My fitness journey began in earnest in 2008, when I discovered Kickboxing. I joined a new dojo and quickly became addicted. Kickboxing was my first fitness love. I trained 3 times as week, every week for 8 months.
Only taking a break to go home for Christmas, that was the first time I came face to face with serious injury. Ironically, I didn’t actually injure myself while kickboxing; instead I injured my knee while on holiday in Cape Town. Knee injuries are agony, slow healing and extremely depressing, not to mention lonely as I discovered as I returned to London. I had to navigate public transport and interviews in rush hour with my very first pair of crutches. I guess you can already tell that wasn’t my last pair.
Recovery was slow and I missed many, many lessons at the dojo. It was also the middle of the recession in London and I hadn’t found a new contract. So, to save money, I stopped kickboxing. I stopped training altogether. Probably the biggest fitness and health mistake I ever could have made – no more fitness, no more endorphins and a plummeting job market to cope with means disaster, my state of mind and confidence suffered greatly.
Fast forward to 2011 when I found my first personal trainer; she was wonderful even if she did have a particularly strong penchant for a particular brand of dodgy supplements, which included Ox Bile. I did not take the supplements; I am not an ox, nor am I a vegetarian with four stomachs. My new Personal Trainer inflicted torture of epic proportions on me but I kept going back and even paid her for the privilege. My then boss described this as the definition of insanity, he was not entirely wrong. Disaster struck when she informed me she was moving to a new PT-only gym… this meant I needed a second gym. Disaster struck again when she later moved to Canada – how very dare she.
This is how I came to meet my new Kickboxing trainer, Luke. Kickboxing and Luke have been the only constants in my fitness journey over the last 6 years. I have substituted my Kickboxing sessions with 6 other Trainers over the years – Andy, Matt, Ryan, Frank, Nigel and Kam. Kam is by far the best trained, most skilled and most knowledgeable of them all, but he is not fun – he is a Rehab specialist and I clearly need one of those.
I loved my Personal Training sessions so much because they provide support, guidance and prevent boredom. They have become so important in my life that in 2013 I enrolled at Future Fit to become a Personal Trainer myself. Currently I am in the running for slowest ever completion of my course – 4 years and counting.
I loved every minute of it and was spending all my free time training or studying, i.e. if I wasn’t travelling. Luke conditioned me in cardiovascular and mental fitness, and Andy toned me up, all in time for Tough Mudder North, May 2013. I was half marathon fit and ready, mentally I was all over that race. Until the halfway point, when I finally met my match – Dirty Ballerina – a set of 7 pretty deep, consecutive muddy trenches one was required to leap across to reach relative safety. Across Trench 1 and 2 safely, I made for trench 3, catching my foot on the edge of an intentionally muddy (Tough Mudder), hailed on trench, I kept going, my foot did not, dislocating my ankle, snapping my fibula, calcaneus and other oddly named bones in the foot. An adventurous ambulance ride to several different, now full (thanks to Tough Mudder) hospitals in the Northamptonshire countryside. It was a very surreal experience sharing an ambulance and my ‘Gas ‘n Air’ with one of the Royal Marine’s finest and my friend acting as Navigator for the clearly lost London Ambulance Service (I’d be lost too). We finally arrived at Northampton General where I spent a rather interesting week in the Trauma ward. One right ankle fixed under general anaesthetic and many, many extra titanium parts and I was ready to go home. Back to London non-weight bearing on crutches again, breaking a leg is also a very lonely business. For the record, the Marine left the hospital 2 hours after arrival, with tendon damage.
8 weeks later and I was back to gym and kickboxing, albeit with some restrictions. Future Fit froze my training for a year.
Multiple trainers continued unhindered and after 1 year, I was ready to return to my course. But the dates are tricky to fit in with a social calendar that Londoner’s plan 1 year in advance. Finally in May 2015, I got myself booked onto my Gym Instructors course for August 2015. In July, in a slip on a wet step, I strained my ACL all over again. I attended my Gym Instructors course in the August anyway, and managed to cope with the knee injury until I visited the Oval Cricket Ground in September 2015, the night before the Rugby World Cup kicked off and slipped on a Manhole cover, the pain was excruciating, this time I’d really damaged myself – everyone could tell, from the punters to the paramedics. I returned to my seat and watched the cricket anyway, it’s not like any hospital would’ve been able to do anymore than the stadium’s ice supply was already doing.
I made the Orthopaedic surgeon appointment the minute I woke up the next morning and was rushed to London Bridge Hospital where it was confirmed I had “stuffed my knee” once again but it was a rush to MRI to confirm. And there it was, I had really over done my injury, totally snapping my ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) and spraining my MCL (Medial Cruciate Ligament). Three months on crutches, traversing the country in support of the Springbok Rugby Team (we don’t talk about Japan) on crutches.
In December 2015, I had my ACL repaired using a graft from my left hamstring (I have a video if you want to see it). Which left the left leg considerably weaker than the right. During my recovery, my brother and a dear friend both repeated the injury but in different accidents. This injury is not for the faint of heart, even Michael Jordan, following his ACL Surgery, is quoted as saying: “My body could stand the crutches but my mind couldn’t stand the sideline”. WORD! If Michael struggled, what are us mere mortals supposed to do?
The recovery is brutal, the training is intense and you go into it knowing that you’re in it for the longhaul or you will never compete again. ACL recovery from surgery to return to sport is 9-12 months, but swelling and other side effects can continue long past 12 months.
Today, I am 18 months post surgery and still suffer many side effects, including an unequal hamstring strength; tiredness in the knee, which leads to swelling after walks of 15km or more; and a very afraid Kickboxing Sensei. But as I used my recovery wisely with Kam, the Rehab Trainer and studying while working, I am also a Certified Professional Coach, Level 2 Gym Instructor, Nutrition Advisor, Sports Nutrition Advisor and Fat Loss Specialist.
Tomorrow this blog will outline my new training programme. The programme is a lifestyle, not a diet. I will be documenting my journey including my goals, lessons learned, the latest research and excellent cheats. Come along with me as I implement everything I have learnt and create replicable results in the Health and Fitness realm of my coaching programme.
Side Note: The football stadia (Newcastle United (lifts not working or for VIPs only), Aston Villa (just walk down the stairs and go round to the other side of the stadium), Brighton and Hove Albion (up and down hundreds of stairs)) in the UK are not equipped for people on crutches, nevermind those in wheelchairs, with the total exception of West Ham’s new stadium in Stratford. Twickenham Rugby Ground didn’t fair much better, although that seems to be the fault of the training staff receive.