Saturday, 30 October 2010

My first tennis matchplay

So I played my first matchplay today down at Sutton tennis academy. Thought I'd record it here for reference later.

I'd been playing badly all week so I wasn't very confident going in. My shots lacked rhythmn and my serve was a nightmare. I kept double faulting. The week before I had been playing so well and I was really confused. On Friday realised I'd been tossing the ball really low. Tossing a little higher and I instantly served better.

As for my shots I'd been really patient and aiming at the hit zones of the guys I'd been playing. Allowing them to play good shots against me and forcing me to work on my footwork. Last week I stopped that. I started to try to win points outright, so the rallies we shorter, neither of us got a rhythm and we play badly.

So I was a little nervous going in. Getting a rhythmn on my shots is one thing but if I'm doubling faulting atleast once each service game then it's really hard to win a set. You're bound to lose atleast one service game this way and that can be enough to lose the set.
It was also a long drive down. I guessed it would take about 2 hours but given the road works that are on basically the whole route and the fact that it was the first time driving there it ended up being about 3 hours. So my bum was a little sore by the time I arrived, thankfully about 45 minutes early since I'd left about 11:40.

Normally I wouldn't mention this but it's worth remembering for next time cos I'm not used to playing a match after such a long drive. And I need to figure out the best way to handle it. Having a few warm up games might help but I didn't want to tire myself out.

When the match started I was a little nervous. I could feel my heart racing and was a little tense. Thankfully I managed to get my second serves in and my opponent didn't take too much advantage. I managed to win the first service game so got off on a good footing. I won the first set mainly because I kept my focus. I got very few first serves in. I couldn't find a rhythmn on it at all but my second serve was fine. I think I made just 2-3 double faults. I was broken once or twice but then broke my opponent several times. Kind of normal for the 9.2 level I'm playing.

My opponent was basically a pusher. He had no big shots to hurt me with but he was VERY consistent. I found that if I got into a long rally and didn’t attack him then he’d win out. But I generally won when he came to then net, I love a target. I also found he wasn’t that great on the move but I didn’t really exploit this enough. I kind of settled into baseline rallies a little too much. I found that whilst he never put any shot back very hard he often dropped them quite short or very high but generally with little pace. This is actually hard to attack. Atleast I find it hard. In the first set I think I was more patient. I didn’t try to win the point directly. I moved him around and quite often found a winning shot or made him miss  

The funny thin is that while I won the first set, neither of us could find a first serve. The second set was different because we both started finding our first serve. Me more than him. The problem was that it then gave him a consistent shot to hit and he started returning well. I often find this problem when I hit my serving stride. A serve with pace can easily get returned with pace. Many of my serves weren’t return and I even got an ace. He left me so much space on his right side I couldn’t miss.

I remember when starting the second set feeling really happy to have won the first. I felt I could relax and play my game more. Go for my shots. Bad move. Other competitions I’ve played only do 2 sets. So you either win or draw. I’d forgotten this competition plays a championship tie break so I still needed to win the second set.

I was starting to get a feel for the court, player and ball. Each were different than I’m used to. Indoors I find spin has more of an effect that outside. The balls seemed to bounce differently, but that’s probably cos they were fresh out of the tin and not 500 years old and bald . I also don’t play anyone like this guy so I was certainly winging it.

So I started swinging more freely. Against a pusher this isn’t the best move. In hindsight I should have started moving my feet better. Reason being that I was often slightly out of position when I played my shots. It was a small amount but it matters when you hit hard. It magnifies any mistake and throws your technique off. As is usual for me I tried to power my way through (I’ve been working on this, and get in better position, be more patient, yada yada yada but I am who I am and I did what I do and I paid for it). I should have taken the advantage I’d gained to explore my opponents weaknesses and strengths more. I don’t remember doing that. I just tried to hit harder. I had no real reason to feel this would help. Normally you just start hitting out when before you used to be just inside the line.
So unfortunately I started losing. I lost my serve, broke back then ended up 4-1 down. Mainly though losing my focus. I wasn’t being as cunning and throwing away points. I fought back to 4-3 but then lost the next two games and the set being complacent again.

