By Rick Schultz
This is a short interview with Amy Schultz, PT, DPT, CSCS. Bike Fitness Coaching discussed the latest thoughts on her training then and what she would do different now.
BACKGROUND: Amy has a doctorate in physical therapy from the University of California, San Francisco / San Francisco State University (UCSF/SFSU). Her undergraduate degree is from San Diego State University (SDSU) in Kinesiology which is the scientific study of body movement. Amy specializes in sports performance/rehabilitation and pelvic floor physical therapy.
BFC: Amy, there seems to be a lot of interest in kinesiology. With your experience at SDSU, what areas of study can someone specialize in?
AMY: SDSU has 3 areas of expertise within the kinesiology branch; (1) Exercise Science Generalist, (2) Fitness Specialist, (3) Pre-Physical Therapy.
I chose the third. Kinesiology is a great field, especially for those that want to work with athletes. If you have an interest in sports, I encourage you to explore your local colleges (in California, it is the State schools and not the UC schools that offer this program).
BFC: Everyone always asks what the letters after your name mean?
AMY: PT stands for licensed Physical Therapist. This just means I passed my national physical therapy board exam in order to practice physical therapy. DPT is my degree (Doctor of Physical Therapy). CSCS is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist certification that I received through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). The CSCS certification focuses on training athletes for improving their performance. It has helped me be a better physical therapist due to it teaching me how to program for all my patients, not just my athletes.
BFC: Program for your patients? Can you expand on what that means?
AMY: Sure, how to program means making a program for rehab for the athletes. Usually a document with instructions and photos of what to do, how to do, etc.
BFC: I see you have a graduate degree from two schools, is this common practice?
AMY: Short answer is no, and it’s kind of funny that my degree was hosted by 2 schools, SFSU and UCSF. SFSU was on a semester based system and UCSF was on quarters. Because of this, I never really had to take exams at the same time for both schools (laughs). I never fully understood why we had two schools involved in the doctorate program, but I actually enjoyed being at multiple campuses. The commute between the different campuses broke up the long school days. Not to mention, who doesn’t want to be forced to explore the incredible city of San Francisco on a regular basis!
BFC: I hear that it is incredibly challenging to get into physical therapy school. Do you have any advice for those wanting to apply?
AMY: Yes, I have three recommendations. First off, as an undergrad, take as many pre-requisite classes as you can during your Summer breaks in college. This will allow you to apply to a graduate program the same year as you earn your undergraduate degree. Second, I highly recommend volunteering (pending COVID-19) at as many different PT practice settings as you can – sports, hospital, neurological, pediatrics, pelvic floor, the list goes on and on. You will not only get a taste of what you might enjoy and to pursue career-wise, but you will also make invaluable connections that can help you apply to grad school (letters of recommendation are always important) as well as after grad school looking for a job. I am still in contact with some of my mentors from high school when I was volunteering at PT clinics. Thirdly, I would try and get involved in research at your undergraduate university. Not only will you make even more connections, you will learn valuable skills that will help you greatly in PT school as well as after! I never thought I would be publishing papers and being involved in research projects after PT school, but then COVID-19 happened and work from home has me on PubMed nearly everyday!
BFC: Tell us a little about where you work and what you do now?
AMY: Currently, I am a physical therapist for Red Bull’s Athlete Performance Center. I work with the most amazing team of healthcare professionals that together help each individual athlete be the best they can be. My role, specifically, is with performance, recovery, or rehabilitation. Every day I am so pumped and grateful to be working with the best of the best!
BFC: Going back to when you were an undergrad, you were on the SDSU women’s track team as well as raced bicycles and did several triathlons. How did you handle the training for these on top of the hours of studying you did every day?
AMY: (Laughs) Now I have to compare my mediocre racing career to that of the incredible athletes I currently treat. Well to answer your question, studying for tests was pretty stressful, especially when I wanted to get the best grades I could in order to get into PT school. For me, exercise was an outlet for my stress. The more stress I had, the more I felt I needed to train. (Laughs again) Now that I think about it, maybe I trained so much to avoid studying?
BFC: Let’s talk about criterium racing. You started on the SDSU school team racing collegiate triathlons, then moved onto SDBC (San Diego Bicycle Club), and finally SPY|GIANT. What was your training like?
AMY: Crazy. It was definitely challenging balancing the FUN that is SDSU with my training load. I was fortunate enough to be able to arrange my classes in a way that I was able to get some solid training in each day. Some days, I’d put in 75 miles and 7,500 ft climbing before class. Other days were more interval training. I think I had one “rest” day that was used as cross-training and lifting. I was definitely tired ALL THE TIME. I had a ton of fun training and racing and I really appreciate all of the support my teams gave me during my years of racing.
[BFC: Note: Amy started as a Cat 4 and at the end of the season made Cat 2. Then it was off to grad school and the end of her racing.]
BFC: So, knowing what you know now, how would you train differently?
AMY: With respect to training, I would take a serious rest and recovery day. I would involve more mobility work, add in a dynamic warm up and recovery before and after the ride, and I would do more strength training. Looking back on it, I put in a ton of “junk miles.” I also know for a fact that I was not getting in enough of the right nutrition – partially because I was a broke college student who still wanted to party, and partially because I didn’t have the education on how to “eat to perform.” Lastly, I can’t stress how important the mental part is to winning races. You can be the fastest one out there, but someone who just “wants it more” can outperform you on any given day. Mentally preparing for a race and even practicing visualization is key to being a better athlete.
BFC: Thank you for your time. If any of the readers has specific questions, they can comment with them, and I can forward them on to you.