Lessons From Physical Therapy

My physical therapy is going well. I’ve been able to do several 4-5 miles runs without any setbacks, and my physical therapist thinks I am ready to start upping my mileage. :-)

Even though strength training has been part of my regular fitness routine for years, I’ve learned several important lessons during physical therapy.

If your muscles don’t get tired, they won’t get stronger.

I know that you should choose your weights so that it is difficult to finish the last few reps of your last set, but I still tend to breeze through my strength routine. Physical therapy made me realize how much I’ve been short-changing myself by not pushing myself harder. My first physical therapy exercises did not use any weights at all, but required me to hold each rep for 8 seconds. Yowzie! Talk about feeling the burn! My muscles trembled through the last set–but I have been getting noticeably stronger over just the last few weeks.You need to change your routine to keep challenging your muscles.

I have favorite strength exercises that I like to do day in and day out. I just don’t feel like I’ve done my strength routine if I haven’t done overhead presses, push-ups and tricep dips. But my physical therapy “homework” has changed every week. For example, I’ve gone from side planks, to side planks with my feet elevated, to side planks with a twist. I’ve gone from planks on my elbows, to planks on my elbows with one foot raised, to fitball plank moves. Just when I get the hang of an exercise, my trainer takes it to the next level, making sure that my muscles are constantly challenged–and getting stronger.

Focus on form.

Most of my physical therapy exercises are just different enough from exercises that I’ve done before that I have to think about what I am doing. That makes me slow down and focus on what I’m doing, which helps make sure I am engaging the correct muscles. The trainer that works with my physical therapist also explained the importance of resting between sets–muscles need that rest to be able to execute the next set with good form.

If an exercise is too hard, keep trying!

The first time I tried the single-leg airplane stance with a side rotation, I could barely get into the pose, let alone hold it for the requisite 5 seconds. After a few days, I had it figured out, and I could do almost all of the reps without falling over. I was so proud and pleased to see my coordination, strength and balance improve in just a few days. It was a good reminder that just because something is hard doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it, and just because I can’t do something right the first time doesn’t mean I shouldn’t keep trying. 

I know I won’t be working with my physical trainer for much longer, but this experience has reinforced my desire to work with a certified personal trainer–if not on a regular basis at least from time-to-time when my routine needs a tune up.

Have you ever had physical therapy?

Have you worked with a personal trainer?

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17 Responses to Lessons From Physical Therapy

  1. Miz says:

    Ahhh. I was thinking last night as I lay not sleeping I may head back to AIRROSTI.
    which is almost pt–but not :-)

  2. That first lesson is something I've wondered about.. A lot of time after my strength training I'll complain about how sore my butt or quads are, and one time someone told me I over-did it and I shouldn't feel so sore.. I guess finding that line of what's enough is hard to find.
    I agree with changing it up too!

    • Coco says:

      I think it depends on how long your soreness lingers. One day is probably fine. More than that, you probably overdid it. I actually haven't had too much lingering soreness with all this PT–it's mostly a during and right after thing.

  3. I've been to/done both. Both always stressed the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to training your muscles.

  4. Yes and yes. Two periods with a physical therapist; different injuries. And my mom and I have been working out together (on her dime) with a trainer for years now:)

  5. Yes! Currently in PT right now and these lessons ring so true for me. Focusing on form is key and even exercises that seem so simple really burn when you have correct form. I have knee surgery about 3 months ago and am slowing making my way back. It's been frustrating at times but I know that I need to continue to focus on my PT.

  6. Yum Yucky says:

    Yes! I've had physical therapy on two different occasions, and it was AFTER those therapy experiences that I later rehabbed a rotator cuff injury on my own. I learned a lot in therapy — when to go easy and when to push a little more.
    Never had a personal trainer. At this point, I feel like I …should be one. (hmmm….???)

  7. bFIT4Lifer says:

    Great post! Gonna tweet one if your statements. Yes my physical therapy has helped me and I do like to get a personal trainer too from time to time. As a personal trainer myself sometimes I need that extra push too and development.

  8. Maite says:

    Yes and soon to be yes, Coco! Just finished 15 sessions of PT (kiné in French) for a back problem. Also, just about finished with my 10 session series of rolfing (you should check it out, adjustment for life). Moved to a new apt in Paris just half a block from a gym offering a two year special (with personal trainer) and signing up next week.

  9. I feel ya!!! I went to a sports chiro for work with my ITB and learned so much while there, even though I "know" these things. But seeing how I wasn't applying them fully to my own body affected me was like WOW!

  10. I'm obviously catching up on my Reader, but would you be interested in sharing your PT routine? The plank work you mention has me intrigued.

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