Did you think you were bullet proof in your 20’s & 30’s ?
Then life happened, you stopped exercising or playing sport, your responsibilities grew bigger, high pressure job, supporting a family or a big dream debt? Maybe the weight crept on and your joints started to feel stiff and it even hurt to move, or you developed the cliche, so called 'I have a bad back'. Sound familiar?
(Left corner - Andrea at 18
London Festival Ballet Company)
Well I can honestly 100% say, I AM that person . . . partly.
You see, I was a determined passionate young dance student, and in spite of being told not only was my body totally wrong to become a professional ballet dancer, but also told by an Orthopaedic Surgeon, if I didn’t give up at age 17, I would end up in a wheelchair at age 30 ! This all came up when about to embark on a trip to London and having problems with hip pain and fluid between the joints - forcing turn out is not a good idea! Of course I didn’t listen, what would he know? I was 17, passionately obsessed and ‘bullet-proof’. Yes it’s amazing to be young, fit, free and working towards your dream! The story does have a happy outcome, though it was super tough, BUT totally worth it.
Fast forward to a retired professional ballet dancer, theatre Stage Manager, Choreographer, Assistant Director, Company Manager and now for the past 11 years, a Personal Trainer, Pilates Instructor & bodyART Master Trainer with her own business. Hello! All that extreme physical ballet training I did, caught up with me. I went back to study at age 43 and learned so much about biomechanics, healthy function for bodies, mental & physical health. However, most of all I learned on the job once qualified working closely with my clients, plus dealing with my own aging body. I realise now I actually abused my body, meaning I gave my poor body no choice, it was going to be forced to do what ‘I’ wanted it to do. I now often think wow Andrea, you never checked in, you just expected it to keep up relentlessly, with what your very determined head wanted.
Thankfully I had a mentor all those years back, who worked on the mind AND body connection. I didn’t realise just how much that was part of me until I started training and teaching people to mindfully move. I took it for granted, until I started asking clients questions like, what are you thinking when you do that exercise? So often I would get a blank look and the answer ‘Ummmm I don’t know’ plus the classic person telling me what they ‘used’ to be able to do, when they were younger or fitter or thinner (sigh)
So what is wrong with this picture?
A few things are now so clear, it’s with excitement I write this to get the word and headspace out there. Mobility Matters!!!! (Right - Andrea in 2018 at 58)
Please hear me out and read on.
Why would you want to get fit if it is either uncomfortable or hurts to move? Why would you subject yourself to feel ashamed of how you feel and look in a gym full of young, agile, fit, so called ‘beautiful people’? Why would you go into a huge group fitness class when you can’t even walk well or get onto a crowded tram without major anxiety? Yet in your mind you have been telling yourself for years now, I’ll get fit next year, but put it off over and over in your head, with endless internal dialogue excuses.
As a Personal Trainer, I was feeling pretty good until I hit my 50’s, then gradually my body started to tell me it was wearing out, tired, not working so well and the niggles, injuries and arthritis have started to set in. But I LOVE to move with music, it’s my joy, my happy place, my natural drug, I am addicted to it. Keeping moving and exercising has also brought me out of some very dark places in my life, when so overwhelmed with loss and tragedy I literally did not want to be here. The truth is I will do what is required to maintain that agility, mobility & flexibility, because it represents quality of life for me. Doing exercises with clients, training, upskilling courses and teaching was enough to keep me going and happy, BUT that’s no longer the case. . .
In the last 2 years I had a few major health set backs and reality checks. Without going into major detail, my gut was destroyed with massive blasts of antibiotics to deal with a bowel infection that took 7 months to get rid of, I shattered and chipped the bones in my left big toe that revealed and very quickly seemed to bring on arthritis in both my feet (well dancing on your toes is not normal is it) my right hip ached and was often painful, an old ankle injury done at 15 and never rehabbed properly started causing pain and would not move when I got up in the morning and the list goes on. BUT amazingly because I took on and really embodied MINDful MOVEment & bodyART Training in 2015,
I began doing some barefoot moving, breathing & stretching, first thing to start my day and was amazed that what felt like a painful stiff ‘old’ body when I got out of bed, could be coaxed and nurtured into feeling pretty pain free and mobile in about 7-10 minutes! I AM SERIOUS!
I taught a guest bodyART Class recently at a lovely family friendly place with men, women and kids all joining in. They loved it and there was lots of happy sweaty faces and chats after . . . 3 ladies blown away when I mentioned I’d just turned 58! (and proud of it - the age my darling Dad died, so making the most of every moment) I am telling you all this to inspire you and impress upon you what a difference you can make to yourself, yourself ! #mobilitymatters
I have also been working privately with a few clients one on one in my home and applying the philosophy of; How do you feel? What do you need? & Why? What movements can you do to start getting yourself mobile again so it feels good to move? Creating daily plans of simple stretching, strength building, posture awareness and correcting, healthier nutritional habits all discussed & negotiated WITH the client. I have no preconceived program at all, we make it up as we go along, negotiate what they feel they can commit to doing, within the confines and responsibilities in their particular lives. How they feel once implementing, tweaking technique, progressing as things improve, but always with the ‘little and often’ and ‘connection and consistency’ as the proven way to move and improve.
