Let me ask you something. Do you think you’re pretty good at driving your car? I mean, you’ve been doing it since you’ve been what...15? 16? If you grew up on some back country roads like I did, it may be even earlier than that. For many of you reading this, you’ve been driving for decades, so it’s probably safe to assume that you’re pretty efficient at driving a car. Now, how effective do you think you’d be at building your car from the ground up...? Yeah, me either. That’s why when something is wrong with my car, I take it to the professionals.
If you don’t have any formal training in exercise science, strength and conditioning, etc., then you attempting to build your own workouts because “I played college sports,” or, “I’ve been working out my whole life,” is the equivalent to you trying to build your own car just because you’ve been driving since you were a kid.
The problem with the fitness industry though, is that the barrier of entry is so incredibly low. Any 18-year-old who pays some money to take an exam online can become a personal trainer, touting themselves as someone strangers should trust with their health and fitness goals.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some really knowledgeable trainers out there who can get incredible results for you. The issue is, those trainers are few and far between, and the rest of the field is watered down by everyone else. I see it all the time: A trainer taking someone through a “workout” which typically consists of a circuit of different machines while they swipe through Instagram and turn into a glorified rep counter for you, all while charging an average of $100 per session.
There is something seriously wrong with that picture.
The solution is to get to a professional, a physical therapist who has a background in strength and conditioning. Now, I’m obviously biased, but hear me out. Below are my top three reasons why the next time you’re looking to make a change in your health and fitness journey, you should look at a physical therapist with a background in strength and conditioning.
1. They spend 7 years becoming experts on the musculoskeletal system. Did you know that Physical Therapy is a doctoral level profession? Physical therapists spend four years in undergrad, typically obtaining a bachelor's degree in exercise science, where they learn the ins and outs of human performance, before taking their training to the next level by getting a doctorate degree that is more specialized on the human musculoskeletal system than any other healthcare provider, short of an orthopedic surgeon. That’s an incredible amount of training and knowledge with which to trust your health and fitness journey.
2. They know how to not let injuries derail you from your fitness goals. Physical therapists see injuries every day in the clinic, and just like any other profession you start to recognize patterns. Patterns such as poor breathing patterns leading to back injuries; poor hip mobility leading to stress fractures in your feet; poor upper back mobility leading to shoulder pain; and endless others. Simply put, performance based physical therapists know what “normal” human movement should look like, especially when under load (which is where most problems arise) and when deviations from “normal” can set you up for a higher likelihood of getting injured. Being able to catch the deviations will not only prevent injury, but they will help boost your performance and help you achieve your goals faster.
3. They understand how complex variables can play into your performance. Sleep, stress management, breath work, joint mobility, previous injury history, psychosocial implications that come from previous injuries, illnesses, etc. - all of these are crucial variables that can directly impact how well you progress towards your goals. Chances are, your local globo gym personal trainer isn’t going to be able to piece those together for you. That’s where a performance physical therapist comes in. We work with these variables every single day and know how to manage them with your programming.
Now, the point of this article is not to bash personal trainers. There are plenty of physical therapists who have no business handling your fitness goals. But, a performance based physical therapist with a strong background in strength and conditioning has a unique blend of skill sets that will be able to best set yourself up for success. At Athletes’ Potential, every single one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy has a background in physical therapy, and we’d love to help you with your fitness goals as well.
It depends on how serious you are though...there are plenty of “5 minute oil changes” out there who can talk through some exercises. But, if you’re ready to take your health and fitness goals seriously, then it’s time to get to an expert.
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Jake, PT, DPT, CSCS
Active Atlanta Podcast: Episode One with Danny Matta
Hey, what's going on, everybody? Doc Danny Matta here with the Active Atlanta Podcast, and this is episode number one. So, first of all, thanks so much for listening. If you have worked with us in the past and you're listening to the podcast, I appreciate your willingness to spend time with us. If you've never spent time with me or any of our staff at Athletes’ Potential, thanks for listening to the podcast!.
I hope that you listen every week, and my goal is for you to learn a ton about how you can really take care of yourself and live a really active, fulfilled life that's healthy, pain-free, and to enjoy the people around you. What I wanted to do in this first episode is really give you a clear idea of what I'm going to be talking about, who I'm going to be talking to, and who this is for. And also, why the heck would you want to listen to me or any of the people that I know that I'm going to be interviewing and sharing their approaches, with you, on this podcast. So, first of all, just so we can save you a bunch of time, if this doesn't sound like you, no need to listen to the podcast.
This podcast is for people that are trying to say active, pain-free, healthy, and live a very active life around their family, their friends, and they look at their health as an investment. They want to actually be healthy. They want to be able to use their body long-term, and what we see is there's really two options.
You either don't put the right things nearby and put the right context around what you're doing in your day to day life, or you do. And the way that you look at long-term changes. It's a difference between somebody that's 90 years old picking up their grandkids and somebody who's 90 years old having to get helped out of a chair.
There’s things that happen that are unavoidable, but what we want to do is give our body the best chance to be pain-free, active, and really enjoy the one vehicle we have in life for as long as we possibly can. We do know that these decisions that we make on a day to day basis, well before we're in our late years, really dictate what our life looks like at that point.
So, to give you an idea of where I come from with this: I've been a physical therapist for around 10 years at this point and my story is very similar to many of the people in our profession, and it takes a little bit of a turn a couple of years after I got started in the profession.
So what happened was, I joined the Army in 2007, and I stayed in until 2014. So, I was a physical therapist in the Army. I'm directly attached to an infantry brigade for a good number of those years where I was actually the person in charge of injury treatment, injury prevention, and what they called Human Performance Optimization.
