Marathon Prep with Beyond Basics: Weeks 1-3

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT and Jessica Babich PT. DPT

15 KFiona: Hi everyone! It’s been a few weeks since our last update. I am currently halfway to our $3,000 fundraising goal for the Tisch Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York. Beyond Basics Physical Therapy and I are raising money by running the New York City Marathon and taking donations. If you wish to donate here.

As far as training, things have gone well. The last 12 weeks of training have largely consisted of building a solid base with a whole lot of speed play to improve my lactic acid tolerance (you know, that burning feeling in your muscles, when you are really working hard). This will hopefully improve my ability to hang in there at a consistent speed throughout the race. In the next 12 weeks the amount of speed play will decrease and the mileage will slowly start to build, culminating with two 20 milers before the actual marathon.

So far my average pace has been slightly faster than goal and I have noticed that for the most part I feel stronger and more powerful than I had in the past. Also, the nagging calf pain sensation I had complained about in the past is now improving and occurs much less frequently. I’ve been doing my home exercise program that my physical therapist, Jessica Babich,  recommended on top of my pre-existing routine of strengthening, rolling, and stretching.

Here’s a little of what we worked on in our last 3 visits to help meet our goals, of running faster with less pain:

Week 1: Facilitation with theraband, core activation

On week one, Jessica worked to help get my core to fire more consistently. This is important to allow for greater push-off and power and can hopefully lead to reduced risk of injury. This stuff is hard! Jessica would put my body in a specific position and apply resistance to wake up my long dormant muscles. I broke a sweat but could definitely tell it was working.

Week 2: Ankle ( devil spawn)ankle.jpg

I hated it. But I loved the results. In my earlier blog I wrote about how I hurt my ankle doing a handstand (again, don’t ask). In my initial evaluation, Jessica noticed that I wasn’t quite pushing off well enough through my right side. Basically, I was using my left side to get my power, and the right side was just going along for the ride. No good. Not efficient. Jessica worked on getting the bones in my foot to glide the way they need to in order to improve my range of motion in that foot. Once I had the new range of motion, she gave me some exercises to help teach (we call it neuromuscular re-ed), the foot what to do. The process wasn’t exactly comfortable, but it wasn’t too bad either. I’ve definitely subjected myself to training runs that felt worse.

Here’s what was super neat about this whole deal. I had been doing some plyometric work on my own to help train power and speed. Prior to this visit, one of the exercises I was doing, was the box jump. It is what it sounds like, jump up onto this special cushy box. I started off jumping 24 inches, but I noticed I was really just doing a glorified hop, using my left leg to do all the work. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. On my own I regressed myself to a 12 inch box and tried hopping onto it with each leg (to get right leg in on the action and pulling it’s own weight). IT WAS SO HARD. It was like my body had no idea how to get itself on to the box when I used my right leg, My left leg was more than happy to do single leg box jumps all day, but righty definitely wanted to take the L (that means loss, not the L -train) on that one. But after the ankle treatment with Jessica, a 12 inch single leg box jump was easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. In fact, I progressed myself to the 16 inch box the next gym session. Currently, I am doing 18 inch single leg box jumps and am back to 24 inch box jumps with both legs. Right?! Wild!

BUT THAT’S NOT EVEN ALL OF IT! I started to find on my shorter runs I could more easily keep a 8:30 pace (goal) without additional effort than I had spent on my slower runs. I eventually started doing those runs at 8 minute pace and 7:30 pace to spice it up. This past weekend I was able to do a 15K (9.3 miles) at 8:00 pace which is something I’d never dreamed of. It’s been really neat. I’ve had 3 rounds of physical therapy, and no one has ever addressed my feet which has made such a difference.

Week 3 : Myofascial release

This was the week of the monster cold(S), there were two separate colds and I was not able to run the way I would have liked. I still made my pace and snuck a couple in at 8 minute flat pace, but I did end up missing a few runs. When I saw Jessica, I was just about to slip into the terrible chasm of phelgmy awful misery for the next week and Jessica being extremely thoughtful and perceptive recognized what was afoot.

This session was the most passive of the sessions and she worked on my tight and tender leg muscles and I felt much better following the appointment.

Objective findings:

This is where we put our money where our respective mouths are and see if there is any improvement on the test we conducted during the initial evaluation.

