People are always asking me if I use thera bands- those stretchy elastic bands that come in many different colours. I have bands and I was lucky enough to perform a brilliant 'band sequence' with the Fitness League (now FLexercise) at the Royal Albert Hall.
All EXTEND teachers were trained to use these bands and we had CDP days with experts, and way before bands became readily available we used to work our muscles with plaited tights! As a Course director for EXTEND I was fortunate enough to hear Professor Dawn Skelton from Later Life Training talk about the use of bands at several CPD days and she delivered several CPD days for me showing us the correct way and explaining the ‘science’ behind the exercises and she was at hand as we devised our own exercises for our class members.
But, despite having a whole bag of green, red and yellow bands (plus latex free bands) in the cupboard I do not use them.
I used them for a while, but in a recreational exercise to music class I found I was spending a disproportionate amount of time giving safety warnings and instructing my class members on the ‘right way’ to hold the bands so circulation was not cut off to the fingers and making sure they were being held correctly so they didn’t ‘ping back’ and poke them in the eye. I was for ever re-adjusting position of the hands, so they were the right length and making sure they were not wrinkled so they dug into fragile skin and painful joints. Exercises requiring the band to be wrapped around the thighs or passed behind were interesting as despite cutting them to a substantial length there was always someone whose band wasn’t long. I was always checking them for tears and signs of wear and tear – even more so after I attended a session ‘elsewhere’ and the band broke in my hands and pinged me on the cheek.
I made a conscious decision put them in the cupboard as in my hour-long class I was giving 30 minutes to band work of which 10 minutes was making sure everyone had the right band and then a further 15 minutes doing the exercises with me talking all the way through with teaching points and instructions and then 5 minutes rolling them up (good for the fingers) and putting them away.
In 2014 I had a bad shoulder and the physio the consultant referred me to give me specific exercises for my shoulder. It took her 20 minutes to make sure I was performing one specific exercise to the correct height, angle and speed and I knew that keeping the bands in the cupboard was not a bad thing after all. To the untrained eye this was a standard exercise for the shoulder and in class I would have just gone through the teaching points in a few minutes saying, ‘if it is too strong or painful then stop’, she made me appreciate that how a slight change in length, angle and height can alter the whole exercise. My personal experience re-affirmed my thoughts that what is good for one person’s muscles might be to the detriment of another’s. A few months ago, my other shoulder has decided to play up and I got the yellow band out and started doing my ‘safe’ exercises again. Feeling smug with myself I showed the exercises to my new (and brilliant) physio but the exercises given to me for my right shoulder were not as ‘effective as they might be’ for the left even though it was a similar condition, so off I went with 2 different exercises to practice.
So, despite their brilliant stretchy properties and benefits, my bands are still in the cupboard as after a fairly long discussion with the physio (while she was working on my shoulder) I decided, that in a recreational exercise to music class, with class members with fragile skin, painful joints and osteoporosis I was far better doing other things for flexibility, encouraging a greater range of movement, mobility, transfer of weight and balance. Clubs, balls, scarves and hoops have endless possibilities – standing and sitting - they require fewer safety instructions and I am far less stressed at the end. Plus, the class members tell me the bands feel like a physio session whereas apparatus is more fun!
BUT- if you have been given exercises for your specific joints then please remember to do them – they were given to you for a reason!
Who are our class members?
I got 100% in the exam for the ‘knowing your clients’ module.
But, who are they?
Yesterday a beloved class member passed away.
Who was she?
Was she a name on a list?
Was she a tick on the register?
Was she a medical history engraved in the mind?
She was our friend.
Class members are more than a name, a form and a tick.
They are the sound of their voice, the way they hum and sing along.
They are the teaching point you give ‘just for them’.
They are the chair they sit on, their place in the room.
They are the good afternoon and thank you.
They are the kind smile and the frown of concentration.
They are the song you play because it makes them smile.
They are a special combination of movements because they enjoy them.
They are the wink, the nod, the ‘follow this lady as she knows what she is doing’.
