What do you spend your time doing?
I am a strength and conditioning specialist which means that I bridge the gap between a patient seeing a physiotherapist, to returning to full sporting function. For example, a runner who has injured their hamstring may have had time out, and their physio may have given them the green light to progress – but I’m the person that they see to gain confidence progressively, and safely restore their fitness. My claim is that I will get you fitter than before you injured yourself!
Who is your average patient?
There are two types. The first is the promising school-aged athlete, perhaps a rower or a rugby player, who is starting to get injured because they’re not yet physically developed. So we build up their strength and their control, to create a good foundation that will protect them into later life. The second is the mid- to late-thirties/forties/fifties adult who has been playing sport all their life and has, until now, got away without any conditioning work – but is now experiencing a few niggles. Again, we want to get these patients stronger, to add longevity to their fitness regime.
What’s the most common problem you come up against in your work?
Often it’s post-op knees – perhaps an ACL rehabilitation or a meniscus repair. Often patients are referred to me after they’ve had surgery with Mr Bell or Mr Fairbank.
How does it work?
When I’m first referred a client, they fill out a form with their injury and training history, time and availability. The latter is crucial: fitting these sessions into your life can be a challenge, and understanding a client’s lifestyle is key to ensuring they adhere to a programme, and achieve success. Then we develop a training programme based on their clinical details and where they are in their rehabilitation. I can see them at their home, or mine, or at the gym of Physiocentric in Wimbledon Village. After that, it’s very much up to the client. They can see me weekly, fortnightly, or at the end of a six-week period – some people need weekly interaction to help them achieve their goals, others need less.
Do you run?
Occasionally I’ll run through Wimbledon common, by the windmill, or perhaps through Richmond Park. Though I would rather run around on the basketball court! Years ago, I used to play to a high level – I had a basketball scholarship to George State University in Atlanta, Georgia – but these days I play for the Kingston Wildcats.
What do you find most challenging about running?
Having the motivation to get up and out when it’s dark and wet and cold! Lunchtime running is always an option but it takes commitment. So I often prescribe HIIT sessions that only take 20 minutes, but that get a great physiological response. Make it short and sweet and schedule it into your diary. Otherwise cross-train: go biking instead, or get into the pool.
What else do you do in your spare time?
I’ve just finished writing my second book, The Science of Stretching, which covers everything from static to dynamic stretching, as well as Pilates, yoga and recovery. It’s out in the new year. My first book, Elite Performance Running: Middle Distance to Marathon, was published in 2008 and covers everything that you need to know about preparing for a race, from nutrition to training to warm-ups.
How did you become involved with the Return to Run programme?
I used to work in professional football and currently work for the RFU (Rugby Football Union) looking after elite athletes. I started my own business, Perform Fitness, in 2008 – the team at Wimbledon Clinics knew I was in the area, and they’ve referred to me for years. So working on the Return to Run programme naturally followed.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
I love working with people. The biggest thing is when a patient hobbles in at the start of their programme, and then runs out at the end. Often I get sent people that are really challenging – patients who have had issues for years, and who think that they won’t ever play sport again. I really cherish working with these people – it’s a real challenge to get them on their feet again, but there’s nothing better than seeing them succeed.