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Find Your Finest Moments

Subscribe here and learn how to find, and live, some of the finest moments imaginable

Find Your finest Moments is a series of monthly Premium Posts covering the planning, preparation, equipment required and completion of 2 of the most iconic treks in the Himalayas.

Feel the motivation as you follow my preparation and training from now until I depart for Nepal in April 2021 to complete the Annapurna Sanctuary and Everest Base Camp Treks during the Everest Climbing Season.

Follow my journey and receive live updates from among the highest mountains in the world as I complete the treks. This will include a VLOG from Everest Base Camp as I live there for 2 nights among the teams who will be looking to summit the worlds highest mountain.

By clicking the button below and committing to a small monthly subscription fee, you will receive access to all Premium Content as it is released which will include:

  • Monthly Inspirational Article about the routes and mountains I will be ascending as I train in Scotland’s spectacular landscape
  • Monthly Kit Check which will discuss in detail the equipment I will be taking and the pro’s and con’s of this equipment as well as how and when to use it with handy links to buy it on Amazon
  • Monthly training hints and tips related to how I am preparing myself for these iconic treks and how to prepare yourself if you are planning on making one of these or a similar climb
Everest Base Camp 2016

Over the past 6 years I have completed 3 trips to the Himalayas reaching Everest Base Camp in 2016 and a height of 6,140m on the Mera Glacier in 2017. I have also summited over 50 Scottish Munro’s, including some in Winter Conditions and have reached the rim of Kilimanjaro and the summit of Mt Toubkal.

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Adventure adventure holiday Adventure Travel Exercise Fitness Health Health and Fitness How To inspiration Life and Wellbeing Mental Health Mountain Kit Review Mountain Travel Mountaineering Sport Travel Trekking Wellness

Find Your Finest Moments

Just as the light from a star shines out in the night sky long after it’s gone, the magic of a single moment, not even as long as a second, can shine in our hearts forever.

Subscribe here and learn how to find, and live, some of the finest moments imaginable

Find Your finest Moments is a series of monthly Premium Posts covering the planning, preparation, equipment required and completion of 2 of the most iconic treks in the Himalayas.

Feel the motivation as you follow my preparation and training from now until I depart for Nepal in April 2021 to complete the Annapurna Sanctuary and Everest Base Camp Treks during the Everest Climbing Season.

Follow my journey and receive live updates from among the highest mountains in the world as I complete the treks. This will include a VLOG from Everest Base Camp as I live there for 2 nights among the teams who will be looking to summit the worlds highest mountain.

By clicking the button below and committing to a small monthly subscription fee, you will receive access to all Premium Content as it is released which will include:

  • Monthly Inspirational Article about the routes and mountains I will be ascending as I train in Scotland’s spectacular landscape
  • Monthly Kit Check which will discuss in detail the equipment I will be taking and the pro’s and con’s of this equipment as well as how and when to use it with handy links to buy it on Amazon
  • Monthly training hints and tips related to how I am preparing myself for these iconic treks and how to prepare yourself if you are planning on making one of these or a similar climb
Everest Base Camp 2016

Over the past 6 years I have completed 3 trips to the Himalayas reaching Everest Base Camp in 2016 and a height of 6,140m on the Mera Glacier in 2017. I have also summited over 50 Scottish Munro’s, including some in Winter Conditions and have reached the rim of Kilimanjaro and the summit of Mt Toubkal.

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Adventure Exercise Fitness Health Health and Fitness Life and Wellbeing Mental Health Mental Health Recovery Mountaineering Sport Stress Travel Trekking Weight Loss Wellness

The Dream Of Everest Base Camp

When you’ve seen a place in your dreams, and 100 times on YouTube, it’s truly special to then see it in front of you. Indeed few things compare to the realization of a dream.

Kumar, my guide, was concerned so he stopped me and reminded me to be careful, that we were walking on ice. In fact we were walking on 1000s of tonnes of ice that formed the spectacular Khumbu Ice Flow spilling down from the foot of Everest. I’d just seen Everest Base Camp in front of me. I was walking on air.

If you want to listen to the rest of this story as a Podcast then listen to Inspiration For A Monday Episode 1 below. If you prefer to keep reading just scroll down and enjoy the Blog Post.

Inspiration For A Monday Episode 5 – Be Who You Are Inspiration For A Monday

This is a podcast about self. Self awareness, self acceptance and self love.
  1. Inspiration For A Monday Episode 5 – Be Who You Are
  2. Inspiration For A Monday Episode 4 – The Words Of Life’s Journey
  3. Inspiration For A Monday Episode 3 – High On Mera Peak
  4. Inspiration For A Monday Episode 2 – Summit Night Kilimanjaro
  5. Inspiration For A Monday Episode 1 – The Dream Of Everest Base Camp

I finally caught up with the main group who’d been out of sight ahead of me all day and stood beside a stone with the words ‘Everest Base Camp, 2016’ painted on it. One of the guys, I think his name was David, took the picture I’d been dreaming of for the past 2 years. Despite the fact I couldn’t keep pace with the group, I’d earned their respect. I may have reached the Base Camp after they did but the magic of reaching it was just as special. You see when you’re overweight and don’t look the part, you have to find the mindset to compensate, that knows you can still do it.

