Being a great athlete takes a village. Depending on your training regime, you’re toeing a fine line between being at your peak and getting injured. Having experts in your corner — even before you have a problem — can help you run faster, stronger and better. We chatted with a few of these professionals to find out when you should seek them, and what they need to know to maximize a session.
COACH OR TRAINER
What they do: If you’ve plateaued in your running or need a kick in the pants to get motivated, a coach can be a huge help. Whether you’re consulting with one to get a custom training plan, doing a phone consult or hiring a coach for daily communication and scheduling, working with someone who can look at your running objectively can provide a major boost.
What they wish you knew: A good coach prefers having a realistic starting point. If your idea of a long run is 2 miles, admit it; if you’re embellishing, they’ll find out soon enough. For extra credit, use an app like MapMyRun before your meeting to give your coach a sense of your training. (For more extra credit: use MyFitnessPal to log your food intake to give a coach the full picture of your fueling and exercise.)
What they do: It’s not just about back pain, though that’s certainly a big part of what a chiropractor treats. Most muscular issues and imbalances can fall into the sphere of chiropractic care. When you’re putting in major miles, imbalances can happen, and the sooner you seek care and establish a treatment plan, the fewer problems and less pain you’ll have in the future.
What they wish you knew: You need to be comfortable for it to work. Philadelphia-based chiropractor Barry Wehner says, “What I tell a person on their first visit to my office is: ‘The goal of today’s visit is for me to figure out what is going wrong and determine if I can help you with it and for you to decide if you are comfortable with my approach.’ When working with a chiropractor it is best to work as a team; to trust each other, be honest and follow through on the plan.” Like all experts, he prefers honesty to fudging the facts. “Discuss what happened, what is going on now and what you want. And if you don’t do the home therapy I recommend, tell me. I won’t be mad.”
What they do: If you’re stuck at a weight that won’t budge, but you’re putting in the work on your runs, it might be time to look at what’s fueling those runs. A nutritionist, like a coach, provides an objective outlook on your diet. What you think is healthy might be missing something major in terms of portion size or macronutrient ratio.
What they wish you knew: If you’re an athlete, you should make that clear when setting up the appointment and, if you’re focusing on improving performance, seek someone with a sports-specific nutrition practice. A good nutritionist will appreciate your using an app like MyFitnessPal before your appointment — logging food as honestly as possible — so when she or he asks about your daily diet habits, you’re not guessing at what you eat and drink.
READ MORE > THE 411 ON ‘HEALTH PROS’ AND HOW THEY CAN HELP
What they do: A massage from a professional helps soothe stiff, sore muscles and also relaxes you. In conjunction with stretching, foam rolling and mobility work, a regular massage keeps you more limber and less sore.
What they wish you knew: Give the massage therapist as much health-related background as you can. “When I see a client for the first time, I schedule a 75-minute session so that we have at least 15 minutes before the hands-on part starts for the client to fill out and sign a health history intake form and then we go over it together,” says massage therapist Maureen Bruno Roy. “I always ask if there are dislikes or preferences, skin allergies, fears or anxieties; and then walk them through what to expect. I also give my clients verbal permission to speak up if the pressure is too deep or not deep enough or if anything becomes uncomfortable for them in any way: it is their session, not mine and I often hear of people ‘putting up’ with work they are not comfortable with for some reason.”
What they do: Any nagging, chronic or acute injury might require a visit to a physical therapist. Most likely, you’ll only head to one if it’s recommended by a doctor, but plenty of people seek a PT instead of a personal trainer at the gym, since a PT is more likely to tailor a program to your needs as a runner, versus your needs as someone doing a strength workout.
What they wish you knew: British Columbia-based physical therapist Amanda Sin says it can help if you look for a PT who has a similar sporting background. While it’s not necessary, it can be nice to deal with a PT who understands your urge to get that sub-20 5K. As a runner herself, Sin says, “I can also understand the urgency to get back to it, and how an injury can affect the patient mentally.” When it comes to communication, Sin says her biggest pet peeve — and the most dangerous — is clients who feel the need to fudge the facts. “Lying about what they’re actually doing is the worst thing. It’s really hard to make an effective plan for someone, if you don’t have all the important information. For example, how much they’re actually running, resting, working and doing their other exercises.” So again, honesty will always be the best policy!