Physical therapy + personal trainer = ??
January 12, 2017 9:17 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to see a physical therapist for a minor injury. I'm also interested in hiring a personal trainer to help me avoid future injury. What's the best way to go about this?

I have a minor but annoying pain in my left knee that's been keeping me from working out regularly. I can still run some, but I can't squat as deeply as I normally can. The orthopedist says it's likely an overuse injury and that I'm free to do any activity that doesn't hurt, and referred me to physical therapy. My first appointment's in a couple weeks; I am not sure yet whether it will be a regular thing, but it seems likely. I've been in physical therapy before, for an ankle injury, and have a pretty good idea of what to expect.

In addition to physical therapy, I'm considering seeing a personal trainer. My main goal in doing so is to develop a workout routine that helps me avoid future injury. If I fit into my jeans better or shave a few seconds off my mile time, that's gravy, but I don't really want to CHANGE MY LIFE!! and REALIZE MY FULL POTENTIAL!! - I just want to run around without messing up my joints. I've never seen a personal trainer and don't know what to expect. (And, as a shy awkward person who was always picked last in gym class, I'm slightly worried that a trainer would just make me feel embarrassed and clumsy. I know that's a "good trainers won't do that" kind of thing, but you know what I mean.)

I'm assuming my physical therapist and personal trainer won't be talking to each other. I would imagine that their advice/exercises would be compatible enough that I can fit both in, but I wouldn't be surprised if they gave conflicting advice.

Would seeing a personal trainer while going through PT be a dumb move? Or is it fine and normal? Or is it a case-by-case thing, and I should find out what my physical therapist recommends? (I didn't think wait, maybe I should hold off until my knee's better until halfway through writing this question, so thanks already, AskMe.)

And do you have any advice for finding a trainer who's experienced with working with injuries (and is otherwise compatible with my modest goals)? Is there some sort of certification I should look for? Any questions I should ask?

Thanks as always!
posted by Metroid Baby to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've looked into this a bit as I also have recurring knee and ankle injuries. My sister is training to become some kind of personal trainer and something I've learned is that basically, personal trainers are unregulated and could be anyone. They aren't necessarily trained in health and injuries and that kind of stuff. So, you'll want to be careful. My advice is to ask your physical therapist once you start going there and see what they suggest once they evaluate you. My sister basically told me to be extremely careful since picking a random personal trainer could make my injuries worse since they aren't doctors. My physical therapists in the past have been pretty helpful with stuff like this.
posted by FireFountain at 9:33 AM on January 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Ask your PT for a recommendation of a PT.


Ask your physical therapist for a recommendation of a personal trainer. And don't be afraid to ask the former for a different recommendation if, for any reason whatsoever, the latter isn't working out well for you.
posted by Etrigan at 9:44 AM on January 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think the only way to do that is to look for a personal trainer who also has a background/day job as a physio therapist/etc. Note, that you're more likely to find this combination by looking for a running coach than a personal trainer. From some blog reading, it seems it's not fully uncommon for a physio or chriopractor to do some personal coaching on the side, and the guy who runs my local running group offers various private coaching options. He's a chiropractor who runs his own practice.

Essentially look for a physio who also is a personal trainer/coach. Potentially you could call up various offices convenient to you and ask the front desk if they have anyone who does both. It's possibly worth changing your physio appointment to this person, or you might want to keep two heads for two opinions.
posted by nobeagle at 9:47 AM on January 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

Your physical therapist can recommend specific exercises you can do without equipment on your own or with a trainer. Some of them might seem ridiculously simple. I've been able to reduce pain in one bad knee by standing on one (and then the other) foot for one minute per day, and by sitting in a chair and firing-then-releasing my quads. The more you can strengthen your legs, butt, and abs, the better your knee(s) will fare. There are commonly-known knee-relief exercises that are really hard/painful to do...but physical therapists know about the exercises that are effective without being torture.
posted by wryly at 10:04 AM on January 12, 2017

A trainer will ask what your goals are, and obviously you should tell them what you wrote above, but also tell them what you are NOT looking for (e.g. to lose weight, enter bodybuilding competitions, etc.). From my conversations with my trainer, most people are there to lose weight, and that's why the trainers get all CHANGE UR LIFE!!! I was there for one reason and one reason only, and he was happy to work with me to achieve that goal.

