, and strong. Even keen sportsmen struggle to maintain this kind of condition. Yet, out go the runners every year thinking, "running is a natural thing to do so I'll just stick on/pull off these shoes, pile in the pasta and go for it".

When I see people excited about their first 10k but disappointed and suffering from; achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, backache, or in some other way broken after all that hard work, I usually find that individual can rarely manage a simple forward bend at the hip or a proper squat, and some cannot even fully extend their shoulders. 

I then have to break the news. "This body is not fit to run". Regardless of the miles put in, and despite the cardiovascular fitness gained. 

The brittle body is bound to break.
This applies to all activities not just running.. Golfers I am particularly addressing you!

As in so many things preparation is the most important part. Shoes on or off . Minimalist or specialised footwear is not your first concern if your body is not prepared. 

This is the first year of our Back in The Game workshop. This weekly class involves deep stretches to restore a natural full range of motion and reflex exercise to keep the body moving naturally. I am glad to report that clients attending this class are out there getting excellent times and hitting that golf ball better than ever!

Check out our workshop options

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Healthier way to sit

Most people, athletes or not, find it difficult to find  time to do some flexibility work on their bodies. Flexibility is not just about increasing our range of movement. It provides us with both our shock absorption and rebound facilities. Flexibility helps maintain our bodies rather like a magic super ball. It allows us to use rebound energy, which makes us more efficient and also reduces our likelihood of injury.
Sitting for hours at a time, as many of us have to, stiffens the body, particularly the hips. It isn't necessary to spend hours at the gym to balance this out,  you can make some very positive changes as you sit around.

Here are some simple healthier options:

You can do your flexibility training as you sit around. It doesn't take gym time. It just involves doing what you did as a child.

Simply kneel.  surprisingly many adults cannot manage this simple human position. The quads (the long muscles running up the front of your thigh) have become too short. Re-training your body to manage this position can reduce if not completely clear some types on knee pain. If this position is not attainable you can make it easier for yourself by sitting on a cushion. 

Kneeling with cushion will take some of the strain off of the knees. 
Some find that their feet are uncomfortable in this position; there is not enough ankle flexibility. If this is the case you can try putting a cushion or a rolled up towel under the feet until they too relax out and become more supple.
Use a stool. For some even the cushion position will be difficult. If so you can try a small stool instead. I usually suggest that people keep a little footstool in front of the telly or that you do your e-mails in this position. Make it habitual and do something else at the same time so that you are more likely to keep it up. 
You can make this into a fuller stretch by reaching up. In this way, you not only stretch the leg muscles but also those that attach to them further up the body. If you imagine the muscles as a line of attached rubber bands running from the foot right up to your fingertips, you can visualise that in doing this you are using the pull of the further away bands to exert a pull on the lower bands. If you find this stretch difficult to accomplish you may have to lean against the wall to help you stretch up. Adding this extra pull from the muscles further up the line will increase your flexibility and ultimately make movement more comfortable.

Kneel down to the floor. If you are reasonably flexible you may be able to manage this position. This allows for a much deeper stretch of the quads but it is important to take care.You will notice our model's posture has collapsed a little. Other muscles in her body are finding this quite a difficult position. She should not hold it for long.

Sit with legs splayed. This is another simple position to practice. It is a common position to find little girls playing and is good for maintaining hip flexibility and for lengthening the hamstring (the long muscles at the back of the thigh). The bottom of the pelvis should be on the ground. The hip should not be rotated to ensure that you do not roll back onto the tail bone.
Crossing the legs. This is another option to move into and out of. Changing position will help improve hip mobility, keep the hips healthy and supple and help protect the knees. 

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Are you chair shaped?

 Don't torture your dysfunctional body by taking it to the gym. Nurture it, balance it and then work it.

I have many conversations that go like this:

Client. Why does my back/hip get so sore?

Me. Because you've become seat shaped.

Client. But I don't sit that long, I make sure to get up from my desk and I go to the gym/run 3 times a week.

Me. Ok, let's imagine that you took up weightlifting tomorrow and trained for a total of 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and 4 hours a day at the weekend. What changes would you expect to see in your body at the end of a month? What would be the magnitude of these changes at the end of the year? You'd expect to see some major structural and size changes. Similarly if you took up yoga and devoted 8 hours a day to practice. You'd experience a huge change in flexibility, strength and overall range of motion.
In both scenarios and in any other training regime your body would undergo a dramatic adaptation and your body would change in muscle volume, muscle tone, strength, flexibility range of motion. All of the fascia in your body, muscle, ligament, tendon all the cellular matrix and even bone density would change and adapt to create a structure capable of maintaining these endeavours.

Client. Sure

Me. So how long have you been training to be a chair?

Client. Oh dear! A large number of years. 

Me. I'm pretty good at what I do but I can't undo the effect of all of that training in one hour of treatment. You will have to do a lot more work. You need to break up banded fascia rebalance the musculature by strengthening and stretching and you'll have to ensure that maintain this new healthy dynamic posture.

Client. I thought going for a run or going to the gym would fix it.

Me. No it wont. Currently you take this seat shaped body to the gym and out for a run and as a tool it isn't up to the task. Forcing it is likely to cause it stress that will lead to other structural issues.

Client.  That sounds like an impossibly big task. How can I fix this?

Me.  Yes it is a big task but there is a lot of it that you can do as you relax, as you work, as you watch the telly and as you wash the floor. You can work the changes into your daily routine. Learn new physical positions to relax in. You'll need to become body aware, listen to your body when it needs to open up and learn how to nurture it rather than torture it.

Client. So you can't just fix it?

Me. I can help and I can show you a lot of ways to help yourself but the answer here is for you to take responsibility. Then enjoy the ride because you will literally get better every day.

Watch out for the next few blogs where I will post a few ideas about how you can nurture your body during everyday tasks.