I just left Angela an extremely long comment (sorry Angela!) and realized I have a LOT to say about leg raises.
As you all know from my bitching and moaning on here, I’m still recovering from a mystery back issue. It got so bad that I ACTUALLY TRIED YOGA. I still don’t know exactly what went wrong because my insurance at the time was really shitty, and when I called them to find a doctor who would accept my extremely obscure plan. They told me I had to go to the emergency room.
So I self diagnosed. (And called in sick a lot when I couldn’t stand).
I know it’s bad, but, I did my own research, and my symptoms were most in line with a herniated disk. The pain here is unique in that it’s much, much worse to be sitting that to be doing just about anything else (except maybe like, weighted dead lifts).
Gentle movement, walking, and standing all felt okay, but trying to sit at my desk for a normal work day was complete torture. On my 1.5 hour commute home I’d have to stand or risk not being able to get up from my seat when my stop came on the subway because my legs had gone numb.
This has something to do with the position your lower discs are in when you sit–they’re much more compressed than when standing. And let me tell you… I could feel it. It was like on Seinfeld when George was sitting on his huge wallet–it just felt precarious and unbalanced and generally fucked up everywhere, no matter how I shifted around in my chair. And I think, as a protective response, the muscles all around my spine tightened and spasmed and did all other kinds of general fuckery to make my life even more particularly miserable.
Now, I have taken a good, hard look at my life. I was in constant pain for about 6 months. My back was always seized up, I had (mistakenly!) thought I lost all my hard won flexibility because I couldn’t so much as touch my toes anymore. Inverts in pole were completely out of the question (just trying to crunch my legs up was an immediately spasm in my back), and even gentle workout classes became embarrassing and impossible as soon as something as runk twists, toe touches, or planks were involved.
I thought it would last forever, and I thought dancing was done for me.
And I wanted to know why.
Funny enough, it wasn’t until I made an almost complete recovery (gentle stretching and cardio + listening to your body FTW!) before I made the connection between a certain movement and my pain.
Fucking leg raises.
It came it be in a flash: a month or so before my pain had first started (at first in waves of back cramps that would come and go, and then in a tsunami of pain that quite literally took me off my feet), I’d started a new class at my gym.
It was called “Ab Lab.”
Great cross training for pole, right? It’s at 12pm in the gym attached to my office, and it’s only a half hour long. A quick ass kicking AND time to eat a sandwich? Sign me up.
The workout–while intense–is very old fashioned. It’s also very fast paced. And the instructor–a totally lovely guy–takes no prisoners. He will call you out. That’s my kryptonite because I have an ego when it comes to working out. So I ignored how certain things felt in order to simply complete them. Like how series after series of extended leg raises, criss-crosses, scissors, and roll ups were making my back ache and burn, not my abs.
Now, I’m not dumb. I have been working out and dancing for a long time. I know that to protect my back in ab exercises, I have to pull my abs in and keep my lower back glued to the floor.
Unfortunately, that’s impossible when you’re working on a double time count and flinging a medicine ball around. In fact, it didn’t even work for me at half speed. (A pilates teacher last night walked up to me and grabbed my back and was like, “wow, look at that lumbar curve.” Apparently that can cause back pain during the ab stuff because anatomy?? So I was like HOLY FUCKING SHIT, MAYBE IT’S MY BODY AND NOT MY TECHNIQUE. Because it can’t possibly be for lack of trying. I really, really try to keep my back on the floor.)
Anyway, I don’t take the ab class anymore. And I don’t give a flying fuck what kind of side eye I get during other fitness classes I take when I sit out on the leg raises.
I do not do leg raises anymore.
I just fucking do not.
Some things I can do (like lower leg scissors) if I keep my hands under my back, which helps me get into the C position where my abs do the work. But other times, if we’re doing those full body V things, I just don’t. And I apologize to the teacher or point to my back and shrug, but I DO NOT DO THEM and I don’t not let myself be bullied into doing them.
Just to reiterate:
Do you have a an exercise that’s your mortal enemy?
Are leg raises amazing and I’m some kind of mutant that can’t do them?