This blog post is a personal thought process, rather than a Body-Worker's professional conclusion, so I ask you to read it with an open and questioning mind as it sure as heck isn't a definitive conclusion to heavily researched Sports Science!
January is a dark month, heavy with Yin energy and a time when sensible bears are in their cave asleep and ignoring the grey clouds and dark mornings. So why is it that we feel pressured into going to a heavily air-conditioned, artificially lit environment during one of the darkest months of the year? When we ask the body to be pushed beyond it's limits during a season when naturally all around us is resting, why are we so shocked that we get injured?
However, lets take a look at three things that people have asked me about in the past week in the treatment room: Running, swimming and walking.
As I sit at the table to write this I look out the window, the Thursday Running Group has just gone
past; A great group of woman who run each week around our road at a good pace. However they make me think - with over three miles of woodland surrounding our road, why do they run on the asphalt? They have all this wonderful nature to run through, with a river running down behind the gardens with a great trail path and yet they stick to tarmac. I often wonder how their experience could be maximized if they simply went down the foot paths and saw Nature go through her seasons one by one, month by month, week by week.
It would be better for their joints too as to be honest, running over a rugged trail is much better than pounding over tarmac. Undulating ground, to me, seems a better work out for the feet, legs and the rest of the body as it forces all of the frame to balance, strengthen in dynamic ways and create a more rounded experience. The ground is also a lot more forgiving when it isn't covered in tarmac and the flow you can get over can be wonderful.
I'm currently hearing great things about Chi Running and Barefoot Running. As a non runner myself, I leave you to look into it for yourself but as a therapist I can really get behind the concept and theory of both and would be very happy for my running clients to look into getting some proper tuition and training in either style. I like the flow, the inherent nature of getting back to a good stride and being totally involved with the body's movement.
open water swimming group near you to join.
With all this praise there is a cautionary word of warning - please get some lessons before your start!
So many people come to me with bad necks, shoulders, hips, lower back and knees after they have just got in a pool after years of not swimming to only get injured within a few weeks.
Technique is so important and if the last time you were in a pool was when you were 10, you should get someone to show you how to improve your strokes. I like the Total Immersion training for everyone, but especially if you are keen on doing triathlons, joining a club or want to make sure you are swimming effectively for your fitness goals. However, there are wonderful swimming teachers in the local pools that you can book in with for a few sessions to get you going and they will teach you the breathing techniques, co-ordination as well as posture in the water. So make some room in the diary and arrange time with them!
There is no right or wrong way of walking, it's just a matter of making time to do it. I have been walking instead of driving since last May and I have to say that although I've found it refreshing and a very easy way of maintaing my base fitness I couldn't have done it without the right foot wear. Flip-flops and ballet pumps will break you! If you are going to walk, make sure you invest in two pairs of shoes; light wear for the summer and waterproof for the winter. I walk into town (about a mile each way) three times a week and I can't do it with the wrong shoes, so even for this short distance I have invested and am very pleased that I did.
For longer walks there are loads of groups to join if you want to meet new people, or you can go with a friend or partner and make a day of it. The National Trust have amazing set walks around the country if you want to visit their properties or land and they are clearly marked and maintained. There are lots of other societies and groups that support walking and it is well worth taking time and doing some Google homework to get the right walks for you.
I think if you are going to invest in this as your way of getting fit, I think you are on to the best winner. It's maintainable, the risk of injury is low and you can go as far as you like. I love it and after all, we are born to walk, where swimming and running are both slightly going against the human spirit.
Just don't start climbing mountains before you can walk to the town centre!
What ever you choose to do, and no matter how you choose to do it, don't push it! Your body will tell you where to go, what is comfortable and when to stop. Tune into the body that is below your neck line and check out what it's telling you to do.