For the championship set decider I never got ahead. I think the main problem is that I hadn’t figured out any particular strategies to beat the guy. I was just hitting as I felt. I noticed that he was attacking my backhand and I still hadn’t relaxed enough to punish him for that. While I was feeling confident on serve I wasn’t confident on my groundies enough to really attack him. I still put this down to lazy footwork and also a lack of tactics. I didn’t even think of the basic 1-2 punch. I didn’t use my serve as a tactic i was just happy to get it in.

I eventually lost 10-6. So overall it was quite close. All the other matches had finished by then so we’d certainly taken out time. I really enjoyed it. I’m kicking myself because I really felt I should’ve won but that’s why I want to compete. You have to earn you wins and I didn’t. I’m happy that I didn’t get down on myself at all and I got rid of my nerves. But I didn’t push hard enough with my footwork. Ao I still feel I could have attacked more by sorting out my base.

I was sweating like a trooper, glad I had a towel with me but I definitely need to get some sweatbands. My glasses were covered in sweat which actually got in my way at times. I should have cleared it off I was worried that I’d just smear my glasses and not see any better. it’s happened before but in truth I know I could have cleaned them properly on my top and being able to see well is what it’s all about.
I think I need to drink more water when I compete indoors. It just gets so hot and I sweat so much.
I’ve also got to start figuring out standard routines to win points. With my serve I should just expect a short ball and be ready to attack it.  I should also move my opponent from side to side. This guy didn’t have great movement but I hardly tried to move him at all. He also wasn’t that tall but I didn’t bring him in and lob him. I need to be practising all these different tactics so I’m familiar with them  and remember them when I need them in a match.

I’ve also got to tie these routines with tactics. I need to work on identifying my opponents strengths and weaknesses. I didn’t figure out what I should be aiming at. I was just hitting without purpose.  In hindsight I don’t know why I stood so far behind the baseline. I’ve been working on this cos I often stay on the baseline after the serve. This exposes me to guys who hit strong deep shots but this guy didn’t. Most were short and without power. I don’t know why I didn’t come in to mid court more so my shots would penetrate more.

To fix this I need to vary my practice more. Play against different guys and adopt these basics regularly. I really need to impose my style. This time I succumbed to a pushers style. I need to start forcing my style. then my shots will come together.

Perhaps you can now see why I’m a bit bummed. I think I really should have won but my tactics and approach was weak. I’ve got the shots but I didn’t use them properly. I'm glad I kept my cool and enjoyed myself. I also got my shots, particularly my serve working under pressure. Something I didn't do well previously. I think I played the points a little too much not the ball. I can work on these things. I’m hoping to try again in a month so hopefully I’ll do better.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

The Minister, the Entrepreneur and the Civil Servant: a cautionary tale

Just read this article and, like the author, I've seen this happen enough to feel it's a pattern worth recording. I can't say I've been dealing with mp's but I find the same happens when you deal with managers who are just plain busy and rely on their staff to actually get the job done. You either get lucky and the allocated staff help you out or they don't. If you get that wrong and the manager isn't 100% behind you then you're stuck.

Friday, 22 October 2010

How far does uni education need to change its practice in order to successfully deliver digital scholarship?

    This is a big question.. I'm not going to answer it here, apologies. No, I recently attended a coffee morning asking that question. I'm just going to post my suggestion. It's about money. I know you'll think that's not really what is being asked and my answer is that unless you can pay for the idea you have then you're stuck. I don't see anything technically that can't be done. It's just what we can afford that matters. I want better research, better policy, better tools. I want the whole lot but unless I explain how I'm going to pay for it I won't get anything. Or I'll just have to accept what I'm given

If there's one thing I would do that doesn't seem to be getting talked about then it would be delivering a simple micro payments system that some one developing a solution to an educational need could plug into their project and thus monetise it. Removing the need to go begging for funding.

A major barrier to getting an idea out there is cost. We would support much more innovation if we could deliver ideas in the knowledge that monetising them was relatively simple. I've noticed how the business model of internet games such as farmville is based on micropayments. They have 80 million users and just aim to get £2-£3 from each. They've made the payment process so simple and the price so low that there's very little barrier to payment. If similar options were available to OU projects then more ideas could get off the ground.

