I’ve just learnt that the British-English version is usually spelt ‘learnt’ and the American-English version ‘learned’. It appears the American-English version may be more progressive; verbs are evolving to become more regular over time and the ‘ed’ ending is regular…
This is my last ever article as Calder Therapies; I am closing my doors at the end of January 2022. This is a voluntary move on my part and a good thing personally, though I will miss interacting with you all. So I had a thought to leave you with a few of the salient points that I’ve learnt over the last twelve years of running my business: as a Physiotherapist, massage therapist, Pilates teacher, human being, every other personal modus operandi and as someone who finds people interesting.
I am as prone as anyone can be to making snap judgement’s and jumping to conclusions about people. But we all have something(s) to say worth hearing and something(s) to give. I have learnt – and am still learning – to press pause on a stream of assumptions, judgments, beliefs and prejudices, however small and trivial they may appear at a cursory glance. Instead I try (still trying, still moving up and down the failure-to-success spectrum) to pay attention to the person in front of me. (How do you show that you’re paying attention? By paying attention.)
Doing these two things will usually transform an interaction from one in which I, and the person I’m interacting with, learn nothing and further entrench thoughts and opinions, to one in which we both benefit and learn something new. This is as relevant when trying to help a client in a clinic as it is in the street, at a party, when talking to a friend or a family member, during an altercation: anywhere and everywhere. We may not always agree with or like what comes out of other peoples mouths or what they do or represent, but it’s always worth being respectful and paying attention. I have only ever walked in my shoes. I can empathise about what it must be like to walk in yours but I can never come close to knowing what your genes and the sum total of your experiences mean to you.
The anecdotal and scientific evidence is in. Even the official, science-based government guidelines and NHS advice state that getting moving and out of breath on a regular basis is worth doing for many, many reasons. This evidence seeps through the pile of chod that is our 21st century oft-sedentary lifestyle. Our upbringing which may or may not have instilled in us an active mindset, our cars, the conveniences that technology and the media can deafen and hypnotise us with, our thoughts, mood and beliefs which are very effective at influencing how active we do or don’t choose to be, our pre-existing health, those societal expectations (or lack of) and our work, busyness and other commitments, amongst no doubt other things.
Sometimes and for some of us it can be easy to get up and move; other times and for others, it’s harder. But there’s no one who wouldn’t benefit from doing some exercise and the vast majority of us would benefit, in so many ways, from doing more than we do. I suspect that most of you have learnt this and know this already. So I’ll content myself with simply sowing another seed. And urge you to use your wisdom on our future generations and get your kids or grand-kids up, out and active at every possible opportunity.
The modern majority gift of Physiotherapy in treating aches, pains and disability is to be found in encouraging some form of exercise. Being prodded and poked and passive can be of (usually shorter-term) benefit and I am not going to dispute that touch is powerful. But strategic rest combined with active, effortful and engaged graft is what will lead to bigger, better and longer-term results.
It is here, in trying to persuade people to get active in some way, that I think motivation is overrated. Motivation relies on reason and enthusiasm and our human reasons and enthusiasms are not always steadfast, to put it mildly. At risk of sounding like my ex-army mate Rob, discipline is key. Find something that you can stick at and just keep doing it, regardless. And if you stop doing that active thing, find something else active to do – there’s nothing wrong and a lot right with being a Jack of all trades. Down periods are fine; we all have those and our body frequently needs and benefits from them anyway. But avoid hitting the ‘stuff it’ button (or insert a more colourful word for harder-hitting relevance); stay on or get back on the bandwagon.
And if you have access to younger family members, sounds harsh, but use discipline. Instilling in them a love or at least a willingness to be active will ensure that they thank you long after you’re gone.
I’ve talked about pain before here and here. It’s a complex subject and tricky to do justice and one that affect’s us all. So I’m going to hand the point over to an interesting little YouTube video instead, if you fancy a watch. In short, pain is always real. It can occur whether there’s physical damage or not. And our clever, bioplastic (malleable) brains mean that we can learn, adapt and change how our whole system responds to the perception of pain, ensuring that pain now doesn’t necessarily mean pain forever.
In youth we learn; in age we understandMarie von Ebner-Eschenbach
Exercise does become more challenging as we get older. I am nearly 42 and have to work harder than ever before at getting and staying strong, flexible, fit and healthy. The evidence suggests that it doesn’t get any easier with age and as a Physiotherapist I try to be respectful of the fact that I have yet to experience this. So yes, do give consideration to the fact that your body does take longer to recover and heal, that getting fitter does take longer and that for subjective effort in it probably won’t yield the results you would have seen twenty years ago.
But age matters as much because it doesn’t discriminate. Don’t wait until you’re retired/working less/kids have left home/the project is finished/you feel like it/have more time to start. I see too many retirees who discover that their new free time means that they have almost no excuse to not investigate exercise and a healthier lifestyle, and that the aches and pains that age brings mean that they now actively want or need to get moving. And without exception, they find that it’s way, way, way harder to get fit, stay fit and avoid injury and the long-term effects of inactivity when you start later in life.
BUT, it is never, ever too late to start. I’m open to refutations on the point 🙂 but I think that there is almost always benefit to be had from moving a bit more.
So there is truth in “maybe I’m just getting old”. But in my experience it is too often used as an excuse to not investigate, to not get informed and to not try doing some exercise. Trying can be scary and illuminating but it’s usually better than staying unfit, unhealthy and in the dark.
Whether we’re talking specific Physiotherapy/Pilates style exercises or general exercise or anything in between, how you go about exercising is relevant. I’ve popped a few pointers below.
I have learnt though that there’s a mixed message to send here. The other side of the exercise coin is that it often really doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it, just go out and do something. Be it a stiff back, a sore shoulder, a headache, feel physically sluggish or have a metaphorical black cloud bearing down on you, some form of moving, getting out of breath and exerting yourself will probably help.
The physical nuts and bolts of Physiotherapy, massage and Pilates are important, but it’s often the quality of our interaction that makes the real difference. Social connection is a cornerstone of good mental health, without it our lives are poorer. I have learnt to give each client my all. I am sure that it is by putting 100% open-minded effort in that I get the best results with each person I see. And this can make all the difference not just to my client, who hopefully leaves my clinic feeling better, reassured, happier, more confident, calmer or any other positive feeling, but also to me and the quality of my experience, my mood and my day. Social connection boosts mood and overall well-being. So thank you, because this has been as true for me as your Physiotherapist or massage therapist or Pilates teacher, as for anyone.