How West Town Physical Therapy is Bringing a Boutique Feel to Rehab (Plus, A PT-Approved Lower Body Warm-Up)
  • October 18, 2018
  • This post is in partnership with West Town Physical Therapy. As always, we only write about experiences and companies we love.

    Picture your standard big box physical therapy office: it’s probably a crowded space, with beige walls and inoffensive navy blue accents. It’s crowded as therapists try to rush through four patients an hour, and the front desk worker who checks you in doesn’t recognize you despite your standing weekly appointment.

    “And khakis!” Erin Conroy laughingly says. “For some reason, everyone’s wearing khakis and a polo shirt.”

    How West Town Physical Therapy brings personal connections to PT

    At West Town Physical Therapy (WTPT), that big box vibe is exactly what Conroy is trying to avoid, she tells us as she relaxes behind her standing desk in comfy-looking athleisure apparel.

    Erin Conroy

    I see West Town Physical Therapy as being the local neighborhood spot, but also in different neighborhoods. We have a boutique vibe, like what you’d see in your favorite neighborhood workout studio. We’re super personal, you connect with your physical therapist and feel comfortable. It’s more of an experience versus an appointment.”

    Conroy came to WTPT after working in out-patient orthopedics, a job that allowed her to master her skills while learning more about what specific areas she loved. A broken hand forced her out of work for a few months, and it was during that hiatus that she began blogging about how certain PT concepts related to fitness. Conroy realized that she was most passionate about helping the “fitness athlete,” her term for people who turn to studio fitness to stay active, avoid and recover from injuries.

    “I’d go to workout classes and see incorrect form, and I’d see people not activating the correct muscles,” Conroy explains. At the same time, she was going mildly stir-crazy from not being able to strength train with an injured hand (and only going to spin classes), so she began developing her own strength training program that focused on making her muscles resilient and strong.

    Soon after, Conroy began working at WTPT, and when her partner decided to permanently extend her maternity leave, Conroy had the opportunity to take over the business and has been growing it ever since.

    “We greet you with a smile,” Conroy tells us, emphasizing how important it is to her that WTPT have a friendly, neighborhood vibe where clients feel like they’re building personal connections with their therapists.

    As for the actual physical therapy, Conroy describes a typical first session as an evaluation covering  movement patterns, muscle imbalances, and which muscles might be weak or need waking up. From there, the client and therapist make a plan for progression and rehabilitation.

    “Each appointment includes some hands-on stuff for relief, flexibility, stretching, and muscle work, plus a lot of therapeutic exercises to get people better at using those muscles,” Conroy demonstrates. 

    Conroy is also a big advocate for using PT to prevent injury, instead of waiting to see a physical therapist after you’re already injured. To that end, she’s working on a new model that will bring that concept to life — so stay tuned for more on that in the near future.

    How can you avoid injury in your favorite fitness class?

    According to Conroy (who graduated from University of Michigan with a Bachelor’s in Movement Science and went to Columbia University to get her Doctorate in Physical Therapy), the answer is three-fold.

    You want strength, flexibility, and better neuromuscular control,” she shares, adding that one of the best things you can do to avoid injury is to prioritize your warm-up. The ideal warm-up includes neuromuscular reeducation (AKA activating the correct muscles), dynamic stretching, then some sort of cardio.

    We want to increase blood flow, get the heart-rate up, and get that brain-muscle connection stronger to tell your muscles ‘Okay, we’re about to use you for this workout, you’re about to start pulling your weight here.'”

    Another big tip: practicing the movements you’re about to do during your workout. For example, if you’re about to go on a run, Conroy recommends exercises that are specific to what you’re going to be doing — like butt kicks or high knees instead of jumping jacks.

    And, if you’re going heavy on strength day, Conroy advises starting off your set with lighter weight before moving into max territory.

    “You’re priming your muscles, activating them, and getting your muscles ready to work with that load and then building up. You might think you don’t have time to fit in a lighter set, but in the end, that gets you better results and makes you stronger!”

    A lower-body warm-up for butt and legs day

    We asked Conroy to show us her recommended warm-up for one of our favorite days of the week — butt and legs day. Try this quick routine before your next lower-body workout.

    Activating the lower body

    Conroy’s first recommendation was to literally squeeze your butt cheeks together to activate them. But, we didn’t want to take a picture of just butts, so her second recommendation was glute bridges.

    glute bridge

    Glute bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.

    glute bridge

    Pressing your heels into the ground, squeeze your glutes as you lift your hips high toward the ceiling. Lower back down slowly and repeat for one minute.

    lateral walk

    Lateral walks: Place a resistance band around your ankles and stand with your feet hips-width apart. Sink down low as if doing a squat.

    lateral walk

    Push off your left foot as you laterally shuffle to your right side. Plant your right foot and bring your left foot back in to that hips-width distance, while maintaining tension in the resistance band. Shuffle five steps to the left and five steps to the right while staying as low as possible with a flat back. Repeat for one minute.

    Dynamic Stretching

    bodyweight squat

    Bodyweight squats: Stand with your feet hips-width apart and weight in your heels. Hands can be behind your head for more core activation, at your hips, or wherever feels comfortable.

    bodyweight squat

    Keeping your weight in your heels, lower your butt towards the ground while your chest stays up and back stays flat. Lower down as far as you can without compromising your form, then press into your heels to return to a starting position. Repeat for one minute.

    lunge

    Standing lunge: Now, we’ll separate the legs a little bit to isolate your muscles and ensure one leg isn’t compensating for the other. A lunge complex will accomplish this. Stand with one foot forward and one foot back, with your weight in the front heel.

    lunge

    Lower your back knee toward the ground as your front knee bends, so both knees end up at 90-degree angles. Careful — your front knee should track in line with your toes, but shouldn’t go past them. Once your back knee just barely touches the ground, dig back into your front heel to raise back to a standing position. Repeat for one minute in this position, then switch legs.

    single leg deadlift

    Single leg deadlift: You’ll end this portion with some single leg deadlifts. Stand firmly on one foot with a slight bend in that leg. Raise your other knee up so that your thigh is parallel to the floor. Carefully start to hinge forward at the hips so your raised leg extends behind you, maintaining that slight bend in your standing leg and keeping your back flat.

    single leg deadlift

    Once your leg is fully extended behind you and/ow you start to feel a pull in that standing hamstring, you can slowly raise back up to your standing position. Fight to maintain your balance on that single leg the entire time. Repeat ten times on each side.

    Cardio

    Here, Conroy recommends getting your heart rate up doing a cardio movement that’s specific to what you’ll be doing in your workout. For example, if you’re focusing on squats today, squat jumps or squat jacks would be a good fit, or if you see lateral lunges on the menu, some speedy skaters will get that heart rate up AND prepare your body for what’s to come.

     

    Interested in visiting West Town Physical Therapy for an evaluation? Call them at 773-729-2551 or reach out to them online to book.

    About Kristen Geil

    A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *