Frankie Naylor Sports Therapy

Structuring your fitness routine to decrease injury

The 12th April is the date for gyms to open up with the Lockdown easing. But will you be racing back to old gym routines or are you happy with your home exercise program?

A number of clients I’ve spoken to recently are happy in the main with online exercise. Although they often have questions about the order and type of warm ups, stretching and foam rolling and how they fit these elements around the main exercise program.

And as great as online exercise is I have been fixing an array of injuries stemming from online programs recently! So how do you structure your routine to incorporate all the elements you need to stay flexible and injury free?

Read on and I’ll guide you through the process…..

1. First – do you have any injuries or tight muscles? Yes? Foam roll these areas before you do anything else. Hold on areas of tension for 30 seconds + to ease tension in the muscles. If you don’t they will just continue to tighten as you exercise increasing you risk of injury.

2. No tight areas? I don’t believe you – check again! Then move onto dynamic stretches. Dynamic stretches are those with movement e.g. squats, lunges, abdominal twists, alternate toe touches, 3 minutes is all you need here, no equipment required.

3. Now start your cardiovascular warm up. This might simply be performing the exercise you’re going to do in your main routine but at a gentler pace or without weights. Jogging, cycling, swimming, performing a couple of easy sets for 3-5 minutes are great to warm muscles and get heart and surrounding vessels pumping.

4. Activation exercises can be performed next for continuous exercises like running or directly before individual exercises for gym sessions. They are designed to help a specific muscle fire faster. Muscles should fire in a specific order to enable correct movement patterns. When muscle firing patterns are incorrect (often when a muscle is too tight) there is an increased risk of injury.

As suggested simple activation exercises can be done as a precursor to the main exercise. For example, glute activation exercises should be performed before squats for those who fail to activate glutes in their squat.

The glute activation exercise could simply be to lie on your front, lift legs alternately to engage glutes for 2 minutes then move straight into squats. This helps to train neural pathways between the brain and working muscles allowing glutes to fire faster. The result, a more technically accurate squat.

5. Complete your main exercise program now…….

6. To finish up perform a cardiovascular cool down to bring your heart rate back to resting and dissipate lactic acid. This normally takes 3 – 5 minutes and could simply be a continuation of the exercise you’ve been doing, jogging, cycling or rowing at a steadier pace.

7. Once this is done foam roll again (yes again!). If done daily it really needs not be painful or take up excessive time. As a general rule 5 rolls slowly on each body part should suffice. Search for tender spots and hold on these for 30 + seconds until pain decreases.

8. Lastly static stretches. Hold stretches for 30 + seconds. If one side is tighter than the other for example in a hamstring stretch hold the tighter side for longer to create left-right balance.

Get your head around this routine and you could save yourself weeks on the side-lines due to injury and reduce your injury rehab costs too.

Foam roll – dynamic stretch – CV warm up – activate – exercise – CV cool down – foam roll – static stretch

Frankie Naylor Sports Therapy

Winters in Wellies and the Link to Plantar Fasciitis

If you have horses I need not remind you about the weather in England from September through to March. Surviving muddy equestrian winters is standard for so many. But finding footwear that can not only withstand the mud but also support our feet seems a feat on a totally different level!

So it’s no surprise (to me anyway) that come the end of the winter I treat increasing numbers of foot complaints. The reason? Excessive time slopping around the countryside in wellies. Our poor feet have lacked support throughout the winter and the strain is evident by spring.

Probably the most common foot injury that I deal with is plantar fasciitis (PF). The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that stretches from the heel to the base of the toes. It supports the arch of the foot. Plantar fasciitis is a chronic condition whereby the plantar fascia becomes inflamed. This inflammation causes pain on weight-bearing.

PF is usually common in sports involving running and jumping on hard surfaces. This tends not to be the case in the individuals I treat.

Putting horses on and off the walker, walking to and from muddy fields and long-reining can contribute massively to PF.  Weight gain alongside ill-fitting, heavy and poorly laced footwear can be major factors too especially if you’ve recently upped your mileage.

