http-equiv='refresh'/> Global Therapies: June 2011

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Hope Wakes Fell Race and Massage

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We got over to the Hope side of the valley nice and early - for a quick bouldering session over in Burbage South - but the write up of that is on my other blog.
Got back to Hope in good time for some decent eats at the Woodbine CafĂ© – who do the most amazing chocolate covered flapjack in the world.

We were massaging for this event so we had to arrive at the race start a bit before everyone else. It was a beautiful evening, and the marquee was already set up, Hope Valley Icecreams were just arriving and we were able to set up quite happily. In fact, just as the first table was going up, our first client of the evening approached us and asked for a pre-event massage.
Right. Well. Ok. Sit down and have a cup of tea, and we’ll be ready for you in just a moment, sir.
One table set up, I treated the runner while Lynne carried on setting up the other table. We had a fair few come in for pre-event massage, each and everyone saying that they felt a bit decadent. Don’t know why. I had a massage as well and I didn’t feel decadent, I felt great!
Kitted out and ready to run/work
Saw quite a few Glossopdale around, they came and said hello and see how we were doing. I’d been in two minds whether to run this one or not – for two reasons. The first, I was meant to be massaging at the end of the race, so I didn’t want to be a sweaty mess, and the second is that I’m doing the Dark Peak 15 trigs on Saturday and don’t really want to destroy myself before that.
Happily I decided that I was just going to bimble around the course, enjoy being out in the countryside, look at the views and generally have a nice evening out, get back, not too sweaty and help out with the massage if there was anyone left to treat when I got back.

The organisation of the race was fantastic, the kids race happened, everyone got their numbers ok, the cup was returned from last year (always a bonus, even if the same guy took it home this year), and we were all lined up and ready to start.
The starter this year was Bob Randles, the winner of the first ever Hope Wakes Race in 1946, which was a nice touch. 3,2,1 and we were off.

First off there was a very fast start, heading across the field and through a (wide) gate, still a bit of a pinch point with nigh on 200 runners. Then over some fields, over a stream (by jump or by bridge depending on your choice) over a road and then along the track under the railway bridge. I started off nice and slow, chilling out and in with the pack, not wanting to hoon away under speed. This one is a bit like Herod Farm, with 2 ups, you need to keep something tucked away in your legs for the second up.

So we wandered along, me slowly overtaking a few people who sounded like they were dying, passed a trio of spectators with red wine and thought about taking a quick pit-stop, but I couldn’t work out if it was Merlot or Pinot Grigio, so decided it probably wasn’t worth it. Going through the gate onto the first hill the marshal was counting us through and I was bang on 100th. Up the hill and there were a number of people walking, so I took it easy, running at the pace I wanted to be going when I got to the top, and happily overtook a fair few walkers, happening upon another Glossopdalean, who I didn’t know. So I introduced myself, and found he was ANOTHER Andy. I think if I get stuck for names in the club I’ll just have to call everyone Andy and I’ll be pretty close.

Over the top and down t’other side through the trees on a track that was ankle-twistingly fun, and then along quite a rough path/track thing that looked like it had been gnarled up by treelogging machines. Maybe it had, maybe it hadn’t, but I jogged along there and let a few people past as I admired the really quite spectacular view up the valley to the north. If I’d had my camera I definitely would have stopped to take a few pictures. Ah well, next time.

We turned up the hill and again, I picked a pace and stuck to it, passing a fair few people (including the Dark Peaker who honestly sounded like he should be in hospital) and up onto the top heathy part of Win Hill. I could see a couple of the Glossopdale lot ahead of me- including Chris, who I normally battle it out against when I’m running at full pelt… I was going a bit faster than I wanted to be going, so I reigned it in a bit, and then paid for it big style as I got caught behind 4 plodders who I just couldn’t pass. If I could have done that I could have dropped my final time by about 2 mins I think.
But this wasn’t the time for speed, this is a chillout run.
So I plodded up and over Win Hill, cheerily saying hello to all the Edale Mountain Rescue bods who were out in force for marshalling. As we crested the rise I struck out again, and took the pace up a bit (not by much, but it WAS downhill) and off we went.
I didn’t want to risk twisting my ankle or anything silly like that so reigned in the normal “brain off” approach, and bizarrely enough found the going a little tough! Maybe I should have just let myself go and hooned it down the hill. Ah well. So down the track, over the stile (in good style, of course), the steep hill and the even steeper hill, where I caught up a couple of people that I could have caught going UP the hill, but never mind), under the shower kindly provided by a couple of lovely young ladies with a hosepipe, and down the track.
Decisions… down the tarmac, or down the grass. Tarmac was undoubtably faster, but grass was better…hmmm. Ah well, I’ll keep on the grass, and then switch to tarmac. Down to the bottom and round the corner - again a cheery wave and a hello to the marshals, along the road, and there was someone right at my back. Ah, one of those that tails you all the way to the end and then tries to overtake right at the last second.
Ok, we’ll see how that works.

So we did the road crossing - thanks again to the marshals and to the motorists who were so patient, up into the farm and over the field with this person directly behind me. As we went over the field there were a couple of juniors, one of whom piped up “c’mon glossopdale!” I could hardly believe my ears, and grinned wildly - and said thank you very muchly. Over the field, taking it easy, a jump over the stream, and up to the last corner and the final hundred yards. The guy behind me getting closer all the time, breath ragged in his throat. I slowed a little, letting him catch me, as we turned the final corner, I thanked the marshal courteously, and struck out for the line at a sprint. I’m pretty sure he was no where near me and I crossed the line in 52:38.

And for the geeks amongst you, here is my garmin track of the race

A group of Glossopdaleans at the end commented- “hope you were doing that pace all the way round!”… nope, but I’ve got to get off to work though…

Took off my running vest, had a drink, and put on my work top, wiped my face and started massaging.
Stuart enjoying the decadent life...
There was quite a queue that didn’t really go down for a while, as soon as we finished one person, there was another who joined at the back. A good selection of runners as well - Lynne treated the winner - Stuart Bond, who broke the record this year, and lay on the table with his winners ice-cream, and everyone else besides, runners with injuries, suspected injuries, people who just wanted a warm down massage and a fair few more.
We had a good response, and I hope that the advice that we dished out was useful for those who came and asked. I also hope that the massage that was given has helped you all feel a little less battered today that you might otherwise have been.
We raised £69.99 for Mountain Rescue - all proceeds went to Edale MRT, so thank you for your donations.

After the last runner left, we packed up and headed over to the pub for a pint. Mmmm. A good end to a lovely day.

Monday, 27 June 2011


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Now, I don’t know how many of you have had this experience, or one close to it. I had a pain in my shoulder for a while, I suspected it was tendonitis, so I booked in to see my GP. I went, and yes, she suspected it was tendonitis of the biceps brachii (long head) as well - basically agreeing with me. So, what can be done? Stop doing what you are doing. And…? That’s it. The thing that was causing the issue was actually my work - so a slight impossibility… what if I carry on doing it? Well, eventually the tendon will fray and snap.
Wow. That’s pretty harsh… Oh but don’t worry, many people only have one tendon attached to their biceps, and it doesn’t affect them in their day to day life.

I was pretty much speechless. It was almost as if she was saying, yes it hurts, and yes, you might lose a tendon in your arm/shoulder, but hey, I have more pressing things to do today, off you go.

Tendonitis. What is it and why does it happen, and what can you do about it? If I answer all of these here, it may be a bit of a long one, so lets start, see where we get to and carry on in another post if need be.

What are tendons?
They attach muscle to bone, transmitting the effort of the muscles to create movement in the bones - so they are pretty important. They are made from collagen have a pretty poor blood supply (in comparison with muscles - which is part of the reason they can take so long to heal) and can withstand quite staggering amounts of force - but not on a shear or compression basis… they are structures which work on a pulling basis.

