For about two years there, I plateaued.
I knew that I needed to develop muscle strength to hold my SI joints in place. I was doing my pool workouts regularly, and was being mindful of the things I did with my body. But something was just missing.
I had some weeks where I was doing better, some where I was doing worse. I’d think things were staying in place… and then they weren’t.
It was hard to figure out a rhyme or reason sometimes, except that I was generally better during the warmer months, because my muscles weren’t so tight.
I had seen a few physical therapists over the course of this time. None of them had really helped me in any way that was groundbreaking, which is why I haven’t discussed them much on this blog.
The exception was Paula. I saw her once, when I was first beginning to have problems. I found her by Google search, because she actually listed the sacroiliac joint as one of her interests online.
Paula was the one who explained to me that most of the exercises I was doing in the pool were cultivating muscular and cardiovascular endurance, not muscle strength.
What’s the difference?
Well, in a nutshell, endurance has to do with your ability to perform an activity over a longer span of time. For example, when I went to the pool and did my aqua jogging, I wasn’t tiring my legs out in the first 5 minutes. I could keep going for half an hour or so before I felt tired.
Muscle strength involves performing a much higher intensity activity over a much shorter period of time. Generally speaking, when people strength train, they are looking to perform a small number of repetitions of a given movement and be exhausted at the end. (Generally speaking, I think most people shoot for anywhere between 8-15 repetitions in a set).
Paula explained to me that, although I felt tired after aqua jogging in the pool for half an hour, it wasn’t the same “kind” of tired that was going to cause my body to develop muscular strength.
Of course, endurance and strength are equally important to us as we go about the activities of daily life. To generalize, endurance is what allows us to stand up and walk around all day. Strength is what allows us to lift something heavy.
To live a normal, healthy, functional life, you need both. You need balance.
So, Paula and I worked together to design a strength training program that would move me forward, not making things worse.
At first, this was very tricky for me to do. It was honestly a process of trial and error. I couldn’t do a lot of things out of the pool without my SI joints locking up, so we had to devise ways for me to do a lot of things in the pool.
Paula had been trained in the Burdenko method of aquatic therapy, which meant she knew a lot of interesting tricks for using floatation devices as resistance in the water.
She was also a very flexible thinker. Unlike a lot of PT’s I’ve encountered in the past, she wasn’t phased when I said something that didn’t work for me. She simply came up with another way for me to do it.
I wrote a preliminary post outlining some of my exercises a few years ago. I don’t have my own pictures/graphics yet, so I had to kind of piece this together the best I could. Hopefully you will find it helpful, if you’re curious. I definitely plan to put something better-looking up here at some point.
To continue on: Key Point #5: Developing a thorough stretching routine