These private sessions can be highly emotional, as often the sessions simply start with conversation about their week, what was good, what was not so good. But the heart warming wonderful part is the many small victories and of course the BIG break throughs, from making small changes they themselves decided to commit to and actually DID.
When a client says, it’s a non-negotiable now, it’s part of my life, I know they are now fully invested in themselves. They are excited to keep investing, to maintain what they gained from their own efforts, but then to build on that - it’s exciting & empowering. Having your own tools you learned and know how to use is SO great, no one can take that knowledge away once you have it. I worked in Port Phillip Prison a few years ago, once a week with mentally-ill inmates, empowering them with self management skills to help with stress, anxiety and mobility, the difference in them even after a one hour session was palpable. This is when MOBILITY MATTERS! Once the client has been brave enough to admit to themselves what has held them back from starting to move, we go in leaps and bounds. Confidence and self esteem is everything, moving without pain, independently and with joy builds this. Yes exercise & moving releases the dopamine and serotonin blah blah, but without getting scientific it just ‘feels’ damn good!
When we are born and start learning to move, our bodies and brain co-ordinate instinctively.
Sadly once we start to sit down on chairs, in the car etc and adopt modern daily life, the intuitive way of moving we were born with, disappears. Watch a young baby learning to walk, they squat to the ground totally naturally or a dog waking up from a sleep, they use instincts to stretch, move and shake out their bodies.
I am also fortunate to have some great contacts in the Women’s Health & Fitness Industry as well as the Fitness Industry in general, meaning if issues beyond my scope of expertise come up, I can refer to other experts to deal with these specific health issues. This network and care for my clients is integral to progress and for more people to walk the #mobilitymatters bridge to improved health and fitness - this is quality of life - this is living. This brings joy!
Energy creates energy, but we all need to know how and where to start to do that. This is where my own background, age and journey as well as 11 years of working with clients age 12 to 87 comes in. There will never be ‘you should do this’ from APT (or me) it’s always a case of what would you like to do or can you have a go at this?
When I start moving my foot joints, hips and ankles to start my day, they hurt, but I gently breathe and get them moving gradually and the pain subsides with the movements I do. I don’t force, I listen to my body, something I never did as a young dancer. As you age, accepting you won’t be doing some of the stuff you did as a younger you, is a good and an important headspace to find. Sure I did double split grand jete’s as a ballet dancer and it was like flying for me, I felt super-human, but do I need this action in my life now? No, and that’s ok, I have accepted that. That said I still adore jumping and have found ways to fly a bit in other forms (bodyART is great for this as is low impact bosu bouncing) my feet are coping well with all the barefoot exercise I do and the joy of moving and music is still very much part of my life.
Also I found my voice and passion in teaching - giving others the tools to move well and then WANTING to get fit and healthy is simply a gift AND a joy! This mobility matters message is for EVERY age, as younger people need to understand what they do now WILL impact on them in the future. One cannot shove this down our young enthusiastic fresh faced generation's throats, however by gently getting the message out with wonderful programs and training like bodyART (which is fun, fulfilling, non competitive, self accepting and embraces the balance of challenge AND nurture we ALL need) we can educate and enable them. To become aware and make better choices to use their minds and bodies, more safely and effectively, giving them a much better quality of life when they do start to age.
When I leave my studio early in the morning in Richmond, after an APT training session, I walk past a busy tram stop. It's frightening to observe that usually almost every person is standing at the stop looking at their phone with incredibly bad posture and dangerous neck positions. They seem oblivious that eventually this can turn into major issues in the body as they get older. So much can be gained from simply becoming aware and making small changes to daily repetitive life.
My point is, I did some terrible things to my body in those younger years, forcing my joints and limbs into positions I had a perfect vision of how it should look. Feet under a piano to create better arches, forcing my hips to turn out when it was incredibly painful, jumping on concrete stage surfaces in high heeled boots! It’s amazing I am as OK as I am really, thinking back. I never asked or consulted my body how it was going or feeling, I expected it to just do what I so desperately wanted. I thank my body now for being as strong and resilient as it has been (giving me 2 gorgeous sons, and expected to do so much in its 58 years) but have promised I will continue to be kinder to it now.
You can fool yourself into thinking that what you forced your body to do in your bullet-proof younger years, will not catch up with you, but it will. And the more extreme you were, the more likely it will start to affect you negatively once you hit 45 and over, if it hasn't already.
The brilliant news is, you CAN make a difference and manage a lot of this yourself with a Mobility Matters plan.
Andrea Gaze (Founder APT Personal Training & Portable Pilates)
#mobilitymatters 2019 by www.aptandpilates.com
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