Dare To Dream

Take the risks, experience the pain and disappointment along the way and, for sure, you will find moments of true joy.

Summit of Everest taken from the Everest View Hotel. Everest Base Camp Trek Oct 2016

It may be the case that you feel your dreams are just that. Fantasies that entice you when you’re sleeping or just not paying attention to anything in particular. The realist in you tells you that reality is something less. More within your grasp. Safer. If that is the case then I’d like you to try something just for one minute. Picture that realist as an over protective friend. Someone who loves you and wants to protect you but doesn’t really know you. Imagine the things you might consider doing if they weren’t trying to keep you safe. Who would you be? Where would you go? What would you achieve? Welcome to a dream you just might realize!

I believe that life is something so much richer when our dreams are chased. Take the risks, experience the pain and disappointment along the way and, for sure, you will find moments of true joy.

Yes You Can

Those words became a mantra which answered every moment of doubt.

A few years after I’d gone to Everest Base Camp, I came across a mantra that helped me keep believing in myself. High up on Kilimanjaro as we approached the summit, our lead guide, Abraham, kept repeating the words, “Yes you can!” Those words became a mantra which answered every moment of doubt. Though I found myself again behind the main group on Summit Night, those words sung out in my heart and mind every time I wanted to stop. A few years previous I’d have never have thought like this.

I’ve not always believed that I could climb in the high mountains, run marathons or swim in open water. That fact alone held me back for years. Having had the many dreams of adventure, I had to gather the resources that I did have. Book the holidays, raise the money, tell people what I was planning. Slowly but surely I started to realize that I might just do this.

Then I’d start to train and the doubts would rise all over again. Every bad training session, every injury would drive me back to the embrace of my overprotective self. That side of my thinking that was ever present, waiting for me to see the error of my new found ways. Time and again I had to recover and rebel and go back out until I started to feel fit enough to do this.

Training For Everest Base Camp. Ben Vorlich Summit. Oct 2016

I always remember the excitement of sitting with my fried breakfast at Edinburgh Airport ready to board a flight to Abu Dhabi and on to Kathmandu. I’d trained with my brother for months in the Scottish Mountains. He’d seen me exhausted and down hearted. Stuck with me as I moved at a snails pace wondering if we’d ever get safe back to the car. I’d lost count of the number of times the whole idea of heading to Everest Base Camp seemed like a bad joke. But somehow, helped by my brother and our training, I’d held onto a belief that I could do this. And then, at last, I did.

Abel, My Long Suffering Coach On The Mountains Ben More Summit, Oct 2016

Making It Real

I had earned the right to be here.

When I first met the group of my fellow trekkers at our hotel in Kathmandu my doubts started to return. They were friendly and polite and they tried their best but I could see the surprise on their faces. I could see that I was by far the most overweight person in the group. They were all young and mostly looked fit. Their very appearance suggested that this trip to the mountains was their domain. Not mine. I had to quietly remind myself that I had climbed a lot of mountains. That I had earned the right to be here.

After a spectacular flight into the mountains, we soon set out from the small town of Lukla along the trail to Everest. On that first day the pace of the group was fast in the mix of excitement and the perhaps a subconscious need to establish a pecking order of fitness. I was soon well established at the back of the group. Fortunately on that trek there were two others who walked close to my pace so we were never alone.

Runway at Lukla, gateway to Everest. Everest Base Camp Trek, Oct 2016

As our altitude increased and the air grew thinner over the next few days, I learnt the hard way that maintaining a slow and steady pace was vital for survival as much as enjoyment. I’d put in a burst of pace just over 4,000m to catch up with the main group. Suddenly the mountain began to spin and I almost passed out. By the time we reached our Teahouse in Dingboche that afternoon, I was shuffling along way behind everyone.

It was during the acclimatisation climb out of Dingboche next day that I realized, despite my slow pace, that I’d earned the respect of the group. On one of the many stops, I wearily plodded up to where the group were resting. One of the fitter guys who was always at the front commented that every time he stopped for a rest I always managed to walk in before they set off again. He said I just kept coming, like the Terminator. The nickname stuck with me for the rest of that trip and the one the following year to Mera Peak.

