Post-Pregnancy: When and How To Return To Exercise

As a physiotherapist, I regularly see patients who are unsure how and when to get back into exercise after giving birth, so I’ve written this article to help.  As you’ll see, there are plenty of benefits of getting back into a safe workout routine.  We’ll discuss what to do and how much, as well as looking at some of the complications that may occur and how to know if you’re overdoing it.  I’ve also included some pilates-based exercises for you to try at home, based on your ability and desired challenge!

 

 

Benefits of exercise post partum

 

It’s great if you are motivated to get back to exercise after giving birth!  It has many benefits, including:

  • Promoting weight loss;
  • Restoring muscle strength;
  • Raising energy levels;
  • Improving cardiovacular fitness;
  • Reducing risk of urinary incontinence;
  • Stress relief
  • Improving your mood;
  • And it gives you opportunity for increased social interaction.

 

However, after giving birth, the important questions are:

  • How much is safe?
  • And how soon should you return?

 

Everyone is different, so make sure you are following the individualised advice from your midwife.  Your return to exercise will depend on several factors including:

  • The strength of your pelvic floor muscles;
  • The number of pregnancies you have had;
  • The type of delivery (recovery following a caesarian will always be longer than a natural birth so you will therefore take longer to return to exercise);
  • The level of exercise you were completing ante natally;
  • And whether you have any pelvic girdle pain (PGP) or diastasis recti (keep reading to find out more about these conditions).

 

If you had a normal birth, you should be able to start easing back into gentle exercise as soon as you feel ready.  You should not start any high level or impact exercise until at least 6 weeks post partum, as long as your midwife clears you to do so at you 6-week check up (according to the NHS guidelines).  However, 12-16 weeks post partum is probably a more realistic time frame because the weakness of your pelvic floor muscles following pregnancy will take time to retrain and strengthen.  Doing too much exercise too soon can result in a prolapse which can be both uncomfortable and painful.

 

 

What is a prolapse?

 

A prolapse is when the organs in your pelvis drop down into the vagina, rather than being held in their normal position.  This can result in a heaviness sensation, there may be bulging present, and it can result in pains or aching in the lower back and stomach.

 

 

Why do prolapses happen?

 

A  number of factors associated with pregnancy can cause weakening of the pelvic floor muscles and surrounding ligaments.  Your pelvic floor muscles are often left weak and stretched, and this will put you at increased risk of having a prolapse.  This can happen for several reasons including:

  • The weight of the growing baby;
  • The pelvic floor muscles and ligaments may have been overstretched if you had a vaginal birth;
  • You may not have completed your pelvic floor muscle exercises as often as you recommended during your pregnancy;
  • Or you may have increased your exercise too quickly after childbirth (returning to high impact exercise too early will put you at particular risk).

 

 

PGP & Diastasis Recti

 

Along with risk of prolapse due to weakened pelvic floor muscles, pelvic girdle pain (PGP) and diastasis recti will also play a part in how quickly you can return to exercise.

 

Pelvic girdle pain includes pain in one, or several areas around the pelvis:

  • Pain over the pubic bone;
  • Pain in you perineum (area between your vagina and anus);
  • Pain across your lower back.

It is often aggravated by activities such as walking, going up stairs, standing on one leg, or turning over in bed.

 

Diastasis recti is separation of the 2 muscles that run down the middle of your stomach. You can check for diastasis recti yourself:

  • Lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet flat on the floor;
  • Raise your shoulder blades off the floor and look down towards you belly button;
  • Use the tips of your fingers to feel between the edges of the stomach mucles, where they should join in the middle, both above and below the belly button;
  • See how many fingers you can fit into the gap between your muscles;

If a gap of 2cm or more is present this is classed as diastasis recti.  You should notice this gap gradually decreasing over the first 8 weeks after the birth of your child.

 

If you think you may have either of these conditions, it will contraindicate you from completing the intermediate or advanced exercises suggested in this article.  It is advisable to see a physiotherapist or healthcare professional to help to improve or resolve these symptoms as soon as possible.

 

 

How do I know if I am overdoing it?

 

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should reduce the level of exercise you are completing, or rest completely until they resolve:

  • Fatigue;
  • Slow recovery from exercise;
  • Disproportionate muscle aches and pains for the level of exercise you have completed;
  • Increase in flow of lochia (vaginal discharge after giving birth containing blood, mucus, and uterine tissue);
  • Change of colour of lochia to pink or red;
  • Lochia restarts flowing after it has stopped.

 

 

Which types of exercise are safe to help you get back into sport post pregnancy?

 

Low impact exercises such as: swimming (once lochia has stopped); walking; yoga; and pilates are all great ways of easing you back into sport after pregnancy.  Try the following exercises for an introduction to pilates!

 

 

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Getting back into exercise:  A pilates-based programme you can try at home!

 

All of the following exercises should be pain free to complete.  If you experience any pain whilst completing them, or disproportionate aches or pains for the level of exercise you have completed following your pilates home session, stop and seek assessment and advice from a healthcare professional.  Please closely follow the advice on exercise progression, and only progress to the next difficulty if you meet the criteria stated.

