Thursday 11 July 2024

How about a Pilates class?

Back in 2017 I began attending a Pilates class run by the physiotherapist Sally Smith; within a month the chronic hip pain that had been keeping me awake at night disappeared as Sally helped me resolve the movement compensation patterns that had slipped in since a knee injury years before without me being aware that they were there or that they were the underlying cause of my muscular and neural pains. Together with what I learned whilst studying JEMS (Joanne Elphinston's Movement Systems) I began to move better than I had for years, and with it to feel more positive and energised. 

Sally moved on to teach Pilates elsewhere and I started having one-to-one sesson with Ruth Harrington at Choice Pilates (I can highly recommend Ruth - she also does group classes; her details are on my website). Sally has now returned to teaching classes again in Woodseats and Greenhill. For more details email or telephone Sally on 07511 000738.

In radio news, I came across this programme yesterday on protein in the diet: It was a very interesting listen; the overall message was that most of us will be getting plenty of protein from a good diet without needing to supplement with a protein powder or equivalent. Some people with specific needs may need to take care to have more protein (for instance athletes to recover and repair), and the elderly in particular need to ensure they are eating enough protein every day as we can't store it.

Wednesday 26 June 2024

The days are long, it's racing season!

The way markers are up!

This weekend is the Round Sheffield Run, a delightful 24.5km route through the parks and ancient woodlands of southwest Sheffield. It has grown in popularity and now takes place over a full weekend in June as well as the winter event in January. It follows the Round Sheffield Walk route and is broken up into timed stages so you don't have to run continuously (unless you want to!) As usual quite a few of my clients have been preparing for this event; for some it's their main event of the summer whilst others are using it as part of their training for marathons and ultras. Some just take part for the sheer enjoyment of it! 

Graves Park - part of the Round Sheffield Run 

You may think that runners just need their legs massaging, but that is far from the whole picture. When running, the ability to counter-rotate the upper torso (waist to shoulders, the ribcage area) and swing the shoulders helps create energy to transmit to the legs; as well as addressing back and shoulder tension that can hinder this, I also check that the runner is able to perform this movement - we can go through appropriate exercises to help. We see how competent they are at taking their weight on one leg and then transferring to the other leg whilst keeping their weight over their feet, and that they are able to flex through their hip, knee and ankle to absorb and control forces especially as they run downhill. We also discuss their running posture and the importance of visualisation to help the body perform optimally.

Daisy by one of the new signs.

I always enjoy hearing how my clients have got on after the race, when they return for their recovery massage treatment!

No, it's the other way!!

If you are inspired to give it a go in 2025, this is the website where you can sign up for the newsletter: If you would like to walk or run it at any time, this is a really useful guide that fits in your pocket and has OS map extracts as well as a description of the route Round Sheffield Walk

Roughly half way round!

Daisy and Kate enjoying the walk

Wednesday 22 May 2024

Sometimes there's an easy solution!

Recently I was walking Daisy in the local woods when I encountered a friend out walking their own dogs. I noticed that they did not look comfortable, and it emerged that they had back pain. Their plan was to do some stretching, but I noticed how tense their posture was and we had a brief discussion about how the body naturally goes into a protective spasm when in pain, but sometimes it is too great a reaction or it carries on too long and so it helps to relax and explore how the body is actually feeling. I gave some relaxation tips to help with this, and we went on our ways.

A short while later I got a text - my tips had worked! Sometimes all that is needed is to let go of the tension and relax. Of course it isn't always this easy, but it's always worth considering.

Tuesday 27 February 2024

'When should I book in again?'

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

 'When should I book in again?' is a question I am often asked at the end of an appointment, especially by new clients who are unfamiliar with massage.

My usual response is that there is no set answer, it depends on you as an individual:

- on how you respond to massage. Some people need to allow more time for the body to process a massage treatment, especially if they haven't had a massage for a while.

