“By the end of this winter, you’re not going to know yourself. You will go back to Kent in the best shape you have ever been in”.

Written by Ivan Thomas

I had been a professional cricketer for 7 years, on and off with injury, having had a few years out from numerous lower back issues and heart surgery. After overcoming these set backs, I managed to have my big breakthrough year in the summer of 2018, playing in all formats in the promotion winning Kent side. Sadly in the penultimate game of the season, in a freak warm up incident, I badly damaged my right knee, tearing my ACL, LCL and meniscus. This led to surgery, and a hard 12-month recovery, forcing me to miss the full 2019 season.

Missing a full season of cricket and entering my final year on my current contract, it was crucial to have a winter abroad in order to return to playing for the coming season and earn another contract. Having spent previous winters away in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, I knew the standard of cricket was going to be great but I needed to find somewhere where I could train hard and to return back to Kent in the best shape possible. I spoke to some of the lads (Daniel Bell-Drummond, Zak Crawley, Sam Billings and Oliver Robinson) who had been out to play Sydney Grade Cricket the year before. I had noticed that they had all come back in great shape and smashed pre-season fitness testing. They explained that they had been training with a guy called Tom Carter, an ex-rugby player, all winter. They showed me some pictures of their session and talked me through the programs they had been set. It looked brutal but also sounded exactly what I was looking. After arranging to play for Western Suburbs CC, I contacted Tom to see if he would be willing to train me. He said that once I’m out in Sydney we can meet and tailor something to my needs.

I left as soon as the county season finished, and my first meeting with Tom was a few days after I landed, in a little coffee shop in Glebe. I was not sure what to expect as I walked in but saw a figure in the corner surrounded by numerous empty espresso cups, who waved me over. Sitting down, I introduced myself and began to explain my past injuries and set backs that have led me to where I am. Tom didn’t say a word, just politely nodded along, jotting the odd comment down and taking it all in. When I had finished my plea for his help, he sat back smiled at me and said “By the end of this winter, you’re not going to know yourself. You will go back to Kent in the best shape you have ever been in”. He said it with such conviction that I didn’t doubt him for a second. After name dropping a couple of his other cricketing clients, Nathan Lyon, Sean Abbott and Brad Haddin, I didn’t know whether to believe him or not but we arranged to meet the following Monday on Glebe Point Road to start my road to county cricket domination. 

After my first day in the dirt in over 12 months and only 17 overs under my belt, I was a broken man to say the least, but I turned up to Tom’s session eager to prove to him I was willing to put in the hard yards. Having chatted to the other Kent lads I knew that Tom’s session weren’t going to be easy so had prepared myself for a flogging. Tom was already there when I arrived, thera-bands in hand and a very strange blue bag that I hadn’t seen before, little did I know it would end up being the bane of my life. We walked around to a set of stairs by the water and handing me the thera-band and blue bag,which turned out to be a water bag, we got to work. Placing the thera-band around my ankles then my knees he had me jumping, walking and side stepping up, down, and across these stairs. He had me carry the water bag on my back and above my head constantly tipping me off balance. All the movements were simple and slow but after just a few reps would have my whole body shaking. I had come out to Australia thinking I was strong and fit and in great shape but this one session showed me I had a long way to go. 

Over the next month I trained with Tom twice a week, working on my lower body trunk and pelvic stability and lower body power. Even in this short amount of time I was seeing massive changes in performance. My running dynamics were becoming far more efficient and it was translating into my on pitch performances. I was bowling better and more consistently, my pace was up and I was able to bowl longer spells in heat I wasn’t used to. Just when I thought I had started to get a hang of it, Tom said I was ready to start the real training. We progressed to another set of stairs, and these were far more intimidating, steeper and much longer. Thousands of stair sprints, step-ups, box jumps and water bag sprints, I began to become leaner, stronger and much more dynamic in everything I was doing.  When I thought I had become the ultimate me, Tom would advance sessions and test my body in ways I had never trained before. Everything we did was specific to my needs as a bowler and was exactly what I needed to get my body to a point to bowl all day and stay competitive. 

After the year out of cricket, I had arrived in Australia weighing 96Kg (the heaviest I had ever been, and very top heavy) and getting 19.1 on the yo-yo test. After the 5 months of training with Tom twice a week, I returned to England still at 96kg, but a very different body shape. I was now bottom heavy, I had finally grown a bum (something I had been trying to do for about 6 years), my core stability, glutes and legs were now stronger, much stronger. My upper body was leaner and less bulky which meant that my back was experiencing less stress when I bowled.  I smashed pre-season testing getting my personal best on the yo-yo test on 20.5 and scored personal best on all my pre-season testing. Not only had Tom changed my physical abilities but he had changed the way I trained and the way I viewed good training. I had previously thought being as strong as possible was the way forward, lifting the entire gym was the best way to overcome injury and if I had any sort of niggle it meant that I was weak. I now see training in a whole new light. Tom’s influence has shown me to be far me specific with my training. The quality of my movements are more important than how much I’m moving. Not only has Tom given me the best chance for me to stay on the pitch this year and earn a new contract, but he has also enabled someone who has always struggled to stay fit, to prolong his career by changing my mindset and outlook on training. 

I’m now back in England and approaching our season fast, I have lots of competition and people to leap frog in the pecking order to get my name on the team sheet. But my winter with Tom has filled me with confidence that I have done everything in my power to give my self the best chance possible to do just that. 

A word of warning for training with Tom Carter. He is incredibly good at his job, though he will try to tell you otherwise. He smashes double espressos for fun. He is still a beast and runs for days, and will let you know about it on his Instagram. And he does know Brad Haddin, Nathan Lyon and Sean Abbott, as I was shocked to see when they turned up to his wedding! 

Thank you Tom for an awesome winter of hard graft, I look forward to working with you again!

Note – this article was written prior to Covid-19 restrictions, which put a stop to the County Cricket season. Ivan has hopes to recommencing his season soon.

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