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How sports affect your body throughout life

Untitled
photo: jeff_whiteside
“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” -Aristole

Sports become a part of who you are, both mentally and physically.  For children, sports become a means of socialization, but they also play a prominent factor in the development of movement.  For adults, sports become a means of fitness, stress relief, competition and commonly injury.  No matter where you find yourself on the spectrum of young to old, or novice to professional, sports have likely impacted your body in some way.  Appreciating how and to what extent may help you address chronic problems, prevent future ones and likely maximize your performance.

Each sport comes with its own particular set of movement patterns required of its’ athletes.  Dancers have chest up, shoulders down, butt clenched, toes out drilled into them.  Tennis players and golfers spend hours twisting one way and not the other.  Bikers ride hundreds of kilometers with their bodies tucked into a tight aerodynamic position with their head poking up, and runners get used to just going straight forward all the time.  How much these movement experiences will affect you really depends on what stage of your life you do them, how much you do them, and if you also have a variety of other sports you do, or have chosen to specialize and commit to the performance of just one.

Early movement experiences will really mold a child’s posture and coordination later in life, which is why I encourage physical play with my kids.  Activities like chase, wrestling, rolling, jumping, throwing and catching really help kids build an awareness of how to use their bodies.  They get some bumps and bruises along the way, but it helps them learn that pain is temporary and that their bodies are really amazing at healing themselves if they give them a chance.  As a physiotherapist, I can quickly tell the difference between adults that have a physical, athletic history and ones that have lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle, both in their body awareness and their outlook on their current pain or dysfunction.  Past athletes tend to have a more optimistic and in-control attitude about their rehabilitation because they have relationships with their bodies due to past experience.  Conversely, adults that haven’t competed in sports in their youth tend to be much less assertive in their healing and much more dependent on health professionals because they are less in tune with their bodies.

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Posted in Blog, Education, Fitness, Sports Tagged with: ,
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Your Invincible Years are Over: how to stay strong, fit and pain free as you age

Old Superman #famousoldies

I used to beat the hell out of my body when I was in high school.  I played soccer, basketball, rugby and a variety of other sports on almost a daily basis.  I would bang and crash and hurt myself, but it never really slowed me down because I just took it for granted that within a few days or a few weeks my body would heal up and be ready for more.  In University I tested my body with little sleep, more sports and a lot more alcohol, but I still always bounced back and kept going.  Around my mid-twenties to early thirties a few things happened that started changing my perspective on life.

By the age of twenty four, I had completed two university degrees and was officially a registered physiotherapist.  I’d like to think I was a lot smarter after six years of university, but I learned much more in the following six to ten years than I ever did in school.  It was a time when my body seemed to start getting less and less invincible and I started gaining more and more perspective on the importance of physical health.  I still played soccer, hockey and squash, but my body started taking longer and longer to recover; things that used to take days to feel better, starting taking weeks and I was forced to consider the physical consequences of my activity choices more than ever.

As a physiotherapist, working with clients from nine to ninety years old, I started recognizing that I was not alone in the weakening of my invincibility around age thirty.  I would hear an average of ten ‘getting old sucks’ complaints a week, equally spread amongst the thirty, forty and fifty year-olds.  The sixty and seventy year-olds tended to phrase it more around ‘this old body is falling apart,’ and the eighty to ninety year-olds just seemed to be happy if something actually didn’t hurt.  Read More

Posted in Blog, Education, Fitness, Healthcare Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
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Getting Old Sucks: the march towards stenosis

Old
photo: susafri
My favourite part of being a physiotherapist is the perspective I gain by working with a broad array of people: young people, old people, active people, sedentary people, successful people and those just starting out.  I find it fascinating to try and see the world through these people’s eyes as I get little glimpses into their lives during our thirty minute appointments each week.  The relationships people have with their own bodies are a very curious thing to me.

Some people literally behave like their bodies are simply vehicles to walk their heads around; they have little to no awareness of how or what they are doing physically and are blinded by cognitive factors like stress and anxiety.  Others treat their body like a temple and seek help when they detect even the slightest change from their normal, homeostatic state.  Many people’s relationships with their bodies are a product of to their early childhood sports combined with their recent fitness endeavors.  Your early sport and movement experiences are responsible for molding your general postures while your more recent fitness endeavors will create the lens that you see your physical self through.

Some people choose personal trainers, others choose Yoga classes and some are determined to work out at home with programs like Foundation, or P90X.  Your choice of activity will affect your perception of what physical health means to you.  You may get focused on strength or flexibility or endurance or speed.  I see many people in my practice that were active teenagers, but are now in their early 40s with two kids and are trying to rediscover their bodies; unfortunately many people get hurt during this phase because their bodies are 10-20 years older than they physically remember and their choice of activity was based more on familiarity than need.

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Posted in Blog, Education, Healthcare, Posture Tagged with: , , , ,
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Movement: Your body is the car and you are the driver

2010

Imagine handing the keys of a finely tuned, bright red Porsche 911 to a 16 year old boy, first time driver and saying have fun!  Now imagine telling him 15 years later, after he has been in a few accidents, scratched the paint and  destroyed the clutch that he should have driven more carefully because this is the only car he will ever own for the rest of his life, that he will now have to go for regular tune ups and will probably have to get an artificial clutch and a titanium tire sometime in the next 30 years.  Oh yeah and your shocks will get worse and worse every year.  I hope you had enough fun driving in the first 15 years to make the next 40 years worthwhile!  Sorry I didn’t teach you to drive better!

We watch our kids struggle to reach the gas pedal for years then blindly let them grind the gears of their own bodies through their adolescence.  We put them into sports in key developmental years that unknowingly teach them how to move a particular way and may mold their posture for the rest of their lives.  We tell them to stand up straight with little context of what that means and we start binding their feet with stiff little shoes before they can even walk.

Children are resilient, moldable little sponges that should be given some direction and opportunity to become good drivers in their own bodies.  The trouble is that most parents aren’t particularly good drivers and their kids think that they are invincible until they reach their mid twenties.

Babies can move, but very little of it is intentional.  Most of their movement is created by a series of reflexes that move an entire limb as one unit.  The back extensor muscles develop before the abdominals as the baby figures out how to lift its head up and arch its back. Read More

Posted in Blog, Education, New Moms, Posture Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
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