A palette of many colours

Published by Paul Ehren

This short review is meant to be read in conjunction with my two previous articles ‘Ecosystems’ and ‘Why less is often more’. The first of these relates primarily to the athletes under our care and the second to our approach to our personal skills and how these develop over time.

This blog article continues the theme of the second and starts to expand on a few ideas.

I fully understand that I have risked being labelled ‘anti-science’ with many comments I have made. This was never my intention, but what I wanted to achieve was an acknowledgement that we could break down the barriers of single-track conventional thinking, which I believe simply restricts our thought processes and therefore, the scope of our interventions.

As Grace Slick sang in a totally different context: “Let’s tear down the walls, m****rf*****s”!! 

Before hitting my race pace with this article, I’ll start with one glaring example. Conventional medicine (CM) has developed, expanded and improved for many centuries, employing some of the most brilliant minds on the planet, yet we arguably have the sickliest, most dependant population we have ever experienced. During this time, and for many thousands of years prior, various forms of complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM) have lurked in the shadows, becoming more or less popular depending on the fashion of the time.

Unfortunately, the prevailing mood between the two camps has been that of intransigence. The worst case scenario is that CM regards CAM as “quack” remedies with no hard science to back them up, and the contra view is that CM is simply a conduit for the big pharmaceutical companies to peddle drugs, which in many instances, at best treat symptoms and not causes, and at worst actually do more harm than good.

Now imagine a world where the majority of personalities on both sides of the fence actually kept an open mind and embraced what the other ‘tribe’ had to offer; hard science meeting nature and individuality head on. Instead of calling each other rude names, we all got drunk, had a party, slept together, and found ways to combine knowledge. Never happen?? Probably not, but an interesting idea…

OK, back to the script. I am the first to acknowledge my own limitations. I will never be the sharpest scientific mind in practice, but I do possess, to quote Liam Neeson in the film Taken: “my own particular skill set”. Part of this, I believe, is the ability to observe and learn. One thing on a macro level that my observations tell me is that some of the very best practitioners are also those who grew into their present position from relative humble beginnings, who started at the ‘pit face’ when learning their craft, and have added very different strings to their bow as the years pass, or as my title refers to it, different colours to their palette.

Without wishing to embarrass anyone, I will just throw two names out to illustrate the point; Pete Williams the renowned Functional Medicine Practitioner and CISN founder Ian Craig. Both, I believe, started their careers in the world of personal training/strength & conditioning before moving on to bigger and arguably greater things. Pete, I’m pretty sure, still maintains his National Strength & Conditioning (NSCA) qualification. He also says that he always keeps a couple of sets of training shoes in plain sight at his practice as a subliminal message to patients of the importance of exercise. 

Ian, as most of you will know, was a very talented middle-distance runner and has learnt a lot of his trade through personal experience, whilst becoming involved in more academic work.

It is this heady mix of talents that I’m convinced gives practitioners a far better understanding of the bigger picture than continuing to burrow further and further into the minutiae of their chosen specialty.

Again, an example; I would argue long and hard that if dealing with general population health, particularly anything to do with the management of the ageing process, any practitioner should have a basic understanding of strength and conditioning. Not only the science of areas such as sliding filament theory, skeletal muscle energy production and biomechanics, but also basic theory of resistance training.

Statistics show that there is a high percentage correlation between all-cause mortality and the ability of the elderly to get up from the floor unaided, to say nothing of the difference we can make to age-related sarcopenic muscle loss. This knowledge of strength & conditioning, particularly functional movement, with the benefits of nutritional therapy/functional medicine is a potent mix.

Taking practitioners out of their comfort zone is often difficult and there will understandably be resistance to change.

My recommendation in these circumstances, and also as a part of everyone’s practice, is to build a network of trusted friends/experts around you who can be called upon for advice when needed. This cross fertilisation of ideas works on so many levels and is so important that I find it hard to understand how it’s possible to remain in splendid isolation and still provide a comprehensive service.

Apart from the modalities already mentioned, I would also add:

  • • Therapists – sports massage, physiotherapy, and so on
  • • Exercise physiologists
  • • Sports coaches
  • • NLP proponents
  • • Wellbeing coaches
  • • Exercise psychologists
  • • IT specialist
  • • A friend in a similar practice to yourself to share problems and experiences

Nowhere is this brought into sharper focus than with the current outbreak of COVID-19. To successfully advise our clients and the general public about the virus and its ramifications, we need a working knowledge of immunity (including the effect of exercise), nutrition, anatomy, physiology, wellbeing, mindfulness techniques and an insight into behavioural science.    

To an extent, we all address some of this through our CPD requirements and I have to say organisations such as CISN have fully embraced the integrative approach and teach it in a most robust fashion.

However, as always, we need to take responsibility for our own skills and assess what works best for our own practice. 

To find out more about Paul Ehren, click here.