Case Study: Anne Dickins, World Champion Para Canoeist and Chartered Physiotherapist

Anne Dickins

We speak to Great Britain’s champion para canoeist, busy physiotherapist and Mammoth mattress user, Anne Dickins.


How did you get into para canoeing?anne dickins para canoeist

I used to be an endurance mountain biker until I experienced a back injury in 2011, which left me with a permanently weak leg, making it impossible for me to race my bike anymore.

A chance meeting with the Great Britain para canoe coach at the London 2012 Olympics, at which we were both working as Games makers, led to me being invited to try for the canoe squad selection.

I saw my weak leg as a challenge not an obstacle, so accepted the offer of learning to kayak well enough to achieve GB squad selection time in just two months with enthusiasm. I considered this a major achievement and a huge boost to my confidence.

As well as being an athlete, you’re also a respected physiotherapist with over 20 years’ experience in the field, that must keep you busy!

Yes, it certainly does – there are just not enough hours in the day sometimes!

I’m a Chartered Physiotherapist and work with patients who have musculoskeletal conditions and sports injuries. I’ve worked in professional clinics both in London and America and have also had own practice for 13 years.

I really believe in getting to the route cause of any condition and helping patients perform to their potential. I have also studied, and teach, advanced Pilates techniques.

What kind of environment do you sleep best in – e.g. warm and cosy, cool and clean?

I love that feeling when the bed is just the right temperature and the covers are in just the right place. Strangely, I like my feet to be hanging over the edge of the bed while I sleep! I normally aim to get a good 7.5 -8 hours’ sleep a night.

Can you tell us any details of your bedtime routine? Is it brush teeth, lights off and bed? Half an hour reading or a bit of TV?

Routine? Me? Ha ha! I don’t really have any routine, except that I tend to wander round while I clean my teeth. I rarely read in bed because I am usually too tired and ready to fall straight to sleep.

How would you characterise yourself as a sleeper? Are you an “asleep before the head hits the pillow” type or a “restless sleeper” type?

I’m a really good sleeper – you could Hoover the bedroom and make the bed with me in it and I wouldn’t stir! Having said that I dream of paddling most nights and have accidentally hit my partner with my imaginary paddle a couple of times.

Would you say you deal well with a lack of sleep?anne dickins physiotherapist

Before I was a para canoeist I was an endurance mountain biker. My favourite event was 24 hour racing where you ride as far as possible in 24 hours. Trying to ride a technical trail after 24 hours with no sleep is a massive challenge, which I used to love, so I guess I can function well on a lack of sleep!

What attracted you to the Mammoth mattress in the first place?

I did a lot of research. As a physiotherapist I wanted a mattress with the science behind it and as an elite para-athlete I wanted something comfortable to assist my recovery and look after my body while I’m asleep. I actually tried many mattresses and the Mammoth was the only one that had all the science to back it up and was exceptionally comfortable.

What are the main injury concerns you’ve had in your career? And do you have any longstanding niggles or pains you hope the Mammoth to help with?

I have had two serious back injuries – I broke my back in my twenties and had a second back injury just three years ago which is how I’ve become a para- athlete. My back is very particular about what it sleeps on which is why I chose a Mammoth mattress.

If you could have a (purely platonic) late night chat with anyone, dead or alive, who’d be worth losing sleep over – and why?

I would love to chat to my grandfather who died when my Dad was just two. My grandmother never spoke about him but from what I’ve learnt he was an amazing man. He worked alongside Rutherford discovering the atom in the 1920s so I’m sure he would have some pretty incredible stories!

What are your goals for the next 12 months and beyond?

My first season has been brilliant and I’m already looking forward to the challenges ahead. I am focused on training hard and paddling well enough to be selected to reach the European and the World Championships again next year.

My dream (which I can barely dare to think about) is to race at Rio 2016. Watch this space!