Whilst running and cycling are my chosen methods of getting a sweat on at the weekend, I have always been pretty broad minded in my enthusiasm for all sports. As such, I was very excited recently when a member of Reading Football Club’s physiotherapy team got in touch to ask if I would come and help work with the first team as a soft tissue therapist. Sport has always been a passion for me, but I’ve never been under any misapprehensions that I could have had a career as a professional sportsman so it has been brilliant to be able to see how things work inside a professional environment. Whilst there are a lot of differences in the worlds of professional and amateur sportsmen and women, there do seem to be several lessons that we can take from the pros.
1. The body as a tool.
Many amateur sportsman are prepared to spend significant amounts of money on their equipment, but will often ignore their most fundamental sporting tool both in terms of time and money. The latest time trial bike will not go any faster without a healthy body to drive it and it is noticeable that the professionals will invest significant time and effort into carrying out routines like pre-habilitation drills and core strength exercises. In fairness, these do take time, which Reading’s footballers perhaps have more of, but we can all still follow their lead. Inevitably I’m biased and would also encourage people to emulate their use of supplementary treatments and spend money on regular massage and other therapy to ensure your body is in the best condition it can be – the body needs servicing as well as the bike!
2. 24 hour athlete.
The one hour of therapy you might receive each week or month is great for ironing out niggles, treating injuries and keeping your body balanced and healthy. However, there are a further 167 hours in the week when you’re not in the therapy room and those are really important hours to make sure you focus and get the best out of yourself. This might mean addressing your dietary balance, stretching more, making sure you have good posture at your desk or any number of small changes to daily life that will help your body work as well as possible. It’s what you do all day everyday that contributes to how much you get out of your body, not just the moments when you are focusing on your chosen sport or in the therapy room.
3. Don’t just listen to advice, act on it!
This is particularly the area I need to address… Too often people receive good advice which they respect and believe in, but don’t then put it into practice. Sadly just because you’ve heard and understood an exercise description, or bought yourself a Swiss ball, it doesn’t mean that the job is done and you can sit back and congratulate yourself! The drills need to be done regularly and well, as your therapist or trainer has set out, or indeed as you know yourself. I’m always really impressed to glance into the rehab gym at Reading FC and see players visibly working hard and concentrating on each minor proprioception or muscle activation drill they’ve been given, making sure that they get the most out of their session and give themselves the best chance of performing well on Saturday afternoon.
I am definitely guilty of looking at the foam roller in the corner of my room rather than actually using it to work on myself, but I’ve made a promise to myself that that will change from now, and I hope you can too. For better or worse, we are not all going to be top level footballers with the pressure and rewards that that brings, but I know we can take valuable lessons from these professionals to bring into our own sporting and personal lives.