Category Archives: Performance

24May/17
Are you ready for clinic?

How do you get ready for clinic?

Prepare for a successful performance

Are you ready for clinic?

 

Remember the excitement of those first clinics? The anticipation of that first patient, the challenge of working out their story and coming up with a solution. The opportunity to practice those skills. The fascination with the narrative blending with the body language and phraseology used by the patient. The feeling of pride wearing the uniform. And so on. All great feelings!

How do you feel now? Are you aware of how you feel now before clinic? Do you make time to notice or do you walk in on autopilot and crack on without any awareness?

When we fall in love, we will do anything for that other person. Take the bins out — yes please! Clear the dishwasher — anything for you!! Six years later…. take the bins out — you gotta be kidding! I’m not your servant! Wash up — no chance, why can’t you do it….. How about acting like the first few months, always? How about acting like those first years of clinic, always?

“have you warmed up?

You go to watch your favourite team. The excitement builds, the crowd are singing, you can’t wait for the whistle to start the game. Then you see the players wandering in aimlessly, not paying attention, just moments before the kick off. Have they prepared before the game? Have they warmed up? Got their thinking in the right space? Attuned to the situation? Players prepare. Musicians prepare. Actors prepare. Should we prepare? Of course!

Let’s create a routine of warming up for our performance today. Let’s get our thinking aligned with our values; what’s important right now? Let’s get focused. Let’s be the best we can be and notice when we are distracted and come back to the focus. In clinic, we are performing. This is our centre court, our pitch, our stage where we work with a person to present them with the opportunity to commit to change to improve their life.

“what’s your kindset?

What were the reasons you went into this job? Why did you choose this career? What is your ‘WHY’? Think about this each day to refresh and renew and drive yourself to be the best you can be. It’s a choice. Feel motivated, feel great about it!

It’s a mindset that you choose. It’s a ‘kindset’ for the people coming to see you — what a privilege that people come to see you. That is an opportunity to practice gratitude as well. What is a kindset? It’s a mindset driven by kindness!

RS

1:1 Pain Coach Mentoring for Healthcare Practitioners and Clinicians: practice the very skills that you present to patients to improve your life, improve your relationships, improve your performance. Feel inspired because you CAN! See more here
25Aug/14

Greatness, smoothness & injury

In response to @simonrbriggs excellent article in the Telegraph (see here) contrasting Federer and Nadal in respect of their physical longevity on the court, I wanted to agree with Simon’s subsequent tweet about the many factors involved with an injury — the line I frequently quote being: ‘no injury happens in isolation’. Whilst I am no tennis expert, I understand that these two masters have very different approaches on the court that define their games. The wicket is more familiar territory, and I would equate this observation to the games of Tendulkar versus Gilchrist. Both masters of the willow, yet styles that illustrate very different means and modes of dominating the ball. 

Sport enthusiasts and pundits alike gush with awe at the ease with which a stroke player caresses the ball. The expert appears to have all the time in the world to position themselves in perfect balance, to be able to effortlessly time the touch, and send the ball at a speed that is vastly out of proportion to the effort applied. Federer fits this mould, and whilst he undoubtedly trains to be fit and strong, he has a technique that is so efficient and so thoughtless that he can focus entirely upon the whole game as if viewing from a point up above. And to take nothing away from the skill of Nadal, his explosive force delivers excitement as he thunderously strides across the court in Zeus-like fashion. As Simon points out, if Nadal were to maintain a physical wellness, his dominance would surely prevail. Who you would most like to be conqueror would then be down to a preferred style, and we love to talk about style.

Returning to the construct of injury that is always embedded within a context and never in isolation to a range of factors that create a situation — no injury happens in isolation. The meaning of an injury is tantamount, and certainly impacts upon the intensity of pain. Cast your memory back to Messi believing that his career was over after he collided with the goalkeeper. He had merely bruised his knee yet the pain was so intense he had to be carried from the field of play in hushed silence.  A violinist who cuts his left index finger will suffer more pain than if I slice the skin on my same digit. There is a different meaning attached to his finger, even with a paper cut. 

Whilst both Federer and Nadal will be accustomed to the pain of hard training and playing, the pain of injury is different. The way we think about the pain at the time of injury sets up the on-going responses and how we chose to behave — it is not the injury itself, but the way we think that counts. Spraining an ankle usually means limping, and this is a sensible behaviour as partial weight-bearing reduces the strain through healing tissues, and is more comfortable. When we know that all is well, in other words that the injury is healing normally (and this is meant to hurt, however unpleasant or inconvenient), there is an acceptance of the necessary steps back to normal movement and activities. The early messages after an injury then, are vital to set up a positive route forward. Excessive fear, anxiety and incorrect messages at the start can set up a pathway of obstacles to recovery. 

