Movement is Medicine: Conversations with a DC-based Physical Therapist

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Dr. Mike Yasson, DPT, CSCS is a physical therapist and founder of Big League Performance and Rehabilitation in Washington, DC. Yasson was a Strength and Conditioning coach in the New York Yankees organization and later went on to earn his Doctor of Physical Therapy from the University of Scranton. He specializes in orthopedic rehabilitation, manual therapy, Active Release Technique, pain management, and sports medicine. Yasson also runs an informative Instagram account that's an incredible resource for workout tips in addition to mobilization and pain relief techniques that you can use on yourself (find him at @bigleagueperformandrehab).

How did you get started with fitness?
I was always around sports growing up. I mainly played baseball and a little basketball as well. In high school, baseball was where I first injured myself and I had to go to Physical Therapy (PT). It was at that point I realized I probably wasn’t going to be a major leaguer and I needed to find something else to do with my life. It was then I realized as a Physical Therapist, I could help not just athletes but everyone get back to doing what they love, and I was sold. After undergrad I spent 2 years working in the New York Yankees organization as a strength and conditioning coach before going to Physical Therapy school. During that time, I continued working as a strength coach for the University of Scranton varsity sports teams. After I graduated, I moved to DC and now here I am 3 years later!

What is your training philosophy?
Movement is Medicine! In the old days, whenever someone was injured, they were told to rest, maybe stop doing the activity that caused them pain. But now, that couldn’t be further from the truth. More and more research is coming out showing that we want to keep moving after an injury. That doesn’t mean just keep doing the activity that causes pain, because that’s the definition of insanity. What that does mean, is talk with your friendly-neighborhood Physical Therapist, AKA me, about how to gradually get back to doing what you love, not just pain free but better than before! And because we are all different, every program needs to be personalized because we all have our own unique features and situations.

Where does your motivation come from?
There’s no better feeling than getting a call, text, or email from a client telling you how much better they’re feeling and that they were able to run the race they had wanted to run, finished their first pain free workout, or were able to pick up their child with no pain.

What workout routine has worked best for you?
As a former strength and conditioning coach at the collegiate and professional level, I like to stick to a steady diet of lifting weights 4-5x/week. For cardio, I prefer to mix it up with high intensity, shorter duration work outs including HIIT classes, and sprints.

If you had to pick only 3 exercises, what would they be and why?

  1. Squat. More than just an exercise! It’s a fundamental movement pattern that is essential for all humans to be able to perform. The squat transcends gym usage as it’s important in routine activities such as standing up/sitting down, as well as other activities of daily living.

  2. Deadlift. Another fundamental movement pattern that is more relevant outside the gym, than it is inside it. Think about how many times a day you pick something up off the ground, I’d say that’s pretty functional! Besides that, if you have lower back pain you’re going to want to learn how to build a strong and resilient lower back which is something that deadlifts can accomplish.

  3. Inverted Row. This is more of a personal favorite than the other 2, but it’s just as important! Horizontal pulling can be an easily forgotten component of many training programs/WODs but if you’re someone who sits at a desk all day, this can give you some serious bang for your buck!

How does Big League Performance and Rehabilitation differ from other PT clinics?
In today’s healthcare world, we want someone who is going to listen to us, ease our fears, and respect our time. The average 1 on 1 time with a doctor in this country is 13 minutes. 13 FREAKIN MINUTES. At Big League Performance and Rehab you get 60 MINUTES 1 on 1 with a Doctor of Physical Therapy, there’s no assistants, no aides, no volunteers. Because I can spend 60 minutes with you, this means you get better quicker and spend less time overall in PT, allowing you to get out there and live your best life! The personal interaction I have with clients allows me not just to focus on manual therapy techniques or exercises, but it allows me to educate my clients and empower them to take control of their situation. Pain is a scary and confusing thing, and having someone to talk to and reassure you can mean the world. My goal is to give you the keys to the car and let you drive it, I’m not looking for permanent clients.

What kind of clients do you see?
I treat everything from headaches all the way down to ankle sprains. I treat a lot of people with chronic and long term issues as well. When I worked in professional baseball, I saw the top players/prospects getting the extra special treatment from trainers and PTs, this was referred to as “The Big League Treatment,” and I want to bring that to everyone!

Is there any single injury or performance limitation that you see more often than others?
Working in a CrossFit gym makes me end up seeing more CrossFit athletes. The most commonly injured body part in the sport over the past several years has been the shoulder due to the high volume of work that is involved in most WODs. Coming in a close second is back pain, both lower back pain as well as neck pain. People think that Physical Therapy is only for people who have surgery and their grandma, but I got news for everyone, having back pain or shoulder pain or whatever pain is not a normal part of the aging process. Taking time for just one visit to a physical therapist can help rid you of months/years of nagging pain.

What is your approach to nutrition?
Everything in moderation. No one has gotten skinny by eating a salad, and no one has gotten fat from eating a slice of pizza. Just like with rehab/training, it’s all about time, patience and consistency.

What is your diet like?
Thanks to my girlfriend, Megan, I definitely keep a much more organized diet, eating more small meals throughout the day. I find that much better for me to curb cravings that way. I typically will eat breakfast around 7AM, then have a morning snack around 10:30. I’ll eat lunch around 12:30, 2 snacks in the afternoon, before eating dinner around 7-8.

What’s one food you couldn’t live without?
Coffee counts right? I don’t know where I’d be without it. No preference from where, but I keep simple, black with no sugar.

How do you handle unhealthy food cravings?
Eat it and enjoy it! After that get back on track, because there’s no proof that was even the reason why you got off track in the first place. Too many people vilify food and this can lead to serious negative relationships with food, cravings, as well as intense binges. Everyone has their weaknesses and that’s ok, mine’s hot dogs, and I’m not embarrassed!

What are 3 tips for someone looking to change their fitness and nutrition habits?

  1. Find your Why. We all have it - you have to find out what motivates you and carry it with you.

  2. Just do it. I know its corny, but Nike was on to something. Getting that first workout in or changing your diet starts with 1 meal, or 1 workout. Brick by Brick, your house of healthy habits is built, not overnight.

  3. There’s more to healthy living than just diet and fitness, and sleep is incredibly important. Make sure you’re actually getting 8+ hours. As my grandfather says, “every hour before midnight counts twice.”

What are your hobbies and interests outside of the gym?
I love getting out and exploring all that DC and the surrounding areas have to offer. Going to new restaurants is my particular favorite thing, and right now The Salt Line in Navy Yard is my favorite.

Favorite quote
“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” -Nelson Mandela

Connect with Mike Yasson on Instagram

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