My Vietnam experience…

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I’ve just returned from visiting Vietnam.

IMG_5741Something I like to do when I travel is to observe the way others live their lives.  I’d like to share with you my observations and why I think they could be useful to us in living our everyday lives, both physically and emotionally.

Vietnam is an interesting place.  I got to travel through a number of diverse areas and observed many a community and differing ways and paces of life and the way one person’s behaviour may affect another’s, not to mention the differences in postures and movements to the Western world.

For those of you who have experienced the pace of Asian cities, you will know how frenetic they can be.  Crossing roads was an art; the more you practise, the better you get at it.  Before moving out to the remoteness of the jungle-filled, coast lined, and mountainous areas of Vietnam, I spent some time in a few cities and through the hustle and bustle it gradually became clear to me how much of a peaceful nation the Vietnamese are.

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I’m more of a country girl myself but as I stood in the middle of the road, surrounded by hundreds of motorbikes, scooters and bicycles beeping and ringing bells, travelling in every direction with no apparent order at all… I was astounded by how safe I felt.  All control was out of my hands and my trust was put into those around me.  Every toot, hoot and ding was the sound of presence and a friendly warning, no one voiced themselves unless they were conversing with their passengers and everyone’s faces looked relatively calm and content.

As I walked, traffic swerved gracefully around me and what at first shook me, started to calm me.  It soon became clear that the only rule of the road was to ‘look out for the one in front!’  The more I became aware, the clearer it got.  No one looked back – everyone looks forward, and with that everyone is living selflessly in the present…

There were a couple of occasions through my travels when I might have been a bit hasty, and made a passing comment, or made a typical tut if someone did something that I may not have agreed with, or cut me up on my bicycle.  In the UK, maybe I wouldn’t have noticed my behaviour quite so much, but in Vietnam my reaction felt selfish and unnecessary and it made me feel embarrassed.   So the next time this happened, I paused and reflected for a second. The feeling this gave me as a result was very different.  Accepting the situation instantly gave me a mental clarity, a balance in hormonal activity and with that my body and my muscles physically relaxed.

Why do I think this experience and observation was important? 

Because in the Western world, I believe many of us get carried away with the stress, the pressure and our bitterness towards life and look for blame in everyone else but ourselves.  This then causes unnecessary pressure on our mental and physical state thus creating conflict, fuelling yet another link to the negativity chain… passing it on to yet another person.

I’m not saying that we should all walk in the road and wait for others to move around us, and I’m not asking us to all stop speaking out about the things that matter, I’m just suggesting that we think a little more about how we do so. Thinking before we react to a situation will not only have a positive effect on ourselves but others interpretation of that moment and our behaviour too.

Such a simple practice, yet it says so much.

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Why it’s important to move after you roll..

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You may well know that I’m a big fan of hands-on therapies such as massage, physiotherapy, osteopathy, self-myofascial release etc. I’m always nagging my clients to roll. Sometimes we can’t release and mobilise an area of our body with the use of movement alone. Trigger point and manipulation techniques are sometimes needed for release and lengthening of muscles, tendons and connective tissues within our body that are vital for allowing us to have freedom when we move. If we don’t have this freedom within a joint and we have tightness, weaknesses and restrictions then we may develop pain in other areas of our body.

So what is my point?

I want to follow up on a couple of posts I sent out on facebook and twitter recently. They were articles about self-myofascial release (rolling). They were great articles and showed the importance of this subject. You can see them here:

Runners guide to foam rollers
http://guides.sportsshoes.com/runners-guide-to-foam-rollers/

6 trigger point foam rolling tips
http://www.active.com/fitness/Articles/6-TriggerPoint-Foam-Rolling-Tips.htm?cmp=17-1-7226

Is rolling the answer to my injuries?

Rolling is a great start but it’s important that you understand how and why movement plays a big role in assisting and complementing therapies and techniques such as rolling and massage.

I have been treating clients with sports massage and movement for many years and one thing I see quite often is the expectation to be free of pain and tightness after a massage or half an hour of rolling. It doesn’t work like that. You may feel a little lighter or more mobile for a day or so, but if you haven’t applied any movement or mobility drills then you will almost always tighten back up again. If you go for a massage or a physiotherapy treatment then you will probably have been asked by your therapist to do some mobility exercises to improve things a little. There is a reason for this.

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Without me getting too in depth, when we apply these movement and mobility techniques then we are adding immense value to the work that you or the therapist put in.

By moving, we give that area the chance to wake up and think; we are extending mobility and increasing our range of motion and, more importantly, we are re-configuring the connection between our brain and muscles. In order to maintain all of this, we need to keep this connection stimulated – in other words… we need to keep moving.

The trigger point work is just the beginning. Look at it as being the release of memory before the movement that produces the practice to keep that memory alive. If you stay still for too long then your body will forget.

So… in conclusion. After you roll, or after you have a massage… you need to maintain some gentle movement of your limbs.

MOVE – that’s what our bodies were designed to do!

Just starting rolling? Here’s some exercises to start with:

http://www.active.com/fitness/Articles/4-Foam-Rolling-Exercises-for-Newbies.htm?cmp=17-1-7297

If you need more assistance please get in touch.  Happy moving.

Rest & Recovery – Part 3 – Muscle recovery…

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I’ve talked about how important recovery is for injury and trauma and have stressed how dormant rest can have a negative response to our mental and physical wellbeing.  In this blog we take a look at why we need to incorporate rest and recovery into our training and sport.

UnknownWhen we train for a particular event, whether it’s a one off running event, a rowing competition, or the start of the sporting season, we need to understand the strains that we put on our bodies. 

