Video: London. Postural Restoration for back pain & Athlete Lab visit
My latest vlog details my trip to London for some help with my cranky body and a visit to Athlete Lab (with some ice-skating thrown in for good measure).
I’m not unique in being a cyclist suffering from lower back pain; sadly it’s a pretty common complaint amongst people who spend hours sitting on a saddle propelling themselves forward from the hip down. What’s slightly different about my back pain is that it came on very suddenly and was immediately very debilitating.
Here’s a little history:
When I first hurt my back (messing around doing bunny-hops on my fixed gear bike) there was a definite sense of ‘shit! I’ve done something really bad!’ I never did manage to find out exactly what it was I’d done but the following six months were a write off. I couldn’t ride my bike, I had to lie down rather than sit and I felt like an old woman who’d had her spine fused – I literally couldn’t stand up straight.
Eventually, things settled, I regained much of my mobility and then went on a snowboarding trip to Oregon with the Reason Magazine. Whilst I was there, I landed really heavily from a massive jump and was back in agony and unable to walk properly. At an emergency visit to the chiropractor, I was told my pelvis was out of alignment. I had it straightened out and I immediately felt heaps better.
But that was by no means the end of it. Since then, I’ve had mild to severe backpack almost every time I ride my bike and when I’m suffering from a flare up, when I’m off it too. As I mentioned in my previous piece about visiting Luke, I have explored many avenues when it comes to dealing with my back pain but nothing has particularly worked, apart from sports massages which help deal with the aftermath.
Anyway, in my video, I head up to London and visit Luke for some advice and then don’t take my camera in to the gym to show you guys what happened! It was such an error and I don’t know why I was being so silly that morning.
Fortunately, I’m heading back for a follow up consultation where we’ll evaluate my progress – I’ve been doing the exercises Luke prescribed religiously for a couple of weeks now. Whilst I’m there, I’m going to film a proper video of our work together so that I can share what we’ve been doing.
Aside from visiting Luke, I took the opportunity to enjoy some culture and food – I live in the countryside where art galleries (if they exist) tend to just show local watercolours and the most exotic food you can find is a chinese takeaway. To that end, I enjoyed my favourite London breakfast of ‘menemen’ at the Stone Cave in Dalston then checked out the Feminist Avant Garde exhibition at the Photographers Gallery and the Guerilla Girls at Whitechapel Gallery.
Athlete Lab Visit
Later that day, I popped into Athlete Lab in Cannon street to have a look at the facilities and try a class. Athlete Lab is a turbo training studio in the heart of the city, geared towards cyclists committed to training but short of time. For the price of a membership, you can store your cycle shoes in your own cubby hole then dash in and onto a bike that has been set up for you in advance and to your precise bike fit measurements.
It’s not a spinning studio where you pedal away furiously whilst an instructor barks at you, riding a ‘bike’ with a maddeningly imprecise way of changing the resistance and difficulty of your ride. Athlete Lab use specially constructed bikes wired up to a central control panel that changes the resistance on each bike individually and automatically, based on your FTP.
I signed up for an FTP building session, where I rode blocks of intervals at a percentage of said FTP under the watchful eye of Athlete Labs coaches. All the data is shown on screen, so you just have to match your cadence to the one indicated and the power you produce will be consistent with that required, thanks to the resistance on your rear wheel. The coaches can (and do!) make things more difficult for you if you’re chatting away and smiling too much (hehe) or they’ll make things more bearable if you’re having an off day.
The classes are pretty pricey – £30 just for one or £129 for an all inclusive membership. In terms of efficiency, the sessions do resemble the workouts I might do on the virtual training app Zwift with my Cyclops Powersync smart trainer – hooked up to the computer my smart turbo trainer changes resistance automatically too. But here’s the thing – a Zwift set up is not exactly cheap – I have an iMac, a smart trainer, Powersync P1 pedals and a heart rate monitor, all of which cost a fair amount.
The benefits of the class are how nice it is to just turn up, get on your bike and get your workout done with no faff, so I can definitely see the appeal of the place if you worked in the city and wanted to squeeze in a session before you went home. Add to that the fact you have coaches on hand for immediate feedback, plus the follow up data you’re sent after each class and you would struggle not to get results if you committed to their classes several times a week.
Check out my trip to London on my latest vlog.