- on your background health and the issue you have presented with. Sometimes having shorter appointments more frequently is appropriate to address an acute problem or to provide maintenance. In certain instances a shorter follow up quite soon after a long appointment is helpful to consolidate the treatment. Other times I may suggest you come back in two weeks (or longer) to assess progress and then plan from there. 

- on whether you have a training schedule or other goals/deadlines.

- it also depends on your finances. I completely understand that massage can be a big chunk of your budget and I will always be open to coming up with a treatment plan that you feel you can manage but will still offer enough benefit. 

People who are used to massage and how their body responds to challenges such as training or a stressful time at work often gain a feel for how often they need to come and I find that a short discussion comes up with a treatment plan that we both feel is most beneficial to them

Something else I am often asked is, 'should everyone have a regular massage?' Well, I think that would be wonderful and beneficial and I would certainly like one, but it really depends on you whether it is needed. If you are sleeping well, exercising well and relaxing well then you may find that you can maintain your physical and mental well being without needing a regular massage. Sometimes you may be doing all three of those well but also be facing extra challenges that mean you benefit from regular massage. Many people find that a regular massage - however spaced apart - means that they keep on top of their aches, pains and tension and they feel that they move better. Other people target their treatments for times when they need that extra support, for however long that is - sometimes a few months, other times just one or two treatments. There is also the question of how frequent should regular appointments be, and again the answer is that it is personal to you - maybe that is fortnightly, monthly, every three months or longer. One of my clients comes regularly for two appointments at exactly the same time of year, every year - that is when they need the extra support. 

Ultimately, it is up to you, how you feel and what you want. I will offer honest advice and guidance and where appropriate suggest a treatment plan, but the final decision is always yours and I will always respect that.

Wednesday 10 January 2024

January catch up

Daisy copes fine with mud....

We've made it into 2024! I hope January is being kind to you. I seem to be spending a lot of time washing mud off Daisy....

Speaking of mud, I will just mention my usual tips to take smaller steps, keep your weight over your feet and stay relaxed to allow your body to make the quick micro adjustments that will help you balance. I have noticed quite a few clients coming in with lower back ache and tight hamstrings and adductors that are possibly linked to slippery mud! Tensing up will also compound neck and shoulder issues. Mud is hard work, as I was reminded whilst making my way over a muddy field where I had to pull my feet up out of the mud that wanted to hold on to my boots; this after balancing my way up a steep path that was an ankle deep, slippery challenge. It sounds like we may have ice arriving soon and these tips work well for those conditions too, as does wearing the most appropriate footwear you can find for mud or ice. 

Some radio recommendations:

Michael Mosley has been back with some special longer programmes that are both interesting and have excellent tips on how to stay fit and healthy including as we age. Topics include interviews with experts on inflammation, sleep, exercise, happiness and weight. His fifteen minute series has also returned, with a reminder that we should all be taking a vitamin D supplement at this time of year until April when we can make our own again from sunlight:

One of the Michael Mosley programmes is on cold therapy, and this also cropped up on 'Sliced Bread' with a look at ice baths and cold showers:

You can also find the episode where they looked at sports bras, which I highly recommend listening to if you wear one:

You will notice that my recommendations tend to be R4; this is purely because that is what I listen to most. However there are some excellent podcasts out there, including those from the Sports Therapy Association Most of these are aimed at therapists but there are many episodes of interest to the general public.

Some of you may have noticed Daisy's lead, handwoven by me. I sell these in various colours of natural yarn (and will also be making other items such as belts, book marks, lanyards) with 10% of the price going to the animal rescue charity that Daisy came from. I sold seven leads in the run up to Christmas and made the donation to La Cruz Protectora - if that was one of you reading this, thank you for buying a lead and I hope you are pleased with it!

Wednesday 13 December 2023

December update

It's halfway to Christmas already! I am working up to and including Friday 22nd December at the 919 Clinic, finishing at 4pm. My last December dates at the Nether Edge Herbarium are Saturday 16th and Tuesday 19th. Gift certificates are still available!

