Revealed: the secret to Giggs' success
19th January 2011
Meet Sarah Ramsden – the woman who keeps Ryan Giggs young. And after playing a pivotal role in prolonging the career of English football’s most decorated player, the yoga instructor is now trying to help Rio Ferdinand overcome the back injuries that have been such a problem for the England captain in recent years.
Ramsden, who still runs public classes in her hometown of Chester, works with both United and City as the Premier League’s stars are beginning to catch on to what has been the norm on the continent for decades.
“To the French players it comes naturally,” says Giggs, who enlisted Ramsden’s help five years ago when he feared hamstring troubles would cut his career short. “You should see Mikael Silvestre, he’s incredible.
“The French lads do it right from the start of their careers, whereas the English players just don’t do it.”
So impressed has Giggs been with the way yoga disciplines have helped him continue to play at the highest level at the ripe old age of 37, he has released his own fitness DVD in collaboration with Ramsden.
The pair still meet up twice a week to maintain the Welshman’s suppleness – something that has seen him almost eradicate the hamstring injuries that were so troubling earlier in his career.
And Ramsden believes Giggs can continue playing towards his 40s.
“It definitely prolongs careers,” she said. “Your talent is still there. You can still see it, you can still read the game, you just can’t quite get there the way you used to.
“But Ryan can. If you watch him, he’s graceful. He’s so poised, he’s fluid and he’s come back from that stiffness that you get as you age in competitive sport.
“Ryan still does all of his weights, all of his sprint training and he’s sorted out his diet. He really looks after himself.
“But maintaining your range of motion – doing what the body is designed for – is a key part of maintaining your fitness. Because if a player is hugely restricted, how long are they going to last?
“He says he will go on as long as he is fit, as long as he is being picked and as long as he is enjoying it. I can’t see any reason why he shouldn’t go on. The thing that would be a big problem would be a big injury.
“Because of the condition he is in you hope that you are minimising the non-contact injuries. If someone slams into your knee, it is going to go – but at the moment there is no reason why he can’t go on.”
Sir Alex Ferguson will hope Ramsden can work her magic on Ferdinand, who has seen his last two seasons disrupted by problems relating to his back.
Back alongside Nemanja Vidic – another of Ramsden’s pupils – in the heart of United’s defence, Ferdinand has been a major factor in the league leaders’ undefeated run this season and charge towards another title. She has also helped Edwin van der Sar play on to the age of 40, while the Da Silva twins are taking advantage of her work at an early age.
At City, Ramsden works with Emanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure among others but rates David Silva as her star pupil.
“The continental and South Americans train flexibility as part of football,” she said. “They’re great to deal with because it’s part of their tradition and culture. You can see it. They just dance.
“The only problem Silva has is when he gets 95 kilos coming through him and he struggled with that at the start. In England, defenders will just go through him whereas in Spain they won’t. But he has come to terms with that.”
Much of Ramsden’s work is with younger players at both United and City – instilling the next generation with the disciplines that could see them go on as long as Giggs.
“We are trying to get people into it much younger now,” said the former rower. “What we’re trying to do is stop them from going through the process that Ryan’s been through – the massive dip in form.
“He was missing 10 games-plus a season. He reckons he’s missed 50 games that maybe he wouldn’t have had to.
“If you play football you know what will tighten up – your quads and your thighs. You shorten the calves and at some point that is going to affect how you move.
“You can’t quite get there anymore because the body can’t push through its own resistance. That will affect your skeleton. It will pull your skeleton out of line.
“Experienced players have that ability to control and dictate a game that young players don’t have. That’s why you want to keep them going as long as possible.
“Ryan has worked incredibly hard to do it but the most amazing thing about him is that he has incredible talent.”
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