Reconstituting a Wreck - A trip to Joe the Physio

Weight 97kg (after getting the hard word from the doc, that’s 2kg this week).  Cigarettes – zero. Alcohol units – 7 (and that’s just last night). Near-death incidents while cycling – 1, on the roundabout coming out of Richmond Park, where a driver felt presumably that they’d prefer not to interrupt their day by slowing down and honouring my right of way. Injuries – the same the lower back issues on exertion.

Man in a Palm Tree (2).jpg

After such a successful visit to the doctor – I still wasn’t sure how I was going to explain this away either to the guys from IGO or the Financial Times (“Sorry, but Nanny says I can’t come out and play… in Montana”) – the next part of the IGO package was a visit to a physio. Which I approached with some trepidation. Could physios ban you as well? “Sorry, mate, but you’re just too much of a wreck. We can’t risk allowing you into Montana.... It'll just be embarrassing for everyone…”

Of course IGO’s idea of a visit to a physio is to enable, to help entrants perform at the best of their physical ability, and to enjoy it rather than struggling through. That was the theory, anyway. In my case there was some remedial work to be done first…

So I was sent round to see Joe Lawrence at Beyond Health. Joe is a Kiwi, with a speciality in sports physiotherapy. I was to be given a once over and a few steers to getting fit.

“Brilliant gait analyst”, said Alex from IGO, cheerily, as I set off.

Right, I’d better front up. I’d never really been to a physio before. Well, I did once, without realising it, when I complained to the doctor about persistent pain when bending over without a heavy rucksack (yes, seems odd that bending over with a rucksack wasn’t a problem, but standard bending was). In the way of these things my back bone was connected to my, well, pelvis, which was connected to my thigh bone, and my thigh bone was connected to my leg bone, and then to my ankle bone – in other words there was one big cascade of problems and strains and guarding and compensation, for which ultimately an unbendy ankle could be blamed (well, that and my lack of interest in regular stretching).

So it was all a bit of a novelty for me. I did a few antics – some hops, jumps, touching my… well… touching my ankles in my case, there was no way I could reach my toes. And then Physio Joe asked me to go through my history of injury.

“What, all of it?”

“Anything important, yes.”

“Well, it ain’t pretty, and it’ll take a while…”

So I started at hallux rigidus (unbendy big toes) and moved upwards through every joint, muscle and most of the tendons in the body – habitual dislocator, habitual twister (of ankles, not a dancer; ok, yes, dancing the twist too), perennial bad back, every shade of tendonitis…

“Hmm…” Physio Joe scratched his chin. He did that rather a lot, in fact. “Well, you’ve managed to lean on your genetics, and a bit of bloody-mindedness, by the look of it… Let’s see how you are at running…”

We headed out into the street and I trotted up and down. I couldn’t see Physio Joe’s face as he filmed me, but I suspect it was crumpled with that near-metaphysical pain reserved for the horrified professional.

I apologised on behalf of my abused body, on behalf of all abused bodies…

“No, don’t worry. You behave a bit like a Kiwi. It’s a breath of fresh air, really…”

At this point a thing scratched at the brain stem. The well known sports journalist Ian Payne once observed, in an early piece of commentary on the school athletics track, that ‘Henderson bounces and Crookenden pumps…’ Meantime Carter scuttled and Andy Harriman – yes, that Andy Harriman, later captain of the England 7s rugby team that won the inaugural Rugby Sevens World Cup in 1993 - well, he had wings on his gangly legs.

And there was probably some truth in it too. Crookenden had taken some lessons in how to, well…. run. In profile he looked like one of those Athenian sprinters. And now here was I, nearly forty years later, still bouncing. You know that you’re neolithic when a thing as basic as running style has changed since your youth.

“I’m afraid that’ll have to change…”, intoned Joe the Physio.

So I adopted the position of the post-modern runner – leaning forward slightly, lifting my heels slightly and thirdly a quicker cadence - and trotted up and down the road.

“By Jove, he’s got it”, said Physio Joe in a Rex Harrison moment. “Makes my job a lot easier…”

And mine, because running was to be a good proportion of the event in Montana. (Oh, and didn’t I just moan about it when the article was published, as you can see here).

But Physio Joe warned me that relearning running was a six month, possibly a year’s job. As it turned out it still isn’t quite finished more than a year later. Because as fast as I manage to shed the breastplate of lard, I keep pulling muscles (for more on this rather unpleasant-sounding idea, see another journal entry The Lardbucket's Lament). Still, one day… I’ll get there.

So I was all set, then… Er, no, that was a quarter of the issues dealt with. Next we’d be moving on to the swimming, mountain biking and the paddling that I also needed to train for...


Joe the Physio, really Joe Lawrence, is at Beyond Health in Fulham, London, see Beyond Health. You can see the details of IGO's Montana W114 Challenge here.