Monday, 1 December 2014

A Journey Through Elite Sport

I recently attended an inspiring conference celebrating 25 years of the Institute of Sport and Remedial Massage. One of the speakers was Neil Black, Performance Director for UK Athletics. I was extremely impressed by the points he made during his talk entitled 'A journey through Elite Sport: Athlete, Physical Therapist, and now Performance Director for UK Athletics'. I have been telling my clients about it and most have been very interested so I thought I would put up a brief summary of his main points on my blog.

He was emphatic that high quality training and the right mental approach is fundamental to success, far more important than the physique you inherit. He is also in favour of children doing a wide range of sports and avoiding specialising too early as he thinks this can inhibit their success. He also made the point that it is never too late to achieve goals in sport; it just gets harder!

Internal drives:
These are in his opinion vital for success.
  • an inner voice
  • personal high standards
  • internal motivation
  • self respect
Domino effect:
'Stacking your dominoes' to ensure that you achieve your goal: the power of cumulative effect.
  • decisiveness, focus, and not wasting energy on the unimportant.
  • multi-tasking limits achievement so be very selective when using it!
  • Discipline: build up powerful habits one at a time, giving each habit enough time to become established into your routine. This will release energy for the next goal.
  • Don't spread your willpower too thin.
  • Monitor your fuel gauge.
  • Time your task.
  • respect but explore conventions; don't be inhibited by them.
  • soak up the 10% of knowledge everyone can offer you.
  • be clear: clarify your position and abide by it - for instance, whether you are leading or following in a situation.
  • Prioritise and delegate: teamwork requires integration and communication as well as respect.
  • Consistency, commitment, improvement and training.
  • In order to facilitate change, gather the specific information required; develop your own tools to do this if needed to make more accurate.
  • Have a plan!

Hope you find this summary of interest. Neil is an excellent speaker and accompanied the above with entertaining and relevant examples which I won't try to repeat.

Monday, 3 November 2014

ISRM conference

This Friday (7/11/14) I will be heading down to London to attend a conference. This means I will not be available for appointments, but I will be back at work by the Monday afternoon.

I'm very much looking forward to the conference; Mel Cash and co have organised some fantastic speakers and I will be attending these workshops:

  • anatomy trains and movement assessment
  • active fascial release
  • clinical application of movement control.
I'm sure that I will return energised and inspired, having acquired new knowledge, understanding and skills!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Nine Edges

I hope everyone running or walking the Nine Edges today has a fantastic event! I decided to pull out on Thursday due to a minor injury, but I'll be supporting my brother as he runs the edges for the first time.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Useful advice for runners (and others) nursing injuries....

I rarely follow my own advice; this means that I often have first hand experience of what my injured clients are going through.... I've had achilles tendinopathy through changing my training too rapidly and then ignoring the warning signs (pain that continues after rest and on activities other than running); sciatica through failing to keep up my hip abductor and calf strength, and I'm currently nursing forefoot pain caused by failing to notice that my footwear had worn out. A lovely mix of extrinsic and intrinsic factors! Extrinsic factors - for instance when and where you run, your footwear, your training schedule - are often easier to fix than intrinsic ones that relate to your body itself; this is where seeing a health professional, remedial personal trainer or running coach can be of great help in identifying issues and offering advice and exercises. 

When I was 10 my mother took me to a podiatrist to discuss my pronounced ankle pronation that was breaking my shoes within a few months of wear. He recommended expensive shoe alterations to support my ankle; I asked if I could do that myself using the muscles and he agreed that I probably could. I figured out some exercises for myself and 32 years later I now wear out the soles of my shoes long before the heel keels over. Of course I had to take care in the initial years whilst building up my ankle strength, giving it suitable support during activities that put a lot of strain through it, and I was helped by starting young and having strong intrinsic foot muscles from wandering around barefoot. I do still have that over pronation, just in a milder form; I should therefore still be stretching the resulting tight muscles and continuing with my strength and balance training regime. Yes, indeed I should.....

