As I’ve mentioned once or twice – or enough times for you all to be rather bored – I’ve got a bit of a dodgy skeleton. Nothing major or particularly difficult to live with, but nevertheless noticeable for someone whose chosen sport requires the body to be put into all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes.
The main issue I’ve had when climbing is the ‘rock over’ move. This is when you are on the wall, and need to get your foot or toe on a hold about level somewhere between your waist and chest, and rock all your weight over (hence the name) and stand up on said foot. It sounds ridiculous written down, but comes quite naturally – just imaging stepping onto a hip-height wall from the floor. Nothing too strenuous on a wall, especially when at least one arm is pulling you in the right direction too. However, I’ve struggled with this as my hip muscles don’t quite engage properly. The over-rotation means there are tiny muscles that haven’t been activated my whole life as other parts (like my lower back) have over-compensated, and so the motion of pulling my body in towards my toe just didn’t make sense. My brain said “go” but my leg wouldn’t budge. Not great, especially when I’ve been trying to hit those upper grades which tend to use this move.
When I was at university my gym was the Surrey Sports Park – a multi-million pound facility that hosts the Harlequin Rugby Team and was the training base for a number of Paralympic teams in 2012. It’s a great centre, and I was fortunate that I could get student membership. Before lectures on a Thursday a friend of mine suggested going to Body Balance – a class by Les Mills that incorporates Thai chi, yoga, and Pilates. It’s great for strength, flexibility, and toning, and you can make it as easy or difficult as you like by just pushing a bit harder. When I graduated and started working, I found another class local to me, and the benefit of Les Mills is the classes have standardised choreography across the world. What I love are the focused hip and back tracks which allow me to really work my hips in similar positions to all my physio, and carry on strengthening the bits that up till now haven’t worked properly.
Today, after a few days off sick and feeling pretty rubbish, we went for a Sunday morning climbing session at White Spider. And it was the first time I’ve noticed the positive effects of Body Balance. I was making rock over moves almost without thinking, and finding my legs able to pull myself across in a way that they’ve never been able to. That’s 22 years of weakness being undone in just 3 months of yoga! I’ve still got a long way to go, but it’s encouraging to see this progress finally come to fruition.
As a reward for my new-found flexibility, I treated myself to a double chocolate brownie. But no, I wasn’t undoing all the goodness of climbing – it’s the newest flavour of BattleOats, a healthy alternative flapjack made with coconut oil toe ensure maximum protein, minimum fat. This new bar is nicely indulgent, however it is a little drier than their plain chocolate chip one. Perhaps save it to have with a cuppa as an elevenses snack to make you feel better at work when you’re really dreaming you’re up some mountain somewhere…
Not a bad Sunday after feeling like I would never be well again on Friday. I would highly recommend yoga to any climbers out there wondering why they’re not progressing – with all the strength in the world, sometimes what you really need is the ability to put your foot by your ear.