Dingboche. Everest Base Camp Trek, Oct 2016

A few days later, past the settlement of Gorac Shep with only a few miles of barren rock between me and Everest Base Camp, I finally thought I would have to stop. I was completely exhausted, the main group were out of sight and there was no one around me. Every single step was followed by a stop and several deep breaths. Suddenly a voice piped up at my shoulder, “Geez! Sean, are you alright?” It was Mel, an Ozzie who lived in London, and Kumar, our main guide. Mel was fine walking at my pace and Kumar re-assured us we could make it. That was all the encouragement I needed and we were soon looking down on Everest Base Camp from the rocks at the side of the Khumbu Ice Flow.

Khumbu Icefall flowing down from the foot of Everest to Everest Base Camp, Everest Base Camp Trek, Oct 2016

Dream It, Believe It, Achieve It

When we put that dream in front of us and push ourselves towards it we can experience exhilaration and joy.

You may have heard the phrase, “Dream it, believe it, achieve it.” accredited to author and Life Coach Tony Robbins. I first came across this phrase at a Slimming World Meeting when I booked a few weeks membership. To me, it serves as a framework for an amazing life.

If you dream it, it’s a part of you, however deep or achievable and whether you like it or not. You just have to believe you can achieve your dreams no matter what anyone else thinks or tells you. Then, sometimes despite the people around you, sometimes with their full support, you need to be determined and humble and do whatever it takes.

Our world has a perception of overweight people. They think we are lazy, irresponsible and impulsive. That exercise and hard work are beyond us. Yet I know we dream like everyone else. When we put that dream in front of us and push ourselves towards it we can experience exhilaration and joy. Such is the joy of walking in the mountains free from the box they put us in.

Everest in the distance on the trail from Namche Bazaar. Everest Base Camp Trek Oct 2016

Learning to carry your weight can be just as amazing as managing to lose it. Learn how by reading this series, Worth Your Weight In Gold, from the start here.

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How The Tortoise Won ‘That Race’

It’s more about taking part than looking the part.

Capturing the pain of climbing in the Campsie’s, Mar 2014

If I asked you which is faster, a hare or a tortoise, you’d probably laugh and think it was a trick question right? For sure, you’d know the answer. But did you know that, on average, Tortoises outlive hares by a factor of about 20 times the lifespan? Perhaps there’s a lot to be said for taking your time and moving at your own pace.

We all know the story of The Hare And The Tortoise. The slowest of the animals takes on the fastest in a race. As the arrogant hare takes a nap close to the finish line, the lowly tortoise plods past and wins the race.

Slow and steady wins the day. Credit – Bedtime Stories Collection

Very often in my experience the proverbial hare is all you can see or hear from when looking into a mountain climb, a run or a swim. All too often, I feel very like the tortoise. The fact is however, you can be the tortoise and still reach the summit or cross the finish line. All it takes is a sense of adventure and some humility to accept your physical limits and work within them.

Perceived Marathon

“People who were nothing like me doing something which would be impossible to me.”

Lets look at the London Marathon as an example. I was ecstatic when I got the letter last year telling me that I had got through the ballot to run in this year’s London Marathon. I eagerly started watching videos on YouTube to see everybody’s stories of the previous runs. My screen was full of pictures of Athletes and advice on how to run a sub 3 hour marathon. The London Marathon, as depicted in those videos, was for people who were nothing like me doing something which would be impossible to me.

Even searching ‘London Marathon in 7 hours’ you still see nothing but athletes and even a video of someone completing a sub 3 hour marathon. Credit YouTube

Real Marathon

“You could finish that marathon within your own capabilities and with time to spare.”

If you search beyond the videos however, the fact is that those who complete the London Marathon before 7pm on race day qualify for a medal. With a start close to 10am that’s almost 9 hours to complete the course. My training runs often have as much, or more, walking than running in them. Certainly one of the paces I will describe and demonstrate in a future post covers a 7 hour marathon. You may feel like the proverbial tortoise watching the videos online but you could finish that marathon within your own capabilities and with time to spare.

Find Your Own Pace

“Having the humility to accept your physical limits and work within them … can bring you to some of the most amazing moments of your life.”

Walking at the back, Kilimanjaro Sep 2018

It was on the second day of the Kilimanjaro Trek, as we climbed out of the jungle into the long grass towards the Shira Plateau, that I started to fall behind. I knew that a 30 second burst of pace would take me back to the main group. Previous experience of endurance events helped me to stay where I was, walking within myself, at a pace I knew I could manage. Had I pushed to catch the group and struggled to stay with them, my trek would have been over as soon as we reached altitude.

Experiencing the breath-taking views from Stella Point a few days later, on one of the most incredible mornings of my life, cost little more than swallowing a wee bit of pride and finishing 3 to 5 minutes behind the main group each day of the trek.

Having the humility to accept your physical limits and work within them, even if other people seem more physically capable than you, can bring you to some of the most amazing moments of your life. More to the point, high up in the mountains, it can actually save your life.

Slowly, Slowly

“I’ve learnt to say “Slowly, slowly” in Nepali, Swahili and Arabic.”

