Introducing Henry!

Henry Van der Walt – one of our most experienced Expert Contributors- sits down with WatchFit to share a little of his story, and answers some reader questions.

How did you get into human movement science & what interested you about the discipline?

I have always played sport at a relatively high level (provincial cricket at school), this gave me a curiosity about how the body functions and moves. I started training in a gym in 1987 with my friends and ended up going regularly and developing a love for training.

Playing a lot of spot I did manage to get the occasional injury, saw the usual physiotherapists for treatment, one day I was referred to a Biokineticist (a primary healthcare practitioner in South Africa) who treated my injuries and got me back playing sport.

That is where the thought of actually working with people, improving motion and function started.

What would you say has been your proudest moment in the profession?

Proudest moment is a difficult one, from so many clients achieving what they set out to do weather it be pain free or losing weight. I received a message from an old client back in South Africa who said I have touched him and his life like no other person has. I guess the ability that I can touch someone and have a positive effect on their life is something that is amazing for me and the reason why I do what I do.

What are the three most common mistakes people make when returning to sport after an injury?

The first one by far is not completing the full rehab process, I have seen it so often. People think the pain is gone lets play and end up back where they were.

Secondly, stopping with the conditioning work and in just playing the sport, one of the best predictors of an future injury is a past injury. I did a course with Prof. Stuart McGill years back, one thing that’s stuck with me was him saying, injure your back you are a spinaholic, it’s with you and you have to manage it!

Lastly not getting to the bottom of the original injury, just treating the symptoms then off to play again.

Should you workout if you can still feel muscle pain from your last session?

Muscle pain is a little vague, if it’s a grade 1-3 muscle tear I would not recommend training on it the next day, wait for the inflammation to settle down.

If it is just muscle stiffness from a workout then yes, do something active it might speed up the recovery time a little and relieve the sensation of stiffness. Do not however uses the same muscles and push them to their limit!

Does amount and quality of the of sleep affect our workouts?

The quality of your sleep does affect your workouts and all aspects of your life and health! This is also a loaded question once you get into the hormonal cycles, but needless to say you are not going to be on your best or at your strongest if you do not have decent sleep.

What is the most common injury obtained in the gym and how can we avoid this?

I see a lot of back pain amongst men and woman, with a certain group of men with a lot of shoulder issues. There are a couple of things you have to be aware of while you train – to avoid injury correct exercise selection for your goal, form, tempo and correct load are probably the most important.

Henry Van der Walt Spotlight Q&A_2

An extra set of trained eyes are crucial in my opinion to minimise injuries. Walk into any gym in the world and you will see personal trainers train together, not to be macho (there is that also!) but to correct form and make sure the exercise is safe.

Can exercise help us overcome viral sickness, or is it more important to rest?

Viral sickness is a broad term again, are we talking about influenza or HIP? From my understanding from research I have seen there benefits in some cases but I will not recommend anyone with an active infection to train.

Your body needs its energy to fight the pathogen, I would always get clearance of a medical practitioner before training with a viral infection.

For those who work at desk jobs, what habits should we acquire to ensure healthy posture?

In recent times there has been a lot of research coming through just how detrimental sitting is for our health. It is a evil of modern life, the obvious solution is to move around as much as possible, I advise my clients not to sit for more than 30/45 min.

If you are lucky enough to have your own office there are ‘functional’ seated things we can do to get the body moving. Standing at your desk is the way to go forward, I have been lucky enough with a couple of clients whose employers were open to the idea to implement it.

It makes a huge different in pain sensation and there is more and more evidence it can be used in the treatment of obesity.

How important is your choice of footwear when exercising? Do we need to splash out on new tennis, running and gym shoes or can one shoe fit all?

It depends on your goal, if you wear your golf shoes to a bowling alley some eyebrows might be lifted! In my personal opinion modern footwear restricts the foot’s normal biomechanics (have a look at your work shoe there is very little room for the mid foot to move in) which could give you knee or hip problems.

As regards to training shoes I prefer minimalist and for for some people the five finger shoes. Caution should be taken however when changing from normal trainers to something with less support and cushioning.

Go gradual otherwise you might end up with an injury. We have been walking barefoot for millions of years, our feet have evolved to do a certain task, wear a shoe that restricts that movement and your body start to take strain.

If you had any number one rule to follow for optimum health, what would it be?

The number one rule, Consistency – in looking after your mind, cognitive functions and body. Explore the world around you, try out new things, learn new concepts.

I run 30 day challenges on Instagram @Londoniopt to help people explore themselves and the world around themselves. Optimum health for me is not just about being physically healthy but growing as a person and inspiring others to grow also.

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