Normal stresses of day to day living increase collagen synthesis in the tendons and strengthen connective tissue. Immobilisation or lack of use decreases collagen production leading to atrophy in connective tissue and bone. Without movement, connective tissue is laid down in random orientation, packing fibres close together and forming micro adhesions. This creates weakness, and instability. Without movement, collagen reabsorption occurs, and it also happens in the early period of sports conditioning. During reabsorption collagenous layers are weakened and susceptible to injury - which is why you need to build up slowly!

However, on the other side of things, overuse can also cause inflammation. This inflammation signals the formation of connective tissue which can interfere with movement and cause the tendons to adhere to surrounding tissue. In tendons without a sheath this is tendonitis. Friction techniques (something massage therapists do) help these conditions, and tight tendons are normalised when resting muscle length is normalised.
Tendonitis (or tendinitis, depending on which spellchecker you have) can be divided up into a number of types. This is just a very brief bit to give you information to know that there are different forms of it - they are:

Tendinitis - an inflammation and scarring of the tendon,
Tenosynovitis - a lesion of the gliding surfaces of the tendon and sheath,
Tenovaginitis - a chronic inflammation and thickening of the tendon sheath.
Peritendonitis is tenovaginitis when it occurs to tendons without a sheath (like the Achilles tendon).

Why does it happen?
Tendonitis tends to build up slowly, gradual in onset and diffuse in pain - because of repeated micro traumas. There is also swelling and pain - generally around a specific joint. The tendonitis generally gets named after the structure it affects - tennis elbow, runners knee, Achilles tendonitis etc.

The most common cause of injury is overuse, the second most common is bad sporting movement. If you do a certain movement hundreds of times a week, or even every day, and that movement is ergonomically sub-optimal, the tendons and muscles are going to feel it. If you keep doing the same thing, in a way that causes your body to move in a way which it is uncomfortable doing, or if the tendons are not quite doing the right thing to make them work optimally, these structures are slowly going to break down.

The good news is Tendinitis can be treated in a matter of weeks if appropriate rest and ice is applied. If the affected area is continually used, this will take much, much longer to heal, it is also more likely to progress to a chronic condition called tendonosis. This condition involves a change in the structure of the tendon to a weaker and more fiberous tissue.
Usually rest and medication to reduce pain and inflammation are the treatment required, but massage can help support healing.

If you go back to the same thing as before the tendonitis flared up, it will come back. Unless you retrain your body to do the same thing in a more efficient way, those tendons that have become inflamed, will do so again.
Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result is madness, and that is what you will be guilty of.

If you want to get better, and have this tendon work optimally again, do your exercises. We get 1 hour a week with your bodies, if we are lucky, you get the other 167 in which to either take care of it, or let it go back to its previous movement patterns, which got to you to where you are at the moment.

I think that’s enough for the while, next time I’ll go into the kind of things a massage therapist may do to help with tendinopathies, why they do them and why they work.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Kinder Trog

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I've been looking forward to this one for a while now. I've mainly entered shorter distance races - only because they have been the closest to me, and the easiest ones to enter. Trog has been sitting on the horizon for a while as a 16 mile bog trot which I knew I could do, but I just didn't know how easy, or indeed, how hard it was going to be.

We got over to Hayfield in plenty of time, and the carpark was already pretty chocka so we parked on the road and went in the scout hut to register. There was already a good contingent of Glossopdale milling around, some who had done it before, and a number who hadn't. Trepidation wasn't quite the right word, but a little bit of concern about the distance was certainly in the air.
The sky was overcast, and race co-ordinators had called for full body cover to be carried, along with a map, compass and whistle, slight changes were made to what we were carrying, and we all looked at the sky with interest to see what it would do. Blue sky in one bit, huge grey and black clouds in another, and Julien praying for rain next to me as I opted for the helly under the vest option rather than just the vest.

Fellrunners are an odd bunch. Standing at the start with half of them wishing for good weather, and half wishing for bad. Its very peculiarly British.

Standing next to Sandra at the start we exchanged mumbled good lucks, and with a barely audible "ready, steady, go" (I'll never get used to the way fellraces are started- there should be something a little more, I don't know, dignified, to start what amounts to a few hours of scrambling through bogs... then again, maybe its just about right).

Off we went down the road, past Lynne who was out in force with the camera (and apparently took about 200 photos). I was back from the first bunch, though I could see John down there leading out the pack, Andy was just in front of me, and I knew Chris was somewhere around me as well, so I just tried to chill out and run my own race - there were a few who bundled past, but I figured that it was a 16 mile race, and its no good thinking about speed at the moment, there are still a load more miles to go.

Up the first hill and over the top of Lantern Pike, not too bad, but the sun came out. I was sweating away in my helly, and Chris was just at my side, quite happy in just a vest... I think I may have made a minor wardrobe error... Then down and just trying to keep it real, over to Taiga farm, still relaxing into it, but then- a slight pain in my side- that damn stitch was coming again... I slowed up a little - and carried on over to the road crossing where Lynne had managed to teleport herself for a few photos. A thought of giving up crossed my mind, and was thoroughly expunged as I realised it didn't hurt THAT much. I could still just about see Andy a hundred yards or so in front of me, so I took pace from him, and climbed the first bit up to Mill Hill.

At this point, the route kind of undulates a bit, and I was finding that I was getting a stitch when going downhill, but it was disappearing as I went up. Hmmm - the spasming diaphragm? Rather than run around with my fist jammed in my ribs all day, and rather than have a pain that feels like someone is poking a spike into my right side, I opted for the more sensible decision of slacking off the pace - not by much, but just a little.

The flagstone section up to the top of Kinder is long. A lot longer than I had anticipated. I was keeping in touch with Andy, though a number of people gradually came up and passed me by. I didn't want to respond to them, knowing that at the pace I was going, I was still going to hurt a lot toward the end of the race - if I tried to race against them now, before the first third was even over, I would be punished very badly in the last third. So I let them go, and continued at my own pace, up passed the Liberator wreck and onto the top. The wind was beginning to cut in, and I was really quite glad of the helly at this point. There were a couple of drops of rain, but the promised shower never appeared.

I thought we would just follow the path around - which was treacherous enough, but there were a few "short cuts" through peat bog, the scene of my first fall of the day. Back up and at 'em, continuing on.

Strange how your mind wanders at times like this, Kinder edge over to the Downfall is long, and from there over to Edale cross just seems to go on forever. I could see Andy tantalisingly close in front the whole way - along with a couple of other guys, so I just tagged along with them as much as I could - and ended up going over another 4 times, just along the top, once just in front of a group of very leisurely walkers. So I just got up, and carried on as if nothing had happened. Never look back. Thats the key.

It was during this time I started to expound on my theory that fell running is a little like chess... but I think I'll leave that thought for another day.

I was really starting to feel it as we came off the tops - the strong cross wind had done its job of tiring me out, and I was still very glad of the wardrobe choice, but we were getting to the end of my normal running distance for the past few years. I could feel my muscles wanting to slow down and stop. Going down the hill, now thankfully on grass into the grough below Edale Cross where we cross the river Sett, I had 2 further minor falls, both of which I rolled up from. The hill was fairly easy going, and without really trying or even thinking about it, I overtook about 3 people on the down.

Then the steep hill up to the Shake holes happened. Andy was just in front of me, Chris closing from behind, and I ran out of steam. I think about 7 or 8 people passed me going up that hill. My legs were jellied and my breathing was out of synch. I had a small drink of water which I had on board, but that didn't really revive me. So I dug in and held on.

By the time I got to the top of the hill, the group that I was in touch with was a way down the path, so I picked up my feet and set off after them. Underfoot was wet ground which was firm, but every 300 metres or so there was a cross stream of peat-bog which you either had to jump over - knackering, or run through - equally knackering.