I'd like a place or team I could approach that had expertise in monetising solutions that could advise and support the idea I have. This would provide a means to funding a project outside of current funding models. One that develops my institutions ability to attract paying customers and develop solutions customers will pay for. It also removes the barrier to innovation that I keep coming up against. That is, getting funding and the politics that are involved.
    Education is an industry that's used to having a patron. Generally the government. It's used to being a public good. But I also feel that this protection from competitive forces has inhibited innovation. I feel that funding for smaller, seemingly insignificant projects is hard to achieve because the process of getting funding is so tedious and has no guarantees. You're also stuck with needing to demonstrate a given benefit. You don't have to go far to find a situation where the people who have the money don't believe there's a need in the first place. Now you're in a catch 22. 
    So I just want the option to ask the customer directly. Would you pay for this. Give them paypal, world pay, mobile payments or which ever is appropriate or can be put in place. Let your customers decide what is worth paying for. So you focus on figuring out how to help your customers enough to make them want to pay. 
    I'm kind of tired of these people who have money who expect me to justify why I should get it so I can help some one that they don't even know about. Why should these money men get to make the decisions. That's not exactly and open and fair way of doing things. If an idea is good enough and the team providing the solution can figure out how to monetise it then doesn't every one benefit?

    Tuesday, 19 October 2010

    Seth Priebatsch: The game layer on top of the world - Seth Priebatsch (2010)

    Just like mobile and social have come along and are now here to stay. I strongly believe that games and gaming styles are coming in the next few years. Here's a great talk explaining why.

    Seth Priebatsch: The game layer on top of the world - Seth Priebatsch (2010): "By now, we're used to letting Facebook and Twitter capture our social lives on the web -- building a 'social layer' on top of the real world. At TEDxBoston, Seth Priebatsch looks at the next layer in progress: the 'game layer,' a pervasive net of behavior-steering game dynamics that will reshape education and commerce."

    Friday, 15 October 2010

    Gaming as a teaching tool

    Just had to pass on this short article about gaming as a teaching tool. I've grown up with games. But then games have been around for thousands of years and are often designed at their core to teach us something. Monopoly teaches basic maths and cncepts of buying and selling. Snap teaches about comparisons between objects in terms of looks and value.

    So whilst I saw heavy criticism in the comments I feel that we all inherently know and accept that games are a natural and crucial part of learning. .

    Monday, 11 October 2010

    Working in the 21st century

    I've felt for quite a while now that the arrival of the internet will eventually lead to a fundamental revolution in how we work. I was reminded by the article Innovation:Online army turns the tide on automation of  Amazon Mechanical Turk, an example of how this might play out. At the same time I also feel that this could lead to a revolution in the way our qualifications are assessed and gained.

    Any business has a bunch of tasks that need to be done that don't need a genius to do them. They just need someone with basic a skillset. Til now you'd bring in a temp and train them up. Hence you've got to pay for the overheads they bring. The tools they need, the space in your office, even holidays. And you've got to pay the agency fee. Surely the internet can do a better job.

    Amazon is now trying to be the middle man, the agency. They've provided a place to manage the tasks, rate workers and even gain qualifications. it's no surprise to me that they've added this accoutability to the process. At the same time they're making it easier for people who might struggle in gaining academic qualifications get some basic qualifications. Sure they're only relevant int he amazon context but then if this grows enough then it may be all they need to get decent references.

    My point is really that if you think distributed then you'll break your work up into the stuff that you can outsource like this and the stuff you need done in house. Then you can improve your profit margins by only paying for what you need to outsource. Hence you're more likely to survive.

    Workers get the freedom they don't currently have of truly being able to pick and choose the work they do. They pick when they work and have some say over what they get paid. they can also decide how much time they put in.

    Both sides gain. At the moment I still see this as a young immature market but I can only see it growing. It may take many years to gain acceptance and Amazon may not have the winning solution. That's to be seen. But the concept is, for me, a real winner. Particularly for the next generation. If I were 16 again and wanted a little money then I think this approach would draw me in. I could do work at 11am when I wake up or 2am when I'm bored and can't sleep. I don't have to go out when it's freezing outside. It's not perfect it probably doesn't pay brilliantly at first, but the flexibility and freedom would be a real draw.

    The impact on qualifications is huge. Amazon have provided a place where you can pick and choose the qualification level of those who work for you. I expect it's quite simple at the moment but it wouldn't take long  before this could handle much more complex qualifications and you might be able to cherry pick the particular qualifications you require. Being very specific in your requirements becomes possible due to the scale of the workforce you're targetting. We're talking hundreds of thousands and potentially millions instead of thousands.