Previous findings:

Lumbar protective mechanism (Institute of Physical Art) : We started with absent initiation in all four quadrants; meaning I had poor core control and was pretty wobbly.

Current Findings

Lumbar protective mechanism (Institute of Physical Art) : Right flexion 2/5, left extension sluggish 1/5, left flexion sluggish 1/5 right extension sluggish ⅕; what this means core is actually working to stabilize me while I run! It’s not super strong but it’s getting there.

Fiona’s impression:

So far I feel really good. I am experiencing less of my typical aches and pains and am feeling stronger and more confident in my runs. I have had several 6 mile training runs at about 7:30 minute miles, which is the fastest I’ve ever run that distance, which is so, so, so exciting. It’s hard to nail down exactly where my speed increase came from. I am doing more skilled physical therapy which has improved my core control and ankle range of motion, and I feel as though I push harder through the ground and float as I leave it. It’s an exhilarating feeling I haven’t had since running cross country in high school! And I also am much more focused in my speed workouts than I used too. Along with speed, Jessica has managed to inject a bit more joy into my running.

If you care to support New York Tisch Multiple sclerosis center through Beyond Basics Physical Therapy and Fiona McMahon’s running efforts please click here to help contribute to the ground breaking work they are doing for people with multiple sclerosis.

Preparing for the Marathon with Physical Therapy at Beyond Basics!

JHO-Muscogee Moms Contest-Blog

Fiona McMahon, DPT

Hi all! If you have been following our blog, you should be aware that Beyond Basics Physical Therapy and I are teaming up to raise money the Tisch Multiple Sclerosis Research Center of New York with Team Tisch MS. I’m hoping to raise $3,000 dollars to support multiple sclerosis research.  We have currently raised approximately $1,500!. Please support us and click HERE to donate. What puts the fun in this fundraiser ( sorry, not sorry about the pun) is that we get to get donations through running the New York Marathon, which I will be running in November.

I have run 4 marathons before including New York, and even though my timed goals were not lofty ( I really only cared about dragging my body from A to B 26.2 miles later), I relied on PT every single time, to keep my body whole and prevent me from sustaining race ending injuries. This year is no different and this week I will be having my first appointment with Jessica Babich, at Beyond Basics.

 

Why go to Physical Therapy if you are not injured?

No matter how you cut it, physical therapy is an investment. Based on your insurance, co-pays can vary to very little to more expensive, and no matter how much you are paying, the time it takes to go to physical therapy and diligently do your exercises is a finite resource. So why add more tasks to an already arduous training schedule? For me, the answer is easy, I want my body to not only run a faster marathon this fall, but I want to do so in a health way to protect my joints, ligaments and muscles, so I can not only continue to run, hike, ski, and play outside, but also so I can continue working without pain.

But aren’t you a PT, can’t you just PT yourself?

One of the most powerful and surprising lessons I’ve learned through being a physical therapist is, it is really hard to be objective about your own body. Physical therapists are trained to see large scale impairments like weak hip strength, which I know for a fact is something I need to work on, but also small scale impairments in movement, like slightly more pronation on the right foot than the left, those are things another practitioner needs to observe from the outside to diagnose and treat. Having an objective movement analyst ( aka a physical therapist), can help you see weaknesses, and alignment issues that even the most expert observer may miss on themselves. Long story short, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Why someplace like Beyond Basics Physical Therapy

I work at Beyond Basics, so full disclosure, it is the most convenient place I could go. That being said, it is also the best place I could go. Physical therapy clinics come in “flavors” and for someone hoping to truly optimize their performance, Beyond Basics Physical therapy and clinics with the same “flavor” are where to go. What makes Beyond Basics physical therapy so special is the hour one-on-one treatment they offer. This allows us to address all three pillars of movement, efficiently, effectively, and completely. The three pillars are mechanical, ( tightness, or lack thereof, of muscles, joints, fascia and ligaments as well as bony alignment), strength (how strong is a particular muscle and is it strong enough to do it’s job), and finally neuromuscular control, ( do your muscles do the right thing at the right time, this is really important to stabilize the joints of the leg and back, and is often overlooked in some busier physical therapy practice). Other physical therapy practices have a slightly different flavor. They may have a one physical therapist treating 4 patients and hour. Even if time is divided up perfectly equitably between patients, this allows the therapist of only 15 minutes on hands-on treatment to correct mechanical and neuromuscular issues, therefore leaving 75% of the time doing exercises with other patients. That flavor of physical therapy can work for some people, especially those who like to socialize with other patients during treatment, but for me, marathon training is too hard to only get 15 minutes of hands on time and spend 45 minutes doing exercises in a crowded gym. I feel that I am perfectly capable of doing my assigned exercises regularly as part of my home program. I would much prefer to work with a therapist who can tailor my treatment to suit my needs, not one who has to juggle the time constraints of treating multiple patients at once.