On I went, down round South Head on the Bridle path - less forgiving under the feet - and another person went passed me. Then down around a quick dogleg and to the main road - across that and up passed the drinks station and on over Peep-o-day.
Julien had warned me about this - its this hill that isn't actually all that big, but is a killer at the end of the run.

I managed to keep myself "running" all the way up there until the final incline to Big rock at the end. As I went over the crest I did something I never do - I looked back. Lo and behold, Sandra was about 10 metres behind me. I couldn't summon up enough energy to say hello, so I just carried on. Somewhere along the line I managed to fall over again - faceplanting quite magnificently into the side of the track with Sandra a few paces behind.

Up again and at 'em. I could feel bruises on my knees, my hands and my face. I spat - testing for redness - nope - none. Ah - well, I must at LEAST have a cut on my face making me look like a pirate... I'll check when I get to the end, after I wash of all the peat that I appear to have accumulated.

Sandra passed me on the up, and was quite a way in front until foxholes clough where my descending technique - think about something completely different to that which you are doing and let your feet do the work - somehow managed to catch her. Down through the mud and the peat, through the wood, and I'm catching someone - I KNOW this must be relatively near the end, I've mountain biked around here... but keep the powder dry.

We went down the hill on tarmac, then over the road, and Sandra overtook looking strong. I knew I had to keep pace, so I dug into aerobic levels I wasn't sure I had to keep pace.

Down the road, Right into the footpath and down some stairs - that were very slippery - Sandra nearly emulating my 7 falls in rather spectacular style, but she held it together, but I overtook her on the lower part of the steps. Along the path and up over the bridge and onto the final green.
The welcoming commitee

Now - I have some history with Hayfield Scout green - having finished on it after a 12 hour adventure race a few years back - betting my partner that I could outsprint him to the line - which I did.

So I knew that as soon as I saw green I could let loose, and belt to the line without thinking about the consequences.

Last ditch sprint to the line
I sprinted to the line and finished ahead of Sandra and the guy she helped me overtake about 300 metres from the line - I was about 6th or 7th Glossopdale, and they were all standing around the finish cone saying things like "should have run that fast for the other 15 mile, you'd have got a better time then" and other such witticisms.

Final time, 2:19:03, 32nd overall, bruises on my left fibula (lower leg), grazes on left and right shins, grazes on my hands, nothing on my face except windburn - I was really hoping for something bloody there... and really quite tired.

Food and water was provided at the end as well, which was most welcome.

Thanks to all the marshalls around the course, Kinder MRT who were out in force as well, and the organisers, drinks people and those that stopped us from getting hit by cars. Much appreciated.

After my recovery shower, and a quick nap on the floor I've had a few more thoughts about the race.

Peat and blood. Nice combo
I now know that I need to work on longer races as well as hills... in fact, its long races which have hills in them toward the end that are the killers... and where I lost most of my places. Were I able to get up that hill and still be as fresh to continue at the pace I had been running for the previous few miles, I would have been about 10 places higher up - and about 4 minutes faster.

10th place was only 10 mins in front of me...
So. More training is called for.
See you on the hil.

And here is a link to my Garmin track of the race

Thursday, 16 June 2011

I'm a cyclist. What good is Sports Massage for me?

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As a cyclist, you know about spending money on getting a better bike, lighter components and more aerodynamic wheels. It all makes you go faster.
That's all defined by materials and mechanics, if someone else buys the same thing as you, they can go just as fast. What if you could get something unique that could make you go faster and be a more efficient and less injury prone cyclist?

No, I'm not talking about EPO, I'm talking about Sports Massage.

We know that the pro's use it on a day to day basis - and they know the performance enhancing benefits that it brings- so lets just break it down a bit to give you an idea of why they use it, and how it can be used to benefit you.

The general complaint I see from cyclists - as with runners is pain running down the ITB, there have been a few of the more hardy souls who want it "stripped" so that the pain goes away- which is particularly painful, and is something to do if you want quick relief, but not actually treat the cause of the pain. If you have ITB syndrome then there is a previous blog post that you might want to have a look at.

Cyclists are generally plagued with overuse injuries. It's not generally a sport in which something suddenly hurts, and hurts badly - (unless you hit a tree), it is a sport in which things gradually ache, you get used to them, and then, over a long period of time, you start breaking down. The main areas are knee pain, foot and ankle injuries, neck and back pain, hip pain and hand and wrist injuries. I'm not going to include fractures and impact injuries, though they do happen, and massage can help the recovery of them in the long term... but it's not really a modality which stops you from blunt force trauma. I'm not going to talk about correct bike set up, though a badly fitting bike can  lead to all kinds of issues.

Maintenance massage- what does it do?
Much like checking over your bike for wear and tear, the drive-chain, the gears, brakes, bearings etc, everything needs replacing from time to time. A maintenance massage is just that. Checking over the various muscle groups throughout the body for excessive tension, inefficient muscles, imbalances which make your body more prone to fatigue, flushing waste products through muscles and generally assessing the well being and health of the body for the ongoing challenge that is cycling.

Imbalances? Are you saying I'm unbalanced?
Yes. but not mentally. obviously.
Muscles work on a reciprocal basis - agonists and antagonists. When one of those is being used, the other is neurologically inhibited (it automatically relaxes). So when you use the quads, the hamstrings will automatically relax, its hardwired into your nerves to do that. This is great - until you consider something else, all the time the quads are engaged, the hamstrings CANNOT switch on - they are neurologically inhibited by the nerves. If you have huge quads and they are constantly tight - always switched on even when you "relax", the resting tone of your hamstrings is very lax. They become wasted and inefficient and you become over reliant upon the muscles at the front of your legs. That's just a brief example of a muscle imbalance - and it can happen anywhere in the body - which will affect posture and your ability to pedal for long periods of time - so muscle imbalances are something to look out for.

Ok - so what other muscles might be affected?
Well, we've already talked about quads and hamstrings, another contender for most ignored muscle of the year award for cyclists is the glutes. Gluteus maximus, medius and minimus, all working around the hips and hip joint to stabilise the pelvis and make sure the leg - and by extension - the knee - are working in harmony. Again, its the quads which can end up being very dominant, and the glutes end up wasting away, not being called upon to do what they are meant to do. This may not have much effect on the power of your pedalling, but if the muscles don't work in terms of their stabilising role, the legs are going to start being less efficient in their stroke, excess side to side (lateral) movement may result and over time, that chronic overuse injury to the knee may well result. Not a good thing.
The same could well be said for the Piriformis muscle - not being stretched out - ends up with a chronically over tight lateral rotator, and then hip is thrown out of whack - ending up with - you guessed it, an overuse injury at the knee.

Funnily, the glutes are connected with another issue - the back. As they get weaker and more atrophied, the movements which rely on Glute power (one of the biggest, if not the biggest muscles of the body) begin to find other muscles to use in order to make movements which it is used to. Raising the leg behind you is meant to use the Glute max as a prime mover - in a number of back ache cases, the Glute max isn't being used in that capacity - its the lower back muscles which are being used as the main muscles, followed by the hamstrings, and THEN the glutes. No wonder their backs hurt! Small muscles which are meant to be used for postural changes are being used by the body to power movement - because the glutes are lazy - which has come about because the quads are permanently too tense.

All of a sudden, your lower back pain is being indirectly caused by tight quads. What about that.
Might it be worth getting those quads looked at - see if they need a maintenance massage?

Hours of sitting on a bike can cause havoc with the upper body posture - especially when its combined with the average "desk jockey" position. A great aerodynamic position is with the shoulders tucked in. Elbows in, head down and looking - in essence - up. Pectorals are shortened, Lat dorsi is shortened, trapezius is short, scalenes and SCM (muscles in your neck) are tight and holding the head at an angle which is definitely sub-optimal for muscular endurance - however, all these muscles are also having the same things done to them as you sit at your computer at work. Your glutes, which aren't working on the bike so much, barely get a look in when you are sitting down, and it's the quads which are mainly used in the action of standing up and sitting down.

