The 5 Things That Make Physical Therapy More Than Just Fixing Stuff

With recently wrapping up the last of Physical Therapy/Personal Training, I leave with understanding so much more about myself in terms of how to train smart  and all that goes into being healthy when it comes to fitness.  (A side note and added bonus is it has taught me what sets a great therapist/trainer/coach apart from the rest).

  1. Seeing is just as important as feeling. (As a CrossFit enthusiast, I do strongly believe that one of the things missing from boxes are mirrors). There is a lot of benefit in actually watching ourselves work out. (I’m not talking about giving yourself a gun show although there’s no shame in that). It is seeing the details and breaking down a movement where you can actually pinpoint what you are doing right and wrong. At Physical Therapy, there are mirrors everywhere, and as much as I dislike seeing the agony on my face while I struggle through a workout, I do appreciate being able to see what my body is actual doing versus what I think it is doing. I tend to base how well I am doing a movement off of how it feels, which is important; however sometimes I can’t feel everything my body is doing at one time. Seeing gives insight into being able to correct form. For instance, I used to feel like I was off balance when I squatted after surgery, but I did not really understand why. When I was able to actually see myself squatting, it was obvious I was favoring my right side. My trainer (BJ) was able to give me physical queues while I was squatting to correct form.
  2. Form is more important than lifting heavy or getting a faster time. After having 1:1 PT sessions, I was lucky to have the chance to not be distracted by anything else. I solely focused on what I was doing which meant dissecting movements. (Seeing a theme here based on #1 as well?) It taught me that it’s ok at times when my body feels fatigued or something just feels wrong, to not worry about adding weight to the barbell or trying to power through to get a faster time or score. I had quite a few strength portions where I would lift very light weight to get in the habit of good form. I also had more than a few instances where BJ had me scale down mid workout when my body was fatiguing resulting in bad form.
  3. Get mobilizing! I spent a lot of time stretching out before a workout as well as having a pro stretch me out after. It’s painful. It’s grueling. It’s time consuming. It’s worth it. Often when form is off or something feels wrong, it could be your body’s way of telling you to stretch out. I am not an expert in stretching and mobility so I won’t spend much time on this point. I just want to say in my humble opinion, everyone would benefit for spending more time doing this, whether it is on your own, in a mobility or yoga class, via massage or one of my personal favorites, the hot tub. For those of us who CrossFit and do other equally aggressive workouts, our bodies need reprieve. We need time to recover and loosen all the muscles and tendons and whatever else we have to avoid injury (and to just feel good!)
  4. It is important that your coach/trainer is supporting your goals.  *I am putting a disclaimer that this is personally important to me, and so I am assuming it is to others. If it isn’t, well then I owe you burpees. One of the key factors that has gone into my recovery and getting stronger by the day is that I had a team backing up my goals and being just as vested in them as I am. When it comes to my own health and fitness, I am always working towards something. I am a woman who likes a plan, even if it’s a plan that someone else is putting together for me. It is no secret that plans are only as effective as whether they coincide with goals. Having people who understand you and your goals is fundamental.
  5. Have a connection to your coach/trainer. This is more like #4 part 2, so really the same disclaimer applies. (I have a lot more to say relating to the importance of connecting that is for a blog to come soon. Stay tuned). It can really take your fitness journey and goals to the next level when you truly feel like the person training understands you. They know your weaknesses and your strengths. They know your goals.

 

Injury recovery and working out can be just as mentally and emotionally trying as it is physically challenging.  I had many moments throughout PT of feeling utterly discouraged. I got through them because I had the best Physical Therapist and trainer who talked me through it, without judgment. I was able to be open and express what was going on in my head as much as what was going on with my body. It is normal and par for the course to have a therapist ask how your body/injury is doing. It is not as common but possibly more important that they ask how YOU are doing.  To this point, here is a perfect example. After I did my most recent body scan, I was completely crushed by the weight I had gained. I told them about it and they gave me solid advice (like reevaluate my diet and throw in extra cardio) as well as just gave me a pep talk. They did not discount what I was feeling nor did they make me feel crazy about it. They continued to be supportive throughout my dieting journey by checking in and asking how I was doing with it.  What was working? What wasn’t working?  They paid attention and it made a difference. (I would be a total liar if I did not admit to thoroughly being pleased with the compliments they gave me as the pounds started coming off. I will never grow tired of hearing about any muscle definition someone else sees in me!)

