In this edition of ‘In the Spotlight’ let’s talk with Tammy Moorey. I have had the pleasure of working with Tammy since July 2020. This was during the height of the pandemic when we started virtually but have since been able to meet on a monthly basis as she continues to kick up her training.
To say I’m impressed with Tammy’s dedication and consistency is an understatement. She will do whatever it takes to run pain-free and live a healthy lifestyle which has made my job very easy. Because let’s be honest, with knee osteoarthritis you constantly have to be on top of the smaller details in order to function with limited pain at a high level.
My first interaction with Tammy continues to be one of my favorites. It was a beautiful sunny Summer day in Michigan and I remember her sitting outside of the hospital for our Zoom call on her lunch break. With a poor prognosis from the doctor and physical therapist regarding her knees, I was confident that if we started slow, respected her pain, but also addressed the underlying areas which were contributing, we would come out better on the other side. Although I knew it would take much longer then a month and was unsure to what degree we could reliably see improvements, I recommended the trial program to make sure this was the best fit for her first step. We regularly look back on this conversation as she was hesitantly optimistic in the path forward. Since then, Tammy has invested herself in the process and we continue to work together in a truly collaborative way.
Without further ado, let’s shine the spotlight on…
Q: Where are you from?
A: “Wixom, Michigan.”
Q: What do you do for work?
A: “I am an administrative Assistant at University of Michigan Hospital.”
Q: When you aren’t working, what are some of your favorite hobbies?
A: “Running, biking, swimming, training the puppy, and all things sewing related. I have made everything from doll clothes to wedding dresses!”
Q: If you could live anywhere in the world where would that be? Why?
A: “I don’t think I would leave Michigan. Why, you may ask, we have the most unbelievable weather. In the spring it is not uncommon to have one day in the 70’s and the next barely above freezing. That said, the seasons are great. Fresh air and new growth in the spring. Watching the grass go from winter brown to vibrant green. The smell of flowers blooming, and the amazing colors. Hot, humid summer days, perfect for swimming at the lake or having a picnic with the family. The colors in the fall are breath taking. Nothing is better than apple cider and fresh donuts from the local cider mill. Winters can be challenging, especially since I prefer to run outside, but nothing beats that first snowy run when yours are the only footprints in the freshly fallen snow. The air is so crisp and clean. I sound like a travel ad lol. On top of all that, there are so many lakes in and surrounding Michigan. 4 of the 5 Great Lakes make Michigan giant peninsulas. You are never more than 6 miles from a body of water, or 85 miles from a Great Lake! Add to that all the miles of dirt trails and paved walkways, can’t get much better than this!”
Q: What are the top reasons you enjoy running, triathlon, and staying active?
A: “I started running to lose weight when I was in my 50s. Then, I had a perfect run. You know, where everything is just good. Nothing hurt. Breathing wasn’t too difficult, and I got home and said, “I love running!” Hubs rolled his eyes and sent me to the store for proper running shoes. I was hooked. I feel better when I run. After I did my one and only marathon, I wanted to challenge myself with something new. I was a swimmer a million years ago in high school, and I love to ride my bike, so it was a natural progression for me to dip my toes into the waters of a triathlon. I joined a local group, learned as much as I could in a short period of time, volunteered for a tri, and then in 2019 I hit the starting line and completed my first tri. It was a sprint tri, so on the short side, but there is progression there as well, so next up is an Olympic tri in August this year!
Staying active for me is necessary. I most likely would have been diagnosed with ADHD or some such thing when I was a kid. I can’t just sit still. I go crazy when I go too long without doing something. Since my grandson was born, I have wanted to be able to do things with him, and not sit on the sidelines wishing I could do the things. He loves to run with granny when we are able to visit! I work in the health system, and have seen what aging combined with a sedentary lifestyle does to our minds and bodies. I may not be a graceful ballerina, but I want people to look at me and wonder just how old I am. I sure don’t “feel” my age.”
Q: On Facebook, I see you cooking up some amazing meals. What’s the best dinner you’ve made recently?
A: “Oooo, that’s a tough one. I love to experiment with food and flavors. I think my favorite recent meal was Chicken Piccata. The capers add such a vibrant pop to the dish! My son, who doesn’t like chicken, even said this was great!”
Q: When you first started working with Garrett, what were the goals you wanted to achieve?
A: “Our first phone call started with me first telling Garrett how old I am, my injury history, and me asking him if he thought I would ever be able to run pain-free again. That was my first goal, to be able to enjoy the sport I love so much. I wanted to feel stronger, and really learn how to be injury free once I was pain free.”
Q: What motivated you to work with Garrett and start implementing a running retraining and strength training program?
A: “In December of 2019 I was participating in an online Pilates class and did a side lunge. I did something wrong and my right knee popped. I was in so much pain, I called the next day for an appointment with my PCP. She referred to physical therapy, and orthopedic surgeon, and ordered an MRI. The surgeon basically told me if I didn’t stop running I would be headed for a knee replacement in a matter of a few years. He also said that the pain would most likely never resolve without a knee replacement, but he ordered an off-loader brace so I could walk pain-free. I was so sad. I think I cried for a week. I watched a few of Garrett’s webinars and practiced some of the exercises he demonstrated. He always demonstrates with proper form, which I find so many videos do not do. Anyway, I won a free consultation after one of these webinars. We talked for a while. He was so optimistic that he would be able to help me. If I remember right, I signed up for 1 month thinking this is never going to work, and I should just hang up my running shoes. I don’t know if Garrett heard it in my voice, but when he said he is confident he could help me I was crying. Right there, outside my office, tears running down my face that someone on the planet believed in me. Believed that I could be pain free again. That was all I needed. Just thinking about that phone call I’m crying. There was hope! There was a possibility I could run!”