So all the things that are bad for you at work (if you're predominantly sitting at a desk) appear to be compounded by riding the bike.

Yes, riding is a fantastic and very healthy thing to be doing, but its not actually getting your posture any better, and it's not giving your body a break from the position its in all day anyway.

A final note about efficiency of muscles.
We all know that when we exercise, the muscles break down. It is during rest that the muscles build back up again and become stronger. They do this through tissue being laid down in a haphazard fashion within the muscles. This haphazard pattern becomes aligned to lines of stress.
However, the tissue that is laid down in the muscles is a sticky collagen substance - it's so sticky that it doesn't just lay down in individual muscles, it forms cross-bridges between them - and without care, can bind muscles together - which will make them perform sub-optimally.
Imagine if your quadriceps (sorry to keep going back to them, but they are generally a pretty good example) which are 4 individual muscles, which contract at different rates and different times according to what you want them to do were bound together - forming what is essentially a single muscle - a unicep if you will - each time an individual muscle wanted to contract, all 4 of them have to do so, using up valuable energy, sapping your power instead of that one muscle working efficiently, and leaving the others to rest until they are needed. (simplistic and, in this case slightly unrealistic, but I hope you see my point). If your muscles are bound together they are inefficient and are wasting your energy.

How can I stop this?
Get a foam roller, do some intelligent stretching (to counter the effects of the cycling posture) and book yourself in for a massage.
Foam rollering going to hurt the first few times you do it, but the more it hurts the less efficient your muscles have been - and the more you need it.
I know there are more reasons and more things to talk about, but I think I've drivelled on enough for the moment.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Desk Jockeys

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By this I mean a desk-bound employee pushing papers and typing at keyboards all day long. Low exercise levels (just on the job, we're not saying you're lazy), restricted movements and repeated actions, none of which are all that good for your posture.

So what does poor posture mean for our bodies? Well, muscles can become weak and elongated, short and overly tense, switch off completely because others have taken over their role or just generally dysfunctional. You might experience muscular pain, joint stiffness, headaches, a sense of not being quite right, or suffer from RSI (repetitive strain injury). Whatever the cause, poor posture isn't good for muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints, and the effect is felt all over your body.

Here's how it come to work, just like you do every day. Switch on the computer, check your in-tray, in-box, action list, make a coffee and settle in to the day's work. I know. I've been there. You do the same things over and over again, day in day out. Your chair stays in the same position. Your phone is probably a little out of reach because otherwise it gets in the way of the keyboard (go on, check how far away it is). Papers are piled up on either side of you. The filing piles up. If you're lucky (or perhaps unlucky) to have a paperless job then you just come in, sit down and keep your arms in the same position for what, 2-3 hours at a go? Longer? Basically, apart from the coffee breaks, a quick wander around the office and lunch (that is if you take lunch away from your desk), you're sat at your desk with your body fixed pretty much in one position.

Is that good for you? No. We've posted elsewhere (Fascia. Fascianating) about how fascia is kind of like plastic, needs to be able to glide freely and how it becomes stuck and bound together with inaction.

Now consider your desk set up and seating position. In the position you're in, with limited movements, think about what your shoulders are doing. Really take a few moments to notice how they are positioned. Now your neck. What's happening there? And what about your pelvis?

Lets look at each of those in turn.

Shoulders: most likely they'll be rounded forwards, hunched over. In general, this means the muscles on the front of your chest are short and tight (predominantly the pecs but also muscles in your neck and obviously shoulders) and those at the back will be weak and long (upper trapezius, rhomboids – in between your shoulder blades). Because your shoulders are forwards there could be a tendency for your mid back curve to be increased, putting pressure on your spine.

Neck/head: the ideal position for your head is with your ears directly above your shoulders. I'm betting your head is forwards meaning the chin is forwards and muscles at the back of your neck are long and weak, or maybe not firing effectively.

The average head weighs about 10lbs. For every inch your head is forwards your muscles have to cope with an additional 10lbs of weight – so for a 2 inch head forward position your head is effectively weighing the equivalent of 30lb – 3 times the weight that it should be!! Now imagine the strain that your muscles are trying to cope with, there's no wonder after years of sitting at a desk that a stooped forwards position leads to muscular pain, headaches and dysfunction. When your head is positioned correctly gravity distributes the weight downwards and your muscles don't have to work anywhere near as hard. This is because gravity is working in a good way, rather than pulling your head forwards and downwards.

Pelvis: are you slouching, in which case your pelvis will be tipped backwards (posterior tilt). Don't just think about what you're doing right now but about how you sit day in day out. Because you are now aware of it you probably sat upright a little more, this is perfectly normal, but what we're after is for you to think about how you usually sit. Good posture need not be sitting bolt upright, just keeping your spine in a neutral position is good. Going back to slouching, which I think it's fair to say from experience, after way too many years in an office myself, that the majority of people do slouch. What's happening to your muscles? Well, for a start, just sitting for long periods leads to short hip flexors – the muscles that bring your leg up in front of you. When you think about it it is common sense – your legs are bent in a sitting position so the muscles which bend your legs will be held in a shortened position, even if they're not contracting. Your glutes are inactive, they forget what their job is. Because your pelvis is tucked under your hamstrings (the muscles on the back of your thighs) also shorten. Even if you stand up and sit down a couple of times, its not your hamstrings or glutes that are really working, its the quads- which, as we mentioned, are already shortened. 

One thing I haven't mentioned so far is whether or not you sit with your legs crossed. I did, for quite some time, before working out (during training to be a massage therapist) that this wasn't such a good idea. It's led to me having one weak hip flexor (the psoas muscle) on the left and one which is too tense on the right – the leg that crossed. The good news is that with some strengthening work on the weak muscle I can rebalance this out fairly easily – oh, and I now keep both my feet flat on the floor when desk-bound!

It's common with head forward posture for the gravity shift to cause your upper back to curve backwards and your the hips to tilt – one thing is compensating for the other (we've said elsewhere that everything is linked and connected), and you end up out of shape, quite literally, feeling a little wonky and perhaps not being 100% comfortable but not really knowing what is not quite right.

The risk to your health because of poor posture are not only muscular aches and pains, but headaches, compression of the spine, dysfunctional muscles and postural imbalances. These can lead to all sorts of other health issues which you won't instantly connect with poor posture, such as breathing disorders.

How can you make things better? Find out if your employer will carry out a desk assessment, most places do these days because it's a serious health and safety consideration for them. Get one booked in. Your screen needs to be positioned so that you look straight at it without your chin dipping (ideally your chin should be parallel to the ground) – this will help you keep your ears positioned over your shoulders and the gravitational forces from your head going straight down. Shoulders should be positioned directly over your hips and spine in a neutral position. Your chair needs to be the correct height and if needed use a foot rest. Your telephone should be within easy reach and if you're on the phone a fair bit get your employer to invest in a headset – hands free calling significantly reduces neck and shoulder strain. Consider moving your mouse to the opposite hand for a few hours every few days – you'll get used to it quicker than you think.

To start with this will all feel a little weird. It's bound to because you've been sitting incorrectly for some time now. But please persist. Any imbalances which have worked there way into your body over months, maybe years, will take a decent amount of time to work their way out.

My final comment refers back to where this all began - restricted movements. You can change your job but for most it isn't a practical solution. So we have to make do with what we have. What you can do is to get up and move. Do as cats do every time they move or get up – Stretch! 

Most important is to move and keep your body fluid. I highly recommend a book called “Stretching” by Bob Anderson – he provides a simple easy to follow guide to stretches for various sports and daily activities, and I note the latest edition has a section on Computer Stretches!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

By request - Recovery Techniques - addendum

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I've mentioned the FITT principle before,
  • Frequency
  • Intensity
  • Type
  • Time
This comes into avoiding DOMS in quite a significant way, and I can't quite believe I missed it off the first post - it deserves its own little addendum as it's fairly important.

