I get hurt a lot.
No, I don’t mean emotionally (Ok, that too). I mean physically injured. A familiar echo of my family and friends follows every such incident: “Jesus, Justin, you’re hurt again?!”
In my lifetime, I’ve sprained, cracked, strained, or torn the following: toe, ankles, knee (ACL, MCL, meniscus), hammy, quad, groin, ab, ribs, wrist, thumb, pinky, shoulder, collar bone, neck (c5 / c6), nose, eye, jaw, and probably several concussions.
In the words of comedian, Gary Gulman, “yeah, no” I’m not exaggerating and “no, yeah” I wish I was.
In the school year (do 30-something year-olds use ‘school year’ as a unit of time measurement?) of 2015/2016 alone, I got three separate MRIs for three separate injuries and two cortisone shots for good measure.
I suspect that I am probably as about informed on the body’s physiology, anti-inflammatory dosages, and the RICE method as any Tom, Dick or Harry going. Not because I’m so smart or well-studied, but because you can’t help but learn when you’re constantly being walked through images of your own bones and muscles every couple months.
Why? Why is it that I get injured so often?
Well, some think is it because I am part of that unenviable group of people we refer to bleakly as, “the injury prone” (the “IPs”). These are people whose bodies are perhaps too fragile for constant or intense physical contact.
This might seem totally unfortunate and based solely on unlucky genetics – but you’d never know it based on the typically vitriol attitude of sports fans towards us IPs: “Ucch, Mccnab – that god damn pansy. Hurt again! I hate him.”
You hate him? Is it his fault?
The late comedian, Mitch Hedberg, has a joke about alcoholism, calling it the only disease for which you can get yelled at for having. Can you imagine, Hedberg asks, people doing this for other diseases?!
“Damn it, Otto, you’re an alcoholic!”
“Damn it, Otto, you have lupus!”
“One of those doesn’t sound right.”
I think we should add injury-prone to that list. (Though I think TB12 would say there is more control than we think).
Either I’m a lowly IP, or maybe it’s my propensity to never pass up the opportunity to dive for the ball. Even on hard courts. Even in one-on-one practice. Yes, I’m a dunce.
Whatever the reason for my injuries – this history has made me someone who verges on desperation in trying to find reprieve from this life of immobility and inflammation. I have gone near and far to find it and spent a boatload of money in the process, most of the time, to no avail.
I have been to nearly every type of physical and medical therapy there is. Basically a slew of initials, from the traditional to the weird-sounding alternatives: P.T., A.R.T, EGOSCUE, A.M.I.T, Chiro, Graston Technique, FMS, Cortisone, Sauna, Ice baths, cold showers, massage. And I have cupping, cryogenic, and acupuncture on deck (although, the science behind them is not exactly conclusive).
Basically everything in Tim Ferriss’s Four-Hour Body.
But even with all of this experimentation, for a few particularly stingy injuries – left hip and knee – I’ve seen approximately zero progress. And so, when my dad told me about Tom Brady’s new book, The TB12 Method – a book about the methods that have kept Tom Brady thriving physically at the age of 40 – I was hopeful (though limitedly so, as I have sorta ‘been burned before’ type of disillusionment).
The book itself was pretty interesting and informative (save the blatantly marketed-from-a-megaphone line of powders, bars, bands, and rollers). But I was even more enthused when I got to the end of the book and saw that they actually have a TB12 Therapy Center that offers Brady’s form of physical therapy, the so-called, “Pliability,” to the public.
Brady’s blessing and another chance to chase injury freedom was enough for me. The following day, I booked five days in a row at the TB12 Center and a flight to New England.
The TB12 Center
When you walk into the TB12 Center at Patriot Place, you are immediately comforted by the top-rate-ism that this facility exudes. The Center, maybe 500 yards away from Gillette Stadium, is pristine in décor and image. I’d say old Tommy boy (and investors) spared approximately zero expense in its creation.
With my history of alternative therapy experiences, I’ve been into some pretty crappy, dingy looking spaces. The kind that feel like a cross between one of those sketchy Thai massage parlors and a high school weight-room from the 1960s. This was not an issue at TB12.
