Friday, October 24, 2008

Watson health kick works wonders

Shane Watson is pleased to finally be injury-free.

Shane Watson is unique for an Australian cricketer: he doesn’t drink or lift weights. Since injuring his hamstring for the umpteenth time during the World Twenty20 last year he has restructured his training and cut out alcohol in an effort to get the most out of his body.

So far it is working and he has contributed with bat and ball in the opening two Tests, which took his career tally to five games. “I’m off drinking while I’m playing and training to give myself every chance I possibly can to be right throughout this big workload,” Watson said. “It’s important to look after the body.”

Only at the end of the Indian Premier League, when his Rajasthan Royals team won the competition, did Watson break his ban and have a couple of glasses of champagne. “I’ve saved money and a few headaches as well,” he said, smiling. He still joins the celebrations but his new tipple is diet Pepsi or soda water.

Until the change in regime he was hurt a couple of times a season, but with the new approach he was able to string enough state and one-day international games together to prove to Australia’s national selectors he was the man to replace Andrew Symonds. He picked up 3 for 45 and scored 41 in the first Test in Bangalore and added a fine 78 in the first innings in Mohali.

“To me it’s not a sacrifice,” he said. “The things I’ve been able to achieve over the past six months are not things I thought I could do 13 months ago.”

He has been working with Brisbane health expert Victor Popov and now does pilates, running, cycling and swimming instead of lifting weights. His old programme had him training like a rugby league player.

“I haven’t touched a weight for 13 months,” he said. “The things I’ve been doing are pilates, hamstring strength, calf strength, which is just body weight stuff. I don’t know the inside of a gym. Bowling is the thing I need to do, running and bowling. I feel my body shape is changing, it’s a lot lighter, but I feel I haven’t lost strength.”

The old aches don’t return so frequently, and if he notices any changes he can adjust quickly to limit the pain. “My inner core strength wasn’t great and my pelvis was moving around quite a bit,” he said. “When it’s out of line, my hamstring gets tighter and so do my glutes.

“Also, because of the stress fractures early in my career, I’ve had nerve issues through my back into hamstrings and lower legs because of the healing I’ve had since I was a young kid. I have to make sure my nerves are not irritated, which is another piece of the puzzle.

“Other things are maintenance every day, making sure I’m warm, and swimming. It’s quite a big puzzle to make sure everything is in alignment, but I love doing it. I’ve learned so much about my body. It’s also exciting to know where I’m at. If something is slightly out I understand how to get it fixed or under control.”