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Ice packs, aqua-jogging and Dr Diagnosis

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Tom Fordyce | 12:21 UK time, Friday, 26 June 2009

Long-haul economy flights on a hangover; the music of Damien Rice; interminable chats with your partner about where your relationship is heading while you are in the pub trying to watch the Lions in a crucial Test match.

To the list of things that combine boredom and dismay in equal measure can be added a new one: aqua-jogging your way to a one-hour decathlon.

It wasn't meant to be like this. The slope was already steep enough as it was - learning nine new events from scratch in just over three months, bolting a 1500m on the end and trying to do it all in the sort of time that Terry Griffiths used to take sizing up a single safety shot.

That was before last week's hamstring horror while training with Dean Macey. Unsurprisingly, if there's one thing that makes decathlon training even harder than normal, it's having an injury that prevents you from running, jumping and throwing. Trouble.

Tom in agony

I'd been due to head up to Loughborough to do some pole vault training with British number one Steve Lewis. I'd been looking forward to it immensely. Steve is a man who loves his event so much that he talks to his poles. If a little bit of that happy madness could rub off on me, I'd reasoned, my chances on 30 August could only be improved.

So much for best-laid plans. Instead of leaping with Lewis, it's on the couch with Craig - otherwise known as Dr Ranson, physio for UK Athletics and the exactly the sort of nerve-calming expert a panicking man needs in these circumstances.

My decathlon dream hangs on Craig's diagnosis. If it's a grade three tear, I'm finished, at least for the next three months. I don't think it is - I can walk, even if it hurts, and there was no popping sound when I felt it go on the Canvey Island track a week before - but I'm no medical expert. Equally it feels worse than a grade one (10 days of recovery, back to it). Grade two? Even within that classification, there are a whole range of smaller categories. A bad grade two and there'll be no hurdling until August. There'll certainly be no sprinting, and that means no long jumping, no squat-thrusts, no return to the Dean and Daley Show until the competition is within touching distance.

There is prodding. There is poking. There are movement tests and strength assessments, grimaces at the stiffness of key muscles and shakes of the head at a laughable lack of flexibility in others.

First the bad news. "It's a grade two," says Craig. "Your hamstrings are ridiculously tight - you can't get your leg past 60 degrees, while Dwain Chambers can put his foot past his ears - your hip flexors are a mess, and your IT band is standing out like a fence-post."

Then the good. "It's a low-end grade two. Depending on your rehab, we're looking at around 22 days."

I limp down to the indoor track and watch Steve and training partner Kate Dennison in action as I do the sums in my head. 22 days - let's call it three weeks. Add in the time already spent out of action, and I'll have missed just under a month of training. It's not ideal - I've only done two sessions in each of the technical disciplines, and I'll be losing at last eight more now, let alone losing the conditioning and general fitness so necessary for the event - but it's certainly not disastrous.

I can still compete. I can still make it.

I'll be as undercooked as gazpacho, certainly, but then I was always going to be. Gazpacho Fordyce - wasn't he an idealistic forebear who went off to fight in the Spanish Civil War?

There is much at be learned from Loughborough. Watching Lewis and Dennison leap to new PBs from a vantage point just a few feet from the uprights teaches me more about vaulting than any number of articles on the internet ever could, particularly with national coach Steve Rippon talking through everything that's going on.

The role of UKA's high performance centres becomes patently obvious - the best athletes in each event pushing each other on, coaches always on hand, with perfect all-weather facilities at their disposal and expert physio back-up just a shot put away in the same building.

Then there's the perspective on my own injury problems. I know what's happened is almost meaningless outside the narrow confines of a personal challenge, but it's brought home by the sight of Goldie Sayers wandering through the indoor training area without a javelin anywhere near her.

Sayers is out for six weeks with a partial stress fracture of her lower back. She's hoping to be back in time for the World Championships in Berlin, but it's going to be tight. And painful. And probably need some big injections with some very long needles.

Javelin isn't just a three-month experiment for Sayers. It's her life. She's been the best in Britain for six years, missed an Olympic medal by just 38cm and was targeting Berlin as her first global podium.

Despite all that, she's resolutely upbeat. There's no whingeing and no feeling sorry for herself, just an offer of a throwing lesson when my own comparatively minor injury has healed up.

