A physiotherapist shares her advice on improving your body.
Whether you’ve been inspired to run a marathon or simply want to return to regular exercise, managing injuries can be the secret to staying fit and healthy for longer. We spoke to Ashley Wienand, clinical director at Ultra Sports Clinic and physiotherapist to city professionals, music stars and professional sports teams, to discover the mistakes you’re probably making and the ways to avoid a bad injury stopping you reaching your fitness goals.
Mistake 1: rushing into exercise
“When someone says they want to run the marathon, they tend to just start running. This rush often means they suddenly get injured because they don’t think about the shoes they need to wear, the impact on their legs or whether they’ve run that sort of mileage before. Another problem occurs when they miss some part of their training programme, like when the snow came this year. Once it clears they feel the need to speed up their training programme to cram it in. This often leads to injury.”
Mistake 2: not accepting your true fitness level
“A lot of my patients get injured because they decide to do an endurance event for charity, but they haven’t realised that over the years they’re not as fit as they once were and they can’t handle this sudden uptake of activity. Many patients have also been running in the same shoes for years, or they’ve simply bought the next model of the same trainer brand for the last decade. In that time though, your body has changed and you need to adapt to that. In particular, every two years you should be going for a gait analysis, which are often free, when you buy a pair of shoes, at dedicated sports stores.
Mistake 3: ignoring an injury
“People believe they have to be properly injured to see a physiotherapist but that isn’t true. The tendency to say, ‘it’s just a niggle, I don’t need to see someone’, actually means people further injure themselves and everything takes longer to heal. That’s why individuals need to source a physio for good diagnosis as soon as possible. Ultra Sports Clinic does a free 15-minute body review that can be booked online. You can come in with a niggle or a question and an experienced physio will assess you and give you some really good advice.”
Mistake 4: not doing pre-hab
“If you properly pre-hab an injury, aka rehab it before you go for further treatment, your recovery is likely to be a lot more successful. Physios can provide really great advice – from how to use crutches properly to how to compress and ice the injured area, because the first thing you want to do is get the swelling down. They recently changed the PRICE advice (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation), to contain more interchange between heat and cold, so I generally say to my patients, if you have an acute injury then start with ice. Otherwise, use what works for you. There is a lot of research that supports using a little bit of heat and a little bit of cold, but you need to control how long you use them for, as both can burn terribly.”
Mistake 5: relying on a prescriptive approach
“I have a problem with certain insurances when it comes to sports injuries because they can be very prescriptive. For example, you have five sessions and you’re supposed to do ‘ABC’ in the first, ‘DEF’ on the second and so on. That means there often isn’t a subjective assessment and you could just put a sports therapist in there to ‘follow the recipe’. What you actually want is a tailored treatment programme that has been planned by an experienced physiotherapist.”
Mistake 6: not getting a sports massage
“At the end of the day, massage is really important and I highly advocate it. A skin rub? No. A deep tissue massage with someone who really knows what they are doing is fantastic and I would highly recommend one to most of my patients. I also find that patients who do regular body maintenance – for example, getting a tissue massage once a month – tend to not get injured as often because the treatment is picking up on things that are tight or out of alignment in their bodies.”
Mistake 7: your everyday posture
“Most people are very good at keeping things maintained in their lives. We go to the dentist, we service our cars… but we don’t service our bodies. We fuel them with whatever we can find and when we exercise we tend to just jump up out of the chair and go running. Or, we sit all day like digital nomads typing away with terrible posture and then want to go and do an IronMan at the weekend.
“Hot-desking and mobile working can be damaging, too. We’re doing so much damage to our spines, sitting in a place that isn’t prepared for us. The worst position though is at home because so many of us sit with laptops on our legs, typing away for hours on end. You really should have a dedicated desk, set up for you at home and at work.”
Mistake 8: not exercising regularly
“If you look at the people who always look young, they are the ones that go to yoga, have massages and do some sort of activity to keep themselves healthy. The recommended daily activity rate is 30 minutes, five days a week, and it’s shocking how many people don’t manage that. We are always beetling along like ants and everything is in one direction; we sit in one plain and we move in one plain. Unless you play a sport like squash or hockey or football, you hardly ever change direction or move differently and you need to do that to stay in peak condition.”
“Saying that, HIIT classes nowadays are crazy. You get up from your desk, rush off to a class, hardly warm up and you smash it for half an hour. Then, you quickly rush back to your desk and you sit. No wonder you’re confusing your body. I advise running to the class to warm up a little bit and then don’t just do HIIT – perhaps try a spin class and then a yoga class to mix it up a bit. That means your body has enough time to change and adapt.”
Mistake 9: not learning to tape (if it helps you)
“I often teach my patients how to tape suitable injuries because it isn’t easy and there are certain tips and techniques that can help you get better use out of it. I use a lot of kinesiologic taping, but rigid taping can be helpful for specific injuries. For example, I have a patient who rolled her ankle training for a marathon and she finds rigid taping gives her a pain-free run. There is a lot of research that says taping is a placebo effect, but placebo or not, if you have receptive feedback from it and you find it comforting or pain-easing, then it is worthwhile.”
Mistake 10: always shopping online
“When it comes to finding the right rehab equipment, walk into a shop and try things out, particularly if you are buying something like a calf sleeve for compression. Online there is no real way of knowing whether it will fit. Once you’ve tried one and spoken to someone who knows what they are talking about, you can always go online and get it. If you are London based, go to Runner’s Need in Monument and ask for Rasha – she ran the TransAlps and is super good. She has everything you could need and will happily help you try things.”
Mistake 11: not foam rollering correctly
“When I worked with the South African hockey team we gave them all a foam roller to make them independent when it came to treating muscle tightness, but you need to be careful as using them can inflame some injuries. Once people roller and they feel the effect of it, they want to roller all the time, but you shouldn’t be rolling everyday. Once or twice a week is enough. You also need the right, well-cushioned foam roller. You don’t need spikes or anything sadistic – just find something that has a bit of padding.”
“You need to support your body weight with your hands as you use it too, otherwise it’s just too aggressive. I actually prefer a hand roller, because you can apply the right amount of pressure. They can be more effective too, as your muscles are relaxed and you aren’t putting as much bodyweight through it. Or, use a bouncy ball against a wall instead. It has a smaller surface area so you have to do it more but you can get really good results without as high a risk of inflammation.”
Mistake 12: jumping straight back into sport
“What people don’t realise is that finishing physiotherapy isn’t the end of your rehab. Patients often need to be stronger and fitter than they were before when they go back to sport or activity, else they tend to get injured again. This is where seeing a biokineticist before you return to training can help. Biokineticists are experts in movement, so every exercise a personal trainer can give, a biokineticist triples. They can also help rehabilitate other parts of your body, for example your ‘uninjured’ side, to ensure you are in alignment and don’t overstrain and injure other joints and muscles. Kate, our biokineticist, spends 45 minutes in the gym one-to-one with her patients, and because of her close monitoring, individuals get incredible results.”
Mistake 13: not committing to recovery
“I can say to a patient, ‘I can get you better’, but if they don’t believe me and they aren’t prepared to do the work, they aren’t going to recover. We like to think we can help people in five-to-six sessions – although a torn achilles tendon, for example, is a much longer process – and I will let people be as aggressive as they can be to speed up the process. If they have something to fight for, for example a race, I’ll see them twice a week instead of once and I’ll try and keep them running so they can complete it. They might not get a personal best time but the plan is to try and keep people on track. At other times, it’s my job to be strict enough to say no, you aren’t going to do that and here’s why, so it’s fairly patient-specific.”
BY BECKI MURRAY
This article originally appeared on elleuk.com