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My first strongman Competition – a chat with Jess Riddell

You competed at your first strongman competition in February this year, how was the experience for you?

It was my first strength event – so I was quite nervous leading up to it and unsure of what to expect – it’s a big change moving from Ironman triathlons where you’re on your own for hours versus having a coach right beside you all day.

It was really fun! Much tougher on my body than I had anticipated – I was very thankful to have a great coaching team there on the day to keep me focused when I needed to be and laughing between events – the support crew were epic too!

 

How did you get into strongman to start with?

Atlas Stones!!! I’d been eyeing them off since I stated my training in Powerlifting at Panthers.  I’ve been bugging my coach, Col to let me try them pretty much since my first week of training and with the Strongman comp being held at Panthers I finally got my chance! It was pretty epic to finally pick up the 72kg stone on comp day.

 

 

For all our readers, who aren’t proficient in the differences, could you briefly explain the differences between strongman and powerlifting? And the differences between strongman and crossfit?

Cruel to ask a beginner in both Powerlifting and Strongman to answer that!! Powerlifting is Bench Press, Squat and Deadlift.  Strongman has about 20 different events – with 6 being combined for the event I competed in.  Powerlifting (at least for me so far) is far more technical. Crossfit is a whole different world!

 

So what’s the next competition for you?

In May – I’m competing in my first Powerlifting competition.

What does your training schedule look like at the moment leading into competition?

Col is great at making sure my training is still fun despite any competitions looming – I use one day a week for Strongman training and have 2 focused Powerlifting sessions a week. On top of this I run 2 days a week and train with an exercise physiologist once – so I train 6 days a week most weeks.

In terms of what my specific training blocks looks like – I leave that to Col, in an effort to step back from over-training and always train to a plan, I don’t get my programs in advance, so I have a great life – I just turn up at training and lift, I literally never know what’s coming.  For a control freak who’s trying to reform, it’s taken some getting used to!!

 

I know you have a heart condition, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), can you give us a better understanding of what that is, and what it means for your day-to-day life?

It comes under the Dysautonomia umbrella and it means my autonomic system no longer works the way it should – really simply the autonomic system controls all the automatic responses in your body, so the things your body does without you having to think about them – like heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, swallowing, temperature control etc.  It means for me things such as my heart rate is really high (especially when I exercise), and I have to closely manage fatigue.  Thankfully I’m not much of a fainter, but it’s a typical side effect of the condition.

Day-to-day I have my POTS really well managed – but it’s taken 2.5 years to get back to a level of fitness where I can compete again.  It’s not that fun to tap out of training (or work) when my POTS flares up and it usually means a few weeks of rest and limited training, if any. I’m very thankful that I have the level of support I do around me, it makes it possible for me to train and compete again and they are pretty quick to notice the signs if my POTS is starting to flare up. I’m fairly structured in terms of diet, exercise, medication and work and this helps me keep my POTS symptoms managed. Finding this right balance took a long time – which was frustrating! I still have to remind myself frequently that I have a limited pool of energy, so I need to choose well what I spend it on – I don’t recover as quickly as a “normal” person, so if I push too hard one day, it will likely mean I miss training tomorrow.

 

How does POTS affect your training schedule?

The reality of POTS is tough – I went from racing Ironman Triathlon to nothing in a matter of weeks – I was that fatigued, so when I was diagnosed and started what became my “new normal” of living with POTS I started from a pretty low exercise tolerance, it took a long time to rebuild back to where I am today – there was about 12 months of riding a stationary bike in the early days, for a maximum of 20 minutes, 3 times a week.  It took me 97 weeks from diagnosis to get back to running 10kms (you bet I counted and hounded my team to reach that milestone – I might also be a little determined!).  That 10km race and the medal from it mean more to me than I can explain, it might seem a little strange to cherish a fluro pink medal more than an ironman one – but I always took my health for granted before and while the training for my ironman races was hard, it was nothing compared to what it took to get back to running 10kms.

These days, the impact of POTS for me? For one – it means I have an epic team around me, without whom I couldn’t do what I do in terms of training or competing – they make all of this possible (which isn’t just a shameless plug!) I’ve worked with my EP Dan since the week I was diagnosed, so he’s literally put me back together as a functioning human and works to keep me there along with a team of other allied health people (I swear the list is growing, but to give you some perspective: Physio, dietician, sports psych, massage, my heart team and coach make up the regulars who all communicate freely to keep me healthy.)

From a training perspective, POTS means there’s always a level of flexibility built in to my sessions to allow for how I’m feeling on the day.  I also had to learn to speak up and admit when I’m struggling with fatigue. I’m fairly stubborn so that’s been a tough lesson to learn – I’ve almost dropped multiple bars on my head before admitting I was cooked!  Luckily both Col and Dan are great at saving me from both dropping bars on my head and myself when I don’t admit I’m struggling.

