The Team Gb Physio Turned Extreme-Sports Performance Manager On Working With Pro Athletes

For the past 56 days, my day has started at 3:15am. I’m the physiotherapist and performance manager for cyclist Mark Beaumont, who’s attempting to ride 18,000 miles around the world in 80 days (artemisworldcycle. com). We’re currently in Alberta, Canada. ‘I prepare Mark’s breakfast, set out his kit, then wake him at 3:30am. We do the necessary physical checks — weight, saliva swabs — then get him on the bike for 4am. Myself and the other crew live on the RV that follows Mark. Every 30 minutes, I’ll hand out fuel or hydration. Every four hours, he comes into the van for a 30-minute break. Today, I’ve been putting acupuncture needles in his neck while getting hands-on with his calves and feet, as he catnaps. For the rest of the time I’m keeping up with emails, social media, and checking in on clients back home. ‘Mark cycles four-hour shifts until 9:30pm, then eats, showers, sleeps. I bed down in the van around 10:45pm. There’s no such thing as downtime, but that’s life on expedition — hard, but I love it.’

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DO WHAT YOU LOVE

‘My mum was a nurse; I always knew I’d work in healthcare. When I was 12, Mum fractured her hip and I went to her physiotherapy appointments with her. I realised that was the area I wanted to work in, as you get to spend longer with patients, improving their quality of life. ‘I gained my physiotherapy degree at Oxford Brookes University in 2004 and stayed on to work in the trauma team at John Radcliffe Hospital. Outside my NHS work, I gained valuable experience with county rugby teams. After three-and-a-half years, I took a career break and worked some hiking and ski seasons abroad, which ultimately led me to a job with the GB men’s downhill ski team. In 2008, I studied remotely for a Masters in Sports Physiotherapy and Medicine. I worked for the British Paralympic Ski Team, which took me to the World Championships in Korea and the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver. From there, I looked after the GB Paralympic Athletics Team for London 2012 and stayed with them until after the Rio Games.’

ROWING RECORD

‘I’m sporty and love endurance events, including triathlons. I’m a big believer that you need to understand what your athletes go through in order to offer the best, most holistic treatment. Psychology is a driving factor; you need a good rapport to give patients the best chance at healing. That was what motivated me to join and lead the all-female, recordbreaking ‘Coxless Crew’. In 2016, after four years’ preparation, we rowed 24 hours a day, in two-hour shifts across the Pacific Ocean, from America to Australia. It took nine months. I’d never even rowed before. ‘Having worked in trauma and with Paralympians, I’m fascinated by the idea that people go one of two ways when faced with adversity: they push on, or struggle. I wanted to find out which type I was. Tough as it was, I loved the achievement.’

THE NEXT CHAPTER

‘After Rio, I started Adaptive Performance, my performance-management company. I took on the tennis pro Naomi Osaka, as well as Mark. I enjoy offering more than just physio; it’s about coordinating and delivering all an athlete’s basic needs: psychology, physical care, plus all the practical stuff they need to achieve their goals. What I love most is seeing people realise their dreams and knowing I’ve played a role in helping them. ‘When this trip finishes, I’m looking forward to starting a new life in Cornwall. In November, I’m speaking at the Extreme Medicine Conference, reflecting on what it takes to deliver physiotherapy skills in all sorts of environments.’

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