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Why I Don’t Train Barefoot

Barefoot training and the use of minimalist footwear has become a widely discussed topic in sports physical therapy and the running community. Many folks in the fields of sports medicine, injury rehabilitation, and performance training are all-in on the idea of training in bare feet.

Training barefoot provides great benefits.

The absence of shoes gives the body a direct connection to the ground for quicker and more accurate feedback which helps to improve balance.

Barefoot training also strengthens the feet themselves. When the feet do not have assistance from footwear for support, they must do the entirety of that job for themselves. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the feet work to support the arch, the heel, and the forefoot which strengthens them over time. For this reason we often prescribe barefoot training for our physical therapy patients.

However barefoot training is not appropriate for all people.

Most of us walk on hard surfaces like concrete and unlike grass or dirt, concrete is not a forgiving surface. We are unable to manipulate concrete and we have less shock absorption as we step onto harder surfaces.

In addition to an external environment that may not be conducive for barefoot training, many people have unique foot structures or previous injuries that make barefoot training unrealistic. In these situations, a shoe may help their foot function better.

An appropriate shoe allows for the foot to find the ground optimally and properly transition through the different phases of the gait cycle. This allows the body to properly alternate from one leg to the other.

A proper shoe must provide optimal heel control, allow for the arch of the foot to contact the shoe properly (and at the correct time in the gait cycle) and bend only where the toes bend.

The correct shoe can have an incredibly powerful effect on a variety of different ailments and can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of someone’s rehabilitation and training program.

Are you eager to find out if barefoot training is right for you? Contact us today to learn more!

Physical Therapy Didn’t Work…

I tried physical therapy and it didn’t work.

Many of our patients in Bethesda have seen other physical therapists prior to seeing us. In their previous physical therapy experiences, they did not achieve the results that they were looking for and are coming to us for answers.

Personally, I love working with these people because they continue to believe that our profession can help them. However, negative experiences in physical therapy often cause many others to lose faith in the profession.

Perhaps you are one of these people. If so, I don’t blame you as I once was in your shoes!

When I was in High School, I experienced a quadricep injury that was impacting my ability to play football.

I went to my local physical therapy practice searching for help in overcoming this injury and play in my junior season. It was going to be my first season starting on both offense and defense causing this injury to constantly remain in the front of my mind.

My introduction to physical therapy was not what I had hoped for, and I now realize that my physical therapists were not taking great care of me (to learn more about how you can determine if this is the case, see my latest blog here).

Luckily, I was still able to play in my season and was back to 100% by the middle of the year. However, I can’t help but wonder if I would have been fully healthy to start the season if I saw a different physical therapist.

Like all other professions, the physical therapy industry has great professionals and poor ones. Furthermore, some physical therapists specialize with athletes, some with cardiac patients and others with people living in nursing homes.

As a result, my hope is that instead of saying “I tried physical therapy and it didn’t work”, you say “This physical therapist or physical therapy practice didn’t provide the results that I was looking for and I need to find someone that is a better fit for what I need.” 

Can Hiking Make You A Better Runner?

If you’re running is starting to feel stale or boring, it might be time to switch things up. Officially known as “cross-training” in sports physical therapy, hiking can be an effective training strategy to help prepare for running. From both a physical and mental standpoint, there are several benefits that hiking will have on your running performance.

  1. Aerobic gains with less chance of injury

Hiking is the perfect low-impact cardio alternative to running that vastly decreases the impact on the joints and muscles. Doing this low-intensity activity over long periods can help improve your aerobic engine, which helps new runners.

  1. Engage different muscle groups

In our experience with performance physical therapy in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, we’ve noticed that runners can sometimes rely heavily on certain muscle groups while ignoring other important ones. The uneven terrain of hiking requires lunging and squatting movements, which help activate different muscle groups. Adding hiking to your training can help to utilize less-utilized muscles.

  1. Improves balance and leg strength

Hiking, specifically on uphill climbs, requires you to use your glutes and quads to get over hills. This motion is similar to the act of running and gives the body a chance to exert itself without the added stress of actually running. Maintaining a steady pace while hiking also engages the core and stabilization muscles, improving balance and running form.

  1. Stress relief

Let’s be honest — most runners choose time-saving routes in the neighborhood or treadmill rather than getting out on a trail. Though this is great in a pinch, being in nature can help alleviate stress and anxiety, improve productivity, and increase creativity. By cross-training with a hike, you’ll not only improve your performance but your mental health as well.