Sitting – the new epidemic

Whatever sport you do you’re no doubt putting in endless hours of specific training, along with maybe some alternative recovery and rehab sessions like yoga and stretching. However, like most people, there’s even one more activity you’re probably doing more of than even sleeping – sitting! It’s the new epidemic.

We all spend too much time sitting. Whether it’s in the car, at work, at home or at the dinner table – you always find yourself sitting.  This situation gets even worse if your job involves a computer. If you do have a job where a computer is an essential part of your day, chances are you spend more time sitting in front of a screen than you do exercising.

If sitting were a sport, we’d probably all be World Champions.  How many hours a week do you think you sit for?  A full-time desk job could have you sitting for 40 hours a week.  I bet if you checked your Strava, your training hours would be around 6 to 8 for the above average athlete – way less than the time you spend sitting.

It’s obvious that when we sit for most of our week, slouching hours at a time in front of a computer, problems are inevitably going to occur.  Muscular imbalances, lower back pain, tightness, all of which can carry across into our training causing more pain, stresses and even injuries. You probably end up looking like this for most of your day:

Sitting is the new epidemic. Not so much the act of sitting, but how we sit – slouching, neck forward, shoulders internally rotated, lower back collapsing. Core muscles disengaged. Glutes asleep. Hip-flexors and hamstrings shortened. Just like the image here.

Those that train for many hours and then hold an office job can tell you how bad this recipe is. What you think is a training issue stems from prolonged sitting after your workouts. Added to this could be RSI from your computer mouse, screen and a bad office chair. Your workouts may not be enough to counteract prolonged sitting. In fact, even a yoga class during the week may still not be enough to wake up sleepy glutes, undo tight hamstrings and wound up iliotibial bands.

So what can you do? The solution is to treat your sitting, as an extension of your overall training. Seek ways to cultivate healthy postural habits throughout the day that will positively transfer to your sport.

What’s key is to be as disciplined in the way you sit, as that you give your training sessions.  Correct posture is key and a big part of this is how you set up your sitting spaces [like your office desk]. Click here for more info.

You need to sit up in that chair, keeping your back straight with a slight forward pelvic tilt to maintain the lordosis of your lower back.  Your head should be in a neutral position – meaning that you might have to lift your computer screen right up. Roll your shoulders back and let your scapula’s move down your back. Your ears should be aligned over your shoulders, and your shoulders over your hips to avoid that forward slouch.

Stand up desks are gaining popularity – as it’s said it will be better posture for you, however you still need to be very careful.  You can still ‘slouch’ while standing – and in fact contribute to sitting issues.

Caitlin, one of our Senior Physiotherapists here at Barefoot Physiotherapy, reminds me all the time that “the best position, is the next position”. So, at the least, incorporate frequent breaks into your workday to break up extended hours of sitting or standing at a desk. Lunch break walks, having to move to get to the printer will all assist your body. In fact a friend of mine ensures that they drink water all day, not to just stay hydrated, but to get you walking to the toilet.

There’s so many things you can do at your desk, in your chair or while standing in your office cubicle. Muscle activation exercises and stretching is always available to you, and don’t make you look too stupid to your work colleagues. In fact, when you begin to stretch, it’s infectious – anyone watching will usually start to do the same and comment, “oh yeah, I need to do some of that”. Here’s 10 ideas to get you moving:

  1. Nod your head as you would say yes, then increase the range of movement so that your chin touches your chest and then look raise your head and look at the ceiling above you. Then gently tilt the head from side to side, ears to shoulders.
  2. Roll your shoulders, forward and backwards – feel how awesome that is.
  3. Interlock your fingers behind your back, straighten your arms and stretch the front body. Look up, look down while you do this.
  4. Just stand up! Do number 3. Above while standing in a gentle lunge – oh yeah.
  5. While standing, you can do a forward bend and stretch the hamstrings and calves. For the more adventurous, stand on one leg as you bend the raised foot to your glutes for a lovely quadricep stretch. Push that hip forward to stretch the hip flexors. Change legs.
  6. While standing, place a hand on your desk, stretch your fingers wide, as far apart as they can go. Straighten your arm and then do some arm rotations – internal and external. Great for the rotator cuff and your wrist. Change arms. Do both arms. Do it against a wall. Have fun.
  7. Put a heel on your chair, straighten that leg and stretch your hamstring. For the more flexible, use your desk [you might have to take your shoes off].
  8. While the leg is on your chair or desk, rotate your torso over the leg, trying to get your shoulders parallel with the leg – your ITB, piriformis and glutes will thank you.
  9. Do some calf raises, both legs, then one leg with the raised foot locked behind your grounded foot. Hold on to something if you can’t balance.
  10. Get to that in-office corporate yoga program that HR has been beating on about.

