Fixing up and looking sharp just got less painful. Hackney-based miracle bodyworkers Fix London have set up an outpost in the basement of athleisure brand Ron Dorff’s store in Covent Garden. The one-stop injury repair shop offers sports and remedial massage, plus introductory yoga classes for men who aren’t up on downward dog but really should be.
“We wanted to create a flexible space that would give something to Ron Dorff’s customers and allow us to have a base a bit further into central London,” explains osteopath Luke Selby of Fix, which is also planning to expand, appropriately, to the former Athlete’s Village in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. “So it worked on lots of levels.”
Whether it’s Olympic swimmers covered in cupping circles or gold-medal winner Andy Murray doing Pilates, the counterproductive “no pain, no gain” mentality is slowly being replaced by a growing understanding of the importance of regular maintenance. (Well, if you ignore the gym memes.) You wouldn’t wait for your car to break down before you took it to be serviced.
Besides, it’s not just about injury prevention, but building a balanced – and therefore stronger – physique and enabling optimum performance, too. “You don’t have to come in because something’s broken,” says Selby. “You might just want to be a bit healthier, or achieve a goal. We’re trying to not just put a plaster over something, but help you be the best that you can be.”
Until your next MOT, apply these quick fixes from Selby and one thing you won’t be is crocked.
The most common mistake that men make in the gym is throwing themselves into something too hard, too quickly. You see someone else doing an exercise, but rather than get someone to talk you through it, or taking all the weight off and really getting the feeling of how you should do it, you chuck 100kg on the bar. That’s when you get injured.
The other is after you’ve had a layoff. Either you’ve been injured or busy at work or away travelling. So if you’re a runner for example, you say, “OK, I’m just going to do a little run.” And it feels good. So then you do 20 miles. Maybe your brain, your muscles and your heart and lungs can do 20 miles. But your ligaments and tendons can’t, because they’ve softened up. Be patient and understand that you’ll get back up to your previous level pretty quickly. But only if you’re disciplined until then.
Another mistake is not enough cross-training. Maybe you’re quite bendy and willowy and you could really do with strengthening but all you do is loads of yoga and long runs. So that’s why you’re bust: because you don’t have enough structural support.
Lots of men assume that if they’ve got an ache or pain, it’s because that area is weak. So if you’re tennis player with a rotator cuff injury, you strengthen your rotator cuff. Then you go out and play and it’s still bust… So you strengthen it some more. Probably you’re too strong in that shoulder, or you’re overusing it because you’re not using your lats or obliques, or your opposite hip is weak. Often, you get injured because you’re overworking one area and not sharing the load globally enough.
I’m a believer in little and often. The classic weekend warrior works an incredibly stressful job, blitzing it and maybe burning the candle at both ends. Then they go to the gym once or twice a week and do a really hardcore hour. If they could maybe do 20 minutes a day at lower intensity, and one big workout a week, they’d feel and function better.
Gym rats typically overtrain the front of their body. Because they want a big chest and arms and good abs. What they end up with is tiny little legs and an undertrained back. If aesthetics is what you’re interested in then working on your posterior chain – your glutes, hamstrings and back – is going to make everything open up.
Three sets of ten bicep curls: when do you ever do that in real life? I’m more into equipment like kettlebells, TRX, ViPR: anything that involves picking up, carrying and other movements that are more functional.
Train for your demands. So if you like to play football twice a week, there’s no point going to the gym and doing chest. Do something that’s going to help your performance, drills that mimic football. Because your body’s going to like it and you’re going to feel better for it.
There’s a difference between dynamic and static stretching. Before a workout, warm up your muscles through range with stretches that involve movement. Then afterwards, or when you’re not preparing to do activity, stretch them out statically by holding them at the end of their range. If you work at a desk all day, cycle to and from the office and maybe do a big ride at the weekend, you need to get out of that chair position. Bridging, yoga, primal movement like Animal Flow, even swimming backstroke: anything that takes you the other way is good.
Move more. Don’t sit at a desk then go and sit on a gym bench. We were meant to be active.
If I had to pick one discipline that I think most men would benefit from, it’s probably yoga. It’s non-competitive and it can be as hard or as gentle as you like, so it suits all levels. It works on the body but it also works on the brain and nervous system and helps chill you out in this crazy million-miles-an-hour world. People are in this hyper-adrenalised state all the time. They go to the gym and they burn and then they go back to their desk job and shout at people on the phone. And they wonder why they’re wired all the time. Yoga gives you that good balance of breath, motion, strength.
A lot of men would like to try yoga but feel intimidated. They have this image of being the only guy in the class, trying to keep up with 20 lycra-clad ladies. And that can be why they get injured: they go into something too high-level, they feel they’ve got to compete and their body hasn’t learnt how to do it. So at our Ron Dorff space we’re keeping it really small: no more than six or seven in a class, so that you have the individual attention. And we make the classes in a way that we hope guys will enjoy. So they’re quite dynamic with a lot of upper-body stuff and strong poses.
Men are more likely to do strength training which, if left unbalanced, can reduce mobility. It’s always that balance between being strong and being flexible. And guys will be a lot tighter than women in the hips, for very obvious anatomical reasons. There’s a yoga pose called camel that’s really good for the deep hip flexors, the front of the quads and the whole front of the body. For the external hip rotators, pigeon pose is really good. You can do a modified version: sitting up, on the floor, even do it standing with your leg on a table or a chair.
The most common thing we hear is, “I can’t do that; my body won’t do that.” Actually, if you get some advice, leave your ego at the door, and are prepared to take your time, to start small, there isn’t any reason why you can’t do most things.
“No pain, no gain” is nonsense as well. Why should it need to be painful?