Workshop – New Parent Aches & Pains

New Mum with Baby

Our new parent workshops were originally offered in 2014.

Are you, or someone you know, a new parent who’s developed a new ache or pain along with the new arrival? Having a baby can put new stresses on your body, and create or exacerbate things like neck or lower back pain. Come to our new workshop this Autumn to get tips and advice on how to reduce these common new parent aches and pains. Open to new mums & dads, we encourage you to bring your baby with you so you can practice the tips during the workshop. You can purchase individual sessions or purchase all four at a discounted rate.

In each session you’ll get a few simple tools to help you incorporate the tips at home. All workshop attendees will also receive a voucher for 15% off a pack of 3 x 60 minute massage sessions and be invited to join the facebook group for additional support as you incorporate what you learn in the workshop. Scroll down for more information about when it is, how much, the workshop overview and FAQ’s.

Dates and How to Purchase

Our workshops were originally introduced in October & November 2014.

We now offer the workshops on an ad hoc basis as and when we have a group of new parents who’d like to host one with us. The price varies depending on how many of the aspects you would like to cover and the number of people attending.

If you’re interested in arranging a workshop for yourself and a group of friends, please contact us at info@leytonsportsmassage.com.

Our minimum is ten parents, and maximum group is up to 20.

Workshop Overview

Each workshop is a four-week course, each week looking at a different common ache or pain that I’ve found can be created or exacerbated with being the parent of a young child. Each session will include a brief overview of the muscles involved and what’s ‘ideal’ for your body, stretches and exercises to help those symptoms, and tips on how you can incorporate them into your life without having to find an extra 30 minutes every day to get an improvement. You will also receive a handout with what we’ve covered and some tools to help you incorporate the tips easily at home. Everyone who attends will have access to our facebook group for support and encouragement to put the tools we give you into practice.

Session 1: Lower Back Pain

Session one focuses on lower back pain, a common complaint in both new mums and new dads. We’ll review what’s going on in this area of the body and what factors may be causing the lower back pain. You’ll learn simple exercises and stretches, most of which you can do anywhere. You will have a chance to practice different ways of picking up and holding your baby.

Session 2: Neck and Shoulder Pain

Session two looks at postural causes for neck and shoulder pain and why it is often exacerbated as a new parent. We will show you simple adjustments to reduce the strain on your neck and shoulders and do-anywhere neck, shoulder and chest stretches, with tips on how to incorporate them into your day to day life. You’ll also learn some easy exercises to strengthen the postural muscles needed to keep you in better alignment.

Session 3: Hand/Wrist/Forearm Pain and Relaxation Techniques

Because new parents are using their hands in new ways with a new arrival, and new mums often still have the relaxin hormone affecting their joints, hand and forearm pain is common in new parents. The first part of this session will look at some self-massage techniques and tips to reduce the tension in your forearms/hands.

Being a new parent can also be a stressful time, with sleep deprivation and the almost-constant demands of a new baby. The second part of this session will include approaches to improve your relaxation before you sleep, to achieve more restful sleep, and relaxation techniques for during the day, when dealing with the demands of one or more children.

Session 4: Review and Specific Issues

This is a combination catch-up and individual issues session. By the fourth week you will have had a couple weeks to try to incorporate the techniques and practice fitting in the stretches/exercises. Most people find they forget the exact way to do it, or have trouble finding the stretch, so this week will be to review any exercises you’ve had trouble with or found a bit tricky since they were first introduced.

We will also use some time during this session to include any tips on specific issues you have that aren’t already covered in the workshop. You can let us know on the day or get in touch in advance and we can prepare some information for you.

Workshop Instructors

Katherine with Her ChildrenKatherine Creighton Crook is founder and principal therapist at Leyton Sports Massage. She has two boys, 3 1/2 years old and 9 months old, and has had both natural and caesarean deliveries. Being a mum of two she has personal experience with all the topics covered in this session. Her 9-month old, Noah, will be joining the workshop to help model some of the techniques we show you.

Rachel MussonRachel Musson is a sport & remedial massage therapist at Leyton Sports Massage and an experienced yoga teacher who has studied Thai massage, Tui Na, and CORE Myofascial release. Rachel is also a qualified primary school and special needs teacher, and in a previous life spent many happy years surrounded by little people.

