This staff treated me like they care that I do very well in my progress.
By KEVIN HELLIKER
Wall Street Journal
Athletes over 50 usually hire a physical therapist after a problem, often an injury if not surgery.
But more older people are starting to hire physical therapists before they get hurt to fill the role of personal trainer.
Before he began training for a marathon, 62-year-old veteran runner Joseph Goldberg consulted with a physical therapist about the shin splints that had developed whenever he'd run more than eight miles at a stretch. She diagnosed an imbalanced gait, ordered custom orthotics for him to wear in his shoes and prescribed exercises to strengthen his hips, a corrective proven to reduce leg-related ailments. "I finished the marathon without injury," says Mr. Goldberg, a Virginia attorney.
By fitness-training standards, physical therapists who specialize in sports medicine are extraordinarily highly educated in the science of preserving, restoring and improving human function. Most have master's degrees, and the profession is pushing its members to obtain doctorates as a matter of course by 2020.
But while physical therapists have become fixtures on the sidelines of professional and college sports, their health-preserving skills are little known among recreational athletes. "We're the best-kept secret in sports medicine," says James Glinn, a physical therapist who runs a set of clinics called Movement for Life, based in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Word is getting out, as Jane Esparza can attest. The owner of a speakers bureau, Ms. Esparza encountered intensifying levels of knee pain as she entered her 50s. Her doctor told her that losing weight and getting fit would help.
But the trainers she interviewed paid less attention to her knee pain than to her excess weight. All of them, she says in an email, responded with some variation of "We'll whip you into shape.
Then she learned about a fitness clinic near her Virginia home called Body Dynamics, run by Jennifer Gamboa, who holds a doctorate in physical therapy. Following a thorough study of Ms. Esparza's needs and limitations, a Body Dynamics physical therapist worked one-on-one with her for eight weeks, leading her through exercise routines that improved fitness and built confidence without straining her knees. Then she was handed over to a Body Dynamics personal trainer, who continued the regimen that the physical therapist had crafted, with an easy-does-it emphasis.
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