As I've mentioned before, I find The Running Physio's site full of useful advice. He links to other helpful sites, and includes articles by other specialists. Here are two useful articles from his archive:

How to decide whether you should run:

Helpful tips to avoid injury:

Many of these tips will apply to sports other than running!
Tom also points out that these are generic tips; if your problem continues, then do seek specific advice for you. 

I also found this site:
which has some useful information on running related injuries.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

July discount

It's summertime, and to celebrate I'm offering a 15% discount on one hour treatments during July this year; that brings the price down to £30. To book an appointment, contact the 919 Clinic on 0114 250 1164

Please note that the discount only applies to appointments attended during July, and does not apply to the 30 and 45 minute appointments.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Dandelion Days....

This is a great time of year for making herbal remedies. I am collecting and drying the calendula flowers from my garden to use in my popular ointment, and the elderflowers from the local woods (following the wild gathering rules of only taking a small amount from different areas) to make a tincture and cordial with. There are many other useful plants coming up for harvest, and where better to learn about them then on a weekend break with experienced herbalists!

Many of the Sheffield herbalists will be participating in Dandelion Days:
8th-10th August at Unstone Grange. 

There will be workshops, talks and walks to help you identify useful plants and learn about their uses, and much more besides - including a workshop on barefoot running style followed by a short run! Tickets are on sale now. The event is child friendly, with many fun activities for them to participate in.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Clinic dates

I will be away from the 919 Clinic from 26th-30th May. I will be back at work again in June as normal.

Please note that I am no longer working at the Greenhill Physio Clinic.

Monday, 28 April 2014

My website

....has still not been updated.... 

I am not the most IT minded of people and I am being very slow in passing on the website content to the person who is going to update it. I will make a supreme effort to remedy this before the end of 2014.

The changes will prioritise my role as a Clinical Sport and Remedial Soft Tissue Therapist. I am a qualified Medical Herbalist but now see this as an adjunct to my massage work - whereas a decade ago it was the other way round. This change reflects the professional training I have been doing and also the path my work has taken me along. I was a massage therapist before I became a medical herbalist, but I was always interested in herbs. Now I have gone back to calling myself a Massage Therapist but this time I have the herbal knowledge too, as well as the far deeper understanding of anatomy and physiology that a BSc honours degree provides. It has been a wonderful journey so far, and there is still so much more to learn!

A beautiful day in late spring....

My favourite time of year - well, one of them :-)

The bluebells are out early this year in the local woods, along with the wood sorrel, lesser celandine, wood anemones and wood spurge, whilst the ramsons, garlic mustard, wood forget-me-nots and fool's parsley are gracing the sides of the footpath. The aroma is marvellous! Seen from a distance, the woodland is becoming a patchwork of new green leaves and blossom; I love the stained glass brightness of the early beech leaves following on from the golden waterfall of hazel catkins against the backdrop of dark green holly and the greys and browns of the tree bark. The temperature is perfect for running and the mud dries up quickly once it's stopped raining; even the rock has been drying out nicely for the local gritstone climbers!

For the foragers amongst you, this is now well into the green tonic season when traditionally people would have been seeking to boost their vitamin C levels after the scarcity of winter months. Young nettles used in tea, soups and stews (the sting is destroyed by heat); cleavers steeped overnight in drinking water then strained and the liquid consumed cold; young hawthorn and linden blossom leaves; garlic mustard, dandelion leaves, rocket, chickweed, fat hen, wild garlic (ramson) leaves and flowers and calendula (pot marigold) flowers in salads or broths. Always take a high quality plant identification book with you, and don't consume a plant if you are in any doubt about what you have picked.... Especially if it is an umberliferae, amongst whose numbers hemlock is to be found! I have been bringing back wild garlic leaves which are delicious in stir fries or wrapped around salmon or chicken pieces before baking them. I like them raw in salads too, although the garlic taste is a little overwhelming for some.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Running goals!

My running goal at present is to extend my distance without objections from my achilles tendons. These have been grumbling over the last year, and after much thought I believe there are at least three factors involved:
- changing to running over steeper terrain but keeping the same distance
-  only climbing once or twice in the last two years.
-  too much knitting!