FAQs/Additional Information

Where is the workshop?

We will be meeting in the studio at Fitness First in Leyton Mills retail centre. There is a lift to get up to the second floor. The gym is located across from Leyton tube station, has a large car park with 3-hour free parking, and buses 69, 97, 58, and 158 all stop outside the retail park.

Can I bring my baby/how old should my child be?

We encourage you to bring your baby to practice the techniques, but it is not a requirement of the workshop. As long as you feel confident that your child will not compromise your ability to participate we are happy for you to bring your child along. This might be up to two years of age, but if your child is older and you’d like to bring them please get in touch to confirm.

I have a medical condition – will the workshop be suitable for me?

If you have a medical condition we ask that you contact us before signing up for the workshop. Some medical conditions may be fine, others may not be, and some may need confirmation from your doctor before attending.

Can I breastfeed/are there nappy changing facilities?

Yes! Breastfeeding is welcome, and we will have an area set up in the studio for changing nappies, if you’d like to use it.

What should I wear/bring?

We recommend you wear comfortable clothes like you would wear to a yoga or gym class.  There are changing facilities at the gym that you can use if you’d like.  You may want to bring some water. Towels aren’t necessary, as you won’t be sweating, and mats and other equipment is provided.

Do I have to sign up for all four sessions?

You can do sessions individually based on your own interest/need, or purchase all four. If you missed one of the session that were of interest to you, we suggest you come to the fourth session to review. While it won’t be as in-depth, you will have access to all the resources (handouts, exercise cards, etc) from the session you missed. We are now offering sessions for purchase as individual sessions so you can pick and choose if you only want to do one or two, or you can purchase all four.

I’m a Fitness First member.

Because the workshop is held at a Fitness First, all Fitness First members are eligible for a 15% discount on the workshop: £25.00 instead of £30.00 for all four sessions, or £8.50 instead of £10.00 on individual sessions. To get your discount, input ‘FFDiscount’ in the Coupon code (not voucher code) on checkout.

Bring Your Baby

Are you finding it harder to schedule things now that you have to juggle childcare and child-friendly locations?

Baby in bag

Until 31 December 2014 we are trialing a ‘bring your baby’ option for day-time weekday appointments at our Leyton location, with an optional 15-min ‘Baby Buffer’ on 60-minute appointments.

When & Where

Leyton Location

Monday-Friday between 8:30 & 15:30.

How It Works

1. Book a 60-min session during the above-mentioned time slots and ask for the 15-min ‘baby buffer.’

2. Plan your session for when your child will most likely be having a nap/or be able to play happily in their pushchair.

3. If, during your session you unexpectedly need to attend to your little one, we will ‘pause’ it for up to a total of 15 minutes. If they are okay the whole way through, your session will run for the scheduled time. But as we all know babies aren’t always predictable, this allows you a little leeway if they do need a bit of extra attention while you’re with us.

4. If you’re happy with your experience and would recommend it to friends, let us know – if the response is positive we may make it a regular fixture.

Important notes/terms & conditions:

1. Your baby must be able to stay in his/her pushchair at all times during the session when you are not holding him/her for safety reasons.

2. If you are late we will take the time out of your session so as to be fair to our other clients.

3. We have a 24-hour cancellation policy – if for whatever reason you’re unable to attend please let us know as soon as possible.

4. The illustration is not indicative of how we suggest you bring your baby – please make sure you transport your child in an appropriate manner at all times.

 If you have any questions about our Bring Your Baby option, or to book, please get in touch: 020 8185 7364 or info@leytonsportsmassage.com or visit our Contact Us page.

Massage After Exhaustive Exercise May Aid Muscle Repair

tired after training

A study at McMasters University in Hamilton, Ontario, indicates that massage helps reduce inflammation and improve recovery of damaged muscle.

The study

Exhausted After ExerciseEleven young men were asked to cycle to the point of exhaustion (where they couldn’t continue), which was established as 70-minutes of vigorous exercise after having had their physical ability assessed two weeks previously. A massage therapist applied oil lightly to both quadriceps of each participant, then massaged only one quadricep on each individual for 10 minutes. A biopsy was taken of both quadriceps on each participant immediately after and 2.5 hours later.

