by Francesca Young
Running, for me, was something I loved… ten years ago. Due to injury, it had become something of a pipe dream.
Determined to get back to running—for more than a bus—I hotfooted it to West London Osteopaths, situated in a pretty terraced row in W12. The small, friendly clinic, set up by David Tatton, has been treating sore backs and sprained ankles since 1984.
It may look like your smarter-than-average West London family home, but go inside and instead of a sitting room you’ll find a warm welcome from the receptionist. Upstairs is the Pilates equipment, including the Reformer and the Cadillac, two bed-like machines that look a little like weapons of torture—a stretch rack springs to mind—but don’t let that put you off. You’re in the very good hands of experienced and professional experts in osteopathy, massage and Pilates.
Taught in small classes—a maximum of three people for mat work and just two if you’re using the machines—you can be sure every muscle will be made to work in exactly the right way. At my hour-long one-to-one session with Rebecca van Klinken, a physio with 15 years’ experience and a clinical Pilates instructor since 2007, I was aiming to build up leg and bum muscles that had gone on permanent strike. Their lack of use had led to a very grumpy Achilles, which made running impossible.
First, I had the least relaxing massage I think I’ve ever had. Who knew a foam roller under the thigh could make you yelp? Becca recommended buying one of these foam tubes so I could do this at home… err, no, thank you!
Then came some gentle exercises to warm up and engage my core—this meant lying down on one of the two machines in the room and pushing my torso away from my feet using the bar at the base, working my stomach and legs. The machine uses springs as resistance so the weights can be lowered if the strain becomes too much.
While I was warming up, Becca explained that, unlike bootcamp Pilates, which I’d done many years before, with clinical Pilates it’s not about working up a sweat. It’s all about repeating an exercise until the muscles remember what they’re supposed to be doing.
Next came the hard part: trying to make my bum muscles work. I liked the hands-on approach here. Some light squeezing and prodding on the inactive muscles helped to wake them up. And, for the first time, I understood exactly which muscles were meant to be engaged. With a one-to-one session, you can’t get away with any slacking off—Becca instantly noticed when the targeted area was daydreaming.
We then switched to another piece of kit—a wooden box with sprung steps called a Wunda Chair—which I had to step up onto, getting those backside muscles in gear. To finish, there were two exercises on the spring-loaded bench, one working the backs of my arms (the classic ‘bingo wings’) and another with my legs in stirrups, working my inner core. I could certainly feel the effects of those circular leg movements the next day.
Buoyed along by Becca’s upbeat approach (fun but firm) and the brisk pace, with each exercise repeated 30 times before moving onto the next one, the hour was over surprisingly quickly. The next day, I knew I’d had a workout—my inner thighs and the backs of my arms were feeling it—but it wasn’t the kind of sore that makes you flinch going upstairs.
If you want to strengthen your core, prevent injury or improve your alignment, West London Osteopaths offers small classes and a very personal approach. For me, the best part is that running—and not just for the number 94—is no longer something I used to do ten years ago; it’s something I can do today.
For more information, visit the website of West London Osteopaths.