The first most likely stressed my Achilles tendons; the second and third have probably led to a gradual loss of strength in my calves (not enough standing on my toes!) and hip muscles, and a decrease in my flexibility.

I have therefore introduced heel raises and eccentic stretches into the daily dog walks, often balancing on tree routes to increase the challenge. I also do one leg balances and squats whilst cleaning my teeth and waiting for the kettle to boil, and try to remember to do side lying leg raises whilst listening to the radio.  I have yet to combine any of these with knitting, but am being more disciplined with regard to my daily stretches and have decided to resume climbing. I am also allowing two rest days between runs to ensure there is no delayed onset tendon aching; if there is, I rest another day. I am being extremely cautious as tendons are notoriously slow to heal and I want to avoid permanent degenerative damage as much as is possible.

I do hope all these strategies work, as I have entered the 2014 Nine Edges Race, Saturday September 13th. Whilst I have opted for the walkers category I, like many other 'walkers', am hoping to run a fair amount of it (the race is over 20 miles long, and the fastest walker last year finished in around 4 hours!) It's a wonderful course taking in the best views along the gritstone edges from Derwent to Birchen via Stanage, Burbage, Froggatt, Curbar and Baslow and raises money for the Edale Mountain Rescue.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Remedial Soft Tissue Therapist: my new job title?

Mel Cash, who runs the LSSM where I trained in sport and remedial massage therapy, wants us to change our job description to Remedial Soft Tissue Therapists. On this guest blog (on a colleague's website) he explains why:

There is certainly a huge range of massage treatments out there and this can be very confusing to people seeking a therapist. My level 5 qualification means that my skills extend beyond basic massage, and much of the continuing professional development that my colleagues and I do involves developing this further still; for instance, the osteopathic technique (also used by physiotherapists) that my last course introduced me to.

Many massage therapists have other qualifications that inform how they practice and what they can offer you. They may also be sports scientists, nutritionists, personal trainers or yoga or pilates teachers. It is increasingly common for osteopaths and physiotherapists to do a remedial massage course. My university degree in herbal medicine and health sciences gave me a deeper understanding of physiology and pathology than my initial massage training and enables me to offer herbs and advice where appropriate as part of the treatment.

It is important to check the qualifications and background of any therapist that you are thinking of seeing, including whether they are insured and what professional association they belong to. Of course, word of mouth is always the most powerful recommendation and nowadays a search of various forums is often a first step in finding a therapist. As I say to my clients, we all work in different ways so if you don't get on with the first person you see it is worth trying someone else.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

My session with a running coach....

I am used to my body just working; that is, until I hit my mid 30s and beyond. Since then, all my past carelessness has come home to roost and has led to me taking extended breaks from my running. I know from my work that improving posture and functional movement can have a dramatic impact on performance, whether you are looking to beat your PB or just be able to get out of bed in the morning and walk down the stairs without pain. Many of my clients have benefitted from sessions with remedial personal trainers so I was very interested to meet Chris Adam, a running coach.

Chris invited me to his dedicated indoor space for a training session. As well as a treadmill and other training equipment there is a large whiteboard; Chris likes to keep up to date with the theory behind biomechanics and efficient movement, and to educate his clients. He asks them to fill in a detailed questionnaire before the session so that he can get a feel for their history, where they are now and what their aims are.

The session began with me running on the treadmill. I never use gyms so this was a new experience for me! Once I had got used to the sensation and felt I was running with something like my normal style, Chris began to film me from the front, side and behind. I was then let off the treadmill so that we could view the video together; he identified strengths and weaknesses and issues to work on that session.

Then the hard work began. We started with how my feet were functioning - toega, or toe yoga, is hard work! -  and worked upwards to improve my proprioception and muscle activation with Chris continuously assessing my progress. By the end of the session I had squatted, hopped, skipped and bounced my legs into exhaustion! I was put back on the treadmill to run again, which felt surprisingly easy considering that a few moments earlier I had declared myself finished. The new video revealed that my posture and footstrike had both improved.

