As a child I played lots of different sports. Netball and rounders, (discovering very quickly that ball sports were not my forte) gymnastics and when I got too tall for that, high jump. When I was fifteen I got into rowing, how I had avoided it up to that point I will never know, as it is practically religion in our family. I took to it quickly and was soon training a few times a week at my local club.
As is the case for many sports, training for rowing included not only time in a boat, but also time in the gym. We did running, circuit training and weights. I was required to do power cleans and squats with a heavy barbell and was praised for lifting as much as possible. And when I complained of having a sore back, it was suggested that I wear a weights belt and carry on. Nobody ever talked about core strength or good posture – this was the 1980’s after all!
As I continued in my rowing career, ‘core’ became a real buzz word. However, so often key core strength exercises were tagged onto the end of a weights session as ‘extra’ exercises and even though it was drummed into us how important it was for our technique to develop really good core strength, the training culture at the time didn’t seem to find room for it.
During my twenties, my back continued to niggle every now and again. I saw physiotherapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, all with a different theory and a different set of re-hab exercises. I was poorly disciplined in continuing with these exercises and just eager to get back in a boat and get on with the real stuff – the rowing.
During my thirties, I took up full time coaching and cycled endless miles along bumpy tow paths, sat with very poor posture in cold coaching launches and STILL did not practise what I preached and did no core strength work.
And then one day, my back went pop. It hurt a lot, I had torn a disc, and between then and now I have torn the same disc three more times. I cannot row or sit on an ergo any more, it hurts to cycle and run, swimming hurts my neck. Even simple daily tasks like loading the dishwasher, washing the dog, carrying the vacuum cleaner are painful.
‘Get some treatment’, I hear you say. Over the past 3 years I have been treated by one of the best Harley Street has to offer, I have had scans, X-rays, injections, epidurals and endless physio hours. But I’m still in some pain every day.
If you give this to your teenager to read, they will probably disregard it in their infinite ability to think anyone over 25 is old (and bound to be decrepit) and that they, at the ripe old age of 18, are invincible, therefore it doesn’t apply to them. Funny, that’s exactly what I thought at their age.
But perhaps this might jolt a reaction:-
My Weak Core/ Bad Back shopping list for the last 3 years
Physiotherapy £ 5239.00
Orthopaedic consultant £ 9180.00
Travel and parking £ 1184.00
Orthopaedic mattress £ 1068.00
GRAND TOTAL £16,671.00
Luckily, we have health insurance through my partner’s company. However, that doesn’t run to transport, parking and mattresses.
So here is my message to young athletes the world over…
- Mending an injury (if it can be mended) is a long and very expensive process.
- Even if you can afford to be paying out endless physio bills, it may never be as good as new.
- Core strength and good posture need to be worked on 24 hours a day.
- You are NOT invincible.
- CORE STRENGTH WORK is just as important as all your other training, whatever your sport.
And once again I ask you, if somebody told you there was something you could do to prolong your sporting career and keep you injury free for life, wouldn’t you jump at it?
Well there is, core strength training.