6ae2119f-d955-4fda-b68c-4e3eae373ec7 I’m now well into my marathon training and am proud to report that I completed my first half marathon – at Hampton Court – in 2:35:55, which puts me on course for a time of 5- 5:30 in April.

I’ve been following a well balanced training programme written for me by Keith & Debbie Anderson from Full Potential which has me exercising five times a week.

This week I’m feeling quite pleased with myself as my instructions are to start trying some hills.  But since my house is surrounded by them I’ve been doing them from the start!  These are my weekly instructions:

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  • One long run – delighted to report that I’ve now run for 165 minutes and covered 14 miles.
  • One steady pace run – I can now manage 40 minutes at a steady pace without too much of a problem. Never thought I’d be able to do that a couple of months ago!
  • One threshold session – the key to getting stronger. If 10 is your top speed then a threshold session is running at 8.5. I’ve worked up to doing 5 minutes of threshold running followed by a 60 second jog – 5 times in total. Horrible but effective!
  • Pilates session – once a week with Rob Filmer from Gateway to Balance using a reformer. This makes the session more intense and dynamic than mat based pilates – although it does look a little like an instrument of torture! I can feel the benefit of specific stretching and strengthening and feel more balanced when I run.
  • Strength session

I also did a day’s training course at the British Heart Foundation (that’s the charity I’m running for!). Really useful talks by Coaches Debbie and Keith, Physiotherapist Julie and Dietitian Tracey. We also did a practical session of threshold running. Hard work because we went at a faster pace than I do normally but I survived and no ill effects.

 

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I’m running for the BHF and if you’d like to sponsor my efforts than please visit my fundraising page. I’d also love to hear from anyone else who is training for the Marathon. Please email with your top tips or training photos.

Alison and the Surrey Physiotherapy team

The Humble Hamstring

Everybody’s heard of hamstrings – the large muscles at the back of the thigh that are attached to the pelvis and the back of the knee – but did you know they are actually made up of three muscles? Or that not being able to touch your toes could be down to genetics? Read on for more about hamstrings, risk factors that could lead to a strain and some exercises for stretching and strengthening these important muscles.

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Three muscles make up the hamstrings – biceps femoris on the outside of the thigh and semimembranosus and semitendinosis on the inside of the thigh. We use these muscles to bend our knees and to move the hip backwards. They play a part in everyday actions such as walking, running and climbing the stairs. They also help to reduce speed of the leg moving forward during activities such as kicking a ball or running.

If you stand upright and bend to touch your toes the hamstrings are the muscle group that stop you bending further forward. Some people can place their hands flat on the floor while others will only ever reach their knees. It is very individual and both can be normal depending on whether you’ve inherited a flexible or stiff body type (among other things).

Hamstring strains are not uncommon and occur when the muscle is stretched beyond its capacity or subjected to sudden loading i.e. sprinting. There are a number of risk factors that make it more likely to strain a muscle:

  1. Muscle tightness. Spending all day sitting at a computer or driving can cause the hamstrings to become both short and weak due to underuse. You can counteract this by standing up regularly throughout the day. Walk whenever you can, use the stairs not the lift at work. Stretching alone is not enough to counteract this and will only have a short term effect. It is essential to strengthen the muscles too.
  2. Muscle weakness/poor conditioning. When the hamstrings or bottom muscles (gluteals) are weak they fatigue and are less able to cope with exercise. Improve this by doing exercises to strengthen both the hamstrings and the gluteals.
  3. Muscle fatigue due to weak muscles or overload. Muscles lose their energy-absorbing capabilities and are more susceptible to injury.
  4. Age: Hamstring strains are common in adolescents because during the growth spurt the bones can grow faster than the muscles causing them to become tight. A sudden jump, stretch or kicking a ball can cause a tear in the muscle. Conversely, in the older person muscles and tendons lose elasticity and length so they are more prone to strain if the muscles are placed on a sudden stretch.

Exercises to stretch and strengthen the hamstrings can be found by clicking here. Each exercise also has a video link so you can be sure you’re doing it correctly. We use this system to provide our patients with specially tailored exercise programmes like this. If you have an injury it is important to get advice from your physiotherapist first to ensure these are right for you as no two hamstring injuries are the same.

Does muscle weigh more than fat?

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A pound is a pound. So surely a pound of muscle is the same as a pound of fat?
But muscle is more dense than fat so a pound of muscle takes up less room than the equivalent of fat. In fact, approximately four times less space!

It is possible to look and feel slimmer without a reduction in weight conversely, it is possible to weigh the same but to look and feel fatter. The normal ratio of muscle/fat tends to change as we get older so that as muscle bulk decreases in elderly there can be relatively more fat.

Too much fat is bad for the body and can lead to conditions such as coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The extra weight it brings can also increase the loading on the joints, in particular the low back, hips and knees.
Equally we do need some fat in our bodies. Fat helps to regulate temperature, protect internal organs and is the main storage of energy in the body. Too little fat has been associated with infertility in women and a healthy amount of fat is essential for our physical and emotional wellbeing.

The American Council on Exercise shows the following average percentages of fat for different groups.

Women Men
Essential fat 10 – 13% 2 – 5%
Athletes 14 – 20% 6 – 13%
Fitness 21 – 24% 14 – 17%
Average 25 – 31% 18 – 24%
Obese 32+% 25+%

Essential fat is the level below which physical and psychological health can be affected. Cardio vascular exercise and strength training can build muscle and reduce fat. As the percentage of body fat increases so too does the risk of adverse health consequences.


Running a Marathon in 2016?

We’d love to hear from Surrey Physiotherapy clients or friends who are also training for a Marathon. In fact, we’d like to reward your efforts by offering anyone showing proof of Marathon registration a ‘Runners Review’ session with our sports specialist Ben.

Bring your trainers and Ben will assess their suitability and also provide an assessment of your running style as part of this one hours session at which you’ll also be able to discuss any running injuries or niggles.

But the best news is that we are offering these sessions at a discounted rate of £50 during April. Availability is limited though so email or phone us on 020 8660 8070 to make sure you get a slot.


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Spotlight on….Ali

I’ve worked at Surrey Physiotherapy for 17 years after many years spent in London Teaching hospitals. The NHS provided great opportunities to build skills and experience but private practice allows both therapist and patient a far more satisfying and effective approach to treatment.

I enjoy treating all musculo-skeletal problems across all age groups and from sports injuries to lifestyle induced disorders including osteoarthritis and degenerative joint issues. But my main area of interest is management of Joint Hypermobility Syndrome. Affecting up to 10 percent of the population it is frequently missed in children, dismissed in teenagers, and misunderstood in adults.

Outside work I enjoy walking, gardening and generally keeping fit and have been a keen skier over the years. I am a fan of Pilates and love going to see ballet and contemporary dance. Since the days of school runs and ‘mum’s taxi’ are over I am enjoying getting back to creative hobbies based around my sewing machine.