Q: What are the most noticeable improvements you’ve seen so far?
A: “Just on the pain level, there isn’t any most of the time. If my knee does act up, I am able to resolve it in a matter of a few days instead of months. I also feel more secure and grounded doing most of my exercises. My crossover is almost gone. With my bowed legs I don’t know that it will ever be 100% gone, but I don’t hit my ankles while running anymore!”
Q: Have there been ups and downs over the last 9-months or did things progress pretty smoothly?
A: “Strength-wise, I have progressed rather smoothly with only a few minor adjustments along the way. Running has seen its fair share of ups and downs. Overall, the downs are becoming shallower and not lasting as long. Before I met Garrett, I would be in pain and stop running altogether for weeks at a time. Now, we make adjustments and find ways to still run without over stressing my body.
Q: Recently you ran a 10k as a training race in pursuit of an upcoming 1/2 marathon and full marathon (oh yeah, and triathlon!). How did you do?
A: “The first 5 miles were great, not quite the pace I wanted, but I was consistent in my cadence and felt very happy overall. The race was only 5 miles, so my husband met me for the last 1.2 miles. That was much slower, but we made it to 6.2 miles, knee pain free, but my foot started acting up. Bummer, I know!
Last weekend was 2 10k races, one in the morning and one in the evening. The morning was great. The evening was raining and slippery. I was very pleased with both races. My times were similar even in the different conditions. Slipping and sliding I never felt like I was in danger of hurting my ankles or knees. The strength exercises have helped me so much in that area!”
Q: What is your favorite part about the Healthy Running Program?
A: “I don’t think I could pick a favorite part, but I would have to say that learning from each other was great! Being accountable to each other, and maybe a little friendly competition along the way helped keep us all engaged. We learned so much about strength training as well as how to reinforce proper movement with the RAILs plans Garrett put together for each of us. I love that the plans were very unique. We may have had some of the same exercises, but we each had an individual plan to follow. I enjoyed the fireside chats as well. Learning about shoes, nutrition, and why we need to drink so much water are all very important aspects of becoming a better runner.”
Q: You have been a very good communicator throughout this process by commenting in the coaching app on a daily basis. How much do you feel this has contributed to your success?
A: “I think sometime I may sound like a broken record, “adductor rocking is my favorite,” but overall, I know that commenting holds me accountable to Garrett and myself. When I have a question on form or need a kick in the rear to up the weight, Garrett always responds, sometimes when I don’t expect him to. Really, Garrett, why are you answering my questions at 10:00pm? I love it though. Without documenting where you start, you do not know how far you have come! To look back at some of my early workouts where I could barely squat with body weight to now, holding a 25lb weight plate or more and not having any trouble it’s motivation to keep going. At the same time, if a certain move is causing me trouble or pain and I don’t tell Garrett what is happening, he can’t resolve it.”
Q: What is that one thing you dislike the most but continue to work on because you know it will help?
A: “There are a couple, the first is the cervical lateral flexion. My neck has been a problem since a horse riding accident when I was young, but I know that if I don’t keep it moving I will lose the ability to move at all. So, I do it and silently whine that I don’t like it. The other is lateral hand stabilization with the top leg lifting and lowering. They are just hard for me to do. Getting better, but I also sometimes whine out loud while doing them. I have dropped to the floor sobbing, “I can’t do these!” Only to get up and finish the reps assigned because that’s what I’m supposed to do!”
Q: Is there one exercise you find yourself doing more often then others based on how it impacts your knees?
A: “I think I do adductor rocking daily, sometime multiple times a day. There is a pulling sensation on the inside of my knees, and this gently works it out. I also add in thoracic spine rotations several times a week!”
Q: Has there been a specific exercise early on which you were worried would aggravate your knees but it actually went better than expected?
A: “Definitely squats. I watched my first squat video the other day and impressed myself with how much better they are now. I never had the knee pain I expected, and Garrett telling me to just go for it was a game changer!”
Q: In terms of running mechanics, what areas have you addressed that have made you a stronger runner with less knee pain?
A: “Increasing cadence has led to a shorter stride, which has improved the crossover a lot. I don’t heel strike anymore, which I’m sure was a contributing factor to my knee pain. I am working on hip mobility through the swing phase, which will help to increase speed and efficiency in my running. We have also addressed balance and ankle strength and mobility, especially with the trail races coming up.”
Q: Looking ahead, do you have any big goals/races you are working towards?
A: “I sure do! I am doing the Summer Trail Fest half marathon on June 20, the Traverse City Olympic distance triathlon August 15, and the one I have been waiting for almost a year, Run Woodstock trail marathon in September! My friend and I signed up for some crazy package. I think it has a 5k on Friday night, the marathon Saturday, and some sendoff 5k Sunday morning. I can’t wait!”
Thank you for reading this ‘In the Spotlight’ segment. And, a big shout out to Tammy Moorey. To learn more about the Healthy Running Program, please click here!