Updated: May 7
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A "one size fits all" or singular modality only approach to helping clients overcome the complexity of chronic pain relief is a limited and restricted view of how to best help solve the problem. And because of that, it is really difficult for me to create a "job title" or elevator-pitch explanation of what I do as a personal trainer here at PainFree Posture MN.
I've mulled over this blog post for quite some time. Often I'm at a loss for words to adequately explain my job role and how I work with clients daily.
It's tough to come up with a specific job title.
I have years of experience and an extensive skill set in personal training and chronic muscle and pain relief. Along with my two degrees from the University of Manitoba, I have multiple certifications in therapeutic corrective exercise training. [See About Deb]
How I teach and work with clients doesn't always fit neatly into a clearly defined title such as "pilates instructor," "personal trainer," or "posture alignment specialist." While I do teach all of those things as singular modalities, if I label myself as such, it keeps me in a tiny niche, and I do so much more than that!
I am not a physical therapist, although I've been told many times I perform just like one. I also provide nutrition coaching and private Pilates and personal training. I use terms like biomechanics and correcting motor patterns, and isolating root causes connections to resulting in repetitive stress/pain, which better describes what I teach and do. But here's the truth.
In addition to providing corrective exercise for chronic muscle and joint pain relief, I also work with children and athletes with dysfunctional movement patterns and help them correct them so they can perform better in their sports. I help people avoid cortisone shots, joint replacement surgery, pelvic floor disruption, spine impingements and misalignments, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and more.
When asked what my job is, most often, I say I am a Corrective Exercise and Posture Alignment Specialist and also provide nutrition coaching and private Pilates and personal training. I use terms like biomechanics and correcting motor patterns, and isolating root causes connections to resulting in repetitive stress/pain, which better describes what I teach and do. But here's the truth. I get lots of blank stares.
Sometimes I just say, "I help people get out of chronic muscle and joint pain," but that also limits me since I do so much more than that!
If I sense the answer doesn't register, I just say, "I'm a fixer," or "I can see people from the inside out"! (Okay, I can't but I have a very keen eye for dysfunctional movement patterns).
I see some glimmers of understanding when I expand the conversation a bit further.
For example, you might have chronic low back pain, and are always treating the site of the problem. My job is to identify the underlying "root-cause" contributing to the cyclical pain problem. Perhaps you have an immobile/overly mobile ankle(s), which causes your foot to overpronate and over plantarflex? Now your femur has to rotate internally, and it causes the hip joint to anterior tilt with rotation and or elevation. So do you have back pain because of a bad back? Or is it because of imbalanced muscle length-tension and dysfunctional joint positioning in the hips, knees, or ankles? Ah!
Maybe you never thought of that? And I would agree. That is what I do!
Using corrective exercise, I help people get out of chronic pain and heal in a way that is different than the regular medical community teaches typically, then.
What I Do
The best description of what I do for a living is to help my clients
In my opinion and experience, I believe that a great instructor should choose the best tool for the job. Sometimes, a singular modality is a right tool, and it works. That's cool. But more often than not, the best tool for the job requires a hybrid approach.
Identify contributing root cause issues in their posture and function
Create corrective exercise training plans to help eliminate chronic muscle and joint pain
Improve posture and function
Maximize performance in activities of daily living and athletics through correcting movement patterns, stabilization, and mobilization of joint and muscle groups
I create customized programs to help people accomplish their goals. Most of my clients have movement restrictions, repetitive or chronic muscle, and joint pain. But others have special needs like Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia, Osteopenia/Osteoporosis, Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity, Breast (and other) Cancers, Scoliosis, or are recovering from a severe injury, surgery or are post-physical therapy just to name a few.
Every single modality I've studied and certified in has a proven track record helping people accomplish all three of the goals listed above. That's precisely why I chose to research and confirm in them.
I'm happy to be able to offer a variety of complementary therapy services to my clientele. I have many clients who come in wanting to do just one of these particular modalities as part of their training. Each works well if the client wants to improve posture and physical fitness and not currently in chronic muscle and joint pain.
However, once the chronic pain cycle is triggered, single or specific modalities don't always work for every client.
I've been privileged to have worked with people with severe physical movement challenges over the years and pleased to say there have been many successful outcomes. However, in each of these chronic muscle and joint pain cases, I'd be the first to tell you that some were successful using unique modalities like the Egoscue Method or Pilates. Still, most accomplished their goals with a hybrid approach.
Having trained people now for 30 years, I can tell you that my teaching philosophy has changed with time. And thank goodness for that! I've learned that although the science of movement analysis plays a significant role in the healing and goal accomplishment process, the reality is there are a mind and spirit connection. If you don't acknowledge the person as a whole, then in my experience, your best efforts and analysis will not meet the entire needs of the client.