    Sunday, 3 October 2010

    An ideal education: My thoughts

    It’s very much a time to look at existing ways of doing things and reinvent them with all our new knowledge, tools and skills.

    The essence of education is, I feel, a service that changes the way you think. As you become more educated you see the world differently than before, your mind is opened. You can do things and see things that you couldn’t before. Well, why don’t I hear lots of talk about improving the fundamental metric behind this. The speed that you can educate someone. The speed at which they can do and see new things.

    I see a future where learning is free. Basic content and learning systems are free and open. Openlearn is a good example. So there are no barriers to you just diving into a topic and beginning your learning journey.

    If you want/need to learn faster then you pay. The faster you want to learn the more you pay. I get that this puts up a barrier but I see this as a natural part of the way the world works and should work. Developing tools and services to speed learning is very costly. You need to recoup the costs and turn a profit. Over time the tools become standardised and cheaper and thus open to more and more people. Eventually they’re free. In the meantime there are models of funding, such as grants, available that could be used to connect those without the means to pay for the premium fast learning and enable everyone an opportunity to access premium services and institutions to make a profit.

    This type of model is already being used to great effect in many of the newer online games. Farmville has attracted 80 million users by blending a free to enter game with tools and products you can buy to enhance the experience further. Most of these ‘addons’ are relatively cheap and allow you to choose where to spend your money.

    In education what should underpin this is a science of human performance. I envisage real and virtual laboratories where the underlying facts of how humans learn are studied and shared along with how to apply this in the real world to help students and everyone involved in learning.

    We need to be focusing on improving the speed and quality of getting information and concepts into peoples heads. At the same time we need to help them express this new found knowledge better. We respect and hire people not because of what they know but what they can express and apply.

    Unfortunately I don’t see much money being spent on this type of research compared to most other areas. Yet I see this has one of the widest levels of application. There are 6 billion people that can benefit from this knowledge and it’s not hard to show that the world economy would greatly benefit from a more educated population. In short we’ll benefit very quickly so the return on investment would be high.

    Exams and interviews are two key methods used to assess knowledge yet I also see little scientific and systematic education on how to to master either. I see bits of exam practice on courses but I don’t see a systematic application of principles designed to help students consistently apply the knowledge they’ve gained to a high standard in practice.

    By this I mean that exams should be getting consistently harder to pass yet the pass rate should be about the same each year. This should be achieved because the tools and support available is getting better. Students should be finding it easier and easier to grasp complex and challenging concepts faster, in more detail and should be getting better and better at applying and expressing this knowledge or skill in more contexts and scenarios. Year on year.

    Education providers should be competing on how difficult their exams are whilst maintaining consist pass rates and minimising barriers to learning. That to me is how you create an open competitive market where students can see value for money. They can compare their investment of time, money and effort with the return they get in knowledge, skills and qualifications.

    To be honest I don’t like the concept of a failure rate. If I paid for learning and I put the effort in then I should pass. Otherwise I’ll go to another provider who can teach me better. Maybe I’m talking about it being an acceptable failure rate. Students don’t pass the exam but they can retake it whenever they like. They can also buy further services if they like, to help them pass.

    I also wonder whether it should just be a pass or failure. We have the technology for better granularity these days. You should pass on your strengths and then only have to retake exams on you weaknesses. I just see it as wasteful to only pass or fail an entire course. I don’t see how that helps anyone.

    In terms of applying this in the real world I also expect an institution to be using it’s own learning service to educate its staff. If they aren’t then it can’t be very good. I expect newer features to be developed in house and trialled on staff and student cohorts in a beta and alpha fashion.

    What I mean is that as part of the staffs day or week they should be undertaking courses. Each institution should be figuring out how to fit learning into the standard working day instead of leaving it as a bolt on to home life. There are methods of achieving a balance between r&d (learning) and delivering a solution (applying that learning). It’s in every learning providers interest to figure out how to fit learning into the busy lives we all lead. The institutions that succeed and do it well will prosper

    In summary, I would like an education system that focused on improving the speed and quality of learning while also simplifying its provision. Making it easier to fit in our busy lives. One where the experience of learning gets more enjoyable and satisfying year on year yet the quality and depth of my understanding is greater. A students ability to express and apply this knowledge is also improving every year so the time and effort it takes them to go from being introduced to some knowledge and then having a firm grasp of it is so much less than it used to be.