The example has been set. No moaning, no what-ifs.

For bedtime reading, a snappy little article from the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy called 'Comparison of Two Rehabilitation Programs in the Treatment of Acute Hamstring Strains'. For the battered body, hardcore deep-tissue massage.

It's enough to make the aqua-jogging seem positively pleasurable.


  • Comment number 1.

    Don't forget your mental practice. It'll keep you in touch and give you a clear focus when you do go back. Worked for Steve Backley: see article by Dave Collins called "Getting it back: A case study of skill recovery in an elite athlete"

  • Comment number 2.

    that's tough luck.. I used to see the Dean Machine training down at Canvey Island while i was there chucking spears. He was always pushing himself very hard. He and I share the same physio although i was never there as much as deano was. Phill Sadler is a top physio and helped Dean get through the Commonwealth games and secure gold. so if you are needing a physio closer to home i can suggest you contact him (based in Hornchurch)

  • Comment number 3.

    22 days isn't too bad. Besides the aquajogging, you can always concentrate on upper body and core work. Flexibility in the arm for the javelin and speed work with a ball for throwing.

    I remember having to lay off for 6 weeks following a stress fracture to the femur and buying an aquajogger, which is basically a bit of foam with a couple of bayonet fix straps attached, retailing at £25 to £30.
    The kids at the local pool found it highly amusing.... "Hey Mister, can you no swim? Hey mister, have you got special needs?"
    There's nothing more demoralising than thrashing about in a pool with an Aquajogger.
    Let's hope you're back out of the pool before the kids break up for school holidays!

  • Comment number 4.

    Try yoga for flexibility - it will make your body feel years younger (honest).

    Hope you make it - this is major challenge. Have Daley or Dean ever completed a full decathlon in an hour?

  • Comment number 5.

    md_fan @ 4

    if you refer to one of the earlyer articles in this blog you will find that Daley has not just completed a 1 hour decathlon but he has also done a 30min decathlon.

  • Comment number 6.

    Forders - short hamstrings and a dodgy IT band are the prevail of cyclists who do a bit of running. I was a rugby player who did a bit of running, and when I began cycling big miles I found I couldn't run more than 2 miles without the IT band making my knees scream. Lots of stretching is the only answer I have unfortunately.

    Good luck with it!! C'mon Lions!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 7.

    Decaflop2 - nice tip. Is this the article?

    JavSam - any drills I can do at home that won't stress the hammy? I've got plenty of inner tubes knocking about...

    Harpy - tell me about it. Any recommendations for aqua-jogging sets? I've been trying to replicate the sort of sessions I might do on the track (eg 6x15 secs, 6 x 20 secs, 6 x 60, 1 x 5 mins) but desperately short of inspiration.

    md_fan - had a pop at Bikram a few times, but couldn't get on with it - something to do with having to say "namaste" to the receptionist rather than hello. You're right tho - yoga needs to be done.

    scruff_half - spot on about cycling = ruined ITBs. I love triathlon, but it's battered me in that area. As for the Lions - how wonderful it would be....

  • Comment number 8.

    It is worth getting some sports massage on a regular basis

  • Comment number 9.

    Careful, Tom. If you conquer the McNulty Block (aka sentence & paragraph are the same thing) you may yet turn into a decent BBC journalist, and I've had my doubts about you, believe you me... ;)

    On the subject of training, bodyweight exercises are marvellous things. You already know about medicine balls {evil grin}, try Hindu push-ups (much more than a regular), & handstands ditto. Look up Hindu squats too. I've never pulled a hamstring, so I've no idea whether they'll hurt, but if they don't, 150 are something you'll notice, & 500 is a real workout. After that you've got V-ups (a sit up that only bends/curves at the waist), handstand push-ups, & all sorts of vicious self-inflicted agonies to look forward to. Much better (& healthier!) than poncing about in a gym... ;)

  • Comment number 10.

    Ooops! Didn't mean to post handstands twice. It's only one exercise... :o

  • Comment number 11.

    That's the article, but any sports psych book should have enough to get you started. Physical practice is best, but when you can't, mental practice is better than nothing. And like I said above, when you go back, you know exactly what you want to do in each event and each session can be that bit higher quality. Best of luck

  • Comment number 12.

