High Performance Talks: Angela Cullen

High Performance Talks is an interview series focusing on improving performance through better health and wellbeing. In ten episodes, you hear fascinating stories from Formula One drivers, top executives, entrepreneurs, university professors and our very own Hintsa experts.

In episode 8, Hintsa’s Performance Coach Angela Cullen explains what the Biomechanics component in the Hintsa model is and why it is important to listen to your body. Angela is an experienced physiotherapist and an expert in understanding how the body works. During her career, she has worked with Olympic athletes from Great Britain and New Zealand as well as several Formula 1 drivers.

Can you explain what exactly is biomechanics?

“Biomechanics is the way that the body moves, particularly in terms of the muscles. It’s about ensuring that your body is able to act freely without injury. We study the body and its movements, and we’re always looking for ways of making sure that the body is moving efficiently and effectively.”

What do you feel is the most important thing to consider when it comes to biomechanics?

“I think it’s always really important to concentrate on three elements when you’re looking at biomechanics. I look at alignment which has to do with the joints in the spine. It’s about making sure that the spine is there to support the muscles as well as to provide movement. However, because the nerves come out of the spine as well, it’s really important to know that the control of the muscles is affected by the way the spine works. So I always start with alignment and make sure that there’s a lot of movement through the spine. And then I work on the muscles in terms of length and mobility, to make sure that we have enough length and strength through the muscles. And then I work on control which has to do with the strength in the way that the muscles switch on and off. That’s where we get our power as well as our stability.”

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What do you consider as the biggest change in our way of living that is affecting our biomechanics

“Well, sitting plays a really important part now in society. On average people are sitting for up to 10 hours a day. Obviously, this has some great effects on the body in terms of spine stiffness, back and neck stiffness, as well as hip and muscle tightness. It also affects the way that the muscles work in terms of the control, i.e. the way that they switch on and off. And also in terms of strength. So it’s really important that we try and reduce the amount of sitting we do each day so that we can actually allow our bodies to function efficiently in the upright position which we’re designed to be in.”

Could you share some advice for boosting overall wellbeing?

“I think first it’s really important for people to become aware of their own bodies, e.g. the parts that feel stiff and tight, and movements that are difficult for them to do. Because that is their body telling them that there’s something not right. Then they need to become proactive and go see experts such as physios or osteopaths before the stiffness or tightness becomes a problem. They need to address any tightness, stiffnesses or difficulties with movement. And then it’s all about preparing the body every day for the things that it needs to perform every day. It can be walking or running, or exercises, or stretching or strengthening programs but a daily basis to make sure your body is ready for the things that it needs to do each day.”

Any final advice for daily exercise?

“I think the most important exercise, is the exercise that the person doing it wants to do. It’s so individual and there’s no point in recommending a specific exercise if it’s not going to be done. So it really comes down to the individual and what they want to do. It really doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you are doing, it’s just actually getting out there and doing something!”

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