 

 

Basic

 

These exercises should be safe to be completed by any new mum:

 

 

  • Deep neck flexor exercise:
    • This will help improve your upper body posture and reduce neck pain
    • Lie on your back with your head supported by a pillow
    • Lengthen through the back of your neck, and push the back of your head down into the pillow (a bit like you are making a double chin)
    • Hold for 10 seconds, then relax
    • Repeat 10 times

 

  • Transversus abdominus & pelvic floor activation:
    • This is the action of drawing your belly button in towards your spine, and drawing up through your pelvic floor muscles as if you are stopping yourself from going to the toilet
    • This muscle activation exercise should be practiced in sitting, lying, standing, high kneeling, side lying & 4pt kneeling
    • Hold the muscle contraction for 10 seconds, then relax
    • Repeat 10 times

 

Pelvic tilt

  • Pelvic tilts:
    • Lie on your back with your knees bent (crook lying)
    • Gently tilt your pelvis forwards and backwards
    • You should feel your lower back arching and flattening on and off the floor
    • Repeat this 10 times in each direction

 

 

Intermediate

 

If you have mastered the basic exercises, are not experiencing any pelvic girdle pain, and do not have diastasis recti, you should be safe to progress to completing these exercises:

 

  • Dumb waiter in standing:
    • Stand tall, with your pelvis in a neutral position, engage your deep stomach muscles and pelvic floor muscles, and have your arms by your sides with your elbows bent
    • Rotate your arms outwards, and stretch out to the side
    • Then bring your elbows back into your sides and rotate your arms inwards to return to the starting position
    • Repeat 10 times

 

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  • Spinal twist in high kneeling:
    • Kneeling up, with your pelvis in a neutral position, engage your deep stomach muscles and pelvic floor muscles, squeeze your bottom muscles (glutes), and cross your arms in front of you
    • Keeping your pelvis pointing forwards, rotate through your middle back round to the left, then slowly back to the centre
    • Repeat to the right
    • Repeat 10 times in each direction

 

 

  • One leg stretch in 4 point kneeling:
    • On your hands and knees (knees under hips, & hands under shoulders), with your pelvis in a neutral position, engage your deep stomach muscles and pelvic floor muscles
    • Slowly slide one foot back behind you, trying to keep your back and pelvis still
    • Slowly slide your leg back in towards you, and repeat with the other leg
    • Repeat 10 times with each leg

 

 

  • Breastroke preps:
    • Lie on your stomach with your hands by your sides, with your pelvis in a neutral position, engage your deep stomach muscles and pelvic floor muscles, and make sure you are aiming your tail bone down towards the opposite wall so your back isn’t arching
    • Squeeze your shoulder blades back and down, lift your hands an inch from the floor, stretch them down towards your feet, and lift your head and chest an inch off the floor
    • Slowly lower
    • Repeat 10 times

 

 

  • One leg stretch:
    • Crook lying, with your pelvis in a neutral position, engage your deep stomach muscles and pelvic floor muscles
    • Slide one heel away from you, trying to keep your back and pelvis still
    • Slowly draw your heel back into towards you
    • Repeat on the other side – alternate legs
    • Repeat 10 times on each leg

 

 

  • Clams:
    • Side lying, with your pelvis in a neutral position, engage your deep stomach muscles and pelvic floor muscles
    • Keeping your pelvis still and your ankles together, lift your top knee, then lower it slowly
    • Repeat 10 times
    • Turn over and complete on the other side

 

 

Advanced

 

If you have mastered the basic & intermediate exercises, if you are not experiencing any pelvic girdle pain, and do not have diastasis recti, you should be safe to progress to completing these exercises:

 

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  • Lunges with spinal twist:
    • Standing tall, with your pelvis in a neutral position, engage your deep stomach muscles and pelvic floor muscles
    • Step one foot forwards, and lunge down, making sure you are keeping up tall through your spine
    • Reach your arms out in front of you
    • Open one arm out to the side, then bring it back to the centre, then repeat on the other side
    • Step your front leg back, so you are back in the neutral standing position
    • Repeat with the other side – alternate legs
    • Repeat 10 times on each leg

 

 

  • Swimming (advanced level):
    • On your hands and knees (knees under hips, & hands under shoulders), with your pelvis in a neutral position, engage your deep stomach muscles and pelvic floor muscles
    • Slowly slide one foot back behind you, and lift it up, whilst simultaneously lifting and reaching the opposite arm, whilst trying to keep your back and pelvis still
    • Slowly bring your leg and arm back in towards you, and repeat with the other leg
    • Repeat 10 times on each side, alternating sides

 

 

  • Scissors level (advanced level):
    • Crook lying, with your pelvis in a neutral position, engage your deep stomach muscles and pelvic floor muscles
    • Bring your legs up one at a time into double table top (90 degree bend at the hip, 90 degree bend at the knee) and hold them there
    • Tap one foot down to the floor, then return it to double table top
    • Repeat with the other leg
    • Repeat 10 times on each side, alternating legs

