Austin, Texas (August 6, 2012): Ranked among the top athletes in the world, Amy Acuff has reentered the Olympic scene positioned to win a medal and leap to the heights of her own personal best. Comfortable in the Olympic spotlight, Acuff’s drive to succeed has landed her interviews in Vogue, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, and Rolling Stone.
A five-time Olympian, Acuff is returning to complete some unfinished business, “I am in the best shape of my life–very accurate, fast and powerful in high jumping–and expect to perform better than I ever have,” says Acuff. “I came out of retirement in January, when my child turned 2 years old. My time away from the track really gave me a fresh perspective on my jumping and training, the chance to focus on what was most important in my life and cut out the excesses.”
Women track and field athletes can be more resilient and mentally fit after pregnancy. “A lot of times track athletes do really well coming back after having a child,” says Acuff. “When you take a break from athletics, a lot of your timing and coordination goes away, but you start back with a clean slate that can be helpful.”
Young Olympians are in awe of Acuff’s staying power. “If you take good care of yourself, I think that your physical peak can be in your late 30’s or early 40’s. Even if you stop for a time your abilities do not go away completely, you develop continually throughout life and build on your strengths.”
“The use of alternative therapies such as acupuncture, Pilates, and Rolfing has been instrumental,” says Acuff, who received her pre-med degree from UCLA and studied acupuncture at the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin (AOMA). “I don’t think I would be where I am without all of these modalities.”
Erin Aldrich, 2000 U. S. Olympic high jumper introduced Acuff to Certified Advanced Rolfer and Rolf Movement Practitioner Brian Beard. Acuff says Rolfing and her other training modalities helped her win the 2004 Olympic bronze medal. “I value Rolfing for performance enhancement and injury prevention, so issues do not crop up as readily,” says Acuff.
Faster and stronger than ever, Amy is not the only Olympian to use alternative healing to gain a competitive edge. Bahamian Sprinter, Debbie Fergusun-McKenzie received Rolfing from Certified Rolfer, Willy Kaye before she left for London. Former U.S. Olympians like Michelle Kwan, Elvis Stojko, Ben Hindle, Mebrahtom Keflezighi, Sanya Richards, and Brian Olson have also used Rolfing to prepare for the Olympics.
“Rolfing is an opportunity for discovery and it is so meaningful to me in what I am trying to achieve with my jumping, that I feel grateful that I have the chance to get the therapy,” says Acuff. “My Rolfer, Brian Beard’s is a great healer and facilitator. The changes that happen in a Rolfing session make a difference in my performance. I don’t know any other place that those type of things can happen.”
“An athlete performing the high jump has to run forward, launch vertically, turn backwards and arch with a spiral pattern to complete the rise over the bar,” says Beard, who also works with athletes at the University of Texas. “To enable the best results, I use Rolf movement theories to analyze the most efficient movement, and structural integration approaches to release the fascia accordingly.”
Acuff has worked with her Rolfer to prepare for world championships and the Olympics. “During a Rolfing session, I share technical issues with my Rolfer to get feedback that I can apply to my practice,” says Acuff. “When I describe a specific position in the high jump, my Rolfer will work on and discuss key areas that can improve my body mechanics. The insights I gain from the Rolfing work help me picture where I might be able to extract a little more power and length in the act of high jumping. I notice that I feel more stable and long throughout my body after the sessions.”
Acuff says her experience with Rolfing contributes to her success. “I have very specific things I need to do for the high jump and they have become more clear to me in recent times.” She has been comparing videos of my best jumps with those of some of the world’s leading jumpers.
“If you view a high jumper on film and match up the exact same position in two different takes, the two athletes can have an identical movement, but the way you reach that position and the firing power can be completely different,” says Acuff. “For an athlete it boils down to accessing the most efficient pattern.”
To perfect the high jump, Acuff carefully examines the physics of her stance. “A lot of what my Rolfer does help to get rid of energy loss. When you transfer energy up the line during the jump, if you are not stacked up properly you may leak energy out of the hip instead of transferring it up the spine to lift. Being efficient means not wasting energy. All that force you put in the ground should come up when you jump. It can make all the difference in Olympic competition.”
“When my body is in alignment, I can see a change in the lift of my head. The long neck and torso lift in unison, everything is working in harmony, versus, a sack of potatoes tumbling off the top.”
“Rolfing and Pilates are a little like coaching, they teach you a different movement pattern so your body finds a new way of engaging,” says Acuff. “There is some kind of communication that happens outside of your hearing, looking, or feeling. Something registers in the muscle’s memory and after training practice, I have noticed how my body absorbs and processes the work.”