So that meant that I was the strength coach. I was the person that was actually helping develop strength and conditioning models, training plans - things that people are going to be following to hopefully be healthy, but also not to get hurt along the way and be able to do their job, which is a difficult thing when you're talking about programming and training soldiers that are really going to be in austere environments and carrying heavy loads, and doing a lot of physical tasks that sometimes are unknown, at the time.
So, for me, I started to really invest a lot of time and energy in learning this sort of hybrid strain conditioning, as well as clinical skill sets. And when I left that job, I was put back into a hospital situation.
It's very common for physical therapists to be in hospitals or clinics - I'm not always attached to infantry brigades in the Army - and I got reassigned from Honolulu to Columbus, Georgia, I was put into a traditional clinical setting where I was seeing both soldiers and I was seeing dependents and retirees, so really running the gamut from a six-year-old kid that's a competitive soccer player with an ankle sprain to a 90-year-old WWII vet that was trying to get over a fall that they may have had.
And what I started to do was look at applying the same principles of this hybrid strain and conditioning and clinical skill set that I had developed working with this infantry brigade with everybody across across the gamut from the six-year-old all the way to this 90-year-old and everybody in between. What I started to see was, people would make dramatic changes in their functionality and in the achievement of their goals that they had.
Many people are the same. They want to be more active. They want to do more of the things physically that they like to do. They want to be in less pain and they want to be able to enjoy the people around them and the time that they have with them. And for me, this model that we sort of established whenever I was in the Army, I wanted to be able to take that model and share it with the civilian world -- with the city of Atlanta, where we decided we were going to move after I decided to leave active duty with the Army.
So, in 2014, we packed everything up, and moved from Columbus, Georgia, to Atlanta. I took a job, also teaching for another group where I was teaching the same concept of movement and mobility and self care, and I ended up having an opportunity to teach internationally for a few years and really get in front of thousands of coaches and clinicians with that information that we’ve shared, the process of.
Teaching people how to take care of themselves and letting people invest in their own health and taking ownership in their own health, it’s spread, and it's something that I'm so happy to see. It has caught on with what we do in Atlanta and plenty of other people that are doing similar things.
What I really want to be able to do is not just, you know, share what we've learned, which there is an element of this where there's going to be topic based episodes where we're going to talk to you about, “Hey, if you have back pain, what are the first few things you can do? What do you want to think about? What do you want to be aware of?” But not just that, I also want to be able to highlight some of the people that we know that do an amazing job with their specialty in the city of Atlanta. Because over the last five years, I've gotten to know quite a few people that I just think are world-class.
And there's a lot more of them out here in Atlanta that I just don't know yet. But we will find them and let them tell their story, their philosophy, and share it with you. The goal is for us to have a medium where everyone can start to take better ownership of their health, of their wellness.
You know, we live in an interesting time. My grandfather grew up on a farm and he's 94 and has fought in multiple wars. He's a tough human being. But, my life growing up and his life growing up, they look very different. Very, very different; right? And sometimes what happens is, with modern technology, things get more convenient and we start to move less and less and less, and we don't have to be as physically active for our profession. Many of us have gone the route where we've gotten professional degrees, but that typically leads to the more educated you are, the more money you make, the less physical movement you typically have to do for your job day to day.
Think of it. If you're sitting here, listening to this, and you're an attorney, you've gone to school for a long time and you pretty much sit and read stuff all day and or prep to do things in court, or whatever it is that you do. If you're an accountant, you sit and you look at numbers or you project financials.
Now, if you're a physician. You're sitting here with patients, you're doing notes, you're, maybe you're in surgeries, but there's very, very little active movement going on. You want to see somebody that has an active job, watch an arborist, take a tree down and think to yourself, how does that compare to my day today? How does it compare to the things that you do?
It's a catch 22 in our world, where the more education we have, the more professional training we have, the less there's a physical requirement for us on a day to day basis. And for many of us, we live a very sedentary lifestyle. Now, let's define that for a second.
So, a sedentary lifestyle is based on the standards of Australia. When I was down there, I had an interesting conversation with a physio there who was involved with their national health care. He said that they define sedentary lifestyle as anybody that's sitting more than six hours per day. One of their top health concerns is to help cut down on sedentary lifestyle.
Now, if you're sitting here right now and you think that, “I'm borderline. Maybe I don't sit six hours a day.” You've got to count commute. You've got to get count time in the office sitting down and watching TV, sitting down and eating, bathroom time. For some of you, maybe he's a little longer than the average.
You got to add those minutes in as well. Six hours is the standard, and for many of us, we accumulate that in half a day between our commute and sitting by the time that you get through lunch. Now, here's the really shocking thing about what's considered a sedentary lifestyle: No matter how hard you train outside of that, it's almost impossible to negate the negative long-term effects of having a sedentary lifestyle on things like metabolic disease.
And we know that those are things that, long-term, cause catastrophic issues in your health and things that we want to be able to affect and change. And this is just one piece of the things we want to talk about and to really give you an idea -- there's sort of four key areas that we want to bring experts in.
Number one is movements. We kind of talked a little bit about this with a sedentary lifestyle, but movement is just the quantity of movement, so how much are you moving in the day? Is exercise/non-exercise based movement, quality of movements? How well do you move? How well can you get in and out of positions? Do you struggle to get off the ground when you're down there with your kids? You don't? Do you need help from somebody to get back up? If you're having to sit where they call it now -- criss cross applesauce thing, is what my daughter calls it, you know, being politically correct -- can you sit like that for like five minutes and then get back up without your legs being asleep? Or without your hips killing you? Are you strong enough to get back up off the ground? All these things go into basic things of movement, quality and quantity.
Number two: What are you putting in your body? Now I'm not saying you have to eat like a monk and you never have a gram of sugar in your life. What I'm saying is, we have to understand the basic tenets of nutrition and what we put in our body and what that means to our long-term health. And you can make a strong statement that this is one of the most important things that people can do from a long-term health and wellness standpoint.