 

 

  • One leg stretch (advanced level):
    • Crook lying, with your pelvis in a neutral position, engage your deep stomach muscles and pelvic floor muscles
    • Bring your legs into double table top as you did with Scissors
    • Stretch one leg away, making sure you keep your lower back still on the floor (don’t let it arch or twist), then bring your leg back into double table top
    • Repeat with the other leg
    • Repeat 10 times on each side, alternating legs

 

 

This article has been provided to give only general advice to new mums regarding graded return to exercise post partum.  It does not replace individualised assessment and advice provided by healthcare professionals.  When following advice from the article, if you experience pain or discomfort, please stop and seek advice and assessment from a healthcare professional.  If you are not sure whether you have pelvic girdle pain or diastasis recti, please ask your healthcare professional.

 

Anna Meggitt of Tom Astley Physiotherapy provides 1:1 pilates assessments and small group sessions at Project: Me, 84 Park Road, Crouch End, N8 8JQ.  Bookings available by phone (0203 659 3545), or email (info@taphysio.co.uk).

Avoid HARM for acute injuries (TOP TIPS)

Avoid HARM for acute injuries

After injuring yourself it can be difficult to know what to do. Do you use, ice or heat? Rest or movement? Elevation or massage? The asnwers to these questions are found in the type of injury that you have sustained.

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Acute Injuries

An acute injury is an injury with a sudden onset, usually as a result of some sort of impact or trauma, such as a fall, sprain or collision. Acute injuries are sudden and sharp, occur immediately (or within hours) and cause pain (possibly severe pain). With this form of injury, two acronyms are extremely valuable to remember: RICE and HARM.

RICE

The RICE acronym is one that should be followed as the four factors help to reduce swelling and inflammation that is likely to occur within the first stages of healing for an acute injury. RICE stands for:

  • Rest
  • Ice
  • Compression
  • Elevation

HARM

In contrast, the HARM acronym provides four factors that should be avoided with acute injuries, and stands for:

  • Heat
  • Alcohol
  • Running
  • Massage

HARM is extremely important to remember within the initial 48 hours following an acute injury because both heat and alcohol cause the blood vessels to dilate (open up) – this increases the bleeding in the injured area. Exercising the body part or massaging the area also has the same impact and can be detrimental to the healing process.

Chronic Injuries

Differing to acute injuries, chronic injuries can be subtle and may emerge slowly, with no known factor that triggered it. Chronic injuries may come and go, and may cause dull pain or soreness. Long standing low back pain is a classic example of a chronic injury, and often results from overuse and repetitive movements. However, if an acute injury is not effectively treated, it may lead to a chronic problem.

Heat therapy

Heat therapy is frequently used for chronic injuries or injuries that have no inflammation or swelling – such as nagging muscle or joint pain. Using a heat pad, or getting into a warm bath can help to increase the elasticity of joint connective tissues and stimulate blood flow, which can consequently aid pain relief. Whilst this is often a temporary solution, it can provide relief nonetheless.

Prodced by JB Physio and re-produced with permissions via twitter

Cycling Technique and Muscles

Cycling Technique & Muscle Activation:

Thanks all for taking the time to read my blog about cycling. I’m only a physiotherapist and by no means a coach or bike fitter so these are just my observations and understanding from reading around the topic.

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Cycling Muscle Co-ordination

The diagram to the left demonstrates the muscular sequence of events in the correct cycling pedal turn.

Right at the top phase of the pedal strike the power should come straight on via the glutes, the muscles of the bottom, and power down to a point where the large quadriceps muscles share the power and gradually become the dominant mover in the sequence.

During the lower section of this movement the calf muscles join the quadriceps to push the pedal through the lowest section of the pedal turn. It is then the turn of the muscles of the shin to pull the toes back up to level the foot out and the hamstring muscles to bring in a powerful pull back up. The final stage of the movement is the muscles of the hip flexors pulling the knee back up to the start phase.

When a cyclist cycles with this sharing of power there is much greater ability to create higher wattage, power, on the bike by not having any dead spots of power during the cycle rotation. It also means that there is greater use of all muscles and no overuse of one muscle group which helps prevent injury and muscle overuse issues.