I now have greater awareness of how I am moving, and not just when running. As Chis says on his website, it's not just runners who benefit from coaching.

Finally on facebook!

You can now find me on facebook:

I am using the page to keep people up to date with my availability for appointments as well as courses and any other information that I think may be of interest to you.

The joy of learning new skills!

I'm back in Sheffield, exhausted but inspired by the weekend advanced course on Muscle Energy Technique for the pelvis and lumbar spine that I attended at the London School of Sports Massage. In summary, the aim was to stretch relevant muscles and fascia, mobilise a restricted joint and alter the tone of the muscles surrounding the joint. All this requires great accuracy in order to be effective, so our anatomy and palpation skills were put to the test! Our tutor, Alex Fugalo, was excellent and very patient with us. From the practice we did on each other I could both see and feel for myself how effective this technique is, and I am looking forward to introducing it into my practice.

The blurb for the course was as follows:
'Muscle energy technique encompasses a very wide range of treatment approaches. Based upon a biomechanical model used in osteopathic practice, this course will teach the assessment of pelvic dysfunction and treatment of the lumbo-pelvic region using MET. Accurate assessment and localisation of forces is key to a successful outcome and means that minimal effort is required. The aim is to use light force isometric contractions as the principal method to restore normal articular mobility to the individual joints. The overall result is improved function and in some cases reduced pain.'

Friday, 31 January 2014


In an attempt to keep up with this social media trend I am setting up a facebook profile for my massage practice. I will post a link once I've navigated all the rather confusing settings! I will use it to share useful and interesting links; details of courses I am running or attending; changes in my clinic hours and availability and other such information.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

My 2014 professional training: pelvis and lumbar

After much deliberation I have booked myself onto a weekend advanced skills course in February to develop greater expertise in treating the lumbar and pelvis. The course is organised by the Institute of Sport and Remedial Massage in London and focuses on the assessment and treatment of pelvic-lumbar dysfunction. I hope to gain from it improved accuracy in assessing, treating and restoring function to this important area that can have such influence over the rest of the body.

This does mean that I will not be available at the 919 Clinic on Friday 7th or Monday 10th February.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Collaborations with a running coach

People often ask me at the end of a treatment what they can do to prevent the problem reoccurring; my answer is often that they need to address not only their posture but how they are moving and functioning. I sometimes refer people on to remedial personal trainers and recommend individual or small group classes such as Pilates, Alexander technique or Feldenkrais. Learning to move efficiently can be life changing!

This morning I met with running coach Chris Adams
Like me, Chris is passionate about his work and sees it as his vocation. After a long and interesting chat about the kind of things remedial massage therapists and coaches like to chat about such as efficient movement and posture, functional training and the problems caused by the limited range of movement many people are experiencing on a day to day basis, we decided it would be great to collaborate together. I'll be working on ideas for a series of talks, the details of which I will post once arranged.


Thursday, 9 January 2014

Interesting article on barefoot running.

A colleague drew this article to my attention:

It is an interesting overview of the existing data including when barefoot style may be of benefit to a runner, and ends with some advice on making the transition to minimalist shoes including technique, timing, the importance of strengthening and stretching muscles and warning signs to look out for. The writers emphasise that some runners may need longer to make the transition.

 I was interested in its findings on the impact (quite literally!) of running style being as crucial as choice of footwear. Changing footwear to minimalist shoes whilst maintaining a rear foot strike is unlikely to reduce the incidence of injury.... The writers also advise caution with regard to changing running style if there are no existing signs of stress or injury; this is a view that other physiotherapists have expressed.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Welcoming in 2014!

Hopefully everybody reading this will have enjoyed the Christmas break. I am enjoying the increasingly lighter evenings! My goal for this year is to run the Nine Edges in September (I usually walk it) so I need to start a proper running regime again. The event raises funds for Edale Mountain Rescue and is a lovely route, taking in the edges from Derwent to Birchen including Stanage, Burbage, Froggat, Curbar and Baslow. Entries open on the 14th April.

I returned to work last week and am currently available every week day at the 919 Clinic excepting Wednesday.