Massage, relaxation and leaving the wallowing to the hippos

wo-tibits-080712-lgn-5146804The Friday fractured foot debacle (FFFD) cast a rather disproportionately large shadow over an otherwise pretty amazing week. I’d spent a lovely couple of days with my parents who had come down to visit, which included a delicious trip to Tibits (our favourite vegetarian haunt – so good that even my carnivorous parents love it!), a Garden Party at the Palace with all the pomp and ceremony that goes with it, and a theatre trip to see the stunning Miss Saigon. I had also finally booked my flights to Slovenia having confirmed a print date for my book and found out that my work trip to New York for July has been approved. All in all a pretty damn good week.

Two sunny days, lots of rest and plenty of painkillers later I am seeing things in a bit more perspective. While all running, climbing and hot date plans for the weekend had to go on hold, I’ve had some time to reflect properly on my attitude towards exercise and my body and have come out of it feeling a lot more positive.

vitaI’ve also been overwhelmed by how amazing and supportive everyone has been. From my colleague Nina getting me into a cab to the hospital for my x-ray, to the care package of Coyo yogurts and coconut water from my lovely water polo team pals. The lifts around town, cups of tea and supper out with the girls when I was at a low ebb, the strategising for future training plans with my running buddies, the straight-talking, life coaching from one of my oldest friends, Becks and all of the lovely comments from readers of the blog. All of this has allowed me to start thinking about how I’m going to take my training and lifestyle forward in the weeks to come.

The problem with injury is not only the physical pain, but also the frustration and negative feeling it generates towards your own body for not being able to function in the way you would like it to. It’s the annoyance that something which, to all intents and purposes should be doing you good, is actually doing you harm and the anxiety of having something which is so essential to your everyday life being taken away.

I’ve always been the sort of person who pushes myself to do better in all aspects of my life, often, as in this case, to the detriment of my health. So my first lesson of the FFFD is to work with my body, rather than against it; in short, if it hurts in a bad way, don’t do it! I should have stopped running on Thursday when it started to hurt, I didn’t, we all know the result, lesson learned.

broccoli-on-a-forkOur bodies are pretty awesome things and despite the fact that we abuse them in various ways they still prove pretty resilient. I think it’s sometimes easy to forget all of the things our bodies bounce back from and it’s only when they fail to do so do we begin to reflect on the damage we are inadvertently doing. So, lesson two: love and appreciate your body, fuel it with good things and cut out the bad.

While cardio and weight-bearing exercises are important, so too are those that increase flexibility and keep the muscles supple. I’ve been saying I’d get back into yoga for months now, but running and climbing have been taking over, so now they are out for a while, here’s my opportunity. Lesson three: stretch, stretch and stretch again.

Finally taking time to recover is essential to any training regime. Active recovery uses light resistance exercise to increase blood flow and nutrients to muscles after exercise and helps to remove waste products that can hinder muscle recovery. Active recovery can include walking, light biking, yoga, swimming, or indeed any other low-intensity exercise. Sleep is also essential for recovery. Lack of sleep can not only lead to weight gain by reducing the levels of leptin, (the chemical that makes you feel full) and increasing levels of ghrelin, (the hormone which stimulates hunger), it can also inhibit muscle recovery by leading to a decrease in protein synthesis.

massageThis weekend I began to implement this kinder approach to my body. I started with a deep tissue massage at Whispers Spa, which is just across from my house on Abbeville Road. I admit it was a little bit of an extravagance, but the new fitness regime calls for me to take better care of myself, and what better way than with a massage? While the effects of massage on muscle recovery are inconclusive, many studies show that it can aid recovery after exercise. At the very least, the symptoms of delayed-onset muscle soreness can be mitigated through massage. In any case it was heaven and I even got slightly more than my allocated hour and herbal tea afterwards. The spa is small but perfectly formed and the staff are really friendly – definitely worth a trip if you’re looking for retreat in the heart of south London.

The next step is locating an affordable yoga centre and keeping my fingers firmly crossed for the x-ray results next week.

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