The outcome

The tissue from the massaged leg showed fewer cytokines, which are a factor in inflammation. The massaged tissue also showed an increase in mitochondrial biogenesis, or muscle repair. Additionally, there didn’t appear to be any difference between the massaged and non-massaged tissue in levels of metabolites such as lactic acid and glycogen.  To quote from the abstract ‘In summary, when administered to skeletal muscle that has been acutely damaged through exercise, massage therapy appears to be clinically beneficial by reducing inflammation and promoting mitochondrial biogenesis.’ (from Science Translational Medicine abstract, see links below).

Pros/cons

Again we have an objective measure, e.g., biopsy, and an examination of what is actually happening at a cellular level in the muscle tissue. The main limitation is sample size, having only eleven participants. A big plus is that the researchers were able to compare tissue from the same person, which limits the possibility of a ‘false positive’, i.e. that the improvements in tissue on the massaged tissue were not from the massage but rather a result of the person’s physiological aptitude for healing themselves.

My favourite quotes about this study

“The main thing, and what is novel about our study, is that no one has ever looked inside the muscle to see what is happening with massage, no one looked at the biochemical effects or what might be going on in the muscle itself,” said Crane. “We have shown the muscle senses that it is being stretched and this appears to reduce the cells’ inflammatory response,” he said. “As a consequence, massage may be beneficial for recovery from injury.” (from the University Press Release)

Crane admits being surprised that just 10 minutes of massage had such a profound effect. “I didn’t think that little bit of massage could produce that remarkable of a change, especially since the exercise was so robust. Seventy minutes of exercise compared to 10 of massage, it is clearly potent.” (from the University Press Release)

“This is important research, because it is the first to show that massage can reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines which may be involved in pain,” said Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami Medical School. She was not involved in the study. “We have known from many studies that pain can be reduced by massage based on self-report, but this is the first demonstration that the pain-related pro-inflammatory cytokines can be reduced.” (from the New York Times article listed below).

Links on this study:

Press release from McMasters University: Massage is promising for muscle recovery: McMaster researchers find 10 minutes reduces inflammation

Abstract from study published in Science Translational Medicine

New York Times article summarising study: How Massage Heals Sore Muscles

New Parent Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is a common issue we see at the clinic, and it is also one of the most common aches that new parents experience, both mums and dads. In this article, we look specifically at why you may be getting lower back pain as a new parent and some simple ways you can help reduce that discomfort.

The Body – Post-Pregnancy

New Mum with BabyDuring pregnancy, your abdominal muscles stretch to accommodate the life growing inside you. Once the baby is out, however, those muscles are now weakened and not able to as effectively support your lower back as they might have been before. If you’ve had a caesarean, you have the added complication of a longer recovery time as well as scar tissue (which was very helpful in sewing you back together) creating restriction. Pelvic floor and abdominal muscles are essential in supporting your lower back – together all three work as a team to support your body. When the abdominals/pelvic floor are weak, the muscles in the lower back try to pick up the slack. The result? A tired, overworked lower back.

The Body – For Dads

Dad with BuggyJust because you haven’t been pregnant doesn’t mean you don’t have weak abdominal and/or pelvic floor muscles. If you have a desk job, or just spend a lot of time sitting, you too will probably have some weakness in these areas. Added to that, you’ll probably be doing a lot more bending over and lifting than you were before the new arrival, especially in the early weeks. New dads often end up lifting the car seat, the pushchair, and various baby-related accoutrements as mum is recovering from the delivery and are just as prone to getting lower back pain with the new arrival as mum.

What Can You Do?

In hospital, every new mum is given a sheet outlining a few simple exercises for pelvic floor and lower abdominal strengthening. These are very gentle exercises and can be done fairly soon after birth. They include:

– Fast and slow pelvic floor contractions

– Contracting the lower abdominal muscles

– Pelvic tilts

It’s essential to start with these exercises in the first instance as they are instrumental to supporting your lower back. As both parents are likely to experience lower back pain, these exercises will be good for both mum and dad. It’s important not to graduate to more difficult exercises until you’re comfortable with these (read: don’t do loads of crunches/sit-ups). Personally, whenever my lower back started to bother me, I found re-committing to these exercises provided immediate results.

How to Fit Them In

It can seem difficult, if not impossible, to fit in anything else around the demanding little bundle of joy that’s been introduced to your house, sleep deprivation, and all the other day-to-day obligations. A couple easy ways to fit in these essential exercises:

– Pelvic floor exercises can be done almost anywhere – feeding, sitting, watching TV.