I’ve learnt to say “Slowly, slowly” in NepaliSwahili and Arabic. These are the languages of the countries in which I have climbed over 4,000m above mean sea level. I’ve seen people race ahead only to be lifted off the mountain hours later or the next morning suffering from Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). In the meantime those of us plodding along at the back get to reach our goals.

At altitude, you may have to stop for a rest and a breath after every single step. The longest mile I have ever covered in my life was the mile from the Mera La to High Camp, a climb of 500 vertical meters on the Mera Glacier and it took 5 hours. A general rule of thumb for ascending at high altitude is that it takes around 1 hour to cover 100 vertical meters.

Head Above Water

“I was swimming ‘head up’ breaststroke.”

Open Water Swimathon Course, River Mersey, Liverpool, Sep 2017

Almost immediately after the start of the Open Water Swimathon 2017, I found myself last swimmer by a good distance. By the time I reached the first Safety Boat they were asking if I was ok. Same as I completed the first of three 500m laps of the Open Water Swimming area of the Liverpool Water Sports Centre on the banks of the River Mersey.

The fact was that, where most of the swimmers were cutting slickly through the water swimming front crawl, I was swimming ‘head up’ breaststroke. Some people told me afterwards that the reason there was concern shown for me was that the stroke I was using is generally used when swimmers either tire or get into trouble.

I had decided to swim breaststroke because I knew I could cover a distance with it. My front crawl was clumsy and no way I’d have completed 1,500m with it. In the end up, slow as I was, I finished the course, got my medal and was proud as punch.

Slow And Steady

“We can still venture into the realm of the hare and finish the race.”

Walk every time you have to on a run and you’ll complete a Marathon. Slow down high on a mountain to save vital oxygen and you can reach the summit. Swim whatever stroke you’re comfortable with on an Open Water Swim and you’ll cross the finish. We may move slow and steady like a tortoise but we can still venture into the realm of the hare and finish the race. Whether the hare falls asleep and we win or not doesn’t really matter that much. It’s the taking part, as they say, that counts after all.

Open Water Swimathon Finish, River Mersey, Liverpool, Sep 2017

Find out how to bring a healthy heart into your training in my next post. Read it here.

Learning to carry your weight can be just as amazing as managing to lose it. Learn how by reading this series, Worth Your Weight In Gold, from the start here.

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It’s A Stretch But You Can Do It

The importance of stretching and relaxing your muscles before and after exercise cannot be over emphasized.

WARNING: Advice on these pages are taken from my own personal experience and do not constitute professional advice. Everyone’s experience and ability is different. Before starting on any new physical activity it is a good idea to consult a Doctor. It may also be beneficial to work with a Coach or a Guide to develop the necessary skills to support such activity.

On a rainy, late autumn, day last year I plodded slowly up from sea level out of Dunure Harbour towards the village of Fisherton. The climb was about 300ft, relatively steep and I was going to use the lamp posts in Fisherton as markers for my first hill sprint session in 20 years. I felt freedom and exhilaration as I exploded into my first sprint of the session. A sudden sharp pain at the top of my left leg had me pulling up before the end of the third sprint. I was soon limping back to the car with a pulled hamstring. It would literally be months before I would run pain free again.

For any athlete who takes part in any sport, it is vital to work through the ritual of stretches and warm up before any training session or events. For those of us carrying weight it is even more important to work through those routines. For work on your feet such as running or hiking, the more weight you carry, the more strain you put on the framework of bones and muscles supporting you. Muscles need to be kept supple and the blood needs to be easily circulating to carry the necessary oxygen to them to enable you to keep working.

Pulled muscles, weak or grinding knees or lower back pain have all become everyday obstacles for me to have to overcome through years of physical work whilst being overweight. The thing is the onset of such conditions can be delayed or removed altogether and the effects of them reduced by making stretching and warm up/down a routine part of your exercise.

Focussing on stretches, the exercises below are the ones which I tend to do as I find them most achievable and comfortable for me. It’s worth noting however that there are loads of different stretches that can be done for the different muscles in your body. You should explore these widely and find the best exercises for you. To assist I have added lots of links in the exercises mentioned which open up the wide and varied world of stretching and warm up.

Stretch Exercises

Warning: Care must be taken not to overwork or overstretch muscles during these exercises. Move slowly and gently into all positions described never jerk or swing yourself suddenly into a change of position. If you feel pain at any time, stop immediately and seek qualified medical advice before continuing. It is best to work with a qualified Gym or Sports Coach when first doing stretches.

The video below shows a demonstration of the full exercise routine encompassing all stretches described in this post.

All stretches are shown in this video and described below

Lunging Calf Stretch

This exercise stretches the calf muscles. This is the large muscle that runs along the back of your leg from your heel to the back of the knee.

