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An Investment Perspective on Rehabilitation and Training

First, an introduction; my name is Erik Winberg and I am the new staff Physical Therapist at RMPT/SPI. You may have seen me around the clinic at off-on times, but I am happy to now be an official member of team RMPT. Although a recent graduate of Utica Colleges’ Doctor of Physical Therapy Program I am currently the most experienced in the treatment of run-based athletes. From community runners and college track and field, to soccer and football; if the sport involves running, I can work with it. In the clinic I am focused on performance rehabilitation for athletes of any sport and in the gym, I am focused on mechanics, movement, and speed. On any given day you can find me going back and forth between the rehabilitation and performance aspects of Physical Therapy and Strength & Conditioning. This environment is truly unique to the area and I am lucky to call SPI/RMPT my home.

Our focus with this post, however, is on something slower; the patience necessary to successfully make progress through rehabilitation or training. A quote that I see everyday on my way to work is “And yet, however we proceed, we are becoming.” I don’t see this as something novel, many people know that the decisions made in the present influence the future. For example, putting money into a retirement account in order to build value over a lifetime; investments, one could say. This statement, however, makes more sense when applied to the day-to-day tasks of goal achievement. I think most of us would agree that the statement is trying to say (simply) that all decisions made currently can lead to something either intended or unintended. The take home message being to make choices that will lead you in the right direction, don’t be aimless with your efforts. Next is the more difficult question, how can we achieve this? What strategy should be used to make this outcome/goal happen?

Investment and active patience are the two strategies I want to highlight when dealing with long-term goals. First, active patience, because passive patience (going through the motions) will not require you to perform purposeful initiation of the smaller tasks in order to progress to larger ones. Active patience is different because it warrants cognitive attention and awareness of each daily task, performed with purpose and understanding. Investment, because you need to be a part of your own plan when working with others who share your intentions and outcomes. Primarily, it requires confidence that the current application of effort aligns itself with the end goal. The benefit of these two strategies is that they can potentially create a host of other characteristics (determination, grit, onus) helping to shape the work-ethic.

I see a big correlation between these two axioms and the importance of their application into physical rehabilitation and strength training. As some of you may know, we at RMPT are big fans of Billy Joel and Friday mornings in the clinic are often accompanied by some of his most nostalgic songs. The one song in particular, “Vienna,” comes to mind here as it goes “Slow down, you’re doing fine. You can't be everything you want to be before your time.” I think this resonates with our post here because we need to have patience with ourselves when it comes to overcoming an injury or performing a new lift, and it won’t happen before we are ready. The reason I say this is because some of the best estimates show that the healing process in the body (depending on tissue type) can take 3 days for muscle soreness, and up to 2 years for ligament grafts following surgical procedure. As for training, it can take between 6-8 weeks to simply begin to see muscle strength gains following a specific lifting routine, and it can take even longer for other forms of training (changes in movement patterns, endurance, etc.).

A plan helps to achieve these goals by breaking down tasks into manageable daily components that can be accomplished with appropriate effort. These components are the investment that requires an actively patient mindset. This mindset means taking the time to be aware of each movement, looking to make corrections, looking for the body’s response (pain or soreness), taking appropriate rest, and learning when to safely advance in intensity. The investment comes not only with these components, but in understanding their value in order to make them a priority and thus progress successfully. Our job as Physical Therapists and Trainers is to make the plan that intervenes and advances the process of healing and performance in order to better shape the outcome into the goal and desire of the individual. Although we make the plan, we need the patient and athlete to maintain a mindset that reflects investment in themselves. If we proceed with these intentions, our becoming now becomes our purpose.

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