They are a name on the Christmas card.
They are the class.
Being part of a class isn’t just being in the space as everyone else.
It isn’t about being in time with the music.
They are not just a name on a piece of paper or a safe to exercise form.
Being part of the class is being part of the chemistry,
They are the cement that holds the class together
The ingredient that makes it special and unique.
They thank us for a good class and we say thank you to them.
BUT, they are not ‘them’ they are people with names, stories, jokes, smiles, quirks and sense of humours.
Without our class members we would be nothing.
They shape and mould us.
There have been many reports and reviews about why people exercise and the benefits of keeping physically active.
One of the latest reports, 'Me, Not My Age or Impairment - Get Out Get Active' explains why ladies find it difficult to take the first steps and while reading it I found myself ticking off a virtual list of positive benefits of my classes.
People say they missed their more active lives prior to their life limiting health condition or impairment. At EXTEND we work round health issues, we have been complimented on the fact that we are one of the few organisations that works with the person and not the condition. A person is exactly the same person after a diagnosis and the last thing they want is someone wrapping them up in cotton wool reminding them that they are ill! EXTEND and Medau classes work round aches and pains and with a ‘can do attitude’ the class is often just what people are looking for and what the doctor ordered.
They say ‘a class for older adults, isn’t that a bit slow or boring?' No, not if you are mobilising the whole body, working every joint to your maximum and laughing at the same time. I have heard so many people say, ‘oh I can move my shoulders’ ‘my knees are less stiff’ and yes one lady did tell me that she could play the piano again!
Ladies say they do not go to classes because they have a fear of being judged – at EXTEND and Medau there is no possibility of this as the class is not competitive, everyone is looking at me and not each other and we all make mistakes and laugh at them!
So, pop along and give a class ago as you will not know if it is your thing until you try it- and the first class is always free.
The weather is grey and we all want to snuggle down until the sun shines, but did you know that getting up, having a potter about the house or just wandering down the garden to listen to the birds is good for you?
Those people with the latest Fitbit jump up every hour to 'do 250 steps' and then do a relaxing deep breathing exercise to help reduce stress. I must own up to having a 'wearable device' and was pleasantly surprised to see that on Monday 14th January my EXTEND warm up logged 11 minutes of aerobic activity (yep- an EXTEND 'gentle exercise' class) and then on 16th January my Medau class logged a massive 55 minutes aerobic activity.
A recent study showed that exercising standing up helps with balance and that exercises done while standing up 'enhances balance and the ability to do daily activities such as standing up from a low chair or climbing stairs.' The study used Tai Chi but in class we move around the hall in all directions, wave our arms , we stand on one leg and move our feet at a speed somewhat faster than we would out in the street.
But what does it all mean in every-day life? It means that we have to be aware - and mindful- of what physical activity we are doing and how long we are sitting. Something as simple standing up and walking from one room to another, down the garden, up the stairs during the adverts or standing on one leg when doing the washing up is more than some people might do. Poke your nose outside and take some deep, clean breaths and listen to the birds. Go the long way round or take the manageable hill instead of the flat path. Listen to your body, don't go mad but just do a bit more.
Keeping physically active is a bit like having a healthy, broad and balanced diet. Enjoy a little bit of everything so you do not feel deprived but you will be able to see then benefits. We can all do more at home, but EXTEND or Medau can be one of your 5-a-day and it will register on your Fitbit or other wearable device and keep the doctor happy!
And so, to some exciting news, EXTEND is now a member of ukactive, an organisation that ‘exists to improve the health of the nation by getting more people, more active, more often. ukactive provides services and facilitates partnerships for a broad range of organisations, all of which support our vision and have a role to play in achieving that goal.’
Dates for your diaries!
Monday EXTEND resumes 14th January
Tuesday EXTEND resumes 15th January
Medau on Wednesday resumes on 16th January
'Thank you' said a lady, 'because of you I can now make a fist with my hands and my fingers are more flexible'
So what you might wonder, well when you are 80+ and want to remain independent it is really important that you can hold a bread knife, peg put the washing, grasp a frying pan or draw the curtains in the evening and first thing in the morning.
