Amy Brown has traveled the world working with some of the fastest athletes in the world. Amy is a personal trainer, a fitness instructor at PGPDX, a licensed massage therapist, as well as a certified strength and conditioning coach. You may have seen her around our Portland gym, her quiet confidence and large smile can be found working with clients, teaching fitness classes, or climbing. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Amy to chat about injury prevention, how running can benefit your climbing, and training smart.
Amy’s specialty is injury prevention and spent four years traveling and working with some of the world’s fastest athletes. She graduated from Portland State University in 2003 after double majoring in Fitness and Health as well as Public Healthcare Administration. She received her Physical Therapists’ Assistant degree in 1997 and is also a licensed massage therapist specializing in deep tissue work and sports massage. Interviewing Amy was easy, she glows with positive energy, delivers acute attention to detail, and keeps it real.
Erin: Amy, can you tell me about your history in the outdoors?
Amy: My family and I grew up in one of the biggest wilderness areas in the west, Gila Wilderness Area. The philosophy I grew up with was just to be outside no matter what. Even if you’re bad at it. We would take our horses out to little crags. Rock climbing wasn’t really a thing there. We would just boulder and climb all day long, and play in the river.
Erin: Were climbing and running a natural passion for you?
Amy: Running was not so much a natural passion. I was always kind of an awkward runner. I started working with pro runners as an injury prevention specialist. It takes a lot of people to keep pro runners healthy. Applying my injury prevention skills and spreading it into my practice is way more fun than trying to fix what’s already broken. Especially if you can screen somebody and you can see what’s coming. A lot of the times with injuries, if someone would have just told the person to do these things ten years ago we could have prevented it. Instead, they are now doing three days a week of physical therapy.
Erin: So, what is the difference between physical therapy and injury prevention?
Amy: With injury prevention you can tell what problems might arise. My job is to identify what could cause injury. I’m looking ten years down the road ahead of time. You kind of have a crystal ball to see into the future what they are going to need to work on.
Erin: How did you get involved with injury prevention and can you talk about the people you work with?
Amy: A friend of mine who is a running coach starting bringing me his athletes. Athletes always have little things that will be sore after a workout. Through a friend of mine at Nike I started working with some of the fastest in the world, from there it was word of mouth. The athletes brought their teammates in to see me. I would do a lot of work and consulting with their physical therapists, chiropractors, strength coaches. I was a small part of a big team. The great thing about that for me was that I got to watch the fastest people in the world, who were from all over the world, in these amazing places. You figure out very quickly by watching their body mechanics how good they are at what they do, how they stay strong and injury free. Those years and years of observation is what sets me apart. That was the best schooling.
Erin: You also got to travel with these amazing athletes too it sounds like.
Amy: Yes, I spent three summers in St. Moritz, Switzerland at the Olympic training center working with athletes from all over the world that flock to your apartment door [laughing]. Your apartment looks over the track and you watch people running all day long at an Olympic training center. You’re watching the elites of the world training at altitude. They are so desperate for care. Word of mouth spreads quick when there is a massage therapist in town [laughs].
Erin: I bet! That’s right, you’re also a massage therapist.
Amy: I wear a lot of hats. I am a massage therapist, a physical therapist assistant – I want to make that distinction clear between physical therapist and physical therapist assistant – and I am a certified strength and conditioning coach. I have a four year degree in exercise physiology, so that qualifies me to work with division one college athletes, and professionals.
Erin: You have running clinics coming up starting in September. Can you tell me a little bit about these?
Amy: The running clinics are geared towards small groups. It is designed specifically based on that group’s running techniques and mechanics. So, it’s not in any way generalized. It will be fun too! They may end up crying. There may be some tears. But lots of laughter too. [laughing]
Erin: What are the main priorities you address with new clients?
Amy: Joint stabilization, flexibility, and posture. I teach them to use the right muscles to do the work, and then their body should self correct. It’s about giving them the right tools they need to allow their body to work efficiently instead of forcing a correction. The focus is letting your body correct itself if you are doing the right work. Your body will figure it out if your body has the right tools. If don’t have the right tools you will hurt yourself.
Erin: Do you have many clients who both climb and run?
Amy: Yes! Climbers need quick recovery time between days of climbing as well as after crux sequences, for this they need a certain fitness level. They tend to be recreational runners to maintain a high fitness level so they seek their cardio with running or cycling. Your recovery time as a climber is so much better when you have a higher level of fitness.
Erin: As a climber, why would it be beneficial to start a running program?
Amy: The program we are offering will be focused heavily on core strength & injury prevention in a way that benefits climbers who run. Cross training with cardio is an excellent way to help us sustain endurance on long climbs and recover faster between climbs or powerful sequences. You are working on the health of your cardio vascular system; healthy hearts & lungs deliver oxygen better. Even for anaerobic activities.
Erin: Would you recommend climbers take the running clinic? Why?
Amy: We generally like the idea of running. We feel we are born to do it! This is not the reality. We injure quickly when not properly developing the strength needed to sustain this (or any) activity. The clinic is about injury prevention, core development, and run technique, but most of the “runners” involved are passionate about climbing.
Erin: Do you often work with climbers who are unsure of the benefits of running? If so, why do you think they hesitate to start a running program?
Amy: I think most of us are aware of the benefits of cardio vascular fitness, but injure quickly doing too much, too soon. We hesitate for fear of injury. No one wants to spent a climbing season watching tv.
Erin: Because you are a runner and climber yourself, do you see crossover? How might they complement one another?
Amy: Absolutely! There is a huge difference between “fit Amy” climbing and “not-so-fit Amy” climbing. You can probably relate to that.
Erin: I definitely know what you mean. What’s your favorite part of what you do?
Amy: Watching how happy people are to meet their goals. It’s not a job where I need a pat on the back. I’m empowering them, educating them to take care of themselves. They get stronger, faster, climb better, they are happy. That’s rewarding.
Amy’s Running Clinics:
-September 9th – October 14th
-Wednesdays at 6:00pm at PGPDX
-Run assessment and personalized weekly core routine
-1 hour sports massage to aid in recovery
-Activity log & journal
For more information contact Amy directly at firstname.lastname@example.org / 503-980-5712 / or check out her website here!
Erin Monahan is a freelance writer and climber with a unique brand of stoke. She started her climbing love affair in Moab and now lives in Portland, Oregon as a weekend warrior. Want to know more about the girl behind the stoke? You can find her documented adventure and life lessons on her website, www.terraincognitaseries.squarespace.com. She’s also up for chatting about your gritty and glorious experiences too, so be sure to say “Hi” when you’re at the Portland Planet Granite.