The symptoms of PF involve an intense pain on the heel or base of the foot in the mornings. This pain may improve with exercise up but can often return after rest. Untreated the condition often worsens. Secondary injuries may occur in the knee, hip and lower back. The condition may continue for a few months. In more severe cases surgery may be warranted.

Luckily a conversation is often had in the early inflammatory stage with my clients. Typically they’ll come in for a routine treatment and it will be mentioned while they’re here. This is great because often it can be managed early on.

I regularly treat PF with ultrasound and massage followed by kinesiotaping. Massage of the lower legs is beneficial too. Sometimes help from a specialist podiatrist or other professional may be needed so we develop a strategy incorporating all the necessary elements. If you think that this is an issue that is affecting you do get in touch.

Self-help tips….

  1. Initially apply ice to reduce inflammation
  2. Later heat can be applied to aid mobilisation
  3. Self-massage, rolling a golf ball under the foot will break down tight tissue
  4. Next perform calf stretches to increase flexibility
  5. Then add in calf raises to strengthen lower legs
  6. Wear lightweight, supportive, well laced footwear
  7. Orthotics, heel cups and night splints can also benefit in some cases

Have you struggled with foot pain or finding the appropriate footwear? We’d love to hear your experiences.

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Frankie Naylor Sports Therapy

We’re going online with rehab and fitness programs in 2021!!!

If you’ve made it to January just give yourself a pat on the back but for God’s sake don’t look behind you! January is all about making new plans and of course getting fit… here’s the deal, gyms and pools are closed (again) so I’ve been working on some new ideas so you can continue to achieve your fitness goals!

Discussions with clients will always result in questions dominated by two specific topics, the first being exercise. And although I can chat all day about this topic that’s not realistic! Secondly chatting doesn’t allow you to formalise goals, coach correct technique, record progress, or adapt programs to match future targets.  

I’ve been on the lookout for a long time now for an online fitness portal to allow me to continue and further the work I love to do. For numerous reasons it hasn’t materialised until now. And now I have the online rehab and fitness app that I am ready to take forward!

Covid has acted as a fantastic catalyst for the online with fitness being no exception. And there’s no better time to embrace it with online health and wellness in the UK being worth an estimated £28.1 billion in 2020 increasing by 6.4% in 2021 *1.

So read on to find out what I’ve been filling my Christmas holidays with to help you rehab those injuries and get in shape from a distance of up to 7 continents never mind 2 meters!

How will it work?

Clients will fall into one of two categories:

Clients in category 1 will purchase one off programs which may comprise of for example, lower leg injury rehab, shoulder mobility exercises, or flexibility for riders depending where their needs lie.

While you guys in category 2 will pay a monthly subscription. You will receive specific programs based on video assessments that you will upload alongside your individual aims that you’ll share. You will receive regular program updates and online coaching.

You can access all this via my website which will be updated regularly at

Who do I hope to recruit?

In short, you! It will be great to offer you a concise program of rehab exercises to fit alongside your current injury treatments or to improve your flexibility allowing you to recover faster post exercise or to get you fit to race ride with a sport specific program.

As things move along I will set up ‘groups’ so you’ll have the option to train virtually alongside others with similar goals. You’ll be able to compare results and encourage those in your group on their exercise journey.

About me

Over the last 27 years I have worked with numerous athletes to hit their rehab and fitness targets. I continue to specialise in equestrian sports and enjoy analysing movements and offering corrective strategies to improve injury status, posture, movement patterns and fitness for riding.

More recently I have continued my learning by completing specialisms in Corrective Exercise and Training Elite Athletes with NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) covering both ends of the rehab-fitness spectrum. My memberships with REP’s (Register of Exercise Professionals) and CIMSPA (The Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity) allow me to continue to update my subject knowledge and stay current with policies and procedures in the fitness industry.

So look out for special offers coming up. Details will be posted on upcoming newsletters. Or contact me if you have a specific query.


Fitness for riders

Can Riders Run?

