I have come across this issue three times in the last week and have had three amazing results each time. All I said was “Don’t forget to breathe”.
Increasingly, I am finding that you just can’t rely on, or take it for granted, that your body is going to do what it should. In this instance, if you want something done properly, do it yourself! Three separate situations, in my working environment last week, I saw three very different people struggling when they didn’t need to. All three were letting their body and breathing get out of control and all three were unaware that it was happening.
So, what happened and how did we fix it?
In the first situation, I was training a client online. He has Parkinson’s disease and gets frustrated with the arm tremors it causes. The tremors really irritate him and are the main cause of his worries. Unfortunately, that day was particularly bad (when your body doesn’t do what it should do it is frustrating) and understandably so, he was upset and tensing up. He was sitting in a chair, his arms quite violently shaking and his mood low. He was weak, annoyed and tired, unable to stand up from the chair he was sitting in. This was making his tremors worse by creating tension in his muscles, restricting their movement. We stopped the session and just had a chat. Sometimes all you need is to talk to someone and let it out. He sat and talked while I told him to breathe deeply and slowly. He relaxed his mind and then his body followed suit. As his body relaxed, the tremors calmed and we went on to have a great session.
The second situation was on a walk with a lady in her late sixties who likes to keep active by walking and going to Pilates classes. Unfortunately, in 2019 she had pneumonia and it affected her breathing. We went on a walk around some fields but her shortness of breath ended it. Her chest tightened up and as a consequence, so did the rest of her body. About a quarter of the way into our walk, we had to turn back. The reason we breathe more when we exercise is to get more oxygen into our body. Oxygen is converted into energy so the more energy you are using, the more you need to breathe. In her case, because she had been so ill and her respiratory system affected, she had ‘forgotten’ how to breathe; her breathing was controlling her. On the way back I made her stop and catch her breath. I told her to take control of her breaths and find her breathing rhythm. When walking, walk to the rhythm of your breaths at the pace you find comfortable. If you stay in your rhythm, your body will flow and walking becomes more natural, therefore easier. Last night, just three days later, she walked all the way round the fields without any shortness of breath. She walked with rhythm, her arms swinging and her body flowing.
The last example was working with a mate of mine. A couple of years ago he was diagnosed with MSA. Multiple system atrophy is rare condition that damages the nerves in the brain resulting your body slowly shutting down. Exercise is so important for coping with and managing this. If you exercise you can keep going but if you do nothing, nothing happens, your body get stuck and you can’t move. I try and see him as often as I can, at least five times a week to get him moving and loosen his muscles. He leaves his back gate open, I let myself in and we train.
Lockdown ruined him. Pre lockdown he was walking unaided, and doing press-ups. We trained online during lockdown but with his condition he needs physical manipulation and a lot of passive stretching. He massively deteriorated during lockdown and now has to use a walker and struggles to get up and down the stairs. I will always have a massive chip on my shoulder over this. Watching him struggle through a computer screen in the winter lockdown, each day getting so much worse was heart-breaking. Everyone I train suffered physically and mentally (including myself) during the third lockdown and declined. I have managed to pull them all back to pre-lockdown levels but not him, his condition doesn’t allow it. I just had to sit and watch him suffer, feeling helpless as I did.
On the days when he has been sat in front of his computer all day working and hasn’t moved, his body literally freezes. It is also important that he takes his medication on time but this doesn’t always happen. Let’s just say this is a topic we discuss often and I work hard at controlling my emotions! At his worst, I have let myself in to find him propped up at the table with a walking sick in his armpit keeping him from falling off a chair. Like my client with Parkinson’s, all we have to do breathe and calm the mind and body. Whenever I go round there and he is having a particularly bad day, I remind him to breathe, we do some gentle exercises and he improves.
The point I am trying to make is don’t forget to breathe! Take a moment, whatever you are doing, and take in three, slow deep breaths. This will calm your mind, relax your body and help it to flow with its’/your natural rhythm. You control it remember, not the other way round.