“I have previously tried to figure out my ‘training plans’ on my own, often with reference to what my boyfriend was doing in his training. This tended to lead to unrealistic training plans and unmet goals. Working with Jo taught me to strip back my objectives, focus on what I really wanted to achieve and to make sure that these were achievable.
Jo is honest in her feedback and provides a tailored coaching service that is specific to my needs and the reality of what else is happening in life. Jo introduced strength and conditioning work into my programme which had previously been lacking, hence some poor techniques that I had acquired. She built this up gradually to avoid injury and I’ve graduated to having a squat rack in the garage”!
Delia is a familiar face from the London racing scene so I was intrigued to see how I could help her develop her potential. As a committed female racer working full-time with all the usual commitments that come with a relationship, a home and now a family (Sue the dog), I recognise the need for holistic, yet performance focussed coaching.
Delia loves racing but enjoys it more when she performs well and feels like she’s progressing. As a keen Cyclo-cross and road rider, fitting in proper training has often not been Delia’s strong point and important off the bike conditioning has been absent or ad hoc at best. Like many competitive women, lack of confidence in setting realistic targets were leaving her falling short of her potential. My role in working with Delia has been mostly keeping her ‘on plan’ for improved consistency in training, but giving her permission to change the plan when life gets in the way. Keeping her accountable has allowed Delia to continue racing with purpose, whilst prioritising the enjoyment that is at the heart of her cycling.
“Getting a diagnosis of severe osteoporosis 3 years ago at the age of 56, was both a shock and a lifestyle wake up call. The recommended drugs gave me awful side effects, so I determined to do what I could to beat it myself. Personal training with Jo McRae is now an essential part of my fight back against this debilitating condition. She understands the balance that needs to be achieved between weight training to build my bone density without risking injury, and has worked hard to improve my overall health and fitness with a programme of cardio, flexibility and impact exercises. I’ve discovered that exercising with Jo never gets boring! And it works. Not only do I feel healthier than ever before, the extra benefit is that I look fitter too – my weight has balanced to a perfect level for me and my body is getting toned. But even better than all of that – my last dexa scan showed that my bone density is gradually improving”
You can see from the ‘home gym’ that Julia has developed in her garage the level of commitment she has to working with weights on a regular basis. Her sons have had to move their bench aside to make room for the squat rack, and I’m proud to say that Julia almost out lifts me now in most of the bar bell fundamentals. It turns out she is more of a natural athlete than she ever realised, and has taken to strength training with ease. With running now part of the plan, and the local park run in our sights for the spring, I’m confident Julia will see the best possible results over the coming years. Experience has taught me that her persistent determination (and at times a little impatience) will ensure that she goes from strength to strength both literally and metaphorically. I’m excited to be helping her tackle her health and fitness in this dynamic way and look forward to seeing her confidence improve beyond her expectations.
I often tell Mike how ‘interesting’ he is to work with since it has been a patient process of trial and error to figure out his body and how to get it to work right. When Mike first approached me he had back pain caused by head butting a van resulting in a crush fracture of his thoracic spine. Not only had Mike broken his back, but he had surgery on a disc problem in his lower back in his 20’s and a history of crash injuries (including a reconstructed knee cap) to work around. Mike is also generically hypermobile, meaning that his joints are somewhat unstable by nature, a condition more common in women than men adding yet another dimension to Mike’s very personal requirements.
Having followed several of my exercise programs diligently for about a year, Mike was doing well until he embarked on a round of training camps and work expeditions one spring. Proving too much too soon for his vulnerable back, Mikes back pain returned and after some discussion we embarked on the second round of our plan to really get to the bottom of Mikes instabilities, and strengthen him enough to withstand the periods of long riding and travel that intermittently come with his job. Frequent short training sessions with me followed which eventually evolved into a once weekly regular training session, supported by some exercises that Mike maintained at home or whilst travelling.
In addition to his commitment to his exercise program, after some persuasion Mike trialed a gluten free diet, as I felt that digestive dysfunction was affecting his ability to engage and strengthen his deep abdominals. Once converted, this change in diet made a big difference to Mikes’ back pain and progress with exercise, and over time he has gone from strength to strength. Recently he reached a milestone when he dead lifted more weight than me. (Not bad Mike, but still some way to go if we are aiming at bodyweight).