Common Faults and Corrections

The most common problems that we see with cyclists of all levels are:

  • Overuse of the quadriceps – most people who cycle tend to rely too much on the big muscles of the quadriceps and this can result in reduced power due to inhibition
  • Lack of power on the lift phase – The current advice from British Cycling is that amateurs need to not be concerned regarding the upstroke of pedalling. The risk is an increased overload of the hip flexors. Training the hamstrings and the hip flexors to be able to perform this task is essential if you are to maximise all phases of movement. So an incremental increase in focusing on the pulling on the up stroke should be gradually introduced. However, this comes with a warning: DO NOT TAKE PRESSURE OFF THE OPPOSITE DOWN STROKE. Its easy when learning to ride smoothly to focus on too many things. The skill in using clip in pedals & shoes is timing, up stroke pulling whilst maintaining downward pressure on the opposite down stroke.
  • Tight muscles across hips and hip flexor strain– Its easy, in the beginning to overload the hip flexors due to the flexed nature of cycling. Like all sports, exposure should be gradual and incremental over a number of weeks. The hip is key in cycling and needs to work in an optimal range. The muscles around the hip, as we can see on the diagram above, are important for generating power (hip extensors) but also for moving the foot into the power phase (hip flexor). It’s important not to overwork the hip flexors and not to have too much hip flexion resulting in the anterior hip compression. If the hip has a lack of ability to efficiently bring the knee to the top phase of movement the body usually compensates through the upper body, resulting in swaying at the lumbar spine. This is commonly seen when you watch a cyclist from behind and see their back swaying from side to side with every pedal lift. This happens as the body makes room for the knee to be lifted through and puts a great deal of stress on the spine and the muscles of the lower back. Good range of movement and wiggins_2270877bstrength through the hips allows for good knee lift through the top end of pedal phase and power to go straight on, with the body holding tight and allowing maximum power transfer through the pedals. Lack of adequate range here also tends to result in repeated lower back tightness and pain.
  • Toes pointing down or toes pointing up? The current trend is neither, British cycling advocates a neutral foot position so that the power of the calf complex can be optimised.  If you watch cyclists you will see a vast number who cycle with the toes lower than the heels at all phases of movement. This style of rising will often be partnered with the body being positioned too far forward so that the knee can get over the pedal. This toe pointing style of riding makes it very difficult to use the glutes effectively in the first phase of movement and also makes it much harder to bring the knee back over the top phase of movement at the end of the pedal movement and be ready for starting the next phase. Equally, toes pointing up can result in a loss of power generation from the large calf complex which is particularly utilised in the down phase of the pedal stroke. Ultimately you should find your own style, don’t copy others, find what’s comfortable for you & riding styles can depend on your sport: For example, a triathlete might not be encouraged to ride with toes up because they might utilise their calf complex which in turn might inhibit the initial stages of their running. Yet on the other hand, should a world champion triathlete ask if they should change they’re cycling foot position, probably not: ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it’
  • Knee alignment over toes. During all phases of cycle movement, when you watch from the front, the knee alignment should be almost directly above the line of the toes at all times. This is particularly important at the top and power phase of movement. This alignment during power phase allows all power that the cyclist generates to be transferred down through the leg and into the pedal. If this alignment is out the power will not be directed down into the pedal, therefore losing power. The added lateral movement through the body will add strain into the joints of the knee, ankles and pressure across the foot.

 

Thank you for reading and I hope this has given you some insight into cycling technique and mechanics of muscle use when partaking in all levels of the sport.

 

Always remember to enjoy cycling and Lycra is cool, whatever anyone else says. We offer physiotherapy, pilates, & sports massage in Crouch End & Finsbury Park. Please book online here

 

Regards

Team TAP

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Saddle Issues for Female Cyclist by Bianca Broadbent

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As I am a female bike fitter, we tend to get a lot of female cyclists come in for a bike fit, with their primary complaint being saddle comfort (with numbness and soreness being the top issues within this). It is unfortunately normal for cyclists to think that saddle discomfort is something that needs to be tolerated, but this is simply not the case. In extreme cases cyclists report pain or difficulty urinating for several days post ride! Of course the exception being long distance cyclists or cyclists whom may not have “acclimatised” to spending periods of time in the saddle.

The saddle is the one of the most fundamental things to get right on the bike, and without this all other adjustments will be less than optimal.

You might ask yourself, what signs and symptoms should I look out for which tell me that my current saddle choice or set up isn’t right for me? Some of these might be:

  • Numbness
  • Lack of sensation when passing urine during the ride or after the ride
  • Soreness, whether this is in the genitals themselves, the perineum or the tops of the thighs
  • Saddle sores
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Deformity to soft tissues

As a result, we have compiled a brief list of things to look out for and consider changing in order to make your cycling more comfortable and alleviate those unwanted pelvic symptoms.

 

 

Saddle

 

As we mentioned, some of the most common problems arise from the saddle itself. A decent saddle is worth its weight in gold. We have found that there are many factors that dictate which saddle will suit you best.

