• Moved to Move

Challenging the Facebook Challenges

We’re currently watching, or hearing of, people around Fb doing certain fitness challenges.

You will probably have seen them too. Or maybe you're even doing one now.

They're certainly not a new thing and they're often set up to raise awareness or funds for really good causes. But, with lots of people stuck at home over the past few months, lockdown seems to have brought out a new flurry of fitness challenges, especially on Facebook.

We don't want to be party poopers. But we're pretty sure we're not the only Soft Tissue Therapists - or other Injury Rehab professionals - and Fitness Instructors out there, who see these challenges as, well, challenging!

And, sadly, we're aware we're not the only ones working in Injury Rehab who get contacted by past clients who have re-injured themselves. Or new clients with minor musculoskeletal soft tissue (muscles/tendons/ligaments/fascia) injuries....

....experienced as a result of taking up one of these challenges!

We don't have anything against the challenges in and of themselves. In fact anything that motivates people to do more exercise is a good thing in most cases.

But some challenges are better (where 'better' means: having a lower risk for injury) than others.

One in particular that is proving to be particularly effective at seeing people either injuring themselves, or re-aggravating their previous injuries, is the 25 press-ups for 25 days Challenge currently doing the rounds on Facebook!

We've seen two different varieties, and in our opinion one holds decidedly less injury-risk than the other. We'll tell you more, and why, in a minute.

The main issues with any of these challenges - from our professional perspective - are that:

  • they often get passed from one to another via a friend

  • the recipient can easily feel pressurised to do the challenge even if they don't really want for fear of what people might think of them if they don't

  • they might not be suitable for your particular individual fitness or health level - but unless you're a fitness instructor, or someone used to a regular guided fitness or sports training programme - how do you know this?

  • they don't take account of your current fitness or training level

  • they rarely come with instructions for how to perform the 'form' safely

  • they aren't likely to include all the modifications (options) necessary to suit all levels

  • they aren't usually accompanied by exercises for whole-body support training (e.g. in the case of press-ups, what if your shoulders aren't currently strong enough for the job? Or what if you have a pelvic floor issue?)

  • they don't generally tell you what to do if something hurts (we'd hope that common sense would tell most people to stop if something hurts - but that old, out-dated 'no pain, no gain' myth is, unfortunately, still alive and kicking in many circles)

  • they don't provide support, back-up or anywhere to go if you injure yourself

  • a challenge is a challenge, right? Which, to many people, means completing it. Full stop. Whatever. Regardless of what happens along the way.

Even with of these considerations aside, as we said, there are two versions of the 25 Press-Ups for 25 Days Challenge that we're seeing on Fb at the moment.

Version 1: Do 25 Press-Ups. Every day. For 25 days.

Version 2: 25 Day Press-Up Challenge: Day 1: 1 Press-Up; Day 2: 2 Press-Ups; Day 3: 3 Press-Ups. Etc. etc. All the way up to Day 25: 25 Press-Ups.

The first one is is the equivalent of deciding to run a 10k (or marathon, depending on how fit you are to start with) without doing any training runs, or whole-body support or 'cross-training'.

There's no build-up, or progression to the 'set', or number of repetitions. There's no build-up to repeating this set for this number of days.

And there are no rest days in between.

Rest days are vital in any exercise programme as it is actually during these periods when our body adapts to the loads we're putting them under. They provide the essential 'repair and recovery' time our bodies require.

If we were purely interested in filling our clinic spaces with injured people, of course we'd be fully endorsing Version 1!

But we're not.

ISRM Soft Tissue Therapists (along with anyone working in Injury Rehabilitation 'worth their salt') would always rather educate and empower their clients, or anyone else, to promote awareness and practice of 'Prehab not Rehab', than be treating clients with injuries.

We want you to be able to enjoy being active, exercising safely at the right level for you, without getting injured.

(And most of us have had the opportunity to experience how an injury can really take the enjoyment out of exercise, activity, or indeed life!).

