Since I was a child I’ve had a compulsion to run about, swim, climb and swing off things. Living in the countryside, walking was normally quicker than catching the bus (running definitely quicker) and my bicycle was a mode of transport, rather than just a plaything. I’ve never grown out of any of this and it’s been of lifelong benefit!
In 1986 I graduated from Loughborough University with a BSc (Hons) in P.E. Sports Science & Recreation Management. Afterwards, despite wanting to pursue a career in sports science, I ended up going into advertising and marketing. Fifteen years and a successful career in senior management later, I finally escaped.
In 2001 I gave up my job and moved to France with the objective of living life differently and getting back to the things I love, like being outdoors and active instead of sitting at a desk. My partner and I set up Dream Sailing, a company specialising in luxury, crewed sailing yacht charter, and this has been the foundation of our lifestyle since then. It hasn’t been easy, but being fit and having the benefit of all those years working on the marketing of major brand names certainly helped! Above all, I learnt that it really is possible to shape your lifestyle as you want it, so long as you have the determination, resilience and passion to tough it out.
At the same time as I moved to France, I started to have problems with back and hip pain. Over the next few years there followed a string of consultations with specialist doctors, physios and ultimately an MRI scan which showed a slightly worn vertebra. I was told it was the likely cause of the problem, but that it was inoperable and I should take painkillers whenever it was uncomfortable, so I devised an exercise programme to keep it under control. After a time though it worsened to the point that I was beginning to seriously curtail my activities. I cut back my exercise routine in case it was causing aggravation and began resorting to Ibuprofen. Running had always helped, but even this was becoming uncomfortable. However, the one thing I refused to compromise on was skiing…and curiously it was this that led me to find a fix.
Being both an experienced Alpine and Telemark skier, I noticed that skiing Telemark seemed to alleviate my back pain somewhat. Considering the particularly athletic nature of Telemark skiing, this may come as something of a surprise, but I could see that the muscular development it encourages was probably the source of the beneficial effect. Ultimately, it was massage every day for about a week, combined with the physical rigours of Telemark skiing that broke the cycle of pain enabling me to get back into the exercise routine I’d previously eased up on, and to intensify it. Things got massively better from thereon.
It was massage that got me back on the road to recovery and I decided to learn how to do it myself, properly, so that I could help others. For me personally, one of the most valuable lessons was in postural assessment. A basic postural assessment takes only about 10 minutes, but it revealed what numerous consultations and an MRI scan failed to do: I had a lateral hip tilt, resulting in muscular imbalance between the right and left sides of my body and thus creating hip and lower back pain. The tilt would probably have been the result of a blow to my hips at some stage, quite possibly from the gymnastics I’d done in my youth or from a skiing fall (a previous x-ray revealed a fractured vertebra which had healed without me being aware of it), and over the years it had become entrenched in my posture. The exercises I’d found relieved the pain were helping to counteract the problem, but until my hips were realigned my body was unable to regain it’s bio-mechanical balance and recover fully. Four sessions of myofascial release re-lengthened the side of my trunk that had shortened and returned my hip to the horizontal.
Now 47, I’m as fit as ever and committed to helping others to banish pain without resorting to drugs, improve their mobility, enhance their fitness and achieve their sporting and lifestyle goals. If you’re like me, you’re not prepared to forsake the sports and activities you’ve enjoyed throughout your life to settle for a more sedentary existence as you become older, and why should you? The next time anyone looks you in the eye and says “what do you expect at your age”, turn the other cheek and take yourself in hand.