  • Saddle height – too high and you will rock on the saddle which will lead to possible chafing and friction
  • Saddle tilt – some saddles are actually designed to have a slight nose down tilt i.e. ISM. Others are supposed to be set up according to the middle third. As a result a lot of the saddles we see are often far too nose up!
  • Saddle fore/aft – too far forwards and too much anterior tilt can place a lot of pressure on soft tissues and thus shoulders. Consider moving the saddle further back to allow a neutral pelvic position and optimal load transfer through upper limbs
  • Riding style – if you adopt a more upright riding style you may want something slightly wider to support the contact points of your pelvis. Conversely, those who ride in a more aggressive position will need something that maximises pressure distribution otherwise soft tissues will take most of the weight
  • Sit bone width – this is more relevant for the recreational and upright riders, but women often have wider ischial tiberosities which may mean a wider saddle will help load bony prominences rather than soft tissue
  • Saddle “cutout” – many clients find relief from a small channel cut out which reduces pressure through the neural and soft tissues within the pelvis
  • Soft tissue anatomy – Cobb cycling have a very good article on “innies” or “outties”. It’s true that if you have more soft tissue exposed this will dictate what kind of saddle you will prefer.
  • Brands that we tend to find alleviate these problems are Cobb, Selle SMP, Specialized. It’s not that we don’t like other saddles, but when client’s have problems these tend to be the ones that resolve the issues

 

 

Pedals/cleats

If you have asymmetries in your pelvis (functional, leg length or you over pronate or supinate), this can lead to changes in how your hips and knees track. As a result this could cause chafing on one leg, or make you sit to one side. There are a variety of ways you can resolve these issues:

lemond-lewedge-pronation-supination

  • Cleat wedges – these are small angular pieces of plastic which will change the angle of your foot. They can be stacked or layered to stop the foot over pronating or supinating, or to address small leg length discrepancies
  • Cleat shims – these are thicker pieces of plastic that can be stacked to reduce the severity of the leg length. Bikefit.com produce very good products
  • Insoles – to help the knee track and thus reduce compensatory strategies at the hip
  • Combination of in the shoe adaptations e.g. heel wedges and forefoot wedges – however these are space occupying so can be an issue
  • Cleats too far forward may also change your tipping point and cause you to come further forward on the saddle

 

 

Cranks

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Now the cranks are a widely overlooked aspect of bike fitting. It would be difficult to discuss them in great detail during this article, but what we do know is that the standard cranks that come on a bike aren’t always suitable for the rider on the bike. For example, we had a triathlete in recently who was approx 5ft 5 but running 175mm cranks! There are many reasons to pick cranks;

  • Leg length – it is suitable to pick cranks that roughly match the leg length of the rider NOT the height
  • Hip/knee flexibility –If this is lacking (or albeit even if it is not!) it is best to look for shorter cranks which allow you to pedal in a smooth motion, otherwise this movement often tracks back to the pelvis, where excessive rocking can cause shearing forces through soft tissue and thus pain!
  • Closed hip flexion positions lead to strains through pelvic floor musculature which can also impact on negative sensations and experiences

 

 

Handlebars

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The handlebar position can have a HUGE impact on symptoms at the pelvis.  If the reach is too short you may round your pelvis and put yourself in an suboptimal position, too long and you may put too much pressure through soft tissues. Too low and you will end up with the same problem, it might not be an issue for 30-60 minutes but over the course of a long ride this is when problems can manifest. You might also want to consider shallow drop handlebars to reduce the pressure when riding on the drops.

 

 

Other

  • Seatpost – Believe it or not, changing the seatpost can be a VERY good way to help reduce pressures through the saddle. If you are especially sensitive consider a carbon seatpost or something with shock absorption to help dissipate the energy that would otherwise end up in your pelvis

 

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Specialized CG-R. Cyclocross Magazine
  • Chamois cream – anecdotally clients whom have had pelvic pains report that chamois cream helps immensely, particularly when their mileage has significantly increased or they have started doing longer riders

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  • Decent chamois – do not underestimate the benefits of a decent pair of shorts! A well designed chamois will help reduce friction and pressure through sensitive areas. Personally I find something with a little extra padding more comfortable, but less padding suits others. It’s worth spending the extra money, believe me! (Just made sure you put them on the right way round!!!!)

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As this is just a basic outline on bike issues, we will be publishing articles that address each bike component separately.

If you have any questions for us feel free to email info@fityourbike.co.uk or contact us on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/fityourbikeuk

If you are interested in booking a bike fit, we operate clinics in Birmingham and Essex, and our fitter is female so perfectly placed to empathise with any pelvic issues you may be having!

London to Paris – How To Survive

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In May 2013 a friend emailed a small group of us and outlined his plans to cycle from London to Paris, with or without us. In the spirit of naivety four of us agreed to do it, and so the date was set for October 2013.

One would think this is plenty of time to prepare for such an event, and it is, as long as you do the preparation and don’t leave it to the last minute. The journey was planned and mapped out according to Donald Hirsch’s back road route via Newhaven and Dieppe (the route maps are available to print here).

The team consisted of four riderswiggins_2270877b; Oli, Alex, Hamish and myself. It was a simple plan – as are most things in theory – start on Thursday evening and finish on Sunday morning, a grand total of 220 miles. We even allocated roles within the team; Oli was to be the mechanic, Hamish was on map reading duties, Alex was our GPS reader and guide whilst I was to take on medical duties.

In preparation for the event we each undertook individual training regimes, but we all did one long ride (100 miles) together to gauge each other’s riding abilities and work on communication. On this ride it became apparent that we had different levels of fitness within the team, which meant we had to adopt our daily mileage to Paris according to the ‘weakest’ rider.

This is important in order to avoid over exhaustion early in the journey, and for everyone to be able to keep the pace for the duration of the 220 miles. The main training involved in preparing for the event was time spent on the bike getting plenty of miles under our belts. It sounds so obvious to say it, but if you want to be a good rider, you have to put in the mileage.

The other piece of advice I’d give relates to consecutive days of riding. Its vital that your body adapts to being in the saddle for consecutive days and pedalling the bike for consecutive days, in our case four days.

The Hirsch London-to-Paris route is a peaceful and enjoyable route which, once in Dieppe, consists mainly of riding Route Verte (disused railway), but it still takes three days to do it. We split the days into the following mileage:

– Thursday: London to Haywoods Heath (60 miles)

– Friday: Haywoods Heath to Newhaven (20 miles)

– Friday: Dieppe to Forges les Eaux (34 miles)

– Saturday: Forge les Eaux to Forete de St Germain (72 miles)

– Sunday: Forete de St Germain to Paris (35 miles)

The key to our journey being a success, in my opinion, was down to a few factors. First was using both the map and GPS tracker set up to navigate our way. Second was preparing our bikes to do touring distances; changing tyres, adding mud guards and adding saddle bags. Most of all we made the trip fun, because when you are covering those sorts of distances you have got to enjoy it, otherwise it soon becomes a chore and you start to resent doing it.

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Having the right equipment meant we were able to limit tyre changes (not fun) and took time to enjoy long lunches, as well as coffee breaks, ensuring moral was maintained throughout. Overall, the experience of riding a bike from London to Paris was amazing, and without doubt one of the best experiences I have had in life. I strongly recommend it to others, but remember; plan for it, prepare for it, do it and enjoy it.

Tom graduated from UWIC with a degree in science, health, exercise and sport, and then specialised in Physiotherapy and graduated Coventry University in 2008. He has worked in musculoskeletal clinics and community based falls prevention rehabilitation, both for the NHS, and is currently clinical director at TA Physiotherapy. Outside of work, he enjoys staying fit and healthy by attending the gym, completing triathlons and road cycling.

Pregnancy: To exercise or not to exercise?

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Advocate for fun and accessible fitness for all. Get in touch @rachael_PT

Rachael Field Roddis – Personal Trainer, pre & post-natal qualified trainer and mom of one has taken the time to write a piece for Tom Astley Physiotherapy blog. So sit back and relax with a cup of brew before making those plans for returning to exercise:

 

The mentality of eating for two and giving up exercise during pregnancy has thankfully waned in recent years. If a pregnancy is without complications and the mum-to-be is clear of injury and/or medical conditions there should be no reason to prevent safe, appropriate and modified exercise all the way to full-term. Like any fitness programme it should be prescribed to suit the woman’s own health, lifestyle and fitness levels, we are unique and so is each pregnancy. Using my own pregnancy as an example, you can see from the first to the third trimester different physiological and biochemical changes just require exercise adaptations to workout safely.

exercise-during-pregnancy

In the first trimester (0-12 weeks) training was hampered by sickness. Being sick on the gym floor was not going to make me any friends and so I trained less frequently due to the nausea and fatigue. One of the first valuable lessons I learnt about pre-natal exercise: “Listen to your body and don’t exercise to exhaustion.”

 

Changes in hormone levels require more care and attention to be taken when exercising. Asking the mum-to-be to look out for the signs and verbally screening before you start each training session is crucial. The hormone relaxin softens ligaments and connective tissues throughout the whole body, but is meant to primarily prepare the pelvis for delivery and cervix dilation. When I reached the second trimester (13-26 weeks) my joints started to feel unstable when running on a treadmill. To prevent injury I lowered the impact and used a cross-trainer. My flexibility increased and I had to be mindful of this when stretching and not taking exercises past the usual range of motion. Each woman will be different and some don’t feel these major changes but err on the side of caution at all times.

 

aerobics.jpgOn the homestretch, the third trimester (27-40 weeks) and more than anything the size of a woman’s bump will now probably dictate what exercise can and cannot be performed. For me it wasn’t the size of my bump but a change to my centre of gravity that forced me to adapt exercises. A lack of balance made it more difficult to perform exercises I’d usually find easy. To continue executing them I made modifications, for example by working unilaterally and using an inclined bench or wall for support.

 

Resuming exercise after the birth depends on the type of delivery and what happens during labour. At present it is suggested that after a vaginal delivery it should be at least six weeks and for a caesarean section it’s twelve weeks, to allow for post-operative healing. A medical professional must give the post-natal client the ‘all-clear’ before she starts exercising. I was grateful to receive an exercise sheet from a physiotherapist after the birth, which had safe gentle abdominal and pelvic floor exercises that I could do straight away. After the ‘all-clear’ from the GP it was a case of me creating time for fitness while adapting to motherhood and breastfeeding too.

Postnatal-Exercises-For-New-Moms
Pre and post-natal exercise has so many psychological and physiological benefits, why would we not promote it? As fitness professionals we have the ability to support, encourage and provide knowledge for risk-free enjoyable exercise during this remarkable period.

