Posted by Editoress on 07/24/12
Canada is sending what is probably its strongest Olympic cycling team to London since the 1996 Games in Atlanta, when Canadian cyclists won five medals. Pretty much every member of the Canadian cycling community knows about riders such as Catharine Pendrel, Tara Whitten, Zach Bell and Ryder Hesjedal, and the broader community are getting to know them also, through the increased media attention as the Games draw closer.
But Team Canada is not just athletes; it is made up of the support staff that work before, during and after each competition to make sure that the athletes can focus fully on their races, confident that everything is in place for what is likely the biggest races of their careers.
Over the past few months, we have interviewed some of the people who will also be at the Games, out of the limelight, making sure that everything possible is done to help those athletes shine.
Dr Jenn Turner - Chiropractor
Jenn Turner is a B.C.-based chiropractor, who has been working with the Canadian team for the past four years. She has two clinics - in North Vancouver and Chilliwack - that offer chiro, physio and massage; where she treats patients and manages the clinics when not working with the national team. Jenn works with the Road, Track and BMX programs. Mountain bike has own physio, due to different schedule.
Jenn works primarily working with the track team - with whom she has travelled for the World Cup and world championships in the past couple of years - and is one of the members of the team least recognized by the general public, since the majority of her work is performed away from the track, back at the hotel where the team stays. If you do see her, it will be more likely pitching in to carry the spare water bottles, or lug equipment back and forth to the team van at the start and end of sessions, but her role is much greater than that.
"Officially, I am a chiropractor, so I treat the athletes for any kind of injuries, maintenance and performance enhancing treatments, but my role changes during the competition to include soigneur stuff."
"I'm doing a post graduate residency to be a sports chiropractic specialist; it's a special program in Canada. I do course work and research, and a practicum, and this ties in perfectly with what I'm trying to accomplish"
So what are the sort of functions you might perform during the course of a day?
"Usually, I get up in the morning and try to go for a run; I try to stay active myself, and I think that's one of the reasons the athletes like working with me, because that I'm an athlete myself. So, usually I'll do treatments in the morning; when they first arrive [at an event] there's the sort of aches and pains and the stiffness they get from being on a plane so long."
Jen working trackside
"I'll be at the track for the training sessions; both to observe technique and style, and to see what types of movements we are looking to get out of the athletes, and what can I do to help accomplish that. But also I'm there on the race days for bringing the towels, bringing the ice, holding the water ... just being there, so if anything does come up I can deal with it."
"Going to the Track Worlds in Manchester, in 2008, that was my first opportunity to travel with the athletes, and my first chance to see track racing, to see stuff like Chris Hoy win the gold medal in the sprint ... and it has just gone from there."
Have you ridden the track since then, yourself?
"No, I've never ridden the track (laughes). In the training camp, in Wales, before the [London] World Cup [last February], I got to be on the back of the motorcycle on the track with [national coach] Richard [Wooles]. So I definitely need to get on the track in Burnaby and check it out."
As well as the national team, you have worked with Team Sky, the WorldTour team, right?
"I did some North American stuff with Team Sky, more through my relationship working with Michael Barry, working with him on the national team. That was a great experience, and I learned so much ... it's a completely different ball game than this."
What are some of the more common things you find that you have to work on with cyclists?
"I would have to say hips and pelvis is the biggest thing, just being in that position: seated, crouched down for so long ... they don't really do a lot of running or walking for cross-training, so they're always in that position. So I treat a lot of low back/glutes and hip stuff; the flexors."
Working with athletes trackside
"With the women's team pursuit being on the aero bars, I do their shoulders as well. Preventing injury as they get tight from being in that uncomfortable position, and also getting them into that position. After seeing the position they want to be in - maybe from wind tunnel testing - then how can I help them achieve that strength and flexibility and balance to get into that position."
And what about the injury side of things? I know you worked with Zach Bell a lot after he had a bad injury prior to the 2008 Olympics...
"That was kind of the start of my intro with sports. I started working a bit with Symmetrics, which was the Vancouver pro team back in the day. When Zach had that crash, he started to learn the scope and depth of what I actually do, which is actually a lot more than what people normally think, when they think of a chiropractor. That was an eye opener for Zach and they started to realize the value of what I do."
Working with Zach Bell
"The number one cause of an injury in a repetitive sport like this is too much, too soon. So increasing volume or intensity by 10% per week is the schedule to go by. The other thing is bike fit. It's really important. the joints are supposed to move in a certain range of motion, and if you are moving them oddly through that motion, then that's when injuries can occur ... aside from crashing!"
"So bike fit plays a very important role. If you are overstretched too far, or your seat is too low, then your joints are going to move at odd or improper angles, and the biomechanics is what's going to cause the breakdown."
Do you get involved with the bike fit, or do you normally see them after the damage is done?
"Usually, it's after ... when there's been a problem, that's when I get involved. I'm not a bike fit expert myself, but I'm around a lot of elite athletes, and I learn at these elite competitions ... I can see what the ideal position is, but I usually enter the case when there's been a problem, and we look at bike fit after that."
"Usually, the type of injury tells me what the problem is with the bike fit. I can look at what the body is telling me, versus what the bike is telling me."
So are there athletes that you have worked with, where there has been a noticable improvement?
"I think the biggest improvement has been with the women's team pursuit. Seeing how they can get into that lower position with the aero bars; I can do some work with them on the upper back and scapular position, and the neck and shoulders ... I'm helping them to be able to use their muscles in that position, so that the muscles don't get overused. It's an odd angle; you are never in that position in your day-to-day life ... at least I would hope not!"
"So, with the ART - Active Release Technique - the technique that I practice, it's more dealing with the muscles, and how the muscles fire; that's where I think I've had the biggest effect with these women, getting them into that aero position."
"I've been working with some of these guys for four years now, and I'm really excited to have the opportunity to be at the Olympics with the team, because I really do feel like I've had a part in it, even if it is handing someone water, or helping them not get back pain anymore when they're riding their bike. I really do feel like I've grown with the team, and I feel I have a vested interest to see how they do in London."
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