Some doctors are initially scared of RU’s methods because, compared to traditional PT, it looks “relatively aggressive,” Sean says. But over time, skeptical doctors have gone from prescribing a laundry list of specific exercises to simply writing “evaluate and treat” after learning to trust the team’s expertise.
They continue to further their relationship with doctors by holding “edu-mixers,” where a physician comes to speak to the staff about a type of surgery or common diagnoses and the medical and surgical implications. The RU team will then share their thoughts on rehab protocols to give the doctors more confidence in their approach.
Although physical therapy was their first love, RU has grown its sports performance programs drastically since its inception. They hold sports-specific conditioning and injury prevention classes for practically every sport, including everything from baseball (B.M.A.C.: Baseball Mechanics and Condition) to skating (Skate Speed) to, of course, triathlon (Tri-Strength).
When designing programs such as Tri-Strength, the RU staff analyze the biomechanics of the sport and decide which movements they want to encourage (or discourage) and create exercises based on those techniques. While a baseball player might do kettlebell swings or shoulder presses from a neutral position, a triathlete will do those movements from a staggered running-like stance.
“We do everything in all three planes,” Robinson explains. “I’ll exaggerate a running stride—when you step forward, you think of your knee and hip bending [sagittal plane], but you don’t think of the rocking your hip does from side to side. There’s your frontal plane. Your torso and hips move opposite, so there’s your transverse plane. If your body actually moves in all three planes when you’re running, why wouldn’t you train it that way? Traditional strength training doesn’t capture the whole picture.”
There’s a tendency for triathletes to either 1) be scared to get sore from strength-training while in season or 2) prioritize swim-bike-run workouts when time is an issue. RU encourages year-round strength training to better adapt and improve strength, power and flexibility for all three sports. The therapists’ 3-D functional approach aims to prevent the common overuse injuries they see in the tri community (see sidebar for two great exercises you can do to prevent some of those injuries).