Lunging Calf Stretch
  • Find a wall and place your hands on the wall
  • Extend one leg behind you
  • To achieve the stretch on the calf muscle on the extended leg, place that entire foot on the floor with the toes pointing forward and bend the non extended knee
  • You should feel the area behind your extended leg, between the heel and the knee, tightening
  • Hold for a count of approx 10 sec
  • Switch legs and repeat.

Hamstring And Calf Stretch

Here, we stretch both sets of muscles running up the back of the leg. Calf, as previous exercise and hamstring. Your hamstring runs up the back of your leg from your knee to just below your bottom.

Calf and Hamstring stretch
  • Stand, hands on hips, both legs together, toes facing forward.
  • Place one foot in front of the other to prepare for the stretch
  • Keeping your rear foot flat on the ground, raise the toe of your front foot off the ground
  • The stretch is achieved by raising your front foot off the ground and then slowly pushing your bottom back
  • You should feel a general tightness along the back of your extended leg and may be particularly tight behind the knee
  • Hold the stretch for approx 10 sec
  • Extend the other foot forward and repeat

Hamstring Stretch

Another stretch for the hamstring. This one is slightly deeper than the previous stretch and focuses on the hamstring. The stretch is developed over 2 parts.

First part of the Hamstring Stretch
  • Stand with your legs shoulder width apart
  • Clasp your hands behind you
  • Slowly lean forward extending your clasped hands above your back
  • You will start to feel the tightness in both hamstrings at the back of your legs above the knee
  • Hold this position for a slow count of five before extending into the second part of the stretch
Second part of the Hamstring Stretch
  • Maintaining the forward leaning posture unclasp your hands and stretch your arms down towards the ground
  • Keeping your knees straight, gently push down towards your toes as far as you can go
  • Do not worry if you cannot reach your toes (I can’t) you can still benefit from the stretch by extending as low as you can
  • If you are able to easily reach your toes, you can extend the stretch further by touching the ground out in front of your toes
  • Hold the lowest point of the stretch for a further count of 5 before slowly returning to a standing position

Quad Stretch

This is the final exercise I do for the legs and it covers the Quads. These are the large muscles at the front of your legs above the knee and they work especially hard supporting your hips and your knees during hill descents.

Quad Stretch
  • Lower yourself onto one knee with one knee on the ground, leg extended behind you and one knee out in front with the knee bent and foot flat on the floor.
  • Hands on hips
  • Gently shift your weight forward onto the leg extended in front of you.
  • You should feel the muscles at the top of the leg in front of you tighten.
  • Hold the stretch for about 10 sec
  • Switch legs and repeat

Lower Back Stretch

This exercise is especially good for opening up the joints at the base of the spine and releasing tension. Hence this exercise can help to relieve lower back pain.

Lower Back Stretch
  • Lie face down on the floor with your hands close to your shoulders, hands flat on the floor
  • Straighten your arms and lift the top half of your body up off the floor whilst leaving your legs flat on the floor
  • Once your arms are straight and your upper body is arched, move fully into the stretch by clenching your buttocks and gently pushing your hips into the floor
  • You should feel the stretch across your lower back
  • Hold for approx 3 sec, lower upper body back down and repeat
  • Repeat for 10 reps

Figure 4 Stretch

The Sacroiliac (SI) Joint is where your hip bones (Ilium) join to the centre of your back below the spine (Sacrum). Inflammation in these joints can cause ongoing and debilitating pain in the lower back which can radiate down through the Sciatic Nerve to the buttocks and the top of your legs. The pain is called Sciatica and you can find out much more about it and the SI Joint here.

This exercise stretches the Piriformis Muscle which, when tight, can aggravate the SI Joint. I was introduced to this stretch when I visited my Physio with Sciatica and I have found it was great for relieving the pain. Note this stretch can also be done sitting.

Figure 4 Stretch (Lying)
  • Lie on your back, hands by your side and legs flat on the floor
  • Lift one foot and bend your knee to place that foot on the top of the opposite knee and relax
  • The weight of your bent knee hanging down should initiate the stretch of the Piriformis Muscle on that side
  • You can deepen the stretch by gently pushing down on the bent knee
  • Hold the stretch for approx 10 sec
  • Change over and repeat with the other leg

Bridges

This is more of a very gentle stretching exercise to strengthen your core rather than a stretch.

Bridge
  • Lie on your back, hands by your side with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor
  • Gently and slowly raise your bottom off the floor until you have created a straight line from your knees down to your shoulders
  • Relax
  • Repeat for 10 reps

Deltoid Stretch

Deltoids are muscles behind your shoulders which get extensively used during lots of activities. They are extensively used in any swimming stroke, when carrying a pack or using walking poles on a trek and scrambling. Even holding your arms up during a long run requires use of the deltoids. This stretch keeps them supple.

