Matthew is a personal trainer who excels at putting broken people back together again.
You’ve probably heard of carb cycling, but the concept of “injury cycling” is one that you need to think about if you have a recurring injury, as sorting it might just change your life. Chances are you’re already a pro injury cyclist, and you don’t realise it. Injury cycling is my term for the frustrating cycle of constantly flipping between being injured and not injured. Train. Injure yourself. Rest. Repeat.
Do you recognise this drill? You research, plan, and devise a sensible programme to get “back” to *running 10k’s three times a week / squat your body weight / 15% body fat. *Insert your own sensible gym goal here.
You apply the 10% rule for increasing strength or distance and religiously and meticulously record and analyse every rep or step. You start to see improvement and you’re grinning like Hannibal (“I love it when a plan comes together”) when that old *knee/shoulder/groin injury flares up. *insert your own recurring injury here. I wryly call that flare up moment Point Break (PB).
So there’s the flare. But wait… it’s not fair, as you have done everything by the book, so you think to yourself, “it’s just a twinge”, ice it, and keep going, no pain no gain. The next day, you can barely move, and if you are lucky, by day 3, you can limp to the nearest *physio / pub / Greg’s as usually an *expert opinion / skinful / steak bake is the only way to definitively accept and deal with the injustice, that inevitability you deep down knew at Point Break; “You sir / m’am, are out of action for *2-3 weeks. Do not pass go. Do not collect that Hellrunner timing chip.” (*insert your own typical recovery and sulking time here).
And so the injury cycle takes another vengeful spin, and you’re back to square one, or worse, square minus one. Down time. You’re munching every fad miracle supplement you can Amazon one-click, whilst reading training magazines and religiously and meticulously cutting out the articles for the plans you’re going to start once that injury is healed, this time for good. For sure. In the mean time, whilst you are still walking like a transvestite, you decide you are perhaps entitled to guilt-free *chocolate / beer / pastry (*insert your poison) as it’s not your fault you can’t train, and you can undo the collateral damage, once you’re fit enough and physically able to climb back up on the training wagon.
Sound familiar? After a knee restructure I was on a 7 week injury cycle, 3 weeks training, 1 week of ice and physio, then 3 weeks prescribed pub-rest. Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So how did I reverse my Gym Groundhog Day?
I didn’t. After 6 years of stagnant progress, I caved and got an expert in to do it for me. He is the proverbial spanner in the spokes of any self-respecting injury cycle. Mine stopped dead in its tracks. Though not in a dangerous over the handlebars way. By the time Matt entered the fray, I had impact stress fractures in my hip and was on cortisone injections…and had rather scarily, found myself on the hip replacement waiting list. Which for a 35 year old who’s never got back to half marathon distance but is still doggedly buying “running” shoes, is pretty impressive form. All self inflicted by the way, after 6 years of ignoring orthopaedic surgeons’ advice that I shouldn’t be running. But you know my law degree and ownership of said knee makes me much more qualified than any knee doctor, right? Emm… yeah.
Luckily, Matt has the expertise and the patience to deal with the delusions of the typical injury cyclist, and firmly and politely bring them back to earth, with a safely cushioned low impact bang. Matt’s initial assessment reveals that the restructured knee is actually not the cause of my problems, despite my protestations and grumbling. Hell, it’s titanium, I’m bionic. It’s the only enhanced and reliable bit of me. The rest is clearly not anywhere near Terminator standard. And my dodgy disintegrating joints? Yeah, not my knee either. That’s referred pain and lazy posture, brought on from years of running on an injury and training in pain. So…. I caused this myself then? Tough to take in. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Matt believes I’m fully fixable. But we have a lot of bad habits to undo. And a lifetime of knee based angst and excuses. Sorry knee.
By week 3, I’m banned from mentioning running, as its clear I can’t balance on one leg. I’ve also discovered that my body has, in Borg-like fashion, adapted to years of appalling form in an effort to try to accommodate my fanatical training goals. Weak muscles have been carried by their respective opposites and the “minder” muscles are now protesting at the idea of having to sit this one out. We have an epic battle, where my cheating scheming muscles do their best to outwit me, and retain the status quo. But Matt’s seen all this before and has tried and tested methods for isolating lazy muscles and forcing them to step up. The wonky strong ones get worked too, but only to keep them out of mischief and remind them what they are actually supposed to be doing.
Matt’s attention to detail and expert understanding of how the ligaments joints and muscles all work together (or didn’t in my case) has me equalised for the first time in 10 years, and I graduate onto functional exercises. Matt plays competitive sport, so for him training in the gym is all about functionality. Injury is not an option as you’re letting your team down – train hard and build the right strength in the gym and you can effectively injury-proof yourself for life outside the gym. Crucially, Matt can also translate his injury ninja skills into easily understandable sentences that the non-experts amongst us are comfortable with, and can explain and demonstrate things in countless different ways (he gets a lot of practice at that with me!). I am confident i know what I’m supposed to be doing and why.
Theory aside, my sessions are tough going, but I have asked to be pushed to maximise my results. There have been tears and tantrums (me, not Matt). There have been set backs (wholly due to my sabotaging the progress by deciding to “test” how far I’ve come. Snowdonia challenge anyone?). I’ve no idea how Matt has the patience, but I like to think I keep things as interesting for him, as he keeps my sessions for me! My hour with Matt is the most physically and mentally challenging hour of my week. It’s also my favourite. Standing on one leg? I’m the girl doing the karate kid crane with dumb bells on the subbuteo base (bosu). Matt makes sure every session is great fun, and has a sense of humour – mandatory when I’m lying in a heap on the floor after a particularly spectacular fail. Matt has taught me a lot, and is enthusiastic about passing on his considerable knowledge. He’s dedicated, and a perfectionist. He’s positively changed my outlook and my gym attitude, broken my injury cycle and as a result I’m strong, happy and healthy.
I log my progress on the squat rack now, rather than miles. But I know that you still want to know if I can run? Yes I can, faster and longer than before, but I don’t really obsess about running any more, as my new strength training goals are compromised by high impact training. I can cycle much faster and longer than I could ever run, and Matt’s kettle-bell/rowing HIIT programme is 20 minutes of low impact vomit-inducing awesomeness. My training programme is personal to me and my misfit band of muscles, and is way more effective at keeping me fit than the generic 2 hour runs I used to wistfully aspire to.
I can now train 5 times a week, and i’m not injured. I haven’t been injured for a year. I can walk down stairs in heels without using the hand rail, and i can balance on one leg on the kitchen worktop while getting the spare coffee down from the high shelf (its the little things!). I’m cortisone and supplement free. Not even a fish oil capsule. And my Doctor reassessed my hip and removed me from the hip replacement list. I’m a walking (and hopping and jumping and running) testament to the fact that the dumb things you do to yourself in the name of fitness are reversible…. if you get expert help. Matt has a proven track record and a competitive tenacity to take on injuries and win. You need him in your corner if you want to beat that injury for good. Book a chat with him to discuss your injury cycling. He’ll break it and fix you. It’ll be an epic journey, but i promise you you’ll love every minute of it. Your biggest worry will be needing to find a decent excuse next time you fancy a Greg’s….”