Sportyhannah74's Blog

The Thomas Green Blog : The Importance of Physio

Posted on: June 29, 2011

Welcome to my seventh blog and the final instalment of the 2010 – 11 academic year. It’s been a busy few months with exams, coursework deadlines, training and a busy programme of competitions to try and coordinate. I’m off to Dublin tomorrow for the Irish National Championships, but since my last blog I have been working a lot on my throwing technique under the watchful eye of my coach and the lead physio from UK Athletics….

I often like to judge the effectiveness of my physiotherapy programme by how many of my muscles are aching immediately after a session.  Excruciating agony is still generally viewed as a negative, but a nice, dull ache gives a good indication that muscles are being made to do things they don’t really want to do – which, after all, is the whole point of the exercise.  And as I sit at my desk, surrounded by an eclectic array of gym equipment, I can feel a gentle and reassuring throbbing in my thighs, hips and shoulder blades – I know things are going well.

I am aware that the above may seem slightly strange to the average reader – the association of masochism with physiotherapy is a rare and somewhat unpopular one – but the image of physio as a pleasant, relaxing stretching session once  a week needs to  be dispelled quickly when discussing elite sport.  It’s about getting the absolute maximum out of every part of your body, and the body is seldom willing to submit without a reasonable amount of protest.  I think my friends  are slightly alarmed when I say I’m off to do a physio session and return an hour later, drenched in sweat and appearing on the verge of cardiac arrest, but they’re getting used to it.

The process of getting the most out of someone’s body is an even more demanding one when talking about disabled athletics.  There is an important yet seldom-recognised difference between muscles that do not work and muscles that a person has not learned to use, and huge improvements can be made when the latter are identified, having been masquerading as the former.  It is the type of physio that is a long term project and far from a quick fix, but the future benefits cannot be overstated, and I was delighted to begin my personal programme on returning from Dubai in May.

In my first session with UK Athletics’ lead Paralympic physio, Sarah Kursawe, I was asked to perform a number of exercises so that we could assess which areas to target.  The first few exercises were fairly standard ones, such as walking and strength tests, and as usual people were impressed by how well I performed them.  However, I was then asked to do more muscle-specific exercises, the first of which was to tilt my hips forward.  I paused and looked at Sarah with the same confused look that my parents’ cocker spaniel wore when I tried to teach her modular arithmetic, before lunging aimlessly forward like a violent drunk in a mosh pit.  I believe that got noted down as “something to work on”.  Other areas were identified, such as the fact that I couldn’t move my shoulder up without my arm flapping up next to it in an apparent show of effeminate dissent, and I was set a daily routine of exercises to work on.

About six weeks on, I feel that I have made tremendous improvements.  My coach and I meet up with Sarah every week to assess how I’ve got on with the exercises, and then I’m given a new set for the next week.  I’m never allowed to rest on my laurels, which I appreciate – as soon as I master one exercise, it is changed  to stretch me further and move closer towards the ultimate goal.  The three of us have worked together so that we all have a clear vision of where we want my throwing action to get to, and the exercises are specifically tailored to that end.

It is difficult to maintain a high level of performance whilst carrying out such a demanding training programme, but I am reasonably happy with my start to the season.  A couple of 27 metre performances followed by a rather haywire 25 metres left me a bit disappointed, but I would have killed for a start like that twelve months ago.  I find that a good sign of progress is when you start getting disappointed by what you would previously have seen as good performances, so I seem to be going in the right direction.
Even if my performances had been suffering, I am sure that I would have persevered with the physio.  I know that I need to end up throwing 35 metres plus if I want to challenge for Paralympic medals, and the physiotherapy is pivotal to me achieving this, so I won’t compromise that just to ensure that I throw 30 metres this year.

 

There’s still a long way to go.  My shoulders and shoulder blades are a lot stronger now, and my pelvis tilts have improved to such an extent that it now seems mildly antisocial to practise them in public areas, but I am not yet ready to incorporate these things into my throwing.  It’s easy to get greedy and try and use the new movement before it’s properly developed, but this can be detrimental in the long-run, so I’m staying patient for now.  Considering how far I’m throwing without the use of many of the muscles that should be fundamental to a backwards action, it should be worth the wait.

I’ll catch up with you again in September, when we’ll be launching my very own blog site!

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