    This would be a world where the return on investment for education is continually growing. One where the prospects of all individuals who apply themselves to learning are getting better year on year.

    These improvements would come about through increased research and focus on human performance. Far more than is currently done. Increasing the shared knowledge on how best to transfer information into humans along with what they need to best share this information with others and apply it in in their lives. This knowledge is then fed into the tools, processes and practices used to learn and teach.

    I’m increasingly realising that’s my dream. I’m working on tools and things that can bring this to reality but I’m just one guy with limited time. I really hope that some one out there is pursuing this and making it a reality.

    Saturday, 2 October 2010

    Friday, 1 October 2010

    Rehabilitating a sprained ankle

    So I sprained my ankle quite badly way back on August 10th this year. I’ve sprained my ankles a ton of times before and recovered fine so I know the rehab drill. A bunch of years had passed since my last sprain so I thought I’d check out how the advice had improved. Unfortunately it hadn’t improved much at all. 

    My ankle 2 days after the sprain
    The advice I really want to follow was that I received from a sports physio while I was at Loughborough because it’s just the best I’ve ever received. The guy just knew his stuff so completely and explained to me exactly what to do, when and why. 

    The problem is that I didn’t use the web back then and definitely didn’t blog so I have no record of what he said and what worked.

    I’m frustrated that there is no step by step guide to rehabilitating a sprained ankle despite it being just about the most common injury from sport. Thousands of people sprain their ankles every week yet no one seems to have bothered to post a simple step by step idiots guide. There’s just a basic, vague set of guidelines to follow.

    So I thought I’d document my treatment and the results so I do have a record for the next time I need it and so I can advise my wife and kids in the future. This way I’ve got a record of what I did over time and some analysis of what worked and what didn’t.

    As you’ll see some decisions I made really improved the speed and quality of my recovery and some really held it back. Atleast now I’ve got the benefit of this experience next time I or some one I know has a sprain.

    I should also note that I wanted to get back to fitness really quickly because I had just joined a couple of local tennis leagues. I’d been waiting for a tennis league to play in for years so I didn’t want to miss out. The sprain occurred just a few days before my first match was scheduled. So I hoped to get back out and playing as soon as I could because there weren’t many weeks left of the league.
    So the first thing to talk about is what happened. I was just playing football and went to block a pass. The ball hit my foot when I wasn’t expecting it. The foot got pushed right under my ankle so quickly I couldn’t do anything about it. So quick in fact I'm not sure if I even stepped on it while it was pushed like this.

    Anywho, the point of this description is to highlight the first thing the physio from Loughborough taught me that I hadn’t done well enough. That is, prevent injury by strengthening my ankle muscle complex. I play so much tennis all the time I assumed it would be well prepared. Sadly i was wrong.

    What I’m supposed to do is a bunch of exercises to improve the strength and coordination around my ankle. Particularly the small muscles. This work makes such a difference to my balance and reflexes. More than once I’ve stepped on a divot and felt my ankle go, only for the ankle reflexes I’ve trained to kick in and straighten the ankle before any serious damage is done.

    That’s what I needed here. My foot moved so quickly I needed a reflex reaction to save it. I couldn’t have done anything consciously. So it’s just a reminder that football, for me has greater demands on the ankle and needs greater preparation.  

    The next issue is about first aid. What to do when you’ve just had a sprain. It was during lunch at work that the sprain occurred and I felt a bit cheeky suddenly asking to go home ill. In hindsight I have to say what was I thinking but then then that’s what I’m like. It was during the height of the summer holiday season and we were really low on the ground in numbers so i didn’t want to let the team down.  I often put work over my health and I think I’m not the only one.

    I’m writing this on 2nd October. I can play tennis again so my ankle is a lot better but the scaffolding that the body creates to prevent further injury still hasn’t gone making my ankle stiff unless I warm it up well. I don’t remember this stiffness lingering for so long after a sprain and I think it’s mainly due to the lack of basic first aid I gave my ankle.