At Tom Astley Physiotherapy we advocate exercise participation through pregnancy and post-pregnancy, we can offer you pre & post natal Pilates classes in small groups lead by a qualified Physiotherapist – Anna Meggitt at Project: Me (N8 8JQ).

Contact us on 0203 659 3545 or info@taphysio.co.uk

 

The author and contributor to the blog, Rachael, also works in North London and is available for private personal training.

Contact Rachael on rachael_pt@yahoo.co.uk

 

Commonwealth Day #10 – Refection #5

Well the end is in sight for Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and I’ve had a blast so much so I might go to Rio.

Working in the poly clinic as a physio to the athletes has been a once in a lifetime experience and taught me so much about the world of elite multi-sport events.

I have had the opportunity to work under a great physiotherapy in Lynne Booth and a fantastic team of physio’s from across the UK.

The next goal for me is to get My Physio in sport bronze award and then continue multi-sport event physiotherapy through UK Athletics and BUCS pathways.

Thanks for reading my previous blogs.

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Commonwealth Day #9 – Reflection 4

XX Commonwealth Games
XX Commonwealth Games

 

The 2014 commonwealth games is coming to a close within the next few days. The Glasgow platform has provided some amazing sporting outcomes and a great experience for athletes, team officials, and Clydesiders alike. As part of the medical services, working in the polyclinic has given me a taste of the multi-sport elite level competition, and whilst it is hard work, it’s certainly something I have thoroughly enjoyed.

 

The What?

I have learnt a lot from being in the polyclinic environment and working alongside some fantastic physiotherapists over the past two weeks. When an athlete is injured, they usually transferred to the polyclinic, from the field of play, to receive world-class treatment. However, what happens when the athletes doesn’t listen?

 

So What?

A netball player presented to the polyclinic with an acute ankle sprain, 2 days previously, she sprained her ankle competing. Treatment was provided to aid recovery but as part of my assessment, I enquired as to when she was competing next, the reply I received was ‘5pm today’.

As physiotherapists, we naturally want to promote activity and sports participation, but sometimes the body needs time to heal. The athlete always wants to play and the coach always wants their best players fit for action. The difficulty comes when the coach is present to hear your opinion about an injury or doesn’t choose to hear it.

I advised the netball player that should not play on her ankle in its current state, despite the fact that she had a game that afternoon, and this is why.

The ‘envelope of function’ (according to Dye, 2005): increase in activities (both frequency and intensity) leads to tissue loading outside the zone of physiological homeostasis
The ‘envelope of function’ (according to Dye, 2005): increase in activities (both frequency and intensity) leads to tissue loading outside the zone of physiological homeostasis

The tissues within the body are maintained in homeostasis through training and competing. The tissues and structures in the body are pushed into ‘supraphysiological overload zone’ when competing, which means that are optimised within the ‘Envelope of Function’. When these tissues are overloaded beyond the ‘Envelope of Function’, i.e an injury occurs, then tissues fail and break or rupture. due to injury, the envelope of function is reduced and tissue homeostasis is disrupted.

 

What this means in the context of the athlete competing, is that they have a reduced physiological ability to perform to their highest level, which would be needed at an international event like the Commonwealth Games. If the athletes does compete with a reduced ‘Envelope of Function’, then they risk further injury as the tissues get overloaded beyond the envelope sooner. The cycle of boom and bust can re-occur until the tissue is given sufficient time to heal and repair to restore tissue homeostasis.

 

Now What?

1) Communicating the importance of tissue healing to athletes is difficult but needs to be emphasised to avoid boom and bust cycle of injury.

2) Communicating the outcomes of clinical assessments to the athletes medical team should be done immediately to discuss return to competition but athletes want to play and coaches want their best players available for selection, so getting this message through can be difficult.

3) Treatment of injuries should be looked at in the short-term and long-term outcomes with the athlete at the centre of the treatment goals

 

Reference

1) Dye SF. The pathophysiology of patellofemoral pain: a tissue homeostasis perspective. Clin Orthop Relat Res 2005; 436:100-110.

 

Commonwealth Day #3 – Refelection 3

XX Commonwealth Games
XX Commonwealth Games

Commonwealth Reflection #3;

The Glasgow 2014 commonwealth games are now well and truly underway with Saturday 26th July promising to be a busy schedule of competition across various sports including netball, Judo, and tracking cycling. The athletes are in full swing and the medals are coming thick and fast with this in mind I undertook my third shift at the Games Village Polyclinic.

 

The What?

The poly clinic environment, as I’ve previously mentioned, is a fast paced and exciting environment but requires a cool and collected approach to ensure the athlete gets 1005 the elite care they deserve.  But sometimes the system can be slowed down with bureaucracy  with a classic example of this coming when SEM doctors require ultrasound scans for soft tissue damage. SEM had to refer to radiography for U/S and were unable to perform U/S sans themselves. So SEM referred to radiography but radiography would only do MRI scans due to higher sensitivity rates (1) (2).