So basic nutrition, basic food information of, what we should be eating, what those things are, how much should we, how often should we, fluid intake -- all of these things, or the basics of nutrition.
From there, it's stress management. And guys, I think this is where we can really get some really interesting people on board and have them share their opinions. And when we look at stress management, many of us deal with this. I don't know a single person that doesn't deal with stress in their life: If you have a few kids; and you have a hectic job; you have a mortgage to pay; you've got taxes; the car breaks down; you have to get a tree taken out of your backyard.
All these things, they just lead to this sort of stressful environment that if you don't understand how to manage stress yourself, and have a basic framework of how to actually stay healthy and manage stress in a really positive way and not letting that spill over into your relationships with your friends and your family and ruin, in many cases, those relationships.
This is stress management and our ability to actually cope with our own. Emotions are our own stress levels that we're going to have on a day to day basis. And many of us are really, really bad at this, and it's something that we usually just totally neglect. We think, “Oh no, it is what it is. It's just part of my life. I just have a stressful life.” Well, maybe, but there's also probably some really, really fairly straightforward strategies that we can start to implement on a habitual basis. They're going to help you manage those things and then negate much of that from these long-term negative effects associated with that.
Now, the last core tenant that we're going to talk about is sleep. Sleep is one of these things that I don't know why it's such a difficult topic for people to get a grasp on, for them to really start to optimize their sleep to start to get healthy.
I had a sleep physician tell me this one time. He goes, “Danny, it would be like me trying to talk people into having sex more - iit should be something everybody likes and would want to do more of. But yet, nobody wants to focus on sleep. Nobody wants to try and get better at sleep. Nobody wants to actually spend the time in bed, have a nighttime routine, set the stage to actually get meaningful sleep.”
And, for many of you listening to this, if you have children, you know firsthand, if your kids get a bad night's sleep, or your kids go to bed late, wake up early, whatever it is, I mean, they're little turds. They're a pain in the butt during that time, and we are just adult versions of that, but we can control our emotions better.
But if you really look at what's happening to us from a neurological standpoint in terms of our efficiency, our health, our ability to recover from injuries and from sickness, things that really can cause long-term negative implications on our health and wellness for cancer, neurological diseases, our body's immune system, and hormone system, in many cases, is resetting and rebuilding, indexing things, healing ourselves when we're asleep during these certain depths of sleep that many of us do not prioritize enough to even get get to.
So we have nights where, for months and years, where you're asleep, but you're not really hitting levels of sleep that are beneficial for you, or maybe you're not even there long enough, or maybe you're just sitting there watching “Game of Thrones” for a few hours before you go to bed and then you're so riled up from watching the last episode of whatever, that you can't actually fall asleep and then now you're in bed for a long time, but you're not actually sleeping now.
I'm not going to harp on this anymore because we're definitely going to get into some basics of these things and ways for you guys to really start to set the stage to have some quick wins in your health and your wellness, and sleep is one of those things I'm very passionate about because, for years, I neglected my own sleep when we first started our business.
I got out of the Army in 2014 and -- I don't know, some of you may have your own business, but it's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. It was one of those things that, I had two young kids at the time, I didn't know if it was going to work. So my answer was, I'm just going to work as hard as humanly possible.
And at the time I was still traveling internationally and across the country, teaching on movement, mobility topics, just trained coaches and clinicians and I was usually gone two or three times a month. So, I was traveling a lot. I wasn't sleeping much. I was putting a bunch of hours in and, over the course of about two years, I just basically ran myself into the ground. I was tired all the time. I was short with people. I really wasn't myself. And the biggest variable that I had to change was to structure proper sleep into my day and make it a priority.
Because at the time I wasn't, and I thought it was one of those things just like, “Oh, it's not that important. You know, like I've got other things to do.” But, the lack of efficiency I had because of neglecting long-term sleep probably slowed me down more than it actually helped. In the long run, you just can't do it.
We need to sleep. It's that simple. And so we're going to talk about some basics that you can get into, in all of these areas. And, like I said, some of this is going to be topic based. Some of this is going to be specialists that we know in the area. And some of you may know people that you think are awesome and we would love to talk to them as well.
We would really appreciate it if you decided, “Hey, this person would be amazing.” If you can line up a time to talk to them and share their story in there, their unique knowledge, just email us at email@example.com, is the best place to send that, and just let us know who they are and you can make us a warm introduction or share their contact information so that we can get in touch with them.
Because, our goal really is to highlight all the people that we've met that we think can be really helpful, and I look at it as helping you create this cohort of people that you can call on and utilize when need be; to create this ecosystem of health and wellness providers that have your best interest at heart and want to help you really stay healthy, investing in your body, and be able to really enjoy it long-term.
Because, I mean, I think that maybe I'm a bit biased compared to many other people because I've seen the gamut of things that have come through my clinic and hospitals that I've been in, and really nasty stuff, like some of these nasty neurological diseases that we know are strongly connected to gut health and stress management, these really bad musculoskeletal issues where people have long-term arthritic changes in multiple joint replacements. Then, they lose their ability to be independent, and at that point it's, honestly, kind of a sad existence.
I know for many of you that are listening to this -- I like to think that you're probably more aware of your health than the average person, and that's the kind of people that we want to help. We want to help people that want to be an outlier. You know, I don't want to just be the average person that once you get to a certain age, it's just, “Okay, well, I'm just going to sit in this recliner and wait to die.”
And, as morbid as that sounds, as bad as that sounds, it's reality for a lot of people. I want to be the guy that's 90 years old picking his grandkid up, and e walking around with them -- or great-grandkid or whatever, at that point -- but active, enjoying my family, enjoying my friends around me, and still enjoying the world around me as well. And you can't do that if you're physically unable to, if you're dependent on other people. And having a long-term perspective on your health and wellness, not as a cost, but as an investment.