As much as I do not like to admit, I have gone to physical therapy quite a few times over the years. For many of those instances, I went really to just fix whatever was broken or not working right. I wanted to get in and get out so I could get back to my regularly scheduled programming. The last year and a half though that I have spent in PT has been life changing for me. Seriously.  It is why I strongly believe this time around departing from PT will end the long reigning slew of injuries.  It is because of all these 5 lessons I have learned that are setting up me for success and a healthy journey here on out. It has taught me how to train smarter and how to take everything I learned at PT with me in my journey.

 

 

 

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The Gifts of Lake Atitlan

My day to day life tends to have me feeling like I am rushing off to my next destination, whether it’s to CrossFit or work or to a doctor’s appointment or to meet up with a friend. I always feel like there is somewhere I am supposed to be. I do not know if it is a societal standard or my own self- inflicted standard, but it is as if I am supposed to fill every waking minute with something. (FOMO  anyone?) I will have moments of being at home, just relaxing on a Saturday with a nagging sense like I need to get off my couch and be out and about (even if every fiber of my being just wants to unwind and do NOTHING).

Recently, being on a retreat at Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, I was able to really slow down and disengage from most of the world, without guilt I might add.  Two of the biggest lessons that this trip affirmed for me are:

  1. It is life’s simplest pleasures that matter the most.
  2. I have the ability within myself to find happiness and contentment.

By not getting much of a signal on my phone at the lake (I will thank the portal for that!), it really allowed me to enjoy my surroundings and get lost in the moment. Some of my most treasured memories are the moments where I truly appreciated nature. Being immersed in it gave me such a constant feeling of gratification. I appreciated the simplicity of being able to just lay out on the dock, listening to the water rustling and swooshing around me  which magically managed to silence my typically very busy, obsessive brain. To be able to wake up for a sunrise boat ride was happiness a thousand times over. To be able to witness the lake, the mountains and the volcanoes come to life before my very own eyes was indescribable. To watch the sky change from black to a radiant blue with pops of yellow, orange, and pink is something that is forever engrained in my mind.

sunrise.jpg

When you remove all the noise and distractions from the world, you appreciate what is around you allowing yourself to truly be lost in those moments. It definitely helped me be more centered, and I came to understand something important about myself.  At my core, I really do not require much nor am I very fancy. (I will put this disclaimer in: I do not mean to say that I would turn down the finer things in life. I do drive a Lexus and I did buy myself diamond stud earrings… once). I just mean when I reflect on the moments when I feel the most at peace, they have very little, if anything, to do with materialism.

Being in nature is known to have a calming effect on people, so it is no wonder that I fell in love with Guatemala. There were no TVs nor was everyone on their phones 24/7. It was the perfect environment to really unwind and disconnect.  I used much of my free time reading (I had to feed my Outlander addiction).  I  wrote in my journal quite a bit, reflecting on all the unique things I experienced, like the Cacao Ceremony, my reading with a Shaman  and the Mayan Fire Ceremony. I did not walk away from these events but rather adopted them into my being. They gave me so many opportunities to really think about myself and my intentions in life. It gifted me the knowing that there is plenty that comes from within me to bring me happiness without having to rely on much.

For a few of us who were on the retreat, we keep saying that we have not left Guatemala. In our own ways, we each took something with us when we waved good-bye to that gorgeous sapphire lake. I am eternally grateful to Lake Atitlan for enabling me to slow down and regain a sort of calmness and contentment that I have not felt in a long time.

