March 24, 2023
In my last article on moving well I mentioned that exercise is something that needs to be actively and intentionally included in our lives. This means it needs to be scheduled in.
When my kids were younger the evening was the only time I could fit in any intentional exercise. I found 10 minute workouts that I could do at home, and walked during the day when I could.
When it came to recovering I found that I didn’t have any energy in the evening to exercise so I had to fit this into my morning routine.
At first all the extra bodywork practitioner/physiotherapy/ post surgery therapeutic exercises seemed like a lot of extra work and I spent a little time focussing on how it was unfair that I had to do this while “everyone else” got to do activities of their own choosing.
Fortunately I didn’t dwell in this thought pattern for long, and instead took the view that I needed to take care of myself (I feel I neglected this prior to my diagnosis and that this was detrimental for me). Part of my healing was that I needed to include self-care, taking care of myself and these therapeutic/ rehabilitation exercises were part of this (as was the lymphatic self-massage that I did in the morning). Many of the therapeutic/ rehabilitation exercises I was meant to do many times throughout the day, and I did this initially when recovering acutely from surgery.
After my active cancer treatments were finished and I was focussing on recovering well, and including more and more regular activities in my day I found it harder to include the still-needed-and-important therapeutic exercises in my daily routine. I decided to compile the exercises into a warm up routine that I would do when I got up each day. That way I was at least doing the exercises once a day, and it helped me remember to do them during the day too (rather than just realising that I hadn’t done them in ages when I saw a bodywork practitioner for my next appointment).
Now that I am further along in my recovery I definitely feel that one of the things that works best for me is a warm up routine to support my flexibility and movement in general, and also help with lymphatic flow since I have had lymph nodes removed.
There are many ways to have a regular practice of intentional physical activity (exercise) and I set out to try a few of them in search of the best option for myself. I found a few options and tried each one for a week to give myself time to get used to the actual movements and see if my experience was encouraging enough to feel like I wanted to continue longer term.
To start with I wanted to see what was on offer in terms of maintaining and increasing my flexibility.
I am a myofascial therapist so I am well aware of the need to keep fascia movement supported. This can be done by keeping hydrated and having myofascial release therapy, but the type of physical movement that you do regularly will make a significant difference.
The forms of exercise I tried were
Psychocalisthenics (known as P-cals)
Robert Schleip - Fascial Fitness
I learnt about Psychocalisthenics from Patrick Holford's book 6 Weeks to Superhealth. Holford highly recommends Psychocalisthenics which is a “unity of body and mind across the breath”. There are 23 exercises in total, no extra equipment is needed and when you are able to follow it well it only takes 16 minutes.
I found using the breath along with the movements helped me feel more energised after the sessions.
I liked that the routine is fairly straightforward and didn’t take too much time
What didn’t work for me?
I used Patrick Holford and others youtube examples to set the speed of the exercises. I felt they were too quick and jarring for me.What did I learn?
Some of the exercises were similar to yoga moves and other flowing movement exercise styles.
Being much more mindful of breath in my physical activity
On the surface of it P-cals fit my criteria for exercise well, but the speed of the actual movements makes it ideal for my younger self, but perhaps less ideal for my current self.
Tai chi is well known and I took a class in this form of movement years ago. The class was complicated and confusing so for this experiment I used youtube videos to see how I would get on. Following along to the youtube videos was more successful in terms of being able to find someone that I liked and I was able to understand what to do and do the movements this time around.
I liked to pace of the movements and I found them easy to follow.
Although Tai chi has many benefits and I am sure a master of Tai chi won’t have the problem I had, I found that there wasn’t enough focus on different body areas for me.
Lots of Tai chi tutorials also contain Qi gong movements.
I liked the pace of the movement and felt like I could safely move my body to the full range of movement possible while not overextending myself. In my post surgery body I need to be mindful of range of motion and Tai chi allowed me to move well.
I first came across Essentrics in Miranda Esmonde-White's book Aging Backwards. My beauty therapist background has made me hyper focussed on aging and anti-aging, first from a cosmetic perspective, later from a moving well perspective and more recently from a living well perspective. Miranda is a breast cancer survivor who had a background in Tai Chi. She developed her own system of movements, drawing from Tai Chi, Pilates and Yoga to support healthy fascia in the body. Since I am a myofascial release therapist I loved the idea of Mirandas exercises supporting healthy fascia so trialing this workout style made sense to me. The claim for Essentrics is that it is a full body strength and stretch that is safe for people of all ages and fitness levels. Could this be an ideal workout for recovery?
At the time I started this trial I had back pain and I found I was still able to participate fully in the moves. The pace of the movements allowed me to feel safe in what I was doing and that I wouldn’t jolt/ jar my body and end up causing harm.
(As a side note I might be a bit over sensitive to this as a few years ago I was doing regular bootcamp workouts and the injury to my shoulder took a year to heal!).
I definitely felt more able to move freely after each workout and loved the feeling of being able to move well that doing these workouts gave me.