And we're all so quick to get a new vehicle. We're so quick to get the -- I'm gonna get this new BMW, you know, switch it out for the old model cause he's got some new bells and whistles, where you get one body. That's it. One body. Your one vehicle in life.
You can get a new car every month if that's what you decide you want to do. If you have the money to do so, you can get a new part in your body. It's called a joint replacement and it's a difficult thing to do. I don't recommend doing it. And if you really want to get scared off from doing it, just YouTube “hip replacement” or “knee replacement,” and you'll never want that to happen to you. I've sat in on these surgeries and trust me, I don't want some guy dislocating my hip, cutting a piece of it out, hammering another piece in, and then suturing my leg back up, and then having to be on the receiving end of all the rehab that goes into just getting somebody back to a normal state.
And in many cases, those things are avoidable. Sometimes they're not, and there's great surgeons that can actually do those surgeries really well when it's necessary. But, our body is designed to be around for a hundred years without those things happening, without us needing these additional certain reasons, unless they're absolutely necessary.
But, if we set the stage to be healthy, to manage stress, eat good food most of the time to sleep and to move well and to move often, we're independent, we're healthy, we're happier because we get a chance to enjoy the people around us. And that's really what it comes down to, in my opinion. Health is a vehicle to get you there and allow you to enjoy whatever it is that you want.
We have a unique opportunity to see these amazing people and what they're capable of and things that people say they shouldn't be doing at their age, and for them just to say, “You know what? The status quo, what's normal, I don't want to be that. I want to be more than that. I want to enjoy my life on my terms, and I want my body to be as healthy as humanly possible along the way, so that I don't have to limit myself for the experiences that I have or the time I have with other people.”
And that's the goal of this podcast. And frankly, that's the goal of our practice.
When I got out of the Army five years ago and decided to open our business, it was something that I didn't know if it would work. I told my dad, I told my family, and I said, “Here's my plan. I'm going to get out of the Army.” I had been in for around seven years and I was looking at getting promoted to major, really, in the next one to two years.
And I told them, “Look, I don't want to be in this environment anymore. I think there's something else that I'm supposed to do. I'm going to move to Atlanta. I'm going to take a position teaching this stuff, that I'm so passionate about, and I'm going to open a practice in a CrossFit gym on the Westside of Atlanta in a room that has no windows in an area where I know nobody. I'm not from here, and I'm going to work with people in a setting in which I'm going to kind of mesh this clinical and strength skill set, and I'm not going to directly take insurance.”
And my dad and many of my friends (with good reason) told me it was probably a bad idea. And as I say it out loud, I think to myself, “Yeah, it sounds like a bad idea,” but I just felt that there were enough people out there that wanted to actually do things the right way, not do things based on your insurance company. And, let's be honest, these people don't care about you. They don't care about me. They want to be as profitable as possible, give you the hardest time possible, so that they have to pay for the least amount of insurance claims that are out there and pay all of their investors and stockholders as much as they can.
And that doesn't mean that's the right thing for your health. And because of the context of our healthcare system, we have to decide to take our own health into our own hands and look for the right choices from people that are doing things based on what's best for the client, best for the patient, not what insurance says you're supposed to do or what insurance says you're supposed to be able to get reimbursed for.
A great example of this is a friend of mine who recently went to a podiatrist. He thought he had a foot fracture. He'd been training to run a marathon. Scan came back clean. He just had a little bit of soft tissue issue going on there, but he was a little bit worried about it, and turned out it was fine.
The podiatrist tells him, “Hey, I want you to wear this brace.” My buddy goes, “Well, I'm probably not going to wear it.” And he goes, “Well, just take it anyway, just in case,” and gives him this brace. Two months later, he gets a bill from this group for $850 and as he looks at the office visit, which is like $400, and the brace that he was given by this guy that told him, “Hey, just take it anyway.”
$450 for a foot brace that he never even wore. Why? Because that guy is getting reimbursed for it and that is not an ethical decision. That's something that this person probably has to do because that's what insurance is going to reimburse for. So anybody that comes to them with foot pain probably gets one of these dumb-ass braces that nobody's going to wear in the first place. And this is where we're at with insurance. It's a crappy place to be. It's a reason why we're as transparent as we humanly possibly can be. So, you know, if you work with us, this is the context I'm working with you.
I don't care what your insurance company says I can and cannot do, or what I'm going to get reimbursed for. We follow our clinical practice act to the letter, but we do what's best for our clients, not what insurance companies say we should get reimbursed for, because in many cases, they do not match up with what you should actually be doing.
And that is an important thing as a consumer to realize, that you have choices and those choices really should be in prevention, in stopping some of these really nasty long-term diseases and problems that happen that can that can limit your body's ability to move, but neurologically limits you, but also can put you in a terrible financial position, that accumulates. And you either are proactive about it or you get surprised by it one day and we just don't know.
Because genetics loads the gun and habits pull the trigger. And I had a doc tell me that one time and I thought it was so striking and he said, “Genetics loads the gun, habits and lifestyle pull the trigger.” I guess you can kind of test for this stuff at this point, but lifestyle habits, we just don't know how many bad choices we can make before that.
That trigger gets pulled. What we want to do is help you really live as healthy a life as you possibly can, avoid as much as you possibly can in terms of the negative things, and be able to enjoy all the positive things that we know that we all value so much in life.
And, I hope that this first podcast episode gives you an idea of what you can expect from my interviews that I'm going to do with our special guests, with the topic-based episodes that we're gonna do. And that's the goal, is to really help you live as long and healthy and happy and actively as we possibly can by helping you understand how to create a framework of investing in yourself and doing the right things for yourself on a day to day basis; to create these habitual changes that lead to true long-term health.