– Keep the sheet (or a post-it note) next to your bed, and before you go to sleep do a few if you can – remember, three is better than zero!

Other Tips

Here are a few other things that are easy to incorporate that can yield great benefits when it comes to lower back pain.

Bend Your Knees When Lifting

I would be surprised if this was the first time any of you have heard this one, but it always bears repeating. Where you can, bend your knees before your bend your back.

Use Your Abdominals When Bending Over

With a baby, bending your knees isn’t always an option (i.e., picking up baby from the crib). When you must bend at your back:

– Before you bend over, gently activate your lower abdominals (this means contracting your lower stomach about 10-20%).

– When you come back up, imagine you’re pushing your body up with your stomach instead of lifting yourself up with your back.

Try it both ways. Bend over and come back up without using your abdominals and pay attention to how your lower back feels. Try it again, this time activating your lower abdominals. Can you still feel your lower back working, or does it feel different (or can you not feel it at all)?

Support Your Back With Your Abdominals When Stationery

Whether it’s changing a nappy, wiping a face, putting a toddler in a pushchair or clearing up the floor after lunch, we all find ourselves having to be bent over for periods of time with a baby or toddler. In these instances, try to keep your back flat and again, activate your lower abdominals to support yourself as long as you’re in this position to reduce the strain in your back.

Stretches

All the above tips are about helping your body reduce the strain on your lower back. But we all need a good stretch from time to time. Here are a couple of my favourites for lower back pain.

Child’s Pose to the Side

Childs-Pose

This is a common one in yoga – lay down with your hips on your feet and back curved. You may want to stay here for a bit. You can also stretch your arms out in front of your body and move your fingers over to one side (for example, the left side to stretch the right side of your back). Hold for as long as you feel comfortable.

Variations: If you find it difficult to be in this position comfortably, put a pillow between your stomach and your thighs, and/or a pillow between your calves and your thighs.

Seated Back Stretch

Seated-Back-Stretch

I like this one for the lower back in particular because it’s easy to move around to stretch the specific area in your back that’s tight.

Sit cross-legged and raise one arm over your head.

Lifting up and over, stretch to the opposite side, or slightly diagonally to the front.

Move your arm around to stretch different parts of your back and find the area where you feel a gentle stretch.

Variation: Try it cross-legged (as in picture) or with your legs forward/in a chair. Some people will feel the stretch differently depending on how they hold their legs.

Quad/Hip Flexor Stretch

Seated-Quad-Stretch

Tight quads/hip flexors can pull your back forward, making your lower back work harder. Stretching the front of the thigh can help take some pressure off your lower back.

Sit so both feet are on pointed toward one side of your body, legs bent.

Grab the front of your top ankle or foot and gently pull it back towards your buttock, ensuring you don’t bring your foot up.

Increase the stretch by pushing that same hip forward.

Variation: If you can’t reach your foot, you can use a belt or towel wrapped around your ankle. You can also do this when lying on your side in bed.

How Massage Can Help

When trying to release tight muscles, massage therapy is a good option. In a session, we’ll look at your posture and go through your day to day to see what can be done to both help alleviate the immediate symptoms and prevent them from returning. At Leyton Sports Massage, we are familiar with what the body goes through following the arrival of a new baby and will work with you to help your lower back pain as much as we can.

New Parent Workshop

In our workshops this October and November, we will be reviewing these and other techniques/stretches you could do to help lower back pain. For more information about what’s included in the workshop, you can check our workshop page here, or call or email for more information.

Important note: Lower back pain can have a number of different causes, of which soft tissue can be one or part of. If you have lower back pain that is persistent, sharp, or at all worrying, you should check with your doctor. Also, we strongly recommend you not start any new exercise programme without checking with a health professional, whether that be your GP, midwife, or postnatal physiotherapist.

New Parent Neck and Shoulder Pain

New parents often find they either get new neck and shoulder pain, or their preexisting neck/should pain gets worse with the arrival of baby. In this section we look at why that happens and give you some stretches and techniques to help with that discomfort.

