For those that know me well, I am not typically one who spends much time talking about, let alone writing about myself. However, I felt more than a little inspired to do just that, when Jill Miller recently reached out to her community seeking testimonials from female athletes and how they have incorporated Yoga Tune Up® and/or The Roll Model® Therapy Balls to enhance their performance. I quickly sat down and put proverbial pen to paper and as a result, have created this personal testimonial which I am humbled to share with you.
I am a female amateur athlete in Canada, currently competing in the male dominated sport of kart racing. Many are often surprised to hear that “karting” is an intense and physically demanding sport. Unlike a car, the racing karts I drive do not have either the luxury of power steering, or a suspension. One must maneuver an open wheel kart around a race track at speeds of and in excess of 80 kmph, all whilst sitting an inch off the ground in a hard fiberglass/carbon fiber seat, navigating through corners of varying degrees of complexity in multiple directions. As a result, all of the stress of movement and associated bumps are absorbed from the tires and chassis and then transmitted directly through the body, as well as all of the G-forces (<2.5G) experienced through intense cornering, and harder braking than would ever be experienced in normal road or driving conditions.
First, here is a little background history. I started racing competitively in 2012. During my first three years of racing, I sustained various injuries from the aforementioned physical demands of the sport, including fractured ribs, which are a fairly common injury in kart racing. At this time, I had already been a certified Yoga instructor for many years, but it was in early 2015 that I discovered Yoga Tune Up® and the Roll Model® Therapy Balls and have not looked back since. The high grip rubber therapy balls highlighted muscular tension and scar tissue that had accumulated in my body over the years of racing.
When I first started by diligently practicing the various self-care techniques, I observed that my tissues felt hard and unyielding. However, over time the therapy balls began to literally work their magic and I could feel my body responding and unleashing this accumulated tension. It was when I targeted the latissimus dorsi and external rotators of the shoulder that I really found the biggest change and overall benefit to my body and application to my racing. Utilizing the ALPHA ball at a wall to access these muscles I discovered the techniques of crossfiber, pin & stretch, and contract/relax (PNF) provided the most release.
Furthermore, through the use of the therapy balls, I developed an increased awareness of the large muscles spanning my back. By working on strengthening exercises focused in this region, I could now feel a more cohesive engagement and contraction of my posterior torso muscles, specifically the latissimus dorsi. Overall, these changes translated into better posture and a more efficient driving position to handle the rigors of racing. I was now able to sit up straighter and subsequently utilize the large and powerful muscles of my back and core to stabilize myself in the seat, instead of largely relying on the smaller muscles of my arms as I had always done previously.
In addition to performing self-care at home, I now always travel with a pair of therapy balls. Capitalizing on this travel time (as a passenger), I roll out my tissues during the journey to the kart track as a warm up and also on the return trip home to cool down and ease any soreness.
I am a firm believer that the regular use of the therapy balls has enabled me to remain injury free throughout the entire 2015 season. As a result, I was then able to focus on my race craft injury free and beating out my fellow male competitors. The 2015 racing season culminated in achieving two karting championship titles. The Simcoe Kart Club Masters Class Championship and also the Canadian Rookie Karting Championship. In this latter series, I finished first overall in the standings out of 342 fellow adult competitors and also became the first female overall champion in the history of the series.
On a lighter, more humorous note, I will remain forever humbled after a race when I remove my helmet and my competitors see that they have been beaten by a female, and one of a “mature age” at that! Their reactions vary greatly, some are inspired and wish they could get their wives/girlfriends to race. This tends to be the minority. There are always more than a few who are simply not very amused. I take it fully in stride with a discrete smile to myself, shake their hand and think ahead to the next challenge.