Sore backs, creaky knees, and a little LBL — we all have those niggling issues from time to time. But instead of using them as an excuse to stop exercising, let’s fix them. Functional fitness trainer, Rachel McKay, from F45, shows us how.
Lower back pain
If your lower back gets sore when you exercise, it’s a sign that your hamstrings are tight and your core and abdominal muscles are a little weaker than they should be. To get rid of that pesky pain, work on strengthening your core muscles and releasing any tension in the back.
Did you know? The back houses our body’s central nervous system, so if you’re experiencing pain, don’t waste time in getting an expert’s help.
- Supported plank — keep your knees on the floor and hold for a minute.
- Alternate limb raise — lay on your tummy and hold your torso still as you lift one arm and the opposite leg. Repeat on the other side. If this is too much for you, modify this exercise by bending your knees and elbows.
- Myofascial releases — use a foam roller to “iron out” any stiffness in your hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes and back. Aim to roll for 10 minutes twice a day. It may be a little painful at first (especially if you haven’t used a foam roller before), but trust me, you’ll feel better afterwards.
Many women walk around with uncomfortably rounded shoulders — the result of sitting at a desk for hours on end, as well as not stretching enough. This kind of tightness is a very common problem, but luckily, if you give the area a little extra care and attention, it can be fixed. To do this, focus on stretching our your chest and strengthening the rotator cuff, rhomboids and rear deltoids in your back. Combined, these moves will help to pull your shoulders back and down — i.e. where they should be.
Place your palm on a wall with your fingers outstretched. Step forward with your outside foot and slowly rotate away from the wall. Adjust your hand height so you can feel the stretch, but maintain it comfortably. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat twice on each side.
The wide grip row is fantastic for getting your back in tip-top shape. Wrap a towel around a pole and hold an end in each hand. Pull your shoulders back and down, push your chest forward and arch your back — all while keeping your elbows at shoulder height. Squeeze through your back and try to touch the elbows together behind your back. Release and repeat.
Light bladder leakage
It can be embarrassing, sure, but LBL is a fact of life and a common problem for women around the world. Why? Because we give birth and go through menopause! It can also be caused by an underlying medical condition, such as thyroid or diabetes, so see your doctor if you’re having bladder problems without a bub in sight. The best way to nix LBL is to do pelvic floor exercises. They’re quick, easy and oh-so-discreet. You can do them anywhere and no-one will ever know.
- Stand, sit or lay down with your knees slightly apart. Relax the muscles in your thighs and abdomen.
- Inhale slowly and deeply as you squeeze in and up. Imagine you’re peeing, then try to stop mid-stream — that is the muscle you’re contracting. Draw the muscles in and up as you squeeze. Exhale slowly as you release. For the best results, coordinate your breathing with the exercises.
- Do 10 slow squeezes and 10 fast ones four to five times a day.
SheKnows Expert and style blogger Imogen Lamport has a clever way of remembering to do her pelvic floor exercises.
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Our knees take a beating when we exercise, which is why many gym bunnies end up with ITBS, also known as runner’s knee. It’s caused by a shortening of the ilotibial band — a muscle that runs on the outside of your leg, from your hip right down to the top of your shin. This tightness throws the knee’s alignment out of whack, causing — you guessed it — pain or a dull ache. Other knee issues can be linked to poor flexibility, which literally stresses out the knees. Rest, ice, and these exercises will help ease the pain.
- Myofascial release — use a foam roller to release the hamstrings, outer legs and quads.
- Hamstring stretch — lay flat on your back and lift one leg up. Loop a towel or skipping rope around your foot, and pull your leg towards you until you feel the stretch down the back of your hamstrings. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Top tip: Yoga is fantastic for loosening and relaxing the body, so pencil regular classes in your diary to keep knee issues at bay.
Lordosis is a fancy word for an inwardly curved spine (or a “swayed back”), which trainers see in women all the time. It’s caused by an imbalance in muscle strength and weakness; for example, tight hip flexors coupled with weak glutes and hamstrings. If you tap away at a computer all day, you’re more likely to end up with lordosis. But the good news is, you can combat the curve by stretching the muscles in your lower back and hips, and strengthening your abs and glutes.
- Squats — squeeze your tummy muscles and get your butt as close to the floor as you can.
- Lunges — make sure your feet are leg distance apart, and that your bent knee doesn’t go past your toes.
- Kneeling hip flexor stretch — kneel down and take one foot forward so that your leg’s bent. Shift your body weight forward so you feel a nice stretch down your hip. Raise the opposite arm over your head and hold.
Rachel McKay and her business partner, Chris Barnes, train lots of lovely ladies at F45 in Sydney’s Surry Hills. For more details, check out their website.