Having just returned from spending twelve exhilarating days with a day-pack on my back exploring Northumberland and the Highlands of Scotland for my honeymoon, I am brimming with enthusiasm for the many benefits of what has become referred to as “Weighted Walking”.
I should start by emphasizing that my recent foray into this arena involved more intense exposure than I would recommend to anyone looking at trying ‘Weighted Walking’ for the first time. (As with any physical activity, it’s best to get some assurance from your doctor as to what is safe for you to try.)
Begin slowly and carefully and build up within your own limitations. Go straight for a 10 mile hill walk with a 60lb army load on your back and you’ll not get far!
But including this controlled enhancement of walking as part of your lifestyle change, alongside your strength training with me in the gym or your home-based sessions, is an effective way of augmenting your exercise routine and adding variety. Not to mention harnessing the benefits of activity in the fresh air!
By now you will have gathered that ‘Weighted Walking’ is simply walking while carrying some additional weight to increase resistance and provide some low-impact physical activity, with a little higher-intensity than comes with a ‘normal’ (unweighted) walk. The extra weight can be anything from a pair of water bottles or wrist weights to a fully-loaded rucksack but remember, the weight must be distributed evenly to avoid any risk of imbalance or uneven stress on your joints or muscles. AND only work within your own capabilities – don’t push it too far. Probably best to start with a couple of weights of 2 to 3lbs each, but you could start with less if you feel more comfortable with that. It doesn’t take much to start feeling it!
It’s important that you don’t alter your method of walking to accommodate the extra weight. For example, avoid changing your posture such as hunching your shoulders or leaning forward because this can lead to long-term injury. Try to keep your normal walking ‘shape’, and adjust your backpack to sit properly on your back.
If you can give ‘Weighted Walking’ a try you’ll find that the combination of strength and cardiovascular exercise will contribute to improvements in your balance, tone your muscles and increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
There is an interesting article in the September issue of Good Housekeeping about ‘Weighted Walking’ and several online publications provide more information.
In my opinion ‘Weighted Walking’, if used properly, can add variety to a fitness plan, maybe on the days you’re not working out with me, or when your are on holiday!
Most of us who try to maintain at least a moderate level of fitness through exercise or physical training of some kind will experience some form of discomfort, aches and pains etc. as a result of the activity we have chosen to indulge in (perhaps caused by a slip or by trying to lift a heavy weight). It’s almost inevitable. However, actual ’injury’ from exercising is also something that can happen even to the most careful person.
One reason why we warm up before a session is to prepare our bodies (and minds to a certain extent ) for the activity to come and the cool down afterwards is to avoid the sudden tightening of muscles etc. when we stop. Practicing these properly can help to avoid injuries. Follow JOINT MOBILISATION – MUSCLE WARMING – DYNAMIC STRETCHES
The key action point is to ‘manage your injury’.
Too many people don’t follow this principle and end up exacerbating the problem and increasing the recovery period, resulting in increasing the amount of time they have to spend away from their exercise regime.
One thing you should never do is return to exercise too soon: If you think you’re fine and the problem appears to have gone away, it pays to delay your ‘come back’ for a few more days.
When seeing the Doctor is a good call
The first action when feeling that you may have an injury is to consider if you should seek medical advice. You’ll be the best judge of that and certainly, if you have any of the following symptoms you should contact your doctor immediately:
• Pain that stops you sleeping at night. • Pain that doesn’t seemed to get better after a few days. • Tingling or numbness in an area that persists over a few days. • Sudden pain which travels down your arms or legs. • A sign of weakness in your limbs (not necessarily painful). • Weight loss or high temperature which has appeared suddenly.
Assuming your physical condition does not include any of those examples above then here are some of the most common categories of injury experienced by regular exercisers:
• Sudden trauma – e.g. twisting your ankle or pulling a muscle during a lifting exercise. If it hurts a lot and there’s significant bruising then you’ll know that you should probably see the doctor. • Overuse – generally you notice a sudden pain and can almost immediately identify the cause. • Repetitive stress – difficult to identify one particular cause because the problem appears over a period of time and may manifest itself when you’re doing something unconnected with the part of the body that has been injured. • Exhausted Adaptive Potential – this can come about due to the healing of a previous injury not being managed or treated properly. It can also be caused by your body adapting to compensate for the problems caused by the earlier injury. Again, this might be a problem where the site of the pain is unconnected with the injured area (referred pain)
So how do you manage injuries?
Not every injury is the same, so it’s important to use the right approach in your particular situation. Most of you have heard of the various ‘Etiquettes’ for managing injuries: RICE (Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation) or POLICE (Protection-Optimal Loading-Ice-Compression-Elevation) or MEAT (Movement-Exercise-Analgesics-Treatment).