If you look at your training schedule - those 4 things are fairly key in working it out. If you go ahead and change any one of those 4 things significantly in any given workout, (small increments are fine, I'm talking about quantum shifts), or if you change to a higher level on more than one of those things in one work out - for instance raising the intensity and the time spent exercising, or just massively increasing the frequency - you have a rather delightful recipe for getting DOMS.

So, in conclusion, do a little analysis on your workouts using Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type and as you crank it up, don't do it too much, and don't mix it all up at the same time - if you do, prepare to spend more time doing recovery.

As an example, I'm off to do Kinder Trog this weekend - 16 miles of off-road loveliness, I haven't done any training or races that long in a very long time. Yes I'm going to do it, yes, its going to hurt, and yes, I'm going to be buying some ice on the way home.

I'll talk about the FITT principle in a lot more detail in a later post. If I haven't done so in 2 weeks, email me.

By request - Recovery Techniques

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So. I ache. I was out flipping tyres and throwing medicine balls around yesterday, and although I warmed down a bit, I didn't really do any recovery - hence, I ache.

Generally at the end of a session it's common to think that you can't be bothered to do a cool down, or you don't have time - you shoot off and do something else, and it's not until the next day that you curse yourself for a fool as you wander around the house trying to make a coffee with what feels like battery acid coursing around your veins.

After the post on DOMS which seems to have generated some interest, I received a couple of missives to ask what kind of recovery practices are good in order to minimise the pain, and are there any diet changes that can make a difference - like chugging protein after a workout etc.

Ice Baths-
or - if you can't get any ice - really cold water bath. The colder the better, the more ice the better - within reason. The idea of this is that the ice has an anti-inflammatory effect - the muscles have already been over-heated from the exercise you were just doing- you need to cool them down. A general guideline is filling the bath up as high as it need go to cover the muscles you have been using, and try to accumulate 15- 20 mins in total. It doesn't need to be all at once, you can have several shots at it for a few minutes. (I find that heating a flannel and using it to cover slightly more sensitive areas for the duration of the bath makes it slightly more bearable).

If you've just been for a fell run and there is a nice, ice cold stream to lie in - that will do the job nicely. Just ignore the weird looks from other people - you'll be feeling fresh as a daisy tomorrow.

Recovery shower -
Start warm to hot - massaging muscles for a few minutes (less than 5), then slowly turn the heat off until its properly, ridiculously cold. Unbearably so.
Man up.
for 5 minutes.
Turn the heat back on for a couple of minutes. And repeat at least twice, finishing with cold water.
Remember, 5 mins of cold water is better than feeling stiff as a board for the entirety of the next couple of days.

Foam roller -
I've mentioned these a couple of times in various blogs - use foam ones, expensive ones, pressurised coke bottles, beer bottles, slosh pipes, anything that is cylindrical and solid. You use the roller over muscle, which has the effect of stretching and separating muscle and fascia, breaking down cross fibres which make muscles less efficient. The pain you will feel is an indication of the muscles that are bound together (a bad thing), so the more it is hurting, the better it is for you, and the more you need it.

Also, the more you use a foam roller, the easier it will be for a massage therapist to treat the areas that actually need treating as they won't have to waste time getting through all the superficial knots and tension to get to the structural issues which may be causing inefficiencies in the way you use your body.

What should I eat?
Back in the day when I was primarily an indoor climber, I used to chug protein shakes on the way back home from a climbing session. They tasted lovely, but I was heavier than I needed to be because I really didn't need any of the extra stuff that I was pumping into my body. No matter how much protein you take on board directly AFTER a session, it will make no difference to the immediate recovery of muscles. The protein already in your system is what helps...
they keys to recovery after workout are twofold
1- a pre-workout snack - or taking on food before the work out - and
2- the replacement of Glycogen after the workout.
At this point in time, sports nutritionists are recommending 3:1 or 4:1 ratios of carb to protein- but at best this is a generalisation. (chocolate milk has an approximate 3:1 ratio. That's just normal chocolate milk - not some fancy expensive shake. It's what I use when I need a quick recovery drink at the end of a hard work out and I know that I won't be getting proper food for a while...) It will depend on the kind of effort you are expending.
Short intense workouts need little more than water, and a normal meal, up to 120 mins at a moderate pace may need up to 250cals followed by a normal meal (note, the numbers are not gospel, it will depend on your body and what you, as an individual needs), and long, long efforts will need up to 900 cals. You will know when you have got to that point. There will be no doubt.

The most important of the food advice I can possibly give is eat a balanced and intelligent diet. Eating crap, and then having energy bars and protein shakes will not get you anywhere near as good as just eating decent food. I'm not going to get into one type of diet versus another, because that is all secondary to the quality of food. Spend money on decent food. Your body is one of the best things you can invest in.

Other recovery methods -
The main one is long term cross training. If you are a triathlete you bike, run and swim - this, however, is not cross training for you. There will be massive imbalances between your quads and your glutes which will inhibit your ability to go faster - find another activity to do which will help keep the non-tri muscles working.
If you just lift weights- find something else to do,
you get the picture... the reason for this is if you constantly and consistently train for a single sport imbalances will develop and the muscles that you are using will get more and more tired.

Sleep -
Most important. Good quality sleep. I hate people that say sleep when you are dead. That's like saying you can have a drink while you're drowning. Sleep time processes toxins that you have accumulated in the day - poor quality food, water, air, alcohol etc. If you suffer from poor sleep quality or quantity, do something about it. Black out curtains, music, etc. Magnesium extract is a good sleep preparation dietary addition.

Maintenance massage -
Yes - regular massage can of course help - not just from a soothing and remedial point of view, ridding muscles of toxins, increasing muscle length and reworking myofascia via myofascial release to give better range of motion, but it is a time in which the therapist can see which muscles are healthy and are working in conjunction with others, and which are not taking on responsibility for their movements- and are contributing to inefficiencies in your daily life and sport. By discovering this, you can take pre-emptive care of your body, using the information to correct muscle imbalances before they become too ingrained, and your quality of life suffers from pain. The longer you leave muscles to become inefficient, and build up pain, the longer it will take to get you back into working order.

I think I've covered most of the things here - if only in quite a cursory way, but in enough detail for you to go away and have a think about how to recover better.

For those of you that keep a training diary - add a section- a recovery diary. Take note of what you are doing on a daily basis to help your body to recover.

If you are taking a lot out of your body with exercise, but not putting enough back in - not recovering enough, there is only one way you are heading- and that is to breakdown and injury.

Your choice, spend a bit of time doing recovery every day, or spend a lot of time out with injury and pain. I know which one I'm choosing.

Friday, 10 June 2011

A Grand Day out in Manchester

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Global Therapies had a fantastic day in Manchester yesterday.

Tim spent the first part of the day meeting Kieran over in JUMP Physio, looking about the facilities that they have in Lloyd Street over there. A most impressive set up. We know that he's had good feedback from a few fell runners that we're acquainted with, so it was really nice to be invited in for a chat.

Tim also treated a client in the studio, who apparently gave some very good feedback, which is always encouraging. We are looking at getting some kind of reciprocal arrangement going with Kieran and JUMP for the foreseeable. So if you are in Manchester city centre and can't really get out to Glossop, it might be worth trying to get us through there.

After a treatment in the city (and Lynne was treating a client in Glossop- we CAN be in two places at the same time!), we met up and headed over to Rock Over Climbing where we helped out at the weekend for a meeting with Paul and Tom.

It was all very productive, it has to be said, and we will be starting a regular time slot at the wall as well. We are still in planning stages, but there may be an opportunity to introduce workshops and open instructional sessions as well, which is all rather exciting.

Watch out for us in Rock Over in the coming weeks, and do come over and say hi.

