How long have you been involved in CrossFit, and when did you become a regular at Activate Physio?

I started CrossFit in March 2009 and became a regular client at Activate in 2014. I met Ben when he was opening up the clinic in Bentley (he was recommended to me by one of the Olympic lifting coaches).

What competitions did you prepare for and take part in 2014 and 2015?

After having 2013 off as I had my daughter in January of that year, I got back in to competition in 2014 as part of the CrossFit Open, Regionals and then Games, and again in 2015. I was also a part of team AUS in the CrossFit invitational in 2014 along with Kara Webb, Khan Porter and Rob Forte.

2014 was my best year, as I think I didn’t put too much pressure on myself and as a result of doing so much injury preventative and body maintenance work.

After childbirth a women’s clinic told me I would never be able to squat again – I continued to train though and I believe my body became stronger than it was before, so it turns out they were wrong! Always get a second opinion!

Denae at competiton and with her daughter

What Physio did you undergo in the lead up to the Open/Regionals/Games?

A lot of the work I did with Activate was injury preventative. I would schedule in with Ben for a regular visit injury or not during the competition season.

Some of the background issues that we worked through were my quad dominance in the squat and some of my lifts which was resulting in a huge amount of load transfer though to my lower back. Lumbar activation exercises to fire up the posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes) have made a big difference and are a regular part of my dynamic warmup. Ben also taught me a deep posterior hip release technique with the spiky ball which has an immediate effect and allows me to get deeper into a squat without compromising my lower back position.

Another area we worked on was the rotational mobility in my shoulder joint, elbow and wrist to correct an imbalance between my left and right sides which was particularly apparent during the snatch. Through video analysis and some solid hands on treatment, Ben was able to help me achieve a symmetrical end range position which made a huge difference as my training load and volume increased.

If you are a serious athlete, think about preventative treatment, which involves booking in a regular appointment injury or not to keep on top of your body and deal with possible injuries before they arise. It’s always much easier to prevent an injury as opposed to fix an injury, and in the end more cost effective so worth the investment.

The sport itself is increasing at an incredible rate. Even athletes looking to do well at an Open level are treating their training as a professional elite level athlete does in terms of hours in the gym they are investing.

So it makes sense to ensure that those hours that are getting invested into the gym are not eroded away through not taking care of your body in other domains. Like people do with cleaning up their diet, the same goes for getting treatment and injury pre-hab. Prevention is always better than cure.

Ben had a holistic view of the body and was able to develop a treatment protocol for every problem I encountered, so it was good to go to a practitioner who could do everything under the one roof.

Denae competing denae pull up

How did the Physio help with your performance?

The physio definitely kept me in the training environment for longer. I learnt as an athlete that the longer you stay injury free, the better. Whilst it may mean along the way you need to modify your training while little niggles heal, the beauty about CrossFit is that there are always other areas to train in and other areas you can improve on (or potentially conquer a weakness). Classic example of this is Amanda Allen coming off of the back of a foot injury in 2014 and going on to win the handstand max distance walking event.

If a coach is trying to push you into continuing to train even though you are nursing a potential injury, it displays their lack of flexibility.

As a result of looking after my body with regular Physio I had no time off through injury. Another huge benefit of working with Ben was that he was in regular contact with my coaches and could converse with them about what was going on with my body, so they could adapt my training accordingly.

Ben did an absolutely tremendous job, and I had a great support team around me.

What do you think Activate does differently from the rest?

What I can say is that these guys definitely know their stuff… movement analysis and knowledge of lifting mechanics are crucial if you’re treating a CrossFit athlete. As well as understanding the unique demands of the sport, they have the ability to work with your coaches to help manage and adapt training loads around any injuries as they heal – I couldn’t recommend them highly enough.

Read more about Activate’s CrossFit Functional Screenings

Interview by Jasmine Epiro