    It sounds silly but, as you’ll see throughout this article. since I had no notes and the info on what to do can be confusing or awkward to do I thought I’d try a minimalist, natural approach because I’d never done that before. I thought I’d see it as a chance to learn and preserve a record for the future.

    It’s common knowledge rest, ice, compression and elevation are the basic first aid for sprains. But I’d heard a few things arguing against the benefits of ice. Well, I’m convinced now that ice in particular is critical in the first stages, the first 48 hours to minimise the swelling that occurs. Compression I’ve always found hard to do but resr, ice and elevation are easy enough when you’re at home. So the first thing I should have done is gone straight home and started rice straight away.

    Technically protection is now added so the acronym is PRICE and you can get some nice plastic things that protect your foot when you start walking.

    So the next day, a Wednesday, and for the rest of the week II worked from home so I could rest the ankle properly. You can see from the photo how bad it looked once the swelling and bruising came out after a few days. The only time I can remember bruising and swelling this bad was when I sprained my ankle on holiday in Spain. That was another time I didn’t use any of the basic first aid and it also had more advanced swelling than usual. Shame I couldn’t blog about that at the time. Would have saved me some hassle.

    I have been hearing how doctors now encourage people to get back to activity soon than they used to. So, over the weekend we bought some crutches so I was able to get around a little bit. It didn’t seem to be making my ankle worse and it meant that I could keep the strength up in the rest of my body. So I went to work on Monday. I thought I should atleast try to go in.

    It was worth a try but it’s just not easy to elevate your ankle at work and it was actually quite cold even though it was in the summer so my ankle wasn’t going to heal very well. So I took the rest of the week off. I just properly rested. Just doing the basic rehab exercises to develop my ankle when the pain had subsided.

    I went back to work the next week when I was able to get around much better. I could put weight back on my ankle and was starting to walk. Albeit relatively slowly. I couldn’t stand straight on the ankle yet. My ankle felt ready to take weight so I used walking as its own rehab.

    This worked well for the first couple of days. Then I found my calk muscles got very tender. So I was in pain for the rest of the week. It wasn’t til the end that I found that I needed to stretch my calves, then the pain went away. I thought I’d just pushed too hard and was paying the price when in fact  I just needed a quick stretch. All of a suddent I could walk far more naturally. The limp had pretty much gone except when I was going downstairs.

    I then had a bit of luck since I had two weeks holiday booked off. I could just do what I needed to sort my ankle out. It started off well. I was able to work on the next phase of rehab that the loughborough physio taught me about. He explained that scar tissue normally forms inside the joint when RICE hasn’t been followed correctly. What he did at the time was push through it. He physically pushed my ankle through the scar tissue. He explained that this tissue cannot be allowed to linger. Once the ligaments were on their way to healing you had to get active to break down the scar tissue.

    When I saw him it had been 3 weeks since my sprain. He said I could have got rid of the scar tissue even earlier. So this time that’s what i did. I just kept on doing a little more with my ankle each day until tuesday night of that week. That’s when the next thing went wrong.  

    At first I just seemed to have a trapped nerve. I went to bed early figuring rest would be the best cure. How wrong I was. The pain got so much worse. I started having pain when breathing. It felt like one of my ribs was pinching my lungs when I breathed. It meant I could only take short sharp breathes. I couldn’t really get a full breath.

    Then I started feeling shooting pains down my spine. Every time I moved was complete agony. I couldn’t even sleep because doing anything but sitting up dead straight was so painful. It’s so rare that anything goes that wrong with my body I’m really not used to this kind of situation so I didn’t know what to do. I tried painkillers but they did nothing. I even called NHS direct it was so bad but all they did was make it clear it wasn’t on their list of serious problems.

    So while it was really painful. Atleast I knew it was unlikely to be anything really bad. Still, even the trip to get painkillers was agony and then to find that it had no effect. That was a real bummer. I eventually managed to get to sleep by propping myself up with a ton of pillows.

    The strange thing was that I was a lot better by the morning. I still manage to play my first game of tennis in weeks. I thought playing would be better than sitting around. I just focused on taking care of my back. No sudden movements and basically using good technique. I really felt better for the exercise. But that night I had the same problems and pain. I was losing faith that this was going to pass quickly. So the next day I booked an appointment with the doctor. I couldn’t get an appointment til the next day so I just put up with it.