So “Which one should I use?” I hear you ask!
‘RICE’ is one that’s been around for years and suggests we rest, elevate the injured area, put ice on it and compress the area. This has its uses but, as I have said, it has fallen out of favour with many trainers and coaches.
‘POLICE’ adds movement of the area at issue on top of the traditional RICE procedure, but rest and icing are still of major importance.
‘MEAT’ recommends using general movement and specific exercises to encourage the ‘damaged’ area to move healthily, combined with painkillers if needed.
One key question for people managing injuries is when to rest and when to keep moving.
Movement is generally considered to be the best approach but obviously this isn’t necessarily the case with all injuries and some will tend to heal more quickly if they are rested.
For Traumatic injuries which have required attention from a doctor you’ll probably be advised to rest. But if you didn’t need to see a specialist, you may find that a few days or up to a couple of weeks’ rest with cautious or moderate exercise towards the end may work best for you.
If you’re managing an injury caused by Overuse it really is important that you use rest to improve the situation and hopefully the affected area will feel better within a few days, allowing you to contemplate starting gentle exercise again. This time, though, avoid problems caused by overuse by keeping to a planned routine – maybe ask your PT for advice. There is always SOMETHING we can do, and keep other areas of your body conditioned whilst you recover.
If the issue is Repetitive Stress, again, a PT can advise on suitable exercises and movements to help you avoid causing more damage by strengthening the areas in question.
When we come to Exhausted Adaptive Potential Injury this is most effectively managed by avoiding exercising and obtaining a medical professional’s opinion on how to proceed.
In summary, unless the problem is such that it needs the intervention of a specialist, the prevailing guidance in most cases is that some degree of movement is better than total rest.
And, as always, as I am qualified in Adapting Exercise for Controlled Conditions, you can hit me up for recommendations for your very own, personalised ‘Rehab. Plan’
As you can imagine as far as I am concerned there can never be too many references to ‘Wellbeing’ or events and activities promoting ‘Wellness’, but even I have been surprised to find out how much space in the general consumer media and social channels has been taken up by articles, opinions, testimonials and reports around both subjects and the myriad of gatherings, conferences and activities which are being organised to keep wellbeing and fitness “front of mind” throughout the year:
‘World Health Day’ on 7 April; ‘Global Wellness Day’ (12 June); ‘World Wellbeing Week’ (June 21 -June 30); ‘Festival of Wellbeing’ (28 June – 09 July); ‘Healthy Eating Week’ (28 Sept – 03 Oct); ‘World Mental Health Day’ (10 October); ‘Movember’: Men’s Health Awareness Month; November : ‘National Stress Awareness Week’; 13 November : ‘World Kindness Day’ – to name just a few!
There was even a ’World Sleep Day’ (19 March) and a ‘Global Hand Hygiene Day’…..I mean…..! (5 May) . Neither of which I am sure you missed!
With so many health awareness messages being sponsored and endorsed I could hardly ignore the opportunity to add my thoughts.
So how are ‘Wellbeing’ and ‘Wellness’ connected?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘Wellbeing’ as “the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy”. However this will depend upon each person’s experience of life so it is difficult to pin down how individuals will assess their own personal state of ‘Wellbeing’ i.e. their state of mind.
On the other hand, ‘Wellness’ is a condition enabled by a process of practising habits and performing activities which contribute to a person’s physical health.
The connection is simply that each influences the other and nurtures a beneficial effect which works both ways. ‘Wellness’ (physical health) encourages a feeling of ‘Wellbeing’ and a sense of ‘Wellbeing’ (mental and emotional health) frequently inspires further habits and activities which enhance ‘Wellness’.
‘World Wellbeing Week’ is particularly enthusiastic about the links between wellbeing and wellness is are keen that people understand that “the 5 Ways to Wellbeing” are “Connect, Get Active, Be Mindful, Keep Learning, Give to Others”.
Pushing ourselves beyond our own personal ‘comfort zones’, even just a small amount each time, is a great way to grow our fitness and flexibility. So, with that in mind, I will be introducing a new ‘slant’ to training over the next few weeks for those of you who are feeling ‘adventurous’.
You might find us doing some of your usual moves (shoulder presses, squats, reverse lunges, press ups etc.), but with an added extra which will enhance your sessions and get you used to a little ‘Balance Training’. It’s low-impact and can help us improve proprioception (positioning and stability of joints) by challenging our balance while exercising.
