Treating The Whole Person: My Interview With Leading Physical Therapist Ann WendelApril 14, 2014
Ann Wendel is a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) licensed in Virginia, a Licensed Physical Therapist (PT), and a Certified Myofascial Trigger Point Therapist (CMTPT). She incorporates a holistic approach to her work that takes into consideration the mind, body, goals, and overall wellness of the patient. In her work and life, Ann personifies Prana—life force or vital energy in the body—which is the name of her physical therapy clinic. Read on for my interview with Ann:
A: My practice, Prana Physical Therapy is located in Alexandria, Virginia (just outside Washington, D.C.) I originally opened the practice in 2003, and served my clients for four years. At that point I had an opportunity to work with another clinic, which I did for about four years, until I re-opened my practice in 2011.
My practice is very different from most physical therapy clinics, as it is 100% cash based. Clients come to see me and pay at the time of service. I provide a receipt for them to submit to their insurance company for reimbursement. This allows me to treat my clients in a way that focuses on their goals. I treat clients one on one for one hour using a variety of methods.
I am an expert at treating the whole person. All of my clients are treated with an integrative approach. My treatment modalities include manual therapy, joint mobilization, therapeutic stretching and strengthening, core stabilization training, Thai Yoga Therapy, high level balance training, Kettlebell training, Pilates, and Trigger Point Dry Needling. I also provide Wellness Consultations and Visits to allow continuity of care after clients are discharged from formal physical therapy.
In addition to my in-office treatments, I provide lifestyle and nutrition consulting via phone. I write and teach, and coach others in developing the business and lifestyle they desire to share their unique value with their target audience.
Q: How did you become passionate about the physical therapy profession? What do you enjoy most about your work?
A: I was a competitive swimmer growing up in the 80’s, and I always struggled with shoulder pain. When I went to the doctor, he would tell me, “You need to take a few weeks off from training.” This wasn’t possible for me, as I was a nationally ranked swimmer throughout high school. The field of Sports Medicine was really gaining momentum at that time, and I was fortunate to have an older cousin who was an Athletic Trainer. She spoke with me about the field and mentored me. I completed my undergraduate degree from the University of Delaware in Athletic Training in 1992, and worked as an AT for 3 years. I was then was accepted into a Masters in Physical Therapy program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore and graduated in 1998.
I’m happy to say that even after 16 years as a physical therapist I am passionate about what I do. I love working with my clients to help them overcome mental and physical barriers to living the life they desire.
My favorite part of my work is helping people to create lasting change in their lives. Because of the design of my practice and the amount of time I get to spend with my clients, I am able to really listen to them. I get to know them very well, and we talk about the beliefs and actions that hold them back from creating the life they desire. Instead of just focusing on their ankle sprain or their low back pain, we talk about nutrition, sleep, stress management, exercise, recovery strategies, and much more. My greatest joy is seeing people chase their dreams with a strong body and mind.
Q: What are a couple key pieces of advice you can give athletes as protective factors for injury prevention?
A: What we’re really looking at is reducing the risk of injury. There are many things we can do that will reduce the risk, such as:
*Work with experts. Hire a coach who will instruct you in proper technique for your sport, assemble a team to keep you moving well (physical therapist, massage therapist, etc.), work with someone who understands the nutritional demands of your training.
*Train smart. I am constantly telling my athletic clients to balance recovery days and training. You can’t stay healthy when you are overtraining, as overtraining begins to affect your hormonal system, leading to chronic stress on your body and brain.
*Focus on your nutrition. Eat enough nutrient dense whole foods to fuel your activity level. You really can’t out train a bad diet. It will catch up to you.
*Sleep. This is probably the most overlooked factor in a successful training program. Many of my clients work late and get up very early to hit the gym before work. This is not a good long term strategy. We really must make sleep a priority. I recommend 8 hours in a dark, quiet room.
Q: What are some common pitfalls during the rehabilitation process that injured athletes may be succumbing to?
A: The most common pitfall I see is that athletes are in a hurry to feel better. Many athletes mistakenly assume that as soon as their pain is gone, they can stop physical therapy and return to what they were doing before the injury occurred. I try to educate my clients that they need to commit to the whole rehab process, which means following through on treatment until their plan of care is complete. If we don’t address the underlying causes of injuries, they will reoccur, and set the athlete back even more. My goal is always to complete treatment in the most efficacious manner possible while addressing underlying issues.
Q: For athletes who want to learn how to “eat like a champion,” what are some key nutrition pointers to focus on?
A: Many of the athletes I work with are not appropriately fueling their training. I do a detailed nutrition and lifestyle assessment with my clients to look at not only what they are eating, but also their beliefs about nutrition and training. I get them to focus on eating enough nutrient dense food throughout the whole day to fuel their activity. This includes pre-workout and post-workout nutrition (and often intra-workout nutrition depending on the type and length of a training session). We discuss appropriate intake of protein, good fats and carbs, reduction of processed foods, and limited caffeine intake. My goal is to teach athletes how to fuel their performance with whole foods instead of packaged energy replacement products.
Q: What are some additional ways we can all take our wellness up multiple levels?
A: So many ways to answer this question! Health and performance are really on a spectrum – very often when an athlete is high on the performance end of the spectrum, they are actually low on the health side. We need to seek balance for long term success in sports. Our training program needs to encompass not just hours in the gym or on the bike, but also sleep, nutrition, stress management, social support, and recovery. When we focus on a complete plan for wellness we experience the greatest success and enjoyment in our athletic endeavors.
Ann Wendel on the Internet:
Dr. Jim Afremow is a high performance coach, a licensed professional counselor, and the author of The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train and Thrive (Rodale, January 2014.) Though his private practice is located in Phoenix, Arizona, Dr. Afremow provides individual and group mental training services across the globe to athletes in all sports, as well as to parents, business professionals, and all others engaged in highly-demanding endeavors. His website is www.goldmedalmind.net.