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The Benefit Of Pilates For Winter Sports

Posted on 8th Jan 2018 by

Winter is upon us and with that, ski and boarding seasons are in fill swing!

We get lots of enquiries at the clinic about how best to prepare for skiing holidays and how to prevent the worst from happening with injuries.

In today’s blog, we’ll look at why preparing for your ski or snow boarding holiday is important and what Pilates is – if you haven’t come across it before

Ski holidays are a big commitment, both physically and financially. They are also time limited, so most people ski around 6-8 hours a day for 5-7 days in a row. This can be a huge increase in demands on your body if you normally sit in an office all day!

Pilates can help to prepare you for the slopes in many ways:

  • Helps to prepare the body for intense period of exercise
  • Reduces the risk of injuries
  • Improves fitness
  • Addresses muscle imbalances
  • Helps you make the most of your holiday!

Pilates is a low impact form of exercise, usually mat based, that centres around the idea of maintaining a strong ‘core’ during dynamic movement patterns. It works on improving balance, flexibility, muscle strength and posture. It incorporates elements of yoga, martial arts and Western forms of exercise.

So how does having a well trained ‘core’ help me on the slopes? 

There are 4 key elements that will help you during your time on the slopes – Posture, Alignment, Control & Muscle Balance.

I’m sure you’ve seen it before, some people struggle to even stay upright! During this struggle their muscles are so tense and working so hard to keep them upright, thinking about posture goes out of the window!

Posture

A crucial part of winter sports is how you stand on your skis or board.

Incorrect posture will force your body to work much harder than it needs to, which is really inefficient. So, you’ll find that some of your muscles will tire much more quickly and your body will generally fatigue.

When you’re on your skis or board, your posture needs to be stable, yet easily adaptable to the dynamic nature of snow sports.

Pilates helps posture by educating the right postural muscles for you. It teaches postural muscles to work effectively and efficiently.

Alignment

This follows on from posture. Alignment is the relationship in your body between key areas like your head, shoulders, pelvis, hips, knees & ankles. So, if you were drawing a line between these key points like a dot to dot – there will be good and not so good patterns of alignment.

Learning to align your body in its optimal position, will reduce the strain on joints and muscles. Correct alignment will improve your control and balance.

We take it for granted, thinking our body will naturally do this, but a lifetime of postural stresses, injuries, sitting at desks, driving etc. will effect our optimal alignment. We may have tight weak muscles or even some that don’t ‘switch on’ when they’re needed.

Pilates really works to optimise your alignment, teaching all those bits of your body to work efficiently in relationship to each other. Being conscious of your alignment will carry over to your time on the slopes and you will reap the benefits in efficiency, endurance and preventing injury.

Control

Being able to control your body effectively allows you to make small changes without over or under compensating. This skill is vital in skiing and boarding. Reduced control results in working harder than you need to, overstraining the body.

All the moves and exercises in Pilates will challenge and educate body control. Practising control off the slopes will help it become second nature when you’re on the slopes! Let’s face it, when you’re hurtling down a slippery mountain with an equally slippery piece of equipment attached to your feet, a bit of control is a nice thing to have!

Muscle Balance

Muscle imbalances are common throughout the body and don’t always result in a problem. But if your body is being put under greater prolonged physical stress (like a week skiing!), imbalances can become problematic. Weak muscles can be forced to use increased tone or tension to help support them, which increases their work load. Other muscles can work overtime to try and compensate. As skiing/boarding is a whole body exercise, it’s important to address any imbalances you may have.

Pilates is a great form of exercise to do this, that really works the whole body. When practising Pilates exercises you can quickly find out which areas are weak or tight!! It will really teach those ares to work and address any compensations your body is making.

So, how exactly can Pilates can help prevent injuries and keep me safe during my trip!

All of the points above are vital injury prevention tips – correct posture and alignment, better control and well balanced muscles will all reduce the risk of injury.

Any area of the body can be injured when skiing, as it’s a whole body sport. This includes joints, bones, ligaments, muscles and tendons. An injury can vary from a minor muscle strain to a major bone/joint injury such as fracture or dislocation.

Pilates specifically can help you:

  • Maintain control
  • Improve balance – reducing the risk of falling
  • Distribute the load evenly throughout your body – reducing the risk of overworked muscles
  • Increase your flexibility – helping you maintain the correct posture and stance
  • Improve your dynamic movement control – allowing you to adapt to your terrain

Pilates will give you the skills needed to have a safe and enjoyable time away – plus it’s a great form of exercise all year round! The benefits are transferrable to everyday life and exercise too, not just extreme winter sports.

If you’re interested in experiencing for yourself how Pilates can benefit you, come and join one of our classes. We run an extensive timetable of classes, including daytime, evening and Saturday mornings – with a range of levels to suit all.

The goPhysio Team also have some top tips to help reduce the risk of injury on the slopes

Fiona – Listen to your body! Don’t keep going if you feel like you need a break.

Kim – Get any pre-exisiting injuries treated BEFORE you go – don’t leave it until the last minute! You really wouldn’t believe the number of people we see at the clinic a few days before they’re due to go skiing, who’ve had an injury for ages and call us in desperation (normally looking for a knee brace to solve their problem!). Think ahead!!

Paul – Pace yourself throughout the day and have regular breaks to top up energy levels with a hot chocolate!

Francesca – Just in case……make sure you have some insurance to cover any injuries or illnesses while you’re away.

We hope you have a safe & happy holiday!

p.s. Obviously, some injuries are totally unavoidable. So if you do find yourself heading home not quite in one piece, we’re here to help you recover too. You can book an appointment online or give us a call. We aim to offer you an appointment within 24 hours, if not the same day so you can get sorted without delay. All our team are keen skiers or boarders, so know exactly what you’re talking about.


Runners – How To Avoid Injuries

Posted on 4th Jan 2018 by

No one wants an injury, particularly runners. Not being able to run because of an injury is highly frustrating. The good news is, so many running injuries can be avoided very easily.

Sports Therapist, Tom, shares some top ways of helping to prevent an injury if you’re a runner.

Warm Up Effectively

A solid warm up should consist of foam rolling (which can improve performance), mobility work to maximise joint health and longevity, dynamic stretching and muscle activation to fire up the key players in running (calves, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes). Running backwards is a great way of activating your glutes which play a huge role in stabilising the hips and promoting good form when running forwards. Read more about warming up here.

Route Knowledge

Know your run. If you’re heading out on a new route, make sure you know the terrain, any obstacles, gradients or side-planes and are equipped for the specific weather and conditions that you’re running in.

Train Smart

Increase mileage safely and run with proper form. There are so many resources now online to help guide and direct your training in a ‘smart’ way. This is crucial to preventing injuries if you’re serious about progressing your running. Joining a running club or group is a great way to get guidance and support too.

Increasing Mileage

Beginners should avoid increasing their mileage every week. Instead try every 3-4 weeks. Add an extra day into your running week to increase your weekly mileage. Advanced runners should increase their mileage by 5-10% of their current mileage and remain there until they’re comfortable. This may take several weeks. Injury can occur easily if you ramp up your speed or mileage too quickly. Remember, slow and steady wins the race!

Form

If you’ve been injury free for a long time and you aren’t looking to shave seconds off of your PB, I wouldn’t advise you to alter your running form. However, if you have an injury and a gait analysis suggests you would benefit from altering your form, it would make sense to address this issue. Try to reduce your stride length so that you plant the foot with a vertical shin, this will reduce the forces transmitted through your legs and limit any deceleration from planting your foot too far forward. Also, try to maintain space between the knees. Allowing the thigh to internally rotate or drop in when you run can lead to overuse injuries occurring at the hip, knee and foot. If you need expert advice and guidance on this, consider something like our running rehab service.

Footwear Advice

Ensure that you wear a comfortable shoe that fits well. Rubbing and blisters can put an end to anybody’s run. Don’t be tempted to buy the shoes that look the nicest, fashion won’t help keep you injury free. If you have low arches, find a shoe that supports you in the areas that you need it. Seek professional advice from a reputable running shop where you can try the shoes and they have video gait analysis. Read more about the importance of getting your footwear right here.

Strength Work Between Runs

A stronger kinetic chain will decrease ground reaction forces (GRF), making running more comfortable and more efficient. Working on your core stability will promote the transfer of forces from your upper and lower limbs, meaning less work for your legs. Strong glutes will stabilise your hips and prevent poor biomechanical loading from occurring. Pilates is a great way to help this.

Balance & Proprioception

Proprioception is your body’s awareness of where it is in space – so your joints and brain and muscles all talking to each other! Along with balance, it’s a crucial component to keeping you injury free. It enables your body to cope and respond to uneven terrain, pot holes and curbs and varied weather conditions. Both are very trainable with the right exercises.

If you’ve ever sprained an ankle and haven’t undergone a rehabilitation programme, the chances of you re-spraining that same ankle are very high. After an injury your ankle suffers from a loss of proprioceptive ability and strength, which needs to be rebuilt with balance, proprioception and strength work. If you’re lucky enough to have never sprained an ankle but enjoy running both on and off road, lower limb stability with balance and proprioception work should be a part of your regular gym routine.

Catching Minor Injuries In The Early Stages (Recognition & Treatment)

Being able to recognise the early stages of injury will allow you to nip them in the bud before they become an issue. Examples include plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinopathy, shin splints, patella tendinopathy, ITB syndrome and muscle strains. As soon as any signs or symptoms are noticed, your best option is to consult an injury specialist. We all know what muscle soreness (DOMS) feels like. If it’s a different pain, don’t run through it.

Cool Down Correctly

Exercise causes our muscles to break down on a microscopic level, which can lead to muscle shortening if left untreated. Stretching after running will help maintain the resting length of your muscles and prevent any imbalances from occurring. Sports massage is a great way of helping recover too. A sports massage will help flush out any lactic acid and waste products left sitting in your muscles following exercise, as well as promote the flow of nutrient-rich blood to those areas to facilitate healing and decrease recovery times.

Sleep

Sleep is very important when talking about injury prevention in runners. When you sleep, hormones are released that promote recovery. When you don’t get enough sleep, stress hormones and inflammatory markers remain elevated which adversely affects your ability to recover. These hormones can also alter appetite regulation, potentially leading to weight gain. To remain injury-free, you need to sleep and recover to the best of your ability. Establish good habits by going to and getting out of bed at the same time each day, and try to get at least 6-7 hours of sleep each night as a minimum, 8 hours is great.


5 Tips To Survive On The Slopes This Winter

Posted on 28th Dec 2016 by

Many of us will be packing our bags and heading for the slopes in the new year, but how do we make sure we come back injury free?

#1: Preparation

A week on the slopes can be exciting, exhilarating, and for most of us – completely exhausting! 6-8 hours a day of aerobic exercise requiring good balance, strength and flexibility – it’s often a lot more than our office jobs demand of us! So to get the most out of your holiday start your preparation early – ideally this should begin 6-12 weeks before your fit the slopes depending on your base level of fitness. If you have any niggling injuries try to get them seen to by a physio ASAP before you go to give yourself maximum chance of recovery rather than leaving it until the week before!

Key areas to tackle in your ski-fit workout include:

Aerobic fitness – cycling, running, cross trainers or step machines are great to build up your aerobic capacity and get those legs working at the same time, if your gym has a ‘ski trainer’ machine even better!

Strength training – focus on the quads and gluts with the following easy exercises you can do at home:

Skiing Exercises

Step downs: standing with one foot on a step facing forwards, slowing lower yourself down to tap the heel of the other foot to the floor, then bring it back on the step. Try to keep your pelvis level and your standing knee in line with your 2nd toe as you do this!

 


skiing exercises

Lateral step downs: with one foot on a step facing sideways, slowly bend your knee to tap te heel of the other foot to the ground. Try to keep your pelvis level and your standing knee in line with your 2nd toe as you do this!


ski injury prevention exercises

Backward lunges: From a standing position step back into a lunge, dropping the back knee towards the floor. Try to keep your pelvis level and your standing knee in line with your 2nd toe as you do this!