Summary: It's hard for us to like Version 1 of this type of challenge!

It's fine if you're in the high level fitness/athlete/high performance training category and your 25 press-ups a day for 25 days is part of your usual pre-training warm up.

(Although we'd have to question whether it's exactly a challenge for you in this case!)

If you're not, then Version 2 is better. Because:

  • you're less likely to experience injury as you're building up strength gradually (i.e. your body has a chance to adapt to the increased loads you are putting it under)

  • you're less likely to experience injury as you're more likely to notice if something hurts (before it's actually injured)

  • you'll be working at a level that gives you more control and less fatigue (optimal form decreases as fatigue increases; and this brings its own increased injury risk)

  • you're more likely to maintain motivation because it feels good (rather than being too much of a struggle, or maybe causing muscle aches and soreness, at the beginning)

  • you're more likely to finish the challenge because your goal increased a little bit every day

  • if you finish the challenge (safely, uninjured) you're going to have gained strength and endurance. And hopefully you feel good both physically and mentally at this stage. Which means you are more likely to continue enjoying exercising after the challenge (which most of us would agree is always a good thing?)

So by all means engage in these challenges. If you genuinely want to - and aren't led in to it by peer pressure, or ego - that is.

Ideally, we'd advise going with Version 2.

If you have a health condition, old injury, or are over 69, we'd always recommend checking in with your health professional whether the exercise/fitness challenge is suitable for you.

Also, find out - before you start, not as the result of an injury! - what you need to find out about 'form', as well as relevant modifications. Seek out a trusted professional source if you're not sure what you're doing.

(As Fitness Instructors/Soft Tissue Therapists, we often find ourselves watching some worrying form - we try not to call these 'accidents waiting to happen' because we prefer to practice positive thinking, but to be honest, some of them are just scary! - as people go about posting their Press-Up (or other) Challenge videos. And on occasion, it's these very same people who we get calling up to make a clinic appointment because they have an injury.)

Listen to - and be guided by - your body and how it feels.

Don't feel embarrassed or ashamed to stop if you need to. (Choosing to stop because it's best for your body right now, is not the same as 'giving up'!).

We seriously don't want to be party poopers, like we said.

But we seriously want you to have fun with your fitness challenges.

And we are pretty sure injuries aren't ever really fun.

Have fun! Feel good! And stay safe, So you can enjoy your challenge and celebrate your success!

Or maybe DO!

(Because if you're not the sort of person TALKING about this stuff, it may be just the stuff you need to be talking about!)

Don't Suffer In Silence

Poo! Wee! Sex! Our 'bits'!

Not the kind of thing we always like to talk about?

And if they're not quite working in the way they should be ~ or used to ~ we probably talk about them even less (all the while getting used to this being 'normal').

It's become more and more apparent through my Soft Tissue Therapy Clinic work over the past year or so, just how many of us have some kind of pelvic floor issue.

Some are mild (think: 'I p*ssed myself laughing', only, 'oops, I actually did!').

And some interfere with quality of life considerably (because bits are 'going south' in a way they really shouldn't be, i.e. there is a pelvic organ prolapse, aka POP, present: something that is way more common than most of us are aware).

For those of us that like to exercise and keep active (which less face it, in an ideal world, should really be ALL of us) it's a REALLY important subject because:

Pelvic floor issues might PREVENT us doing all the classes/activities we want to do to keep ourselves fit and healthy.

Or if we have underlying pelvic floor issues (whether we know about them or not....after all, how many of us to prefer to ignore this area altogether?) we can actually be doing ourselves more HARM than good if our pelvic floor health isn't paid good attention to.

If you come to any of my Totnes Body Balance (Les Mills UK) classes, you'll have heard me mentioning Pelvic Floor more and more over the past year or so.

(Sorry about that ~ though I'm not actually! ~ and thank you for putting up with me as well as continuing to come back week in, week out!)

