WIGAN WARRIORS RECOVERY

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After running a session in pre-season in Aberystwth, Cotty and I were invited up to Wigan to watch a game on Good Friday then run a recovery session at their high performance centre on Saturday morning.  This would be much needed as they were facing a gruelling week of 2 games in 3 days then a trip to France to play Perpingnan, all within a week.  

Having both never seen a rugby league game before, we were both surprised by the intensity and high impact.  To us, it looked very much like men running into each other as fast and as hard as they could. Cotty told them on Saturday morning “That was brutal, I’d prefer 50ft waves on the head any day”.  It was a great game and despite a great come back and showing superior fitness levels in the second half, they lost the game to joint top of the table local rivals St Helens with a last minute try 21-18.

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In pre season we wanted to share some of the techniques we use with Cotty and the other big wave surfers and see if it could be relevant to them. They enjoyed the session and were keen to for us to come and share some other tools they could use both to prepare and to recover the body and the mind. The training facility was amazing. As we walked in, a few players were getting a massage, a few were in the hot/cold therapy room, a few were running through some rehabilitation programs with Tom the Phsyio and some were doing some light strength and conditioning.

In our session we started with some yoga pranayama and mindfulness, applying it to the psychology of sport and how to deal with the defeat. We explained how we can train the mind as we train the body. We then introduced some breath through movement using techniques to release tension in adaptively shortened muscles groups, especially tension around the thoracic spine and neck after all the high impact tackles and hits we witnessed. We then prepared the diaphragm with some other maintenance breaths, pranayama breathwork and a meditation before Cotty introduced the breath hold training he’s been doing every day since he broke his back. He explained how this had benefited his body and his mental state. We were keen to emphasise the need to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (The system that calms us down and aids recovery).

What impressed me the most was the character of the players and having spoken to the coaches they were really keen to emphasise that as well as developing professional players they were keen to develop them as strong characters and good people too. This philosophy really shone through in the kindness, humbleness and down to earth nature of the players. Before we left, we had breakfast with them in a local bar ‘Revolution’ where they were collecting Easter eggs to drop at the Children's Hospice later that day. All the players and staff were super friendly. We were sitting with the England Captain Sean O Loughlin and a kiwi that represents New Zealand and had played for the New Zealand warriors for 4 years Thomas Leuleau.  

We were really grateful for the opportunity and look forward to going back to work with and learn more from them in the future. And of course, watch another game. The session and interviews with me, Cotty and the coaches, players will be on Wigan TV this week.

Jennie Lewis