In this episode of The Omega Sports Move More Podcast, hosted by Dr. Scott Jablonka with Carolina Movement Doc, we discover the importance of preparation for hiking athletes. Dr. Jablonka is joined by Dr. Gabe Renzi to discuss why the right training and gear are important for your hiking experience.
Listen to Dr. Scott Jablonka full episode on The Omega Sports Move More Podcast.
Dr. Gabe Renzi grew up north of Buffalo, New York in a town called Youngston. Dr. Jablonka and Dr. Renzi attended school together. For the last 11 years, Dr. Renzi has been a traveling physical therapist. He travels up and down the east coast, including around the area of Greensboro, NC.
Currently, he is on the west coast, and he has been really enjoying all the outdoor activities that California has to offer. In the last 11 years, his interest morphed, depending on where he goes in the country. About 6-7 years ago, he was introduced to hardcore camping and he fell in love with it.
He was always active, mainly indoors. Going outside really showcased new perspectives. Since then, his passion for hiking has really grown. The west coast is filled with avid outdoor enthusiasts, just like himself. For the last 7 years, he has been able to hone his skills to become a hiking athlete.
On a daily/weekly basis, what kind of patients does Dr. Renzi see at the clinic?
“Everything from head to toe!” says Dr. Renzi.
Predominantly his patients suffer injuries in their lower back or are total joint replacement patients. Whether it’s knee or hip, it’s a lot of shoulder surgery patients. A lot of them come in with the good old sprains, strains, and soft tissue injuries, so it’s really head to toe.
The common denominator with a lot of the patients is that they’re hikers due to all the national parks in the area.
For Dr. Renzi’s hiking patients, what is it that he’s looking for to get them back on the trails?
He likes taking a multifaceted approach.
What that means is that he likes to look beyond functional movement in the physical therapy realm. He looks at their equipment. What is their setup? Have they been hiking before? Is this a new adventure for them?
You’re going to communicate differently with an advanced athlete versus a novice one. Though at the end of the day, they’re trying to achieve that same path of returning back to what they love to do. Dr. Renzi likes to understand what their goals are. Where do they want to go in a physical sense? This helps him tailor treatment.
Functionally, what he likes to look at in the clinic is how well they squat. How well they go up and down the steps? Climbing steps is a very functional movement. It mimics going up and incline, down and decline as hikers. How well do they control that movement? How good is your balance on one leg?
If he has a more advanced athlete and they are good with squats, he’ll ask them to do a single-leg squat. This shows him a unilateral comparison, it gives him a good insight as to what they need to work on.
It’s not just strength. It can be flexibility, your joint’s ability to mobilize. This is especially the case after a surgery or an injury.
Once he looks at the functional aspect, how well you’re moving, and the quality of it, then Dr. Renzi likes to see what the patient was doing prior to their injury.
What are Dr. Renzi’s go-to treatments for hiking athletes?
Typically, he loves squatting and deadlifts. Those are usually his go-to because they are functional not just for hiking, but
for other activities as well. He likes to look at pistol squats. He also likes the Lunge Matrix, where they’re lunging in multiple directions, including on uneven surfaces, because the thing about hiking is that there is no leveled surface all the time. Getting some ankle, hip, knee, even core stabilization exercises into the mix helps. His top choices are squats, pistol squats, lunges, and step-downs.
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Dr. Renzi on hiking equipment:
For Dr. Renzi, equipment is not the whole piece of the puzzle, but it’s definitely a piece of the puzzle. All those pieces need to come together in order to make sense of what we’re trying to accomplish.
He definitely talks to his patients about equipment, though it is not a day one conversation. There are more important focuses. However, Once the patients start to feel a little better, Dr. Renzi likes to break down what they are using: your boots, your pack, etc.
How much weight you’re carrying? He even has them bring their packs in to look at it. He will see how they load it. Reducing your load and your distance can help with your hike.
Trekking poles can especially be helpful as they can help stabilize and disperse your weight. The right hiking boots or trail shoes are super important.
Wisdom, tips and tricks
Start out by seeking more information from movement specialists like Dr. Jablonka. Seek professional help with your equipment choices.
A nasty blister can ruin your hike, so bring RockTape or kinesio tape. Cut a piece and put it in your first aid kit. It’s water-resistant and perfect for covering blisters.
AllTrails is a great app for hikers. There’s a free version and it helps you plan your hike. You should always be prepared when hiking.
Want more movement tips from Dr. Scott Jablonka? Listen to older episodes of our Move More Podcast.