Practice What You Preach: Modeling a Lifestyle of Movement

Name: Tara Dirocco, Class of 2021

Undergraduate: UC Berkeley

Hometown: Santa Barbara, CA

Do you find yourself needing PT from being in PT school?

Is this the most you’ve sat still in a long time?

These questions consumed me on my first week of PT school. I could not handle (or believe!) all of the sitting, after being a PT aide at an aquatic center where I spent the past year moving around all day in a pool.

Feeling the ironies of my situation, knowing that a sedentary lifestyle is the reason many patients will come to see me in the future, I decided to make my PT school experience a challenge.

How much could I move in a sedentary environment?

How could I remain physical?

How could I find my own therapy, all day long?

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Standing desk set up with computer/books at eye level

With some help from biomechanist and movement advocate Katy Bowman, I hit the drawing board.

Katy Bowman notoriously says, “Don’t just sit there, but don’t just stand there either.” Stagnancy is the problem— not sitting, not standing. A lack of movement is the root of many health ailments. We sit all day, move intensely for an hour, and expect our tissues to be compliant. Poor tissues.

Movement is linked with increased productivity and just about every health benefit…so as movement experts, why isn’t movement woven into the very fabric of our learning regimen? Why aren’t we innovating every day to find new ways to help those in stagnant jobs improve their situation? Why aren’t we modeling the way?

We have a duty as physical therapists to model the way out of stagnancy and into an embodied society. Can we practice as we preach? Can we create new movement positive environments together?

We can move all day long. I dare you.

Here are my tips to all the students and human beings out there.

In class:

  1. Sit in different ways.
  2. Take your shoes off.
  3. Roll out your ankles.
  4. Stand up and take notes while standing.
  5. Do calf raises. Do calf stretches.
  6. Do squats— mini ones if you’re embarrassed.
  7. Go on a walk or climb some stairs whenever you have a break.
  8. Roll out your wrists. Stretch your wrists against the wall.
  9. Switch how you are sitting again.
  10. Cross your ankles. Uncross your ankles.
  11. Sit in a figure 4 stretch.
  12. Sit on the edge of your seat.
  13. Sit on your feet.
  14. Practice diaphragmatic breathing.

When studying:

  1. Stand! Make a fun standing desk set up out of your many textbooks.
  2. Make your computer at eye level.
  3. Lay on your belly for a while.
  4. Lay on your back and study for a while.
  5. Lay with your legs up the wall and study for a while.
  6. Lay in a hip flexor stretch and study.
  7. Perform hamstring strengthening exercises while lying on your belly.
  8. Switch the position of your legs often.
  9. Switch the arm you’re leaning on… in fact maybe don’t lean on any arm!
  10. Take movement rewards every 30 minutes.

(Please note: if you have any recent injuries, conditions, or limitations, consult with your healthcare provider team before attempting these positions, especially for a prolonged period of time)

-Tara Dirocco, 1st year student

 

How I Lost the Most Valuable Ligament

Name: Erin Lemberger, Class of 2020

Undergrad: University of Northern Colorado

Hometown: Littleton, CO

Fun Fact: A one humped camel is called a Dromedary and a two humped camel is called a Bactrian.

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Let me just tell you about my first semester of PT school. I’ll start off by saying that PT school is a lot of work, so of course, the first semester was stressful. But regardless, there are 80 of your closest friends that make studying, adventuring, and everything that happens in between a whole lot easier. I started the semester by buying a season pass to ski all winter long and to use as a major de-stressor when school became difficult. I have been skiing since I was a little tike, so what could go wrong? I had never been hurt skiing nor seriously injured so it couldn’t possibly happen now. Here’s my advice, kids. When the mountain does not have enough snow to open up more than one run, there’s not enough snow. Just trust me.

 

So here’s how it went. I go to Arapahoe Basin (lovingly known as A Basin) with my now boyfriend, Preston, and we’re having a great time just enjoying the weather and the snow. We ski about three runs before the resort is flooded with people also trying to ski the one run that is open. We spend about 20 minutes waiting to get on the lift that will take us to the top, so the decision to get to the top, ski all the way down, and head on home is smart. I’m happily skiing along trying to keep up with Preston, but when I get to about 50 feet from the bottom, realize I’m going a little too fast. Preston is down at the bottom and I go to stop and my ski catches a patch of ice (remember the not enough snow comment?) that takes me out. I flip over backwards and roll hard, and although the details of that fall are fuzzy, I’m sure now it was a classic plant and twist. My skis don’t pop off and my right knee is screaming in pain; I can’t stand on it, so I get my first toboggan ride down the mountain to meet Preston.

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About 20 minutes before I fell. The view is pretty right?

I’m going to start this part of the story with the advice that I would not recommend getting hurt in PT school, but I want to brag about our professors for a little bit. I think I was in denial that I ruptured my ACL, so I went to Dr. Tom McPoil and asked him to check out the knee. Tom tapes me every morning for about 2 weeks while we are trying to get MRIs and doctors appointments scheduled; he was a saint. After a few days of taping, he decides Dr. Mark Reinking should check out my knee too, thus getting two amazing faculty giving me advice. You probably know what happens next: I have surgery to reconstruct my ACL with a semitendinosus/gracilis autograft (they took my hamstrings to make a new ACL). I was thankful I could do surgery over winter break. Over the month that we had off, I got time to recover and relax instead of worrying about school. I started PT off campus and then switched to seeing a PT in our faculty once the new semester got closer. Our faculty are incredible, understanding, kind, teaching, inspiring humans who are the reason I am fairly active for 5 months post-op. My PT, Nancy, is one of the many reasons I am certain that I want to go into this profession because she makes me laugh when PT for an ACL reconstruction is painful. Although I would not recommend tearing your ACL, I have gotten more perspective than I could have imagined from the process.

 

Okay, now go back. I tore my ACL. It was an absolute pain (in the knee) 90% of the time. It was hard watching my friends all ski while I was stuck at the lodge, it’s terrible that I still have pain running even though it’s normal, and I have a huge mental block doing most physical activity now, which is hard. Here’s my advice: Take care of yourself. Have fun, but within healthy limits for yourself. I recommend you also know that life simply happen. Having a positive outlook has made a huge difference for me. Sometimes you just have to see the brighter side. That all being said, I am here, I am passing, and I am chugging along just fine in PT school. So, if you do injure yourself while in school, remember that it is all doable. That’s a promise!

Here’s some other friends that are going through injuries in PT school and some advice they have for dealing with it:

Ryan Pineda, Class of 2020: Lisfranc fracture, surgery completed, in PT currently

“Find a good Netflix show to break up the studying and try not to think about

how much fun your friends are having. Also make sure to buy pass insurance for

your ski pass.”

 

Gabe Lawrence, Class of 2020: meniscal tear, surgery happening this week!

“Make sure to stay active and find something to take your mind off the injury

while you’re rehabbing. It’s easy to be lazy when you have an excuse. Just

because you‘re down a limb doesn’t mean you can’t use the other three.”

 

Jake Berndl, Class of 2020: bilateral inguinal hernia, surgery completed, progressing back to normal physical activity

“Don’t sustain a more serious injury like the above three. Put a positive spin

on your down time – catch up on studying while your classmates are out

having fun instead of studying. This way, when tests or finals roll up, you’re

prepared. Also, don’t forget to ask your surgeon the important questions…”