Feb 15, 2022
When I used to do personal training in a gym, it wasn’t long after a few clients reported their results that I became the go to for any pain issue. If a potential client or new client mentioned anything regarding “My shoulder hurts” “I had a surgery but still struggle” “Sciatica,” “My low back always hurts so I can’t jump and need to take it easy,” or “I probably need knee surgery” the answer was “You want to see Stephanie!” Training people for weight loss or performance and strength gains became a small fraction of my clientele.
As the complexity of my clients problems increased so did my education and number of certifications. I extended my openings to keep up with new clients and I got really good at a few things really fast.
Every time I went to a seminar, class or conference I always had a few “superclients” (like superfans) ready and excited to try any new thing I learned. Client progress kept getting better and faster. I had to turn away clients with goals of building strength and losing weight because I worked with some other top notch trainers that could help with that just as effectively. Only if they requested a female at a specific time only I was available to came in with the specific refferal or request to see me did I get to train them. I was the Corrective Exercise Specialist and the go to for any movement pain and problem.
At first, it was exhausting. It takes time and practice to get good at something (ever heard of the 10,000 hour rule?). It challenged my brain and forced me to think through situations, which made what I learned stick better.
It also taught be firsthand the value of asking questions. This was actually the number one trick to speedy progress! Who knew?
Now, it couldn’t be just any questions. And it especially couldn’t be yes/no questions. Those weren’t helpful after an initial narrowing down.
The 1-10 scale is really useful. I’ve even learned where words fall into the number line once I get to know you! For example, my client Danny, has been working with me for six years. He’s lost over 130lbs and can do things in the last few years that he wasn’t able to previously. His knees, which have arthritis, feel better and even on those days when the weather changes, it’s really rainy or cold, they don’t bother him nearly as much and he ride his bike to get them moving and carry on with his day. However, he runs an auto refinishing shop and works long, hard days on his feet. With all the ability to move and challenge himself in new ways occassionally comes an “ouchie” here and there. When I ask him to rate it on a scale of 1-10, sometimes the response is “ow.” Well, I happen to know that puts it at about a 7 for him, but he doesn’t want to say that number (admit that it’s that bad). Don’t worry, he never leaves an appointment like that. I also know that if he says “good, ” it means maybe a 1-2 if he is focused on thinking about it and not giving it the attention means there’s nothing to notice.
I hope he’s smiling right now, laughing to himself because I know he reads this. He always tells me what he learned every week. I’ve opened the ability to make comments so if I’m incorrect you’ll know!
Now, how do we get Danny from “ow” to “good?”
Let’s say the “ow” came from a squat. “Where did you feel it?” “Was it on the way down or the way up?” I’ve already noted his body position during the movement, whether his feet were straight ahead or pointing outward, whether he was overpronating, leaning way forward, etc. From there it goes to “What happens if we….? Tell me 1-10.” Insert one change to his body position. His response there gives me more information about where the problem is coming from as joint angles and force distribution have changed. Changing the foot position from toes pointing outward to straight forward changes the demand on anke mobility. This directly relates to work at the hips. I continue asking questions in this manner “What happens if we….? Tell me 1-10.” to narrow down which mucles are being affected, whether it occurs as they contract or lengthen, what they should be doing at that time and which muscle actions are worse/better. I combine this with knowledge of his personal history, pain referral patterns, length/tension relationships and muscle imbalances to determine which muscle to target first and whether to roll it, stretch it, or isolate it.
After that (is resolved), we talk about his daily tasks at work and where he should be most mindful when he will be in that position again. (Oh the talks about his shoulder and reaching so far across a hood to paint with a heavy object!)
Sometimes, there is no reason to believe that any specific muscle work is the most beneficial thing. We have eliminated pain with a focused breathing exercise. How? I noticed a trend that whenever he had multiple acute stressors it showed up physically. He, over time, became more aware of this on his own and is able to calm down and refocus himself.
And now, he is pretty darn good at knowing what to do and when to do it, icluding breathing and rest. Most of the time the story starts with, “___ was giving me a bit of trouble at the end of the day, so I ____ and ____ and then it was good.”
He didn’t learn this overnight. He didn’t get good at knowing what to do and remembering everything we did that day overnight. But by answering the questions, even when it was hard to find words to describe the pain or problem and staying consistent with following his program, he learned. He gets minor aches and pains that resolve pretty quickly-even with his Type II Diabetes, which can slow the healing and recovery process. Sure he’s still a young 57 years old but he has no plans of retiring. Why should he? He loves his work and is booked weeks in advance with customers who won’t go anywhere else!
You can find him at Carmel Auto Refinishing (carmelautorefinishing.com) if you are in the Indianapolis area.
He sure makes me proud and definitely honored to be his trainer and coach. He’s not the only amazing person I’ve been able to help and get to work with but he is a huge reason I can confidently say that yes, the pain can go away and stay away if you get the right strategy.
Today, you can reply directly to this email or you can contact me directly at [email protected] to ask questions and/or share your story.
I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time,
Move better to feel better! Each week we look at more clues and go on a mission to solve the mystery of how to move better one step at a time.
By Stephanie Braden