Darren’s on a Roll

JULY 2017: Darren Teague is a Strength & Conditioning Coach.

He has worked, not just with runners, but with men and women from a variety of sports.

Although still helping a range of clients in Brighton on a one-to-one basis, most of Darren’s time these days is spent in his capacity as UK Distributor for HighRoller.

I first met Darren at the 2016 Brighton Marathon Expo, where he was promoting the HighRoller.

We met up for a chat in Riptide gym, where he’d just finished coaching one of his regular clients.

Darren, what’s your own sporting background?

I’ve always trained – since I was a teenager. I mainly played football and cricket.

At 16, I was playing football at county level, but didn’t progress beyond that, as I would regularly pick up injuries. I was also on the cusp of playing cricket for Warwickshire, but, unfortunately, I missed two consecutive seasons through injury.

I think part of the problem was that I was a late developer in terms of my growth as a boy. Bearing in mind I’m now 6 feet tall, by 16 years of age I was still only 5’4”.

How did you get into coaching?

It was clear that my body just couldn’t cope with the high demands on it, trying to take my sports to the next level.

A mate, who was already coaching a youth football team, persuaded me that, rather than quit sport altogether, I should put something back in. So, at just 19, I did my first coaching qualification.

And you’ve been coaching ever since?

In my early twenties, I went travelling around the world. With just £200 to my name, I headed off to Hong Kong, and then Australia.

In 1998, I was offered a job in America, coaching football coaches to coach! It was there, aged 26, that I met Jane, who later became my wife.

Jane was based in Brighton at that time, so that’s how I came to move down here, and I started working as a coach with the Academy Youth Teams at Brighton & Hove Albion.

I got more involved with Strength & Conditioning, working with one of the physiotherapists there. That enhanced my interest in injury prevention, focusing on people’s mobility & proprioception, etc. And I learned how to manage young athletes going through growth spurts.

About 5 years ago, I left Brighton for a contract in Borneo, with footballers playing in an Indonesian Super League team, Mitra Kukar FC, which meant working with World Cup & Premier League players.

And I’ve also helped set up a charity in Africa called Coaching for Hope, now a part of the larger Tackle Africa charity. It uses football as a medium for raising awareness around social issues, for example HIV /AIDS, female genital mutilation and drugs misuse. It now involves some 70,000 players and 7,000 coaches.

Impressive stuff, Darren!

Would you say most of your work here is about dealing with injuries, or is it more about injury prevention?

It’s probably an even split.

A lot of clients initially come and see me because of an injury, which is very common because we’re all good at seeking help when we can’t run, but not so good at taking appropriate measures to avoid getting injured in the first place.

But once I start working with such clients, we put an injury-prevention philosophy around it.

In your experience, what are the most common issues with your running clients? Is it maybe a weak core / poor posture / lack of strength / over-training… or something else?

Poor posture! And that’s not just runners, but almost every client I see.

There is very little glut activation with the majority of runners. When I see them doing squats, it’s clear they’re quad-dominant, with poor hip mobility, as they don’t engage their posterior chain properly.

And I understand you’ve worked with some high-level athletes?

Yes. For example, before I went to Borneo, I worked with an Armenian sprinter called Ani Khachikyan, who, at just 17 years of age, competed in the Beijing Olympics.

And closer to home, I’ve done a lot of work with Dan Lawson, who you know well… part of the GB ultra team and current 24hr European Champion.

As an aside, having worked closely with a neuro physiotherapist, I’ve found myself coaching some clients with brain injuries, and that will typically focus on balance issues, post-trauma, due to an impact on the nervous system.

So, tell us about the HighRoller. Firstly, how did you get involved with the product? I believe it originated in Finland and has had a great deal of success there?

When I played football at county level, I became good friends with the General Manager of Haywards Heath FC. He’d moved out to Finland, where his wife was from, and through his work out there he had access to European funding to support entrepreneurs exporting Finnish products.

He asked me if I would try out ‘version 1’ of the HighRoller with my footballing contacts over here, which I did and, of course, it went down really well.

We gathered feedback and developed, what is now, ‘version 2’, with improved materials and better stability.

It’s been a great success story, with 15,000 units now sold.

What would you say is its key benefit and how would you justify its cost against that of a regular foam roller?

The key advantage is the ergonomic position that it puts athletes in, enabling muscles to relax, so that massage is much easier and more focussed. In fact, based on scientific research conducted in Finland, it’s 50% more effective than a traditional foam roller, and 31% easier to use.

As I mentioned, I do a lot of work with Dan Lawson. Dan is also very much into his yoga and, with his help, we’ve put together a string of 17 different exercises on the HighRoller, which kind of simulates the flow of yoga.

I guess it’s quite difficult to measure the success of the HighRoller in terms of a runner’s improved performance after regular use of it, but what feedback have you received from runners?

We got another one of your runners, Emily Proto, who is a top local endurance runner, to trial the HighRoller. She does particularly high mileage in training and originally needed a sports massage, every two weeks. Since using the HighRoller she feels she can go three weeks between massages now, meaning there’s a large cost saving for her, long term.

And if you take a look at the website, you’ll see some great testimonials from men and women of a broad range of sports.

Thanks Darren. I can only add that I find the HighRoller a really useful tool myself. It is indeed so much easier to use than a basic foam roller; in fact, it’s permanently set up on my lounge floor – I use it regularly and find it particularly good for keeping tight calves at bay.

And thanks for agreeing to come along after our group run this Sunday to help us out with some post-run stretching & rolling!

By Mike Bannister