In the afternoon we wandered around the city and were lucky enough to bump into Richard at City Therapy for a quick chat about Massage therapy, alternative therapies and General Practitioners- it's interesting how peoples perceptions change - they're no longer happy with being given a load of tablets and sent home, and are being more proactive about their health. It's certainly a sign of the times, and also indicative of the information revolution brought about by the internet.

"Complementary" therapy appears to be on the rise, though as we were discussing, standards across all therapies, and indeed therapists certainly are not the same.

To round off the day we went over to the Mountain Equipment store run by Ellis Brigham for a lecture by Dave MacLeod about some of his most recent exploits, and, more importantly, what he is planning on in the very near future. It was interesting to note that he doesn't necessarily get interested by talking about what he HAS done- it's like the challenge is gone from the route, and he becomes a bit blase about it (his words, not ours)- and he gets far more psyched about things he hasn't done yet. Hence a large part of his talk was about a new 500m sea cliff climb on Orkney that we're sure we will all be hearing about very soon indeed. We wish him all the very best - and after 3 years in the making, this may well be the year that he makes it stick.

It's quite humbling to see such a great climber, with so much talent, and raw strength on his side who appears, in some cases to be racked with some self-doubt. It's almost as if you expect every "rockstar" to be as outgoing and gregarious as Tim Emmet, Dave is almost the polar opposite, but when they climb together, you can see they work well.

Mental fortitude, whether through crazy outgoing-ness, or through quiet strength is certainly a bit part of climbing.

Strong forearms also seem to help some as well......

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Advice on treating acute injuries – the R.I.C.E protocol

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Injuries, like a sprained muscle, strained tendon, torn or damaged ligaments need immediate first aid treatment to help increase speed of recovery and reduce the risk of potential complications.
R.I.C.E. is an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
Injuries are frequently accompanied by pain, bruising, swelling, bleeding and inflammation. These are all natural responses of the body as a result of injury and are part of the healing process. By applying the four elements of the RICE protocol you can help to reduce pain or swelling and help to speed up recovery by aiding the healing process.
REST: stop the activity which caused the injury, and anything else that may further increase pain or exacerbate the injury. You may need to see a doctor or other medical professional – it is important to follow their guidelines as to when you may be able to resume activities.
ICE: applying ice to the injury site and immediate surrounding area has the benefit of reducing bleeding, swelling and pain. It is important to apply ice as soon as possible after the injury has happened.
How is Ice applied?
As a guide use cold packs indirectly (wrapped in a clean dry cloth to prevent skin burning) for 20 minutes every 2 hours, for the first 1 to 3 days. Crushed ice in a plastic bag (or a bag of frozen vegetables) works best as you can mould the bag around the injury site. 
Do not apply ice directly to the skin as it can cause ‘ice burns’. If your skin is sensitive to ice or you have circulation problems you may need to adjust the duration/frequency of ice application. Please use your own judgement as you know your body best. It is better to apply ice for a shorter duration and more often if you find the cold excessively painful. Remember though, it is ice, so it will be cold!
You may have heard that heat should be applied to an injury but this is not the case in acute injuries, which is usually during the first 1-3 days following injury. Heat can increase the level of bleeding and therefore cause an increase in swelling and pain. Heat is best applied once the injury is sub-acute (3-21 days after injury, depending on the severity).
COMPRESSION: is used to prevent and reduce any additional swelling by wearing an elastic compression bandage around the swollen area. The aim is to reduce swelling as much as possible as it can slow down the healing process. Some people may also experience pain relief from applying compression. If a throbbing sensation or feeling of tightness is experienced it means the compression is too tight and should be loosened off immediately.
ELEVATION: the final step in helping to reduce swelling and speed up your recovery. The injured area needs to be higher than your heart – this is because you want the excess fluids to drain towards your heart, and clearly gravity will help this immensely. For example, if your ankle is sprained you need to put your leg up higher than your heart; a good way is to lay on the floor with your leg on the sofa or bed – and ensure that the foot propped up on pillows higher than your knee.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Climbing Comp at Rockover Manchester

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Had a great, if tiring day out at Rockover Climbing wall yesterday. It was their First Birthday bash, and they were celebrating in style. The wall had been closed from Thursday, setting up problems and planning the final part of the competition - which was to go up at the end of the day while the competitors were in isolation.

We arrived early - at about 10 or so, and were astonished to learn that people had already tried to register for the comp - an hour before - it wasn't even going to be open until 11!

The wall looked great, DMM were there with the gear testing rig, Maverick Slacklines were going to be setting up later in the day, food was being prepared and the atmosphere was great. We lugged our stuff upstairs and began setting up - trying not to get in the way of where the slacklines were going to be, and after a short time had got our area prepped and ready to go.

Soon the climbers started arriving, and we had been briefed that it would be pretty quiet for the first hour or so while they all got on with the problems, and then more and more people would wander up.

However, at the beginning of the competition, as the competitiors wandered around looking at the problems, we did get a couple of guys wander up for a pre-climb massage, which was good. There was a box for donations to Oldham Mountain Rescue, so everyone that we treated was encouraged to give a small donation to them. Everyone was very generous and the box was quite heavy at the end of the day. Thanks Everyone!

Soon enough midday came and the air filled with chalk dust as 200 or so climbers launched themselves at the walls around the centre. It was not long until the first few people started trickling in.

Forearms, backs, shoulders, everything that we expected, but also some legs and calves which were hurting from lots of landing on them. The trickle turned into a flow and soon we were going all out, and time flew. I have no idea how long we went for, or how many people we treated, but all of a sudden it was 4pm and the top climbers were going into isolation - so that they could not see the final problems going up on the walls.

I left Lynne up with a small queue of people and made my way down to the "cave" where they were waiting to offer my services.
The isolation "cave"
Again, as expected, it was all forearms and shoulders, getting blood out of the pumped arms, and giving them a bit more life in the fingers. I was expecially careful not to get any lotion on the hands - friction being pretty important for climbers, and lotion really doesn't help all that much with that.

Once the finals had begun in earnest, I wandered back up to the top to help Lynne out, and spent the last few hours splitting my time between upstairs with Lynne and downstairs behind scenes, helping out with the competitors, forearms, cramping legs - and at the end, medial epicondilitis of the elbow. (yes, he was a trainee doctor and knew exactly what he had).

While I was doing that, Lynne was busy helping prepare the band for their evening of drumming and strumming - massaging sore arms and hands - with the drummer proclaiming that he felt like a new man and ready to play after treatment!

At the end of the day we were pretty tired - more tired - I would venture to say - than some of the climbers who we treated. We didn't stick around for the post comp party - having to drive back home in the state we were in was just about fine - but a couple of hours later and it might have been a much more tired version of us that would have to negotiate Manchesters bizarre set of roads around and out of the centre.

We packed all the stuff back down into the car, said our goodbyes, and headed out.
What a day- treated a goodly number of people, raised money for mountain rescue, had an excellent time, and made a load of new friends.

And today is a day of rest - and boy do we need it. I'd forgotten how much event work takes it out of you - doesn't feel like it at the time - I was full of energy and running around for hours on end, but today is the catch up day, chill out time.

Thanks muchly to Tom and Paul who invited us over to help out with the Party, hopefully we can fix something up in the near future where we come to the wall every week treating climbers and helping them get better.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Lower Back Pain Trigger points from the QL

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Now Lower Back Pain is quite a big subject, (minor understatement), and for the sake of not sitting here and writing an entire book, I'm going to limit this to a client I was treating last night.

Whilst driving, he was getting significant pain in the far lower back, right down where the back meets the bum- the lower lumbar area going into sacral area (L5-S1). He has had no history of spinal problems, no slipped discs, hernias or anything like that, and has to stretch the area out when driving because it hurts.

