Most of the content on this blog is technical in nature, as is my twitter feed. I wanted to step to one side, and talk a bit about one of the little things I’ve learned about my body: I’m not super human any more.
I’m one of those people that have been really lucky with my general physical and mental health over the years. I used to play a lot of rugby and got the odd injury, but nothing a long hot bath couldn’t fix. Modulo catching the flu a few years ago I don’t really get ill very much.
About this time last year I began to get a small amount of back pain when sitting for a long time, or when walking around for over an hour or so. This was the first warning. Over the next few months this got worse to the point it was now an electrical tingling all down one leg whenever I did “too much” walking or playing with the kids. I self-diagnosed this as some kind of sciatica and didn’t pay too much attention to it. This was the second warning sign. After my back finally “went pop” a couple of times in one week leaving me unable to walk properly at all, I finally went to a private physiotherapist and asked for some advice. Luckily for me this was all covered as part of my Red Hat compensation package and I didn’t have to pay a thing, which I know really isn’t the case if you’re paying for healthcare yourself.
The Physio did quite a lot of tests and then announced that my posture was, put bluntly, total crap. There was no magic pill nor any special sports massage to make it better, but everything could be fixed with a little bit of hard work. I had to make some immediate changes: my comfy armchair was out, a standing desk was in. 10 hours sitting in a chair coding was bad, hourly breaks were enforced. I was given some exercises to do every day (which I did) and after about 6 weeks of visits I was discharged as the tingling had gone and the back pain was much less. The physio suggested I do a weekly Pilates class to further improve my posture and to keep everything where it should be.
This was waaaay outside my comfort zone, as I’d never done any kind of exercise or group class before. I went to a group class and immediately realized I was at least two orders of magnitude less capable than everyone else. I could barely touch my knees when they could all touch the floor. The instructor was really kind and showed me all the positions and things to do and not do, but I still felt a bit weird in a class of mostly middle aged women dragging them all down to my level. I asked the instructor if he did 1:1 classes and he said yes; Since then I’ve been doing a 1 hour Pilates class every other week and, against all odds, I’m actually quite enjoying it now. My posture is much better; when I run I feel less like I’m flopping about and now have a stable “core” of muscle holding me all together. I can throw my children around in the park, and not worry about discs in my back bulging to the point of rupture. My breathing and concentration has improved, and if anything I guess I’m slightly more productive with hourly breaks.
Talking to other men, it seems quite a few people also do Pilates, but for some reason are a bit embarrassed to admit it to other people. I suppose I was initially too, but not now. My wife does Yoga, and I guess to me Pilates feels like a more physical Yoga without all the spiritual stuff mixed in. I’m not quite a card-carrying evangelist, but I really would recommend you try Pilates if you sit at a desk all day hunched over an editor all day, like I used to. Doing 1:1 classes is expensive (about £80/month) but it is 100% worth it with the results I’ve had so far.
So, the conclusion: I’m not Super Human any more, but that’s okay. If you’ve read this far – shoulders back, chin up, and get back to coding. If you’re interested, want an awesome instructor and you live in West London, give Ash a call.