The "muscle tweak" of April 2014 landed me back in physical therapy and ultimately introduced me to Neurosport Functional Training in Marietta, GA. After I finished physical therapy at Neurosport (which I just found, randomly online), my PT suggested if I was to continue to jump, I'd be a perfect candidate for their ongoing fitness program next door -- Neurosport Functional Training. Too long to explain here, this is a program where your workouts are tailored to you and are all about alignment, core strength, balance and stability. This is how I met my talented trainer, David Schrader (see photo).
I don't know that David would like me to repeat this, but the look on his face when I introduced myself to him and I told him I was a women high jumper was priceless. "Really." Said Mr. Schrader, with a cocked eyebrow. "Good for you!" Translation: "I don't believe this woman." When I look back at my fitness level at that time, I can imagine, seeing a suburban, van-driving, out of shape East Cobb mom professing she was ranked #9 in the country as a high jumper must have seemed ridiculous.
David took me on. He evaluated my fitness with a very specific model they have. (Don't ask me.) He also evaluated me by asking me to do certain tasks. Stand on one leg, jump over a box, lean over and touch my toes, etc. I think I failed, though I never asked, but David must have seen something because he has worked very hard to get me where I am today.
And boy, did I end up well. My personal best jump increased 27 cms to 1.39 meters. This put me at #1 in the USA (up from 9th) and 8th in the world for Outdoor 2014 -- which is a lot better than my 2013 standing of not making the top 25.
More importantly, I didn't injure myself in 2014, which I've learned is the biggest challenge for a masters athlete. Though I am the first to argue you are only as old as you feel (don't get me started on attitude) I'd be silly to not acknowledge that we don't have the stamina, flexibility or steadiness that we did 30 years ago. With consistent strength training and body awareness -- knowing when you need to stop -- you can continue to perform year after year.
So, with a good trainer in place, some online research and the support of my incredibly patient husband, I decided, yes, I can make a go of this high jump thing. And off we went.
Someone asked me recently, "So, when will you stop training for the high jump?" My answer, "I hope, never."
Julia Curran-Villarreal is a three-time USA W55 national masters high jump champion. After a 35-year break from her favorite high school sport of track & field, Julia returned to competition in 2013 at the age of 53. Follow her journey on @juliajumping on Instagram and @juliacurran on Twitter.