    My memory is a bit vague at this point but I remember that by the next morning I had start to feel better. I think the day before I had talked to my wife about the pains and she told me she’d had similar ones before. That they had gone away when she exercised her back. That reminded me about another basic principal of rehab that I hadn’t quite followed properly. I hadn’t been ensuring all my muscle groups and joints were kept active.

    I’d focused on weight bearing activities forgetting about activities for my back, core and upper body. My walking wasn’t a natural motion yet and I’d just started a light jog. The action most likely put strain on my sholuders and back which were weak from weeks of sitting and lying. I’d forgotten about these areas of my body because I’d been so focused on my ankle and legs. it just shows how easy it is to forget the whole and focus on the specific.

    I think it was that night, the thursday, that I specifically started working my back and shoulders and on the friday  From then on the pains began to disappear. It still took a few days but eventually they went completely.

    I’ve included these details about my back pain as a reminder that during rehabilitation you have to take care of all the parts of your body not just those that are obviously affected. Other parts need to get the same care they normally would. It also shows what can happen if your back doesn’t get the regular exercise it needs. It reminded me of previous times I’ve had severe back pain. Each time it was when I’d become lazy and spent too much time sitting or lying down. Once I addressed that the pain quickly went away.

    After these initial setbacks I’ve foudn my ankle has progressed quickly. Once I got back to work a month after the sprain I had already played a few games of tennis. So I began building on that. I probably overplayed but then I wanted to see just how far I could push myself. I was just focusing on good technique and using the activity itself to push my ankle through the barriers it needed to overcome.

    I found that over a few days the ankle seemed to get a bit swollen so I just let it rest. I was wondering if I was just pushing it too faor. Maybe it just needed a good rest to fix itself. I didn’t do much with it at all. After about four days I found it was still quite stiff in the mornings. While there was no pain. I coudl tell just about all the ligament damage was fixed but still the ligaments that had been damaged were very tight.

    Four days of rest had done nothing so I then resolved that I needed daily stretching and mobililty to slowly teach these ligaments how to be flexible and strong again. I consider this to be part of talking to my body. By stretching the joint, warming it up and then working through it’s range of motion I tell my body very clearly that i need strong and supply joints and ligaments. It then takes this feedback and does what it needs to to get rid of the scar tissue and replace it with proper ligaments.

    That’s my final hurdle. I am writing this on the 1st October. Almost 7 weeks after I sprained my ankle. It’s no longer painful and the ligaments have mostly healed but I’ve still not got full range of motion. This week I noticed that I wasn’t pushing off on my damaged ankle properly when trying to run. I had to focus on correcting this. I quickly fixed it and from then on the muscle tone has returned much more to the calf.

    It’s been lots of little things like this that I would have appreciated advice on. I may have been able to get this from a physiotherapist but I’m not convinced they all have much training on preparing you for sports. Even then I can’t afford the £30 an hour for something that I know will fix itself given time.

    I’ve covered most of what I wanted to cover. I feel I’ve learnt and recorded some useful tips for the next time this happens. I feel the main lesson is the mobility restriction I have now is down to the lack of RICE at the start. It what I’ve always been told. Now I have proof. I hoped this natural scaffolding my body provided to protect my body would be easier to shift but unfortunately it hasn’t been.

    The good news is that I don’t really notice it any more playing tennis. I’m finding that I’m just nervous of playing fully on it. When I work on that, and make sure I run properly rather than trying to protect my ankle, I feel much better.

    I hope this helps any one else who bothers to get this far. I know this has been a long one but then I didn’t expect my sprained ankle to lead to quite so much drama.

    edit 20110510
    So I've got an update. I've been using my ankle for a long time but it hasn't quite healed properly. It's pretty much fixed now. I carried on for quite a while with a few problems because I just didn't quite know how to fix them. 

    Improved tennis footwork.
    I like to use my injuries to force me to improve my sports technique. Might aswell get something useful out of it. I rested up for several weeks but that didn't help at all. So I decided to improve my footwork during tennis to reduce the impact on my ankles. I figured the main issue was the impact in terms of jumping up and down. Since I found walking helped my ankles but running didn't. 

    So I changed my footwork from running to kind of gliding or stepping. I always keep one foot on the ground and focus on landing gently. It took a little thought at first but now it's second nature. The big plus is that I've got so much more balance and speed. I can turn on a dime and my game has improved no end. My ankle was getting very tense previously but training this way they were fine.

