So, for about 6 weeks now, I’ve been going to Body Pump classes twice a week at my gym.
For those who don’t know what Body Pump is, it is a 60 minute class where you use a barbell and weights throughout. It focuses on strengthening and toning by using light to moderate weights with lots of repetition and pretty much covers all the major muscle groups in your body so you get a full body workout.
A few years ago, such a concept would have terrified me.
You see, I have always avoided any type of weight based exercise in the fear that I would hurt my back and so as a result, I have always focused on cardio exercises in my 9 years of gym membership. However, the irony of this is, in attempting to protect my back by avoiding any type of weight lifting or weight machines, I have inadvertently made my back weaker and more susceptible to injury.
It is the reason why I injured my shoulder running last August, because my back and shoulder muscles were so weak after years of neglect. It was also a bit of a wake up call when I had a body scan test at the gym earlier this year, which revealed I was way below normal for skeletal muscle mass. It kind of all made sense and I’m really surprised I haven’t injured myself sooner to be honest, with all the exercise I do.
So my recent shoulder injury, the results of the body scan, the advice from the gym instructor and physio I was seeing at the time for said shoulder injury, all suggested that I needed to get stronger and build more muscle to avoid further injury in the future. It was the combination of these events that led me to book onto my first Body Pump class.
I won’t lie to you, the first class was tough. But not as tough as the days that followed where I struggled to lift my arms to open a cupboard door or to straighten my hair! Luckily though, I had started with the lightest weights available (1.25kg) on each side of the bar and (ignoring the instructor who kept shouting to the class to add more weight) kept them on for the whole of the class. Now, six weeks later, I am really enjoying Body Pump and it is one of my favourite classes.
I think the key for anyone doing a class like this for the first time (not just those with scoliosis) is to start gradually. Start with light weights and build them up slowly over a period of weeks or months to avoid injury. Many people in the class lift ALOT of weight, but most of them have been going for years. I try to ignore what everyone else in the class is lifting and focus on myself. It’s not always about how heavy the weight is, but about the repetition of the exercises – you can still benefit from the class by simply using the bar with no weight at all. I know I have a back condition and need to take it slow but I also know that over time, there’s no reason why I can’t lift the same as some of the others in the class.
I am very slowly building up the weights I use and I can feel myself gradually getting stronger – although it is early days yet. I am hoping that eventually, I will feel the benefits of complementing my running and cardio exercises with strengthening exercises, which is something I never really thought about before but which I now know is key for avoiding injury.
The other benefit of strengthening exercises when you have scoliosis is pain management – having a strong back, core and shoulders is so crucial for those with scoliosis and for those that have had scoliosis surgery as it can take the pressure off the discs in the spine and reduce pain over time.
So, this is what I’m focusing on at the moment. In all honestly the Body Pump class has been a revelation to me and I really should have started doing something like this sooner. Although, I’m sure I’m not alone in that I would guess many people with scoliosis avoid using weights for fear of hurting themselves. The truth I’ve discovered recently though, is that not doing strengthening exercises can cause worse problems in the long run. It’s a catch-22!
What I like about the Body Pump class though, is that you follow a structured routine and have an instructor who shows you what positions you should be in to avoid injury, whereas when I’m in the gym with all the weight machines and free weights I don’t know where to start!
I’m also complementing Body Pump with spin classes at the moment and I do bits of running in between (albeit not as much as I’m trying to focus more on strengthening my muscles).
Yes, sometimes I do worry that I may be doing too much and I might injure myself again, but I really feel that doing nothing (i.e. no exercise) is far worse and would cause me more pain and issues long term.
For me, keeping healthy and active helps me to take control of my scoliosis and also helps to keep my pain levels down.
I will update how I’m getting on with Body Pump over the coming months!
Stay strong 🙂