Our clinical practice and specialty services have a reputation for catering to athletes, especially runners, cyclists, triathletes and mountain sports. We continue to work hard to develop the expertise that earns us that strong reputation, but I’m always surprised, and a little dismayed, when someone says they are hesitant to work with us because they are not an athlete.
There are two issues here. First, before we can be good at dealing with “athletes,” we must first be good at dealing with non-athletes. Being able to manage sports injury and performance issues is an extension of the knowledge, experience and expertise of handling non-athlete issues. No matter what a client’s background is, we take into consideration their history, where they are now, and where they want to go. We don’t use the same prescription for our 65 year old gardener that we do for our 18 year old football player.
The second thing is about how we identify ourselves. I don’t compete much in anything anymore, as much as I’d like to (except occasionally on my bike commute), which is fine. There’s much more to my life than trying to dominate others in sport, although I do enjoy competition. But I try to behave like an athlete. I once read online somewhere (wish I could remember the source for proper credit) my favorite definition for Athlete: ” Anyone who has a body………and uses it.” Now that applies just about everybody, hopefully, right?
When I do injury prevention and performance seminars for different clubs and teams, I like to poll the audience. I ask everyone who is an athlete to raise their hand. Usually, maybe 30% raise their hand, even if they are training for their 10th marathon!
If we look at the physical tasks that people do that land them in physical therapy or in our performance services, there is quite a bit of correlation to athletic movement. Those tasks may not be done in competition, but they still warrant the right kind of biomechanical and physiological education and training.
Behave like an athlete, treat yourself like an athlete, because you and your body deserve it, and you deserve to be treated that way by others. That means that your goals are the most important, whether that entails being able to work in your garden without straining your back, or returning to a starting position in the NFL. That involves learning how to move correctly, how to practice, how to eat, how to recover, and how to develop the strength, endurance and flexibility to accomplish your goal.
Try this; Look in the mirror and repeat after me; “I am an athlete, I am an athlete, I AM AN ATHLETE!” Do this until you own it, and be proud.