I think to understand how a fitness forward approach to physical therapy is different, it’s important to understand what a non-fitness forward approach implies.
Let’s paint a picture: You hurt your back, you go see your doctor, and you get referred out to see a PT (although here in Idaho, you can come see a PT directly).
You end up going to a standard outpatient clinic that has your visits ending up looking like this:
- Your “warm-up” is 10 or 15 minutes on the bike at a slow, unenthusiastic pace.
- You show up and do the same low-level exercises or stretches that you could be doing at home. You might even have someone in high school kid running you through them, despite not having any formal training and not being able to progress/regress your regimen based on how you’re responding that day. The exercises don’t get your heart rate up, they don’t challenge you, and you’re not even sure why you’re doing them. Your routine might look like some bridges, clamshells, yellow Theraband leg extensions, core activation work, or anything of the sort.
- The heaviest weight they have in the clinic is a 10 lb DB.
In contrast, fitness forward physical therapy looks something like this:
- Prioritizing your fitness at all costs. If you have a right shoulder injury, then you’ve got 3 other limbs that are perfectly capable of working at capacity. Let’s do as much as we can so that you can maintain, or better yet, even improve your fitness levels.
- Using actual strength training equipment in-clinic (read: barbells, kettlebells, heavy dumbbells and bands).
- Re-evaluating your progress on a visit-to-visit basis, so you’re not stuck in limbo wondering if you’re actually getting better.
Why choose a fitness forward physical therapy clinic?
- You’re ACTUALLY going to get stronger. When you come in to the clinic and can’t even bend over to put your shoes on vs when you leave and you can now pick up a 135 pound barbell, that is a REAL, tangible gain in strength. All of a sudden, that 30 lb bag of dog food doesn’t seem like such a big deal to bring in from the car anymore, does it?
- Maybe of even more importance is the mental fortitude that it gives you. Being confident with your movement and KNOWING that your body is resilient enough to handle things that used to bother you is massive.
- The phrase is “Strength AND Conditioning,” but the conditioning piece often gets neglected. Not here. You get exercise programming that’s more exciting, interactive, and engaging than “3 sets of 10.” You get mix of HIIT and functional training that’s going to help you ” move more and die less.”
If that sounds scary because you’ve never touched a barbell or picked up anything heavy in your life, I promise I won’t make you do anything you’re not comfortable with. I push my patients more than most physical therapists, and it can seem daunting. But I do take you by the hand, make sure you feel comfortable with all the form and technique requirements, so that you leave with the utmost confidence after we’re done.
Why do I care so much about improving your fitness?
It’s a fair question. You’re here to get out of pain and get on with your life. And I want to meet you where you’re at. But of no less importance is moving the needle forward with your health.
People don’t die from shoulder pain. People die from heart disease, from strokes, from COPD, and from so many other preventable, lifestyle-related deaths.
Don’t mishear me! I care deeply about your shoulder pain, and that is our priority here. But then what? If we can decrease your pain WHILE improving your fitness, shouldn’t we do that? Because if not us, then who? In the healthcare world, physical therapists are supposed to be “the movement experts,” so I think we should start acting like it.
So as one of my mentors often says, the question to leave you with is:
How fit will you let me get you?