 

3 Lessons Volcan San Pedro Taught Me

I recently got back from one of the most amazing trips I have ever taken. I knew Guatemala would be beautiful and energizing but I underestimated just how much I would fall in love with it. Staying on Lake Atitlan, I was in a constant state of awe of not just the lake but the mountains and volcanoes all around me. Words cannot even begin to do justice to the pure beauty of it all. One of the other women on the same retreat as me, Sara, has a bucket list that includes hiking a volcano. If there ever was to be the perfect opportunity to do so, it was there, on Volcan San Pedro. She invited me to join her, and after much agonizing over whether I should, I decided to go for it. Sara has a contagious positive quality about her, and so between that, the universe nudging me to go, the magic of the portal and every other sign I was receiving, I knew this was an opportunity not to be missed. (More about the portal and the magic of the lake to come in a later blog).

I consider myself to be respectfully strong and in shape but I am by no means an experienced hiker.  I had no delusions that hiking 10,000 feet up (and of course back down) San Pedro would be easy.  It was a slow spiral trail that went up, up, up, up and up some more, with virtually no flat spots (which meant we had to create our own places to stop, rest and catch our breath). When we hiked down, about 10 minutes in, it began to rain. I am talking torrential downpour for the entire way down.

On a good day, the hike down would have been challenging enough, but when you add rain to the mix, it makes for an extremely steep descend of trekking through mud, slush and newly formed streams of water and over the most slippery rocks and terrain imaginable. Sara and I each nearly wiped out on our butts at least 12 times each. I am amazed that we managed to steady ourselves and stay safe every time. Miraculously our guide, David, only slipped once. Show-off!

The best way I can describe the experience is that I hated practically every minute of the hike. My muscles were sore, my body was fatigued and my brain just would not accept that no matter how many hours I hiked, I still had hours more to go. Yet, once I finished the hike, I realized how much I absolutely loved the experience for so many reasons. That day and that beloved volcano taught me so much.

  1. Being on such a massive natural piece of this earth for an entire day is simply humbling. It made me realize that there are so many things in this world bigger than I am. Than we are. In a world where we get so caught up in our routines and the same surroundings, it is easy to forget that we are really just little peons in the bigger scheme of things (important peons I should add but peons nonetheless). Enjoying the simplicity of just being part of a bigger universe is beautiful in and of itself.

 

  1. Not every choice in life is going to be pleasant. It won’t always be things like do I go to the pool or the beach today? Do I buy a Lexus or BMW? Do I want to vacation in Europe or Asia?  These are all what I liked to refer to as #highclassproblems. There are times, unlike those, where we have two pretty shitty options in front of us and we have to pick the one that may suck just slightly less.When it started to rain on the hike, David had us go under some trees to take cover. After a few minutes, it really wasn’t giving us shelter. At all.  We asked David how long we would be standing there and he said probably an hour. HELLLLL to the no! I was not about to spend an hour standing and waiting helplessly for the rain to possibly clear. (It rained every day in Guatemala I had been there, and given that this particular day that we decided to hike a volcano it started to rain about 2 hours earlier than normal, I was not so optimistic that it would pass anytime soon).Sara and I suggested that since we were getting soaked anyways, could we keep moving? And so we did. It was not easy or fun to be hiking down in rain but the alternative of waiting seemed riskier to us. The more it rained, the worse the terrain would get. The more it rained, the more soaked, tired and cranky we would get waiting. So we made a choice that was by no means pleasant but seemed favorable to being completely helpless to the weather. When we did make it to the bottom, we were extremely relieved with the choice we made.

 

  1. Attitude is everything. Seems obvious right but how often do we forget the significance that our attitude towards something impacts the experience? David has hiked San Pedro about once a week for the last 4 years. That means we were roughly his 190th guided tour. When we said asked him if this was the worst hike he ever had done, he said yes. He also agreed to my eloquent statement of “This is some crazy shit, isn’t it, David?” A little sense of humor in life doesn’t hurt.Yes, Sara and I did ask a dozen times “how much longer?” but aside from that, we kept our spirits up. We cracked stupid jokes the entire way down and in between balancing ourselves with our walking sticks and balancing ourselves on the same rocks we were trying not to curse; we focused on just getting to know each other better. Being stressed, snippy and negative would not have gotten us down any faster or any safer.As aforementioned, that while it was not a pleasant hike, I attribute feeling so accomplished and proud to the modest fact that we kept our attitude positive. I even joked at one point that there better be a rainbow when we get down and sure enough, there really was! It was a sweet reward and I believe the universe’s way of rewarding us for powering through a harrowing day (and for not be whining divas while doing so).