I am also not the only professional within Mikes hand-picked team of experts, which also include Michael Lanning (chiropractor) & Gary Purnell (masseur). Mike has explored and investigated many avenues to keep himself in the best shape possible, and this proactive approach is a great asset, giving me the advantage of being one of a team of brains on the job.
I enjoy working with Mike because of the mindset he brings to his training. As tech editor at Cycling Weekly he has an analytical mind and can evaluate how something functions; a viewpoint he has brought to understanding his own body. Consequently Mike demands that I explain what I am thinking and why I am training him in a particular way, and the process has very much been one of team work such that Mike is becoming his own expert. Mike has a determination that any problem has a solution, and it is just a matter of figuring it out and this approach has helped him separate himself from the pain of his symptoms by focusing his energy on identifying the ‘cause and effect’ pattern. By maintaining an optimistic, detached and patient outlook, Mike has enabled me to do the same, even when it has taken us a while to figure things out and clearly move forwards. The work ‘in the lab’ with Mike continues as we dove-tail his bike training with his gym work for another competitive season of racing….
Mike: “I’m sure that most people who’ve broken their back would say that it’s changed their lives but how many can say that it’s changed their life for the better? Even seeing the injury as a good thing? I’d like to bet it’s not many yet, thanks to Jo, that’s precisely how I feel about the bike accident in which I crushed two vertebrae whilst working in the South of France in Dec of 2008.
I had fantastic treatment whilst in France and thanks to private medical cover I wasn’t short of an expert or two when back in the UK either. I completed courses of hydrotherapy and physio but found that whilst I was making improvements no one shared my belief that I could go back to being fit and strong. In fact the medical staff seemed happy for me to merely able to lead a ‘normal’ life; one that didn’t involve competitive sports. Which is arguably fine if you’re in your 80’s but not your mid 30’s, and certainly not when you make a living from riding bikes.
Jo was recommended to me as she had a great reputation as a sports trainer who took a holistic approach to her work, so not just looking at things in a one dimensional way, instead, looking at the person as a whole. This approach made sense to me as I’d already suffered a ruptured disc and broken knee cap which increased the complexity of rehab somewhat. As with any training relationship it’s a matter of investing some time and money to see if you get along and can work well with each other. For me it helped that Jo had been a top level racing cyclist so understood the sporting person’s need to push ones-self in order to get the most out of whatever you’re doing.
So many times in life people work in their own specialist area but Jo sees the person as a whole and looks at all the areas which affect you not reaching whatever objective you want – nutrition, exercise, medication, hormonal issues, emotional issues, stress – the list goes on. There were a number of points for me that really made Jo stand out and built my confidence in her. Firstly, quite unlike most professionals in her field, she’s smart enough to know that she doesn’t know everything but is willing to find out – when was the last time your physician admitted they didn’t know everything, even when it’s clear to you that they don’t?! Secondly Jo isn’t the sort of person to be dogmatic, if you want to improve matters she’ll certainly do her bit (you’ll need to do yours too) but she goes beyond that. If there’s an area that’s perhaps difficult she’ll work around it and try to find another approach rather than demand you follow her way. Backing this up is the fact that she explains why something happens or works the way it does which I found very reassuring as it helped me to help myself.
I couldn’t be more impressed with Jo and the way she works. She is without a doubt the reason that I’m not just back to normal but in a far better state of health than I ever was before. I simply can’t recommend Jo enough”.
When Mark came to me he was already doing a handful of exercises that he had retained from various physiotherapists, but had been unable to unlock the key to resolve his knee issue long term. After assessing Mark it became apparent that integrating the strength elements from his home exercises into his pedalling style was going to be essential for him to make the transition from rehab to pain free riding.
As a light and slight rider, Mark had fallen into the trap of ‘spinning’ and had not developed any strength seated in the saddle. I decided that some strength based turbo sessions with a strong emphasis on technique and some slight over gearing, together with his home exercise program was the best way forward.
Mark diligently followed the programs I gave him including some stretching/core work most days and his turbo strength session mid-week. Mark is a great example of what you can achieve with a program tailored to improving and correcting your weaknesses, since he achieved all the riding goals he mentions below with only three sessions on the bike a week, one turbo mid-week and riding both days at the weekend. Bite size stretch/core sessions in between have then filled in the gaps not provided by the cycling training. I am sure he will now go from strength to strength next season.
Mark: “My initial reason for seeing Jo was because in the past three seasons I’ve been plagued with a number of knee injuries that have taken a long time and a lot of patience to heal. My main goals from my sessions with Jo have been to find out why these injuries have been occurring and to develop a personalised training session that would prevent them from reoccurring.
After an initial consultation, assessment and review of my position and pedalling action on the bike, Jo developed a specific training programme of stretching, strengthening and turbo sessions designed to loosen where I’m tight and strengthen where I’m weak. I was also coached on how I could alter my pedalling action to stop the ‘shoving’ technique I had developed and transform it into a far more fluid style.
I followed the programme religiously until a reassessment recently and the gains have been phenomenal. Not just in the numbers measured in the reassessment, but also in the strength that I’ve gained on the bike. I now have a new programme to follow and a new goal of strengthening my core while still remaining knee injury free.
All thanks to these sessions with Jo and the training programme that she developed for me, this year alone I’ve ridden 1000’s of kilometres with my club, the Italian Dolomites, my first 25 mile TT, Mount Ventoux (twice) and I’m just about to start racing at 1 birthday away from 40! Better late than never eh!”
Christoph came to me via my colleague Garry Palmer, Exercise Physiologist, who also works from Le Beau Velo in Shoreditch. Any rider working with Garry is already committed to a structured program, so it was great to add a conditioning element to his training. Christoph has a job in management which involves lots of travel and keeps him very busy. Because he needs to be highly organised to fit in his training, I knew I had to give him a concise and effective program that he could either fit into a lunchtime visit to the gym or even do at home. Already a keen sportive rider and looking at having a go at some racing, Christoph had set his sights on taking part in the Haute Route, a seven day stage race and one of the most challenging sportives in Europe.
Christoph: “The event was extraordinarily competitive and I punched well above my weight. While I had done a fair bit of core work earlier in the year, I incorporated Jo’s stretching program into my daily routine with a morning session after breakfast and an afternoon session following the post-stage massage. I felt good and comfortable on the bike throughout. The event itself was challenge enough and the last thing I had wanted to experience was pain and discomfort as a result of muscle tightness, or poor core strength. It made a considerable difference.”
Dave is a typical cyclist, and I mean that in the nicest way. Like me he has been racing bikes since he was a teenager, and now in his 50’s he hasn’t stopped. Anything that gets in the way of riding his bike upsets Dave’s spiritual equilibrium, so I was really pleased to be able to help him get back to pain free riding and a better position relatively easily. Dave was a fairly simple case of short hamstrings affecting the lower back, and due to his diligence and high levels of motivation to solve the problem, Dave made big improvements fast and I haven’t seen him since….except for on the road with his club mates of course.
Dave: “I had always thought that my saddle height was too low and that using a higher or correct saddle height would make me faster, but attempts to raise it permanently never worked.
Many times I tried putting the saddle up by 5 or 10mm sometimes combined with a similar fore/aft movement. Sitting on the bike after the change the leg extension would feel good and out on the road the long slopes of the North Downs felt easier. But by the time I returned home after a few more hills, the pain from my lower back would ensure that I returned the saddle to its original position. Even with the saddle “low”, long rides and sportives would reveal that the pain from my lower back was greater than that from my legs, I was able to walk afterwards but would struggle to straighten up and get off the bike.
Jo measured the bike and my body to discover how much saddle raise was possible and gave me a series of hamstring and core stretches to be able to achieve this. During the next 6 months the stretches made measurable differences to me and the saddle was raised in stages, finally settling on a position 30mm higher than the one I had used for many years before.
Now long rides, up to 260km, are not a problem and the racing results are better than ever”.