Deltoid Stretch
  • Stand facing front, hands by your sides.
  • Raise one arm and extend it across the front of your body
  • Bring the other arm up to touch the elbow of the extended arm
  • Gently push the elbow of the extending arm in towards your body achieving the stretch
  • You should feel tightness at the back of the shoulder of the extended arm
  • Hold the stretch for approx 10 sec
  • Change arms and repeat the stretch

Hula Hoop

Now we are getting into a little fun and flexibility to finish off. The idea of this and the next exercise is just to loosen off a bit and increase flexibility around the hips. You can use a Hoola Hoop to get the most out of this. I just do the hip movements.

Rotating hips Hoola Hoop style
  • Stand hands on hips.
  • Gently rotate your hips as if you were rotating a Hoola Hoop
  • Do 3 rotations in one direction and then change direction
  • Repeat until you have done five rotations in each direction

Twists

Another exercise to move the hips and shoulders.

Twist Starting Position
  • Stand facing front with your hands flat in front of your chin
Twist extended
  • Extend one arm
  • Keeping your legs facing forward, swivel round on your hips to bring the extended arm behind you
  • Gently increase the stretch to bring the extended arm towards the other side of your body
  • Relax until your extended arm is pointing straight back
  • Repeat the extension for another 2 reps
  • Bring your arm round to the front and repeat by extending the other arm
  • Continue switching arms until you have extended 5 times on each side

Loosening Off and Warming Down

After any exercise session it is always good to just gently relax and shake off all of your muscles. This can be done by gently bouncing on your feet whilst shaking off your arms, rotating your head and anything which instinctively feels like you are relaxing and shaking off your muscles.

If it makes it any easier or fun, just picture yourself as a boxer dancing around the ring ahead of the fight.

Jab n move

Read about the muscles I’ve pulled during training and how I’ve managed to keep moving and recover from them in my next post here.

Learning to carry your weight can be just as amazing as managing to lose it. Learn how by reading this series, Worth Your Weight In Gold, from the start here.

Like, Share and Subscribe

Please support this page by hitting the Like and re-blogging or sharing through Social Media using the buttons below. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you can also leave a comment and subscribe to the blog to receive automatic updates whenever I post.

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9 Ways To Get Moving Again After a Muscle Strain

As an overweight person who trains regularly, I’ve pulled a lot of muscles over the years. Here are the ones I’ve encountered and what I did to keep moving.

WARNING: Advice on these pages are taken from my own personal experience and do not constitute professional advice. Everyone’s experience and ability is different as is everyone’s treatment for, and recovery from, an injury. If you experience an injury during a sports activity, please seek professional medical advice before proceeding to treatment or commencing training. Before starting on any new physical activity it is a good idea to consult a Doctor. It may also be beneficial to work with a Coach or a Guide to develop the necessary skills to support such activity.

I was in the middle of the road, crossing it on the walk back to my work after the lunchtime Gym Session when I collapsed. A sudden sharp pain burned across my lower back and I suddenly couldn’t stand up. I lurched towards a nearby lamp post and hugged it in an attempt to stay upright until someone from a delivery van stopped to help.

On that occasion the Doctor concluded that I had overworked my upper body in the gym which had weakened my stomach muscles. This put extra strain on my back trying to keep me upright and the muscles in the lower back pulled up. With minor pain killers and rest I was up and about again in a week. Over the years I’ve had to deal with pulled calves and hamstrings, steadily weakening knees and, yes, lots of other episodes of lower back pain.

The root cause is often the same. Training whilst being overweight. I’ve learnt to accept these as a hazard of my passion. What the Doctors and Physio’s have taught me over several visits is how to overcome these and get moving again.

Know your limits and work within them

As they say, prevention is better than the cure and the best way to prevent pulled muscles and strains is as follows:

  • Stretch and warm up before exercise
  • Know your limits and train within them
  • Stretch and warm down after exercise

The occasion of my first pulling the muscles in my lower back came after a year of inactivity and a job overseas which involved lots of restaurant food and alcoholic drinks. I had gained a significant amount of weight and my fitness had almost completely disappeared. On my return to training, a sense of guilt and unease about my declining fitness had me trying to train at the fitness level I had been at 12 months previous. This was way beyond the capabilities of my new body.

My alternative to training was a job with restaurant foot and beer

I now find it’s best to cover some light exercise to gauge the level I am at any time I start a new training program. It’s ok to be less fit than you used to be. The fact that you have started training again should be enough to encourage you.

Warm Up/Down

My last post entitled It’s A Stretch But You Can Do It gives a detailed description of the daily routine I use to get my muscles ready for exercise. This is one of two aspects of the warm up. The next is to raise the heart rate a wee bit and get the circulation going. This can be done simply by a small very gentle jog for 100m or so, or doing the warm up exercises the big events tend to organize before the start of big road races.

