If you’ve followed along my fitness journey over the past 6 months, you know I trained for (and completed) my first marathon. You’ll also know that along the way, I dealt with a nasty (but mostly annoying) knee injury that really put a damper on my training. Looking back, my injury taught me SO much that I now see it as one of the best things that has happened to me in my fitness journey. I’ll share all the details of my PT experience and everything I learned so you too can be sure you’re caring for your body in the best way possible!
Where to begin?
I knew it was time to seek medical attention when I went for one of our mid-week 5 mile runs and ended up running 1 mile, having to turn around and walk back home. I had been chatting with our trainer for a couple weeks, getting his perspective on the pains I was feeling. His advice was to seek medical attention if it didn’t go away after a few days. I was reluctant to visit a PT because I knew they would tell me to halt my training and with our training being at a weekly mileage of around 30 miles, I felt like I couldn’t afford to hear that kind of news. Nonetheless, on my walk (or should I say hobble) back home, I looked up local PT’s, pissed off this is what it had come to.
Before I go further, to those out there who are still new to adulting, I learned a valuable lesson from finding my PT. You should consult with a doctor about your injury FIRST, allowing them to refer you to a PT. I did the opposite. I called about 5 PT places, 3 of which couldn’t take me for 3+ weeks (umm… NO) and ended up taking an appointment with the PT who could take me first (which also ended up being out of network). Apparently, I was EXTREMELY lucky that the office worked with me to ensure I wouldn’t be paying out the ass to get the care I needed.
Okay, lesson learned. Moving on…
It didn’t take long for my PT to figure out that my injury was Patellar Tendonitis. The cause? Overuse. How shocking! However, what I did find to be shocking was that the PT didn’t begin to work on my knee, it actually felt like they were working on everything BUT my knee. He started at the quads, then the glutes, and then the hamstrings. I had never realized how tight these muscles were, showing how shitty of a job I stretched. Which brings me to the first valuable lesson learned from this experience…
Stretching is not optional.
It seems like when I’m scrolling through Instagram, there’s always one person giving us our “daily reminder” to stretch. Yeah yeah yeah, with what time?! Maybe I should have been paying more attention to that all these years. The only time I would stretch would be during yoga, at the end of spin class, or when I was so tight it hurt (in which case it would already be too late).
Do yourself and your body a favor and STRETCH. Don’t do it for 30 seconds at the end of your workout. Work in at least 5-10 minutes at minimum into your workout time. It will give you ample time for 30 second stretches throughout your body. Trust me, I learned the necessity when the first question I was asked each session was how much I had been stretching the previous few days.
Which brings me to the next part of my PT experience…
At my initial consultation, my PT told me exactly what I feared… “We’re pretty sure we can get you in shape to be able to participate in the marathon, but until we tell you, please don’t run more than 2 or 3 miles at a time.” Are you f**king kidding me? This brings me to my next lesson/piece of advice from this experience…
Listen to every piece of advice you’re given from your PT.
It sucked not running more than 3 miles at a time. It scared the shit out of me knowing it would seriously impact my endurance. And I held my breath waiting for the bill from visiting 3 times a week for over 2 months. BUT, I followed their lead from the start and because of that, I was able to complete the marathon.
These professionals know what they’re talking about and if they tell you to do or not do something, there’s probably a pretty good reason for it. I was terrified of dry-needling, but they told me it was the most aggressive form of treatment for tight muscles, so I did it. They told me I needed to be in there 3 times a week to get better in time, so I did that too. LISTEN to them and you’ll be thankful you did.
It’s no secret it took quite some time out of my week for PT, but it was worth every minute. I learned so much more about myself along the way. Surprising things such as…
I was doing most leg exercises incorrectly my whole life.
I was injuring my knees more and more with each squat and lunge. They had absolutely no stability and would wobble with each “rep.” This was also the case when walking up and down stairs which for someone who’s occupation requires me to go up and down stairs, is super important to know proper form. All the wobbling was causing more wear and tear on the patella, which was where the pain was. If I didn’t go to PT, I would have never learned how to squat, lunge, or even walk up or down stairs properly.
The bigger problem was my back.
Mid-way through my PT experience, I started having extreme back pain while my knee was feeling fine. My PT described this pain as the underlying cause of my knee pain since all the muscles are connected. We started focusing on muscles likely connected to this pain and finally found that my glutes, hips, and hamstrings were causing all of the pain I experienced. This is valuable because now, I know it’s important to build strength and stretch these areas more and more.
Stress was impacting me in more ways than I realized.
For the past 5 or so years, I would experience intense migraines every other week give or take. One day, I came into PT with a raging migraine and they ended up working through my neck, upper back, and muscles on my face. It was insane because when they worked through one side of my neck, that side of my body experienced goose bumps, showing a reaction. My PT noted that when you get stressed, you often “tense up” in your shoulders, which causes tension throughout your face, a cause of headaches. It was amazing to feel my headache completely dissipate once he worked through my neck, shoulders, and face muscles.
I’m totally lop-sided.
Chances are, you are too. I especially found this when I would do the exercises at PT. One side would be light years stronger than the other. Or even with muscle tightness, I would nearly cry getting one side massaged, but barely flinch for the other. While it is impossible to be completely balanced, it was helpful to learn which side to focus on for either strength or stretching.
And I don’t breathe correctly.
One day at PT, we tried focusing on my diaphragm and breathing techniques to see if it would help my back pain. Amazingly, I learned that my whole life, I’ve been breathing incorrectly. Instead of breathing with your chest, you’re supposed to breathe in with your belly, ultimately keeping your chest completely still. Breathing with your chest can cause muscles in your mid-lower back to tighten up. (Insert mic-drop here.)
I learned the true meaning of wellness.
By far the best thing that happened from this experience. Previously, wellness was eating healthy and exercising regularly. Now, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I learned so much about my body and see wellness through a totally different lens. Now, wellness is caring for your body in every way possible. That could mean resting when your body is asking for it. Stretching daily. Performing exercises with proper form. Taking care of your stress levels and SO much more.
Whew! This was a lengthy blog post but there is SO much I learned from my PT experience, I could talk about it all day. Point is, getting injured sucked but I learned SO many valuable things to take care of my body on a whole new level and for that I will be eternally grateful.
Also, MAJOR shout out to my PT Max from Elite PT in Harbor East. If you’re looking for a fantastic PT recommendation in the Baltimore area, Elite PT is hands down the best. Plus, for being out of network, they worked with me to pay less than $15 a session. Incredible!