So, yes, that is it. I'm excited for this one. You know, I've had two other podcasts and I still do another one. I have a couple of hundred episodes underneath my belt with conditioning coaches in mind, and I'm excited to get back into this and share this with the Atlanta area.
Atlanta is not my home, but, it really is now. I've never been anywhere longer than we have been in Atlanta. I grew up in a military family, and have really never lived anywhere more than about three years. I've been here for five. So this is where our roots are at this point. I may not be from Atlanta originally, but hell, many of you probably aren't. I don't know many people that are from Atlanta that still live in Atlanta. If you do, you're like a unicorn. You're very rare here. But regardless, I'm excited for this one.
Thanks so much for listening and, as always, guys, thank you so much for listening to the Active Atlanta Podcast and we'll catch you next time.
Want to know the secret to a good training session? An effective warm up.
Now, I don’t mean hop on the treadmill and walk for 5 minutes, then get straight into your bro sesh. There’s more to it than that. I would argue that a warm up should be just as important as the training session itself. You can’t look at it from a myopic lens of just 10 or 15 minutes, but more at the cumulative effect. If you take a 10 minute warm up, training 3 days per week for 48-52 weeks in the year, that is a total of 1440-1560 minutes. That’s 24-26 hours over the course of a year.
Instead of saying warm up, we’re going to refer to it as Movement Preparation, or Movement Prep for short. I like this verbiage as it gives more intent for the session ahead and avoids any negative connotation associated with warm up.
Ok, let’s break down the anatomy of an effective warm up:
Let’s say you’ve got a lower body day lined up with front squats as your main compound lift. Here’s a way to organize your Movement Prep to get your ready for the training session:
Just remember, this can add up to a full day of warm up time. That’s a lot. Instead of taking dedicated mobility and soft tissue time, be intentional with your Movement Prep. You may even notice that all those aches and pains you were feeling might disappear and you’ll finish your training sessions feeling more accomplished than before.
Dr. Ravi Patel, PT, DPT, CSCS
Aaaah, the holidays! Most people’s favorite time of year. And yet, the time of year that gives most people 87% of their yearly quota of anxiety (*not scientifically backed but pretty close). Whether that be over shopping, family, or the endless social engagements, the struggle that seems to be the most common is FOOD.
Let me start by saying that I think anyone's fears and anxiety regarding food, drinks, routine, exercise - what have you - are valid and not silly. It would be easy for me to sit here and tell you to not worry about your weight, sticking to your macros, or to tell you to just chill out and enjoy the family time! But I would be a hypocrite if I said that, because I, like everyone, struggle with this time of year. Not as much as I once did, but there are still lingering feelings and anxieties around this time where my daily routine of meal prep and CrossFit gets thrown off, usually in exchange for richer foods and less activity.
In a society where morality is given to foods, we tend to feel guilty for eating or overeating something that we’ve deemed “bad,” that we’ve failed and “fallen off the wagon.” What wagon? This isn’t the Oregon Trail! Sure, there are foods that are higher in antioxidants, vitamins, etc., but there are no "good" or "bad" foods. And overeating isn’t bad. I think it can even be a necessary tool in our arsenal. I’ve overeaten when I’m bored; when I’m having a great time with friends; when I’m upset or anxious; and when something is just really, really delicious. If you can identify why you are overeating (eating to the point of being uncomfortable or sick, having feelings of guilt, etc.) and then use that information to address the cause and your feelings around it, then you can begin to unravel any negative emotions you are associating with certain foods and their quantities. This is necessary year round, but it seems especially important around the holidays, since that is how we celebrate - with highly palatable foods that are usually deemed “bad” and are in abundance.
So, ask yourself: Did you have a great time with friends? Did it affect other activities? Did it snowball into feelings that were less than positive? Identifying those feelings and WHY a food made you feel a certain way is a necessary step on the path to mending your relationship with food and freeing yourself of this good/bad mentality. It will make events and gatherings more enjoyable when you stop labeling foods, and especially yourself, in this way.
(Chill out, Susan!)
Stress is real and absolutely affects how we feel physically. The holidays are a time to be present with our loved ones, with nature, with Netflix - hey, whatever brings you joy! If you don’t feel great, then drink more water, go on a walk, eat more veggies. That’s a simplified approach to feeling better anyway - that doesn’t change around the holidays!
Look, I get it. This blog could be, and probably is, someone’s thesis. There’s so many nuances and variables that come into play with human beings and how food and culture have evolved into what they are now. I could easily go down a rabbit hole on several related topics. But one thing remains true: Relationship with family and friends, and the memories you make, are most important. Nobody is going to remember (or care) that you skipped out on your run to watch a movie with family and friends, nor that you went over your usual calorie intake for the day. But they will remember spending quality time with you and how you made them feel.
Have a second slice of cheesecake. Go on a walk. Or don’t. Just don’t beat yourself up about it. You aren’t “bad” - and you deserve better!
Thanks for reading,
Holiday season is upon us, which means travel time to visit family and friends. This can be a very stressful time for a lot of people due to being out of your normal routine – whether that’s training, nutrition, stress, etc. This post is intended to equip you to handle some of these changes and provide some tips to take with you while you’re traveling for the holidays.
MOVE: This seems self-explanatory but just remind yourself to move over the holidays and don’t beat yourself up about not getting in your typical training or workouts. If you’re stuck on a plane for some time, try to get up and move as much as you can. Or, if you’re in the car, try to focus on making some stops along the way to move and stretch out. If you’re looking for some go-to movements to help keep you moving and supple, look no further:
2-3 sets x 8 breaths each direction
Half-Kneeling T-Spine Windmill
2-3 sets x 6 breaths each side
1-2 minutes each side
Lateral Hip Mobilization
1-2 minutes each side
90/90 Hip Rotations
2-3 sets x 8 rotations each side
You can even create a movement flow and roll through a circuit of these different movements. For training and working out, just make sure you squat, hinge, push, pull, carry something heavy, and test your lungs a little bit.