If you come to our Move to Move movement classes you will have found pelvic floor work/exercises finding their way in to our classes bit by bit over the last few months too.

I wanted to find out more, and although I really appreciate the comprehensive anatomical knowledge and injury rehabilitation protocols and techniques I gained from my Soft Tissue Therapy Training, the qualification was specifically focussed on the minor musculoskeletal injuries and issues that can occur with the muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia that support the larger joints and spine (that's your typical 'dodgy shoulders', 'knackered knees', 'jippy hips' and 'ooh, me back' issues).

The pelvic floor is a bit more of a specialist area. It's an amazing and complex system, made up of several bewildering but perfectly architected structures. But it often goes unrecognised, or at the very least neglected. Both by 'us' as the general public. And 'us' as fitness, injury rehabilitation or bodywork professionals. Or even health professionals.

Granted, you might get told to 'engage your core' or 'do your pelvic floor exercises' every now and again by someone. But what does that actually mean? How do you know exactly what to do, or how to do it? When to do it? And how do you know which particular pelvic floor exercises are right for you to do anyway? (Because just like any other type of exercise, and every single human body, they come in different 'shapes and sizes', so this simply isn't a 'one size fits all' scenario.)

So I decided to make it my business to find out more. Partly because I was seeing more and more people in clinic with, say, a hip problem (or shoulder, or back etc.), who ended up telling me somewhere along the line, that they actually had 'something going on' in the pelvic floor department. Which made me get thinking.

Partly because whilst instructing mainstream classes I began to wonder about how safe and appropriate some of the exercises might be for someone who might have a pelvic floor (or other core) problem. Which made me a bit worried.

And I began to think about the implications this may have if someone didn't even know they had something going on down there that wasn't 'right'. Which made me downright concerned.

And not least because I had mild stress incontinence ~ that's the 'having a little leak when you jump, laugh or sneeze' variety of pelvic floor dysfunction ~ after the birth of my second child, which although much better in my 30's actually started to reoccur once I'd started working as a fitness instructor in my 40's. (Which made me a little soggy, and a tad embarrassed, at times.)

Lots of reading and studying later and I knew more. But how did I know which parts of my new knowledge was correct (there's SO much out there!)?

And even if/once I did know, how did I know how to apply it?

How could I go about supporting and helping the people that I knew were out there needing support and help? (The number of Pelvic Health Specialists in the UK is currently estimated at under 800. That's including NHS and Private Practice. And that's the number available for everyone. AKA: Not Enough.)

I could re-train (all over again), this time for physiotherapy degree followed by specialist pelvic health physio post-graduate study. But that's a LOT of years, a LOT of money and a lot of studying. And whilst it may well be something I might now wish I'd done before I hit peri-menopause, I have a lot going on in my life, so it's also something I have realistically resigned myself to casting in to the 'not gonna happen' pile.

I wanted to start working in this area sooner than my next lifetime. And I wanted to be helping the members of the general public that I was meeting everyday, and having casual conversations with, in class. So I had to find another way.

My searches finally threw up the Adore Your Pelvic Floor (A.Y.P.F.) Programme: a brilliantly informative, educational, practical, empowering and actually fun (!) pelvic floor rehab programme.

It's fully endorsed ~ and advised ~ by women's pelvic health specialist physios (which, as a clinical therapist used to working from a good solid science-backed, evidence-based place, was of tantamount importance to me). Tick.

It was created for fitness professionals: already aware of the issues; already experienced in group exercise instruction and how to keep people moving safely; already having day to day contact with so many of the people in need of pelvic floor education, coaching and rehabilitation. Tick.

And then I spoke to Louise Field the Creator and Lead Trainer of the programme. And I was hooked.

Louise is absolutely passionate about this work. She has her own inspirational story. And her amazing hard work to bring about both the A.Y.P.F Programme itself ~ and the A.Y.P.F Coach Training programme ~ has all been fuelled by a mix of unshakeable belief in the need for this, sheer determination to get it out there, a huge amount of integrity and what I can probably only describe as love. Tick. Tick. Tick, all the way.

