As you get older, you have more aches and pains and are more easily hurt from being active. I know this first hand from getting hurt exercising a number of years ago. So to prevent injury and be in better physical shape, I encouraged the contestants to go to Labell & Associates Physical Therapy in Rowley, before moving into more advanced levels of exercise or strengthening routines. All they had to do was ask their doctors for a referral, which has been no problem, and insurance covers it. Most people in the group have now worked with Bryan Labell and his staff, and all of them are thrilled with the results and amazed by how much more they can do with their bodies.
Bryan’s goal isn’t simply to help people heal an injury, which is what physical therapy (PT) is typically used for. His goal is to show people how to use their bodies more effectively, to protect themselves from injury, and to be able to perform activities at a maximal level – whether they started with an injury or simply wanted to increase their ability to do certain activities. His PT treatments are designed to restore full flexibility and full strength across the body, as well as increase coordination, endurance and balance. He starts off with stretching tight muscles and strengthening weak ones, balancing out the muscles and building a strong foundation, before he shifts people to more dynamic exercises to enhance physical performance and agility.
By the time people are done with their sessions, they are more in tune with their bodies and what it takes to stay pain free, and they are doing much more than they ever would have thought possible. He happens to have an advantage most PT businesses don’t; his offices are inside the Excel Gym, so he has use of the exercise equipment. Those in the group who have worked with Bryan gush about how great the experience has been and how motivated and excited they are by what they can now do. And that in turn is motivating them to do even more activity and to pursue a regular strengthening program to continue improving their fitness, which Bryan has personalized for those who want to do this.
Lisa – Healing plantar fasciitis
Lisa was the first to go to Bryan and she is thrilled to have accomplished so much. “When I started,” Lisa said, “I was so tight in my hips, hamstrings and calves. Now I am looser, have full range of motion and no pain. I am also much more in tune with my body, so I can tell when things are changing, what feels different and what I have to do to make adjustments. I feel so much better, and I can really notice a difference at work.”
Lisa injured her foot doing a lot of walking this spring and developed plantar fasciitis, which she had dealt with in the past. Fortunately she could still bike, but it was very painful and affected her at work where she does a lot of standing and walking. The PT started with her feet and moved up to the muscles in her lower body. Bryan, or one of his associates, stretched out the tight muscles in her legs and feet, and when she was more limber shifted her to lower body strengthening exercises. They also did ultrasound and massage techniques. That strengthening led to more tightening, which Bryan anticipated, and they added more stretches for that and did deep massage work. As Lisa got stronger, she did dynamic exercises that increased her balance, coordination and physical performance, and she did cardio exercise to increase her endurance.
Maureen – Addressing tightness
Maureen was next to go, but not because she had anything wrong. She just knew that the more she had been exercising the past few months the more stiff and tight she felt, particularly in her hips. What she appreciated was how much of an improvement she made every couple of weeks, which she could see because they continually measured her range of motion. “It was very affirming,” Maureen said, “to see how much I was able to do and that I could reach the goals they set for me. And now I notice how many things I can do and how much more efficient my movements are. They helped me to see that I have a lot more abilities than I had realized. I’m stronger and more capable than I would have believed, and for the first time I’m looking at my body and what it can do.”
Like Lisa, Maureen really enjoyed the PT, which you probably wouldn’t expect. She found Bryan and his staff motivating and great fun. And now that her sessions are done, she loves feeling in better shape and moving with greater ease, and she is determined to stick with the exercises and continue to use her body to the best of its ability. “Why wouldn’t you,” she said. “It feels so good to be able to do all this and to keep it up.”
Eric – Recovering from an accident
Once Eric’s doctors gave him the okay after stabilizing from a major auto accident, he too went in to see Bryan. What they found was poor range of motion in his shoulders, back and hips as well as a weak core. At first the focus was on stretching and doing movement exercises, like picking up a weighted milk crate and putting it on a shelf. Once he had made improvements, they moved on to strengthening machines and doing lots of balancing exercises. Each time he went in, he was doing something different as he progressed further and further. “I’m in better shape now,” said Eric, “than before the accident. It is sort of like personal training, but more like occupational therapy. They took it easy with me at first, and now I’m doing weights and making a lot of progress. I’ve learned you don’t have to kill yourself to get into pretty good shape.”
Eric has been so impressed and enthusiastic that he asked Bryan for a strengthening routine he could do on his own at the YWCA, while going to PT. He has also learned the importance of stretching, and is fully committed to this at home. He’s not alone. Everyone in the group has been dedicated to their at-home exercises, which has impressed Bryan quite a lot. And most of them have joined a gym to keep up their strengthening exercises.
Cheryl – Overcoming a long-term illness
For nearly twenty years, Cheryl has been limited by what she could do from an illness she had many years ago. The past six months she has done more than she thought possible, walking outside, in the pool and to an in-home video. But going to PT and working with Bryan has taken her ability to a whole new level. His staff worked every part of her body, explained what they were doing, how it all worked, and what she needed to know, so she felt informed, educated and surer of what she could do.
Her PT started with the stretching, and then they added strengthening, dynamic movements and cardio endurance to help her increase her tolerance for particular movements. “I’ve learned I am a lot stronger than I thought,” Cheryl said, “and I can do a whole lot more. I also now know what to do when I get fatigued or have pain to recover faster, and I’m learning to listen to my body. This has changed my life, and now I feel so much more confident and capable. I would never give this up.”
Wrapping Up This Contest Series
Everyone has seen dramatic results from their PT sessions, and they are pumped about the experience. As Bryan said to me, his mission is to “get people to feel the way they want to feel and working beyond their expectations, and when they feel so good and are doing so much they want to maintain that.”
That summarizes the philosophy of this contest. The goal is not for the contestants to be good and to do as they are told. It is to discover how good it feels to be active, physically fit, eating healthy foods and taking care of themselves, and then to feel motivated to maintain that great feeling.
At this point, now eight months into this two-year contest, you have followed along as the contestants have learned new skills, changed their thinking and overcome obstacles to making healthy lifestyle changes. They have successfully embraced healthy eating, learned how to be in control with food, become self-motivated to stay active and gained skills to overcome their challenges, while you have had a chance to witness the process and their thoughts in this blog series.
Now I am wrapping up the series, as the contestants continue to maintain what they have learned. For them, it was never about being in a contest or winning prizes, but about a chance to reclaim their lives and to feeling really good. We will still have awards at the end of this month and in December, and the final awards at the end of 2011.
Have a fit and healthy week,