How are you preparing for PT?

Beyond Basics Physical Therapy is based out of New York. Like most states in the USA, New York has direct access, so I don’t need to have a prescription to come in. I will be bringing a few things to my appointment that I think are essential: health history, attire, and attitude.

Health History: Health history is a big one. In physical therapy a complete health history includes your current medications, and medical conditions, past injuries ( this is really important, and things like an ankle sprain a few years ago can clue us in on a lot ), and other factors like stress, amount of sleep you typically get, how much you work out and what you do, and diet.

Attire: Another important and sometimes overlooked item on the list. Your physical therapist will have to examine different areas on your body, as well as have access to treat those areas. Loose fitting shorts and an athletic top are a good bet. Even if you are going to physical therapy, for a condition like pelvic floor dysfunction, your therapist may ask you to do exercises, so it wise to bring workout clothes to your appointment. If you are a runner, bring in your shoes. The wear pattern on used pair of running shoes can provide heaps of valuable information.

Attitude: This is super important. Physical therapy is a partnership between you and your physical therapist. For me I already, foresee finding time to do the exercises that Jessica will prescribe to be a challenge. But the fact is, home exercise is part of the deal, and I won’t get nearly as much benefit from physical therapy alone, versus physical therapy with home exercise. Like I said before marathon training is simply too hard to just go through the motions at physical therapy.

 

What are your goals and what do you expect to gain from physical therapy?

Like I said before, I want to stay as healthy for as long as possible, but I would be lying if I said my primary goal wasn’t to increase my time. I want to put my money where my mouth is and put all my old times out in the open. So you can know where I am starting from and where I hope to go.

Here are my past times:

Mount Desert Island 2010: total time 3h 56 minutes 18 second: 9 min per mile pace

Mount Desert Island 2011: total time 4h 05 minutes 21 second: 9 min 22 seconds per mile pace

Sugarloaf 2011: total time 3h 52 minutes 25 second: 8 min 51 seconds per mile pace

New York City 2013: total time 3h 52 minutes 25 second: 8 min 51 seconds per mile pace

Here’s my dream goal for this race:

3 hours and 45 minute at 8: 35 pace.

As you can see, it’s 7 whole minutes faster than my fastest race over 7 years ago . To get there, I can’t get injured and I certainly can’t waste any precious energy during the race running inefficiently. I know that Beyond Basics will give me the best chance to meet my goals.

If you are looking to increase your performance in your sport of choice come see us to make sure you are getting the most power out of your serve, swing, or stride. Click here to access our home page and make an appointment today.

Continue to follow us here, on Instagram, and on Facebook to see my progress in physical therapy as well as my progress towards my goal of raising $3,000 dollars for MS research. If you care to donate please click here to donate to this worthy cause

BBPT Health Tip: How to Adjust your Posture to Avoid Shoulder and Neck Pain

shoulder 6

Tina Cardenia PT, DPT

In today’s society, most of us spend time in front of the computer or other electronics for work, school, or pleasure, which contributes to poor postural habits including rounded shoulders and forward head postures. Being in these positions will cause your muscles around your shoulder and neck to accommodate into that rounded position, resulting in inefficient lengthening of some muscles and shortening of other muscles, which results in an imbalance of strength and stability and high potential for injury. Having rounded and inefficient shoulder stability can cause neck and shoulder pain, and can affect your breathing.

The experienced physical therapists have extensive training on evaluating and correcting postural alignment. They can help with posture by identifying where your limitations are and evaluating your flexibility and specific muscle weaknesses that could be contributing to poor postural alignment. They also investigate what may be causing postural malalignments by evaluating your postural strategies in sitting, standing, walking, sports, and functional activities. Focusing on ways to be in a more balanced position will help put less stress and tension through your musculature and joints allowing for increased ease in maintaining proper posture with various movements.