    Hi Tom! I believe it is heroic of you to choose an athletics event, and then want to perform so well so soon.

    I will give you a tip. I am a powerlifter. I have trained a guy at my athletics club, who is amongst the elite level at decathalon for under 20 men.
    He basically saw me lifting large weights in the gym, and told me it could help his progress. Indeed it has, this year, he broke the club record for discus.

    But I have no idea about helping him with his technique over any of the events! I simply taught him over a peroid of 3 months or so, the basics of powerlifting, and strength training, by allowing him to join me while I trained. (3 months was enough, I have to focus on my own progress, so after that I called it a day)
    You basically need to develop your CORE STRENGTH.

    You look very fit, but also lack any real muscular development.

    With your lower body injured, you need to concentrate on developing your upper body. You need to be doing bench press, seated military press, seated rows, cable pull downs....anything that will develop your upper body. You need to start off with a medium weight, but eventually you need to do some heavy training, so that you develop the strength you need.

    Once your lower body has recovered from its injury, you need to really set about strengthening your core. Forget split squats, you need REAL SQUATS! ATG squats (ass to the ground) with a weight you can manage for 10 reps will get your legs really working!
    You also need deadlifts...stiff legged deadlifts, regular deadlifts. You need to do push press, and upright rows, and bent over rows.

    You need to eventually work fairly heavy also.

    If you develop your strength in the gym, you will have the body which will allow you to push yourself far harder on the track.

    Bench will develop your pecs, deltoids, triceps.

    Rows will develop your traps, your biceps, your abs.

    Squats will develop your back, your glutes, your abs, your thighs, your calves.

    Deadlifts, will develop all the major muscles of your is the single most effective lift for developing all over body strength.

    You will not become massive, for you cannot unless you eat a lot more, and stop running.

    You will simply develop a strong core, and also strengthen your tendons and muscles. You will basically be building the body you need to be an athlete.

    The events need individual training as you know...but if you are as strong as an ox, you will be at a far better advantage!

  • Comment number 13.

    Tom, all the drills you should be doing in the state you are in will be with the javelin ball. these can be picked up from most good javelin coaches or well equiped tracks. grab one 600g and one 800g. you will need to be working on the final phase of the throw, so standing side on with your block leg out and your left arm braced. you will transfer the weight from your right foot into your left foot while turning your right hip through. leave the throwing arm behind as long as you can and make sure than when you execute the throw that your hand comes over the top of the shoulder just as it would if you were using a javelin. the ball should be thrown against the wall, caught and then re-set your position to go again.

    I would suggest doing 50 throws in your first session, 25 with the 600g and 25 with the 800g. as the sessions go on and your hammy is getting better you can start to include a walking step into the throw. the amount of reps should increase along with this. i would expect my athletes to get to doing about 100-150 throws in a session with a ball during the winter months as well as throwing the javelin too.

    you can also, as the hammy improves, do some walking drills working on the carry of the javelin. don't get carried away though and listen to the advice from your physio

  • Comment number 14.

    The higher up the elite ladder you go, the more you realise the fine balance between fitness and injury. If you can get as much physio as possible and regular advice on how its improving this will put your mind at ease and stop you going out and doing anything that will make it worse again.
    After tearing my calf (grade 2-3) in the first internationals of the season three weeks ago Ive just had to make the decision to pull out of the World Games which are in three weeks; effectively the Olympics for those sports trying to get into the Olympics. At my age I probably wont get another chance as its every four years like the Olympics :-(
    Since the injury Id been pretty stressed about getting back in time, and I think that actually set me back a bit as I picked up a cold and tried to rehab as fast as possible. So take your time, and try to be positive about what you can do instead. Apparently hamstrings are better at recovering than calves, and you have enough time if youre sensible (I intend to be back for the World Champs in mid-August). Oh, and mental preparation really does go a long way.
    Ill think of you during my aqua-jogging!

  • Comment number 15.

    Aquajogging :-((((

    I fractured my left knee when I tripped up running in 1998. Ended up on crutches for a few weeks then I had to do water running as rehab, one of the most boring activities known to man, the novelty wears off after about 10 seconds :-(

    Get well soon Tom.


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