The barefoot running movement got a pretty bad reputation because anecdotally lots of people got hurt barefoot running. If I got seriously injured doing something I attempted to do for my health, I’d stop too. If I loved running before I altered the way I did it and hated it now, I go back to my old ways. It makes sense.
One of my friends tore both his Achilles tendons running with minimalist shoes. But what he did and what many barefoot runners did was push too much too fast. The barefoot running movement and the makers of minimalist shoes all said if you want to make this change you have to start slow—really slow. Go too fast and you’ll get hurt. Taking on more than we are ready for is a major reason people new to exercise stop moving. They work too hard in a hope to get quick results, get hurt and don’t want to continue. Some people associate exercise with pain and getting hurt. That’s always been their experience. Moving doesn’t have to hurt, and should NEVER hurt in a “bad” way. The concept of no pain no gain has been disproved, but it is a really hard concept to unravel in people’s minds. It’s hard to unlearn what we think we know.
When I have a client do certain movements, especially if that client has an injury, I almost always (and definitely if they ask) explain why I made that movement choice. I do this for a couple of reasons. Mostly, I think the body and movement are beyond fascinating and that everyone deep down, so deep that may not realize it, wants to understand how their body moves better. But I also want them to believe in it. If they understand the purpose behind what they are doing, I think they will be more likely to do it. I’m not just throwing exercises at them willy nilly. I’m choosing moves with a specific purpose in mind. Also, they can then give me better feedback about whether it’s working for them. You tried this, for this, did it help? I want a dialogue with my clients, and I want them involved in their movement.
Many people (not all) want to take that information and make an immediate change. Let’s take a simple exercise for example. Let’s say a client complains of knee pain and I can see they are knock kneed and that they have flat feet and their ankles roll in (pronation/eversion). I might suggest they do toe lifts daily. I’ll explain why and that our ultimate goal is to get more weight on the outside of their foot.
I often get the same question. Should I start walking with more pressure on the outside of my feet now that I know that’s my goal? No. No, you shouldn’t. It’s the running three miles the first time you throw on your minimalist shoes. You’re going to start walking with entirely different muscles that aren’t ready for that amount of work. You’re likely to get hurt and you’re going to think the exercise that will help you is bad. Maybe you want to try walking around like that for 10-minutes a day, when you are at home focusing on nothing else. But it’s too much too fast to say oh, this is what will help me, I’ll start doing it all the time. It’s a very high expectation of your body. It’s like explaining multiplication tables to a third grader and then expected them to multiply with ease the next day because they know multiplication exists. We’d never be that hard on a kid, but we are that hard on our body all the time. And we all want instant results, especially when we’re in pain. I fall into this category too. I’m not pointing fingers. I speak from experience.
So ease in. Start to think about the change you’re striving for when you are just standing in line somewhere. Because it’s also true that coming to Pilates one hour a week won’t unravel a weeks worth of bad postural issues. You do need to think about the changes you are making in a Pilates class in your daily life. It’s just a matter of how much, how fast and how much pressure you put on yourself to change quickly.
I’m impressed that people want to think about their bodies. I’m impressed that people want to commit to making healthy changes, but we need to slow down those adjustments sometimes. If we try to push too hard too fast we might hurt the very thing we are trying to help. Most pain doesn’t develop overnight and it’s unlikely to unravel overnight.
Cut yourself some slack, and you might actually reach your goal faster and with longer lasting results.