With pools and gyms closed again running is often the go-to activity for riders. With no membership subscriptions or additional kit to purchase. So when time isn’t in abundance throwing on a pair of trainers and stepping outside the front door really is an attractive option. With many riders having competed successfully in running events at school before horses took over!

But so often riders who have started a running programme come to me with knee pain. The story always the same with training starting well before a steep deterioration as knee pain increases. The pain is usually a result of muscular imbalances gained from years in the saddle. Often rectified with a good stretch routine. However explaining the importance of stretching often falls on deaf ears. But those who do take the advice on-board may well reap the benefits while keeping the cash in their wallets not mine!

Why is a return to running so problematic for seasoned riders?

So I touched on the fact that riding creates a series of muscular imbalances. Well this alters posture. Over time this stresses joints and causes permanent damage. It’s like driving a car when the tracking is out – the tyres go bald where there’s excess friction. Hips and knees work in a similar way although they are significantly trickier to replace than a worn tyre!

Riding is a non-weight bearing activity and rarely have riders adopted a habitual stretch routine like runners. So years of built up muscular imbalances causes poor tracking of the joints when running.  The stresses of weight-bearing activities can be 25 times greater than those gained in the saddle. So you can see how these rider’s bodies must be in shock when the boots come off and the trainers are donned!

Then you’ve got the cardiovascular aspect. Most untrained individuals would grind to a halt after running a few miles due to lack of fitness but not you riders, no! Because you riders have been honing your determined little cardiovascular systems since you first sat on a pony. The disparity between the efficient cardiovascular system alongside the muscular imbalances will undoubtedly increase injury risk. It’s like putting a Rolls Royce engine in a clapped out run around. The engine can go on indefinitely but the run around could have a bent axel with a bumper scraping the ground!  

What are the muscular imbalances that typically cause knee pain?

The muscles at the centre of the problem are the inner thighs which ‘switch on’ becoming tight and dominant, initiating a series of imbalances. When the inner thighs switch on the muscles in the bottom switch off or stop firing. The pocket muscle on the side of your hip also becomes dominant. Thigh muscles and hip flexors then tighten. This creates a forward tilt of the pelvis.

Now riders get away with these imbalances every day (to an extent) but give those same imbalances to a runner and you’ve got a problem.

Fixing the imbalances

Many of these imbalances can be rectified with a combination of foam rolling, stretching, activation and conditioning exercises. Try adding this section to your daily (yes daily!) stretch routine pre and post exercise if you’re a rider that wants to run. Ps stick with the order I’ve set out.

1. Foam roll – inner thighs, front of thighs and side and front of hip, 30 sec + holds on tender areas, roll slowly 5 times for each muscle group.

2. Stretch – inner thighs, front of thighs, bottom, hip flexors. Stretches should be static with 30 sec + holds.

3. Activate – bottom. Lie on your front, rest head on hands, legs out straight, point toes, lift legs alternately a few centimetres off the floor engaging bottom as you perform the activation exercise for 30 + sec.

4. Condition – pelvic tilts. Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat, place fingers just under the lower back, pull belly button towards the back for 2 secs. You should feel pressure on the fingers. Relax and repeat for 30 + sec.

So yes riders can run but it’s more complex a picture that just throwing on a pair of trainers. You’ll have to do some ongoing graft to fix those muscular imbalances that have imprinted on body and mind. For more help and advice on the subject drop me a line or book a session.

Sports Therapy Lambourn

Traumatic brain injuries and the link to depression – focus on the source not the symptoms?

Have you or someone close to you ever suffered a head injury? The effects of even mild concussions can have lasting effects, sometimes more so when you think you’ve fully recovered.

On the 23rd of June Grand National winning jockey Liam Treadwell took his own life. He was the second jockey in as many months to do so. His last post on social media, read, ‘Simpler and happier times in life’. It referenced a photo posted four years previous of him enjoying a beer in Barbados. The photo had him leaning against six crates of beer. I thought it poignant that the crates be labelled ‘Banks’, the surname of Liam’s weighing room colleague, James who died in February under similar circumstances.

