“I may not have the complete physique of an athlete, but why should that stop me from being taught how to move like an athlete?”

Max is one of my original members of Human Performance. A talented young cricketer from Country NSW, finding his feet in Sydney. Like many people, Max has had his struggles balancing his career, study, social life and athletic development. Training in our morning running group in Glebe, he has found his mojo again. I feel privileged to be part of his journey – Human Performance is not just for the elite.

It’s 5:25am and my alarm is blaring. A sinking feeling hits me instantly as I begrudgingly roll over to turn it off.

Today is the first morning I am back training with Human Performance. Tom used to be my Strength & Conditioning coach for the Sydney University Cricket Club Elite Athlete Program. In 2014, under his tutelage, I dropped 13kgs in the space of six months. I know he gets results. I know his program works. But his method was a bit on the nose back then. The thing I am most concerned about getting back into training with him is exactly that; him.

To the man’s credit, in 2014 I was unbelievably fit for a self-confessed and publicly aware ‘Fat Man’. I almost nearly shrugged that title. Almost. I was moving athletically, I was lifting powerfully, and I was loving this new-found image of myself.

But in that fateful year of 2014, I swear the bloke had my number on speed dial.

“Science Road. Hill. See you in 15 minutes.”

Bloody hell. This will be my third session of the day mate, I can hardly move. How do you genuinely expect me to mentally get myself up again for another gut buster? I’ve absolutely buried myself this week and you expect me to go again? Sakes.

With those reminiscent fears firmly planted in the forefront in my mind, I trudge out of my car upon arrival at the bottom of Glebe Point Road for our 5:45am session. I’m shocked by what I see, a smiling Tom Carter. Hang on. This is different.

After a bit of “what’s been goin on, how’s ya father” small talk, we get into it. It’s fair to say my ‘athletic movement’ and ‘powerful lifting’ days are well and truly behind me. Full-time work and a deep affection for craft beers and chicken nuggets tends to do that to you.

I am seriously fearful he could kill me if he tells me to run this morning. That’s what he would have done in 2014. But something has deadset changed within this bloke.

The session consists of TheraBand work, some dynamic movement and tempo running up the hill to finish. TC is detailed with his instructions on initial concepts on how I can improve, but simple enough so that even a thickhead like me can understand what he means. This is already different to 2014. Back then, the feedback of my movement would have been, “Your range of motion is actually disgraceful Max. Get better.”

The session ends. I’m pretty bloody sore but in the grand scheme of things I’ve dodged a massive bullet.

“You have made such an improvement in 45 minutes, mate,” Tom says.

“Keep going with it, you’ve made a good decision to get back into training. Well done.”

Compliments? Fair dinkum, who is this bloke? I’m shocked, this is unchartered territory for the man I always took with a grain of salt. But I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again; something has deadest changed within this bloke.

Within the first few weeks, I slowly begin to notice my body adapting to the training. My stability upon holding positions was increasing, whilst my range of motion became greater. Sure, I was pretty sore, but it felt good to have that deep ache of feeling my muscles change again.

I may not have the complete physique of an athlete, but why should that stop me from being taught how to move like an athlete? For three weeks now, our primary focus has been on the cyclic movement of the ankle when running. This creates better hip position, and therefore better vertical displacement and propulsion of the body. Simply put – where your ankle is planted in relation to your hips, will determine how efficiently you move.

“Position, projection and force application” are words constantly whispered and often accompanied with great enthusiasm and joy when one hits the perfect positions.

When you’re running your fourth consecutive hill up Cook Street, Glebe, it’s pretty hard to think anything except “keep breathing, just breathe”. Yet, after four weeks of running mechanics training with Tom, I’ve noticed my mindset shift. Don’t get me wrong, I still think “keep breathing, just breathe”, but there’s now an additional thought train of “hips up, drive knees, fast switch and foot placement”.

At first, it was infuriating. I couldn’t do it. My mind knew what it wanted to do, I just couldn’t execute it. But over time, I slowly began to understand the process.
“Accelerate foot into ground, ankle cycle and high hips to create your ideal running posture”.

I’m now five weeks in to training with Human Performance. I’ve dropped three kilograms and am moving ten times better than that first session at the bottom of Glebe Point Road. Sure, losing weight feels great and it’s a great way to start your day. But I keep coming back for the morale with Tom and the group. We started as a group of three, then five, then seven and now nine. Good things are happening.

Last week, on wet grass, I ran a 2km time trial 29 seconds faster than this time last year. Am I that much fitter? A bit. Did I have a better crack this time? Probably. But there’s absolutely no doubt that the mechanics learned, along with focussing where to exert the energy through my body also helped.

I’m still a long way off where I want to be.
But gee whiz I’m happy I had the courage to say “Tom, I need your help”.

It’s good to be back with a mate again.

Max.

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