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Ellen Clark On How To Train With An Injury

Since I was young,  I was involved in extracurricular  sports including athletics, gymnastics, netball and basketball, thanks to the support of my parents.

By the age of seven I developed a great passion for tennis and demonstrated the coordination, drive and technique for a successful future in the sport. Although I initially viewed tennis as one of my favourite recreational activities, as I got older I gained a competitive edge which led to a more serious attitude towards training and competing.

At 14 years old, I was ranked 200 in Australia and top 10 in Queensland within my age group.

At this level, training was intense and competitions more frequent. I was training almost three hours a day, before and after school. I took part in gold and platinum ranked tournaments every weekend in order to maintain my ranking and potentially win money.

It was due to this intense regime, my body could no longer maintain its resistance to injury. During a Nationals tournament at Rod Laver Arena, home of the Australian Open, I felt a sharp horrible pain in my right shoulder that shot down my right arm.  This was my playing arm.

Throughout the tournament the pain got significantly worse, which lead me to withdraw and seek immediate diagnosis. I flew back to Brisbane and after initial tests, it became clear I had torn my entire rotator cuff and would need a shoulder reconstruction to allow me to continue to play competitive tennis.

Understandably, I was completely devastated.

I had shoulder reconstruction in the hope I could continue my dream of playing professionally. I was in a sling for 6 weeks and once I was given permission to take it off I began a long and tedious journey to recovery.  

Once I built the strength back in my shoulder with the help of thera-bands and light-weighted exercises I began easing back into my usual exercises. Very quickly I realised it wasn’t going to be a painless experience, and I had to tweak the movements I was doing to avoid putting stress on my shoulder.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to seek medical advice prior to commencing an exercise regime and to get guidance as to what program may be possible.  

In my experience I found that I could train with a shoulder injury and reconstruction by doing the following:

1. Get expert advice

Before training, I worked with a Goodlife Fitness Professional who provided me with exercise alternatives I could use so as not to strain my shoulder.

2. Warm up

Whether it’s a basic warm up on the cardio machines or using the thera-band exercises, warming up prepares the body for exercise.

3. Use proper technique

Lock shoulders in a tight and stable position – this will help avoid further damage. Check with a Goodlife Fitness Professional if you’re unsure.

4. Train smarter

Focus on exercises that will build endurance. This will limit fatigue, mistakes and bad technique.

5. Perfect your posture

Learn correct posture and avoid shoulder hunching

6. Lift light weights

Incorporate high repetitions with light weights will help to build endurance and strengthen the smaller stabilising muscles.

7. Variety is key

Engaging in a variety of exercises is key to avoid overuse of the shoulders

8. Be aware of your Body

Learn to listen to your body and be prepared to take rest days as necessary and this is vital to allow your muscles to repair.

9. Invest in massages

Massages are great to loosen up your body, to avoid stress in areas which may affect your injury.

10. Get assessed

Regular medical/physiotherapy assessments to monitor your progress

Even after surgery and ongoing rehab, I still struggle with pain in my shoulder and am not able to participate in competitive tennis again. With the help of Goodlife Health Clubs I can now utilise their wide variety of equipment, classes and support from trainers to continue making my shoulder stronger and mobile.  


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