I have to start by admitting that I was a chronic endurance athlete that hated the gym. It’s true. Today, I consider myself a gym rat with a possible addiction to lifting weights. Why? Because my body feels better when I do it and I like feeling good.
A second confession: I used to avoid watching people do exercises. I would make sure a patient could do their home exercise program and I would focus on manual therapy during physical therapy treatments. I didn’t feel someone should pay me to watch them work out. If someone needed an emphasis on strength, I would refer them to a personal trainer. Then one day I hired a personal trainer. CrossFit classes weren’t working for me and I was off and on the soccer field with injuries. I couldn’t get myself to the gym on my own so I hired someone to watch me workout. Doing so made me realize there was so much more to it than watching. Programming is complicated, challenging and when done right, very rewarding. My pain disappeared and the strength I’ve gained has made functioning in both sport and life easier. I became intrigued. I started programming for a few patients who wanted to get into the gym but didn’t know what to do, were afraid of injury or lacked motivation. I’m surprised to say, I absolutely love it. It challenges me and I have gotten results with patients that far exceed what they would have achieved with just a home exercise program. I also started programming for expecting and new mamas. I am so happy to be able to help women workout throughout their entire pregnancy when what they usually do stops feeling good. Then they go have their baby and I help them get back to whatever their postpartum goals are. I avoid using the term “pre-baby body” because I feel an even better version can be achieved through proper postpartum rehabilitation. As an added bonus, I get to provide some prenatal and postnatal education and support along the way.
I recognize that individualized programming is not an option for everyone so here are a few principles I follow when it comes to getting strong and feeling better:
Mobility has to come first. I stand behind this 100% and for some individuals, mobility in isolation is where they need to start. When a joint does not move right, muscles do not go through their normal length excursion and are therefore unable to function properly. You must move well in order to effectively strengthen. With that said, a stability problem will perpetually drive a mobility deficit so while I start with mobility, I always follow it up with stability.
The body is incredibly good at adapting. In order to avoid plateaus, the demands placed on the body need to be constantly changing. This will result in the quickest and most significant gains. It will also prevent overuse injuries.
I never thought I would be saying this but weights need to be picked up. Our bodies were meant to lift stuff. Lifting weight taps into the subconscious activation of our stabilizing muscles. It also helps bone growth and muscle hypertrophy. Where weights get a bad reputation is when they are lifted improperly. Gradual progression and good form are essential.
No one person is alike when it comes to what their body responds best to. I encourage everyone to explore different options until they find what suits them best. Are you constantly getting injured in CrossFit classes? Are you consistently going to bodypump at the gym but not making any progress? Do you have a consistent yoga practice but still have pain? Try something different! Go find your sweet spot. Santa Cruz is particularly rich in options. There is no reason for you to stick with something that isn’t working.