Home » Exercise

Tag: Exercise

That time when I learnt how to lower my pain threshold

It’s pretty incredible just how much pain the human body can tolerate. I’m not talking about big, gut wrenching pain here, I am talking about the insidious day to day pain that troubles most of us when we move about in the world.

What’s even more incredible, is that a lot of the time we are only half aware that it is there. We glibly move through life, accepting of the discomfort we experience in the body at both ends of the pain continuum.

A big factor in this glib acceptance is the inability to actually hear what is going on inside the body. Our heads are so full of the swirl that is life and all the trappings that come with it, that we are often too disconnected to realise that our ankle is sore, or that our knee has been feeling a little weaker lately. These are obviously only potentially minor irritations, but minor irritations that left ignored can grow into a much bigger set of problems.

It is also important to note that these ‘minor’ irritations are actually cleverly crafted messages from our body to our brain about how we are living, like smoke signals from our innermost to draw our focus into something that is causing us harm. When I have been in a funk of regular niggles, illness or injury, these have almost always shown to be a marker for something that needs a little deeper enquiry about how I am operating at that time.

For longer than I care to remember, I experienced pain in my lower back. I’ve always had a big curve at the base of my spine that means that if I don’t stand in quite the right way, my spine is out of alignment. I accepted that as just being a part of who I am and how my body is made. In day to day life I just about got away with it, but if I had to stand for any longer than 30 minutes the ache would start to appear. What did I do about it? Honestly? Nothing. Like many other signposts or love notes from me to me, I chose to ignore them for an extremely long time.

Separately to this, I embarked upon my journey (which regular readers of my blog are well aware of) to reconnect to myself (though I had no idea that that was what I was headed at the outset). This took many different forms and I tried many different approaches, but in the end it was meditation that gave me the super power I needed to finally be still.

In the stillness came honesty, reflection and a whole heap of other emotions. One of the most profound things was the realisation of the pain I had been experiencing in my body and choosing to ignore. Whilst I had started to exercise by this stage, I was actually using it as another stick to beat myself with and causing yet more harm.

It was around that time I reached out to my dear friend Doug Robertson, who I can best describe as a kind of body mechanic. He works with people one on one to help them overcome the kind of habitual pain that I was experiencing. In just one diagnostic session, like all good mechanics, he was able to give me a steer about the configuration of my body and all the contributing factors that were creating this sensation of pain.

Doug has long been fascinated by the differences in the human body and has seen first hand how much impact he creates in the lives of those he works with. I have felt the same fascination around these differences when it comes to my yoga students.

Recently he’s begun to feel a growing sense of frustration when he looks around the world and more specifically at the human experience; around just how simple the fixes for this type of pain can be, and a sense of sadness that the kind of work that he does one on one is simply not accessible for the majority of the population – whether borne out of financial limitations or just a lack of awareness that there is another way.

Had I not known Doug personally I may well have just bumbled along for a while longer, trying different things to see what worked and probably abusing my body further in the process. What he gave me was a simple toolkit that I was able to work through in my own time; a series of exercises to reawaken the dormant muscles that needed to join the party and that would strengthen others that were already alive and kicking with one goal – balance.

After only a couple of weeks of work, my back pain started to ebb away. Magic.

[Side note: I then did what all good patients do; assume that because the pain has gone I can then stop doing the exercises that made it better. Wrong. I learnt that lesson the hard way and now make sure that the foundations he taught me feature in my weekly workout regime. You see change is essentially a brain thing, not a body thing. Until we commit to a course of action mentally and go all in, the physical stuff will only be temporary.]

This September I am delighted to say that Doug launches Balance; a short course to educate you around the basics of the human body and how to truly take care of the magnificent organism that you have. This course provides a phenomenal insight both for you and your body first hand, but also for teachers of exercise, to help you learn some of the simple fixes that can support the development of steady foundations within the body of your students.

“Balance is designed to make your body last longer, to help you experience less pain throughout your life and with the minimum amount of effort possible. The course will help you identify what your problems are or are likely to be, and what you can do to fix them or prevent them. The solutions are simple, practical and effective.” – Doug Robertson

I ask you now to sit and do a little scan of your body and consider what the niggles of pain are that you experience in your body (whether or not you are able to ignore them) and I ask you to think about whether you might like to choose a better experience like I did.

Balance can never be a fixed state as the human body is always changing and moving, but I continue to work to maintain and improve my homeostasis. I move from a place of conscious presence and connection, and in return my body is stronger and functioning more effectively that it has ever been. When the smoke signals of pain arise, I am able to to receive those important messages and choose the right response.

If you’d like to learn more about the course and content, either ping me and I can make an introduction, or take a little look here.

That time when I discovered that exercise is amazing

As a young person, I loved to move around. A lot. But I was also rebellious, so aside from dancing in nightclubs that I was far too young to be in (I love you Bristol), I ignored all forms of exercise during education, only discovering the gym in my late teens. I loved classes, and decided to qualify as an aerobics instructor (yes this is really true) at the age of 17 and set up my own gym one day. Strangely though, once I had the qualification, I never ended up teaching. Instead I moved to London to start University, and set up camp for the rest of my adult life so far.