Now, originally you would assume that there is something wrong with the Glutes and surrounding muscles, for something to be hurting there, and you may well be correct. Weakness in the Glute area has been shown to be a major issue in terms of Lower Back Pain. As we walk around and sit at desks all day, the glutes barely get a look in and slowly waste away- getting overly tense when they are forced to be used.
In this case it is the case, however, it is not where the pain is originating from.

After palpation it was clear that there was pain in the glutes, and around the sacral area, but there was also referred pain into the glutes from the quadratus lumborum- and this was the main issue- I keep blabbing on about it, this is the fire and although there is pain in the glutes from lack of use and tension, this pain is the smoke.

So, in THIS particular case, it was a referring triggerpoint pain from the QL, (my model is unfortunately not available to draw on at the moment so you'll just have to google Quadratus Lumborum) which was antagonising the glutes, which was causing the pain. Had I treated JUST the pain in the butt (as it were), the client may have gone away happy that I had been treating the "right" area, but the pain would have come back quickly.
With a decent explanation of what I was doing and why, the client could understand- and indeed feel- why I was treating somewhere that wasn't initially painful- that is- didnt feel like the origination of the pain.

Lower Back Pain can be created from a variety of places- this time it happened to be in the QL, it could be coming from almost ANYWHERE in the body. Look at imbalances, look at other issues in the body, not just at the back.
Look for the FIRE not the SMOKE.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

6-8 months on, what changed after the Gym Jones seminar?

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I thought it might be an interesting exercise to have a look back over my training diary and recent history since I did the Gym Jones FDI seminar and see how and if I had managed to keep up any of the training - or keep any of the concepts in my mind.

I worked out a training schedule for the first month, and decided to keep a food diary, to see what I was eating and see where I could cut out the bad things. This went well. It was November when I started the training, and I had a Fell race on the 22nd Jan which I was using as my target. I have a lot of information about the first 4 weeks and how it all went - I also had free access to a gym (ok, it was a globo gym, but at the times I was using it, there was no-one around, so that was good).

I wrote out a modified schedule for December, and kept to it pretty well, but what with it being crazy time in the shop, not all of the workouts got done, and some of the bad food crept in again as days got longer and more busy.

January came around and I tapered down rather well - basically by forgetting to to anything at all - except commute to work and back - to Boxhill fell race, and completely destroyed my previous time by about 10 mins and 50 or so places. Wow. That's not bad. And to be honest, at this point, although I had been pushing myself, I knew there was so much more that I could give.

Then came upheaval, and the planning for the move, I didn't plan a schedule, and my training log lapses, the food was still pretty much ok, and I went out for a couple of runs, but my general fitness - in GJ terms fell through the floor.

Unfortunately the general fitness is still somewhere down there, but there is a very real reason for that. We appear to have come up to the Peak District just at peak racing time, every week there is a race, I'm out on the hill at least 3 times a week, and climbing is beginning to make a bigger dint on my time. (or will as soon as I get that new bouldering guide from Vertabrate Publishing!), so I'm not going to the gym to push myself there. In fact, I don't even belong to a gym.

So was that seminar a waste of money, and simply a chance for me to meet a hero?
No, I don't believe so.
Everytime I get out on the hill, every time I head out on a race and find myself flagging - I know that the Mind is primary, I know that there is always more in the tank, no matter how bad I feel. As an athlete I know I can get to a certain point, but as a coach to myself, I believe that I can go at least half as far again.

Everytime I see a client, and work on their imbalances, I give them ideas based on GJ techniques - using the whole body, working the organism as a single unit. If you begin to isolate, it becomes disjointed and what body wants to be disjointed?

There are so many gems of information that I picked up on that course that I use for personal and professional improvement.
It's not about Spartans or 300 reps.
It's about training intelligently. With Spirit.


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The introductory page on the General Osteopathic Council website defines osteopathy as:
"Osteopathy is a system of diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of medical conditions.  It works with the structure and function of the body, and is based on the principle that the well-being of an individual depends on the skeleton, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues functioning smoothly together.

To an osteopath, for your body to work well, its structure must also work well.  So osteopaths work to restore your body to a state of balance, where possible without the use of drugs or surgery.  Osteopaths use touch, physical manipulation, stretching and massage to increase the mobility of joints, to relieve muscle tension, to enhance the blood and nerve supply to tissues, and to help your body’s own healing mechanisms.  They may also provide advice on posture and exercise to aid recovery, promote health and prevent symptoms recurring."
I've included the full introduction, as it is important for a well rounded understanding of what this modality is about. I particularly like the quote that they "work to restore your body to a state of balance". 

My reason for posting about osteopathy is because I have just seen one. My reason for this was twofold. Firstly, from a professional viewpoint I need to know who in my local area is good, and who I can refer my own clients to. I found this particular practitioner on recommendation from a good friend - the best way to find a therapist in my view. But, I do not blindly send my own clients to someone unless that person has treated me personally.

The second reason I saw the osteopath is because I felt wonky! I have no serious or acute issue, I just felt like something wasn't quite right with my alignment, and no quantity or sports massage from my colleague was going to fix that as we don't manipulate hard structures, i.e. bones. I have had neck ache on and off for some time, putting it down to perhaps stress of relocation, entering the world of self-employment, or perhaps an underlying and long standing issue from some years back when my neck "froze"...I had a period of about three weeks six or seven years ago when I couldn't turn my neck at all. Perhaps that was a precursur to me becoming a sports massage therapist, but I digress. 

So, professional curiosity and personal need for perhaps a little realignment took me to the osteopath today.

He did quite a lot of work on me, partly because he knew I understood the anatomy and reasoning behind his treatment. This meant that he could reduce the amount of time explaining what he was working on and spend more time treating, but mostly because he know I was prepared and understood what was happening.

Realigned were:

  • Left tibia/fibula (the two bones in your lower leg) - the head (top) of the tibia was too high - this caused me pain on the bone at the outside of my lower leg, just below my knee. Because of that my ITB was tight and caused me knee pain when running. Was this travelling up the body and giving me pains in my neck? Who knows...everything is linked afterall!
  • Pelvis - slightly misaligned, with tenderness, especially at the iliosacral joint. Could this have been causing the neck pain? 
  • T5 and T8 - two vertebrae around shoulder blade area . Were these responsible for my neck pain?
  • C2 - a vertebrae in my neck - rotation of my neck wasn't quite so free looking round to the right, which is where the pain was manifesting, but not necessarily the key cause. (I think my fellow writer, Tim, refers to smoke and fire, and this analogy springs to mind here).
  • C1 - the top vertebrae - this one wasn't going to play today. I was holding or protecting it too much and like all good practitioners, if something isn't allowing you to treat it, it is for a reason so leave it alone for now.
All the time he was realigning bones he kept checking and rechecking how my range of movement was, how joints felt - whether they were springy, hard, blocked - and asking me for feedback.

Muscle testing also took place, the result being that I have an overly tense (hypertonic) right psoas muscle. This muscle attaches from the vertabrae in your lower back to the inside of your thigh bone (lesser trochanter of the femur). It's deep inside your abdomen and you have one on each side. For me, my left psoas muscle has become weak so we did some work on strengthening it. I've also got an exercise I can do at home (with help from someone) to continue to strengthen that side. I may need a little work to ease the tension on the right side, but with the left becomes stronger it should ease the right side naturally - thereby creating balance - which is what this is all about! 

How do I feel now? At the end of the session the tension and blocked feeling on the right of my pelvis had gone, and my neck rotation improved, it certainly feels easier. A few hours later and I still feel good. It feels like I want, and more importantly can, stand upright on two feet. Now that might sound funny, but for ages now I've tended to put most of the weight through one leg - something that's bound to cause an imbalance, or be the cause of an imbalance.  I'll certainly be recommending more clients to see osteopaths after my experience today.