Liam had suffered a severe head trauma in 2016 in a fall at Bangor leaving him unconscious for four minutes. The rehabilitation process continued for six months and he was left with a number of side effects. Remarkably he continued his career as a jockey but retired in 2018 after a marital breakdown and other difficulties. Unable to shake his love for riding he took out his licence again in 2019 and rode successfully until Lockdown halted racing in March 2020.

Around 50% of people suffering traumatic brain injuries are affected by depression within a year post injury. This rises to nearly two thirds within the first seven years*. Changes in neurotransmitter levels and damage to emotion centres in the brain can cause the change. And yet we still perceive depression as being a disease of the mind. An area of our being that can’t quite be reached, seen, measured or corrected. An overwhelming prospect to face for sure.

The impact of brain trauma can be physical, life changing and dramatic. Alternatively it can subtly entwine into the existing personality of an individual until the wearer is no longer recognised as their original self. Symptoms take over the life and the life becomes the symptoms as we lose sight of the root cause and the person.

People will say that Liam was depressed and that led to his suicide. I would argue that perhaps his death ultimately was simply due to his head injury. Perhaps we need to recognise and focus on the root cause instead of waiting for the symptoms to engulf the person. This will undoubtedly lead to more prompt supervision of individuals.  

The racing industry is increasingly encouraging jockeys to ‘reach out’ to get help if they are feeling depressed or suicidal. I feel that many will fall through the cracks if this is their principal tactic. Jockeys are tough and face potentially life threatening situations daily. They innately control fearful situations by concealing emotions. Furthermore being a jockey allows them to practice this art until it is not just habitual but ingrained. So you’re dealing with individuals who are profoundly set up to supress emotions. They are literally experts.

Waiting for some jockeys to ‘reach out’ would be like waiting for Trump to lead like Obama. It’s just not going to happen. If you were to remove the onus to step forward away from the jockey and replaced it with compulsory mental health screening for all you’d surely have a better chance of detecting and monitoring those in need. Psychological screening, blood tests and brain scanning are all potential methods for detecting mental health issues. and are organisations that can help with mental health issues.

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* Fann, J.R., Hart, T., Schomer, KG. Treatment for Depression after Traumatic Brain Injury: A Systematic Review. Journal of Neurotrauma 26:2383-2402, 2009. Cited in

Frankie Naylor Sports Therapy

Is sitting making your blood boil? Literally!

Sitting – the route of all evil? Our bodies dislike it on so many levels and I treat the effects daily. Physically we know the issues but emotionally? ‘Yeah right’ you say dismissively!

It’s normal for people to come to me with a bad back. I’m used to that. But the pattern I’m seeing more and more is the one that links lower back pain to stress and anxiety. So what is happening to people now that wasn’t happening 5, 10 or 15 years ago?

The answer could be that we are all sitting more. That extra hour sitting at work each day to pay that extra bill or that extra hour sat in traffic. It’s all adding up. And more time at work means less time exercising.

Sitting, whether it be at a desk, in a car, on a horse (yes!) or for farriers shoeing (you’re in that same folded position) affects our body’s (bio) mechanics. Structural imbalances increase and consequently so does the risk of injury.

Predominantly, sitting tightens the psoas muscle which sits deep in the abdominal area and connects the spine to the thigh bones. But here’s the interesting bit ……. psoas is directly linked to adrenaline production. Tight psoas signals that you’re in danger preparing your body for flight or flight by releasing adrenaline. So what happens if you continue sitting and there’s no fight or flight, where does the extra adrenaline go? Well if no physical activity takes place you simply end up with increased levels of adrenaline circulating your body. And it’s this that increases the likelihood of becoming stressed and potentially suffering with anxiety.

So what does a tight psoas feel or look like? From a postural perspective I tend to see a forward rotated pelvis (bottom sticking out), an internally rotated leg(s) (toes turn in), leg length discrepancies (unable to get stirrups level) and knee and lower back pain.