I didn’t find the exercise routines felt like they were providing me with strengthening/ toning benefits. I am well aware that one week won’t make me “toned and terrific” but doing the workouts didn’t leave me feeling in any way that toning or strengthening was going to happen with this system alone. (I accept that moving well and having great body awareness supports better workouts in other modalities).
It took a long time per day. The minimum full body workout was 30 minutes, which doesn’t sound like heaps except if you consider that I would need to do a toning/ strengthening workout and cardiovascular workout on top of this.
As a myofascial release therapist I loved having movements that support fascia wellness and moving well.
I have changed the way I do a couple of my regular warm up movements to be more in line with the Essentrics way as I feel these give me better range of motion and are better longer term for myofascial movement.
I would definitely recommend Essentrics if you are low in energy and need to start moving well, safely or if you are able to add it to your schedule on top of other exercise. While the recommendation is to do this 30 minute workout every day I will be using in 2-3 times a week on the days I have slightly less time pressure in my schedule, if nothing else this will be my Sunday morning warm up workout.
Robert Schleip is an expert in the field of fascia. He is a psychologist, Rolfing practitioner, Feldenkrais practitioner and researcher.
In his book, Fascial Fitness, Schleip promotes practicing certain movements to support healthy fascia and therefore moving well.
The movements themselves are easy and non taxing, so great for someone who is recovering and needs something easy to do. They require you to move in slightly different ways from how you would move in day to day life or usual exercise programs so its a different and interesting way to move.
I feel awful saying this but I just didn’t notice any benefit from doing the exercises. My body didn’t feel different in any way.
That moving in different ways, and in slightly more random and dance-style ways could be supportive of fascia movement and wellbeing. These movements made me more aware of how beneficial sports that require a variety of movements would be beneficial beyond just the cardiovascular/ toning/ social aspects of sports.
I will be more mindful and inclined to dance more to music as I am not a team sport player.
Yoga has been around for approximately 5000 years. There are currently many variations of yoga, encompassing the physical body, the mind and the spirit.
Using a few yoga poses in the morning as a warm up does seem a little frivolous compared to the depths of what Yoga has to offer, but I trialed a few youtube workouts lasting for 10-15 minutes each. (As a side note I have attended more in depth yoga classes in the past but I seem to have an on again off again relationship with Yoga).
I was able to choose yoga workouts that were in line with what I was after (flowing moving asanas rather than holding poses). Since yoga can be practiced slowly I was able to feel like I was moving my body and enhancing my flexibility is a safe way.
Yoga is a practice and some of the movements were tricky. The trouble I have with that is that I was off balance and in strange positions sometimes so very aware that I could lose my balance and get hurt.
I think the main thing I learnt was just how much other exercise options that are about flexibility draw on yoga.
Many of the flexibility routines I looked into (there were more than just the ones I have mentioned) used some variation of cat-cow pose and salute to the sun. Since these are so universally used (and salute to the sun has so many components to it) I will be practicing these movements as part of my daily warm up routine.
I now have a new and improved morning warm up routine that uses some of the things I learnt from experimenting with the different options I discussed above.
I still use exercises given to me by my PNT bodywork therapist and I keep a close eye on the restricted movement in my left arm that needs attention in order to support lymph flow in my arm.
The great thing for me about my warm up routine is that while the full routine can be done in 15 minutes, I can shorten this to a few key exercises, including a salute to the sun sequence that I can do in less time if I am very low on time in a morning.
I can also do a 30 minute Essentrics workout on days when I have less time pressure, especially on Sunday mornings when I psychologically feel like I need a variation to my daily routine.
By doing my warm up routine as soon as I get up I feel like I am starting my day off well.
Bayer, Johanna, and Robert Schleip. Fascial Fitness, Second Edition: Practical Exercises to Stay Flexible, Active and Pain Free in Just 20 Minutes a Week. North Atlantic Books, 2021. Accessed 24 March 2023.
Esmonde-White, Miranda. Aging Backwards: Reverse the Aging Process and Look 10 Years Younger in 30 Minutes a Day. Brilliance Publishing, 2016. Accessed 24 March 2023.
Holford, Patrick. 6 Weeks To Superhealth: An Easy-to-Follow Programme for Total Health Transformation. Little, Brown, 2012. Accessed 24 March 2023.
MALTZ, MAXWELL. “Psychocalisthenics Exercise with Patrick Holford.flv.” YouTube, 10 October 2011, https://youtu.be/FwZIsTpqF10. Accessed 24 March 2023.
October 06, 2023
I have found with the people that I help that using minerals gives us a strong foundation to work with.
On a personal level I am extremely grateful for the support of minerals!!
September 01, 2023
August 25, 2023
When you start to think in a downward spiral, or become distracted or focussing on negative “unwanted” thoughts - of the past, the present or the future you simply tell your brain “Useful Thoughts Only”
The trick is catching yourself in the act, but I suspect you may have a few (or even many) opportunities each day to practice this technique. The great thing is, even if you realise after quite a while that you have been riding the unhelpful thought train, you can stop at any time and tell yourself - USEFUL THOUGHTS ONLY.