If you’ve paid attention to UK skateboarding over the course of the last decade, Ben Rowles is a name that should already be more than familiar to you. Ben’s skateboarding has earned him coverage in every British based magazine going, and sections in applauded Manchester centric videos such as Cottonopolis and Seven. Alongside his achievements within skating, Ben is also a trained, licensed and award winning physiotherapist who works for the NHS in Ormskirk, Lancashire. Since graduating from Sheffield University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Physiotherapy in 2018, Ben has been using his knowledge to help skaters get back to full health following injuries, whilst enabling them to generally take better physical care of themselves.
As we all know too well, skateboarding is extremely physically and mentally demanding. With that in mind, each issue Ben is going to be speaking to some of the UK’s most established skateboarders, gaining an insight into exactly how they each look after their general well-being.
First up is West London local Amy Ram, who kindly took some time out of her day to chat to Ben about sprained ankles, playing sports, changing her diet, and – of course – the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown.
Welcome to Consultation.
Amy makes full use of a deserted Mount Hawke road. Photo: Leo Sharp.
Can you introduce yourself for us please?
My name is Amy Ram, I’m 32, born and raised in London. I’m still living in London now but have travelled extensively my whole life, on and off my board. I’m sponsored by Vans Europe, Santa Cruz EU, and Route One…very blessed! I get a bit of income from my sponsors, then to cover the rest I work at BaySixty6 Skatepark, managing the online content, and occasionally I teach skateboarding as well.
Is there anything that you do on a regular basis to support your own health?
I went veggie at the beginning of this year. My girlfriend is also living on a plant-based diet, so this has worked in my favour, big time. I felt the difference from the first week. I couldn’t recommend it more, not just for your health, but also for the environment; you only have to watch David Attenborough to fully understand the positive impact you can have on the planet by going veggie. I do like the occasional beer, in moderation, but I try not to drink that much alcohol. I can’t drink whilst skating, and also skating on a hangover is a big no-no.
I watched the recent David Attenborough documentary [A Life on Our Planet], mind-blowing stuff. Have you seen many positive changes in the skateboard community recently, in terms of looking after the planet?
I think most skateboarders are conscious about the environment; the three R’s are used a lot throughout skateboarding - reduce, recycle, reuse. All of my old clothes and equipment gets left at skateparks for people to take and reuse, or I take it to Brixton’s Baddest for them to give to those in need. I know many sponsored skateboarders in the UK do the same; it’s a way of giving back to the community and that's what I love about skateboarding. I have noticed Santa Cruz packaging is now decomposable, and Route One has a sustainability department, which is rad. Obviously there is a long way to go, but I feel skateboarding as an industry is taking steps forward, and it feels good to be a part of it.
Most skateboarders have their own injury related annoyances, I'm afraid that's just a part of skateboarding and you have to deal with them in your own way.
Yeah, it is definitely going in the right direction. When it comes to skating, do you have anything like a warm up routine?
I don’t have a specific exercise routine when it comes to skateboarding. I stretch when I can, but the main thing for me is consistency; taking a couple of days off here and there, but skating at least four or five days a week, not just because it's part of what I do, but mentally as well, it clears my mind and I always feel great afterwards. Pre-COVID I was in a good routine, going to the gym with set exercises. But now I don’t need the gym as much as I’m pretty active every day, with cycling, walking, tennis, surfing, skating, and coaching. Sometimes I feel like that's enough.
How do you feel that you benefit from doing a wide variety of activities, as well as skateboarding?
Yeah, definitely. I always recommend to people to not just focus on skateboarding, and that there are other activities that help in so many different ways. I play tennis and it helps with my skateboarding a lot; the quick, sudden movements needed to play tennis are similar to those needed to skate. Also hand-eye coordination, body strengthening…the list goes on. The last five years of surfing have been very beneficial; the mental battle and persistence needed to surf is also similar to skateboarding. A lot of sports relate to skateboarding, and not just the obvious ones. I played football for ten years growing up, at a high standard, and I strongly believe this has helped in my skateboarding as well. The fitness, strength, grit, and determination needed to play football are all relatable to skateboarding.
Do you have any injuries that prevent you from being as active as you’d like to be?
My left ankle, it goes every other month or so. I remember rolling it the first time at BaySixty6 about eight years ago. It was the worst; I went straight to A&E. It was about two months before I could even walk properly again, and at the time I was working as a runner on film sets. It’s basically been rolling ever since, but I have learnt to deal with it, and every time it happens, I learn how to handle it better. I wear a brace and that helps a lot, and I have a band that I use to strengthen it. Most skateboarders have their own injury related annoyances, I'm afraid that's just a part of skateboarding and you have to deal with them in your own way.
Frontside no-comply to interrupt the Wheal Kitty tranquility. Photo: Leo Sharp.
How do you typically spend the days when you find yourself unable to skate, or be active?
I am actually really good at preoccupying my time when I am not skating. I have my beautiful girlfriend that I love hanging out with, I have some of the best friends I could imagine who are completely unrelated to skateboarding, and that helps me detach. I am super close to my family too, and I love spending time with them; it all really helps complete the balance of life. As you can tell, I am really enjoying this stage of my life!
That said, I definitely have days where I feel demotivated and discouraged, and don’t want to face the world at all. I accept those days with open arms, and basically sit and do nothing, knowing that tomorrow is potentially going to be the complete opposite. My girlfriend can normally pull me out of these moods, as she is more active than me, which I never thought could be possible.
Get out into nature as much as you can!
2020 has been a crazy year; how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you?
It certainly has been a year to remember and reflect. I am feeling pretty grateful with the amount I have travelled, and knowing that I have taken every opportunity that came my way pre-COVID. A year of not travelling has actually been quite nice. I have a newfound love for the UK and more appreciation for what it has to offer. I only really just moved back from Barcelona in November 2019 after spending nearly two years there. Barcelona is like a second home to me and I am desperate to go back!
What advice would you give to the younger generation in terms of looking after themselves, which inevitably can support them to keep skating as long as possible?
Just keep skating, keep falling, keep getting back up, keep making friends, keep seeing different places, stay outside and stay off your screens, keep stretching, drink lots of water, eat loads of vegetables, and get out into nature as much as you can! Don’t become too obsessed as there’s definitely a lot more going on in the world as well!
Great, thank you for your time Amy!
We've spoken about some really important topics here, so here are four tips to take away:
1 – Watch David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet documentary on Netflix to see how we can all help support our local and global environment.
2 – A plant-based diet is proven to have benefits for your health and the environment, but please visit the NHS Eatwell Guide for evidence based diet tips.
3 – It’s very common for a tweaked ankle to keep on tweaking. A basic set of strength and balance exercises is a great way to reduce the risk of an ankle tweaking again in the future, but it’s the progression of these exercises that is crucial, and often gets missed. Please contact a physiotherapist as they will help with this.
4 – The COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound effect on people’s lives in many different ways. These are times of great uncertainty and it is OK not to feel OK. For anybody struggling with their mental health, please find info and support via www.mind.org.uk, the NHS website, or The Ben Raemers Foundation.
Follow Ben - @benrowlesphysio
Follow Amy - @amy_ram