Denise Smith, Owner of Smith Physical Therapy and Running Academy: How Injury Prevention Helps Baby Boomers Move Better, Longer and Pain-Free

When you learn what you’re looking for, you can film yourself from there on out and say, “Oh, I was slipping back into that old habit.” “I do need to go back to some of those drills because I was going back to my old pattern.” Being able to recognize that is key to that.

Phil Faris: You give patients the ability to recognize in themselves and probably in others, movement patterns so that they can understand the cause and effect between movement and injury. Earlier, you mentioned over-striding. What are some of the implications if someone’s over-striding?

Denise: They’ll start getting things like IT band pain or knee pain, or plantar fasciitis, or Achilles tendonitis, or shin splits. Over-striding is this awful thing that for some reason when we see it in magazines, people think that’s normal but that’s the worst thing people can do in their running is over-striding. I think once you know that it is bad, you’re going to start seeing runners do it. Again, that perception of being able to recognize movement patterns, you’ll slowly start watching people as they run by you. Like, ‘Oh, that guy totally is over-striding,’ or whatever you’re starting to notice because you’ve seen it and now you can recognize it.

Phil Faris: Are there other common movement patterns that you see frequently that would apply to a Baby Boomer?

Denise: I see a lot of golfers with a lack of hip mobility. My husband is an avid golfer, and I’m just learning how to play but I can recognize when the body doesn’t move correctly. When I watch some of these people golf, and it is mostly Baby Boomers, they lack hip mobility. Your hips are your powerhouse, and so a lot of people try to over-swing because they’re trying to power through just using their upper body. This can be applied to any sport that involves a racket or a golf club, or something where you’re swinging or hitting.  The more momentum that you get through your hips, the more that power is going to translate through your extremities. Getting that power behind your hips, and getting your hips to move the right way, getting the joints to move, and getting the muscles to get the power behind them just helps set you up for success.

Phil Faris:  You mentioned a lot of skills and drills to improve a movement pattern to get people’s bodies to reprogram themselves. Can you give us some examples of the more common drills that people do and how it helps them to get better?

Denise: We talked about runners. A lot of that is just working on landing underneath your hips. We use simple things like jump-roping or skipping, or running backward. Because then you’re focusing on just landing and what it feels like to have that reduced impact through all your joints. If we’re going to talk about a sport like tennis or basketball, or golf, it’s retraining the hips and shoulders to help, instead of hindering you. A lot of times, we lock out our shoulders, especially with runners, too. We tend to lock our upper body out. You need to have your shoulders help you get the rest of your body moving. They act as like puppet strings. If I can get my shoulders to move, everything will go along with it, versus locking that down.

We do a lot of throwing a ball, but not being able to bend your elbows or throw with your wrists when you’re doing this drill. People should try to learn how to toss a ball only by pushing up through their shoulders; which is awkward to do the first time you do it, but you have an eight-pound medicine ball in your hand, and you must learn to shove that ball up into space only using your shoulders. Or, if you’re doing a little curb hop, where you’re hopping up and down on a two-inch curb. Not swinging your arms, necessarily, to get your body up, but learning how just to use your shoulders to shrug up and pull your body weight up. Using the big joints and the big muscles we must help us, versus always relying on these swinging motions to get the power.

Phil Faris:  Are these the types of exercises they should do only in your office or are they the types of things that they can do at home?

Denise: It’s mostly at home. Usually, people are only with me for 45 to 60 minutes. They get all their exercises and drills emailed to them in a PDF so that they can snapshot it and put it on their phone, and have it with them when they’re out. The key to this is practice, practice, practice.

It’s great when people are standing in front of me because they’re motivated, but I want to empower them to do this on their own because it’s hard. It is not easy to learn how to move differently. It takes effort. I mean it’s like any time you learn something new, you must practice at it. People don’t always want to do that work, but that’s the goal is that when they have the tools to succeed, then it’s up to them to just keep doing it outside of my clinic.

Phil Faris: Denise, every fitness, and health program has stumbling blocks or road blocks that people run into. What are some of the biggest obstacles your patient’s experience and how do you help them overcome them?

Denise: I think it’s easy to slip back into old habits. But to break a habit, you must create new ones. I think the obstacle that people experience is that it feels different, and it feels funny, so they just stop doing it because it’s not comfortable. We must be able to push ourselves out of our comfort zone a little bit sometimes to train our bodies to move better. I think it’s that feeling of frustration that will stop people. I know how I feel as I’m learning how to swing a golf club. It’s easy for me just to try to get back into some old swinging habits, but that’s why my ball slices every time to the right.

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Phil Faris

Phil Faris is a Best-Selling Author, business consultant, radio host for Never Too Late for Fitness Radio, and contributing writer for Business Innovators Magazine covering Influencers, Innovators, and Trendsetters in Business, Health, Fitness, and Leadership.