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I was paralysed but now I'm training our Olympic athletes
KATIE Page loved sport. She had qualified for the GB trials for rowing and had been placed in the top three at the Junior Nationals for horse eventing.
But little did she know when she developed flu-like symptoms that her sporting career was over.
At 19, Katie’s glands swelled up and she developed difficulty moving her legs. She phoned a doctor who told her to rest. The next day she was paralysed from the chest down.
She says, looking back, it’s hard to know how she felt about what was happening to her body.
“I think the mind is very clever at protecting you,” says the 35-year-old who lives in Lymington.
“It was almost like I was numb and now it’s like it was a bad dream.”
Initially the outlook was bleak.
Katie was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord, and told she could permanently lose the use of her limbs.
After three months of being bedridden in hospital she was able to move around in a wheelchair, and again was told that she could expect to be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
B u t K a t i e wasn’t prepared to accept the prognosis.
During her time in hospital she began to realise the strong connections between mindset and physical performance – which sowed the seeds of her future career.
“There was very little hope really but with the help of my family and friends, I really realised the power of the mind,” she says.
“You can look at things with a positive or a negative mindset. If you realise that you can construct things in a positive way, you’re more likely to get positive results. I was really so determined and focused and I never saw myself as staying in a wheelchair.”
After nine months Katie was able to walk again, and returned to university before going to America where she studied sports psychology and developed corporate mind coaching programs with international bestselling author Dr Spencer Johnson, working with more than half of the Fortune 500 companies.
She also studied a number of mind and body training techniques.
Physically she hadn’t fully recovered – in fact she estimates that even today she is around 85 per cent better – but she was determined that that wasn’t going to hold her back.
She could no longer have a career as a professional sportswoman but her love of sport hadn’t died and she returned to the UK to establish her own mind training business for sports people.
Her success has grown, from working with local golfers to now coaching athletes preparing for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as working with Dame Kelly Holmes at her academies for young sportspeople.
She says that while she would love for her body to work the way she feels it should, she would never have followed her career path, or been so successful in it, if it wasn’t for her experience of being paralysed.
“I don’t think I would have gone down this road and I know I wouldn’t be getting the results I get today without my experience.
It gives you a different way of looking at things,” she explains.
“It was difficult giving up my sporting career but I used it as a platform.
“Everything in life does work out for a reason and sometimes you have to dig pretty deep to find that. It’s made me a better person and I’m very happy, from a career point of view and personally – I’m getting married this year and I have a great family.”
Katie works with a huge range of sportspeople to address any issues they have and helps enhance their performance.
As well as Olympic and Paralympic athletes, these include Premiership footballers, Commonwealth champions and keen amateurs.
“Ninety per cent of my work comes from word of mouth so that shows it works,”
“Some people come to me because they have a problem such as lack of confidence o r t h e y aren’t getting the results they want but it’s not for a physical reason.
“That’s why I say I do mind training for sport rather than sport psychology, I think ‘sport psychology’ makes it sound like there’s something wrong with you. The way I work is ‘so much is going right, let’s build on that and make a few tweaks’.”
It had been a dream of Katie’s to work with Olympic and Paralympic athletes and she is delighted that a number of people she has coached will be taking part in the Games this year.
“I’m just thrilled for them,” she says.
“Their focus, determination and dedication are just so inspirational.
“When I watch them at the Games, I will be sobbing. They’ve got so much to be proud of, whatever happens. They’re truly incredible and we can all learn so much from these people.”
* For more information, visit mindtrainingforsport.co.uk