I hope that you have all had a great summer and are moving into autumn fit and well. I have spent much of the summer cycling – a new sport to me, and one that I have, up to now, avoided; this has been mainly because of aches and pains suffered, not to mention the pain in the backside! However at the beginning of the year I was invited to join some friends on a London to Paris cycle trip. A fair amount of training and a new bike made the 230miles in 3 days in mid August not only an achievement but also great fun.
Two principles concerning the avoidance of injury have been reinforced for me from the experiences of myself and the others on this trip:
- Make sure that your bicycle fits you properly. This does not just mean frame size, but also the relationship between seat, pedal and handlebar positions; most cycling injuries come from trying to adapt the body to the bike. So I would advise seeking the help of a professional when buying and setting up your new bike.
- When starting a new sport (or returning to an old one after a lay off), get the technique right and build up steadily well within your capabilities before trying to push yourself hard.
The higher the demand placed on the body, the more important it becomes to move in alignment and the harder it becomes to keep that alignment as the body tires and loses stability – just notice how the feet slap on the road as you get tired when running. If you try and increase the level at which you exercise too rapidly then you can be spending longer than you should training tired – this may mean that you are not moving as you should, which in turn could lead to imbalances developing in the muscle system, often the start of injury problems.
It is for this reason that I always advocate that those that are raising the level at which they are participating in exercise to have regular massage treatment; this can pick up on tightnesses developing, before they lead to injury and pain, often just before achieving whatever goal has been set.
So if this is you.......why not book a treatment now - or better still book a series of treatments to match your planned increase in activity.
This should help to get the most out of training, and possibly prevent the disaster of not being able to participate in an event towards which months of effort may have been directed.
Talking of alignment and correct movement......
There was an article published in the Times newspaper during the summer which has raised some hackles in the Pilates world. The article claimed that the benefits of core stability were a myth and that the emphasis on a strong core could even be harmful.
I feel that the writer has missed the point of Pilates entirely. She quoted some studies that showed that developing core strength did nothing to prevent injury. If the emphasis is placed on core strength rather than stability, then I would broadly agree. However, Pilates is not just about core strength – a view that predominates in the gym world, where I fear Pilates is somewhat misunderstood.
My belief is that Pilates is about good balanced movement, using the right muscles for the right jobs, so maintaining stability, good posture and correct alignment. An example of what I mean can be shown by the difference between "sit ups" (an exercise often used to strengthen the abdominal muscles) and "roll ups" (the much safer Pilates version). Both exercises use the same muscles to bring the body from lying to a sitting position, but with the sit up the low back is often pulled forward flat or possibly even hollowed, while with the roll up the pelvis is held back, by use of the deep core muscles, which keeps the spine curved back towards the floor. By rolling the back up from the floor the spine is more protected and the back muscles will be stretching and therefore less likely to spasm, which can happen with sit ups. So sit ups do not necessarily strengthen core muscles, but they are very good at strengthening the outer abdominals. So doing abdominal strengthening exercises may give you a great "six-pack", but unless you control the movement with the core muscles of the pelvic floor and the deepest layer of abdominals, you will probably be doing very little towards developing core strength or stability; and it would not be Pilates.
I seem to be getting more and more people referred to me by physiotherapists, osteopaths etc for rehab following injury or surgery. Sometimes this is best done on a one to one basis, but once past a certain stage can usually be carried forward in class.
So if you have been injured or had surgery send me an email or give me a call and see if I can not only speed your recovery but also help prevent it happening again.
Remember – Look after your body, it's the only one you've got!