Case study: Stephen Miller

Meet Stephen, an incredible individual who dedicates his time to a highly demanding sport and job that most of us can only dream of doing day in and day out – all the while carrying a significant, chronic shoulder injury. He recently completed IN-TENSION’s 12-month Athlete Sponsorship Program with great success, after which this is what he had to say…

Tell us about yourself:

“I am a professional whitewater kayak instructor based out of Murchison New Zealand, using my body for work and recreation within the kayaking realm for over 250 days per year. A normal day of work for me consists of 6-8 hours on or in the water, working with clients and moving within the whitewater environment. During my personal time I like to paddle as well focusing on my growth within the sport and pushing my physical and mental boundaries.”

What challenges did you face before starting with IN-TENSION?

Due to the demand on my body I tend to get fatigued often. Due to this, I lose form, and effective and safe movement of my body, exposing me to injury and excess stress on joints etc. I also have a separated AC joint on my right side which can cause me discomfort. My aim was and is to avoid surgery for as long as possible by staying strong and moving better.”

What goals did you have for yourself? 

“To learn how to move more effectively and safely to enhance my performance and longevity within the sport. Kayaking is notoriously hard on your body and the more I can figure out the movement patterns and enable myself to make informed decisions on how to capitalise on stronger, more efficient movement, the more it will help me to have a sustainable career.”

What prompted you to start doing Corrective Movement training? 

“I was discussing it with a friend around the issues I was having with pain and shoulder issues, and he mentioned In-Tension and the work that Cara was carrying out. To me it sounded like the approach that I was keen on and the prevention rather than the ambulance at the bottom of the hill response that surgery seems like.”

Tips for incorporating Corrective Movement training into your day?

“For me it was about becoming habitual and aware of what I was doing and how that effected my body. Due to the physical nature of my profession, I was able to integrate my learnings/understanding/exercise into my everyday movements. I also did multiple gym training sessions per week; this was one of the more difficult parts of my time however it is also where I saw a large amount of gains and understanding of my body, movement and co-ordination. The gym exercise would occupy 30-60mins of my time, but I couldn’t recommend it more, to be in a place that makes you focus on your movement and training.”

How has corrective movement helped you?

“For me a lot of the important time was spent developing an understanding of how to use my body effectively and to its strength’s; to stop putting it in positions that expose it and cause injury or strain. I was lucky to come into the program relatively strong in key areas but lacking the tools to be able to use my body safely; I would just muscle my way through exercise and get away with things intermittently that would eventually turn into issues in the long term.

After implementing some understanding of what my body needs consciously from me in terms of form and moving efficiently, I was able to think and apply those into every day movements in and out of my boat. A key part was slightly altering my forward stroke to drop my shoulders down and back, to focus more on core rotation while having the shoulders in a safer position and using larger muscle groups and applying more power while having the shoulders in a safe place. The training wasn’t just in the gym, which was something that I really enjoyed about Cara’s approach.” 

Do you feel the tools you have learned will help you for your short-term goals? 

“Absolutely. The more I am able to be smart and informed about the way I move, the easier it will be to achieve goals that require my body to be moving as efficiently as possible.”

Can you see yourself continuing to apply Corrective Movement concepts in the future? 

“Yes, for me the goal of avoiding surgery for as long as possible is key. I’ve found that staying strong, results in less pain, and part of staying strong requires me to move correctly and well. The simple stuff like stretching, trigger point release, and basic body form have become things I focus on daily to help me achieve my goals and ability to move easily throughout my day.”

Your next goals from here? 

“From here I will continue to be on the water extensively throughout each year. I also have plans to go overseas on paddling trips, requiring my body to be working at full potential for weeks at a time. I am looking forward to using the things I have learnt to help improve recovery time and performance throughout.”

Any encouraging words of advice or tips to others who may be facing similar struggles to what you were prior to your training.

“For me it was easy to ignore it and just struggle through with little understanding as to what I was going through or why. I can’t stress enough that when you understand your movement and what you are asking form your body and are aware as how to make that easier and more efficient, you will be able to apply your body in a much easier way.”

Anything else to add?

“Working with Cara has been a pleasure. I was initially unsure about how it was going to progress by only using video calls to update and add parts to my trainings, however Cara’s approach and understanding of what I was requiring from my body was great. She was great at setting appropriate training plans for a person that is busy and already requires a lot from their body each day already. She genuinely cares about how you are progressing and feeling about your training and is open to feedback throughout the process however long that may be. Thank you!”

I have absolutely loved working with Stephen. Although I was here to help him, he has taught me a heck of a lot himself! Thanks, Stephen, for being an amazing client to work with and being a role model to so many.

If you would like check out Stephen in action, you can follow his personal kayak journey over on his Instagram @stephen_millerww

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