The clients I see who seem to suffer the most with stress and anxiety caused (at least in part) by a tight psoas are the ones who work full time in an office based role but who also ride horses. So they drive to work, sit at a desk, drive to the yard, sit on a horse then drive home (you get the picture).

What I feel when I treat someone with a tight psoas is tension through the sides (tight quadratus lumborum muscle, which attaches the spine to the pelvis) and tension through the abdominal area (tight psoas). The client will immediately feel tension on palpation of these areas but are usually blissfully unaware of an issue otherwise. Loosening psoas can often be achieved in just one treatment. And clients have reported significant decreases in levels of stress and anxiety almost immediately and with lasting effect.

So if your therapist is still closed do try to do some of the leg work to fix this yourself! I have trawled through various stretches online to find the best self-help methods for a tight psoas. Personally I find that a simple half kneeling stretch (see below) combined with a side lying foam roller technique (to also target quadratus lumborum) works well for most. But as with all these methods the techniques need to be fine-tuned to the individual… do get in touch if you’d like more information.

And it’s never just one thing that’s needed to fix the problem. Lifestyle choices play their part too. Try sitting less with the help of a standing desk. A number of my clients are now using these with great results. You can check out the reviews on the best standing desks here

What are your experiences? Comment, like, share.

Frankie Naylor Sports Therapy

Being short staffed – the straw that broke the camel’s back!

How many did you muck out today, ride out or feed? Yesterday I heard of someone that mucked out 35 and fed 105. How long can one person sustain this type of workload and what is the impact on their body?

Every day I treat people working in the horse racing industry who have physical jobs. Chronic injuries are part and parcel (to an extent).

Over the last few years I have noticed that workloads have increased significantly due to staff shortages. Chronic injuries are at epidemic levels. -study-finds-unsustainable-workloads-in-horse-racing

As a sports therapist the pattern of injury I see specifically is when an individual has to work on their weekend off or work that extra race meeting due to staff shortages and……… ‘Boom’ you’ve guessed it, it’s the straw that really did break the camel’s back! And that’s when they end up on my couch. A significant portion of their wage packet being forked out because they haven’t had that all important day and a half off out of fourteen to recover.

Chronic lower back pain and shoulder impingements are of the most common issues I see. Both which require a degree of rest from painful activities – but alas not in racing!

Many people leave racing at least in part because they feel that their bodies just cannot sustain the workloads long term (I know, they’ve told me!). This creates a tougher environment for the individuals left behind as they are having to make up the shortfall. And thus every pursuing injury happens a little sooner than the last as workloads increase and the next staff member hangs up their boots for a less physical role.

In addition as a nation we are seeing a population of young people with lower base fitness levels than ever. This is due to increases in automation coupled with poor diet and lifestyle choices. So the individuals coming into racing are more likely not to be fit for purpose, and are expected to take on greater workloads (as well as being Millennials!)…… and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to predict the end result.

So what next? Chronic injuries are just one result of the staffing crisis. Housing, pay, amongst other issues all play their part too. Some trainers have confronted these situations head on creating far better working environments like good quality staff accommodation. Although this doesn’t directly impact on injury status. Will trainers have to consider investing in injury prevention for staff like they do for their horses?

Would you welcome injury treatments as part of a stable staff employment package? Let me know your thoughts. Comment, like, share.

If you work in racing and are struggling with an injury you can get in touch with Racing Welfare at

Sports therapy rehab

Can sporting success be predicted by an individual’s approach to injury?

Racing has just been given the green light as we work to pull our economy from the brink post lockdown. As always there are some big named jockeys bordering on being fit to ride in some big meetings post injury. This gives high hopes to some of their counterparts coming up through the ranks. But what are the qualities needed to get those jockeys back to full fitness and remain at the top of their game?

I write this with one particular jockey in mind, a jockey that walked into Oaksey House about 10 years ago to (eventually) get (a little) help with a chronic injury. He was a natural athlete, a talented rider (a tamer of bears in fact!), and tough, really tough. And at the time I remember thinking that we were starting this rehab process about 6 years too late. A jockey that was deserving of so much more – RIP Banksy.

