During a training session that I was leading recently, I found myself wanting to apologise for the programme that I’d set my client. You see, as a stressed city worker, he’d come to me to get some of that stress out by lifting heavy weights.
But it hasn’t worked out like that, so I was feeling bad.
One of the major reasons why people come to see me is to help people fix the niggles and problems caused by sitting at a desk, not moving much, and not dealing with injuries correctly over time. As a semi-pro footballer and economist, this guy was in the all-too-common position of being in pain pretty much every day from a variety of muscle and movement problems, and from a largely sedentary lifestyle (due to a pressurised job) with occasional bouts of intense exercise.
So, rather than going straight into a heavy squat or lift designed to get the anger out, we spent months analysing his movement and beginning to unpick some of the issues. But, that translates to slow, methodical training sessions in our studio – a lot of exercises to increase mobility in the spine, based on Pilates movements and things I’ve learned from a variety of sources over the years. Stretching and foam rolling the shoulders and upper back to start addressing some of the hunch gained from staring at a screen all day (ably assisted by Kelly Starrett’s excellent book). Mobility drills to start remembering how the body should move.
And that’s why I was on the cusp of apologising for how he was currently working out.
Because the sessions weren’t what he was expecting, but they were what he needed. And this made me think – how often do people just jump into a training routine without first identifying the niggles and issues that need taking care of first? I imagine it’s most people, because where’s the fun in doing that?!
In my own training, I start every single session with mobility work. If I’m working out for an hour, at least 20 minutes will be focused on simple movements designed to make me move more effectively, and hopefully reduce the chance of injury. Table tops, child’s pose, dead bugs, threading the needle (look them up on YouTube for examples!). I see them as maintenance to keep me in good enough shape to do the heavy stuff.
Before you start working out
So here’s my advice. If you wake up with back pain every day, or struggle to move, do these things: See an osteopath (or someone similar) to help diagnose and treat some of the bigger issues with you . Next, find a Personal Trainer who can work with the osteopath to get you moving efficiently again. Then, and only then, are you ready to lift heavy weights, workout at a very high intensity, or join in with the bootcamp that you’ve noticed happening in your nearby park. Rushing straight to the high intensity or heavy work will only reinforce the bad movement patterns that are causing you pain, so by addressing them in the short term, it’s going to make a massive difference in the long term.