LOAD MANAGEMENT: I’ll keep this concept simple. Your body has a certain threshold and capacity before you start getting some soreness, aches, and pains. While traveling, it’s normal to do more walking or activities that are not normally within your element. We get a ton of people who get back from trips with different aches or pains. It’s totally normal. Imagine trying to run a half marathon when you’ve only trained for a 5k. The same concept can be applied to walking around a city or doing a long, strenuous hike. If you walk for 6-7 miles and you’re only use to 1-2, you’re going to be sore. If you don’t give your body time to recover, then that can become achy or even painful if done repeatedly. This doesn’t mean you did something wrong. It just means that your body exceeded its ability to recovery due to too much volume. The point here isn’t to just take a rest day or immediately run to a healthcare professional if something is painful, but more that our bodies are resilient and robust – you’ll bounce back from it and it should go away with some TLC. If you give it some time and TLC, and there’s no improvements, then seek out some help from a healthcare professional.
STRESS: This can go many different ways. You’re off from work – emails are piling up. You won’t be in your gym doing your normal training program and you miss squat day. You’re traveling to your in-laws for Thanksgiving and you’re already dreading Martha’s passive-aggressive comments. Typically, stress is associated as bad or with a negative connotation. I’m reading this book called “The Upside of Stress” and there are a lot of great takeaways from this book. To keep it very simple, your perception of stress matters significantly. Stress is just something that happens to us and our perception of whether it’s good or bad based on different factors such as past experiences, genetics, culture, etc. determines our mental and body’s physiological response.
Here are three simple steps described in this book:
1. Acknowledge the stress.
2. Welcome it.
3. Make use of energy it gives you.
Try to attack some of these stressors by viewing them as good/growth for you. Instead of stressing about spending time away from work, think about the time you’ll get to spend with your people or that it’ll help you recharge and hit it hard when you’re back. If you’re feeling in over your head, breathing and meditation is always a good outlet - download the Headspace app and take a few minutes to dial in your breathing and calm down your system.
WASH YOUR HANDS: More than you think. Lots of colds and phlem. That shit is everywhere – better safe than sorry.
NUTRITION: No one is perfect during the holidays. I think that changing your relationship with food will make a huge difference here, not only for the holidays but even for life in general. Instead of deeming foods as good and bad, try looking at it all as fuel and focus on quantity and quality. A good phrase coined by Ph.D. and author Michael Pollan is: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” With that said, eat some damn cookies, too. Just don’t eat 12 in one sitting. It’s the holidays, so sweets will be around. Don’t feel guilty - be happy.
SOCIAL MEDIA: You know what I’m going to say here. Limit your time to be on your phone/social media for a certain time of the day or total time in general. Try to challenge yourself with this. When you’re with friends/family, try to keep your phone in your pocket. Use travel and the holidays as an opportunity to disconnect and be present with your peeps or even during your solo time.
ALCOHOL:. Try to limit the Bud heavies and spiked egg nog. This can put a damper on your recovery process and research shows that a single alcoholic beverage can really impact a night’s sleep. All in moderation; right?
SLEEP: Use this as an opportunity to catch up on sleep. You might be traveling to different time zones, walking around a city, watching repeats of Friends’ Thanksgiving episodes. Aim for 7-8 hours of good quality sleep. Avoid any blue light one hour before bed. Make sure the room is cold rather than warm. Figure out a good routine that works for you.
At the end of the day, enjoy this time to decompress from your “normal routine," while also not giving yourself a free hall pass to treat your body like garbage.
Move. Moderate load. Manage your stress. Clean your hands. Eat well, but also have some pie. Instagram less. Moderate your dranks. SLEEP. Be merry.
Dr. Ravi Patel, PT, DPT, CSCS
What’s up, everyone! Doc Jake here. In the spirit of Halloween, I wanted to take a moment to talk about some of the common “scary” comments my patients have heard from other providers, or seen on imaging, and why you shouldn’t be afraid at all. I know we’re all busy getting costumes and candy ready, so let’s jump right in:
“Worst case of bone on bone I’ve ever seen!”
If I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. “The doctor said I’m bone on bone!” “Worst case of arthritis he has ever seen!” Most often your physician or other healthcare provider is referring to something called osteoarthritis (also called Degenerative Joint Disease or DJD) in situations like this, and guess what… it is totally normal to have arthritis! More and more studies are coming out that show many active adults have some form of DJD and that calling this a “disease” is incredibly misleading.
While DJD cannot be reversed, it’s often not the main pain generator and can easily managed with education on symptoms, appropriately prescribed exercise, and just plain out staying active. Walking the dog, playing with your kids, gardening… all great examples of non-exercise based movement that keep your joints moving. As cheesy as it may sound, the old adage of “motion is lotion” is spot on and is the reason that “worst case of arthritis I’ve seen” shouldn’t get you weak in the knees.
This one hits close to home. At the young age of 14, I actually had two knee surgeries. One to attempt to repair my meniscus and one to remove it once the repair failed. Looking back on it and relating my symptoms I was having to what the research is now showing, I had no business getting any of those surgeries and you most likely don’t need one either. Once again, a torn or frayed meniscus is a normal sign of aging and is often found on imaging with people who have NO knee pain at all.
Even in an acute situation where a tear is found on an image after injuring your knee, as long as you don’t have a physical “block” in your knee, where that meniscus has essentially turned into a door stopper and impeds normal motion at the knee, you will be absolutely fine without surgery. In fact, research consistently shows that conservative treatment will have equal to (or better) results as surgery AND you won’t be setting yourself up for future complications associated with missing portions of your meniscus.