The Body – Common Causes of Neck and Shoulder Pain

Massage for ShouldersNeck pain and shoulder pain are included as one topic because they often occur together and/or an imbalance in one exacerbates an issue in the other. Neck and shoulder pain is very often postural, and usually occurs either in the tops of the shoulders, between the shoulder blades, at the base of the neck and/or the base of the skull.

The cause, however, often starts with tension across the chest and front of the shoulders that pulls the upper body forward and out of alignment, creating strain on the neck, shoulder and upper back muscles.

Breastfeeding/Feeding

Mother BreastfeedingThe next time you’re feeding baby, have a look at how you’re holding your chest, shoulders, and head. The shoulders commonly form a rounded shape towards your baby and your upper body curves downward to get breast to mouth. Even bottle feeding, your body tends to form that shape, as a protective cocoon around your baby while he/she is eating. Once your upper body is in that position, it’s hard for the head to stay centred over the shoulders and usually ends up forward, as in this picture, placing strain on the back of the neck muscles.

Holding Baby

Father Holding BabyWe often adopt various postures when holding our baby. Our arms must be forward to hold him/her, and who can resist bending down to kiss and nuzzle their adorable little faces?

We of course wouldn’t for a second advise you to stop cuddling your baby – it’s one of the best bits! But it helps to be aware that these types of postures do create imbalances that result in some muscles working harder than they had to previously.

What Can You Do?

The first thing you can do is try to have better posture the rest of the time. Yes, you may have difficulty when feeding or holding your baby, but see how often when you’re not doing those things you can slide your shoulder blades gently down your back and towards each other. Stretches are good to open up the chest and relieve pressure on sore, achey muscles.

Chest Stretch – The Do Anywhere Version

Doorway-Chest-StretchSome of you will be familiar with this doorway stretch:

Place one hand on a doorframe (or climbing frame, or pillar, or even wall), with your upper arm at least 90 degrees to your upper body.

Gently lean forward until you feel a gentle stretch across your chest. Make sure your shoulder stays down and your chest leans forward.

Hold for up to 20 seconds.

Variations: Move the arm higher to stretch different areas of the chest. Rotate slightly away from the raised arm if you have difficulty finding a stretch.

How to Fit It In:

This stretch is so portable you can do it almost anywhere. If you say you’ll do it, say, every time you use the toilet, or put your baby down for a nap, you’ll find yourself doing it a couple times a day.

Chest Stretch – The Before Bed Version

Supine-Chest-StretchLonger duration stretches can be more beneficial by allowing the muscles to relax further.

Fold a pillow lengthwise and place it under your back, lengthways along your spine and supporting your head. You can bend your knees with feet flat on the floor to take pressure off your lower back.

Bring your arms together in front of you, and slowly open your arms, making sure your shoulders don’t come up to your ears.

Adjust your arms between 90 – 120 degrees in relation to your torso, wherever you feel a slight stretch.

Hold this for as long as you feel comfortable (e.g., 2-3 minutes) – you may feel the stretch sensation move from your chest, to the front of your shoulder, to your side, as various things release.

How to Fit It In:

Doing this stretch before you go to sleep should allow you the few minutes suggested for this stretch. Combine the stretch with some deep breathing to help relax you off to sleep.

Neck Stretch – The ‘Do It While Feeding’ Version

Neck-StretchAlthough it’s hard to maintain good posture while feeding, it’s easy to sneak in a little neck stretch.

While feeding/holding baby, tilt your head to one side, lengthening between your neck and shoulder.

As you tilt your head, make sure you lengthen your neck away from your shoulders instead of allowing your neck to collapse over on itself to protect your neck.

Keep your shoulder down towards the floor, so your head and shoulder are moving away from each other.

Variation: Turn your head so you’re facing up, down and to the side to change where in your neck you feel the stretch.

How to Fit It In:

This is good to do while feeding or holding baby, on the tube, at the playground, pretty much anywhere you remember to do it.

Help Your Posture While Picking Up Baby

Father Lifting BabyIt’s a good idea to try to anchor your shoulders so you’re using your back and your front when picking up your baby.

Before lifting, try to bring your shoulder blades down and towards each other. This should activate your mid and lower traps. If you raise your shoulder blades up and together, or down and away from each other, you may use different muscles. It’s a gentle contraction, almost like you’re gluing your shoulder blades to your back.

