Saturday, 5 April 2014

Putting My Back Into It

It hurts to sit on the toilet and I get the shakes when my foot’s on the clutch: This week has been an absolute killer and it comes to something when my favourite time of the day is sitting in an ice bath! I’ve pretty much been non-stop all week and the DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) I’ve got is absolutely reaffirming this for me.

My Calendar - 5th Week Post Surgery

Being busy, in general has felt great, even the DOMS to a certain extent. Usually I hate getting DOMS but at the moment it’s a sign that my muscles are working very hard and ultimately will be getting strong. The assignment I had to finish early on in the week for my psychology degree, basically took away my chance to just go home and flop on the sofa after a hard day’s training. It’s also delayed this blog to a certain extent but now is definitely a time to prioritise my rehab, which includes rest and recovery.

Annoyingly a common misconception from others of being injured is that you can’t do much and therefore have loads of time. That could not be further from the truth as my schedule shows: I guess in some ways it would depend on what kind of person you are and how you approach the training but for me I’ve always found it much more time consuming. I also think it’s because I’m not in control of my daily timings, relying on when I can get a physio appointment, trying to fit my sessions in around watching the team hockey sessions whilst sometimes completing three or four sessions a day.

On a positive note my training is quite varied now. There’s nothing worse than to be stuck on the bike for weeks on end. I’ve been continuing with my reformer and physio exercises, whilst my strength and conditioning coach Ben, has gradually been building in movement stability, ankle stiffness, trunk, glutes and hamstring endurance, footwork skills and finally, the daily dose of blood flow restriction strength training!

Blood flow restriction training does exactly what it says on the tin. It involves me pumping up a blood pressure cuff around the top of my leg to limit the blood that can get through, and then performing a Bulgarian squat and a single leg bridge. That in itself wouldn’t be too bad; it’s the fact I have to do maximum repetitions, have only thirty seconds rest and repeat four times. The burn is just excruciating. It takes every ounce I’ve got to keep going, pushing out one. More. Rep. The release of pressure and return of blood is a relief, however twenty-four hours later it’s time to repeat it: this time with DOMS.

I’ve been very lonely in my sessions this week. The majority of my sessions have been by myself and this is by far the hardest part. The team are often on the pitch and obviously Ben (who has been amazing) can’t be in two places at once. Not many really have a clue what I’m up to day to day, and it’s down to me to do the work and I’ve often relied on my trusty visualisation skills to get me through. I’ve always done it.

Ever since the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games where I sat in the stands as an ambitious eighteen year old watching the medal ceremony, absolutely gutted with finishing eighth, completely naive because I thought we could win it, and wishing I was one of the Australian’s receiving their gold medals. Chris Pickett, who was our manager at the time, turned to me and said “that’ll be you one day”. I looked at him, then back at the women standing on top of that podium and I thought yes, that’s what I want to do, I want to be Olympic Champion. I had always wanted to win a gold medal but I didn’t realise how much. I was prepared to do whatever it took. I took a photo and that became my vision. It still is.

2000 Olympic Games Medal Ceremony
Argentina Silver, Australia Gold, Holland Bronze

In the lead up to London 2012 in particular it gave me a great source of motivation. During the hard sessions, or when difficult decisions needed to be made, I would see myself, along with the team, standing, arms aloft on top on the podium in front of the home crowd. We all know how this ended, but it definitely helped. So now I picture myself at the back of the line-up, walking out for the first match against USA in eight weeks time.

I have to believe it. Otherwise I might as well give up now.


  1. Helen, this is so honest and open. There is no doubt you are a person who works as hard as they possibly can as much as they possibly can. I really truly hope you get to walk out against the USA too, just won't be the same with out you.

  2. The way you approach the re-hab shows what sets you apart as an athelete - motivation/determination/vision, that's what gets you through. Succeeding in competition is a great painkiller but it's the ability to keep going through re-hab which really sorts out those with the purest drive. Training is tough but re-hab is much harder. Stronger every day...
    I'm on the page of improving through increments, my goals are more movement and strength/less pain each day and it feels to be slowly coming right. My sport now is rowing and I have set a target date to be back in the boat by - and it's Tuesday! A light trip out will do wonders for the psychology.