Drawing together the smoothness of action that interweaves with other characteristics that construe the greatness of Federer: the technical self-efficacy, rehearsed movements that require no conscious processing and a baseline of fitness and mobility, all of which create a context that minimises the risk of injury. The sublime control, gliding easily across the surface and a ‘oneness’ with the occasion offers only the smallest opportunity for breakdown that most can only dream of, including Nadal whose vigorous assault upon ball and opponents opens the door for stress and strain to emerge, persist and potentially dominate.

Whilst we can swoon over the masters of any game, the vast majority of us play amateur sport. At the level of the masses, I always feel that the risks of injury are outweighed by the benefits of participation — physical fitness, the offsetting of cardiovascular disease, the cathartic outlay against stress and of course the social element (after the game: the 19th, the clubhouse, the curry house…). Equally, whilst the professionals are honing their skills and prowess, amateurs spend a great deal of time around their occupations and families to improve on the fields and courts, imagining achievements on the great meadows of Lords and Wimbledon. I too dream and envision, but returning to diminishing the risk of injury, as the principle is the same whether pro or amateur. And there is no reason why the latter should not acquire the same knowledge and receive the same principled care.

One of the first actions I take is to ensure that the injured person’s knowledge and thinking are in alignment with what we know about pain and healing, and that their choices of behaviour always take them toward and not away from recovery, no matter the start point.  My fundamental belief in our ability to change pain drives my over-arching mission to deliver pain education to all. Understanding pain will inform positive and healthy actions across the board from professional athletes to children to stakeholders (more on this in subsequent blogs). 

Recovering from an injury is straight forward. Most of the problems arise from the wrong early messages and a desire to move on faster than the healing process, thereby disrupting mechanisms that have inherent intelligence. We literally get in the way of our own recovery. We are the problem, yet the injury is blamed. Know the injury, know the pain, know the time line and know the action to take. Simple. One of the issues that Nadal may suffer, as do many professionals, is the rapid return after injury without full recovery, or a lack of time for the body to adapt. This latter problem disrupts the balance of breakdown and rebuild that is constant in the body. Tipping towards breakdown, inflammation persists and causes persistent sensitivity, even at a low level. This manifests as the on-going niggles, gradually becoming more widespread as time progresses and often without an obvious injury. Familiar? Perfectly solvable when you know how and respect the time lines of healing and recovery. Time is money some may argue, but then stepping back and thinking about the longevity of a career provides a different perspective. Deal with this bout of aches and pains completely and create the opportunity for more years of competing as opposed to the stop-start, partial recovery that affects performance and confidence, the two being utterly related. Over-thinking movement and lacking confidence both affect quality of movement — manifesting as the yips in some cases. Is Nadal smashing his way through because he fears that one day he will finally breakdown? Only he knows. Feeder on the other hand as we have seen, has a smooth style that glides him across the courts of the world. 

In summary, to look at the differing styles of play that define Federer and Nadal, it is clear that the smooth approach taken by the former has played a role in his longevity in terms of fitness (lack of injury) and success, the two being related. Simply, the more games you are able to play without a physical hinderance or even the thought that you may have a physical hinderance, for mere thinking affects the way we move, the greater the opportunity for winning titles. So surely, the planning of any athlete’s training and career must consider the ways in which maximum participation can be balanced with time required to adapt and recover. This is the same for both the professional and the amateur athlete, beginning by understanding pain and injury. 

05Jan/13

Enhancing performance with imagery

We can improve our performance with visualisation. By stimulating the neuronal activity in the brain, you are rehearsing to improve the efficiency of firing and communication between the brain cells and diminishing any threat value. Combining practice with imagery is a potent way of tackling the stress associated with a particular task (e.g./ a speech, a penalty) and developing skill.

When we visualise, mentally rehearse and use motor imagery (imagine movement, but really creating the sense of the activity), the brain is very active in a similar way as to when you are actually doing the task.

Here are some simple ways. Sit comfortably in a quiet room.

1. Imagine an orange on a plate in front of you. Note it’s colour, size and texture. Imagine taking a knife and cutting the orange into segments, each slice accompanied by a light spray of juice. Feel the knife slicing the fruit. Imagine taking a segment and placing it in your mouth. Taste the flavour, feel the consistency of the pulp and the juice on your lips, teeth and tongue. What is it like? What are your body responses?

2. Athletic or business situation: mentally rehearse the task in hand, trying to include as much detail as possible: the location, people, your clothing, the weather etc. Similar to the orange task but in a context that is challenging. You will be working with the potential threat value and be grooving neural pathways that improve your skill.