A good way to facilitate a more neutral shoulder blade and shoulder position is with the exercise “Pivot Prone” (Institute of Physical Art, Johnson and Johnson). To start, first turn your head to the right and then to the left. Notice the excursion of movement and if you find it to be difficult or limited. Now, shrug your shoulders up a few inches, rotate your arms back enough where your pinkies are pointing forward and your shoulder blades coming together. Once you feel that your shoulder blades are back relax your shoulder blades straight down. Now rotate your head again to the right and left and notice if there was a change. You should feel an increase in ease of movement and more range of motion. At this point you should be able to appreciate that when you are in a more neutral alignment there is less stress and tension around your shoulders and neck. A common mistake with this exercise is to want to lift your rib cage up when you bring your shoulder blades back, so make sure that the shoulder blades are the only things moving during this exercise in order to maintain a good vertical alignment.

This photo shows the pivot prone maneuver being done step by step 

This exercise is perfect and simple enough to do throughout the day. For example, when you are standing waiting for the train, waiting on line, and sitting at your desk at work or school. By continuously repeating this motion your body will eventually remember it, and down the line you should notice that you automatically will maintain that position!

 

Check out photos from BBPT’s recent inservice on functional mobilization of the shoulder!

 

Without Happy Ankles and Feet, We Don’t Have a Leg to Stand On!

foot

By, Amy Stein, DPT and Fiona McMahon, DPT

Our ankles function to help us do simple tasks from walking down the hall, climbing stairs to advanced tasks like cutting during a high level soccer game. Ankles need two things to do their job well. They need stability to allow us to transfer our weight onto them and mobility to absorb forces, like little shock absorbers when we move. A deficit in either one of these area’s can affect our ability to efficiently do certain activities and may cause pain in the foot and ankle itself or further up the leg.   As physical therapists we evaluate and treat ankle and foot issues to get the athlete or non-athlete back to optimal function.  

Get this, the foot has 26 bones, 33 joints and 100 muscles in it. There is a lot to look at and unfortunately, a lot that can go wrong with the foot. As physical therapists and especially here at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, we like to use a systematic approach when evaluating the foot and ankle. We look at the foot’s range of motion (how far it can move), its strength, it’s ability to move well (motor control), and whether or not something’s not moving well when it comes to the soft tissue or the joint of the foot. If something’s up with any of these categories we open our tool box and treat using functional manual therapy, neuromuscular and postural re-education and self care!

Things we look at

  • In standing we assess the patient’s baby squat ( or plié, as our former dancers would call it) we are looking to see if there is an issue with the tissue of the foot’s ability to stretch and fold
  • Heel raise: We look at our patient’s’ ability to go up on their toes, aberrant or weird motions tell us about motor control, strength, and joint mobility.
  • Arm Swing: We promise this isn’t to make our patients look silly. It allows us to assess pronation and supination, which are super important motions of the foot.
  • End feel: We will passively move the patient’s foot and ankle through its range of motion to assess how the joint feels. It can tell us a lot about what’s wrong and where it’s coming from.
  • Palpation: We pride ourselves on our hands at Beyond Basics Physical Therapy. One of our PT’s calls it our “brain hands”. Palpation can reveal a ton about what’s going on in the foot.

These are all pretty basic first steps when assessing our patients. They are the starting point, but by no means the finish line. Once we get the big picture we will refine our examination to see what’s going on when our patients are doing their specific sport or activity. Once we get a good handle on  what’s going on we select the most appropriate techniques for our patients. Each patient is different and one basic protocol for everyone isn’t how we roll at BBPT. If you think your ankles or feet could use a little extra TLC, book an appointment today. To get the ball rolling, check out our blog written by our therapist, Denise Small . 

Interview with Ryanne Glasper, Physical Therapist at Beyond Basics PT

Fiona McMahon, DPT
At Beyond Basics, we are lucky to have a great crew of Physical Therapists, who come from ryanne2015diverse training backgrounds and experiences. It is some of these different experiences that betters our practice and allows us to grow as clinicians. We took some time out from our wonderful patients, to sit down with physical therapist, Ryanne Glasper, to find out what sets her apart as a physical therapist.

What sets your orthopedic approach apart from approaches seen in other orthopedic clinics?