Midweek race- MDOC in Rowarth

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This is an interesting one to try to talk about as its not of the same ilk as a "normal" fell race such as I have been blogging about on this blog. It was an orienteering event, 90 mins, and somewhat akin to the adventure racing that I have done in the past, (except it obviously doesn't go on for 8 hours).

A whole load of Glossopdale were out as the race was a counter for the mid-week championships. You could tell the demarcation between the fellrunners and the orienteers who do this on a regular basis. The fellrunners were in shorts and vests, and were working out how to use their compasses, and the orienteers were in full body covering- lycra'd up to the eyeballs some with proper old school 80's headbands, and looked like they most probably knew what they were doing with a compass.

So we all got a map and a list of controls about a minute before the off, just enough time to look at the map for a short period and try to work out the route, and bang- or rather hoot, the hooter sounded and we were off- mass start and everyone setting off in radically different directions.
This is where it gets interesting to talk about, and partially why I enjoy events like this.

Any runner you see from this point on may have got more, or less points than you, you never really know who you are actually running against, and so its really you, against you and what your body thinks it can do. There is also the minor issue of having to navigate as well, but thats by the by.

This wasn't an event where you had to find orienteering kites and get the letters. Each point had a question on the paper that you had to answer at the point- like who is mentioned on a plaque, what number is carved on a telegraph pole, that kind of thing.
So I set off, looping around to the south, having a vague plan of where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do, getting the far away ones first and then swooping down to pick up the closer ones on the way back home. This worked relatively well, except for the fact that I got slightly lost about half way through. I climbed a hill faster than I thought possible and ended up about a kilometre further ahead of myself without realising it. This obviously cost me time.
On the way back I was fine, but if I hadn't got lost earlier, I probably would have had about 5-7 extra minutes in which I could have got 3 extra controls on the way back.
Ah well, never mind.

I think I also found pretty much the only boggy patch in the entire run- going up to my ankles as I careered through a field. Nearly everyone else at the end seemed to be bone dry.
In the end I got back with 30seconds to spare, and I think I got 20 controls, (though one of them was a bit ambiguous, so it may or may not be counted).
No idea where I came, no idea if I narrowly beat someone, but thats the nature of orienteering at this stage. Just got to wait for the results to come out.
Hopefully the link below should take you to the Garmin track of where I got to...

Rowath Orienteering event by ttbudd at Garmin Connect - Details

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Pregnancy: postural changes

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It goes without saying that your body undergoes dramatic changes during pregnancy. One of those changes is your posture. But don't go thinking it will happen overnight because it doesn't, the changes are gradual and creep on you as you gain weight and your body adjusts to the various developments of pregnancy. Because of the weight you will gain your body experiences more aches and pains than it usually would. It's a given, but what you do about it could help provide relief, I'll return to that later.

As your abdomen and breasts enlarge your centre of gravity changes and your body does its best to hold you upright. The extra weight tends to pull you forwards and downwards (it's like that moment when you're starting to lean forward and pick something up), this affects the pelvis by tipping it forward and in turn leads to increased curve in your lower back (the lumbar region). Hey presto – you've got lower back ache!  You may also get sciatica as a result of the pelvis tilting forwards (anterior tilt) - causing compression of the sciatic nerve.

Try this now - stand up - tilt your pelvis so your bum sticks out, your abdomen pokes forwards - can you feel the subtle shift in your centre of gravity? Feel how the curve of your lower back has become exaggerated. You might notice your toes need to grip on the floor a little harder? Now imagine how all of these changes will increase and intensify as pregnancy progresses.  Men too should try this, so they can get a sense of what the woman goes through.

As a knock on effect of the pelvic shift and increased lumbar curve, muscles and joints higher up the spine and around your shoulder blades (thoracic area) and your neck (cervical area) will be put under increasing strain and before you know it you could end up with back ache higher up, maybe neck ache, stiffness, headaches and maybe sinus problems. A further effect of the increased lumbar curve (and breast enlargement) is that your shoulders tend to round forwards and your head and chin poke forwards. As we've said elsewhere, everything is linked and connected. Everything affects you elsewhere in your body. If one thing changes in your posture it will affect other areas of your body.

Lower down in your body your knees may have a tendency to lock backwards as they try to stabilise your body position, and your feet are constantly being challenged as the weight moves forwards and your toes take the strain.

Breathing changes in pregnancy too, firstly because of the internal organs, including lungs, being squashed and repositioned as your baby grows. But also the diaphragm (the major muscle involved in breathing and which separates the abdominal and thoraxic cavities) is also being repositioned. The diaphragm attaches in many places, including the upper two or three lower back (lumbar) vertebrae. As we've already mentioned, the lumbar curve becomes exagerated in pregnancy, and this will clearly affect how the diaphragm works and lead to a decrease in lung capacity. You would notice this as shortness of breath.

Returning to the spine, because of the change in the spinal curves the ligaments that hold your vertebrae and other joints together are subjected to additional strain – it's not just the muscles. If you've not already heard of relaxin then you need to know about it. This is a hormone which causes joint laxity because of how it acts on ligaments. In certain parts of the body during pregnancy this is very useful – such as the birth canal which needs to accommodate your baby during birth – the pelvis needs some flexibility to cope. However, relaxin doesn't just affect ligaments and joints which need some flexibility for birth – it affects all ligaments and therefore all joints. One effect can be the onset of symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD), defined in the Illustrated Dictionary of Midwifery (Winson & McDonald, 2005) as “excessive softening of the cartilage with softening of the pubic bones and destabilisation of the joint”. Note the word excessive; not every woman who gets pregnant is affected by SPD. So it's good that your pelvis becomes more flexible, but you need to bear in mind that your pelvic bones may not be aligned, and that you may need to adjust the way you lift items or walk, particularly up/down stairs. Thinking about feet again, they're at risk of collapsing arches as the ligaments become lax and strain under the extra weight you're carrying.

When bones become misaligned the muscles will have to adjust in some way. That could be either by lengthening or shortening. Neither of these are great, but the good news is that tension in muscles caused by short muscles can be helped with focussed massage. In SPD the gluts (bum muscles) and lateral rotators (small and deep muscles in your bum) are often found to be short as the pelvis starts to open up and expand slightly. Shortness in these muscles can also be linked to sciatic pain.

As a consequence of the realigning of the pelvis, extra weight-bearing and postural adjustments, some muscles can also become weak through what could be termed overuse or by being strained. Fluid retention is also common during pregnancy, and this too can cause strain on joints. A common complaint in the wrists is carpal tunnel syndrome, where the nerve (medial nerve if you're interested) that goes to your thumb and some of your fingers is literally compressed in a tunnel of bone at the wrist. You might experience numbness or tingling, pain or loss of function. With this syndrome caused by fluid retention, lymphatic drainage massage can help disperse the accumulated fluids and ease the pain.

What can you do to help alleviate pain and discomfort caused by postural changes during pregnancy? Pilates or yoga are excellent for keeping your posture in the correct alignment. A specialist pregnancy class is invaluable because the instructor will have the knowledge about correct alignment of your posture, and know how to instruct you towards the optimal posture for your individual pregnancy. Swimming is also good because the water takes your weight – see my post on this in May here. Finally, it goes without saying, that massage is immensely beneficial for soothing the aches and pains that do crop up. The therapist can identify shortened tight muscles which need relaxing. If you have water retention then lymphatic drainage techniques can be employed with the aim of improving your circulation and reducing the swelling. By easing muscle tension and reducing swelling there should be a reduction in joint stress, particularly important for those weight-bearing joints like knees and pelvis which are subject to ever increasing pressure as pregnancy progresses.

I hope you are now more aware of the way your posture may change during pregnancy (and afterwards, as your body will need time to readjust back to its normal posture after giving birth), and that I've given you a few ideas how to have a more comfortable time. I always think it is better to know what may be coming and have the knowledge to deal with it. Let me know if you have any other suggestions or want to share your experiences.