The word backpacking rather explicitly implies that your back will feature quite heavily in its activation. The art of placing a pack on ones back and seeing how far you can trek, climb, explore and wonder. Packing your world into a nylon sack, strapping it to your back and relying on your own two feet to find your way.
Sounds like the perfect plan, just you and your agile ability to roam wherever you choose with all your belongings in tow. When Jake and I hatched our Inca to Inuit exploration we decided that we wanted to get back to basics. No hotels and fancy luggage, just a backpack and an unplanned route ahead. Getting from Argentina to Alaska was and remains our only aim.
When we first thought up Inca to Inuit I was 2 years in recovery from a bad back injury. I slipped two discs whilst playing netball and ever since have had to work to manage my recovery. Three years later and as I sit here typing today I am in recovery from an acute spasm which has had me out of work and anything else vaguely stimulating for the past two months. To add insult to injury, I have been given a side of arthritis to add to my two slipped discs which have added an extra layer of complexity to my recovery.
Sitting here I’m struggling to imagine myself at the top of Machu Picchu in three months time but am working tirelessly through a programme of intense physiotherapy, acupuncture and swimming to get myself backpack ready.
Everyone’s back pain or injury is different and having tried countless methods of strengthening my core/bum the combination that works best for me comprises of cardio (swimming, jogging, cross training), mat /pilates work and light weights.
Stress is a key catalyst for me and as a highly strung Virgo who revels in lists, colour coding and cleaning I tend to naturally sit at the control freak end of the behavioural spectrum. A combination of London living and a career in advertising doesn’t provide a natural state of zen but after 5 years and sheer determination I’ve found ways to keep myself balanced.
A simple change such as capping when and where I check my work mobile has had a significant effect on my stress levels. For example my walks to and from the tube are phone free zones. The gym, pool and physio are also phone free zones. I’ve learnt that not every one of my 500 emails a day need to be replied to in a matter of seconds and that by leaving them for 10 minutes allows others to aid in solving the problem or answering the question.
Stretching has played a big role in balancing both my daily dose of bad back pain and my stress levels. If you struggle with stiff hips or lower back pain try this simple routine when you wake up and before you go to sleep every day.
1. Childs pose – for as long as you feel like you’re getting a stretch
2. Childs pose arms extended diagonally – I do this with my arms stretched out to the left as it releases the disc pain on my right side
3. Pelvic tilts – on all fours pull you pelvis up towards your stomach, back to neutral then extended back, curving your back
4. Tail wag – again on all fours push your pelvis back curving your back then move your bottom from either side as if you’re wagging your tail – great for opening up your hips
5. Hip Flexor Stretch
6. Thoracic Rotation