    Built ankle strength, coordination and proprioception
    At the same time I visited the physio to check if I should be doing more. She reminded me that I hadn't been developing my ankle strength and coordination to pre injury levels. When she observed me she commented on these aspects which is useful because there is no measure or comparison that you can find on the web. You need someone knowledgeable to tell you.

    So I did generic exercises to build strength and balance in my ankle. Like standing on one leg, First on the flow, Then on a cushion. Later, with my eyes closed. I came across my old sports injury magazines and was reminded I could progress to lunges that build balance, strength and flexibility. The progress to more difficult exercises. But I read these too late so I went straight to balancing on one leg, then lowering myself until I could touch the floor with both hands, then stand up again. All on one leg. 

    This was really difficult. it highlighted the weakness and lack of coordination on my left side. I could do it easily on my right but with my left I kept dropping my hips and losing balance. After a week of trying it finally worked. My ankle quickly felt stronger and better.

    Adding to this I also started striding while crouching a little. It would look funny but I was building up the ability to change direction while crouched down, I also kept stopping on one leg and balancing to improve my dynamic balance and control. There was no impact involed so it was still a gentle exercise to build up the ankle.

    At the same time I was building strength in my ankle doing one leg raises on the stairs. And also doing side to side movements with my ankles while sitting down to improve their lateral strength.

    Built ankle flexibility.and tendon plasticity
    At this point I knew I was pretty much there. The slight lateral ankle pain I'd been feeling for months finally stopped. Indicating the ligament had healed. I think the strengthening and proprioception work really helped there. It was noticeable how much less pain there was after I did those exercises. Also, as my balance and strength improved so did the pain.

    A lingering problem had been synovitis where the synovial membrane in the ankle seems to have swollen indicating some friction in the ankle. that has gone down consistently as each symptom has cleared up. The last symptom is the calf tendon and muscle feeling tight. Particularly after intense training but often just at the end of the day through normal wear and tear. It didn't feel like normal muscle tiredness. I'm used to that. It felt as thought the muscle was caught in a tight net.

    I went through this process to learn about my body and I kept remembering that the tendons and ligaments are a complex themselves and work with the muscles. They really contain the muscles and the ankle tendons actually run right up the leg to the hip. they're also repaired using collagen but need help regaining their pre injury plasticity. that is their ability to stretch and recoil naturally. 

    They're a very important part of normal movement and key to maximum power in most tennis strokes. They're also used in walking to push off as the heel leaves the ground. So it's only natural they'd be sore at the end of the day. It would also explain the synovitis because the ankle wouldn't absorb the forces correctly. The bones, cartilage and synovium would rub together leading to inflammation.

    The solution has been a combination of stretching, both standing and laying down to get a full ankle stretch without aggravating the synovitis.I've also been doing gentle hops from one foot to the other during matches and any time I felt like it. Just encouraging the tendons to regain their plasticity. Very quickly this seems to have worked. Right now I've got full range of motion back, the synovitis has pretty much gone and there's no pain. I'm pretty much back to full strength.


    In hindsight I just wish I'd remembered these exercises very early on. Once I started these training routines everything fell into place. I'm happy because it proves I didn't come back too soon. I just didn't know how to continue playing whilst minimising impact on my ankle. I also didn't have a bunch of techniques designed for rehabilitation. Atleast now I can adapt my tennis to rehab my ankle. So I don't have to take any time off. In fact I need to play to improve my recovery. That's the big score here for me.

    Good news

    This article paints a very bleak picture of recovery from a sprained ankle. I haven't fed back much because I was still learning. I have never been so active so regularly before which is why this has been a problem. I used to heal quickly because I wasn't so active.

    My task has been to learn how to heal an injury to such a core part of my body without stopping my activity. Now I have learnt what I needed to do so that if I suffer a similar fate it won't take me long to fix it. As is usual the answers are pretty straightforward though the path to finding them was long.

    In a future post I will describe what I did to fix my ankle and the other injuries I have incurred recently. For now I shared my recent experiences with no ankle pain after 7 sets of tennis. The proof is in the pudding as they say and this is the best example I can give to the state of my ankle now. 

    What I have learnt has been tremendous and I look forward to sharing it in the near future.