Strong Friends: Dr Brandi
Introducing the fantastic Dr Brandi Cole
As you know, we have some frank discussions planned about pregnancy and post partum experiences, centered around topics that you, dear reader, and my clients want to hear about. I wanted to partner up with some experts in the field and, of course, my first thought was Dr Brandi Cole.
I first met Brandi in 2013 in Sydney, while living in "the shire", doing strength and conditioning work experience with the Australian Rugby 7's team and playing OzTag. Brandi and I encountered each other again when I was playing for Team GB in TAG and she toured the UK playing for the Australian team.
I can't wait for you all to meet her, so let's kick this off with a Strong Friends interview so that Brandi can introduce herself to you before we dive into our topical discussion.
If you would like to suggest a topic for future discussion or share your story, drop us a line. Your input is very much appreciated!
Tell me about the work that you do?
I’m currently consulting as a sports doctor at Sydney Sports Medicine Centre at Sydney Olympic Park and I also assist in shoulder and hand Surgery at National Day Surgery in Kogarah, Sydney each week.
I’m the Sydney FC Women's League Football Team Doctor and I travel a lot for work too. This year I’m touring Ireland as the Doctor with the Australian Oztag teams and later in the year I’m going to Thailand with the Junior Matilda’s U17 Australian Women’s Football team.
And where do you train?
I train at a Crossfit Box in Sydney called Crossfit Effects (CFX) and I also have my garage set up as a home gym including a weightlifting platform for when I want to do more than one session per day or am too busy to make it to the gym.
What inspired you to go into medicine?
I always wanted to work in the sporting industry when I was younger and dreamed of working at the Olympics one day. I spent a lot of time with my physiotherapist as an athlete in my senior years at school and was inspired by him to study physiotherapy.
Then, while I was completing my physio degree I got invited into theatre to watch knee surgery and I loved it! I decided to study medicine after I finished physiotherapy and worked as a physio during my medical degree.
When I finished medicine I thought I was going to leave the sporting industry and work in emergency or intensive care but I realised how much I missed musculoskeletal medicine after 5 years as a doctor so I started speciality training in sports and exercise medicine.
You have a new project on the boil - tell me a little about it.
After becoming pregnant, I realised that other mothers and pregnant women were much more likely to ask me advice because I was pregnant or a new mum who exercised, not because I was a qualified physiotherapist and doctor. It made me realise how little information there really was out there on exercise for pregnancy and the post partum period, what to watch out for, how to do it safely etc.
I was concerned that women are more likely to rely on other women for their information which may just be based on their own experience and not necessarily applicable to all and also how little guidance there was from the medical community.
I decided to fill that void by creating a platform to educate, inform and empower women to become or stay active during pregnancy and beyond and a place to seek answers to their questions and get individualised feedback if needed.
At the same time I was contacted by a friend in the fitness industry who had teamed up with some others to also try to fill that void and develop exercise programs specifically tailored to pregnancy and post birth. They rang to ask if I knew anyone in the medical industry who would be suitable to give them some support and guidance with their programs.......yes I did know someone.......it was me!!
So we've teamed up to create a company called UB Mumma and are currently in the planning stages of podcasts and a website with interactive training programs and loads of information, due to be launched in a few months and have just started running seminars educating women about exercise for pregnancy and the post partum period.
Tell me about your sports and fitness background?
I’ve always loved sport and fitness and this was instilled into me from an early age by my parents who were both talented athletes when they were younger. Our family holidays would consist of a bike ride to the local swimming pool to swim laps before breakfast each day and there was always a run or beach fitness session in the afternoon too.
I played every sport I could at school; in my final year, I represented my school in 12 sports! My main representative sports growing up were touch football, hockey and beach sprinting. When I left school I switched to Oztag and played for Australia for 16 years until retiring last year. I took up Crossfit 6 years ago with my husband and now my entire family trains with us. I train at least 6 days a week and occasionally compete but only just for fun.
What do you like most about working in the sports & fitness industry?
I get to sit on the sidelines of some of the biggest sporting events in the world with an uninterrupted view and call it work! I’m blessed with the opportunity to be able to travel the world and have been able to transition from athlete to medical staff without losing the feeling or being part of a sporting team.
My work isn’t all with elite athletes though, and some of the most satisfying and rewarding aspects of my job are being able to work with people from all sporting and fitness backgrounds, even those who were previously sedentary, whether it’s to relieve the pain that’s preventing them from leading an active lifestyle, or educate and inspire them to become more active and healthy.
Who’s your inspiration in the industry?
The late Chris O’Brien inspired me to become a doctor. He was a head and neck surgeon at RPA in Sydney and featured on a TV show about the hospital during the time I was considering studying medicine.
He was so caring and endearing to his patients but so talented at his job. Ironically he died of a malignant brain tumour in 2009. If I can be half as skilful at my job as he was, while retaining the humility and concern for his patients that he had, I’ll be doing well.
Can you summarise your training philosophy?
Train every day but listen to your body and when you need a rest, take a day off. Train hard and push your limits but do something you love so it’s not a chore. Train for the health and fitness benefits and how it makes you feel not how it makes you look.
If I miss more than one day of training I tend to get so grumpy or agitated that my husband will tell me to go and have my medicine…….exercise really is medicine!!
Tell me about your favourite Client Success Story?
My Grandma (who has since passed away). She was the smallest human I know, probably weighing 40kg at the most but very active her whole life. As a young woman, she’d been in a few car accidents (including falling out of a car when the door flung open mid drive prior to seatbelts being introduced) and had suffered from chronic back and neck pain as a result.
During my physiotherapy degree, I started learning about the benefits of strength training other than strength gains and suggested she read “Strong Women Stay Young”. After this, she was inspired to start a home strength training program for the first time ever in her late 70’s. She bought weights that you strap around your ankles and wrists and dumbbells and followed the programming diligently. Within months she was completely off all pain meds and had never felt better. So many people are resistant to change but she embraced it and reaped the rewards.
Do you have a favourite place to train?
Outdoors in the sunshine……..and give me a set of stairs to run up any day and I’m in heaven!
Any advice to people wanting to start their fitness journey?
It’s never too late to start and anyone can do it but don’t compare yourself to others. Start slowly and build from there doing something you love. Aim to get 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise in per week as a minimum. This equates to 30 minutes of walking per day 5 days per week. You can even breakdown that daily 30 minutes into three 10 minute sessions throughout the day.
Just add incidental exercise into your day like taking the stairs not the lift or parking further away from work or the shops and walking a bit extra to get there. If you can increase your fitness by a small amount, you’ll make huge improvements to your health and reduce your risk of disease and death substantially.
Where’s your favourite place to eat in London?
I’ve only been to London once so I don’t have a favourite yet but I’m coming back again this July. Anywhere that serves whole foods with good produce is a winner in my books….and I love breakfast…..poached eggs, avocado, bacon, goats cheese on a bed of rocket or baby spinach….I could eat breakfast for all 3 meals a day! Hopefully I can get some good suggestions from this blog for my visit later this year!
What is your favourite quote or mantra?
My personal favourite is “Your body can stand almost anything, it’s your mind you have to convince”.
….and when I’m training and it starts to hurt and my mind threatens to give up, I repeat “no pain, no gain” over and over in my head until my mind puts the pain in the background.
My favourite quote from a professional perspective is “Food is the most abused anxiety drug and exercise is the most under utilised antidepressant”.
We would love you to share your comments and thoughts in the comment section.
If you would like to suggest a topic for future discussion or share your story, hit the button below. Thank you!