 

Bridge exerciseBridge: Laying on your back, squeeze your buttocks and lift your hips off
the ground, hold for 5 seconds then slowly lower.


Clam exercise

Clam: Lay on one side with your knees bent and feet together, make sure your hips are stacked one on top of the other then slowly lift your top knee and lower.

 


 

Flexibility – ankle and hip flexibility is essential for efficient skiing, try these stretches:

Soleus stretch: Stand with one foot in front of the other, bend both knees until you feel a stretch in the lower part of the calf on the back leg. Hold 30secs.

Soleus stretch


Glut stretch: Lay on your back, cross one foot over the other thigh to feel the stretch in your buttock, to increase this stretch pull that other thigh in towards your chest. Hold 30secs.

glute-stretch


Adductor stretch: Stand with your legs wide apart, lunge to one side taking the weight over the knee, keep both feet facing forwards. Hold 30 secs.

Adductor stretch


If you want to have some expert guidance in a more supportive setting, we run specialist exercise based group rehab, where we can put together a bespoke exercise plan for you to work on under our supervision in our Strong Room. You can read more about this specialist service here.

#2: Warm up

Preparation done, don’t ruin your hard work by forgetting to warm up before you leave the chalet. Get all your joints (ankles, knees, hips, thoracic spine and shoulders) warmed up by taking them through their full range of motion several times. Squats, lunges, heel raises and upper body twists are all great to start firing those key muscle groups. It’s worth spending a good 5-10minutes on this before you head out, then repeat a couple when you get to the top of that chair lift if it’s been a long ride!

#3: Protection

If you’re carrying an injury be sure to strap yourself up; theres a huge range of knee braces, wrist guards and back protectors on the market so ask your physio if you’re not sure. And don’t forget that helmet!

#4: On the slopes

Remember you are most likely to injure yourself when your muscles are fatigued so regular breaks, good hydration (of the non-alcoholic variety!) and knowing when to call it a day are all essentials to not ruin your holiday on day 1! Well-fitting boots are also key to prevent blisters and sores that will hamper your ski style!

#5: Apres-ski

Stretching for a few minutes before you head to the bar is going to make your next day’s skiing a lot more comfortable, (see stretches above) and remember that alcohol is likely to affect you more at altitude, particularly after a full days exercise, so take it easy!

People who’ve read this article have also found the following useful:

Train for the slopes

The benefit of Pilates for Winter Sports

More about Physio Chris and his Snowsport experience

 


Warming Up for Sport: Things to Consider

Posted on 9th Nov 2016 by

Warming up for sport is important. It prepares you for the movements you intend to undertake, getting you ready to perform to your best from the offset. Exercise warm ups are intended to safely get us ready for sport and reduce the risk of injury.

Next time you’re warming up think of the following:

The movements of your sport: You want to replicate them in your warm up but at a lower intensity and building them in gradually. i.e. if your sport is weightlifting, you would begin with half squats, repeating several times and gradually increase the depth of the squat until you reach full squatting position.

Dynamic stretching: Your warm-up should include movements which will gradually stretch your muscles. The walking lunge is an example, starting with small lunges, repeating several times before increasing the stride length of your lunge. Static stretches where you hold a muscle in position should be avoided during the warm-up as these have been linked to injury.

Increase heart rate gradually: Start with gentle exercises which get the big muscles of the body going such as jogging. Then begin skipping or some gentle high knees exercises. Follow this by increasing the speed of each previous exercise. This will increase your heart rate steadily and safely.

Give your muscles time to warm up: Avoid trying to squeeze all your warm-up exercises into a 5 minute timeframe especially if you are going to engage in high intensity exercise. A typical football warm-up can take anywhere between 20 and 40mins.

Correct clothing: Make sure it’s flexible enough to allow you to perform all the actions you need without restriction. Make sure it’s warm or cool enough suitable for the conditions you will be in.