I met Stretch when I was two years into a misdiagnosed hamstring tear which had left me with all manner of issues including sciatic nerve damage, muscular imbalance and endless pain. Being a performer in my career, being able to move is a huge part of what I do and work was ridiculously challenging as everything hurt hideously, I was constantly re-injuring myself and recovery was poor. But being self-employed, I have to work. It massively affected me psychologically as I was suffering from depression amongst a catalogue of other delights. Having been assessed and dismissed as “fine” by multiple physios and doctors, I genuinely thought I was going mad and imagining it all. FUN TIMES.

After StreTch’s somewhat brutal assessment of my movement patterns (which was the most sensible thing anyone had said to me in the previous two years of strife), he stripped everything back, referred me to a fantastic physio who correctly and FINALLY diagnosed my condition. He bruised my ego for sure, but his methods, knowledge and experience won me over and he began the slow yet steady process of putting me back together again.

During the past four years the daily crippling pain has disappeared, the nerve has healed, balance and strength has returned and increased in ways I never thought possible but so much more than this, he gave me a renewed focus and sense of achievement, a world of education in gymnastics, strength and HOW to move and lift properly. Things I never ever ever thought I could or would do are now achievable.

For example, I’d coveted being able to do a pull-up ever since watching Terminator 2 and seeing Linda Hamilton doing them in her cell. Never thought I would be able to do one. But I can! And more than one if you please! Also, as Stretch pointed out, I do them with full range, unlike Linda. Sorry Linda babes, truth hurts.

However, being somewhat of a stubborn cow, it took me a while to fully follow procedure due to the fact my wonky mind was always beating me up, pushing me far too hard (in every aspect of my life) and thus doing extracurricular activities and often overtraining. This didn’t help. And Stretch would say this to me repeatedly, explaining with actual solid scientific facts, many whiteboard drawings, articles and studies but my addled brain thought it knew better. It didn’t. Take it from me: listen to him. And from the word go. Then carry out what he prescribes. Trust him and trust the process. You will get there faster and healthier. Don’t be a wally and think you know better. You don’t. Soz, truth hurts. Ask Linda.

These days, instead of wanting to continually beat myself up in the gym, lifting as heavy as possible, push as hard as I can and generally exhausting myself to the point of cross-eyed tears, I follow the programme and leave the gym feeling good. You don’t gain anything from beating yourself up in the long run. Except for pain and no one wants that. It’s not about chasing weight. It’s about being able to move well and with a good range of motion until I am an old lady going up the stairs. I need my knees!  Of course, I still want to train with weight, and I love the occasional high-intensity workout, a challenge, and to feel my heart racing, but I need to stay within my limits. If I suddenly get a new PB, cool, I will be buzzing, but it will be a bonus, not a focus. I will mess around and test myself because it’s interesting, but I don’t need to test myself daily.

Also finally, but most importantly, training with Stretch has changed not only my attitude to training, but unexpectedly my life massively. Gymnastics is well hard. The simplest things, done properly and with correct form, full range and so forth requires a massive wallop of focus, time and effort. It challenges your brain and your body together as you are finding ways of movement and muscle you have never used before. You need to work on the movement pattern and the strength required in the tiniest muscles you never knew would play such a huge part. Like fingers! Who knew how much those tiny guys had to play in the quest for strength in so many movements! They are the key!

Of course you could cheat your way through it. But it is a hollow victory and the ego-boost wears off super quick. The sense of achievement when you finally get something you struggled with, couldn’t do on first attempt, given a great deal of time and an impressive range of swearing to is the best. Seriously, I am still buzzing from my first pull-up and that was years ago now.

But because of this methodology of training, it has made me so much more patient. Not just with trying to nail that handstand, but in normal life. Patience is a quality that always eluded me. I used to constantly panic, or fly off the handle as a first reaction to any hiccup in life, but now I am calmer and when things go wrong or don’t go right first time, I am able to think my way out of a situation without major alarm-flashing anxiety but instead with a sort of hippy-serenity. It can be tested in very long supermarket queues at times, but in general, I am able to laugh off the initial reaction and worry, take a breath and try again, knowing that it will happen if I focus and work my way out of the problem steadily and without system shutdown. I never knew I was so zen. Get me.

It may sound corny – remember I am a hippy now – but Stretch is more than a coach for me. He has given me my life back. I was in a very dark place, but now no more. Work is a joy again. Crikey, even walking down the street is! I can prance about on stage with so much more freedom and stamina, and I CAN DO A PULL UP YOU KNOW. He is also a super ace human being. He always has time for you offering the best advice. He is continually training and learning not only to benefit his mind but to help his clients. He genuinely gives a shit. He wants improvements. He cheers you on. And even though he is on the other side of the world now, his support, understanding, encouragement and care is felt and heard as if he was standing next to me and I feel unbelievably lucky and so happy to have him in my life.