So we talked about knees and what to check for if you get that pulling in your knee when you do a movement. By this I do not mean constant pain but just a tugging on a certain move, that feels like a tight area. If you have ongoing knee issues, constant pain, popping, grinding, swelling or anything that doesn’t resolve then get it checked out!
So now we are looking at how to strengthen the muscles around the knee.
The VMO, or vastus medialis oblique: is one of the four muscles of your quadriceps. If you flex your quads, you’ll notice a large muscle toward the inner part of your thigh. That’s your VMO. The VMO attaches to the patella (your kneecap) and to the femur. It allows for normal knee function—especially during squatting and multi-directional movements as well as running and jumping. So you can see why this muscle being weak or too tight would cause knee pain. Good exercises to strengthen it are step ups. Literally climbing stairs or stepping up and down on the same step.
TEST: Sit on the floor with legs outstretched. Squeeze your kneecaps and release whilst feeling the inside of your knee. Ideally you should feel a muscle working called VMO.
The Hamstrings: If your hamstring is optimal there should be a right angle between your 2 legs with leg in the air straight up to the ceiling and the other leg stretched out on the floor. If your leg will not go to this range you need to work on releasing those hamstrings. A good stretch with a band will help.
TEST: Lie on the floor with 1 leg in the air and one leg on the floor. In order for you to straighten you leg will and knee where does your leg have to be.
Think about what you feel when you try to stretch your knees? Is there a pull or tightness in the front, back, side or in the knee joint itself? If so it could mean you need some massage, release work and then strengthening. See a sports massage therapist for help with this.
Posture, as always is king: You can do all the release work in the world and then undo it with poor posture. So if you are doing work and not seeing the benefits get checking out your regular and habitual sitting and standing positions. Specifically think about taking regular posture breaks. Don’t remain in any one position for too long, if you are working at a desk take regular movement breaks. Check your pelvis, in seated and stood, your ribcage should be over your pelvis. You want to be sitting and standing tall and in neutral alignment.
When you are pregnant there is a lot of focus on keeping your body healthy, looking after yourself and putting you first. There is a lot more time to focus on exercising well, cooking good meals and thinking in general. The midwife and friends/family are asking how your body feels, how is the bump, what aches and pains do you have and giving plenty of advice. Then the delicious baby arrives and is totally the centre of attention. Your life is suddenly a whirlwind of feeds, sleepless nights, surviving as best you can. There is little time and energy left for exercise. Cake and chocolate can be relied to get you through the day or are part of a treat at playgroups. No-one really asks how your body is feeling or what they can do to help YOU, it is more about the baby.
The problem is that when you are postnatal your body is pretty vulnerable. It has been stretched, carried a heavy weight around and then birthed a baby. Now if you had a major operation you would lie in bed, rest, recover, have meals brought to you and be looked after for a few weeks. This is really what you need after having given birth. Instead you have a little person dependant on you, you cannot rest as much as you need and you cannot listen to your body.
As a pre/postnatal specialist Pilates teacher this is an area I focus on and love to teach.
Postnatal Issues Pilates can help with:
It is hard to maintain good posture when you are sitting up feeding, especially at night. However without good posture, those aches and pains slip in. Muscles get tight in the wrong places which can cause restrictions in your movement and cause you to compensate.
Over time poor posture can cause long term pain throughout the body, so it’s not something you want to ignore. Postnatal pilates when run by a specialised teacher will put in exercises to strengthen your upper back, talk through shoulder placement with you and use functional exercises to help with those motherhood moves that you do daily.
Sitting more will also lead to tighter hamstrings, so these need to be stretched out regularly.
The key really is to find out which part of your posture you need to focus on and which muscles need releasing. A good class and teacher will highlight this to you.
There can be a lot of hormones flying around. Relaxin is a hormone that can affect the laxity of your ligaments, so this can leave you vulnerable to overstretching and potentially pulling a ligament. Learning to work within the normal range of movement for your body is the key here and not pushing yourself too hard, too soon.