3 Critical Questions To Ask Your Physical Therapist on the First Visit

Physical therapy (both in person and virtual physical therapy) is most effective when you are actively involved. While the physical therapist is responsible for identifying issues and developing a plan, the patient should be actively involved by asking questions and providing necessary background information. Here are three important questions to ask your physical therapist to get the most out of your session in Chevy Chase or Bethesda.

1. Why did this happen, and how can we ensure it doesn’t happen again?

Solving the underlying issue and resolving any pain or discomfort is essential when working with a physical therapist. But beyond that, you also want to ensure that the problems don’t resurface. By asking about the root cause of the injury or pain, you’re able to better prevent the problem from becoming a long-term issue.

2. What do I need to be doing at home?

Unfortunately, time with a physical therapist is limited. Outside of a few hours a week, most time is spent away from your PT. When meeting with a physical therapist, it’s vital to clarify any exercises you should or shouldn’t be doing at home. A great physical therapist will make sure you have the tools and exercises needed to take control of your health, both inside and outside of the session.

3. How can you be sure I’ll make progress?

If you decide to work with a physical therapist, the intention should be to progress towards your goal. Oftentimes the  healthcare system will establish general objectives, such as reaching a “baseline” or returning to ADLs (active daily activities). Although these standard guidelines are a good starting point, the purpose of physical therapy is to reach your goals, not the goals of the insurance companies! By asking this question directly, you set a clear intention for the results you desire.

Physical therapy works best when there’s an active partnership between you and the PT. The more engaged you are in your health, the more progress you will make. By asking these three essential questions, you’ll set clear intentions for your physical therapy and build a better working relationship as a result.

Why the rates of athletic injuries are on the rise

With the weather warming up, COVID-19 cases decreasing, and spring sports starting up again, many young athletes are looking forward to making their return to sport. While excitement is high to get back out there and compete, it is important to prepare your body correctly to avoid injuries and stay healthy. Proper performance training in the Bethesda and Chevy Chase area can be the difference between a dream season and being forced to watch from the sideline!

After a long layoff from sport, the inherent risk of sustaining an injury is high, as one’s body is not used to performing sport-specific athletic activities. That’s why it is important to take some time before the season starts to get your mind and body ready for healthy peak performance.

Studies show that strength and conditioning training in athletes reduces sports injuries by 33% and overuse injuries by nearly 50%. So, it is important to get started with some simple, comfortable exercises in order to get back into playing shape and stay healthy.

A great way to start preseason training is with individual sport-specific drills with an emphasis on conditioning. From here, the athlete can progress into sport-specific drills with a partner or opponent. Then, go ahead and ramp up the activity into team drills, scrimmaging, and finally, game play. You see this progression in professional and collegiate sports, as activity is gradually increased as the body is able to adapt to the increased culminating stress.

The best way to get a sport-specific program that meets the needs of an individual athlete is to see a professional who can create a program based on his/her unique strengths and weaknesses. So, if you’re looking for optimized programs after a long offseason or injury, look into performance training in Bethesda or Chevy Chase and get that dream season off to the right start!

Cheers to a great new season and be sure to have some fun!

An Essential Part of Athletic Physical Therapy: Strength Training for Runners

Many of the runners that we work with at CHP supplement their running with strength training. Strength training is a large component of athletic physical therapy and provides a host of benefits including, but not limited to; reduced injury risk, increased muscular endurance, and faster running times. Research shows that regular strength training improves a runner’s speed and VO2 max. VO2 max is a measure of the maximal amount of oxygen that a person can use during exercise.

However, there is one important caveat to all of these great benefits. A runner’s strength training program must be designed and executed appropriately, and according to the runner’s goals and individual characteristics.

Luckily, most runners have similar goals. They wish to run faster and/or farther, and avoid injury.

Strength training programs for runners should consist of exercises that improve qualities specific to running.

When running, there is never a time when both feet are touching the ground simultaneously. The arms and legs are constantly moving in opposite and alternating directions as the body transitions from one foot to the other.

Therefore, we commonly advocate for runners to include more single leg exercises into their training.

These exercises include, but are not limited to: lunges, single leg squats, split squats, and single leg RDLs (Romanian deadlifts). Simply adding one of these activities into each of your strength training sessions can have a large impact. Take a look at the videos below for examples of these activities.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aazACzyUR-Q

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KK05iugeIDE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjDtPek261c

Furthermore, runners should not neglect upper body training. Arm drive is an essential component of running and helps to drive leg action. An effective runner cannot have one without the other!

A thoughtful and more scientific approach to strength training, specifically designed for runners, may be all that is needed to drastically improve your running performance.