 

 

Courtesy of Shoulderdoc.co.uk
Courtesy of Shoulderdoc.co.uk

So What?

The systems clearly works within the polyclinic with this clinic seeing upwards of 400 contacts in a day, but the system can be slowed down. Ideally, the SEM doctor would like to use U/S as part of the assessment process but this may not be time efficient. HCP’s need to carry out a full and thorough assessment of the presenting condition and provide appropriate care, which in this case involved using U/S scans for soft tissue injury. However the radiography preferred MRI scans for diagnostics which cost a lot more money to provide. The resolution came when SEM were finally able to use the diagnostic U/S scans for the athletes. This is by no way a criticism of the current system but goes to show with the best laid systems they need to be flexible to provide a high level of care within a high-octane environment.

 

Now What?

  1. Multi-disciplinary healthcare provision is idealistic and can work with clear and concise communication as well as team work to overcome problems.
  2. Systems and approaches to care provision need to flexible to ensure correct diagnosis and treatment are provided
  3. The athletes are the main priority and excellent care needs to be provided to ensure the best outcome for the athlete

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Tom

 

 

Reference:

1) B Hamilton, R Whiteley, E Almusa, B Roger, C Geertsema1, Johannes L Tol (2013); Excellent reliability for MRI grading and prognostic parameters in acute hamstring injuries; Br J Sports Med.

2) K M Khan, B B Forster, J Robinson, Y Cheong, L Louis, L Maclean, J E Taunton (2003); Are ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging of value in assessment of Achilles tendon disorders? A two year prospective study; Br J Sports Med

 

 

'prehab not rehab'
‘prehab not rehab’

 

Commonwealth Day #2 – Refelection 2

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XX Commonwealth Games

Commonwealth Reflection #2:

Hello and welcome back. Thank you for reading my first reflection on my experiences in the Glasgow 2014 commonwealth games. After completing my first poly clinic shift, I was excited to get back in clinic and enjoy shift number two on Wednesday 23rd July, OPENING CEREMONY NIGHT

A little wiser from previous shift, I was feeling more confident in my new surroundings and raring to go one day before competition began.

The What?

So Wednesday turned out to be a quieter shift in the polyclinic due to preparation for the opening ceremony. Naturally, most the attendees were either competing the following day or an acute injury needing attention in preparation for the games.  The team scheduled to cover the evening shift was the same team I worked with the previous day, so I was glad to have some familiar faces in the clinic.

 

So What?

A number of athletes came to the polyclinic seeking intervention for strapping and taping, this is something that is usually undertaken by the national team medical staff but as some nations have differing budgets, not all nations have a full medical team at the games and so they optimised the services at the polyclinic.

Over the course my shift I assessed and treated athletes from sports including Judo, weightlifting, hockey and long jump. these four examples demonstrated a good variety of stage of injury and the appropriate treatment undertaken, difference in teams and the medical support available to prevent such injuries, and expectations from treatment.

– A Judo athlete attended clinic requesting strapping and taping for bilateral posterolateral corner of the knees. No pain upon assessment and so I taped the knees. I think there are many properties to tape and differences between tape and strapping but one underlying factor is the psychological impact it has. I believe that it gives competitors confidence to push their bodies to the highest level despite the absence of injury. In the injured athlete it can be high effective to stabilise a joint (i.e subluxed shoulder).

 

Patellar Femoral Compartment Stress
Patellar Femoral Compartment Stress

– I saw another weightlifter with acute patella tendon tendinopathy and high irritability, why is this a common occurrence? I could only assume it was due to an increased volume of training in preparation for the games. In an ideal world I would love to sit down with the athlete and analyse the training volumes to cross-correlate it to the onset of injury but in a fast paced environment like a polyclinic as well as communication limitations, this is unrealistic. If I were set within a national medical team I would use those skills to monitor injuries within training regimes and highlight these impacts on injury rates thus enabling a team to improve training and performance. These guys would benefit from some eccentric tendinopathy rehabilitation.

– I saw an acute adductor strain (Grade I – MRI confirmed) from one of the larger commonwealth teams and experienced first interaction with national teams doctor requesting treatment. As part of the immediate management, the athlete was put on cryotherapy in the shape of ‘game ready’. This device works by pumping ice cold water into a cuff that is attached to the athlete. The machine setting mean temperature, length of time and compression can be regulated by the clinician. Its a marvellous piece of kit to have especially as it addresses two of the five P.R.I.C.E principles for the immediate management of soft tissue injuries.

Now What?

  1. Its important as a clinician that all patient are thoroughly assessed especially if we have not assessed or don’t know anything about the athlete
  2. Don’t just do what the athlete thinks will help. Clinically reason the problem and take suitable action in the form of treatment
  3. Taking treatment requests from medical teams is acceptable but again question the reasons behind the intervention.

 

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoy the blog, watch this blog for more Commonwealth games posts

 

Tom

Enjoying Games Life
Enjoying Games Life