I can tell you that I love biomechanics. I’m obsessed with how the body moves. I’d consider myself a movement scientist. Moving is such a joy to me that I not only want to facilitate my patients recovery, but also help them better understand their bodies and efficient movements. I want them to leave my office and feel empowered. Like most therapists, I create individualized programs for my patients, but I make it a point to individualize every aspect, including the manual techniques I choose, even the language I use. I try to figure out what works for them, meet them there, and then challenge them to expand, whether that be in knowledge, strength, flexibility, clarity of mind, et cetera. I

Tell us about your background and what type of conditions you saw before coming to BBPT

Before BBPT I worked at PhysioArts Physical Therapy for nearly 10 years. I worked first as a physical therapy aide while in school, and then as a therapist. I worked with a remarkable group of therapists. When I started, I was the youngest and least experienced. I worked with therapists that had ten-plus years of experience and I was incredibly lucky to be mentored by them, especially my boss Jen Green.
At PhysioArts we worked with the performing arts community, professional dancers, actors, singers …. all of Broadway basically. I think I’ve worked on every joint in the body, from the foot to the cranium! From the usual ACL reconstructions, hip replacements, rotator cuff tears to the lesser known cuboid sprains and rib torsions.

How do you integrate that experience into your role as a PT at BBPT?

While at PhysioArts I actually coordinated care with a [former] therapist at BBPT Dustienne Miller (now in Boston Area, Mass). We shared a few patients. I loved the team effort. You don’t learn much about the internal aspect of the pelvis in PT school, so her work was always kind of a mystery to me. But she helped people in a way that I couldn’t! Working with Dustienne gave me even more of an appreciation for the body. Joining BBPT just expanded my tool box! I’m not sure that I integrated my past experiences into BBPT, I’m the same therapist. I just know what’s going on inside [the pelvic floor] now!

Happy Marathon Training Season! Preserve your Performance with Beyond Basics Physical Therapy!

Fiona's Marathon photo

Fiona McMahon, DPT

Marathon training season is just around the corner! If you are competing in the New York Marathon, it’s about time to lace up those sneakers and set off on your 18 or 20-week training plan. As an experienced marathon runner, I know personally the frustration and anxiety that can accompany being sidelined from the action. Prior to my days as a PT, I accumulated ankle injuries, knee injuries (both of my knees), and hip injuries while training for various races. These injuries were so upsetting, I had given up my weekends with my friends to wake up for 20 mile long runs on Sunday, I had gone through more sneakers than I care to think about, and coughed up $300 a race in entry fees. Total bummer.
At the time of my first marathon, I was not a physical therapist; rather I was working in a genetics lab in Maine. I was fortunate to have two physical therapists that worked for my company help me when my knee became so painful I could not stand to work at my lab bench, let alone run 26.2 miles. Through weeks of work, they returned me to my old self and I successfully completed my first marathon in Mount Desert Island, Maine. Since that time, I have run 4 marathons and sought the help of physical therapists to help stave off injuries and allow me to train at my top capacity as I push closer towards a Boston Marathon qualification time.
Physical therapy helped me gain a critical awareness of my deficits as a runner. I found out I had a weak butt, tight iliotibial bands, and hamstrings. Who knew?! There is a lot as runners that we tend to overlook in terms of physical fitness. Many of us believe that putting in the mileage alone will prepare our bodies to endure the stress of months of training on hard pavement. It won’t. We need a strong core and hip stabilizers to reduce the impact on our joints. We need long and strong muscles to help generate enough force to efficiently move your body the length of the race. If you are only thinking cardio with marathon training, chances are good you are missing something that could help your overall time and health.
If you are starting out on your first 26.2 mile journey (or any athletic journey), or completing your 30th, don’t ignore your body’s signals that there might be an injury that needs attention. Treating an injury early with good physical therapy treatment is often much easier than treating one later on. Early treatment also minimizes disruption to your original training plan.
At Beyond Basics Physical Therapy, we go beyond what is offered in many physical therapy clinics. Our clinicians are orthopedic experts and spend an hour with their patients in one-on-one treatments, creating specialized plans to keep you in tip-top shape and return you to training faster. We are trained to look at the athlete holistically to determine the specific cause of a patient’s injury/deficit rather than a cookbook “one size fits all approach).
As clinicians, our goal is not only to heal our patients but to empower them to know more about their own bodies and to be able to take control of preventing future injuries. We take pride in our specialized home exercise plans, which a runner or any athlete for that matter, can take with them for the rest of his or her athletic career. I encourage you as a runner, to check us out and learn more about your running needs.