A good Warm Up:

  • Loosens the muscles
  • Kick starts the circulation which will keep muscles supplied with oxygen during your activity
  • Helps reduce the strain associated with the rise from Resting to Working Heart Rate by initiating this before the activity begins

Warming down is normally a much gentler repeat of the warm up exercises. This helps the muscles relax from the strain of the activity. I also find a bath and some deep breathing helps a lot.

Regulate your heart and lungs during activities

During the activity try to work below your Max Heart Rate (See my post entitled Putting Your Heart Into Your Dreams). Try and regulate your breathing. Slow deep breaths are better than quick shallow breaths for feeding the muscles with oxygen.

Try to work below Max Heart Rate

In addition, slow deep breaths have a tendency to slow your heart rate giving you more of a margin to work in between your current heart rate and Max Heart Rate.

Never work through pain

Never push through the pain. Learn to recognize the normal discomfort of pushing yourself physically and stop if you feel any pain beyond that.

If you are training hard, there will be a certain amount of acceptable and manageable discomfort. Your heart may be pounding, lungs bursting as you draw in heavy, deep breaths and muscles may ache slightly as lactic acid starts to build in them as a result of your exertion. You can find out a bit more about Lactic acid here. These are all feelings you will already be, or will become, familiar with as your training progresses.

Occasionally however, muscles can suddenly pull. You will normally then feel a sharp pain which could be accompanied by a lack of free movement or even a loss of support in the affected area. This is likely an indication that a muscle group has gone beyond the rigours of physical activity and has become damaged in some way. Pushing on through the pain will only increase the damage.

Remember also that your heart is a muscle which gets put under strain with the rest of your muscles when you train. You would be well advised to be familiar with the symptoms of heart distress such as chest pains, excessive breathlessness or dizziness. The British Heart Foundation has some more detailed advice on symptoms of heart problems and what to do if you encounter them. You can read their advice here.

Apply Hot/Cold Treatment

Whenever I start jogging again after resting for a while, I tend to pull the muscles at the back of my legs. My calves (at the bottom of my legs) are the most common to go but I have also pulled a hamstring (at the top) especially if opening my stride or sprinting.

As with any pulled muscles, rest is essential until the pain has completely subsided. Hot and cold treatment is another method I find helpful. Apply some heat pad or cream (I use a cream called Deep Relief but most people are familiar with Deep Heat) over the inflamed muscle. A few hours later, apply an ice pack. This can be a bag of frozen veg (Remember to ask Mum first 🙂 )

Frozen Mojitos were a great Ice Pack for me when I pulled my hamstring
  • Never apply an ice pack directly to the skin. Keep either a layer of clothing or a towel between the two.
  • Apply for about 20 minutes.

Foam Roller Massage

It is also helpful to deliver some form of deep massage to the affected area. A great way to do this for calves and hamstrings is with the use of a Foam Roller. A Foam Roller is a tubular device about 4ft long normally with some form of dimples or indentations on the outer surface to help massage muscles.

Foam Roller. Great for a deep massage of calf or hamstrings
  • Place the Foam Roller on the ground and sit with your legs over it.
  • Cross your good leg over your bad leg with the bad leg resting on top of the Foam Roller.
  • Position yourself so that the Foam Roller is sitting below the bottom of the affected muscle.
  • With your hands out behind you raise your bottom off the ground so that your weight is being supported by the Foam Roller.
  • Push yourself forward over the Foam Roller.
  • Your affected muscle will now be pushed into and rolling over the Foam Roller which will deliver a deep massage to that muscle.

Use Elasticated Supports

Before leaving calves and hamstrings, it’s worth discussing support as you ease back into training. There are lots of different types of elasticated support for the different parts of the legs like the ones shown below.

Elasticated knee supports

For overall support of all the muscles in the legs, you can get a set of Support Leggings. These are tight fitting leggings with a slightly elasticated material and they provide some support over both your legs. I am wearing support leggings in the stretch video below.

As far as my knees are concerned, there has been a steady decline in the strength of them over a number of years. On the final day of the Everest Base Camp Trek in 2016 I needed one elasticated support on one of my knees. Now, if I’m going for a jog or onto the hills, I need 2 quite heavy neoprene Knee Supports like the ones shown below. I need one on each leg. It’s not so much that my knees are particularly sore, just that they are getting steadily weaker which means it is very hard to balance on rough terrain or steep descents.

Heavier Knee Supports with metal side braces as well as elasticated support

Again, if your knees become sore or swollen, hot and cold treatment as described for the calves and hamstrings can bring down the swelling and ease the pain.

Regularly stretch your back and hips

Lower Back Pain has been something of an ongoing problem for me. This is normally due to an inflammation of the muscles in the Sacro-Iliac Joints in my hips and the most effective pain relief I have come across is through stretching exercises that my Physio worked with me. They are described in the Lower Back and Figure 4 Sections of the post It’s A Stretch But You Can Do It. You can also see a demo in the video below.

