Friday, December 7, 2012

Fitness Fridays - Why I broke up with Body Attack


Nearly 18 months ago, I did a post about Les Mills Body Attack classes. Body Attack was the first group fitness class that I tried and liked, and I stuck with it as a result. In January, I even set a goal of maintaining my weekly involvement in the classes across 2012.

I haven't been to a Body Attack class since March.

And I don't mind.

Here is why.


At the end of last year, my various injury-prone body parts all started playing up. My knees (traditionally my biggest problem area) were okay, but my hips, iliotibial band and back were very unhappy. I started getting weekly headaches again, something that affected me years ago but these days I generally manage to avoid.

In January and February, these difficulties persisted and I also developed plantar fasciiitis, which refers to inflammation along the underside (plantar fascia or arch tendon) of the foot. I used all of my 2012 physiotherapy benefits in the first 10 weeks of the year.

When trying to work out what had set all of this off, I thought back to what had changed in the second half of 2011. The answer, of course, was Body Attack. I raised this with my physiotherapist with the hope that he would say "oh no, I'm sure it's not that" - but he didn't. Instead, he asked me to explain what the class involved and then, very reluctantly, agreed that it could be the culprit.

My physiotherapist is a sports physiotherapist who hates telling people not to do activity. I have always found him to recommend doing (strength or stretching exercises) rather than stopping, which is one of the things I like about his approach. Given this, I took his reaction quite seriously. I stopped Body Attack as a result, initially viewing it a short-term trial stop, but later deciding it would be a long-term permanent stop.

Within 2 weeks of stopping the classes, I started to see improvement in terms of mobility and pain. It took much longer, many months, to really iron out the issues that were affecting me (particularly those relating to my ITB, which still niggles after running) - but I definitely noticed improvements after stopping that I wasn't getting earlier.

Now, I don't for an instant believe that everyone who does Body Attack will have problems. I suspect it is simply a poor match for my over-pronating feet and my back and neck difficulties. It is a class that involves lots of jumping (meaning it is high impact and jarring) and lots of sideways as well as forward movement (meaning it is difficult for my feet to keep themselves correctly aligned). I have learned to manage the postural challenges that come from running, but Body Attack seemed to take those challenges to a whole new level.

Running out here instead of Body Attack-ing inside isn't so bad anyway

I cut Body Attack out, went back to regular gym work (of the solo, non-group fitness variety) and kept running as the one high impact, jarring activity I care about.

Do I wish I could do Body Attack and not be injured? Yes, a little. Do I think it is possible? Yes, if I worked at getting my muscles strengthened and aligned. I'm sure it could be. Do I think it is worth the difficulties? No. No, I do not.

And so, Body Attack and I are no more. Running and I are a happy partnership again, and my feet, legs and hips are speaking to me nicely (most of the time at least!).

Have you ever tried a 'popular' exercise and found it just didn't work for you?

21 comments:

  1. Wow, it sounds like you were very wise to give up Body Attack. There are plenty of other less painful ways to get your exercise in! I've just posted about running - I'm 7/8ths of the way through the Couch to 5k and next week I'll be running 30 minutes non-stop, which is something I never thought I'd do! If you had asked this question 3 months ago I totally would have said running, but I guess I was just doing it wrong, or wasn't ready for it, or something!

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    1. I was exactly the same with running 5 years ago - which does make me think that lots of things are possible if approached the right way :) Congratulations on your own running efforts, that is fantastic! I hope you're enjoying it.

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  2. Yes. Spin classes become dangerous when my leg muscles cramp up halfway through, my toe is a constant panic-point for me, and even walking a lot causes my sacroiliac joint to play up, so I'm never quite sure what to do about exercise. Chocolate never causes grief, thankfully.

    Well done you for listening to your body. I know it can be hard to accept for many people who associate exercise with their identity more than I do! :P

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    1. Thank you Hannah - and you are right, sometimes things are much safer when you stick to chocolate. I'm sorry your own exercise efforts have been so challenging. I actually think of you whenever my toes complain (blisters, toenails, nothing as serious as you) - and tell them to be quiet accordingly! I'm not sure how you feel about that, but there you are (chocolate makes me think of you too :) ).

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  3. so sorry to hear about your injury- glad you're taking care of your body!

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  4. It's crazy when it comes to our bodies and what it can or can't take! I have done workouts too that I just love and felt so much paing (all over) afterwards. And not the feel good pain either. But I just kept going back to the workout. Just sticking to running right now! :)

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  5. Is your PF better now too? PF hurts and seems to take forever to heal. Just when you think it is okay, it creeps up on you again. I had it back in 2008 and it took a couple of months to get better. I have never gone to a body attack class, but know lots of people that do. Those classes aren't for everyone, but maybe once you get stronger you can add a class a week back to your fitness schedule.

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    1. I am 99% sure it is - in the sense that I haven't had problems for months but do know it can reoccur. I think I was lucky to be seeing my physiotherapist regularly when it developed, so he got on to it straight away.

      I think taking a class in pilates or similar would actually do me the world of good - I keep meaning to and not doing it, so really should try harder!

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  6. Glad to hear things are on the mend, Kari - I have tried a few fitness classes like "Pump" & "Body Balance" but I have decided that cardio/lifting just don't suit my body. I get everything I need, physically from yoga, pilates and a little working. I think the problem with quite a few popular-type exercise classes is that FORM is not correctly taught, so people can get into trouble/injure themselves more easily.

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    1. Yes, I think you are spot on! I am sure my form was miles off but I had no idea how to fix it whilst also staying on top of the class and keeping up. I'm glad you've found your own exercise niche too :)

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  7. Body attack doesn't work well for me either and a lot of people and I quit teaching Body Pump because I was frustrated that I couldn't get all 100 people in the room using the correct technique at the right time :)

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    1. It makes me feel better to hear you say that - clearly I am not the only one! I imagine it must be hard standing in front of people and seeing where errors are being made, but not being able to address them.

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  8. I got really into zumba a few months ago. It is really fun and had me working up a sweat in no time. But then my knees started playing up along with my calves which are never a problem and other little niggles. So I stopped and so did my symptoms. Instead I started doing pilates regularly and my goodness is it the right thing for me. Aches that I always had disappeared, I've got the point where I enjoy the sit-ups! Talking about it to a friend who also does pilates on the weekend we agreed we are addicted and will be doing it forever.

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    1. You may have finally convinced me to schedule Pilates in to my weeks in 2013. What a great discovery for you and with great outcomes!

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  9. I am a BA junkie despite all the injuries that it caused me ( several twised ankle, knee problems) but I just can quit it. Its addiction!

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  10. Sorry to hear about you. I had sort of same problem. I had few classes of body attack last year. Then I got lower leg injury and couldn't go back for a year. After visiting a very good physiotherapist I found that the injury was due to my low arch and not wearing proper shoes. He recommended me to put in high arch insoles during strength training. Hence my problem solved. Now I can do body attack as much as I want. I wish you could try something like custom insoles.

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  11. Thank you for your piece on Body Attack. I have been a Body Stepper for over 10 years and decided to try Attack 2 years ago. Within 6 months of doing Attack, I found that my archiles and heels were hurting in the morning and I immediately attributed it to Attack as I knew that was the one change in my life. I very occassionally do Attack (maybe once a month at most) and am reminded why I take the low options which is not easy. I didn't know what my pains were - I did go and see a podiatrist and she was reluctant to diagnose me but instead wanted to sell me custom insoles that were very expensive and not covered by my prinvate health insurer. At least now I know (or am fairly sure I know) that this is it and how to manage the problem. Thanks again

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