I’ll keep this one short. Simply put, in most situations, herniated discs do not require surgery. In fact, multiple studies have demonstrated that you can take 10 random people off the street with no back pain, give them an MRI, and an average of 7 out of 10 people’s images will come back with some variation of a herniated disc. In fact, “large low-risk-of-bias trial between surgery and usual conservative care found no statistically significant differences on any of the primary outcome measures after 1 and 2 years” (Jacobs et al). Our bodies are incredibly resilient and will heal just fine with appropriate treatment.
“You’ll never be able to do ‘X’ again.”
This is the most frustrating thing for me and the rest of the staff here at Athletes’ Potential. We are constantly hearing people come in and say something like, “My doctor said I’ll never be able to deadlift again,” or, “My physical therapist said I shouldn’t do CrossFit.” This is absurd and is a fallacy you shouldn’t fall for. We constantly get people coming into our office and we are constantly getting them back to the activities they love.
So, in review, there are a lot of scary phrases out there that, in reality, have no right to be scary. New research is being pumped out every day that our bodies are incredibly adaptable. If you’re in the Atlanta area and you’ve heard one of these phrases before, give us a call or fill out the contact request form by clicking the button below. We’d love nothing more than to help you get back to what you enjoy.
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Jacob, PT, DPT, CSCS
I remember the feeling like it was yesterday. A sharp popping sensation in my back and then an odd, almost warm tingling feeling down my left leg. I knew it wasn’t good, and I should have known better.
This was my first week at an infantry brigade I had been assigned to in 2011. I was the only physical therapist assigned to a group of 3,500 soldiers. My job was to treat all injuries, teach injury prevention classes, and help with human performance optimization. I was also attached to an infantry brigade so that meant a lot of physical training and ruck marching.
On my fourth day assigned to this group, I went on a Thursday morning ruck march. For those of you that don’t know, ruck marching is basically walking around while wearing a 50-pound backpack. This morning we had gone on an 8-mile ruck march. When I finished, I dropped my rucksack (i.e heavy ass backpack) and stood around talking with the other soldiers. As I was leaving, I bent over to pick up my rucksack and that’s when I felt the pop.
I immediately knew something was wrong, but the last thing I wanted to do was get hurt in front of all my soldiers. I was the guy assigned to this group to make sure people didn’t get hurt and there I was in excruciating back pain trying to act like I was fine. I managed to make it to my car before collapsing into my seat. I drove straight to the troop medical clinic to see a fellow physical therapist friend of mine. There was no unringing this bell… the damage was already done.
Over the next six months, I did everything to help fix this back injury I had given myself. Fatigue from the ruck march followed by picking something heavy up, like an idiot, was a recipe for a pretty serious disc injury. I had what’s called an L4-L5 disc prolapse. This caused me to have a lot of numbness and weakness in the back of my left leg.
With a combination of dry needling, hip joint mobilizations, and time, my pain resolved in about six months. It took me roughly another six months before I could get back into deadlifting heavy. 12 months of rehab/recovery from picking up a rucksack wrong. As much as this wasn’t fun, I’m glad it happened to me, and here’s why.
I learned a lot about why I had this back injury in the first place and was able to correct those issues. This injury lead me down the path of better understanding complex movements. I became obsessed with treating my own back and developing protocols to help other people with their back injury. Lastly, I can relate to anyone I see with a back injury on a much deeper level than someone who’s never hurt their back.
I also got to see first hand that disc injuries do heal. Even when I was in school, the thought process was that a disc injury wouldn’t heal. I have an MRI from one month after the injury and three years after the injury. The MRI from one month post injury shows a significant disc prolapse that’s pressing on a nerve. The MRI from three years post injury looks completely normal. The body heals on the inside just as it does when you get a cut on your skin. It fills in, heals, and you have a scar as a reminder of the thing that happened.
Dealing with a disc injury can be extremely frustrating. Here’s my advice to you if you’re currently dealing with one from my own experience and from all of the back injuries I’ve seen:
I hope this helps and I hope you realize that you can heal. Your body is incredible and often times it just needs time and the right approach to do so.
If you’re in the Atlanta area and are currently dealing with a back injury, we need to talk. We’ve helped thousands of people in Atlanta get back to a pain-free, active life, and we can help you as well.
Click the “Get Started” button below, leave us your information and one of our team members will reach out to find out if you’re an ideal fit for what we do.
Thanks so much for reading,
So, let’s talk about the shoulder:
It is a very dynamic joint with little surface area between the humeral head and the glenoid fossa. The analogy we often use is a golf ball on a golf tee. There’s a reason why you hear more about shoulder dislocations than hip.
We have numerous muscle attachments and ligaments that surround the joint itself. These can be broken down into active (muscles/tendons) and passive stabilizers (ligaments). When we are going through different movements at the shoulder (whether that’s an overhead press, push up, clean, etc.), if we do not have the requisite range of motion, coordination or strength, then our passive stabilizers take on a lot of that stress. As I’ve said before, every single tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament, bone, etc.) in our body has a certain capacity and threshold. Stress is how we build those thresholds up. Stress is also how we break those down. When those thresholds are surpassed significantly or repeatedly, pain and injuries start to pop up. The dosage is the difference in having the poison or the antidote (- quote from someone smarter than me).
Now, how can we create more buffer room or bandwidth to withstand these stressors?
Smart and well thought-out training. Sure.
But, what about creating more freedom and control at the shoulder joint? Then, those tissues are less prone to getting overstressed and everyone is doing their jobs.
Today, our focus will be on the overhead archetype – which is an expression of shoulder flexion and external rotation. This can be anything related to pressing, reaching overhead, hanging, or throwing overhead.
I see people in the clinic every day that have pain with these movements and when we break these positions and joints down, we tend to see a limitation in one or both flexion and external rotation. Next, we’ll go through a test that you can utilize to see how your overhead position checks out.
