In 2008, age 32, I hung up my rugby boots to concentrate full time on physiotherapy. I tried coaching at the time but it was soon obvious that this wasn’t the way forward for me. Then came over 2 years of little physical activity while I concentrated on my career. I still went to the gym regularly, pounding out miles on the treadmill, lifting innate objects on static machines, and found it all a real turn off.
In summer 2011 I had the chance to don my boots again in the West Lancashire Summer rugby league. As I warmed up I felt a tear in my right knee. I knew I’d damaged my meniscus, but was able to run and turn so I played on it for 30 minutes. This was probably the most enjoyable half hour of rugby league I’d ever played. No pressure, nothing to lose, just being out there competing, until inevitably I had to stop.
After an MRI scan confirmed a meniscal tear I had to wait for an arthroscopic repair. It seemed an age to wait the 3 months for surgery. I piled on weight, and got very low in mood. My work and family life was being affected. It was as though I’d truly had my wings clipped and it’s difficult now for me to explain the profound effect this time had on me. I thought I was entering middle-age with a disability, bear belly and bald head.
Post operatively, I knew I needed to strengthen my knee get back some fitness, so I set a goal to be able to run round a football pitch within a month – something I’d need to do for work. Following my own advice I managed this after 2 weeks. This lifted my spirits massively.
So I thought “what else can I do?” I started looking for other goals, events, challenges. Believe me I’ve never been an endurance athlete or super-fit, but his time I want to know what I’m capable of. Like that last half hour on the pitch, it was only for me, my enjoyment, my determination.
I discussed a charity event with some colleagues who had raised money for the Gary Parkinson Trust Fund, who’s a coach at Blackpool FC I worked with before he had a catastrophic stroke leaving him with ‘locked in syndrome’. We decided to attempt the National 3 peaks, and a date has been set for June 2nd 2012.
As my training progressed, including swimming and cycling, I heard about the great north swim. This is a mile swim in lake Windermere, not too far from me. So I signed up for that too on June 22nd. Now my training is going well I’ve been searching for enjoyable methods of improving my fitness and function, working hard on my core strength. On youtube one evening I discovered the Moustache Man. His clips are part of the Tough Mudder training system. Promoted as probably the toughest assault course in the world it’s 12 miles long and has 26 gruesome obstacles, all designed by the glorious British Military. When I tell people about Tough Mudder people look as though my head has just fallen off, and then say”don’t be silly” and I say Thank you, because I love being the underdog, with no pressure, nothing to lose, and that smell of success is like nectar. Now the events in June are stepping stones to the big event – in November 2012.
At the turn of the year 2011-12 I was almost 20 stone, struggled to do 20 press ups and could barely run 800 metres. As it stand now I’m 17 stone 12, swimming 1400m twice per week, working on my core daily and circuit training with The Martial Arts Academy, Blackpool. I’ve been invited to join their team for Tough Mudder. There’s only one thing that can stop me, and that’s the same and only thing that can make it all happen…..me!
All the Best …and I will keep you updated.
Lee Cholmondeley, BSc (hons)
Lee is a chartered physiotherapist and registered member of the health professions council. Having gained 10 years’ experience in sports injury management, Lee also has an extensive level of experience in competitive rugby at county level – for both league and union.