So now, I'm a newly, but fully certified, licensed and insured Adore Your Pelvic Floor Coach.

I'll be starting to run talks, workshops, small group courses and 1-2-1 programmes soon.

From unofficial conversations with my clinic clients (all in for other reasons) this week ~ and it's only Tuesday ~ it's already becoming even more apparent how common an underlying pelvic floor problem is.

In fact it's dawning on me that pelvic floor issues may well be springing up all over the place before I have enough classes, groups and clinics set up to cope with the flow!

But the more people I can help educate and empower to take responsibility for providing themselves with the very best health care to this very important ~ and very rehab-able area, after all we're talking muscles and fascia here ~ the better.

And yes, I realise I MAY get known as 'that weird lady that's always talking about poo and wee and lady bits' whilst people nudge one another with their elbows and point at me from across the street (on a par with being the local 'crazy cat lady' sort of way).

But you know what?

I really don't mind:

I've realised this stuff is TOO important to NOT be talking ~ and teaching people ~ about.

  • Moved to Move

Do you spend a lot of time sitting?

Sports and Health and Exercise Science researchers tell us:

"Prolonged uninterrupted sitting in healthy desk workers reduces cerebral blood flow." *

What does this mean?

Well, 'Prolonged uninterupted sitting' just means 'not getting up off your ar*s for a long while.

So what? We all know sitting around doesn't do much for our fitness levels.

But 'cerebral blood flow'? This is the blood flowing to our BRAINS!

Hang on a minute, THAT'S GOT TO BE important!

It is. Look at this:

"Decreased cerebrovascular blood flow and function are associated with lower cognitive functioning and increased risk of neurodegenerative diseases."

'Cognitive functioning' translates as our many different mental abilities: thinking, learning, remembering, reasoning, maintaining focus and attention, decision making etc.

A 'Neurodegenerative disease' is any disease that primarily affects the neurons ('building blocks') of the nervous system (e.g. brain and spinal cord). Common, and well-known, neurodegenerative diseases include Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. But there are many others too.

The study quoted notes that whilst the cerebrovascular (i.e. the brain and its blood vessels) blood flow and function IS reduced by sitting for long periods.

The GOOD NEWS is that taking regular short 'walking breaks' offset this decline.

They used three different test groups in the study:

Group 1 stayed sitting

Group 2 walked at light-intensity for 2 mins every half hour

Group 3 walked at light intensity for 8 mins every 2 hours

With regards to healthy blood flow and function rates to the brain, Group 2 came out TOP. In fact for some of the tests they did, taking the longer, 8 min, walk every 2 hours showed no significant change from the uninterrupted sitting group 1!

So, is it still good to get our for a daily walk? Or enjoy a longer walk at the weekend? Of course. There are many benefits.

Is it still good to go to our exercise/movement classes? Yes, because the overall motivation, social engagement and habit forming benefits (as well as those gained from the movement we are doing!) that attending a group activity can give us - as long as we choose ones we enjoy - help us to keep 'being active' as a regular part of our lives.

What about going to the gym? If it's something we enjoy and we working at a sensible, suitable level, then this is as good as any other activities we like to do (etc. cycling, swimming, gardening, playing golf etc.).

BUT, none of those things are going to serve us so well if the rest of the time we're just sitting* in front of our desks or computers. (Or anywhere else probably.)

* interesting to know whether the same results are replicated if we stand (which is something we do) at our desks instead of sitting. We suspect it's probably a little better standing as we're more inclined to move about a little on our feet as we work. However we also suspect uninterrupted standing may not be much better than uninterrupted sitting. We'll write a new blog and let you know if we find any evidenced based studies on this. Or in the meantime if you have any comments on this, please comment below.

Gotta go now. The little timer on my desktop is letting me know my 30 mins is up!

1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29878870

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