3. Snapshot after success: imagine yourself after being successful. Note how you feel, your posturing and body.

4. Starring in a movie: imagine you are watching a film of yourself being successful at the task in hand. It could be a business meeting or an important move in a match. Play out the detail as mentioned above. The more real that you can make it, the more engaged you’ll be.

Take responsibility for your thoughts, build confidence and develop skill by training your brain with imagery.

For further information on these techniques and others contact us on 07932 689081.

01Jan/13

Feel good in the New Year – here’s some simple tips

Facing the ups and downs of life is a normal part of the ride. Clearly some individuals will face steeper challenges than others. How we tackle these problems will vary according to what we know, our coping skills and resilience at that particular time.

From where do the ways in which we deal with these issues emerge? We are certainly not taught in school how to ‘change gears’ when we feel below par. There is no lesson on maintaining a positive outlook despite the circumstance or a GCSE on self-preservation.

By and large we learn our coping skills by observing and mirroring the responses of significant others, listening to the advice of elders and develop ways of responding whilst on the job. We then create strategies that fit with our current belief and world philosophy. Let us not also forget the essential ingredients of our make-up (genetics) and how they interact with the environment as part of this complex process of adaptation (epigenetics).

Here are some useful strategies that are we commonly use in the clinic to help individuals move forwards, and to fortify healthy notions of self for the benefit of physical health. Go on, change your chemistry and feel good!

1. Practicing a mindful approach to life: be aware of what is happening now with all your senses as opposed to living in the past or future in your head.

2. Smile. At others, whether you know them or not.

3. Hold a pencil between your teeth to activate ‘smiling’ muscles. Look at yourself in the mirror.

4. Watch a favourite funny film. Laughter changes your internal chemistry for the better.

5. The left ear stroke. This is simple conditioning but is a way of changing how you feel. Think of something really good and positive. When you have that warm, glowing feeling that signifies pleasure, stroke your left ear with your left index finger. Practice this often until you find that you can stroke the ear and evoke the very same positive feeling. Once you are able to do this, it means that you have ready access to positive emotions whenever you need.

6. Quiet time. Sister Wendy was recently interviewed, making a pertinent point about the lack of time we spend sitting quietly without distraction of the phone, Internet and television.

7. Observe others who look happy. Watch their expressions and body language. Allow your mirror neurons to soak up all the positive vibes.

8. Surround yourself with positive thinking people. Or at least ponder on those who have an optimistic outlook and manner. Read about successful or inspiring people, noting how they achieved their goals. It is usually by perseverance and hard work.

 

21Aug/12

Rehabilitation of thinking – A key element in maximising performance

The rehabilitation journey following an injury must be traveled with full commitment and completed. Usually when we talk about rehabilitation, it is the exercises that are focused upon: the movement, the task, the goal and how much to do. Nothing wrong with this of course as the training parameters are important to understand the effects of the exercise and how to subsequently progress. An aspect that is vital, yet less frequently mentioned, is the thinking both behind the activity and that of the individual undertaking the training.

Each exercise must have a meaning that needs to be explained. Full understanding of how, when and why the particular task is being undertaken is vital for full engagement, both physically and cognitively. In addition we have to consider the context of the exercise including the time of the day, the environment, the mood of the participant, level of discomfort, general health factors and other variables. Being aware of these influences and how they affect performance permits accurate assessment of the outcomes and where to focus upon for future improvement. In essence it is a learning process similar to that of learning a language or a musical instrument. Feedback plays a key role via the trainer correcting movement verbally and physically, and other means including exercising in front of a mirror.

The thinking of the participant before engaging in the exercise, during and afterwards will have an impact on success and hence learning. We can call this his or her mindset. Carol Dweck talks about a fixed mindset which describes a thought pattern underpinned by inflexible beliefs: it is how it is, this is my lot, change does not happen etc. Clearly this thinking can limit success and progression. A growth mindset on the other hand, is characterised by a belief that we can learn, change and grow. This mindset is one I encourage and seek to nurture as part of moving forwards following an injury or in progressing with a painful condition. In essence we are designed to change and adapt to our environment and circumstances. Given the right opportunity, input, motivation and timeline, we can evolve and develop healthier notions and actions for life both physically and in thought.

In summary, rehabilitation is not about simply going through the motions of certain exercises. It is about taking the opportunity to grow and develop physically and cognitively. In many cases we have to address thinking that is affecting the rehabilitation process, for example, thoughts that would be of a fixed mindset. Working upon these with strategies can and often are as important as the physical activities for optimum outcome. Our comprehensive rehabilitation programmes encompass these details so that you can progress from pain to performance.