Of course if you’re doing a lot of these exercises during your day and still can’t get rid of that niggle in your back or legs, feel free to click here to make a booking with us.

So your spending more time sitting at a desk or in a car during the week – undoing all that fantastic training and potentially hurting your body more than you know. The key is to focus on good posture and breaking up hours in a chair with movement –whether it’s light activities, stretching, walking or anything that supports your overall health and fitness goals.

We’d love to hear back from you around your thoughts on sitting. How long do you sit during your day? What do you do to counteract the effects of sitting? Feel free to comment below, or email us here.

A passion for soccer – a quick chat with Charlotte

It won’t surprise you that Barefooters love getting out and about, moving everyday in a way they enjoy. Women’s soccer has really taken off in the past decade, with teams sprouting up all over Brisbane with quite a competitive Brisbane Premier League as a result. If you’ve ever watched a game, you’ll see how competitive and skilful these ladies are.  Our Physio Kirsten recently sat down with Charlotte to find out why she has such a passion for soccer.

 

How did your passion for soccer develop?

I’ve always had a keen interest for all things sport, and kind of just fell into playing soccer when I was young. I guess over time I’ve developed a real passion for soccer, mainly because I love the skill, athleticism and having a great time with other girls on the field.

 

 

 

Sports can have some pretty crazy traditions or pre game routines, do you have anything you do to get ready for a big game?

Definitely nothing too crazy. If I have the time, on the day of a game I like to go out and have a kick of the ball to get some touch. And I always put on my left sock and left boot on first, but I think that’s more just out of a habit. [ha, ha, we definitely think that’s a good-luck superstition! ed.]

 

What is your favourite pre game meal?

Something with bread usually haha, avocado on Turkish bread is probably my real favourite. 

 

You recently went on a trip to New Zealand, where is your next trip going to be and why?

The next big trip on the bucket list is Canada because it looks so beautiful. Closer to home, I’d also really like to go to Tasmania and do some of the hikes down there. 

 

Rapid fire, 5 Fun facts about you 

– I’m a massive Newcastle Knights fan

– I love travelling but I absolutely hate flying 

– My sporting idols are Andrew Johns and Roger Federer 

– I love dogs and have a black Labrador named Ari who hunts bush turkeys 

– I love the beach and in an alternate life would have loved to be a professional surfer

 

We love hearing about Barefooters and what they get up to in their spare time.  Whether you have a passion for soccer or some other sport, we’d love to hear from you.  If you’d like to let us know about what you get up to, please don’t hesitate to contact us so that we can arrange a quick chat and some photos – email us.  Also, after seeing Charlotte’s pictures and reading her story, if you’d like to get into soccer, you can click this link to Football Brisbane.

…and of course, if you’re injured or just feeling a bit sore and tired from your Barefoot adventures, you can always come and see us: I need an appointment

 

Easy exercises to keep you healthy and active as you age

Easy exercises to keep you healthy and active as you age.

For many people, aches and pains have become a normal part of their life, especially as they age. However, it doesn’t matter if you’re 7 or 77, pain is not a normal part of life, and should be something that you take seriously. This includes general aches and stiffness from your daily life!

Here are some easy exercises and body management tips to keep you happy, healthy and moving beautifully through life!

  • Keep moving!
    • Studies have shown people who stop moving are more likely to experience stiffness and pain. Now this movement is a little more than just pottering to the kitchen and back. This means you should be getting out of the house and moving around. Some good activities you could try are; heavy gardening, a half-hour brisk walk, riding a bike for 30 mins or more, team sports, or even dancing!
    • Moving gets the blood flowing and joints lubricated. So not only should this movement help with any pain that you are already experiencing, but it will also help to prevent the onset of stiffness and pain!
  • Deep breathing and muscle relaxation
    • If your muscles are tense, then they are not going to be happy and they will send pain signals to your brain. So how do we relax muscles without going to the physiotherapist or for a massage?
    • Deep Breathing Exercises;
      • Make yourself comfortable (lying down or sitting in a chair)
      • Loosen any tight clothing
      • Start to listen to your breathing in its natural pattern, without changing anything
      • Place your hand on your stomach, and start breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
      • Imagine that you are breathing down into your hands, letting your belly move in and out with your breaths
      • As you breathe out, imagine all your tight muscles are relaxing away all their tension
      • Continue for 3-5mins
    • Regular exercise can also help the back pocket. A few studies have shown in the older population, those who exercise spend less time and money on things such as doctors, and hospital visits…because overall they are generally healthier people.

Lastly, if you are experiencing pain on a daily basis and can’t seem to find relief, make sure you seek help. You can always give your physiotherapist a call, if you don’t have one you can make an appointment with us, or book in to see your GP.