Once you’ve picked up baby, try to keep your shoulders in that position, moving your arms more than moving your shoulders. You should feel comfortable, i.e. don’t feel like you can’t move your shoulder blades at all, just be mindful of your shoulder blades being anchored on your back instead of rolling around to the sides of your rib cage.

How an SRMT Session Can Help

If you come to us with tight neck and shoulders, we’ll first look at your posture to identify which muscles are tight and making it harder for you to stay in a balanced position. By releasing tight muscles that pull you out of balance it will be easier for you stay in a better posture. We will also check the areas you feel pain to help release any muscle tension built up through overuse. We’ll also go through a few simple stretches to help combat what you’re doing day to day that is causing those muscles to get tight in the first place.

New Parent Workshop

In our workshops this October and November, we will be reviewing these and other techniques/stretches you could do to help neck and shoulder pain. For more information about what’s included in the workshop, you can check our workshop page here, or call or email for more information.

Important note: As with all pain, neck and shoulder pain can be a symptom of a number of different causes, not just muscle tension. It is never a bad idea to check with your GP regarding any pains you have as they can rule out other, more serious causes. Also, we strongly recommend you not start any new exercise programme without checking with a health professional, whether that be your GP, midwife, or postnatal physiotherapist. None of the stretches or exercises we recommend should cause pain, if they are painful stop doing them immediately until you can get advice on the correct technique.

Daniel Hooker Q&A

Daniel Hooker successfully competed in the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer, participating in the Men’s 100m T37 Final. We talk to him about the experience of competing in the Commonwealth Games, what challenges he faced preparing for the event as an athlete with cerebral palsy, and what he plans to do next.

Daniel, congratulations on your success at the Commonwealth Games. How did you find the experience in Glasgow?

Glasgow was amazing. If you want to break into the elite level of sport you have to treat yourself and your training as a big deal and it was wonderful to be in an environment where you were treated as a big deal by everyone around you and everyone wanted to help you to run as fast as possible, from your team coaches helping you at sessions to the physios helping you recover to your maximum after sessions, from the volunteers in the village answering any questions you had, to the people in the stadium roaring you on.

It was a very intense environment. I’m very nervous before races – I’ve never been so stressed before a race as I was before my heat in the morning. I usually get wound up about 24 hours before a race but this time it was 72 hours before! Every England athlete is picked on the expectation that you can come top eight. I knew I had been a marginal pick for the team and I so wanted to pay back Peter Stanley the Head Coach for having the faith in me by making the final which guarantees top eight. In the morning the crowd noise bounced off me, I was so in the zone and focused. I was aware of it but I didn’t really react to it emotionally. I ran a really good solid race and punched the air as I crossed the line because I knew I’d done enough. It was only after I made the final that I was able to really take any of it in, especially after I saw my parents in the crowd straight after I knew I’d qualified.

The evening was a lot more fun – I was singing along to the crowd karaoke of ‘Sweet Caroline’ as I set my blocks up and I was fighting back tears when I was announced to the crowd and got such a roar. It actually helped relax me because I got a great start; I was in second place after 30 metres. I was never going to stay there; my acceleration is excellent but my top speed and speed endurance less so. My target going in was 5th but unfortunately I’d warmed up too much and my legs went away from me as soon as I got out of the acceleration phase. I fell back to 7th in the last 20 metres, falling over after a desperate dive for the line to try and claw back 6th.

But I did what I was selected for. Peter gave me a huge hug at the Closing Ceremony and told me that I’d done the job. That was the best moment of my life.

What was your training like in preparation for the games?

During the winter I was training six days a week, with double sessions three days a week, every week from September through to March. This was a mixture of sprint sessions, plyometric sessions, weightlifting and circuit training. I was then injured for much of April and May which was my qualifying period with ligament damage to my right knee so I was just training as much as my body would allow.

The final eight weeks after being selected at the end of May in the run-up to the Games were very disrupted because I had picked up a new injury – this time a knee tendon injury which made it very hard to put any real force through my left knee. I could hardly walk the day before I ran my qualification race but had to give it a go given the stakes. Thankfully with a lot of anti-inflammation cream I was able to run, albeit struggling at the back end of the race. So for the final eight weeks I was doing a lot of rehab work in the gym and running on grass, just working on my general fitness at a time when I wanted to be doing speed work, having already missed a lot of that in April and May. Fortunately with help from Danielle at Leyton Sports Massage and my physio Jon Pringle in Oxford I was able to get back into proper speed training three weeks out from the Games and at Training Camp and the Village itself get just about sharp enough to deliver my two best races of the season at the Games!

