As someone who runs for my job, logging up to 120 miles per week and traveling year-round to races, you can imagine the damage my body accrues. Sometimes that stress manifests in clear warning signs: a hotspot on my shin or a hamstring that tightens up when I sprint. In a weird way, I consider myself lucky when I sense an issue like that and am able to respond fast enough to prevent major damage. But other times, something serious pops up “out of nowhere”—like the intense knee pain I felt hours after a mile repeat workout, which ultimately sidelined me from that year’s key marathon. In those situations, I’m left feeling baffled and frustrated and incredibly unlucky.
What I’m finally learning, almost fifteen years into my competitive running career, is that the body doesn’t operate on luck. Even when we can’t pinpoint it, there’s an underlying cause for everything that goes awry: shin splints, plantar fasciitis, that labral tear in my hip that hijacked a year of my college career. But the truth is that I’m no expert on the human body, the way it was designed to move, or how far from “ideal” my gait really is. I know how to run fast and train hard, but I don’t know how to identify specific weaknesses or imbalances that make me susceptible to injury. Fortunately for me, I know a few people who do.
The first thing that distinguishes Revo Physiotherapy & Sports Performance from similar operations is the use of both science and technology to optimize health and performance. Each of the three Revo founders (Brian Briggs, Dane DeLozier, and Matthew Smith) holds a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, allowing them to combine physiotherapy and personal training “with a biomechanics lab twist." It all happens in their state-of-the-art gym occupying one side of the Black Lab Sports facility and featuring a bank of massage tables, an indoor turf field, and a slew of gym equipment, from weight racks, plyometric boxes, and speed ladders to treadmills, stationary bikes, and ellipticals. Beyond that, there’s high-tech, high-speed video equipment, which the therapists use for gait analyses, return to sport tests, injury prevention screens, and even bike fits.
There’s plenty of information on their website, plus lots of fit-looking people filling their Instagram and Twitter feeds. But what’s the Revo PT experience really like? I made an appointment to find out.
On a Tuesday morning a few weeks ago, I met Matt in the gym and hopped up on a massage table for a preliminary assessment. After asking me about my injury history, current state of health, and where I’m at in my training cycle, he went through a series of tests to check out my alignment, flexibility, and discrepancies between sides. Unsurprisingly for a marathoner, I revealed some super tight hip flexors, an overly active lower back, and calf muscles that lit up when prodded. (I’d worn spikes for the first time in a long time that morning and it showed!)
From there, I followed Matt to the sports lab area, where he stuck about a dozen adhesive LED lights on my major joints (including ankles, knees, and hips) and on the front of my foot and midline of my torso. With the camera rolling, he recorded me running at a comfortable pace on a treadmill for a few minutes, while watching his computer monitor for real-time feedback on my gait. Drawing data from the LED lights that speckled my body, the program calculated exactly what angles my hinges were reaching, and how those on each side differed. I might have been able to get away with a few imperfections in a normal setting, but as I learned as soon as I dismounted: you can’t get away with much when you’ve been shot at 120 frames per second. The slowmo video revealed some major knee collapsing, a hyperextended back, and a wobblier than is ideal torso (among other things).
Armed with all that feedback, we hit the gym for a demonstration on activation and specific strength work. Matt created a program based off the areas I’d just shown need some work, with the goal of retraining myself to adopt a more efficient movement pattern that will translate over time to the roads and trails. Mercilessly, he stationed me in front of a full-sized mirror and walked me through a few exercises that would comprise my new daily protocol. Using the stretchiest (code for easiest) resistance band available, I held each leg in a series of sustained positions before performing a rapid succession of off-on style movements. Judging by my visible quaking, each hold recruited muscles that I’ve unknowingly been neglecting for a good while.
It’s amazing how well the body compensates for deficiencies—until it doesn’t. The goal with Revo is to avoid that breaking point at all costs. My instructions were to build those exercises into my regular routine, either in an abbreviated format prior to working out or the full progression afterwards. If those four to eight added minutes decrease my training interruptions and elevate my performance even a little bit, that could mean the difference between a spot on Team USA and a spot on my couch. Worth it, to say the least.
So the benefits of the Revo system for elite athletes are clear. And while there does seem to be a steady stream of lean, Spandex-clad individuals walking through their doors at all hours, the profits are available for (and utilized by) active people of all types—from passionate skiers and high school lacrosse players to world-class triathletes and even post-op rehabbers. The treatment will vary from person to person, but the method and mission stay the same: to combine science, technology, and a deep understanding of the human body to help people maximize their potential and achieve their goals.
Thank you for all you do, Revo! We’re so glad you’re part of the Black Lab Sports community.