Stretches to get ready for exercise

It is worth noting that back pain can radiate down into your legs and actually be the source of pulled hamstrings or calves. When my physio introduced me to the Back Stretches I have discussed, these exercises ended an ongoing spate of pulled calves and hamstrings I had been experiencing throughout the summer.

Use Trekking Poles

If you are trekking as opposed to jogging, a set of Trekking Poles will help support your back and your knees. Adjustable is better so that they can be shortened for ascents and lengthened for descents and folded away when not in use.

Trekking Poles shortened and stowed on my backpack

A couple of things I have come across when using trekking poles:

  • My personal experience with trekking poles with built in springs to absorb impacts has been dire. They just fall apart on me and I don’t find any benefit in the shock absorbing action
  • Never attempt to scramble with Trekking Poles. Always pack them away until you are able to walk on the trail again (Sounds obvious but it is an issue I have come across)
  • Always remember to still use your legs, especially on a descent. I had a tendency at one time just to lean on my poles and then step down. All this does is decrease your natural ability to balance.
  • If your lifestyle is such that you are mostly sitting down at work or rest, try and do a few short walks during the week without trekking poles. For a few years my only walking was on the hills with trekking poles. The rest of the time I was sitting down. Over time I started to find that I could not walk very far unsupported.
  • Remember trekking poles are not walking sticks. That is to say they are designed to help someone with healthy legs and upper body in rough terrain. If you find you need them just to stay upright, it’s time to take a rest if you can or, if this is a longer term problem, seek medical advice.
Walking with Trekking Poles above the Baranco Wall, Kilimanjaro, Sept 2017

So there you have the extent of my own aches, pulls and sprains and what I have done or used to keep moving. I hope you don’t suffer nearly as many as I have but also hope this has been useful if you have done.

It’s not easy taking on difficult physical activities when you’re overweight. You need to keep convincing yourself that you can do it through injury and bad training days and especially when those around you aren’t so sure. On the event you need to ignore the surprised and concerned looks from other participants and believe in yourself even when you have problems. I experienced all of this on my way to Everest Base Camp. Read about the barriers to self belief and how I overcame them in my next post here.

Learning to carry your weight can be just as amazing as managing to lose it. Learn how by reading this series, Worth Your Weight In Gold, from the start here.

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Adventure Exercise Fitness Health Health and Fitness Life and Wellbeing Mental Health Mental Health Recovery Mountaineering Running Sport Stress Swimming Travel Trekking Weight Loss Wellness

You Are Amazing

Learn how to get the best from your body and become inspired to chase your dreams. Listen to the Worth Your Weight In Gold Podcast Series

Listen to the series on Youtube

Episode 6 – The Dream Of Everest Base Camp Worth Your Weight In Gold

When you’ve seen a place in your dreams and a hundred times in Youtube, it’s truly special to finally see it in front of you. Referring largely to my trip to Everest base Camp in 2016, this episode contains heaps of inspiration to help you feel what it’s like to realize a dream.
  1. Episode 6 – The Dream Of Everest Base Camp
  2. Episode 5 – 9 Ways To Get Moving Again After A Muscle Strain
  3. Episode 4 – It’s A Stretch But You Can Do It
  4. Episode 3 Putting Your Heart Into Your Dreams
  5. Episode 2 – How The Tortoise Won That Race

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Categories
Adventure Fitness Health Health and Fitness Life and Wellbeing Mental Health Mental Health Recovery Mountaineering Sport Stress Swimming Travel Trekking Weight Loss Wellness

The Dream Of Everest Base Camp – Podcast

Episode 6 in the Worth Your Weight In Gold series

When you’ve seen a place in your dreams and a hundred times on Youube, it’s truly special to finally see it in front of you.
Categories
Adventure Exercise Fitness Health Health and Fitness Life and Wellbeing Mental Health Mental Health Recovery Mountaineering Running Sport Stress Swimming Travel Trekking Weight Loss Wellness

Podcast Episode 5 – 9 Ways To Get Moving Again After A Muscle Strain

As an overweight person who trains regularly, I’ve pulled a lot of muscles over the years. Here are the ones I’ve encountered and what I did to keep moving.

Listen to Episode 5 – 9 Ways To Get moving Again After A Muscle Strain – on Anchor.fm here

Categories
Adventure Exercise Fitness Health Health and Fitness Life and Wellbeing Mental Health Mental Health Recovery Mountaineering Running Sport Stress Swimming Travel Trekking Weight Loss Wellness

Podcast Episode 4 – It’s A Stretch But You Can Do It

The importance of stretching and relaxing your muscles before and after exercise cannot be over emphasized.

Listen to Episode 4 – It’s A Stretch But You Can Do It – on Anchor.fm here