As an athlete with cerebral palsy, was your training regime different in any way to non-affected athletes preparing for the games?

It’s hard to answer that as I don’t know exactly what everyone else was doing. The main thing is that I have to be much more aware of my body tightening up on me because my condition means my muscles are tight anyway even before training. Therefore especially around competition time I need to keep things short and sharp to give myself good recovery time and avoid tightening up. One good thing is that it means I can’t have ice baths as the cold doesn’t help my muscles!

You decided to be your own coach for this year’s events in Glasgow – how did that differ from when you worked with a coach?

It was something I’d thought about doing for a while as I’d started to coach some other athletes, which I really enjoyed, and I had always tried to understand my training and why I was doing what I did. The main thing about coaching yourself is that you have to be much more aware of your body both in terms of whether the training is too hard for it and in terms of what you’re doing technically. No one is going to tell you if your technique is wrong or you are over-training and becoming fatigued so you have to pay attention more. Whereas before, even if you try to do that as I did the decision on what you do is ultimately up to your coach so you can be a bit less focused on it. It’s more intense because you always have to be switched on mentally in sessions and think more about your training away from sessions as ultimately the decisions fall to you. But that was a good thing as it meant I had no excuses.

You had regular massages with us at Leyton Sports Massage leading up to your event. How did having a regular massage affect your training?

As I said earlier, my body tightens up really quickly. I used to have massage once a week when I was in Oxford and had massage about once a fortnight at Leyton Sports Massage throughout the winter. I always found that the day after my massages I would be much looser and able to put my muscles through greater ranges of motion when running which would allow me to do much better speed sessions (the most important session for any sprinter) the day after massages. In the run-up to the Games through a combination of a sponsor-type deal from Leyton Sports Massage and funding from SportsAid I could afford to have them twice a week which meant that I had that feeling of being loose for my sessions much more regularly. Danielle’s massages could also aid blood flow to my injured knee which meant that I recovered pretty quickly and was able to get on with proper training rather than rehab work earlier than would otherwise have been the case. It was crucial in my preparation.

Now that the Commonwealth Games are over, what are you planning to do next? Any more events on the horizon?

I’ve actually decided to retire. I’m relatively young (22) so it looks strange but I’m a long way off what Great Britain requires to select me for the Paralympic Games in Rio or the 2015 World Championships. Without the prospect of a major games in sight I don’t really have the motivation to keep training at the very high level that I have done during the last seven years. It’s very hard physically and mentally, it dominates every aspect of your life – the food you eat, the hours you sleep, the jobs you can take, and you need something inspiring at the end of the road to want to do it. I had a serious knee injury several years ago and I’ve never regained the same knee stability after that which has really impeded my progress, without that I really think I could have made it to the very top.

As mentioned I started coaching in the last two years. I really enjoy coaching as there is still the competitiveness and emotion of being in athletics while also using your intellect at the same time in the designing and delivery of their programme. I coach some talented and dedicated athletes and I really want to help them achieve their ambitions as I have mine. And if any of them come to the area, I’d definitely recommend Leyton Sports Massage for their massage therapy!

New Parent Hand and Wrist Pain

This is probably the least common of the three, but still worth a mention. Lifting a new little life can take its toll on hands and wrists, especially if you’re a mum and have just gone through the connective-tissue relaxing effects of pregnancy (and, if you’re breastfeeding, you’ll still be producing those hormones).

Causes of Wrist/Hand/Forearm Pain

Hand Holding BabyFingers and hands are mainly controlled by muscles in the forearm, with the tendons running through the carpal tunnel on the inside of the wrist for the tendons in the palm of your hand. The more you use your hands, the tighter your forearms can get, tensioning the tendons running through your wrist. You may also notice that while you’re holding baby, especially their head and especially at first, you’re holding your hands very tightly.

What You Can Do

Try to be aware of how much tension you’re holding in your hand and if that level of tension is necessary. For example, if you are holding them in your elbow with one hand behind their head, check if your hand is very tense or is it relaxed?