I joined and left gyms over the years, always with the best of intentions, but my infatuation was almost always short lived. Until now. Now exercise is as much a part of my daily life as eating and sleeping. So how did I get there? Little by little. You can’t swallow the watermelon whole, you have to cut it into slices (favourite saying alert!).

We get used to what we are living in, and so do our bodies. Ultimately, exercise is hard work, and when we are used to taking it easy, our bodies become greedy in that sense, and want us to stay that way. Falling in love with movement has been a gradual process for me, a gradual build up of activity. Start small. You might just love it and keep adding bits in. That’s what happened for me.

I’ve told you all about my weight loss, and how I always thought that being slim, confident and happy with my body was something that only ‘other people’ could be. Well, even when I lost the weight, I never believed that I would ever have a ‘fit body’. Other people had abs and toned limbs, not me. It was therefore never an aim, because I simply didn’t think it was even an option.

At first my movement took the form of walking. A lot. To and from work (where I could), 3 hour walks around London. Whatever it was, I walked it.

In 2012, once the dust had settled post divorce, I fell in love with dancing again. It became my mission to dance as much as possible. Dance for me is almost always solo, and is the time when I feel truly free. I also love watching others dance. Learning routines has never been my thing, for me its about free movement, whatever that looks like. I dance wherever I can and like no one is watching – in the street, on the bus, at a gig, in my house, basically anywhere.

In love with movement again, this time last year, I started to discover other forms of exercise. My inspiration this time came in the form of my now friend, Knolly. We met in passing at the Tabernacle, and he invited me to join his new Monday night boxing circuits class, BoxWest. I went, and fell in love with their family style, full of love approach to working out, cheering each other on. They quickly adopted me as one of their own. The class is brutal but wonderful, I have never left one without a huge smile plastered across my face.

Around this time, various people had been talking to me about cycling. Cycling had always felt to me like something ‘other, braver people do’, but my interest had been piqued. It was my friend Clarissa who encouraged me to get on a Boris bike, early one Sunday morning in May. I was smitten. I spent the next 8 weeks Boris biking to work, and finally got my own bicycle. I love it, it makes me feel truly alive. It’s also helped me to overcome my intimidation of being on the roads in general, so now feel much more confident about driving than I ever did before. I cycle as often as I am able – even with the challenges of cycling vs hairstyles (= true commitment).

I decided around this time, that I want to be as fit and strong as I can possibly be. The best possible physical version of myself. Inspired by a number of people I met who worked out regularly, I joined Portobello Green gym. There I discovered 2 important new loves: Capoeira and Ashtanga yoga. This gym is awesome. I pay under £30 a month for unlimited classes. And in both of these new activities I discovered 2 new families.

Capoeira, I adore. The training is very tough but the experience is wonderful. For those that don’t know what it is, check out this Wiki link. My group is Abada Capoeira, led by Nelio Rodrigues. The group quickly adopted me and, true to Capoeira tradition, gave me the nickname of  Peaches (due to me announcing one day that I bruise like a peach). Sadly, I suffered a knee injury in practice last year that I am still recovering from, so I have been out of practice for 6 months. But I will be back.

Ashtanga Yoga has absolutely been the right yoga for me, but everyone is different. It’s incredibly dynamic, and very challenging, but from joining this class (led by Nils Thomas), I was inspired to start to learn self practice, so that I can do yoga whenever I want to. I have been learning since last summer and am still very much a beginner, I but I am overwhelmed and inspired by how far my practice has come within that time. I practice 2-3 times a week on average.

Next came Kayla Itsines. Another introduction via Clarissa. Kayla is a wonder woman from Australia, and her inspirational movement and fitness programme is followed by millions of women worldwide. I was already fit, but the strength I have gained through doing her programme each week has been awesome. It’s essentially circuits, on a handy e-book that I keep on my phone. I do 3-4 sessions a week and have done so since last summer.

They work for me because you can do them anywhere and they only take 40 ish mins. You don’t even need all the kit if you don’t have it, I just started where I was with what I had. Most of the stuff is using your own body weight to train you, so that’s all you really need to get going. I wake up early, and most days do the circuits in my own front room, before getting ready and heading to work. Yes folks, it really is that straight forward, but don’t be fooled; the sessions are hard.

In writing this I can’t fail to notice the common thread here – families. I have unearthed little pockets of love, that I can choose to be engulfed in, whenever I need to. I had a terrible day at work last week, and heading to boxing with Knolly and the boys literally changed my whole perspective again.

So whether you want to join a gym, or whether you prefer to be outside or inside, there really is something for everyone out there. Don’t be afraid to try new things. You will meet new people, and people you might never have met otherwise. An jnd if that isn’t your thing, maybe walk more, maybe cycle, or maybe try Kayla at home. Find your groove, whatever that is, and revel in it.

If any of you would love to move around more, and want to ask me any questions about literally ANYTHING here, please get in touch. I’d be delighted to help you however I can.