Many people falsely believe that when it comes to combining their love of the iron with employment, the only options available are to be either become a coach or a trainer. While these are probably the most obvious ways to pass on your knowledge of lifting weights, there are many ways to apply what you learn in the weight room to your job. If you are willing to step outside your comfort zone and forge those connections yourself, you'll find them. A few weekends ago, I was in Chicago on a fellowship for the Parental Project Muscular Dystrophy Association doing just that.

I had the opportunity to attend an amazing pre-conference where thirty of the top physical therapists and researchers in the United States met to talk about Muscular Dystrophy. Then, I attended the main conference. I have to say, going to a conference in a new field without my lab was an interesting experience.

For those of you who aren’t very familiar, DMD is a disease that mostly affects boys. These kids are dealing with skeletal muscle breakdown and fat accumulation. These are things that we deal with every day in strength sports. While the disease is more complex than just muscle breakdown, it gives meatheads like myself the ability to look at the disease from a new perspective and highlight things that others might not have seen. So, for those of us that love to train, and love science, it's really a fascinating disease to study. Oh, and the best part? The work being done really has the ability to change not just one life, but thousands.

During the pre-conference, the main topic of discussion was the standardization of outcome measures used to test and evaluate boys with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. We also talked about the value of testing isometric strength as opposed to power, and how well isometric strength jennifer petrosino MD chicago town view 071714testing transfers to functional strength testing. I won’t lie, I was extremely intimidated. A huge lump began swelling in my throat during introductions as everyone introduced themselves with: "Hi, I'm so-and-so and I am a PhD/ MD/ PT/ OT at (insert big time hospital or college)." Needless to say, when they came to me I said, "Hi, I'm Jenn, the lone graduate student!" I'll continue with my honesty streak and admit that I was relieved when they laughed.

Despite being miles from comfortable, as soon as I read the agenda I could feel easy spread over me. The topic covered was strength (functional, isomeric, etc) and we were there throwing ideas around for nine hours! Before I started running around in my current basic science research life with mouse models, I started down this path wanting to understand the mechanisms of how resistance training and how it can work as a "drug "to improve various diseases. It was just a great thing to see all these experts with different opinions putting politics aside so they could help boys with DMD. It is one of those things I will never forget. I can't explain how thankful I was to be there.

jennifer petrosino MD chicago wheelchairs 071814After we finished at the pre-conference, I headed over to the actual conference. As mentioned, I was thrown way outside my comfort zone. As soon as I saw the boys facing this terrible disease (with no existing cure), though, I tucked those feelings way back into the depths of my brain and remembered why I was there.

The next morning, we set off on a ten-hour day of talks ranging from physical therapy, to clinical trials, to new mechanisms behind potential therapies. This was set up so that on Saturday, when we discussed the new drug targets moving to market, parents would be able to grasp the mechanism of action (how the drug works). I was beyond excited for this part, as I love understanding the mechanisms of how pharmaceuticals work. It also really highlighted how important this is to the parents of these children. Each new clinical trial brings hope. It is really an amazing thing to witness. Over the course of the afternoon, I met some great researchers focusing on steroid based therapies, physical therapy, and inflammation. At the end of the day, I was actually surprised to find that my notebook was stacked with new ideas. In addition, I had forged some fantastic new relationships.

On the ride home, I reflected on the wealth of knowledge that was passed down to me. Sometimes we get so caught up in what is important to us, we forget how insignificant those things are in the big picture. Oftentimes we complicate things and make life appear stressful. But then you see a young boy smiling and laughing, despite being in a wheelchair and very well knowing he might not live to be twenty. These things change our perspective.

So, while training might have taken a backseat that weekend, and I will have to re-evaluate my competition plans, I would make this trip and the same decision again and again. Sometimes, when you think your own life is stressful, you get exposed to an event like this and realize your own stuff ain't nothing but a peanut.