Thoughts from a technologically-challenged physiotherapist running a virtual exercise group during lockdown.
We want our torture'
With the advent of lockdown, many clubs and groups have had to stop meeting face to face. JLinks Physiotherapists usually provide the physiotherapy input to a community Stroke club and we found we were missing the people as much as they were missing us. After a quick chat to a couple of the service users, I decided it would be a good idea to start a virtual exercise group for people to bring us all together and allow my regular torture of them to continue. That's what they generally call my highly skilled intervention.
Can you hear me?'
Downloading Zoom was easy and it's actually quite simple to use if you follow the instructions. Unless that is, no-one can hear you which is pretty essential when you are the group leader. 'Unmute' I hear you cry- but no amount of toggling between mute and unmute, pressing the keys harder and harder actually helps when it turns out you have turned the volume down on your computer the night before because it was 'dinging' and annoying you. Took one of the group users to call me on the phone and suggest this might be the problem. Had to style it out and pretend it was my WIFI.
I once had to try and assemble a group of geriatricians into a room for a meeting and the phrase 'herding cats' came to mind (you know who you are ...). Our first zoom class was pretty similar. I had people joining the class, no video and audio, joining and leaving, joining with no audio so I had to call them and shout down the phone at the same time. I tried to encourage them to join early, but sense of time has changed since we are in lockdown. 10:30 am means different things to different people. Apparently.
Room with a view
So from where I sit I can usually see various body parts. A collection of foreheads. A couple of stomachs. On one occasion I had to look at a cat's bottom for 15 minutes (the cat was standing, not sitting- you get the picture) as a man was using a tin of Whiskas as a weight for his arm exercises. One lady exercises in a lovely conservatory but it must be a bit humid as it looks like she's sitting in fog and I strain to watch and make sure her bottom makes it to the chair when we practice sit to stand.
One size fits all
Physiotherapists pride themselves on tailoring programmes specifically for individuals. This is a bit challenging with a virtual class. The issue is, how do you make the class enjoyable and safe for all? The service users have a mixture of issues, some have one non-functioning arm, others can use both arms. Some have poor balance, others, not so bad. Some have other health problems, some are in pretty good nick. Along with giving them all a chance to do what they need to do, I have found the key thing is to work them just hard enough so they keep quiet. If they are not talking then at least their attention is focused on what they are doing and we all have a chance to get to the end in one piece.
Mute or not to mute?
See above. I was keen not to mute so I could monitor what was going on but found this just encouraged them to gang up and talk about me. Mute button ON!!
Damn it, they are getting better
I thought this was going to be an easy gig. Just turn up, hide the wine glass, do a few exercises and return to Netflix. The problem is they have all been keen and joining in twice a week. They are all getting stronger, faster and this is starting to be a teensy bit challenging. We are now using weights , or as they are known in community practice, tins and bottles of shampoo, increasing repetitions, increasing speed. They are now all doing 10 X sit to stand in under a minute. Not quite meeting NICE guidelines for activity but well on the way. Gonna have to raise my game.
Lets keep this going shall we?
As thoughts turn to some return to the world of work and a relaxation of some of the lockdown rules apparently people have enjoyed this and want to continue. They don't have to battle with transport to get them anywhere and can have the kettle on within moments of finishing. I explained sweetly that I will have a day job to do then and they replied, equally sweetly, well you can do it in the evening then.
I've created a monster.