Everything from the equipment to the therapy rooms, all the way to the front desk, are all designed and placed with a sense of style, professionalism, state-of-the-art-ness. I felt as if was in good hands immediately upon entrance.
Excited, nervous, and praying that this trip wouldn’t add to the long list of thousand-dollar hope-killers along my injury quest, I awaited meeting my trainer, Kris.
Kris, I was later to find out, was Alex Guerrero’s (co-founder of TB12 and founder of the Method) first or second hire and had been with him as long as anyone. This was extremely comforting since I specifically requested someone experienced enough to have hopefully seen and healed injuries like mine.
Kris was probably the next best thing to Alex. Good start.
Kris had me meet him about 10 or so minutes early for the first appointment, an appointment that was already to be 90 minutes (as opposed to the normal 60) given it was the first consultation.
Though I had already read the book, I was still pretty confused about the Method, and I was looking forward to both the physical and mental workout. Kris lead me into the Center.
Now, as I was saying, this place is top-notch. From the field turf to the futuristic-looking treadmills, to the multiple forms of exercise equipment (mostly band-based), to the tables and the individual therapy rooms, to a glass-backboard basketball hoop, and a collection of sports accoutrement, it is quite a site.
As I walked in I saw people doing all kinds of functional athletic, speed, strength and resistance exercises. From young kids to mid-50s working professionals, it was a fluid and electric scene.
Kris directed me into one of the four or five therapy rooms on the right-hand side, and we started the evaluation process.
The Evaluation Process
Now, at most PT centers, the evaluation will consist of this: fill out a sheet that has a diagram of the body and circle where you have your injury (ies). It always reminds me of the Seinfeld joke about drug companies. “No face, mouth open, this is the way drug companies see the public.”
Then the therapist will ask you to describe the history, what activities are limited you, what you’ve tired so far, and if they’re really advanced, maybe even your goals for this therapy.
The TB12 Eval process is a bit more comprehensive. Yes, they ask the above questions, but they ask them with respect to your entire injury history to get a good sense of your body as a whole and it’s potential imbalances. They then ask about your diet, hydration, sleep patterns, employment, and mental state. What do all of these have to do with a hip and knee injury? We’ll get to that below.
After he thinks he understands the problem, we get into about 20-30 minutes of body work. And this ain’t ya grandfathas bodywork. This ain’t no Swedish massage. This shit HURTS.
Kris takes his hands, his elbows and his body weight, and applies deep pressure to, as far as I can tell, the most torturous points in my body with the goal of, I think, reducing me to a crying, screaming, woman-baby.
Ok, it isn’t quite that bad, but I could imagine someone not coming back because it’s “just too painful.”
Anyway, the process that Kris is undergoing is the core form of “muscle softening and lengthening” they call “pliability.” From the book – pliability is:
“targeted, deep-force muscle work to lengthen and soften every muscle of my body as I rhythmically contract and relax that muscle. [It is done] twice—once before a full workout and again after”
You can think about it like a certain kind of directed and deep massage along with simultaneous, “rhythmic” and functional movements of the muscles being targeted (and the surrounding muscles).
After Kris has performed this on my upper and lower body, I am pretty “pliable” and bouncy, and I am ready to undergo various tests of my gait, explosion, balance, and strength to see where I currently stand and on what areas we need to focus.
Curious as I am, as we were performing all of these tests and functional exercises, I started to rattle off a ton of questions to Kris about the history, the Method, and what to expect.
And from Kris’s explanation and the information in the book, I was able to gain a pretty clear picture of how this whole thing came about…
The History: Hard Work, Success, Injury, Answer
Tom Brady’s career began in quite extraordinary fashion. I assume many people will be familiar with the story.
Drafted in 2000, he started off as the forth(!) string quarterback in a seemingly insurmountable hole behind a very successful and gifted quarterback in Drew Bledsoe. The prospect of Brady even playing a snap, much less becoming a starting QB, was uncertain at best, and near hopeless at worst.
But two things happened that year. Hard work + opportunity (which, according to the poster hanging in my high-school football coach’s classroom, is the formula for what people call “luck”).
Thing one was the hard work element. Brady worked himself all the way from fourth string into the backup role in just few months during training camp. A difficult feat that would prove to change the course of NFL history.
