Monday, February 11, 2013

Beijing & Nanjing, China: January 2013

My fellow PT Lily, Vic (a strength/conditioning coach) and I were recently in Beijing and Nanjing, working with the provincial teams. The athletes from the various provinces are currently training for the ALL-CHINA games in July for spots on the National Training teams, in preparation for the next Summer Olympics.  

The stakes here are higher as the coaches and directors of the various programs need to produce results, so there is more pressure on us to "produce miracles" for their injured athletes. This is quite an unrealistic goal as we are there for only about a week in each city.  

Our biggest challenge over the last few years has been to educate the administrators, coaches and training staff on the role and balance of rehab, strength & conditioning, and training. Vic gave a presentation to the Beijing group on why rest should be part of the training regime for recovery. One of the coaches trained his athletes 7 days a week and when he heard that rest is needed, he gave a day off to his athletes from training in the gym. Instead, he took them for a 7-10 km uphill hike to "rest." :( That was his idea of REST.

It's been good to be with the athletes, although I'm not sure how much impact we will be able to make, as their training methods do not lend to recovery and injury prevention. Some of their coaches overtrain their athletes with massive load. We saw a track & field girl in September who has had back pain and couldn't run without pain in her foot and cramping in her hamstrings. She got better since then and has returned to running. However, on this trip, she came to see us again because her pain returned. Her coach says that rehab didn't work because she still has pain. Upon further questioning, we asked when the pain comes on — she says after running 10K! I think I would hurt, too if I ran that far (or, rather if I could run that far :))

Lilian Chen-Fortanesce, China's national wrestling coach, and Clare

She then said their coach makes them run 10K twice a day. GO FIGURE why she has pain. I've heard so many similar stories like that....such talented and gifted athletes, but lots of injuries and unregulated overtraining. Kind of makes one really sad! Their painstaking perseverance and dedication to train and excel with minimal complaints are truly astounding. My admiration for them grows and I have concluded that the ones who emerge as champions are truly specimens of "the survival of the fittest."

I spoke to one of the top Beijing judo champions. He's 26 now but has lived in the athletes' village since he was recruited out of middle school at age 14. Another gymnast we worked with has lived in the village since she was 7 or 8. Can you imagine eating, sleeping and training like that every day for years? Most of the athletes are really sweet — "innocent" in some ways, unlike some of our Western counterparts. They are really grateful for any help they can get.

Conditioning - rope climbing

It was a busy time for us here. After seeing the athletes at the center, we returned to our hotel to write reports on the athletes for our records, as well as for the administrators of the sports bureau. Then those reports had to be translated. The list of stuff to do is never-ending. Amidst our busy schedule, Lily and I have been able to get some "me" time with foot and back massages.

One of the the highlights of this trip was meeting up with my niece who lives and works in Beijing.  Incidently, her mom (my sister) and step-dad were also visiting from Malaysia, and I managed to see them, too. What a treat! Another highlight was having a day to hang out with my dear friend and colleague, Heidi. We kinda "tag-teamed" on this trip — I was finishing my 2 weeks in Beijing/Nanjing and she took over where I left off. Heidi was with Lily for another week. It was Heidi's first time to China, so it was an awesome experience for her. I've known Heidi since she was a PT student a long while ago, and we have become really good friends over the years.

I am really grateful to Lily, who has given me the opportunity to work with the Chinese Olympic athletes at their National Training Center in Beijing for the past 2 years. I met her when she was doing her residency in PT 6 or 7 years ago, and we "clicked." Lily and her husband have become my good friends, too.

I'm just so grateful to be working with quality folks, but above all, what makes it all worthwhile is that I'm among good friends who make work so fun and gratifying.

Our rehab team with one of
the National volleyball players

Zhong Man, 2012 Olympic
gold medalist, sabre fencing

Clare, Heidi and Isabel

1 comment:

  1. Clare,

    I'm jealous. Like I said, if you are ever invited to the Philippines and need a note-taker, you know who to call.

    Also, welcome to the world of blogging. I look forward to reading more!