Exercises for the small joints of the hands are often over-looked but they are so very important, as are exercises for the small joints of the feet. How would you manage day-to-day with stiff feet and hands that did not want to do up buttons, grasp zips or hold a cup of tea?
Exercise isn't just about increasing your steps or cardio vascular output, it isn't always about lifting heavier weights or doing more reps - it is working on the small things like turning the shoulder to get the arm in the coat, reaching down to scratch the itch, being able to find your shoe with your foot or having enough mobility in your shoulders to brush your hair.
That lady made me feel very proud, as proud as an Olympic coach whose athlete had won gold. Every week the ladies at Southgate and Highlands as well as the happy group at Kenton Jewish Care, make me smile and realise just how lucky we all are that in 1976 a group of idealistic teachers created EXTEND Exercise.
A Christmas playlist is as unique as the people in the class and this year my last 3 classes of term have been very special.
The ladies on Monday and Tuesday were in fine form and today at Medau the gymnastic ribbons lifted our spirits and by the smiles on everyone’s faces you might have thought it was Christmas morning!
Christmas is a time for families and friends. Each year, at the EXTEND class we share mince pies and we make a toast to a festive Christmas and a good new year and then we toast our absent friends. We pause, remember them, their smiles and favourite songs but knowing they would not want us to be sad, so we raise our eyes, smile and get on with living! That is what the class is all about - being with friends who become family, sharing special times, laughs and stories as well as being there at the not so easy times.
So, as we move towards Christmas, wishing everyone a very festive break, I shall be sharing some prosecco with my daughter, the cooking with my mum and sister and singing along to all the Christmas songs in the shops.
My goodness me, we have jumped from summer into Christmas – or so it seems! Autumnal leaves look so pretty but can make the pavements slippery and then the early morning frost that is attacking the winter bedding and sending shivers down the spine as we crawl out of bed. But there is plenty to look forward to – getting to know the birds as they dance round the bird feeder and scaring away the squirrels.
It seems like yesterday we were complaining about the heat and now, as I watch the ladies peel off their winter coats and put gloves in pockets, I count back the years I have been teaching. This week it is one of my class members 96th birthday and she still walks the mile to and from class! As the years roll on and the seasons pass you can be sure of one thing – the steady and determined power of women who want to stay fit and remain independent.
Dates for your diary
The last week of term is December 11th. The last class of term are:
Bourne: Monday 11th December
Highlands: Tuesday 12th December
Medau Wednesday 13th December.
Classes resume on Monday 14th January.
Tuesday 15th there is no class as it is the Highlands post Christmas lunch and Wednesday 16th there is no class Medau class as it is the Medau post Christmas lunch.
Everyone seems to be thinking about increasing their physical activity.
This time last year 10,000 steps was the ‘in thing’ but now it is all about doing something you enjoy. However, there are still many adults and children who are physically inactive. There are many reasons for this; lack of places to go, the streets are unsafe, the local green space is too far away or the gym doesn’t offer classes at the right time. Not everyone likes the gym, some prefer to walk, cycle or do their own thing on front of the TV.
Inactivity is killing our children and we demand that every child is given the fundamental #RightToBeActive.
80% of girls and 77% of boys are not active enough to stay healthy and one in five children are classified as obese before they reach secondary school.
Sport and recreation can help solve many of the biggest threats facing our children. Making it part of their daily lives will make them healthier and happier.
That is why I am are proud to be supporting the #RightToBeActive campaign and we encourage you to join us.
Please join the S+RA #RightToBeActive campaign http://ow.ly/DZue30m9Kr9
It is their call to government to give every child the fundamental right to be physically active and they are creating a long-term, properly funded and child-focussed strategy to transform the physical and mental wellbeing of our children.Together we can create a better, healthier and happier future for our children.
Exercise With Tracy
EXTEND Exercise and Medau Movement teacher. Keeping the muscles working, the joints mobile and having fun!