In this blog I am laying out how to prepare your body for a return to the longed for opening up of our worlds.
The last thing you want to feel is you are having to haul your body around OR ignore what it’s telling you, as you plough on regardless. As an aside, do be aware of any residual vaccine effects on your body. If you are experiencing a more lumbering body than you’re used to, add this into the mix of considerations.
Rethink the Gung Ho! approach
if you’re wishing not to waste a moment longer, before getting stuck into living again. Take a minute to consider the possible consequences of diving head first into the water, the gym, the court, the garden or up the mountains, regardless of how long it has been since your last escapade. The “Well, I’ll just give it a go and see how I get on…” is a phrase I have heard too many people live to regret, having succumbed to sometimes long lasting injuries, strains and all manner of aches and pains with the Gung Ho approach.
Whatever your starting point is, ENJOY AND CELEBRATE THE BODY YOU HAVE. IT’S ALL TOO EASY TO FOCUS ON THE BITS YOU WANT TO CHANGE AND NOT REJOICE IN ALL THE BITS THAT WORK SUPREMELY WELL. IT’S ONLY WHEN BITS STOP WORKING EFFICIENTLY THAT YOU REALISE WHAT YOU HAD IN THE FIRST PLACE AND SIMPLY TOOK FOR GRANTED.
With lovely sunny days luring us outside, it is tempting to maximise our efforts with bursts of prolonged frantic activity, from which we can soon find ourselves licking our wounds. Don’t be put off by thinking I’m suggesting weeks of protracted training before your first half hour swim or first potter in your garden. I’m not! What I am suggesting is you consider how your choice of activity will impact your body, then make a plan and work through these movements as laid out below.
Don’t start the planning and assessing on the day you start back! Give yourself time to build strength, flexibility and endurance so you can do more when you actually get started. A few repetitions of the relevant movements, a couple of times a day, will pay dividends in the long term. You’ll notice progress being made and what you need to watch out for.
The key point is to consider the principles of assessing and preparing your body for any activity, be it new or one you are returning to. Think about how your whole body will move. Actually “mime” these movements and consider how your body feels. Is it alerting you to any:
areas of tension
breath holding tactics
weakness or stiffness or simply awkwardness
As you tune into the picture your body is painting don’t tune out and ignore it. Practice the movements, breathe through the movements, relax your shoulders and let go of tension that’s itching to build up.
ANY WARNING SIGNS WILL ONLY INCREASE IF IGNORED, ONCE YOU START UNDERTAKING THE ACTIVITY FOR REAL.
Where there are warnings or twinges and niggles, make the practice-miming-movements smaller, within a comfortable range and increase this range as your body builds greater control, strength and durability.
Below are the key considerations for swimming, gardening, racket sports and walking.
Stretch out the breast-stroke-front-crawl-back-crawl actions used with your arms and legs. (Legs can be achieved on your hands and knees)
Work through all the arm swings (initially without and then with a racket) and the changes in direction needed with your legs and feet. Don’t leave out how your non dominant arm works reciprocally, to counter balance the racket holding arm. For all you golfers, the principals here are the same for golf.
Consideration is as relevant for all those gardeners amongst you (and there are a few I know!). The hedge trimming, lawn mowing, compost heaping, fork turning tools, can prove to be lethal weapons when used by unthinking hands. You may believe this spring will be no different from any other when it comes to getting back into the garden. In some respects that is true, unless of course your arm and leg and core strength, along with your general flexibility, has declined in the last year, due to a very different lifestyle enforced upon you.
In which case wielding a strimmer, hauling manure over your expectant veg patch and manoeuvring a heavily laden wheelbarrow may result in some unwelcome bodily complaints. As with the swimming and racket sport preparations, go and handle the strimmer-fork-loppers-barrow. Hold and move them away from your body to assess your body’s feedback. Move left and right, forwards and back. You may feel strong and ready and desperate to get started but will you still feel strong by the end, or just desperate?
It’s the accumulative effect of everything else you plan to do around your activities that needs to be taken into account. So plan a mix of different jobs and activities which will work different bits of you: standing up, kneeling down, pondering, reaching forwards, walking, more pondering to give different bits of your body time to recover.
Walking for hours over hills or along the seashore cliff tops is no exception either. If you’re feeling giddy with the fabulousness of it all a quarter of the way through, will you still feel like this after three quarters more? Build up your distance, incline and pace. Working on your squats and crouching to work your legs and stretch your hips (only as far as your knees are happy) will help you achieve this more easily.
TAKE IN THE VIEW
If you are still not convinced by my pearls, humour me and use these movements as a warm up, pre start line… or AT THE VERY LEAST plan REGULAR moments to take in the view, literally and metaphorically. Your body AND MINE, needs time to build up reserves and recover from the exertion you have demanded of it, for it to keep on doing what you want it do.
Whatever you’ve done, after you’ve completed your day, repeat the movements you’ve been practicing, but “hands-free” this time. This will help stretch out and release tension as you assess if your body is telling you something you need to listen to and act on.
So my friends, celebrate starting again. Move and groove with a 3 dimensional frame of reference. While stamina and strength can be easily lost, given the right balance of exertion and stimulus it can be regained and indeed, improved upon, steadily and effectively over time (which I’ll be covering next month). Choose that route, cherish and respect your body by treating it as if your life depends on it.
Because it does.