#Paramedic #MarkWhitley Update – #SpecificTraining to avoid #Workplace#Injuries:

I started training Mark about 18 months ago. He hired me specifically to:

  • design a programme that closely simulated the challenges of his job in the ‘trenches’ as a paramedic
  • take him into ‘dark’ areas outside his comfort zone
  • put all areas of his body in positions of ‘extreme’ strain to better ensure NO injuries that would potentially end his career
  • guarantee a safe, effective programme that would keep him injury-free and working as a paramedic for another 10 years

As I stated in my original blog post on Mark over 1 year ago, I had to spend time asking Mark about his job environment in order to best design simulated drills with the above goals in mind. I can tell you that with us training together once (and many times twice) per week, I have NEVER repeated the drill component of a workout. Mark never knows what he’ll be required to do each time we meet at Form & Function in Clarkson (south Mississauga), Ontario, Canada.

One of my goals in revisiting my work with Mark is to give all of you an idea  of what you can design to better prepare yourself for the physically and mentally active ‘unknown’. By doing so, you can continue being active without needlessly injuring yourself.

I will outline for you one of our sessions that includes 3 different drills designed to challenge Mark in all aspects of his job in the ‘trenches’. These will have accompanying photos to help you better understand what we do together.  I always begin with Mark by assessing his body symmetry and unlocking him accordingly with the Health Bridges, Functional Chain Trainer, left hip release and so on. Once I have Mark totally balanced and activated, we start in on the drills. Please follow along!

Drill #1 – varied planes. The goal is to have Mark move in different planes over various obstacles carrying his 25 to 30 pound medic kit (for our training, a kettle bell). Once reaching the victims (simulated by weighted balls), he must quickly extricate them to safety (meaning back to me).img_2004Stepping down and then up onto an unstable surface (in this case, stacked tires) combines balance with muscular endurance and flexor chain activation. This combination happens frequently when Mark must reach an accident victim. From the tires, he must stride across to the abdominal steps without stumbling – no easy task!img_2005Changing planes again, Mark must lower himself down to a narrow, wobbly bench, lie on his belly and search for the victims trapped around a large, industrial tire. If you look closely, you will notice Mark’s eyes are closed – this simulates him going into a damp, dark area where he must rely on his other senses (touch and hearing). img_2006He then must make his way back to safety where the victim can be removed and treated by associates. This recruits all of Mark’s muscles from his feet up (if you notice, he is BAREFOOT at all times). The return trip is more difficult as Mark must carry the ‘victim’ plus his kit without slowing down.img_2007img_2011One missed step and Mark not only injures himself but runs the risk of losing the ‘victim’. We completed the circuit 3 times to successfully rescue 3 victims.

Drill #2 – the varied weave. The goal is to simulate the different obstacles Mark often encounters in order to not only reach a victim but to safely remove said victim. With this in mind, I have Mark high-stepping over staggered hurdles that represent debris often scattered about an accident site.img_2012He next has to weave around a series of pylons on 1 knee, again replicating situations that are encountered when victims are trapped inside collapsed buildings. He must stay low but moving forward without hurting himself.img_2017From there, Mark has to run quickly through the ladder in a crouch, simulating the body position when moving along a narrow hallway with a low ceiling – a situation often encountered during a fire or explosion rescue. Here I have Mark move with ‘muted’ vision as he enters a darkened area. img_2015To reach the victims (again, there are 3 in total), Mark must assess the one in most danger, get down on his belly with eyes closed (he must again depend on his senses of hearing and feel) and carefully pull each victim to safety from under loose benches before returning to his associates.img_2016Drill #3 – extensor activation. In this drill, I have Mark crawling on his side through a simulated ‘tunnel’, a position he often finds himself in during a rescue. The keys are for him to activate the extensor chain to help push through the opening without scraping against the ‘sharp’ edges of the ‘tunnel’.img_2023He then has to crawl over a series of rough steps, staying low and again activating the extensor chain to take pressure off his lower back. img_2022Climbing down to the ‘victims’ is particularly daunting. One false move and he would be unable to complete the ‘rescue’. You will notice how he must balance on narrow beams (similar to pipes and bars that are part of many accident sites) without losing focus on the location of the ‘victims’.img_2019Stretching across to the unstable Bosu Ball further simulates many of the uneven surfaces that make up parts of an accident site in Mark’s world. The better he is at locking in and remaining stable, the better chance he has of a successful rescue. Reaching down to ‘victims’ from such a precarious position requires total focus!img_2020In returning to the safety of associates, Mark has to pull through the ‘tunnel’ on his side (again using the extensor chain), after climbing over the table, before exiting on his knees, protecting the victim all the while.img_2024 Needless to say, these are physically and mentally exhausting drills. It usually takes Mark a few minutes to recover before we move on. During all drills, I am constantly telling Mark to “stay in the moment. Narrow your focus to the environment at hand. Calm your breathing and heart rate. Stabilize your body and then make your move toward the ‘victim'”. This is a constant exercise in toughening up Mark mentally to NOT panic in the trenches.

The results of our sessions have been beyond positive. Mark has been able to continue successfully as a senior supervisor in the ‘trenches’ without significant injuries that keep him off work. He also has avoided time off due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – a major accomplishment in the paramedic world.

Any of you can design your training programmes to incorporate specific drills around your lifestyles to ensure injury-free activity. Trust me…I know THAT for certain!!

coach Jeff


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