I will be back at the Nether Edge Herbarium from the 2nd January, and the 919 Clinic from the 3rd January.

Daisy loving the frosty conditions!

It's been a slippy few weeks, either on the mud and wet leaves or on the ice. Do remember if you feel insecure walking in these conditions to take smaller steps, keeping your weight over your feet, and to relax so that your body is free to absorb any slips and make the micro adjustments to keep you balanced. I also notice that people sometimes begin to adopt a penguin walk, leaning side to side as they lift their legs from the back and pelvis rather than flexing at the ankle, knee and hip joints. This can lead to a stiff, aching back as it's hard work to keep up. If you find yourself doing this, instead visualise your torso remaining relaxed and your spine extending upwards as it's supported by your pelvis, then take a moment to notice if you are flexing your leg at the hip to lift your knee up in front of you as it also flexes, ready to then extend your lower leg and move you forward as your foot comes back down. Place your hand at the hip crease to feel what is happening. You can also check your gait by placing your hand over your sternum; is your hand being moved side to side as you walk penguin style, or is it rotating as your back responds to an easier walking movement. Do take a look at my exercises, Hunting in the Forest and Knee Lift, if you would like to practice this movement (scroll down the page on my website to find the video links):

Not long now until the days begin to lengthen again. Meanwhile I am taking in as much pleasure as I can during my winter walks, from the low sun highlighting the texture of tree bark and the colours of the mosses and lichens, to the intricate patterns of frost on leaves and the sensation of space, light and increased views in the woods now that the leaves are mainly fallen.


Tuesday 14 November 2023

November news


I love autumn - the colours, the crunch of leaves (when dry!) underfoot, finding sweet chestnuts to roast and of course, as an avid knitter, the return of the sweater, hat, gloves and shawl temperatures! However, the rain deluges are making those leaves slippery underfoot, likewise the muddy paths. If you find yourself thinking that you are about to slip the instinct for most of us is to tense up but as with icy conditions this actually makes it harder for your body to absorb the forces and make the micro adjustments that help us to adapt to what is happening underfoot. Instead, take a moment to breathe and allow yourself to soften and relax. Ok, it doesn't always work and sometimes that slip is inevitable but more often than not you find yourself more sure footed - which is a good feeling!

We are also past Halloween and bonfire night, so it's time to mention Christmas! Gift vouchers are a very popular present and I can arrange them for appointments with me at either the 919 Clinic or the Nether Edge Herbarium. Just drop me an email or text and I will get back to you.

November exercise exploration: stand by something - could be a wall or a tree - and reach up with your arm; how far does your hand reach? Now start again but this time feel the connection between your foot and the ground on the same side as the arm that is moving, and as you raise your arm imagine that the movement begins with the foot pressing into the ground so that as you reach up you are also pressing down. What do you notice? 

I find that this is a lovely way to explore how movement connects through the body. When the shoulder is supported by the involvement of more of the body for me it feels freer, and I can then reach further as that whole side of the body expands and extends upwards.

In other news, I have begun selling the dog leads and some of the other items that I make, with 10% of the price going back to the animal rescue charity that Daisy came from (La Cruz Protectora). Sam Mayfield is amazing, she dedicates herself to helping the dogs, cats and other animals that are so much in need of an opportunity to find a happier life. You can find images of some of the things that I make on my instagram page if you search for practicalcatcrafts; please contact me if you would like to make a purchase. I weave the bands on my inkle loom in natural materials (mainly linen and organic cotton) and I will do my best to  accommodate personal preferences around colours etc. The dog leads start at £25 each for a standard length. Feedback so far is that they feel lovely and take up very little room in your pocket. I have been using one for a year with Daisy and it is holding up well.
Inkle loom in action

Some of the dog leads

 Not long now until the shortest day and then the rapid return of the light. Something to look forward to on the dark evenings of November and December. Keep well!