Balance deteriorates as we age and muscular neurological pathways decay so balance training can be beneficial for life. A ‘Balance Trainer’ is a rubber dome (like one half of an over-sized basketball) with a rigid platform which you use to balance on while exercising. It sounds weird but, used properly under supervision, it has been proven to help create balance in your body, enhance neuromuscular coordination (improving neural pathways between the brain and the body) and promote stability through ‘educating’ your core.
Balance training even helps improve the brain’s circulation, memory, coordination and balance. Because you are working harder keeping your balance, it also uses more calories to perform even the most basic exercises. And it’s surprising how much balance we need to employ in a day of normal activity, let alone in fitness sessions. Standing up from a sitting position, climbing or descending stairs, carrying shopping bags, turning around, getting into the bath etc. all require stability to avoid toppling over – it may seem like overstating its importance in connection with simple everyday movements, but the older you get, the more you notice the significance of proper balance.
So say “Hello” to balance training as it becomes part of our workouts!
A recent story on BBC News caught my eye. According to a survey for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and Sport England, almost one third of people who exercise regularly believe that their general strength has declined during the Covid pandemic. Around 23% of under-34s said it had fallen and the figure for over 35s was higher.
A person’s general level of strength is an indication of muscle mass and a lessening of muscle mass could result in long-term issues concerning mobility and balance. This then could initiate other health problems necessitating visits to the doctor or physiotherapist, osteopath or acupuncturist!
Fortunately, most of my clients have largely been able to keep to their well-being and fitness routines during Lockdown by working with me online, in gardens or parks and now, FINALLY, in person. However, for those of you for whom this has not been possible, when you start back again it would be a good idea to get some expert advice on how to reintroduce exercise into your week. A good PT will be mindful of your circumstances and can tailor your ‘build up’ route to attain your previous levels of flexibility and strength in the optimum timescale so you can start to get yourself back on track.
We would begin by trying some fundamental exercises which shouldn’t put too many demands upon your current ‘de conditioned’ musculoskeletal frame. It’s all a question of restarting your strengthening exercises gradually. Whether you are a seasoned gym-goer or a keep-fit beginner, the universal advice is, “Don’t start a marathon with a sprint”
You don’t need special equipment e.g. weights or resistance bands because, depending on injuries and abilities, we can utilise your body to provide sufficient resistance for your strengthening needs.
Most of us know about press ups, squats, lunges and sit ups etc. and these are all good strengthening exercises that are commonly used and, if you have a PT, they will be able to bring some new ‘moves’ to the routine. What we’re all looking for is to get back to the habit of exercising as regularly as possible, keeping as healthy as possible, for as LONG as possible!
TOTAL BODY MAINTENANCE is KEY, let me show you how 😉
May is traditionally a month to celebrate. It’s the beginning of Spring (in the Northern Hemisphere at least); new growth, flowers appearing and Winter being left behind.
Which makes it a great time of year for starting a new exercise programme or giving your mind and body a boost. So here are a few thoughts on ‘changing up’ your ‘Healthstyle’.
“Tomorrow is Today’s most popular labour-saving device”. Getting motivated to exercise, even if you have regular classes with a PT assisting and advising you, isn’t always as simple as making the entry in your diary. Your session is approaching fast but are you “up for it”?
As a PT I have to be fully aware that, even though a client has committed to a series of workouts, he or she has to juggle their calendar to accommodate work demands, family issues, other leisure pursuits, illness, caring, school concerns and emergencies etc. All of which consume time and absorb both mental and physical energy so that periodically the ‘fitness session’ has to take a back seat. With all these extra and unforeseen pressures is it any wonder that our enthusiasm for physical exercise can take a”hit” occasionally. How many of us let a little thought creep in to our minds that, “It’ll be better if I do it tomorrow. I’ll have more time”? You have to agree, it is very seductive; there’s always something more urgent (and less challenging?) that must take precedence. Even if it’s a workout with a PT, sometimes it’s simpler to ease off a little with the effort you’re putting in if you don’t feel “prepared”. We’ve all done it but what’s the antidote?
Motivation Your motivation takes you from thinking about doing something to actually doing it. And motivation can come from within i.e. ‘Intrinsic Motivation’, a combination of your desires, resolve and passion to attain targets that are personal to you. When you yourself want to get things done for your own gratification or for pleasure. Or ‘Extrinsic Motivation’, which is defined as being derived from external influences such as prizes, peer appreciation or awards etc.
Getting started is the toughest part so with this in mind I thought some tips might help.
Be clear about your reason or reasons for exercising. Why you want to do it. When you’re in the middle of a session, with all the discomfort and challenges that can involve, the last thought you want to occur to you is, “Why am I doing this?” Knowing the effort is worth it to achieve your target, whatever it is, is key to driving you on.