Common faults we see related to this are:
Try to avoid these mistakes and see where your true baseline overhead position is. After the techniques provided below, come back to this test and re-test the movement. Can you go further? How does the quality of getting there feel?
Next, we’ll look at some strategies to improve the mobility aspect of the shoulder joint.
Shoulder Overhead Opener:
When discussing the shoulder joint, I would be remiss not to mention the thoracic spine. The shoulder blade and thoracic spine/ribcage are very intimately related which directly impacts shoulder mechanics and position. Next, we’ll go through some techniques to address the thoracic spine.
Half-Kneeling Wall T-Spine Rotation with Lift Off:
Lastly, we will cover my favorite component in the performance process which is the strength and control of the shoulder joint for the overhead position.
Supine Eccentric Shoulder Flexion – Dowel or Single Arm with Plate:
Dowel Shoulder Flexion PAILS/RAILS:
Chaos Overhead Band Carry:
Now, you may be thinking, "These are great exercises, but how do I implement them?" Try them as movement prep prior to an overhead workout, accessory work on upper body days or even on recovery days. Do you have to do all of them? Nope. Find the ones that you feel had the best impact on you via the test-retest on the Wall Test and start implementing them in consistently. An active approach tends to work better in the long term compared to the passive approaches and exercises. You’ll be surprised how quickly your overhead position will improve and your overall shoulder health.
If you’re dealing with an injury, reach out with any questions. We design and implement rehab and performance programs to help our athletes, whether you’re someone who doesn’t know where to start or has had an unsuccessful rehab experience. It is our goal for the people we work with to return to their sport or activity performing better than they did before.
Dr. Ravi Patel, PT, DPT, CSCS
Tennis is a sport that demands an incredible amount of strength, stability, and performance out of one of the most unstable joints in the human body… the shoulder. Not only do you need to drive your shoulder through some truly incredible velocities with something like a serve, but you need to be able to control that power through finely tuned movements in multiple planes of motion with an almost endless list of types of swings.
The demands on the shoulder are pervasive in tennis and because of this we have successfully treated endless amount of shoulder related injuries from the tennis players we see at Athletes’ Potential. However, through all these injuries that we’ve worked with, we have started noticing some trends in common strength deficiencies and biomechanical limitations that, when addressed, can have serious impacts on reducing injury risk and improving performance.
Trend #1: Inadequate Shoulder External Rotation Range of Motion
Arguably the most violent swing in tennis is the serve. To generate the amount of torque required for this swing, you need to have an appropriate amount of external rotation at your shoulders.
The video below goes over a quick and easy drill to assess your shoulder external rotation. Essentially you should be able to lay on the ground and get the back of your wrist to the ground while keeping your low back pinned to the floor.
Some common mistakes to avoid when doing this assessment include:
If you can’t bring your wrist to the ground, or you have pain when you do or feel like you really have to fight to get there, then try some of my favorite drills to improve shoulder external range of motion.
Drill #1: Front Rack Opener
Drill #2: Lat Stretch
Drill #3: Upper Back Mobilization
Trend #2: Upper Back Strength
In order to have a strong, effective swing you need to have a strong back. This may seem a little counter-intuitive, but let me explain. Your body is innately intelligent and it’s not going to let you produce more force than it feels it can control. Therefore, to have a better swing, you need to have a strong back to be able to eccentrically control your arm as you go through the swinging motion.
Some of my absolute favorite exercises to make sure you have a strong upper back are listed below.
Exercise #1: Deadlifts
Exercise #2: Pendlay Row
Exercise #3: W, Y, Negative
Trend #3: Lack of Rotational Core Strength
Your power in your swing comes from having a strong core. If you don’t have a strong core, then you have no foundation to deliver a strong swing, and if you are trying to have a strong swing without a solid foundation, well, you’re begging for an injury. Check out my favorite exercise to improve rotational core strength.
Exercise #1: Med Ball Rotational Throws
Exercise #2: Deadbug Pallof Press
Exercise #3: Landmine Twists
If you’re a tennis player struggling with shoulder pain (and yes, even elbow pain) or are looking to improve your performance, these drills are a great place to start. They are the three main problem areas that we find ourselves addressing with the tennis athletes who come to us for help. However, If you’re dealing with an injury and want more guidance and help, reach out with any questions. We design and implement rehab and performance programs to help our athletes, whether you’re someone who doesn’t know where to start or has had an unsuccessful rehab experience. It is our goal for the people we work with to return to their sport or activity performing better than they did before.
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Jake, PT, DPT, CSCS
Have you ever pulled a muscle or tweaked something playing a sport? Maybe overdid it in a workout and didn’t notice it till after or the next morning? Every single person has experienced a soft tissue injury before – that can be muscle, tendon, ligament, etc. There’s a lot of mixed information out on the internet about what’s the best approach to hand a soft tissue injury when you experience one.
For the longest time, it was RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation – while this isn’t completely wrong, it doesn’t meet the full standards of what we know today with science and research.
Here’s a handy acronym to help remember the essential components of how to manage injuries better in the future: PEACE & LOVE
Immediately after injury, PEACE:
Once some days have passed, it’s good to give it some LOVE:
The thought to keep in mind is to try to play the long game. I see athletes often who come in and get out of pain then go right back to high-level activity without taking appropriate measures to progressively build it back up. What happens? Reinjury. Take the time to put in the work and I promise it’ll be worth it in the long run.
If you’re dealing with an injury and want more guidance and help, reach out with any questions. We design and implement rehab and performance programs to help our athletes, whether you’re someone who doesn’t know where to start or has had an unsuccessful rehab experience. It is our goal for the people we work with to return to their sport or activity performing better than they did before.
Dr. Ravi Patel, PT, DPT, CSCS
Axe MJ, et al. Potential Applications of Hyaluronans in Orthopaedics. Sports Medicine. 2005.
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention and sometimes other random thoughts.