It’s ironic to me that I had to climb a volcano to get myself grounded. I went into it thinking it was just something I should do for the sake of the experience (and for the amazing photo opportunities). I left San Pedro feeling Zen and calm, which if you know me are not two words you would typically associate with my personality. I still feel like that since I have returned to real life. That day was really all about perspective. I believe it goes to show that sometimes you have to step outside of your typical world in order to be reminded of how you want to govern the one life you are given.

 

 

To Guatemala by Way of Israel and Sweden

 

I am the type of person that sets out on an errand to buy a new dress and instead I come home with new shoes.  So it is not surprising that I started planning my next vacation to be in Israel but instead I booked a trip to Guatemala.

 

I initially thought I would be vacationing to Israel with my favorite Swedish friend. Then, we took that off the table and thought perhaps we would go to Italy. With Tuscany on the brain, during a psychic reading I went to, I asked what she saw for travel in the near future. Expecting her to tell me Italy (or somewhere in Europe), she instead had said that I would be going on a trip with a big group of people. I would not have to plan anything and that it would be a really positive experience.  Skeptical of this, I didn’t put much stock in it.


Well shortly after that reading, my favorite Swede had messaged me to let me know that due to a work project, she would not be able to take a trip for a few months. Ok, so for Plan B, we thought what if I go visit her in Stockholm? We always have a blast together when we get to see each other (which is not nearly enough!). So I started looking into visiting her there, perhaps spending a few days somewhere on my own and ending my vacation in Vienna where another friend would be living. 

 

As I was researching places to go and airfare prices, I was questioning though whether I really wanted to do all that flying and city hopping again. My last international trip was this past March to Asia, and I spent probably 30 hours on planes plus many layovers leaving me extremely jet lagged. I wasn’t so sure I was up for that again so soon.  But then, I went to dinner and had a server with the name Birgita.  I hadn’t heard that name before and asked her where it originated. She told me she was…. Wait for it… Swedish! Well if that wasn’t a confirming sign, what was?­

 

In my European excitement, I had posted something on Facebook about it calling my name.  A friend of mine, Becky, posted an enticing link to that post about a trip to Guatemala she wanted to take. I looked at it and I was in love! It had everything I wanted. It has spiritual healing, Mayan ceremonies, local hiking, hammocks, absolutely stunning volcanos and nature, and a VEGETARIAN MENU!!! If this Dream in Guatemala Retreat does not have my name written all over it, then well the sky isn’t blue and LA does not really have Palm Trees.

 

My soul was totally sold on this trip. My brain was catching up though. I should mention that Becky and I have not seen each other in probably 20 years. We have known each other since we were about 4 years old but probably the last time we “hung out” was in 6th grade giggling over notes we got from friends in school (yes you remember old fashioned notes you would pass to each other in the halls at school. You know, before the days of smart phones and texting).  My last memory of interacting with Becky was sitting near her in health class our senior year of high school.  So, was this crazy that I was entertaining taking a trip with someone I have not seen in decades?

 

The answer to that, it would be crazy if I did not seize this opportunity. Carpe diem friends! Both Becky and I are big believers in following where the universe guides us. Thanks to social media, we have reconnected the last few years, and have discovered that we lead very similar lifestyles albeit in two very different cities (Becky lives in NYC and I am of course here in Los Angeles).  We both are very focused on living healthy lives and uncovering our spiritual side. This trip may not have made sense to me even a year ago but life is all about timing. I have no doubt that we are for sure meant to experience this trip together. 

 

We are less than a month away from hopping on planes from our respective cities to reconnect in Guatemala. I have nothing but positive vibes about this trip and so stay tuned! I expect to come back oozing with stories, experiences and perspective.