When you push the buggy, how tightly do you grip the handle? Can you can safely push the buggy by touching your thumb and fingers together around the handles with no tension in your hands whatsoever.

Self-Massage

Forearm-SelfMassage

Using a tennis or golf ball with the other hand, gently apply pressure on any area that feels tight, not allowing the pressure to create a pain greater than a 3/10. Hold that pressure until you feel a bit of release, then move down.

Use the tennis ball to make circles in the palm of your hand, the inside of your knuckles and the base of your thumb to help relieve hand pain.

Stretching Your Hands/Forearms

Flexor-StretchExtensor-StretchHolding the fingers or knuckles of one hand, bend your wrist and gently pull your hand to feel a gentle stretch in your forearm. Your arm should be straight but take care not to lock out your elbow.

You can bend your wrist both ways to stretch both sides of your forearms.

Carpal Tunnel and Other Issues

Some wrist and hand pain may require visits to a physiotherapist or the use of a brace, especially in the case of post-pregnancy/breastfeeding. In these cases, you should visit your doctor to see what they recommend.

How an SRMT Session Can Help

If you have pain/stiffness in your hands and forearms we will release the muscles in your arm and hands and take you through the above stretches so you can do them safely at home. Massage can also be used in conjunction with seeing a physiotherapist or receiving other medical attention if there are other, non-muscular causes of your wrist pain.

New Parent Workshop

In our workshops this October and November, we will be reviewing these and other techniques/stretches you could do to help lower back pain. For more information about what’s included in the workshop, you can check our workshop page here, or call or email for more information.

Important note: As mentioned above, sometimes hand, wrist or forearm pain may need attention from a physio, and some clients have found that using splints have helped their wrist pain during this time. As with any pain, we recommend you check anything worrying you with your GP so they can rule out any more serious causes and/or refer to a specialist as may be necessary. Also, we strongly recommend you not start any new exercise programme without checking with a health professional, whether that be your GP, midwife, or postnatal physiotherapist.

Buggy Fit Classes in East London

We chat to instructor Melissa Gaul who tells us a bit about Buggy Fit classes being offered for free via Our Parks in parks around East London and provides at-home exercises for anyone who might not be able to make it to a class.

OurParks Buggy Fit
Photo provided courtesy of OurParks UK

What is a Buggy Fit class? 

Buggy fit classes are an excellent way to get back into fitness after having a baby (or even to start getting fit and/or losing weight). The classes are held outdoors in the fresh air and this alone can benefit both mum and baby! They’re also a great excuse to meet other local mums with new babies and toddlers to have a chat with each other and maybe go for a coffee after. The session itself only lasts an hour.

Who can come to a Buggy Fit class?

The exercises in the class are all appropriate for new mums and I offer alternative exercises for different fitness levels – particularly for those who may suffer with carpal tunnel syndrome, painful joints due to breastfeeding (therefore still having the hormone relaxin in their bloodstream), a weak core and anyone who may have an abdominal separation.

The exercises I choose are all to help improve pregnancy & post baby related imbalances i.e. strengthening your back and stretching your chest muscles as you tend to be sitting feeding, stooped over baby for what seems like an endless amount of time!

What are some of the benefits of the Buggy Fit classes?

A few of the benefits are:

Strengthen your core & pelvic floor
Decrease your chance of back and shoulder injury
Improve your cardiovascular health
Meet new friends (for you and baby)
Decrease your chance of postnatal depression
Increase your mood-enhancing endorphins
Learn new exercises you can do at home to speed up the recovery process
Increase your stamina

Where are they being offered?

I’m currently teaching three Buggy Fit classes: one in Lloyd Park in Walthamstow and two in Victory Park in the East Village near the Olympic Park. You can find details about location, times, and how to book on the Our Parks website.

What if our readers’ aren’t able to make it to a class?

If you really can’t get to the classes I’ve completed a short workout for you to do at home.

All the exercises are safe for you even if you have an abdominal separation.

What is an abdominal separation (or diastasis recti)?

Abdominal separation is a separation in the rectus abdominis, or the most superficial abdominal muscles, and can sometimes happen during pregnancy (although it’s not limited to pregnancy). You can find out more about it and how to check for it via this link:  https://youtu.be/4I3bs5VuCyg. If you think you may have one it is best to check with your medical practitioner for confirmation.