MF meets Hal Robson-Kanu, who overcame an early career-threatening injury to become a Welsh national hero.
“I was told as a teenager I would never become a professional athlete, because of the injuries I had. That ignited a passion in me to achieve, to play at the highest level and prove people wrong.”
Robson-Kanu suffered two cruciate knee ligament injuries in his teens, which both needed surgery. During his two-year recovery, a specialist told him that he would always experience pain, restriction and swelling in his knee, and that he should consider a different career path.
Undeterred, he battled on to play in the Premier League with both Reading and, now, West Bromwich Albion. He’s perhaps best know, though, for his goal against Belgium at Euro 2016 – sending the visiting Welsh fans wild.
The injuries he experienced at the start of his career sparked an interest in the workings of the human body and its ability to recover.
His understanding of the influence that holistic forces can have upon all-round health and fitness led him to found The Turmeric Co., the UK’s leading turmeric-based shot brand, utilising the power of turmeric to promote overall health, functionality and increase immunity.
“Most of our in-season training is done on the pitch,” says Robson-Kanu. “We do a lot of technical work, practising set-pieces, but still plenty of interval sprints running up to 10k a day.”
For elite footballers, gym work revolves around strength and conditioning, rather than building bulk.
“Gone are the days when you’d go into the gym and challenge each other to squat 150kg,” he says. “I do a lot of functional exercises: movement patterns, single-leg balance work, walking lunges and TRX drills.”
He’s something of a biomechanics student, too – continuing his post-exercise recovery work away from the training ground:
“I do a lot of work away from the training ground on foot health. It’s a relatively new concept that’s gaining traction. As babies our toes are completely splayed out – which offers better stability, but the shoes we wear end up restricting that. It impacts negatively on balance and stability. I’m following the research into the mechanics of the foot and the impact it has throughout the whole chain of the body.”
Robson-Kanu is also a fan of fascia release. (Fascia is the clingfilm-like tissue that wraps around our muscles). “I use a fascia-release tool,” he says. “It’s like a blunt blade, to scrape my muscles through a range of motion. It releases the chain, improves recovery and allows me to move better. Often a supposed ‘tight hamstring’ isn’t the muscle itself, but a tightness of the fascia, and this therapy releases the tension.”
“My diet is as close to caveman’s as possible,” says Robson-Kanu. “Where possible everything is raw, everything natural. I’m not vegan but I understand its merits – for me, for muscle repair in particular, I find it’s easier to eat a hig- quality form of protein from meat but it has to be organic, naturally reared.
“Avoiding processed food is a massive factor for me – I know from my own research that a diet high in processed foods leads to you ageing quicker.”
On a regular day of training day, Robson-Kanu’s diet features plenty of carbs balanced with greens and protein. “On match days,” he continues, “my meal is usually an omelette, sweet potatoes, fruit, nuts and yogurt.”
He says he also owes his career to the positive impact a specific type of nutrition has had on his performance:
“After my injuries I had bad reactions to prescription anti-inflammatories. Out of desperation I went on a research binge – studying medicines from different cultures and discovering how natural ingredients including pomegranate, ginger and especially turmeric aid the body.”
Taking these nutrients in root form helped Robson-Kanu cope with the pain and discomfort, while their medicinal qualities inspired him to develop an easily digestible, home-made ‘shot’ version of the tough turmeric root.
“I took the shots and felt revitalised,” he says. “I felt no pain or restriction for the first time in years.”
Words: Rob Kemp