If you are into fitness and always pushing the limits of your physical capabilities, it’s only a matter of time before your body needs some scheduled maintenance or even repair. It’s inevitable. The huge void in the fitness industry is the medical specialist who can be there to make sure you don’t completely break down.
This is where performance physical therapy has made an incredible impact in the worlds of Olympic lifting, power lifting, high-intensity interval training, endurance sports, and CrossFit. The multifaceted fitness industry has been longing for a “go-to” person who is easily accessible, knowledgeable, and effective to keep athletes of all levels performing their best without needing to see a medical doctor.
To keep your body performing the way your mind wants it to, it’s critical you find a movement specialist and develop that relationship in the early stages of your fitness journey. Find someone who has experience in the sport you are training in and can speak your language, if you will. For example, if an Olympic lifting athlete tells their doctor that they feel as though their lats are having trouble engaging during the second pull of the snatch, that doctor better completely understand at which point during the lift the patient is having their issue. If that athlete is getting a blank stare from their doctor, then both confidence and trust are lost in that provider and any medical care or advice that follows may fall on deaf ears. If I was that athlete, I’d already be searching for another provider to talk to.
Find that person who is a one-stop-shop for anything and everything you need to keep you moving forward and pushing your limits. Lately, there has been more popularity with clinicians and movement specialists, like me, who open small clinics within gyms and fitness studios. These are the experts you want to talk to and establish relationships with early on, even if you don’t use their services right away. If you don’t know who to talk to, ask around. There is a high probability that athletes in your gym already see someone on a routine basis to help with their aches and pains.
While it’s not fun to hear what’s wrong with you, it’s important to determine your baseline. To this day, I have not encountered an athlete who can pinpoint all their impairments, imbalances, and limitations by themselves. They needed an expert eye and a skilled set of hands to identify all of the potential areas of concern. This is where the most valuable information is obtained. That first appointment will give you the ammunition you need to address any issues that can hold you back from finding your new limits.
Here is what you can expect: At your first visit, you will tell this person your story—your athletic background (or lack thereof), your past achievements, your past injuries, recent surgeries, nutrition plan, sleep habits, training regimen, current level of work capacity, etc. Then you will talk about short-term and long-term goals. This will lay the framework for how he or she can approach and manage your care from that point forward. It is important that this person understands your mind as well as your body. Then, the physical assessment. We, as movement professionals, have a systematic method to approach how we assess your movements. We can triage the most pressing issues, or low-hanging fruit, first. Then we will guide you into how to address all your remaining impairments and imbalances.
I recommend monthly visits with this person. For example, my athletes see me every four weeks. Occasionally they tweak something, or they have random acts of pain, in which case they can schedule appointments with me quickly. No waiting to see your primary care physician, no frustration trying to get in to see a specialist. No waiting around for two to three weeks to have X-rays and a prescription for ibuprofen. This is an appointment within 24 hours for quick assessment and immediate treatment. This is the benefit of having a dedicated specialist. They already know you. They know your training, your habits, your load tolerance. It’s that relationship that saves you time, money, and energy and gets your back in the gym or on the field immediately.
Of course, this comes at a cost. After all, you are buying $100–$200 pairs of shoes (and you likely have multiples of these). You have all of the high-end apparel and equipment, and you purchase the best supplements and meal plans that money can buy. So just like anything else, you are going to get what you pay for. But it won’t come anywhere close to the cost of visiting our primary care physician or your orthopedic specialist. In the end, it’s cost effective to maintain your body well rather than try to fix it when it breaks down.
You are a machine. Seriously. You have so many moving parts: bones, tendons, ligaments, muscles, nerves, joints, blood vessels. And they all work together in harmony to enhance your performance. You must maintain the machine that is you, the athlete. You are your own worst enemy. You compete against yourself every day. You are better today than you were yesterday, but not nearly as good as you will be tomorrow. Set yourself up with the manually skilled movement-based expert near you to ensure you continue to strive for excellence.
At this point, you probably have questions. If you made it this far in this article, you may already be buying into what I’m selling. To be quite honest, I’m totally selling you something: FITNESS! I’m selling fitness. I’m selling PR’s, heavier lifts, faster sprints, and taller climbs. Nobody gets there by themselves. I help athletes perform. So, get in touch with me, or someone near you with this mindset and skillset, and let us help you win your day, every day!