Therapydia Saratoga Clinic Director Robert Lucente takes some time to talk about the importance of keeping active, why everyone should see a PT and his love of pancakes.
When did you know that you wanted to be a physical therapist?
My junior year in college, I had four amazing mentors while working as a student athletic trainer in the Sports Medicine department at Santa Clara University. One of those mentors was not only an athletic trainer but also a physical therapist. She had several hands-on skills that intrigued me and she was the one who helped guide me into the PT profession.
What surprised you the most about the physical therapy profession?
The level of knowledge and expertise we obtain to do our job. As physical therapists, we need to know every single muscle, bone, ligament, tendon and nerve in the body and how they relate directly and indirectly. Then we have to be able to fix them all through manual treatment and exercise prescription. A patient once asked me “how many exercises do you know?” My response was “endless”. That’s because every single exercise has thousands of modifications depending on how the patient presents.
How do you like to stay active?
I enjoy playing basketball on Sundays with a group of friends at my neighborhood park. Outside of that, I exercise almost every evening in my home gym. I also have two children under the age of three that keep me moving non-stop.
What’s your favorite song to get you motivated?
I would have to say anything by Linkin Park from their first two albums. I still remember listening to their music as a high schooler prior to basketball, volleyball and tennis matches to get me pumped up and ready to give it my all on the court. Today I am pretty even-keeled but when it’s time to get a little extra juice when I’m going for a run, I turn to Linkin Park for that spark.
Are you currently pursuing any further education or certifications?
The landscape of PT is always changing. To be the best, you need to stay on top of the latest cutting edge treatment options. I have completed my orthopedic specialist certification as well as my advanced manual therapy certification. My next goal is to become certified in the physical therapy philosophy and treatments within the realm of the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI). PRI has been around since the 1980s but didn’t enter mainstream physical therapy until recently. It digs deep into the idea that because our anatomy is not symmetrical, that leads to one-sided dominance which can then lead to improper imbalances and thus pain and dysfunction.
What’s your go-to breakfast?
Pancakes!! I love pancakes: blueberry, vanilla cinnamon, OREO, etc. etc. I realize it’s not the best source of fuel and energy in the morning but oh do they taste so good.
What do you wish everyone knew about PT?
That we are the musculoskeletal specialists in medicine and that EVERYONE should see their physical therapist for an assessment every single year. If your teeth require two checkups per year, why doesn’t your entire body get at least one checkup from a professional who has studied how your body works the most?
What is the biggest misconception about physical therapy that you hear from new patients?
That physical therapy will hurt. Totally false, we are here to help you. You may experience some discomfort while we perform a particular technique to improve your flexibility or range of motion but the second we stop you should no longer feel that discomfort. In fact, you should be able to move the body part we were just working on and say, “wow that feels better!”
In your opinion, what is the most important personality trait that a PT must have?
I had a professor once tell me “The difference between a good physical therapist and a great one is the ability to connect with your patient”. We need to be great listeners, we need to be compassionate and have empathy, we need to have patience and we need to be sociable. Whether the patient is an eight year old gymnast or an 82 year old retiree, we need to understand their goals and portray our treatment plan in a fashion that connects with our audience. So in summary, a PT needs to be a real people person.
What do you do to de-stress/unwind?
I am a big craft beer aficionado. At the end of the night after the kids are put down for bed and I’ve exercised, I love to sit down and just drink a tasty beer. I usually don’t even drink the whole thing but there is something calming about resting without any noise around me and sipping on that cold brew.
Finish this sentence: On Saturday mornings, you can usually find me…
At the park with my family. What better way to enjoy California weather but to be outdoors? Typically the morning starts off at the farmers market, followed by some sort of fun class for my daughter (right now it’s ballet), then off to the park followed by visiting family.
What is the best piece of wellness advice you’ve ever received?
Spend more time with family and friends, they are the ones who truly bring joy and meaning to your life. They are the ones that make you smile and it has been proven that individuals who smile more live longer!
What is your favorite piece of wellness advice to offer?
Get moving!! Whether that means using a portion of your lunch break to go for a 10 minute walk with colleagues or doing some squats during the commercials of your favorite sports game or heading to the park with loved ones. When we are active our mood is better, our internal systems work more fluidly and we allow our bones and muscles to get the necessary work to avoid becoming degenerative. Move better, feel better, live better!