Paul and Paula Rastrick

From the fields of dreams

The words flow like a torrent from the mouth of Paula Rastrick – a self-confessed product of a dysfunctional family, and a woman who’s viewed suicide, alcoholism and depression from the closest of quarters.

“We are disconnected from our physical and mental health,” says Paula. “We all lead such busy lives, we are all wired up, our senses are overloaded, and we have too much information coming into our brains. People are selling to you on the TV, people are selling to you every time they speak to you, and we are sold to on the phone.

“We are too busy trying to look great – I know loads of people who look great, but internally they are crumbling. You may get the Range Rover and think everything is fine, but it is not because everybody is so stressed. We are out of touch with our emotional intelligence.”

Paula, now 45, should know the meaning of stress and its impact on the self. She lost both her parents to motor neurone disease and cancer before they had reached 60, her grandparents forged a suicide pact from which her grandfather died, and she herself later suffered from post-natal depression.

Paula“I come from a dysfunctional background,” reflects Paula. “My mum had mental health issues. My dad [former semi-professional footballer Jimmy Searle] was an alcoholic. They died over a short period of time. My grandfather was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and he had a suicide pact with my grandmother because they didn’t want to go through life without each other. They took a combination of tablets – my grandad died but she survived.

“After I had my baby, I suffered from post-natal depression. I have had a lot of trauma in my life. I have always been interested in the mind, how to overcome adversity, how to develop inner strength.”

Today, Paula can look back on her troubled past and her history of family trauma from a new, hard-earned, perspective. Together with physiotherapist husband Paul, she is the driving force behind Physiyolates, an “independent lifestyle clinic with a holistic approach to health, well-being and performance”.

The couple, who worked together for years in the high-profile world of football at Aston Villa, are offering a combination of physiotherapy and rehabilitation services alongside the benefits of yoga and Pilates from their smart new offices in the tranquil surroundings of Knowle, near Solihull.

The Rastricks have pumped between £50,000 and £80,000 into the new business, launched in January at a VIP party attended by a host of Villa stars, including Gabby Agbonlahor, Micah Richards, Jack Grealish and others. And the leap of faith appears to be paying off, with around 200 customers a week through the doors and numbers steadily rising.

In a world where technology-driven connections are seemingly a fact of life all day long, seven days a week for millions of people, Paula stresses the key to Physiyolates is a far more personal connection between the individual’s mind and body.

“It is all about understanding more about the mind,” she says. “It is about a deep understanding of yourself, it is a very deep personal journey. It’s about how you see the world from the inside rather than the outside – in this world you can get caught in a very materialistic trap.”

Aptly enough, the couple, who have been married for 14 years and have a 12-year-old son Joseph, originally met on a personal development course in London. Paul was working at Villa Park as a physio at the time; the couple moved in together within six weeks and were married within 10 months.

The frequently volatile world of football helped cement the couple’s relationship, with Paula subsequently joining her physio husband at Villa Park as the football club’s new yoga sports performance coach and Pilates specialist. “There was almost nobody doing yoga in football,” she remembers. “Apart from Manchester United, it was unheard of. I’d been looking at how it could be used in the world of sport.

“I started off with one session with some 14-year-olds. Within a couple of months it had grown and grown and the first team started doing it, people like Emile Heskey, Stiliyan Petrov, Darren Bent – it turned into a full-time role.

“I gained the players’ respect over the years and grew the business. I did three years at the Open University doing sports psychology and completed a degree.

“You have to be pretty thick-skinned as a woman in football. There was some resistance, people who didn’t like it. But I can handle banter, I am not precious. The players do not have egos, they are often very nice, it’s the people who run football who have the egos.

“I am really into the mind-body connection and it was all about helping players. I was at Villa for seven and a half years and created a unique coaching model that was picked up by the Football Association. I lived and breathed that football club, our whole family life was based around Villa.”

The West Midlands’ best known football club had also been the centre of husband Paul’s working life for years, after he joined the late Graham Taylor’s outfit as a physio in 2002.

Watford-born and a self-confessed late starter in the world of employment, Paul had worked in retail for John Lewis and for a friend’s insulation fitting firm in the South-East before finding his vocation as a physiotherapist.

Paul“I wanted to get a proper job, to do something that took my interest,” he says. “I was always interested in sport, mainly football and cricket.”

A talented sportsman himself, Paul, now 51, had trials at Watford as a schoolboy in the late 1970s and later played for Cambridge United’s youth team in the early 1980s. He recalls: “I had left school at 17 and was average academically. I had to go away and do an access to higher education course in Watford, then I did a physio degree at Brunel University in Isleworth.

“During the final year I did a placement at Millwall. Tom Walley was youth team coach at Millwall and he used to give me a lift every morning from Watford.

“I would have liked a job in football straight from school but I wanted to learn the ropes. I worked at Watford general hospital, in all the different departments, it was very varied.”

Paul’s big career break came when Bruce Rioch – a friend of Tom Walley – was appointed manager at Arsenal in 1995. The Rioch-Walley connection put him on the path to the big time, albeit from humble beginnings as part-time youth team physio with the north London giants.

“It was very exciting at Arsenal – the place had real class. I worked with Gary Lewin, the first team physio. I would meet Arsene Wenger from time to time [the Frenchman replaced Bruce Rioch in the autumn of 1996], he was very focused, very keen on dietary aspects, a pioneer of English football. He persuaded players like Tony Adams that it was not all about drinking 10 pints on a Saturday night.”

Paul, who also worked for a spell with Wales under-21s, eventually landed his first full-time football post at Watford, his hometown club. “Graham Taylor was the best manager ever, he knew how to man-manage, he treated everyone with dignity and respect. I also met then owner Elton John – he was a shy man but a different character in and around the club.”

The physio teamed up again with Graham Taylor at Aston Villa in 2002, working with a host of managers for 14 years including David O’Leary, Martin O’Neill, Tim Sherwood and others. He retains a special affection for the often-maligned former owner, “Deadly” Doug Ellis – “a great man who had Villa in his blood and heart”.

Today, the Villa Park days are over for the Rastricks, and their energies are firmly focused on Physiyolates. “We launched in January and we are now getting close to 200 people a week coming through,” reports Paul. “It was a leap of faith – we have had to invest about £50,000 to £80,000 – but so far it has outweighed all expectations.”

Paul, who is Physiyolates’ physiotherapist and rehabilitation specialist, is complemented by Paula, the company’s yoga and pilates specialist. He says: “I’m bringing in around £1,000 a week and my wife around £2,000 a week. We have to pay rent on the building and also teachers and admin staff – we need the money to come in but I think we will go from strength to strength.

“A lot of business is word of mouth – I have forged good connections with local GPs and orthopaedic surgeons. We now have two PAs and three other instructors here on a consultancy basis.”

The couple, who live locally in Knowle, say the location close to the heart of the West Midlands village is ideal for the fledgling business. “That is one of the key things – if we were on an industrial estate, I do not think it would work,” adds Paul.

The last word lies with Paula: “Everything I do is driven by passion and intensity. Everyone today is focused on the physical and the external. But the key is connecting the mind with the body.”

Published: 03 October 2017

Article by John Griffin
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