Those that can, do. Those that can’t however……
Are you familiar with the phrase “those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach”? Well, unfortunately at the moment I’m one of the latter, and I might as well use my very first blog post to tell you why.
So, a few years ago I decided the time had come to replace a nasty habit (smoking – boo, hisssssss!) With a great habit (running – hooray!!) So, binning the cigs, I donned my trainers and started running. At the time I was based at RAF Cottesmore so was able to do lots of nice runs around Rutland Water to build up my running prowess. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly a threat to Paula Radcliffe at the marathon, I was only running between 3 – 5 miles 3 times a week, but was loving the fitness until I started to notice knee problems.
To cut a very (very, very) long story short, after various alternatives to surgery (Strength exercises, steroid injections, volume injections, lots of various pain inducing things) had failed, a few months ago I had knee surgery to try and sort out my problem. Unfortunately due to the injury and surgery I am currently “downgraded” whilst I recuperate from the operation. Downgrading in the military means that I can’t be deployed away from the UK and my home base as I need to be near the medical people treating me, and also my knee would currently not be able to withstand the rigours of deployment. With all the kit we carry and the potential to have to move large distances, not to mention moving from contact situation, it’s not safe for those personnel downgraded to be in places like Afghanistan.
I totally agree with that, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling like a bit of a cheat as I see my friends and colleagues go away, and I’m unable to do my bit. I last deployed in 2006/07 in Operation Herrick 5, and know that because I’m not declared fully fit, others have had to go earlier as I’ve not been able to take my turn. I can still do my normal day job, just with some minor restrictions to protect my injury.
But all is not lost; hopefully with the treatment I’m getting, I’ll soon be back to full fitness and back on “the list” for deployment. Since the operation I’ve been undergoing “rehab”. No, I’ve not checked into The Priory, I’m rehabilitating my knee with the help of the team on station which comprises of the Senior Medical Officer, a physiotherapist and an Exercise Rehabilitation Instructor (ERI), who is an RAF Physical Training Instructor who specialises in exercise programs for treating injuries.
It starts with the Medical Officer assessing me, then referring me to the physio, who then gets together with the ERI and works out an exercise program. Since the operation it’s been slowly building in intensity, just gentle stuff for an hour a day to begin with, then slowly moving up to strength exercises (weights, etc.…) and running with a “walk/run” program. 30 minutes on a treadmill; walking for a bit then running for a bit. As an intensive boost to my rehab, I have just completed a full time 3 week stint of rehab. Basically I went to the gym when I would normally be going to work, and stayed there all day!
Last week was the third week and as my ERI told me on the Monday “This is the hardest week, a proper beasting” and boy, he wasn’t joking!! I’ve been run/walking, running shuttle drills in the gym, something called “German volume Training” with the weights (e.g. using 60% of the maximum weight I can leg press I do 10 repetitions 10 times = 100 repetitions!!) and doing “Tabata” high intensity interval training. Basically, pick a bit of cv equipment like the exercise bike and work for 4 minutes. It doesn’t sound like much at first but you have to bike for 20 seconds at 100% effort, then drop down to 30% for 10 seconds “rest”, back up to 100% for 20 sec, then 30% 10 seconds rest, and so on, and so on. At the end of those 4 minutes you have 1 minute to move to your next bit of cardiovascular kit, such as the rower, and repeat the process. In one session I do 6 lots of 4 minute sets using bike, rower, cross trainer, or running shuttles on the indoor tennis court. Tiring, but a real buzz!!
Twice a week there’s also a hydrotherapy sessions, I bet your thinking “ooh, that sounds nice and relaxing, like a posh day spa with thermal pools and Jacuzzis”. I too thought that. Until I went. It’s an opportunity to really push your exercise without putting any weight on your injury, so lots of swimming lengths and lots of “aqua-jogging”. Imagine the moves you make when running. Now imagine that in a swimming pool, running through the water. To begin with you have a float belt on to stop you from drinking the whole pool, but as you get stronger (like I am now) they take away the float belt and you have nothing to keep your head above water except for your jogging moves! It’s a toughie, but again, you feel like you’ve worked well at the end of it.
At least the pool is kind of warm – not like the ice bath that they’ve been giving me lately to ease my aches and pains. Last Wednesday I found myself stood up to my hips in a barrel of iced water. Yes, ICED water. The first 2 minutes were the worst, but then my body started to get the hang of dealing with the cold and stinging, and it wasn’t quite so bad. As the ERI said “If it’s good enough for top athletes like Mo Farrah and Paula Radcliffe….” And you know what, it worked. My aches were nowhere near as bad for the rest of the week. Whether its psychological or it really works I don’t care, all I know is that it worked for me!
So now I’ve finished the intensive full-time part of “smashing the phys” as the Royal Marines say, and now I’m back into normal work, carrying on with the rehab for an hour or two a day. Hopefully it won’t be too long before I get upgraded again and get back on an equal footing with my fellow photogs. Not that I (or my family) want me to go to a conflict zone, but it will be good to be like my colleagues once more and be one of those who can!