For those who don’t train with me, the name of my blog ‘suppleleopard’ has probably left some of you bemused. So I have decided it’s about time I shed light on the background for such a nickname.
The story begins all the way back to when I first started javelin and met David, my javelin coach. When he first saw me throw, he made me aware that my shoulder range was pretty much non-existent and showed me that I couldn’t get my shoulder in the position others in his group could. Thus making me unable me to hit the shapes necessary to throw a javelin correctly.
He told me it should be my first priority and suggested buying a book called ‘How to become a Supple Leopard’ written by Dr. Kelly Starrett.
This adept book is a guide to help resolve pain, prevent injury and optimise athletic performance. The latter part of the book was where I have focused most of my attention. In one of the chapters he provides a substantial list of stretches that can be carried out on the whole body, to help rehabilitate from injuries and improve the function of muscles.
It was something that I took to heart. For my first year I set it as my main goal, to improve my range as much as possible, as I saw it as a physical limitation to throw a javelin proficiently.
Every evening I set at least an hour aside to try and clear knotted and glued tissue from all the muscles surrounding my shoulder joint, to improve my range and at the same time lower the risk of getting injured.
The pain to begin with was excruciating.
I could barely hold some of the stretches for even a fifth of the time he suggested to inhibit change. Sometimes having to just give in, because I was on the verge of throwing up. I started with the softest massage balls and still the pain was almost unbearable, but I persevered. Throughout the months, my range began to improve and the pain began to subside.
Gradually I started to increase the intensity and length of time I held the stretches and positions. Subsequently exploring new areas, when tight areas cleared and increased the number of stretches I did. Eventually I began to focus on all together new muscle systems, like my hips.
If I came home after a particularly hard session and I was aching, my first call was the book, working on areas I believed to be the cause for the soreness. It has definitely improved my recovery from training sessions, and believe I have avoided numerous injuries thanks to the book. I now have a routine I carry out, without any need refer to the book and have an arsenal of stretches memorised, that I can use on areas all over my body.
After a few months of digesting the book and seeing so much progress with myself, David asked me to help others improve their mobility. So I began to educate and help others in his training group who wanted to try and improve their range or help overcome a niggle. Nowadays you see almost everyone in group prior to a throwing session carrying out stretches for their shoulder.
At training Im always seen stretching, working on areas before and after training sessions. For this reason, my nickname has become ‘suppleleopard’. Which was initially brought about by one of my fellow training group members, Greg Millar. Who decided to tirelessly call me ‘Suppleleopard’ every time he saw me, until it caught on.
This has now stuck, thanks to the reinforcement of other members of the group, mainly by his partner in crime Steve Turnock. Both of them regularly commentating on my entrance to training, in an Aussie accent pretending they’re Steve Irwin in the outback, witnessing a ‘rare species in his natural habitat’.
I have a long way to go before I am anywhere near as supple as I would like or should be, but it is a routine that is now ingrained in my life and has been joked about that if it was taken away from me, I would no longer want to throw.
Part of me probably agrees with this statement, as not only has it been a way in which I have improved range of motion in my body, but improved my awareness of all my muscles, how they all work in conjunction with one another, as well as improving my management of pain, how to relax and control my breathing.