Today’s guest is a physical therapist that is focused on everyone from the most serious athletes to the average person that wants to enjoy their daily life without pain.
I love talking with PTs and other health professionals while nerding out on all things injury-related so clearly, we will have a lot to chat about today.
I am looking forward to going a few easy miles with Martha Theirl today.
Greatest Intro To Running
Martha Theirl has been active for as long as she can remember.
She attended a high school that was known for its high-performing cross country team.
Lacrosse has always been Martha’s first love, but in an effort to get in shape for lacrosse she joined the indoor track team.
The coach never made cuts to the team and welcomed anyone that showed up ready to work.
Each and every athlete was treated like a star regardless of their abilities.
Athletes got help with their running form as needed along with individualized running plans.
The team was doing plyometric drills in the early 2000s, which wasn’t terribly common at the time.
Martha recognized how fortunate she was to have had the greatest introduction to running that she could have asked for.
The Benefits Of Peer Pressure
Following college, Martha moved to Boston where she met a group of girls that would eventually get her into running.
One of those friends ran long distances and suggested that Martha sign up for a half marathon with her.
Martha was adamant that she wasn’t built for that, but rather agreed to sign up for a 5k instead.
Her training took place in a relatively flat area when unbeknownst to her the race would be extremely hilly.
The race didn’t exactly go as planned and yet Martha continued to sign up for races with her friends.
That 5k soon led to races of all distances ranging up to the half marathon.
She eventually relented and ran her first, and so far, only half marathon in 2012.
Relentlessly In Pursuit Of Her Goals
Martha is a highly competitive individual and when she sets a goal she will work relentlessly to achieve it.
That characteristic has benefited her in multiple areas of her life including both athletic endeavors as well as her career.
When training to run a half marathon, Martha picked a plan and followed it perfectly.
She eventually wants to run another half before she turns 40.
Running a marathon is not currently in her plans, but after running a portion of a marathon relay, she admitted that the energy was inspiring.
Her work ethic helped to propel her down the path towards becoming a physical therapist.
Martha had two career changes before becoming a PT.
In order to change careers, she had to attend night school for 3 years all while working full time and getting volunteer hours.
Martha began playing lacrosse when she was 11.
The only leagues available to her were all boys, but that didn’t stop her.
She immediately fell in love with the sport and views it as a gift in her life.
She gained friendships, self-confidence, and fitness from her years of playing.
The sport she loved is what also led to a chronic back injury when she was 28.
Underlying issues that she had largely ignored or had mistreated/misdiagnosed from previous health professionals could no longer be ignored.
Martha was in PT school at the time and her injury coupled with her PT education was eye-opening.
She realized that if you don’t figure out the root cause of pain, there will be no way to fix it.
All Roads Eventually Led To PT School
When Martha eventually decided to pursue a new career as a PT, it came as no surprise to her parents.
A brief stint working in the neuroscience field made it apparent to Martha that she wouldn’t be happy with that career.
It took her 6 months of focus to determine what type of career would make her happy and fulfilled.
Prior to settling on becoming a PT, Martha had no idea how big and vast the field was.
The opportunities were endless.
Being a good PT is easy, according to Martha, she is constantly striving to be a great PT.
She is always working to hone her processes while making her clinical skills sharper.
Martha is constantly setting mini-goals to hold herself accountable while continuing to work towards her bigger goals.
Q4 Physical Therapy
The fourth quarter of a game is arguably the most critical time.
Martha wants to ensure that her patients don’t falter in the fourth quarter, whether that is on a field or in their lives.
Too often, Martha has observed physical therapists getting their patients to the fourth quarter but ultimately falling short.
Physical therapy has changed a lot in the past 20 years.
Some issues still remain, such as treating pain once it happens, rather than focusing on preventative care.
Martha is a firm believer that moving throughout life without pain is life-changing.
Breaking Down Each Component
“Just” running will rarely lead to an athlete making improvement and oftentimes it will even lead to injury.
In order to become a better runner, you must first break down the systems and work on each component.
The 3 main components of running are good cardiovascular health, balance, and strength.
Balance is controlled by vision, vestibular (auditory), and proprioception.
As we age, our vision system begins to dominate, making it crucial to ensure that the other systems continue to work well.
There are countless ways to work on balance, but Martha prefers to work on it by slowing down movements.
The exercises don’t take a lot of time to do and can have huge benefits both now and in the future.
A good practitioner should always be able to relate what they’re prescribing to your goals.
Reserve Power From Strength Training
Runners sometimes avoid lifting heavy for fear of bulking up.
Martha provided reassurance that endurance athletes shouldn’t have that fear.
Lifting heavy will ensure that your muscles get the hypertrophy they need to get stronger.
The first step is to make sure that the movements being done are fundamentally sound.
Starting slow and building up is important to perfecting technique and avoiding injury.
Lifting heavy should be hard, but never painful.
Typically Martha recommends going with a weight that would lead to form failure after 5 to 6 reps.
Martha can’t overstate the importance of calf raises when working on running strength.
No gym membership, no problem!
Martha has a mobile physical therapy business and often has to get creative when working with patients at their houses.
A kettlebell is the most versatile piece of equipment with countless movement/exercise options.
If unable to get a kettlebell, Martha suggests getting a little creative.
A backpack filled with books or other heavy objects can be a great substitute for a weight.
If looking to increase the difficulty of a movement, slowing it down is a simple way to achieve that.
Expensive equipment and/or memberships aren’t required to work on strength.
Oftentimes simple objects found at home can be all you need paired with a little creativity.
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