Having carried a baby around your pelvic floor has taken a lot of strain. If you have then pushed baby out then that is even more damage that will have occured to the pelvic floor. Pilates will help you strengthen the whole of your core, including your pelvic floor. If you need more help in this area then check out “Pimp Your Pelvic Floor”
Many ladies suffer from Diastasis Recti, this is a condition that is common in pregnancy and nothing to be concerned about as long as it is fixed postnatally! For some, the abdominals will naturally heal up by themselves, for others it will take more work. Exercises such as curls ups, planks and sitting up from lying on your back are not suitable and can make matters worse. A specialist pilates teacher with postnatal training will be able to help you.
PELVIC GIRDLE PAIN:
If you suffered from this in pregnancy then the likelikood is that it will disappear once baby comes along. However it is always a good idea to do some strenghtening work postnatally. If your hips and pelvis were struggling in pregnancy then some TLC for them can make all the difference in the long term.
LOWER BACK PAIN:
One of the common complaints I see in mums. Those babies get heavy when you are carrying them around a lot. Having a strong core and good posture when you lift and carry is so important. Pilates will help train your body so you are stronger and more able to manage this. The release exercises will also help mobilise and decrease any pain.
If you aren’t local to me, then check out my Postnatal Pilates DVD.
It’s been a while since my last Blog.
I am still regularly attending classes, and loving it. 😉 The only week I have missed, was when I was in Spain for a family holiday…the commitment is paying off. I am starting to see the benefits.
I look forward to Wednesday evenings. It is a time where I can focus on my back, my posture, and relax from a busy day. It’s lovely to take part in a class myself and experience how the studio feels as a punter.
Firstly, as I mentioned in my last Blog, my Hamstrings are TIGHT. Jo reminds me of this, and it seems like the exercises are set to “…test James…” – or am I just paranoid? The sign of a good instructor – one who knows her classes well.
I find that using the Bands are very useful, such a great tool for stretching.
I am going to set myself a challenge in the coming week – stretch each morning, to set me up for the day. Just a few minutes, but it will reduce my back pain, and loosen my muscles.
Will you join me in this challenge? Go on… you know it will make a difference. If you need a band then we have these available in the studio.
I banter with Jo, but ultimately, I know this is a part of me that I need to work on.
I probably drive more than I should do…definitely sit down more than I should (this is not a time for Priya to comment!), and sit on the wrong types of chairs, using my laptop for writing emails, social media updates, and suchlike…
So again – more walking to do the school-run, sitting square in the chairs, and generally being more active.
Today I was preparing some of the veg beds, so got some Vitamin D, some fresh air, and some exercise. Was only about 30 minutes, but it was 30mins more than the day before, so that is a bonus in my books. 😉
I have found that over the last few months, I have consciously thought about my posture more. And now I am training as a Massage Therapist, it is important I continue my focus on that.
I hear from others over the years, that the classes are ‘hard work’, and I can completely agree with that. What I knew before I started my Pilates Journey, was that the speed of repetition was not the key. It was the way the repetition was done. When I say that, I mean, 20 fast reps could be less beneficial that 10 slow reps. Core Strength is built in keeping the muscles engaged, and working.
I love the relaxation that class gives me and have been surprised by how much work Pilates actually is. That feeling the morning after when my muscles tell me Jo has worked them hard – it’s quite rewarding.
Have a great week, and remember, stretch those Hamstrings. 😉
PS – We sell Bands in the Studio – just ask James or Priya for one.
Do you sit a lot for work/travel? It’s well known now that sitting for long periods really isn’t good for our bodies, however it isn’t always avoidable!
Sitting can often lead to tight hamstrings, rounded shoulders and lower back pain. Here are some ideas to help you release tension, alleviate pain and correct your posture.
Ask for someone to look at your chair and work station with you sat in it. Looking at whether your feet can go flat on the floor, how upright you are sat, the position of your laptop/computer in relation to your eyeline, arms and shoulders.
Think about what work you can do stood up. Can you make a standing workstation? For example, I often use our breakfast bar as a place to work as it’s the right height for me to work on my laptop.
Take regular posture breaks. Make sure you get up and walk around, change position and check your posture every 30-40 minutes. Build it into your schedule. This could even be a walk to make a drink or go to the toilet!
Whilst sat at your desk use shoulder shrugs, shoulder rolls and gentle release exercises to release tension.
Stretch at the end of every day and during the day if you can. A decent hamstring stretch will really make your body feel much better. Combine it with a CAT and your lower back will love you.