Train for a ‘Good Cause’ e.g. a charity etc. If it culminates in an event e.g. a race, then the completion date in the diary will spur you on.
Start with small goals. Don’t try to push yourself too hard at the beginning. A professional PT will always design a routine to suit the individual client such that the exercises and activities are achievable and commensurate with the capabilities of the client.
If you’re training on your own and you’re finding it hard to get going or you’re tight for time, just set your sights on doing, for example, sit ups, then do ten reps of the exercise twice instead of three times. Chances are that once you’ve been through the sequence once or twice, you’ll want to switch it up to your normal levels.
Stay in touch with other like-minded people using Social Media to compare progress and indulge in some friendly competition. Elsevier has published a Preventive Medicine Report which showed that, anonymous social networks significantly increase enrolment in exercise classes and that social influence is more successful for improving physical activity.
Make a date in your Diary. A study carried out by in the USA found that scheduling exercise as a daily activity promotes regular exercise. Sounds obvious but having it there in writing must help. If you have regular dates with your PT then this goes without saying.
Set your alarm and place it on the other side of the room so you’re forced to get out of bed to switch it off. (It works!).
If working out at home, allocate a special place for your workouts. Inside and/or out. It will automatically assume the identity of your ‘personal gym’. And you’ll never forget it.
Change the exercises in your workout and be careful not to over-train. Ensure you get some rest during your exercise programme. PTs are adept at reading the signs and will rarely allow a client to overtrain.
A lot of people find that a PT can help them motivate themselves to, in the first instance, actually start exercising. The PT can set them off on the right track, designing a bespoke routine, ensuring proper performance techniques and monitoring their progress, fine-tuningalong the way.
Alternatively, an experienced gym-goer can benefit from a PT providing motivation them by changing their usual fitness programme to freshen up the challenge.
Check out the videos available on my facebook page They might help you get in the mood.
According to research for the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity (December 2020) the “Worldwide surveillance of self-reported sitting time: a scoping review” found that the average person sits down for 4.7 hours per day (although it is thought that the real figure is probably more like 6.7 hours per day because the survey participants were ‘self-reporting’!).
A significant proportion of this sedentary activity comprises ‘screen time’ – e.g. computer, TV and mobile phone use, and the associated health concerns are well-documented e.g. increased BMI, heart issues, diabetes etc. The definition of ‘sedentary’ includes not only sitting but also lying down or reclining and most of us are attracted to taking the comfortable option on a daily basis. This has all been increased recently, particularly during the Covid-19 restrictions.
These health concerns make it all the more important that we maintain our physical flexibility – the capability to use our joints and muscles in a full range of movement without restriction, discomfort or pain.
Nurturing Flexibility The frequency and extent of our daily movements impact the development and engagement of our muscles and joints. As time passes the scope of our mobility becomes limited. Using some parts of our body more frequently than others can cause tightness in some areas and slackness in others. This can produce pain and affect balance. Lower back and hamstrings feeling more tight this year? Maybe all that working from home on the computer is to blame!
This is why, in our sessions, we try to seek the ideal level of flexibility which allows your body to determine the optimum posture for smooth movement and strong balance which suits you. You will have noticed that in our sessions, I include joint mobilisation and flexibility work at the beginning and end, in addition to strength and cardiovascular conditioning. Sometimes, your personal needs may require a little more of this as part of your programme!
We’re all growing older and time takes its toll on the elasticity of our muscles and the suppleness of our joints. The exercises we do are designed to help you maintain a level of both strength and flexibility which can help you not only enjoy the activities of daily life, and everything else you want to achieve!
Those who train with me will undoubtedly be hearing my voice in their heads repeatedly chanting “shoulders back, engage your tummy!“…ie: the importance of good posture when exercising. (And believe me, I have to keep reminding myself about it as well, because it is so easy to fall into bad habits).
The reason I stress posture so often is that it plays such a major part in our general wellbeing; not just in our fitness classes but also in everyday life. Poor posture can lead to all sorts of problems with muscles under tension, joints out of alignment, and resultant pain.
Medical practitioners, particularly Musculoskeletal specialists, emphasise the part that good posture plays in the basic health of the human body. As far as they are concerned it plays as vital a role in maintaining your health as a nutritious, healthy diet, quality sleep and regular exercise. But how do you ensure that you maintain ‘good posture’ during workouts and throughout the day?
