British physio helps smash record

British physiotherapist Laura Penhaul is pretty good at breaking records.

As part of The Coxless Crew, she was one of four British women who made history to be the first female 4s to row unsupported across the 8,446 miles of Pacific Ocean from America to Australia.

And she has just helped Mark Beaumont walk into the records books after he completed an epic 18,000 mile cycle around the world in under 80 days.

Laura, who is also a triathlete and lead physiotherapist for British Paralympics Athletics, was Performance Manager for Mark during his journey, which started in Paris and took in 16 countries.

He qualified for a Guinness World Record after taking 44 days off the previous world record which stood at 123 days. He also got a second record for most miles cycled in a month – 7,031 miles.

Laura, who wanted to be a physiotherapist ever since she was a small child, specialises in sports injuries.

She said: “To achieve his goal, Mark needed to cycle an average 240 miles a day. He was on his bike for more than 16 hours a day and only slept for five hours each night.

“Minimising time loss on the bike and maximising sleep was the constant challenge during the 79 days. With less than 30 minutes between the four hour sets, there was only once, maybe twice, a day that I could fit in hands-on treatment for 10-15 minutes maximum.

“Even then, cat naps would always take priority in the breaks over treatment, as sleep was the best recovery over any hands-on treatment in the long run.

“When I did do treatment, I would try and double treat when more than one area was an issue, such as needling the neck whilst doing soft tissue release through the feet.

“Due to the constant proximal stabilisation required on bumpy road surfaces or during climbs, the rotator cuff was a key area to release in combination with the pecs and SCM.

“Other treatments would range from hip mobilising, thoracic mobilisations and manipulations, neural mobility and upper cervical manipulation.”

Additional skill sets outside of the ‘physio norm’, were also key. Laura worked with a nutritional plan to deliver 9,000 kcal per day, made adjustments to Mark’s orthotics, applied dressings to his feet and even disinfected his campervan to reduce infection.

“Nine days in, Mark smashed the enamel off his incisor and shunted the tooth, damaging the nerve root. The expedition dentist had to talk me through how to apply resin and reshape the tooth to protect it from risk of infection.

“I had to stay one step ahead which may sound like overkill, but when you’re sleep deprived, it meant that he only needed to think about pedalling his bike and nothing else.”