He had learned how to work hard and earn prominence on the roster from his time at Michigan, where he began his college career as the fifth-string quarterback! I didn’t even know college teams had five quarterbacks, but apparently they do.
What’s worse, at Michigan, even the backup QB at that point was a guy by the name of Brian Griese. Griese would go on to have a very productive and successful career in the NFL. The chances of playing for Brady were bleak indeed.
But, instead of putting his head in the sand, Brady took the Michael Jordan I-was-cut-from-my-high-school-team-and-now-you’re-all-in-big-big-trouble attitude. He outworked everyone on the team and eventually rose to starter. He was then drafted number 199 (out of about 250) in the NFL draft of 2000, giving every team the opportunity to pass him up about five times each.
Brady took the same approach to eventually achieve the backup role on the Patriots, including weekly 6 AM speed and footwork drills to close the gap athletically. By the second game of the season, only Bledsoe was in front of him on the depth chart.
That paved the way for the second occurrence: opportunity. In the second game that year against the NY Jets, Bledsoe was the victim of a crushing collision in between two Jets defenders and would be out for the rest of the year.
That gave Tom Terrific the opening and rewarded his hard-work and perseverance. He became the starter, they won the 2001 Super Bowl, and 17 years later, he’s likely to keep piling them on.
Brady’s Early Injuries
Brady was improving year after year, climbing closer and closer to becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the league (and history), but at the same time, feeling more and more of the grind that is the NFL season. His body was starting to break down.
“three or four years into my Patriots career, I’d gotten more conditioned than ever to the fact that no matter what I did, my arm and shoulder were going to be hurting. By 2004, at age twenty-seven, I was pretty much constantly aware of the wear and tear on my body.”
At the time, there didn’t seem to be much of an answer for this. Injuries are just flat out part of the game, people had told him. You play hard, you work out, you get injured, you rehab, and then you go back out there. This was the injury inevitability.
“ever since I was young, coaches and trainers had always told me that playing sports was all about dealing with pain. It was just a fact, it seemed to me, that playing sports—one of the great joys and opportunities of my life—strained and pounded and broke down my body.”
Eventually, Brady’s elbow and shoulder were constantly inflamed to the point where he could barely move his arm after games. Then he would simply have to ice it and just get back in there at practice, continuing this ever-lasting cycle of pain and body-collapse.
Since “dealing with the pain” was part of the game, for much of his young career, Brady never sought out alternatives. Of course, Michigan and New England had a staff full of (apparently) world-class physical therapist, physicians, and strength coaches, but not much past that.
“I never questioned that model or way of thinking, and no one else I knew did, either. I also didn’t consider any alternatives, because as far as I could tell, there weren’t any.”
Here, Brady doesn’t mean no alternatives at all – he means none that have worked. They all kept with the play-with-the-pain and rub-some-dirt-on-it mindset.
“Mind you, I had been getting massage, cold treatments, hot treatments, ultrasound, electrostimulation treatments, ART, chiropractic work, stretching, and everything else in between for more than fifteen years from various athletic training staffs.”
With this constant disappointment and thought of no alternatives, Brady admits that he “wasn’t in enough pain to realize [he] needed to change” his approach. In fact, it took the comment of his “god-father-like” teammate, Willie McGinest, to point out to him: “Dude, you can’t practice; you can’t even move your elbow” to get Brady to get help. And Willie had just the guy.
Like Brady, McGinest had California roots and even played college ball at USC. It was through that California connection that he met his “body coach,” Alex. Willie had been urging Tom for at least a year or so to see Alex about his many debilitating injuries, and finally, he got him to book an appointment.
The Meeting: Brady and Guerrero
So who is this guy, Alex and why did McGinest swear by him? I’ll let Brady tell the story:
“Alex grew up in California and studied traditional Chinese medicine in college. Since 1996, he’d been working at his rehabilitation facility in Los Angeles, where he worked with a wide range of athletes across all sports… In those days, nobody was doing anything close to what Alex was doing. Sports medicine and athletic performance went hand in hand but were segmented, with a strength trainer doing one thing, a position coach doing another thing, and a massage therapist doing something else entirely. Alex, on the other hand, had spent his life and career studying and combining Eastern and Western perspectives and creating a holistic, mind-body approach to sports performance and well-being.”
Brady was a bit skeptical of this background, but if it was good enough for Willie, he was willing to give it a try. All of the doubts faded away after his first couple sessions where he began to see dramatic improvement – the type of improvement in areas in which every other form of therapy had failed:
“Alex immediately began zeroing in on my tendinitis by using targeted, deep-force muscle work in a way no one ever had before…The first treatment with Alex began my understanding of what pliability was. Explaining that my elbow tendon was inflamed, Alex spent the next hour lengthening and softening the muscles surrounding my elbow joint, as well as icing only my inflamed elbow tendon, using a mixture of instinct, know-how, and experience. As he continued lengthening and softening my muscles, the pain and tension in my elbow slowly dissipated.”
“Twenty-four hours later, after another treatment, I could feel the difference in my elbow. Forty-eight hours later, after two more treatments, the improvement in my elbow was even more noticeable. Over the next two weeks, as I kept working with Alex in a methodical way that soon became a routine, the pain and soreness in my elbow and shoulder was better by half.”
In fact, the results have been so good, that many of the Patriots players (and other professional athletes around the country) have gravitated away from Patriots personnel and over to the TB12 Center. This explains the recent controversy in the news.
Ok, Ok, these are pretty good results – but I don’t get it. What is this thing again? Pliability? Sounds like a bunch of nonsense.
Yes, I too was confused, but luckily, after reading through the book a few times, talking to Kris, my TB12 Therapist about it, and actually experiencing it first hand for five days in a row, I was able to get a lot clearer on what this whole thing is about.
And it’s true what they say…sometimes the truth really hurts.
The Method: What Is Pliability and How Does It Work?
Imagine you are sitting in a fictional Kindergarten classroom and your towering, muscle-bound, sex-machine of a teacher, Mr Gimble, asks you, in a hilarious Austrian accent, the following question: What is Pliability and What does it do?
You’re going to want to have an answer.
Luckily, I think I have a lot of that answer right here. Or at least some of it.[WARNING: for all people not into science-y, here’s-how-the-body-works stuff – the next 50-100 lines will be painful]
The theory behind TB12 is that there are certain functions of the body that you want to maximize and others you want to minimize for your muscles, blood, and brain to be working correctly. According to TB12, these include:
- Increasing Oxygenation (oxygen circulation in muscles and organs via the blood)
- Decrease Chronic Inflammation of the Body (as opposed to “acute” or short-term inflammation)
- Increase Muscle “Pliability”
- Increase and Prepare for Functional Movement
All of these four pillars work in tandem – as the body tends to work – and as such, they impact each other. For example, let’s look at the impact the actual body work of pliability has on all of them.
Remember – the body work of pliability is simply this: “targeted, deep-force muscle work to lengthen and soften every muscle of [the] body as [the patient] rhythmically contract[s] and relax[es] that muscle.” Similar to a very intense, deep, and repetitive massaging or kneading movement, done rhythmically, along the entire length of a muscle, say your hamstring from the knee to the glute.
The therapist will always do this towards the heart and then right after his upstroke, you will move your leg as instructed (like pulling your ankle quickly and repetitively towards your arse and back down again). This process is repeated on basically the whole body. (And boy does it hurt like hell).
So what does this do?
The therapists motion is “lengthening and softening” the muscles making them more efficient for blood flow ( increase oxygenation), more able to move fluidly and sustain contact (Increase functional movement and Pliability) and therefore making them less susceptible to inflammation (chronic Inflammation).
After this process (maybe 20-30 minutes) you begin functional movements and exercises that seek to balance and strengthen muscles, in ways in which you will be asking them to move. All of this while not making them too dense as by a “linear lift” like a bench press or a deadlift, so as to not be appropriately balanced and bendable.
What’s the problem with a deadlift or a “load-added” exercise? At TB12 they view these exercises as non-functional. For example, if you’re a sprinter, how often in the course of sprinting are you asking your body to lift a 400 pound load straight up from the ground and back down again? Umm, never…
“Muscles aren’t for strength or for show. Their function is to protect your bone structure and to support the acts of daily living. You should train to develop the optimal strength to do the job your body needs to do, while limiting the load—especially the overload—you put on your joints. Make your muscles work every day, and load them appropriately for what you’re asking of them in your daily life.”
Injuries: A Different Explanation
Most doctors and PTs I’ve been to claim that the injury to the a body part, say, hamstring, is due to weakness of the hamstring itself or muscles around it. TB12 has a slightly different perspective.
They think that a muscle is injured, not because it is weak, but because it was inappropriately overloaded without the necessary balance, pliability, and functional training that would establish the necessary neurological connection to repeat this movement.
Simply put (I hope), your muscles get instruction from your brain. You need to train and prepare your muscles in a way that the brain knows how exactly you want them to move and respond to trauma.
The muscle was overloaded because you’re body was out of balance – meaning certain muscles were taking on more load then they were prepared for and in a way that they were not functionally trained to handle. This, according to TB12, causes over-worked muscles, or worse, force shifted to ligaments, joints, tendons, as in an ACL tear.
Where The Brain Fits In
There are two elements here: the blunt, deep force of the “massaging” and the contracting and rhythmic and active movement that the patient does at the same time. Both of these act to create a state where your brain and muscles are on the same page and are prepared for the movements you intend.
On the deep and forceful massage:
“By creating a physical stimulus—what we call ‘positive and intentional trauma’—before and after a workout or game, my brain and body learn how I want my muscles to function during practice or game competitions. Muscles naturally tighten when they contract or when they take a hit, but if I train my brain, and by extension my muscles, to remain in a long, soft, primed state, they’ll perform more optimally, with lower risks of injury, by absorbing those forces.”
And on the repeated contraction of the muscle while this is going on:
“By rhythmically contracting and relaxing your muscles in a lengthened, softened state through pliability sessions, you make connections between the brain and the body, which is known as ‘neural priming.’ Why is that important? Because the body begins to associate muscle function and movement with long, soft, primed muscle contractions.”
The Integration: Hydration, Sleep, Nutrition, Mindset
The final elements of this are what you drink and eat, how you sleep, and how you treat your mind.
Brady eats a diet mostly focused on plants, though he does eat some meat, mostly fish. His goals are the same as above: oxygen-rich blood, lowered inflammation, etc. A diet that is high in plants, and therefore fiber, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and other big and confusing words, is naturally alkaline (so less acidic) and has been shown clinically to lower chronic inflammation in the body.
And it’s similar for keeping hydrated. Water and electrolytes are essential for everything from brain function to your body’s waste management system.[If you want more on how to hydrate optimally according to research, I wrote this little primer].
Ditto for getting excellent sleep (at minimum, studies show, over seven hours before harmful effects), and training your mind, including a Growth Mindset (which I’ve written about here),learning, meditation.
The system is fully integrated and reverberates through all aspects of your life. This is the influence of Alex’s East-meets-West theory of body and mind.
Ok, done. that’s the basic theory.
Now, if you are like me, even someone who loves learning this stuff – you read this and your brain took a quick nap.
Don’t worry, it takes at least a few examples to get it – while really getting it, like many things, may require actually experiencing it.
Luckily I did that for you (at least so you can decide if you want to experience it yourself)– so let’s get back to my experience and I think it will make a bit more sense.
Did I mention it hurts like hell?!
My TB12 Experience: First Pain, Then Gain
I awoke my second day of TB12 feeling like my whole body had been continuously bludgeoned by a tack-hammer. My entire body was sore and I was slow to get myself out of bed and into the shower.
I noticed that my body was swollen in several areas (no, gross) and even had some light bruising in specific problem areas, like my hip, for which I came to be saved.
But even in the midst of this soreness, I was fairly optimistic about the rest of my experience.
For one thing, my therapist, Kris, was extremely informed, thorough and helpful. He showed great patience and support in helping me understand The Method and helped me to better understand my body and the probable causes for my chronic injuries. He also knew a surprising amount of 90s movie references, so that definitely helped.
I came out after the first day enthused about where this was going, mostly because it was starting to make a whole lot of sense. And, after just the first day’s body work, my hip, remarkably, was feeling a lot better. This kind of relief had not even been hinted at in any prior kind of therapy for more than an hour or so.
The second day, we were going to return to the body work, and then get into functional movements and explosive exercises. I was pretty pumped.
The body work took about 20-30 minutes in total. And, again, it was no picnic. However, I found that I was able to take it a little bit better. Perhaps one part expectation, one part adaptation. Or, then again, maybe I was just numb from being massacred the day prior? Whatever works.
I’ll tell you this, I’ve never looked so forward to the high-intensity training piece of a program versus the massage element!
Afterwards, Kris took me through a series of functional movements and high intensity exercises using bands, bars, running, jumping, balance and body weight. It was pretty intense.
It is called an “anti-gravity treadmill” (pictured below). Doesn’t it look like I have a mini spaceship around my waist?
You basically enter it in this sort of harness that is pretty tightly fastened around the old crochal region. They suggest using the restroom prior to entrance.
The goal of the machine is to allow you to run while not having to use all of your body weight. You feel like Lloyd Christmas pumping his arms in the Shaggin’ Wagon: “it feels like you’re running at an incredible rate, Harry!” It sort of feels like running in a pool.
I was doing things on my knee, hip, and even shoulder that I had rarely done without discomfort or awkwardness for about 18 months or so. Pretty sweet.
At the end of the session, we went through another 15 minutes or so of body work and rhythmic contractions. I left feeling loose and “pliable.”
By the time Day 5 rolled around, I was cutting, jumping, sprinting, throwing, and exploding through drills with little to no apprehension.
And it wasn’t just me – I saw and met quite a few other “patients” and they had similar experiences. I’ll briefly list a few of them, so you can get a feel of the clientele that attends a TB12 Center, and the talk about one person specifically whose experience at TB12 seemed to give him new perspective on his workout routines and his Cross-Fit coaching.
The Clientele: What Kind Of People Go Here?
There were people of all types of backgrounds and goals at the TB12 Center. All ages, various sports, various goals.
“A lot of athletes come to us because conventional methods haven’t worked for them. Some come to train, others are more focused on performance, and still others are trying to recover from injuries. We see professional athletes, elite amateurs (including high school athletes), college students who want to make the team or have their eyes on the pros, weekend warriors, and men and women from eight to eighty who just want to unlock their own sustained peak performance.”
To give you an idea, one guy was about 6’5 or 6’6 and a former quarterback from Boston College. Apparently he had a major injury and, now, getting back to health at TB12, is looking to play on an arena league, though I’m not exactly sure where.
Then there was this 6’3 or so kid that was around 15 or 16 years old I believe. This kid was going through various functional and explosive drills in the way that you could tell he was a very good and competitive athlete. Later, I played basketball wit the kid and then we threw a football around – kid had a cannon.
Lastly there was, Jason.
Jason was a guy I had seen since my third day at TB12. Now on the last day, I made it a point to annoy the hell out of him with a bunch of probing questions. I was very interested to see why he was there, how he’d heard about it, and how his experience was.
It turned out, Jason was there for the same reason I was. A late-30s, cross-fitting, baseball coach and teacher from Atlantic City – he had a few chronic injuries. And it wasn’t helping that he was playing competitive summer baseball against just-out-of-college players and ex-minor leaguers.
His injuries were mostly to his back and shoulder and, like me, though he had tried many other options prior, nothing seemed to work.
He had heard about the Center in the same way I had – through the book. He basically did the exact thing: he was intrigued by the book, decided that it was worth a shot, and booked his few days in a row.
As he was checking out on that last day, he was purchasing a few of the TB12 Center tools such as an electric, soft-ball shaped “roller” to mimic the deep-force body work when by himself. By the looks of it, he had enjoyed his experience. I decided to probe further.
He mentioned how his experience here and the points made by Brady in the book had really made him rethink how he was training. The experience convinced him that he needed to drop a lot of the ways he was doing things at CrossFit – the blunt force, heavy weights and aggressive movements to potentially un-pliabile muscles – and he was going to start implementing a lot of these tactics into his routine.
He was also going to require everyone at his Cross-Fit gym to “roll out” their muscles, in TB12 fashion, for 10-15 minutes prior and following every single work out.
As for himself, he was going to drop all weighted exercises and incorporate much more body weight and band work in functional movements, rather than movements he doesn’t need for baseball, like a “clean and jerk” or other such lifts.
A pretty big turn around and a good reflection of the impact The TB12 Method can have on one’s perspective.
Wrapping Up: Pros, Cons, Conclusion
Overall, I was very happy with my experience at the TB12 Center. The facility was top-notch, the trainers were informed and invested in your recovery, the body work was painful but fruitful, and the functional exercises added a new layer to my training. Ultimately, I think it inspired a new way of thinking – another “mental model” as Warren Buffett’s partner, Charlie Munger, would call it – by which to view your body and mind and their interaction in the world.
Let’s go over the various pros and cons and then you can take a nap after all this reading.
- The Theory Makes Sense. I believe that the TB12 Method embodies a very important piece of the the puzzle that is the body and mind. As much as I’ve read about and learned about the body, the theory of pliability, balance, inflammation, ‘oxygenation,’ and how they are supported by what you eat, drink, how you sleep and treat your mind makes a ton of sense to me.
- It Worked (At Least Temporarily). From the time when I left TB12 to about 2 weeks post, I felt zero of the two-year old hip discomfort and knee issues. My shoulders also seemed light-years ahead of where they were. Now, about 5 weeks after the experience, the discomfort has returned but only slightly. This is much more than I can say about most other therapy I have tried. Am I healed? No. But, is that fair to ask after 5 days of anything? Brady’s been doing this weekly for a decade.
- You Can Do [Some of It] At Home. By using a combination of traditional rollers and perhaps a lacrosse ball to get in and around hard-to-reach joints like shoulder, hip, feet, etc, you can perform at least some degree of the deep-force body work on yourself. You just need to work in 15 minutes or so before and after. You can also do the functional exercises if you have access to bands and pulleys. And apparently, an app is forthcoming.
- Costly. Brady does this 4 times per week, sometimes twice per day, meaning that he gets anywhere from 4-8 hours of body work from a trained TB12 therapist per week. This alone would cost over $6,000 per month, or about $75,000 per year. That’s steep.
- Time. If you were going to do it like I did it at the TB12 Center, we are talking about 20-30 minutes before and after whatever workout you’re going to do. So another hour per day at the gym.
- Location. As of now, there is only one facility in Foxborough, though there are rumors of a possible second facility opening in Southern California.
- Hard To Mimic On Your Own. As I mentioned, for my week at the TB12 Center, I was getting 45 minutes of body work, while also able to contract and move rhythmically. Even if you have the TB12 equipment, it is very, very hard, or impossible, to get even 75% of that benefit, it seems to me. This would explain the slight discomfort that is starting to return despite my continuing to use the rollers and the exercises. Then I was trained and observed and coached on the various functional movements and exercises. This is also incredibly hard to mimic, as anyone who has been to a trainer will understand.
- Data. As much as I loved this experience, and as much as the system makes sense intuitively, I tend to get squeamish anytime claims are made without sufficient scienctific vetting. Though there is plenty of anecdotal evidence and “associative” data – Brady being the prime example – there is still far to go before concluding that this method is scientifically sound. We always want to be weary of the placebo effect, for instance.
Conclusion and My Plan Moving Forward
I think the experience was 100% worth it and I think there might be something to this training for eventually overcoming these injuries of mine. However, I am certainly aware of the many cons, most notably the logistical impossibility of me getting there a couple times per week (I live in California), and that whole pesky data / sciency thing.
Nevertheless, I believe there is value. So here is what I’ll do.
First, I will probably go back here for a few days with Kris once a quarter if I can.
Second, I will keep up the program on my own, rolling out 15-20 minutes prior, and trying to do the rhythmic contractions as I do it – though that is much harder without the therapist.
Third, I will keep up the functional movement routines and work with strictly bands for a while.
Forth, I will monitor and measure progress in order to try and decipher if this is scientific or pseudo.
If you’re injured and considering it (and enjoy elbows digging into your hip), I say book a sesh.
From my perspective, we just might have something here…
PS – please comment with any questions or areas I did not cover. Also would love to hear about anyone’s experiences or in any ways I can further shed light on injuries in general or the TB12 Method.