Well, time has marched on and with the flip of a pancake or two, we find ourselves already in March! With early spring around the corner, Daffodils shooting up and displaying beacons of their bright yellow sunshine, it’s a wonderful feeling! With all Covid restrictions now lifted in England, thanks to the vaccine and all the sacrifices we’ve made, we really do have a spring in our step!
With the imminent arrival of spring, there’s always a fervent mindset of activity and preparation for the spring and summer months ahead. We all have rooms, sheds or drawers to sort out and declutter, not to mention the garden or pots to sort post-winter!
So, as you prepare for the changing season, don’t forget to prepare your body! It’s very easy to neglect yourself and put your own health lower down the list of ‘jobs to do’ but if you have a bad back, then that list of jobs won’t get easily done!
When your back is feeling fine, it’s easy to forget to look after it. Our bodies are incredible machines and like all machines, they need regular maintenance and care to continue to run smoothly. It’s not just your back though you need to consider; you need to pay attention to and mind your knees! They are the shock absorbers of our body and although amazing bits of kit, being incredibly strong and capable, they are also vulnerable, particularly if misused as they can be easily injured.
So, to keep you running around like a mad March hare, here are my top tips in keeping your back muscles and knees happy!
- Cat Stretch! Make sure you stretch out your back daily. Cat stretches (if knees allow) being on your hands and knees and arching your back up to the ceiling, whilst relaxing your neck) are fantastic at keeping your back in check.
- Hug your knees! These can be done either seated or laying down on your bed or thick mat. Knees don’t have to be together, just at a comfortable distance apart.
- Rest your back. If you’ve worked your back, lifted or carried, take time out to rest it. The Lumbar stabiliser muscles are especially keen to do the work and these are the ones that tend to hyper contract if you overdo it without rest, rendering you immobile for 2-3 days. Lay on your front (prone) and rest your forehead on your stacked hands, with ankles flopped and feet wider than your hips. Rest and breathe gently for 2 minutes then get up slowly and practice a Cat Stretch…Cats aren’t wrong!
- Stay Hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids…8 small glasses (250 ml) a day really helps keep your organs functioning well, keep your system flushed and muscles eased all helping smooth movement.
- No heel striking! When running, avoid landing on your heels, which causes the shockwave to go straight to your ankles, knees, up to your hips and then onto your back. You should run so the forefoot strikes the ground, your heel kisses the Earth and you push off with your big toe.
- Don’t bend, twist or pull at the same time! A move easily done to ‘save time’ but it’s the easiest way to upset your back. Spend time moving things out the way, rather than wasting time recovering from painful, over-stressed back muscles!
- Turn carefully. Avoid swivelling on your knees and don’t load bear directly on them, as your knee caps are very mobile.
- Engage your Core! When moving, sitting up or down and lifting (even a full kettle) squeeze your lower stomach muscles IN to engage your core, which supports your back.
By practising Pilates regularly, muscle strength is built up and importantly maintained. Pilates is a hugely corrective form of exercise and so the days’ efforts which, can take their toll on the body, are re-adjusted with Pilates. Muscles re-align, ligaments lengthen and flexibility increases, leaving you as refreshed as a new spring day!