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!
Exercise With Tracy
EXTEND Exercise and Medau Movement teacher. Keeping the muscles working, the joints mobile and having fun!