Four things I find help me:
Reduce the anterior pelvic tilt: a large amount of back and hip pain can come from an exaggerated lordotic curve (ie, hips pushing forwards, curving the lumbar spine and sticking the bottom out). Commonly in pregnant women and those with increased abdominal weight, this can be corrected with practicing pelvic tilting, drawing the tummy IN and UP and tucking the bottom UNDER. Lie on the floor and practice your pelvic tilts, and then repeat this same movement standing. See how your spine flattens out and tummy pulls in!
Draw shoulders back and down: Upper back tension and neck pain? Check your shoulders aren’t up round your ears. Think about rolling the shoulder blades together and then SLIDING them down the back. This helps keep your shoulders stacked above your hips and more of a neutral spinal alignment, and helps prevent and even correct a kyphotic posture (hunch back).
Soften the knees: particularly when standing, we can lock out the knees and push the hips forward (think ‘grumpy teenager’). Not only does this put pressure on the lower back (see above) but huge tension on the knee joints, ligaments and tendons from a near ‘hyper extended’ position. When we soften the knees (ie, gentle bend, just short of straightening), we take the body weight in the muscles of the upper leg – away from the joints.
Imagine string pulling at the top of your head:Got neck/shoulder/upper back pain or tension? Have someone take a profile photo of you. Does your chin stick forward beyond your chest? Look at the angle on the back of the neck. Did you know the average adult head weighs 5kg and balances on 7 vertebra. The force exerted on the neck joints and muscles increases massively if you tilt your neck forward (looking down at your phone?!) – in fact, a tilt of just 45 degrees can increase the force as if the head weighs 22kg…! From learning various dance forms when younger, I never forgot this image: Drawing yourself up through the top of the head, as if with a piece of string, elongate the neck and draw the chin BACK to a straight cervical spine.
Here is a link to the NHS UK website with some useful information and helpful tips about how to improve your posture.
Needless to say, I will be happy to chat with you have any questions re posture correction 🙂
You may feel it’s difficult at the moment (in Lockdown…in winter..) to motivate yourself to exercise, and when you are motivated…what can you do?!
Here I just want to throw at you 5 WAYS YOU CAN BURN AT LEAST 100 EXTRA CALORIES TODAY.
‘100 calories? What will that mean I can eat?‘ – that’s not the focus here folks! Getting moving and increasing your daily activity IN GENERAL is beneficial not only to loss of unwanted weight, but also bone density, muscle and ligament tone and flexibility, strength and heart and lung health. Not to mention the benefit to mental health and taking your eyes off the screen (any one got video-call fatigue?!).
1 – Walking!
For 15-20 mins briskly on the flat or uphill can burn 100+ calories (depending on fitness levels and body weight). As Billy Connolly said ‘Get yourself a sexy little raincoat and go out and have some fun!’
2 – Zumba
If shaking it to a good beat is your thing, just 10 mins of vigorous Zumba (or similar, vigorous dancing) can burn approx 100 cal and get your heart and lungs pumping. There’s plenty of resources on You Tube but sometimes you need that trainer there to push – and I can recommend the infectious energy of Nikki and her virtual zumba classes!
Want more than a walk ? Get pounding the pavements or the local park for just 10 mins of jogging to burn around 100 cal. Be safe, start with the good warm up and ensure you have the right footwear (I love going for a run/jog with clients and the best way to be challenged and achieve more is with me by your side 😉 )
4. Strength training! If you know me, you know I love this! It doesn’t have to be heavy weights, 25-30 mins of moderate body weight work done correctly can be very challenging and, along with a balanced diet, can transform the body composition. With just a chair, a mat and some simple dumbbells or resistance bands, I can take you through a full-body programme.
It’s not the most attractive option in the winter, but it’s a great wat to get warm and just about 20 mins of digging, lifting and raking can burn 100 calories (and tidy up the garden in the process – winning!). Not to mention the upper body and core toning.
For most of the past 12 months we have been enduring various levels of ‘imprisonment’. If not total Lockdown, then an assortment of restrictions and limitations to the normal enjoyment of our lives
Many have found this state of affairs stressful and pressurising to say the least.
The good news is that many people have been turning to exercise to help them cope with the stresses and mental strains that every day life piles upon us. And there is evidence that it works. Take a look at this article from the American Psychological Assoc written in March this year.
When our balance is upset in some way, our body creates a stress response as a defence, which can make us behave differently (Sound familiar?).
Symptoms of stress can include sleeping problems, inability to concentrate and fatigue (feel sometimes like your dumbbells are heavier than usual?) Stress also can increase the level of the hormone Cortisol in the body, which can lead to fat deposits building up around the midriff (annoying!).
Surprise surprise – exercise can be very effective in relieving stress. Research has found that highly active individuals tend to have lower stress rates compared to individuals who are less active.