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Fitness and Healthy Living After Injury

In today’s podcast Rebecca Washburn, MS, discusses the importance of fitness after injury and the ways Shepherd Center’s facilities and programs promote healthy living for people with disabilities.
Fitness and Healthy Living After Injury
Featured Speaker:
Rebecca Washburn, MS
Rebecca Washburn is the manager of Shepherd Center’s Beyond Therapy® program and ProMotion fitness center. She has worked at Shepherd Center for 16 years. Rebecca holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Connecticut State University.

Melanie Cole: Health and wellness following injury is so important to maintain strength, endurance and to prevent secondary complications. My guest is Becky Washburn. She's the manager of Shepherd Center’s Beyond Therapy Program and Promotion Fitness Center. Why is it sometimes even more important for people that have sustained an injury to get exercise and therapy than it would be for the rest of us?

Rebecca Washburn, MS: Health and wellness for everyone is important throughout their continuum of life. Whether it’s before or after injury, truly some of the things that you had mentioned is preventing secondary complications. We've seen some of our participants that haven't had access to a health and wellness center program develop skin issues or just having more problems arise because they aren’t able to be consistently exercising.

Melanie: What are some of the challenges and obstacles that these people that the rest of us can't even imagine?

Rebecca: I would say that gyms, in general, are getting better and becoming more accessible and we do a really good job at Shepherd Center of teaching our patients what they would need in their communities. Some of the challenges that somebody on the other end that receives our patient when they're accessing a gym may not have worked out with somebody that had a disability. Not all equipment is going to be accessible, which at Shepherd we made some really good choices not to make everything accessible because that's not what you're going to find in your traditional gyms in the community. One of the things that we did do to help combat some barriers for our participants or clients and patients is we developed a fitness app called SCI-Ex, which has the ability for you to look at different levels of injury and then work out at home with different equipment that we have identified that you could use pretty easily in your home.

Melanie: Tell us about Beyond Therapy. How is it different than other neurotherapy programs? As you stated that you've gotten some equipment that might not be completely accessible so that you're encouraging people to learn to use these things to adapt to what their own limitations and needs are. Tell us how you guys are going about all of this and how you're different than all the rest.

Rebecca: Beyond Therapy is an activity-based program working on health, wellness and recovery. We combine both physical therapy and exercise physiology and I think those two combinations are combining function and strength and endurance. It is unique to our program. Each patient that comes in would be assessed by a primary physical therapist and then a primary exercise specialist and those two would treatment plan weekly for that participant based on what their goals are. The intensity of the program is probably 50 to 70 times more intensive than traditional patient therapy and it’s a very athletic model. We can't just have accessible equipment because they're not going to find that, so a big part of what Beyond Therapy is trying to do is figure out what this individual, when they discharge from us, is going to be able to do in their home or their community gyms. We give a very solid home program that they can continue to progress and then come back to us so we can tweak it every so often.  

Melanie: Do you think that it’s more difficult for people that have sustained an injury to trust their therapy, to not worry as much about getting injured or reinjured? How does that work in relationships with therapists as it develops?

Rebecca: Every patient will have their own journey and where they are on that journey. I can speak in generality that some patients may be adjusting very well to their new normal, but then others aren't, so it's where we can then in the continuum of care that we can re-engage them into that concept of health and wellness and that we're going to teach you how to do things safely. Can I say that you're never going to get hurt? No. That wouldn't be fair. I've done some other wellness clinics, waterski in particular, and I had a client who was ambulating and I was thinking ‘don't you want to do this sit ski' and he was so fearful that he was going to get reinjured and that was the first time I'd come up against that. In general, most people are pretty trusting about the therapists that they have at the Shepherd Center and that we’re going to put them in the best position to succeed.

Melanie: Tell us about some of the central objectives of your program as far as optimizing recovery and toning and using muscles that maybe they weren’t using as much before their injury but now they might have to rely on.

Rebecca: A lot of times in an inpatient setting, you're using what you have and you may have to make compensations to get that transfer completed or whatever that activity is. Beyond Therapy, because we have more time with the patient, we’re not held to a discharge from an insurance space because this is a self-pay program, so we have more opportunity to work on the things that they want to work on and get them stronger so they may be able to get to that next independent level.

Melanie: Tell us about that next level. What are you seeing that really is exciting and makes you feel really good about what you do for a living?

Rebecca: Shepherd is the best place I've ever worked and individuals outside of here sometimes are thinking it’s depressing and I say it’s a very uplifting environment. What I say to people when they're asking me what Beyond Therapy does for people, I can't tell you what every functional level somebody is going to improve or not, but I do know that people become more independent, more confident and begin to engage back in life. I see it every day and it’s a beautiful thing to watch somebody explore their new normal and they can live a great life.

Melanie: You just gave me chills. What a great thing that you're able to do for your job. What a great feeling that must be. What about other aspects of healthy living do you discuss and work with with your patients? Does nutrition come into play? Is there some psychological that you help them set up? Tell us about some of the other aspects.

Rebecca: All those are important and the rec therapy department has created wellness clinics, which touch on nutrition and touch on overall health and wellness and it’s not just for our patients; it’s for people who may not have been touched in the community. Those are going on and have been extremely successful. The other thing is our outpatient psychology department has created an outpatient psychologist one day a week, which I think is huge for our patients, because sometimes they're not ready to hear what they want to hear in inpatient, but they're ready to start talking about it when they’ve gone through the continuum of care. Both of those aspects of health and wellness are important.

Melanie: Wrap it up for us with what you want the listeners to take away from the Beyond Therapy program at Shepherd Center and the importance of fitness and healthy living after injury but at any time, really.

Rebecca: I always say when I do tours that before injury, health, wellness and exercise and nutrition was important, but after injury, it’s not an option anymore; you have to do it to maintain a healthy and long life.

Melanie: Thank you so much for being with us today. This is Shephard Center Radio. For more information, please visit That’s I'm Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for tuning in.