Without treating the whole person, is the precise reason why not every specific singular modality works for every client, and why there's so much conflicting information out there on the market. I mean just Google the term "Pain Relief Exercise," and you'll be overwhelmed at the possibilities. There are thousands of sites, companies, and training programs selling something or some training program and promising that their plan is the best at offering 100% relief!
If that promise were real, then we wouldn't all still be searching now, would we?
I've never believed that ONLY ONE modality is (or should be for that matter) the "miracle cure," so to speak for every client that walks through my studio doors. I've studied, trained, and certified in many modalities where the certifying organization preaches and teaches that their method is the only path out of chronic pain. While I agree, it can and does work for some, but I'd be a liar if I said it works for everyone as a whole. Perhaps be view is what keeps me a bit of a rebel.
I simply don't agree with the philosophy that only one methodology is the only or right way to get out of chronic pain. Personally, and professionally I don't believe you can pigeon hole a human being into parameters like that. Why? Well, I think you are MORE than just a body.
In my opinion and experience, I believe that a great instructor should choose the best tool for the job. Sometimes, a singular modality is the best tool, and it works. That's cool. But more often than not, the best tool for the job requires a hybrid approach.
I can't say to a client in all honesty that:
'only this one particular modality is the right fit,' or '
This program is the only choice for you to overcome your pain and help you accomplish your goals', or
'my program is right, and the rest is harmful' or 'I'm not going to talk about nutrition, sleeping habits, your fascial system, or your emotions/attitude/beliefs about healing because none of those things have a factor in your pain.'
Ridiculous! As a person who helps people heal from chronic muscle and joint pain, I have to be balanced and open to the best options for that individual client. I won't deny that some people accomplish their goals by doing a singular modality. However, that kind of reasoning pigeon holes my ability to help a person and their unique needs.
Perhaps it's best summed it up in this lovely Facebook Recommendation I recently received:
"In my eight years of receiving treatment/therapy for chronic pain, Deb is the only person who has taken the time to identify the root cause of my alignment issues and to address the cause instead of the symptoms.
Deb has the education and knowledge to teach both physical healings as well as the mind/body connection to healing. Every time I leave a session with Deb, I feel energized, empowered with my new "tools," and hopeful regarding a pain-free future. Deb has a real gift and an undeniable passion for healing and helping others heal."
I'd be the first person to tell you that I don't always have the right answer to a pain problem. I'm honest, stubborn, and open-minded enough to say to my clients that when we hit roadblocks. I'm also deeply committed to my clients and craft that I will work on coming up with a creative solution to the challenge, and if I can't find a solution, respectfully refer out to someone who can.
And that's precisely why I consider myself to be a FIXER. I have the freedom to take a HYBRID approach to teach and help my clients find the RIGHT mix of corrective exercise programming that works for them.
I work to help my clients become aware of what they didn't know about their body is 'supposed' to typically work and put together. Three of my favorite sayings are:
'You don't know what you don't know.'
'You can't correct what you are not aware of.'
'You can't fix what you can't feel.'
I help clients understand how their body should move when in perfect working order, where it is now (for whatever the reasons), and then develop a plan to help them restore it one their own.
I would say that I am a catalyst. My clients ultimately have to bring all the reactive components together with a willingness to learn. My job is to figure out the chemistry, align them, and then stand back and light the match.
What Hybrid Personal Training Means To Me
I want to teach my clients something that will last their lifespan. Here at PainFree Posture MN, my goal in working with clients is to:
Educate clients beyond their sessions to help them create personal responsibility and independence
Foster and empower their ability to take charge of their movement, health, and wellbeing
Increase my client's body confidence and improves their quality of life which impacts happiness and success
I genuinely believe that if given the right circumstances, the human body can heal tackling the issues from a WHOLE person (mind, body, and spirit) approach. But that means treating you as more than just a pain, problem, or symptom. Exercise under the correct sequencing is medicine, is healing, and finding the right combination of modalities to meet each person's unique needs is VITALLY important. That is why I practice Hybrid Personal Training/Instruction.
It gives me the freedom to truly help people. I'm a FIXER. I am willing to embrace the concept of hybrid personal training to help my clients accomplish their goals. That is what I am and what I love what I do.
I'd LOVE the opportunity to train you! Contact Coach Deb to book your first session. We're in this together; I'm here to help.
Stock Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
Head Photo Credit: Melissa Thome Photography
Author: Deb Preachuk, BRS, BPE, CF-L1, Pn-1, is a Comprehensive Certified STOTT Pilates Instructor, Level 2 Foundation Training Instructor, TBMM Corrective Exercise & Posture Alignment Specialist, and the founder/owner of Pain Free Posture MN.
In addition to running PainFree Posture MN, Deb is an Orangetheory Fitness Coach and teaches regularly at the Apple Valley, MN location.