In the Mind of a Physical Therapist
Popeye said it best – “I am who I am.” I do not always take the advice I dish out, but I do try to listen to my body. I don’t always warm up and I don’t always stretch after my workouts, but if I feel something is not right, I don’t push through it. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that is how an acute condition can become a chronic one.
When it comes to working out as a whole, I try to mix it up. I enjoy various levels of torture for my body such as long distance running, racing in Tough Mudders, bouldering, weight training, and spin class. Mixing all of these into an already busy schedule can be challenging, but not impossible. The main thing is to mix it up and not just run, or not just weight train, or not just spin. Cross training is what prevents me from getting injured by challenging different and opposing muscle groups. It also prevents me from getting bored. I have found that many patients I treat in clinic get bored with working out; the variety of my workouts keeps it interesting.
When it comes to stretching, the general rule of thumb is to do your dynamic warm up prior to activity, then static stretching following. When it comes to my general weight training, spin class, or distance running, I rarely do this…for no better reason than lack of time. When I have more time, I do it, but I’ve noticed that when I’m not injured, it gets pushed to the side. However, when I’m about to play in a pick-up game of football, do sprints in the park, or even play a round of golf, I’m much more disciplined in getting my warm up in with some stretching at the conclusion of activity. The explosive sports are where I need to keep my body warm and prevent injury from occurring more than with the endurance sports. I know from past experiences because it has led to me injuring myself.
Weight training can involve many different things for me, but I consult the experts to help develop my own training plan. I’m fortunate to work with excellent strength coaches and they have built my workouts for me. I communicate my objectives to them and they help build a program with me. The back and forth allows it to be a program that’s safe, gets me to the next step, and allows me to achieve my goals. There is a stigma in some healthcare circles that physical therapists and trainers don’t work well together. I find that to be completely false, having good communication between PTs and trainers allow better outcomes for the patient.
When it comes to fixing my own injuries, that tends to be an area that I excel. I would hope so since that’s my profession! When I have knee pain from running too long, you’ll see me foam rolling, icing, and taking my anti-inflammatories. If my shoulder is acting up from golf, I will quickly start assessing my swing and seeing where I am doing something wrong, again icing and getting some soft tissue work done by one of my co-workers (perks of the job). So at the end of the day, I do take my own advice…not as often as I should, but I do listen to my body. I think of it as a traffic light: green light; stay the course. Yellow light; proceed with caution. Red light; I’m doing something wrong, let’s get it feeling right and fix whatever caused the dysfunction.
Michael Silverman, PT, MSPT, USATF-1, is a physical therapist at Hospital for Special Surgery’s James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center, specializing in rehabilitation for runners and other performance athletes. He has a special interest in running-form analysis, which he performs at the Tisch Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery.