Friday, October 19, 2012

my first trip to physical therapy + my strength training workouts

a few weeks ago, i posted about my dumb butt syndrome. this week, i started physical therapy to try and get my butt muscles into better shape. in addition to physical therapy, i have had my trainer include more glute/hamstring strength exercises into my weekly training session, and it has left me crazy sore. but physical therapy will help target and isolate muscles through massage (tough life, right?) and lots of small strength exercises. now my weekly schedule is loaded with strength building love - two sessions of pt a week, and one personal training session - holy muscles, batman! :)

in all seriousness, my first appointment tuesday was a consultation and a demonstration of a few at home exercises i can do. the consultation affirmed what the doctor's script said and the physical therapist did additional assessments to figure out how physical therapy could help me. we discovered a few things during the consultation: 1) yes, indeed the butt muscles on my right are significantly weaker than on my left 2) my sacrum is slightly twisted to the left, taking with it some of my lower vertabrae and 3) my right leg is slightly shorter than the other. #1 and #3 were of no surprise to me - i know about my weak butt from my doctor's appointment, and i had hypothesized that my right leg was shorter from all the broken bone incidents i've had on that leg. the twisted sacrum was a little surprising, and while it's nothing to worry about in the moment, the tension from twisting to the left could also explain some of the low back/hip pain i've been having. all these little things add up, i tell ya!

i learned a few at home exercises, some strength training and some stretching to loosen up my hip flexors. i also got to take home a shiny new resistance band (you're all jealous) to assist in strengthening my butt, but i'm going to use it to strengthen my ankles for running, too. bonus!

my new resistance band & guide book for at home exercises

i wanted to share a few of the moves i've been doing in strength training and in physical therapy, to showcase the types of things that can help glute/hamstring strength. i want to give a disclaimer that you shouldn't follow any of my specific workout instructions without consulting a doctor or someone with a degree - i don't know what i'm doing, i only do what i pay professionals to tell me to do. so this is just my explanation in written form, not an instruction booklet for any reader that may want to get into more strength training or try and bulk up specific muscles. that being said...

strength training:

my workout consists of building strength throughout my legs, so i do walking lunges with weights, calf raises with weights and then the following that really make my legs shaky and weak.

first is a super-set, or no rest in between workouts. i'll do a sled press at a low weight (105 pounds is my current), at high reps - so 15-20 reps. then i immediately get off the sled press and go into RDLs with two 15 pound barbells, and do 12-15 reps. RDLs (romanian dead lifts) are not fun, and the technique has been hard for me to perfect, but i've found that if i focus on sticking my butt out as far as i possibly can (and not try to lower the upper half of my body down), i get the form pretty well. you'll feel a nice stretch burn all the way down your hamstrings with these!

i also do manual resistance leg curls. these are my least favorite to do with my trainer, 1) they're harder than normal leg curls because the trainer will make the resistance harder and harder depending on how much they want to torture push you and 2) i don't like laying on the gym bench with my butt in the air for everyone to see. don't ask me why, it's a weird phobia. i do two sets of 10 and i'm done with these. they're exhausting.

the last strength training exercise i want to share (which i also despise) is reverse prone hypers. its an incredible technical sounding move for strengthening the lower back and glutes. there are a lot of variations out there - you can do this on a stability ball, or lying flat on the floor or with weights (only the insane people do this), but i stick to a typical gym bench and go from there. the idea is to lay on your stomach, slide down the bench so that your hip bone is at the edge of the bench, and then lift your legs as high as you can go and then lower. repeat process and you're doing these lovely little extension exercises. i do 12-15 reps, up to three sets.

important to note, again, that my exercises are designed by my trainer and also have designated periods of timed rest in between. so please don't go all out and hard in the gym and then hurt yourself and blame me. ask a professional for advice on what would work best for you! :)

physical therapy:

so, i only have a few at home workouts and stretches to do thus far in my rehab, so this part should be relatively short compared to my last novel about strength training.

with the resistance band, i have been doing a series of walking moves to target my butt muscles. the first is a side step, with the resistance band around your ankles and you walk sideways (just as it sounds). i was told to make sure i was pushing off with the leg that wasn't leading, to make sure all muscles were feeling the burn. the two other exercises with the band were forward and backward "c" walks. i like to think more of them as gliding, or skating, because it was easier for me to understand the motion. with the resistance band still around your ankles, walk forward, making sure you meet the foot that's ahead of you before sweeping to the front. if you can picture it, you're moving your foot in a c motion, starting in its original place, swooping to meet the other foot (the arc of the c) and then going to the right (or left) to step down (the top of the c). these are all very effective as i was feeling sore for two days after - a good sore, though!

i also have a series of stretches to work on my hip flexors and my lower back. the more i'm learning about hip flexors, the more i realize how much having a desk job impacts your body's ability to perform (running, walking, stairs, etc). the hip flexors can affect pain you may have in your knees, feet, back - all sorts of places because they help move your legs up and down and they support your spine. who knew these little muscles were so important? i certainly didn't! i've been working on the hip flexor stretch, which is pretty common in warming up, cooling down for working out and running. however, my physical therapist told me a few things that i wasn't aware i needed to do when doing this stretch. the first thing is setting myself up correctly; if i'm kneeling on my right knee, that foot should be angled out to the right, my tailbone tucked in and my abs in tight. secondly, as i'm going into the stretch, i should be squeezing my right butt muscles as best as i can. i had no idea there were so many components to this stretch, and i had a hard time remembering everything i needed to do, but when i finally got all the pieces together, i found that i felt a much better stretch than i did from the way i was trying to do them before.

the final stretch i want to share is called a standing quadratus lumborum stretch - yup, that's the real name of it, i tell no lie. this is a muscle in the lower back and assists in side bending with your spine, back bending, etc. this is also another muscle that can exhibit pain from the side effects of all day desk sitting - my job is killing my body! (okay, moment of drama over... for now) this video is really thorough about this muscle, by the way. good educational stuff. the stretch i worked on at physical therapy starts by holding onto some type of stable surface, like the edge of a kitchen counter, or a dance bar if you have one available. you then tuck your hips under, round your back and gently lean backwards. you can also do this on each side, by leaning to each side. i had a hard time finding my stretch-mojo with this one, but was able to feel a slight pull in my sides when i focused on each side individually.

and there you have it. my unnecessarily long blog post about my physical therapy and strength training exercises. the road to healing is going to be a long one, but i'm doing the right things now that will help me be in great position later on when i really want to focus on running and training for bigger goals. may all your experiences in rehab be bountiful (and educational), too! :)

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