The first woman head trainer in major pro sports explains how to avoid injury while getting in shape.
When the L.A.Dodgers' $10 million slugger Andre Ethier got hurt at the beginning of this year's baseball season, Sue Falsone was the one who ran out to assess his injury—and that was a little bit of history. Falsone, 38, is the first female head athletic trainer in major American pro sports. Although she faces unique hurdles (at some stadiums, there's no place for her to change into her uniform, so she has to wait in line in the women's restroom), Falsone's job also comes with rare perks. "The other day I was working with center fielder Matt Kemp, and people were yelling for him when I heard my name, too," she says. "There was a 12-year-old girl who said, 'I wanna do what you do.' How cool is that?"
To do what she does, Falsone has amassed a wealth of knowledge about the human body in motion. While most of us aren't playing 162 games a season, anyone—from triathletes to gym-phobes—could benefit from her tips on easing aches and pains, and preventing injuries in the first place.
Treat Your Feet Falsone recommends wearing YogaToes (available at yogapro.com)—which are similar to pedicure separators but thicker—for up to 30 minutes a day. She also has her players roll their arches over a baseball. These measures activate muscles that help support your arch and stretch the fascia, the tissue that binds muscles. "Stretching foot fascia releases tension all the way up your legs," Falsone says.
Relieve Tight Hamstrings Tightness in the backs of your legs may be a sign of instability in your core, as the leg muscles attempt to compensate. The perfect move to both ease the tension and strengthen your torso is the inverted hamstring stretch because it engages your core muscles to help keep you balanced. Do five reps with each leg.
Protect Your Knees With sore knees, the real culprit can be the hips: When your hip muscles are weak, the knees can end up bearing more stress than they're designed to handle, Falsone explains. To take some pressure off, build your hip muscles by doing three sets of ten reps of glute bridges and band walks.
Do the Minimum When Falsone doesn't have time for her own workout, she depends on her better-than-nothing routine. "I'll do a few minutes of push-ups and squats because they give you big bang for your buck"—multiple muscle groups in two moves.
Take a Contrast Bath After games, Falsone's players alternate between hot and cold soaks. Falsone notes that while experts are unsure of the exact physiology at work, the anecdotal benefits are undeniable: "The guys don't feel nearly as tired." You can get a similar effect in the shower by alternating two minutes of hot water with two minutes of cold. (If you have a medical condition, check with your doctor first.)