What is Performance Care?

A Physical Therapist’s Insight into Recovery

By: Deirdre McLoughlin PT, DPT



What is “Performance Care”? We know the word “Performance”. And the word “Care”.  At first glance, those two words might have opposite meanings.  We might think of Performance as ACTIVE and Care as PASSIVE. In my job working with athletes of all ages as a physical therapist, one of the most challenging messages to get across is the concept of Care as an ACTIVE, not a PASSIVE idea.  

Too often, athletes want to fight through fatigue or pain and just get to their workout. However, without actively caring for their bodies, inevitably I will see a breakdown and they will be spending far too much time in my office rather than out on the water, the court, the trails or the gym. 

Let’s face it, prevention exercises aren’t exhilarating!  There are no Olympic Games for prevention. No World Cup for stretching. No US Open for sleep quality.  Once I can get that reality out of the way with my athletes, we can move to the deeper understanding that taking Care of their bodies IS a part of Performance.  We need to reframe the concept of CARE as being an integral part of PERFORMANCE.

We know that getting enough sleep IS tied to Performance.  

Getting proper fuel and nutrition IS tied to Performance.  

My wheelhouse is teaching athletes about taking care of their bodies so they can have their best Performance.

So what does that look like? Every athlete is different, based on their activity or sport of choice. But the main way I can be helpful, is to make sure athletes are able to train with minimal pain and discomfort.  

This means having enough mobility in their joints and muscles to move freely, and specifically, to move freely in the ways that their sport requires, allowing them to perform their best. All of us can benefit from having enough hip mobility - especially since most of us are lacking in this area due to lots of time sitting or even just standing at our workstations.

Grab a foam roller and roll out areas of concern daily with these tips below:
  1. Decide which muscle groups you want to target.
  2. Slowly place your area of concern on top of the foam roller.
  3. Roll-out desired area with control for 20-30 seconds- you shouldn't feel any pain, but you might experience discomfort.
  4. Repeat as needed.

It means having sufficient strength in their “prime moving” muscles- the ones that have to do the large, heavy movements (think Quads and Hamstrings) AND the ones that have to stabilize the body to ALLOW for the large muscles to do their job (think hip rotators and calves).

An easy exercise that everyone can benefit from are squats.

  1. First use both legs for traditional squats to make sure you’re comfortable.
  2. Progress to single-leg movements like step ups or step downs. 

It means taking time BEFORE and AFTER training to address issues with mobility and soreness so they can be ready to perform. This includes stretching and self-massage work on muscles with devices such as massage guns, massage balls and foam rolling.  Using products such as WILL Relieve, WILL Cool, and WILL Soothe have a role to play in the ACTIVE work an athlete does in caring for their bodies so they can perform.

It’s always a great idea to have some professionals on your side.  People you can call to help you take care of your body and allow you to keep doing the activities you love. But remember, spending time in PT, Chiropractors or Massage Therapists office should be time spent to SUPPORT your endeavors, not because you are in pain!

I want my athletes to be spending more of their time OUT of my office, rather than IN my office.  I want them to truly understand that CARING for their bodies goes hand-in-hand WITH performance.  Teaching them that this is the key to staying active, out of pain, and living their best life with the incredible body they have. 

It's time to understand that Performance and Care are both ACTIVE pursuits.

It’s time to make sure PERFORMANCE includes Care.

It’s time to pursue your passions with Performance Care.

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