It is often said to me “Anna, you are the busiest person I know, I don’t know how you do it!”
It is true I have a pretty hectic schedule between my 3 jobs. For those of you who don't know me, I run a busy Private Physiotherapy clinic, work part-time as a Physiotherapist for the GB Judo team and I also teach Yoga to groups and individuals, all alongside my family and 3 crazy pooches.
Whilst in the words of the great Brene Brown – “I no longer wear my busyness as a badge of honour" and have taken steps to redress my work-life balance in recent years, I really should have a degree in planning and time management.
Many people wonder why I do it, and if I’m honest, sometimes, so do I!
The short answer is, they all contribute to each other and each one makes me better at the others. Plus I really enjoy all of them too.
It has taken me a really long time to build up my clinic in what I consider to be an ethical, professional and evidence-based way. My core belief is to empower patients to help themselves whether it be through rehabilitation or lifestyle changes, of course, I add in "hands-on" treatments to help reduce symptoms and get people moving but often patients just need the right advice, rehab programme and encouragement to get themselves better. No over-reliance, no fancy machines/tape/magic potion required.
A patient said to me a few weeks ago “I came to you, as my running club all recommended you, you don’t take yourself too seriously, you swear a bit and you won’t rip me off!” Testimonials don’t come more perfect than that in my opinion and if that is my reputation I am happy with that!
I love treating folk of all ages whether they are looking to get back to work following an acute episode of back pain or competing in iron man competitions, the variety of people, their stories, goals and expectations make it really interesting, genuinely no day is the same. I also support local events such as the Bumble Bible, Timberhonger 10K and Redditch 7&10K which is a lovely opportunity to give back to the community that support me.
The downside is you are isolated, it would be easy for it to become an echo chamber. Always doing what you have always done, no one questioning your reasoning or challenging you to do better, to be more innovative. It can also get pretty lonely and there is only so much networking with other clinicians you can do. The energy of making all the decisions and listening to the frustrations of your patients can be emotionally draining no matter how much I love my work.
It has also taken me a really long time to get to work in elite sport, starting at grassroots with Bromsgrove RFC who supported me with my pre hospital trauma training, my P.G.Dip Sports Physiotherapy and the setting up of my then fledgling private practice. These opportunities are what led to me working at London 2012 then, GB Wheelchair Basketball with whom I also worked Rio 2016 and now GB Judo. Lots of folk supported me on the way but I am especially indebted to Ross and Rokey, 2 of the most forward thinking coaches I have ever worked with.
I think working in sport, at least for a while, is essential to be able to treat Sports Injuries fully. You can learn the Physiology from lectures, books and articles, you can learn techniques and increased understanding from courses but nothing beats the experiential learning of being in it. Understanding the motivation to turn up and train even when you don’t want to, or the psychological stress juggling family demands alongside sporting aspirations. Being part of the highs and lows experienced in sport gives you such an appreciation for what people give and also how hard it is to make those decisions around whether people are fit to compete or not with all the pressures. You can’t be an expert in something you don’t have experience of.
My work with GB Judo also makes me a better clinician in private practice too, I work with a large Sports Science and Medical Team of Sports Physicians, Surgeons, Strength and Conditioning Coaches, Pscyhologists, Nutritionists, Performance Analyst, Wellbeing and Lifestyle Advisors as well as several other Physiotherapists. All of whom are striving for better standards of care, understanding of all aspects of health not just those relating to performance sport. The coaches and athletes are motivated to get back to competition as soon as is safely possible and juggling this around competition requirements and selection for major tournaments including Olympic selection is not as easy as it might sound on paper.
All this experience and knowledge I can bring in to clinic not to mention the expertise of my colleagues who I can bounce ideas around with to counter the isolation of the private practice. I am always, always learning.
Oh yeah, and I also get to travel to some pretty cool places to competitions and camps! These break up the relentlessness of private practice which I love but can be emotionally draining and exploring the world with these talented athletes is a massive privilege and often lots of fun.
Elite sport can, however, be a bit of a bubble. In that environment it would be easy to think that performance sport is the only thing in the world. Keeping my feet firmly in the community working with the general public keeps me grounded with a massive sense of perspective about what matters in life.
More recently I have added the Yoga Teacher string to my bow. Over the years I have successfully used Yoga and meditation to help with stressful times and insomnia. There is a growing body of research that supports my own experience and the use of Yoga as a therapeutic intervention for many health complaints from back pain to anxiety.
In 2017 I completed my Yoga Alliance 200 hour training with Ian Davis at RedKite Yoga and I am currently undertaking my Advanced 500 hour TT with Ian in Cheltenham. I currently teach 3 community classes per week and also 1:1 privately. I am passionate about the benefits of Yoga on health and pride myself on making my classes welcoming to all ages and abilities and utilising community spaces.
I have also taught Yoga to the GB Judo athletes and a local swimming club as part of their prehabilitation programme.
For me, Yoga plugs the gap that we have in western healthcare with its reductionist, mechanical view of the human body. We treat people like cars that need “fixing” instead of the complex mind- body ecosystem that more accurately describes us. I can use my Physiotherapy knowledge and experience to adapt a Yoga practice to best help my clients so they are working in a way that really supports them.
I think Western Healthcare is absolutely fabulous in many ways, especially in an emergency or acute health crisis but many of my patients often have other contributing factors to their pain or illness including stress, lack of mobility, anxiety and depression.
Yoga is by no means a panacea but can help support other healthcare interventions and help patients become active participants in their own care which I see as vital.
So that’s why I’m a juggler! It certainly isn’t always easy. How I do it is another topic but in a nutshell - I have lots of support from my family and friends, my fabulously loyal patients who do my networking for me, my amazing and understanding colleagues at British Judo, a massive diary, planner, coloured pens and my Yoga mat and dog walks to keep me healthy!