Are we over-controlling control?

I’m sitting here having a drink and looking out at the rain pondering whether we over-control control when it comes to human movement.

I recently attended a really interesting symposium put together by the ACPSEM, IADMS and the University of Edinburgh on Control in the Artistic Athlete. Firstly the obligatory thanks for having me there to learn from great speakers at a great event. It was a great (can you tell I thought it was great) opportunity to network with people working in the same field as myself as well as share ideas and thoughts with one another. Now that the formalities are out the road it’s time for my take on what we learned over the weekend in a nutshell.

Let’s talk hyper mobility (or it’s PC term – hyper laxity) to start. Sure, this can pose a host of issues but does it serve a protective purpose as well in certain scenarios? For example, if you’re a Gymnast working on head balances then surely an element of hyper mobility aids the overall aesthetic of the pose? Whether we like it or not there’s an element of ‘nice on the eye’ when it comes to sports such as gymnastics, dance and diving and these groups are scored by the judges at all level of competition on how things look so surely being hyper mobile would aid progression through the ranks. This was a hot topic and the answer was a unanimous yes – it is protective and it is advantageous in these scenarios.

But why? Well, from the athletes themselves, when they finish competing in the sport they’ve been participating in for however many years they can still bend forward to pick things up, they can get up from the floor without groaning and they can lead an active life in comparison to their peers (unfortunately I have no formal literature to back this up – purely anecdotal evidence from the conversations we had on the day – shoot me!).

Remember – hyper mobility does come with other issues. Some examples:

  • Susceptible to tendinopathies
  • Loose, stretchy skin
  • Stretch marks/scarring
  • Skin discolouration
  • GI tract issues
  • Obsessiveness
  • Heightened risk of anxiety and depression

These need to be managed appropriately by the medical team during an athletes career or if you aren’t an athlete chat with your GP and Physio who can put a good plan in place for you – MDT all the way!! We need an element of control here because there is a heightened risk of injury to this client group. But, at what point do we overdo it?

It was great hearing from Lisa Howell and Shelly Power who both agreed that human’s are made to move and we spend far too long overcomplicating movement. We were meant to crawl and play and roll around in haphazard ways. As we age, grow, mature and develop we somehow lose this. We, and by we I mean Physios, movement teachers (this includes you PTs!) and healthcare providers, are constantly telling people they are moving ‘wrong’ but what is right? For example, if you stand and just swing your self from side to side. Try it now. Let your arms swing across your body, keep your feet on the ground and rotate from the waist. How does that feel? This time, brace your core, suck in your pelvic floor (everyone talks about the pelvic floor all the time so it must be super important and squeezed all the time right?), stabilise your shoulder blades, don’t forget to breathe! and do the same movement. What does that feel like now? Restrictive right! Too much in the way of instruction as well – it’s become complicated, it’s become instructive and it’s way less fun!

In my opinion, I think we need to think about movement as a whole. If someone has an injury we need to find ways for them to move that are safe but fun and challenging. We also need to ensure they understand natural healing times but are able to stay active during this time. Take total weekly work load in to account when thinking about the training or rehab programme we put together for the person – and yes work load includes work, home life, lifestyle, rehab, family life and social life. If you’ve got a hard session Wednesday night and double PE Thursday morning we might want to rearrange that hard session Wednesday night. Likewise if you’ve been off work through injury and have been working out or rehabbing then when you return to full duties we’re going to have to look at reducing your rehab load because guess what – you’ve just increased your weekly load by about 70%!!

Mobility should be looked at – effectively control through movement – and weight added to progress and overload the structures. Most importantly though. More than anything else. HAVE FUN!!!!!!!!

We love to overcomplicate things in healthcare and health and fitness but remember – we move every day and, if we are lucky enough, have been able to move for our whole lives. Start having fun again. Make it simple. Explore movement with curiosity and intrigue and see where you end up. You might just find it’s the best thing you do!

I always love having a chat with people and gaining new perspectives as well as answering questions (even if I don’t know the answer I’ll go hunting for it!). Shoot me a message through the contact page if you have any comments on this.

Speak soon!
H =]

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