So can sporting success be predicted by an individual’s approach to injury? Yes I think it can give a good indication.

Why am I so sure of myself? Because I’ve worked with thousands of people going through the rehab process. Over time I have seen patterns arising differentiating the more successful individuals from the rest of the pack.

Take jockeys, I see particular attributes in the more successful individuals:

  1. They’re tough but not too tough. They don’t complain about every single niggle but when there is something significant to address they address it and sooner rather than later. One of the best indicators of future injury is previous injury. So getting niggles fixed before they become bigger issues enables the jockey to maintain fitness, weight and psychological wellbeing; as well as futureproofing their bodies for the long-haul!
  2. They have a good ‘team’ around them and they accept help from and allocate tasks to ‘the team’. This could be in the form of family members, a spouse, friends and or work colleagues. The team can help with all types of emotional and practical support from being that listening ear to driving them to their rehab sessions. This allows the individual to focus on the practicalities of being a jockey recovering from injury.
  3. And perhaps the biggie, the all-encompassing but rarely discussed aspect of achieving sporting success and staying injury free involves childhood experiences. We’re individuals taught how to ask for help? Were they listened to as children? Were they taught that their feeling we’re important too? A little deep? Not really! Getting the balance correct in the early years will set individuals up for life. Get it wrong and the cracks will start to develop.

So often I meet incredibly tough, capable, hard-working people who lack one or more of these 3 elements of success. Because of this doors just don’t open. The qualities that make them as amazing as they are also stop them from getting right to the top of their game.

So, be realistic about your injuries. Be tactical with your rehab. Build a team around you to help offload pressures both physical and emotional. And ultimately if you aren’t great at asking for help – learn quickly because without this ability achieving your potential will become a very difficult task.

If you’re a jockey and need to start the rehab process get in touch with The Injured Jockeys Fund at

What’s your experience? Do you ignore or address your injuries? Comment, like, share.

Sports therapy Berkshire

Rural Life (Covid-19) & Exercise Habits

The New Year’s resolutions should have been in full swing and that beach body should now be honed …..but Covid-19 has kind of put a spanner in the works. All this down time may allow you to think more closely about what facilities are really available to you from a location and financial perspective and which are the best options to allow you to achieve your fitness goals.

Living and working in rural areas can mean the choices available to you are limited especially when taking into account our biggest barrier to exercise – lack of time. Time spent travelling to your preferred destination means time not exercising. And when life is already hectic you need to think tactically when choosing where to exercise.

There have been some massive shifts in the fitness industry since I first started out as a personal trainer creating more choice for the user and keeping prices competitive. So if you haven’t yet donned the Lycra, hold fire and let’s look at some of the options available.

Perhaps the ‘Waitrose’ option would be a David Lloyd gym ( encompassing swim, gym, classes, coaching, kids clubs and treatment facilities under one roof – great (I hear you gasp). But they’re not always local, local and you’ll be paying over £1000/year. If you’re still excited by this option do check the class timetables fit around your life before parting with your cash!

Council run facilities can be a good ‘Tesco’ option. Just note that if you’re situated in the middle of two different counties (as we are in Lambourn) membership of one facility won’t allow you to use sites run by another council.

Personal trainers are dotted around. You can find prospective PT’s on the Register of Exercise Professionals ( or CIMSPA ( Check prospective PT’s are registered so you know insurances and qualifications are up to date.

And if you want to get involved in a specific sport you can go to the National Governing Body website where you can search for a recognised sport’s contact information.

Social media platforms like Facebook can be a great tool in deciphering whether classes and activities in rural areas are right for you.

And if you don’t have the funds or the time get onto You Tube and try something like ‘Yoga with Adriene’ ( Classes are approx. 20 minutes and at 6.01M subscribers she must be doing something right!

So don’t let a lack of finances, time or a rural location stop you from achieving your exercise goals. Let us know what sporting activities you’ve been involved in and what you’d like to have a go at next.