Second Opinion

Born To Perform

Last updated: November 23, 2011

Born To Perform

Born To Perform, by Gerard Hartmann is an autobiographical story-so-far of Ireland’s most renowned Physical Therapist.  It traces how his life has intersected with the early years of triathlon at home and abroad and then, when forced to leave a sport he dominated at National level, how he very quickly established himself as Physical Therapist to the elite stars of the international athletic and sporting worlds. 

 The book is written as a personal account, benefitting from what’s been fairly described as a lively and jaunty style.  The telling is not constrained by standard structures or formalities and benefits from this, perhaps also reflecting the author’s personality, for Hartmann is truly unique in what he has achieved and in how he presents it. 

 The book opens with him in hospital, hip broken, identity shattered and contemplating the sickeningly premature end to his sporting career.  A wandering armadillo has scuttled his dreams of an eighth All-Ireland triathlon victory and doctors have told him to leave a sport in which he has excelled.  True to form, Hartmann doesn’t dwell on the profound disappointment that a career-ending injury can bring, but moves quickly to the decision to focus on a new path and become the ‘best that he can be’.   A theme throughout is the energy, positivity and commitment he brings to his life and his endeavours.  In changing profession we see how effective he is in the application of this philosophy, finding enthusiasm and purpose somewhere from the ashes of a brilliant sporting career.  For whatever accolade he achieved as a competitor, all is surpassed in his second coming as a Physical Therapist.

 The Hartmann patient-list reads as a who’s-who in sport.  His timely interventions by all accounts guide even the most seriously injured athletes from the treatment table through the tape as winners and champions.  Local, national and international stars benefit from his care and the book is thick with testimonials; each breathless recommendation exceeding the previous. 

 Scarcely a year into his course he found himself as adviser to a young – and injured - Sonia O’Sullivan.  Barely graduated, Hartmann is then assigned as therapist to the Atlanta Olympics in 1992 and Carl Lewis - the sensation of the Games is among the first on his treatment couch.  From then on, Hartmann’s magic hands touch an astounding array of Olympic athletes; 61 to date and counting. 

 If you were hoping to read treatment tips or therapeutic techniques to embellish everyday practise, the book would be a disappointment.  Or, if you thought that he somehow took the lessons he learned from the care provided his own injuries and applied them as a template to help him achieve excellence in practise – you’d be wrong again.  What the book does, is to give a clear picture of the energy, drive and passion that Hartmann brought first to his sport and subsequently to the treatment couch.  It is entertaining and inspirational in equal measure and leaves the reader sensing a wealth of untold stories.  Gerard believes in stressing the positive and that the psychological wound must heal just as well as the muscular for the rehabilitation to be effective or complete.  It is testament to the man that he returned to his sport, completed the infamous Hawaiian Ironman Triathlon and achieved gold in his age-group when he reached the summit in the Marmotte, never allowing the post accident prognosis to put a ceiling to his ambition or a limit to his achievement. 

 The armadillo who inadvertently brought a premature end to a young man’s dreams seems to have at least been the indirect salvation of hundreds more in steering a new world-class therapist into a career where he truly has made a difference. 

By John O’SullivanLeave a comment  Categories: Physical Therapist, Physical Therapy, Sports, Sports Clinic, Sports Rehab

ChiRunning - learning how to run for health & speed

Last updated: October 6, 2010

ChiRunning - learning how to run for health & speed

Nowadays, there seems to be no end of runners chasing personal bests, whether this means taking seconds off two laps around the park or a sub 3:30 marathon. Most people will admit to buying some gadget or other in the hope its what's needed to make the difference. For most of us, the benefit of knocking a couple of grams off the weight of a running shoe or using a sophisticated heart rate monitor, does not justify the cost. According to Catherina McKiernan (pictured here), a former Olympic, World and European athlete, improvements in speed and distance can be made, by focusing on the most important element of your! 

McKiernan is an advocate and master of ChiRunning. This is a style of running which uses posture of the body in a way which allows gravity to aid forward momentum. In contrast, a typical runner, reaches forward with each stride and hits the ground heel first. This effectively causes a breaking mechanism,forcing leg muscles to work very hard to propel the body forward. It can also be blamed for some of those frustrating recurring injuries to the lower limbs and back.
 ChiRunning workshops, organised by Catherina McKiernan, across Ireland, aim to help runners of all abilities to enhance running performance. Relaxation is a key element to fluid movement and as Catherina maintains, "if you don't use it, you can't abuse it."

ChiRunning students are taught  to lean forward as they run, allowing gravity to initiate movement. By contracting core muscles to stabilise the pelvis, the muscles of the legs can be used more efficiently. Learning how to avoid tension in the ankles, shoulders and gluteals, is of huge benefit to long distance runners, as the body uses less energy and can maintain power output for longer.
 Catherina has been teaching this technique in Ireland for five years. She is the first to admit that it is not a quick fix and to run in this way as second nature, takes practice. Having said that, most runners are by nature willing to work hard and improve slowly but surely.

For further information and to reserve a place, Catherina can be contacted at her website -

Leave a comment  Categories: Sports, Sports Rehab


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