When we train, high levels of microscopic muscle damage occur. When muscle fibres are damaged they become tender, sore and stiff. This damage is commonly referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as our muscle fibres need to go through this process in order to develop. However, if we don’t implement a recovery plan into our training and just train hard over this damage then there is a risk of injury or over-compensation by other parts of our body.

For example, shin splints are a common complication that can develop from continuously running on tight and over-used muscles. Niggling knees could be telling you that you need to address the tightness of your Illiotibial bands… I could go on.  The point I’m trying to make is that if we don’t address ‘rest and recovery’ then we are likely to cause injury.

Remember though…rest and recovery from training is not sitting still.

So what is recovery?

shutterstock_52109449.muscle man anatomy runningIn simple terms, it is the time required for the repair of damage to the body. This includes the restoration of the energy producing enzymes inside the muscle fibres, the carbohydrate stores in the muscle cells and immune system.  During recovery, muscles should increase the proteins in their overall structure to improve strength, replenish and increase energy stores and the quantity of enzymes.

Your nutrition and hydration is a vital ingredient to your recovery process, and is a huge subject in its own right, but it’s not that complicated when you start to understand the basics. I would recommend addressing your nutrition to aid muscle recovery.

Flexibility and muscle release is another aspect of our recovery plan that is often under-addressed.  Many of us just want to ‘get on’ with the hard work and get the miles in, so we neglect the TLC of our muscles, tendons and ligaments.  Massage, stretching, myofascial release, ice baths and light yoga are good for muscle recovery and so aid in the repair of fibres and connective tissues. Again, look at what works for you and include it in your training plan.

We can get very engrossed in our training, it takes a huge amount of focus to train for an event or competition and, for some, it takes over our lives, so planning in social recovery is just as important as the training itself.  Taking that ‘rest’ time gives our minds the ability to refocus and creates a healthy distraction.

Finally, don’t forget to include your active recovery. Do something that your body enjoys and gets a positive response from. 

Please get in touch for further assistance. www.intouchstudios.co.uk

Rest & Recovery, Part 2 – More is less…

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So, rest and recovery from an injury or trauma is one thing but what if you spend most of your day being inactive like sitting at a desk or driving for work? In my opinion, rest becomes a different subject and can, if you don’t find the right rest, be an inhibitor.

You find yourself feeling tired after a long day in the office. Your mind has been intensely active for a long period of time. You finish a long day and all you want to do is get home and flop in front of some mindless tv.  This, in my opinion, isn’t quality rest.

Like I said in my previous blog, our bodies respond to movement.  As humans, we were designed to move and so, when we do, great things happen to our bodies and to our minds.

imagesIn my job, I see large numbers of people trying to fight the effects of inactivity and lethargy.  We are a nation of people working in order to live and so some of us have no option but to sit and work at a computer or stand on our feet for hours at a time without a substantial break. This, combined with the ridiculous health and safety rules put upon us and a major misunderstanding of body posture, creates various challenges for our bodies in the workplace.  However, we must not use this as an excuse – though, believe me, we do! 

There are many reasons why we feel so tired and achy after a long period of inactivity or mental stress; here’s a few physiological reasons that may help you understand why:

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Rest & Recovery, Part 1 – The need to rest…

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I was recently forced into lying on my back for a few days due to a little operation and this got me thinking about what rest and recovery is and the importance and differences between them. So, over this three part blog, I‘m going to write about those differences and the impact of rest and recovery on our bodies.

Time for an English lesson…the dictionary definition of rest is “to cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep or recover strength” and recovery is “a return to a normal state of health, mind and strength”. Now, I’m not usually one to sit still for too long. Don’t get me wrong; I can (and like to) relax but in ways that feed my body and don’t do it any harm. Rest, for me, is not about ceasing movement by lying flat on my back and I think the definition needs re-writing! So, how did I cope on this occasion?

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New Years Resolutions

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New Year, New start, New goals…. Why?

new years resolutionsAs we approach 1st January 2014 I’m sure many of you will be thinking about new year’s resolutions.

“This is the year I will lose weight.” “This will be the year I save money!” “I’ll try to spend more time with my kids”… Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves?

I have fallen victim to a new year’s resolution or two in the past and then, when I didn’t see them through, felt very disappointed and a failure to myself, which resulted in letting everything else go because there seemed no point. My view on resolutions has changed over the years. I don’t make them anymore.

Yes, this is a new year but it’s also a new day.

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Motivation – A little prod…

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At this time of year it’s always difficult to maintain a healthy motivation.. but, hey, let’s not get all English and speak negatively about the weather, we knew it was coming, we know where we live. We just have to get on and deal with it, use it for what it’s worth.

Believe it or not, this is the perfect time to get stuck in and achieve a good baseline for your goals.  Our body responds well to consistency and if you work hard now, you can reap the rewards come spring when you want to get out there and use the fitness you have gained, the weight loss you have achieved, or the strength for your sport.

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Fat or Sugar?

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“Eat butter and cheese not low-fat spreads, says heart specialist”

You may have seen on the news this morning the cardiologist that has spoken out about saturated fats.  Please read this article all the way through.  Its easy to selectively hear what you want to hear. Just listening to the headlines will not give you the understanding.

I too believe that sugar and trans-fat are the cause to the ever rising obesity epidemic, and we should always opt for full fat ‘natural’ products, however, i do not want to encourage you to eat a block of cheese or butter a day.  With moderation and balance obviously.  You also need to remember that a lot of cheese you get from the supermarket are processed.

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