I met with two that were within walking distance of my house, and who had independent gyms. If you don't get a specific recommendation from your PT or a friend then I'd start with gyms that are very convenient to you so you have one less excuse for avoiding it.
posted by AFABulous at 10:21 AM on January 12, 2017

These are all useful answers - thank you! (I'll be checking back up on this thread in case anyone has anything else to add.) I'll be talking with my PT when we have our first meeting.

A running coach might be a good alternative to a trainer for me, since running's probably what gave me knee trouble and I really want to continue running regularly.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:45 AM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a couple of questions! But first:

- be super wary of personal trainers, as mentioned above. Given my somewhat extensive experience with them (over the years I've had...oh god. I think I've literally lost count? But only one of them was any good), I would honestly say you're better off seeing various PT people (or whoever) and then doing a shit ton of research

- overuse is super super vague! When I've been told I had an overuse injury, the underlying causes have usually not just been overuse -- it's been overuse while something was misaligned, or a giant knot over here was pulling on a thing over there and causing friction with that other thing, etc etc.

- and because of all that, body stuff is really weird and very specific and, to be frank, IME sometimes ends up being more art than science. Like yeah I had the surgeon shoot my elbow full of cortisol and that helped for a while, but it turned out what I really needed to do was work on my twisted up shoulder / pec / lat situation. This by way of saying that if you want someone to just tell you what to do, it's probably not gonna work, because your body is your own -- you've got to invest a little bit in figuring out how you work.

- how old are you?

I would encourage you to sort of explore various right spots, maybe using something like the Trigger Point Manual and a foam roller / lax ball / tennis ball to figure out what the state of your body is. (For reference: I had a persistent knee thing that went away when I figured out I needed to roll out my hips, quads, and my IT band (gently!) fairly regularly)

Ok that got super disorganized but I'm on mobile -- hope this helps!
posted by schadenfrau at 10:45 AM on January 12, 2017

My physical therapist has personal trainers who work for her. The physical therapy practice is focused on sports rehab. There's a big central floor with training equipment and it's surrounded by the private treatment rooms and offices. I pay $25 per hour to see the personal trainer, who can always consult with the therapist about my training program if needed. I've done this off and on for a couple of years and it's been very successful for me.
posted by HotToddy at 11:16 AM on January 12, 2017

Avoid personal trainers who sell supplements. You can tell if they do by looking at their Facebook page or website. They will be really annoying.
posted by AFABulous at 11:34 AM on January 12, 2017

My most recent trainer was a physiotherapist who did some training on the side. His passion/goal is to do physiotherapy for athletes and sports teams which is why he did the personal training sessions. I was referred to him when my then current trainer was changing jobs so it was more a matter of luck getting him than anything else.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:47 AM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm going to see a physical therapist for a minor injury. I'm also interested in hiring a personal trainer to help me avoid future injury. What's the best way to go about this?

1) get exercises required for healing from physical therapist
2) do exercises received from physical therapist
3) hire a physical trainer if you want to buff up, while being mindful of your body telling you that your existing injury / biomechanical inbalance might be getting triggered.

Basically, yes you can use a physical trainer, but as others have said they are not your physical therapist, so think of it like "my doc says I have asthma, how do I get my coach to work on my asthma" -- the simplest route is to learn about what to do to improve your asthma and then be mindful of that while working for a coach on your fitness goals.

If you want therapy and training integrated then get a trainer referral.from your therapist.
posted by zippy at 11:59 AM on January 12, 2017

Look for a well-regarded sports medicine clinic in your area that has the range of specialists you're looking for. I've gone to this place in Toronto, where I got a full-body assessment and workout plan provided by a personal trainer who had access to my history of care at the clinic.

While personal trainers everywhere are happiest if they can get you to come in and work with them on a regular basis, you can also tell them up front that you're looking for a program that you can work on independently for a while, and you can plan to check in at appropriate intervals if required. My first session with the trainer at my clinic yielded a detailed breakdown of where I was weakest and most inflexible, with a copy of the results emailed to me. My second session was spent working with him to find the right set of exercises that would address my issues and that I felt comfortable doing.

Good luck!
posted by maudlin at 2:00 PM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

It may be helpful to check your library for a book such as Delavier's Women's Strength Training Anatomy or DeStefano's Muscle Medicine if you don't already understand the anatomy of muscles around the knee joint or want a deeper understanding of what the PT is telling you. The men's version of Delavier's book has helped me both with understanding a couple injuries, and with coming up with strength training workouts that in theory will help me avoid injuries in the future.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:37 AM on January 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

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