Fitness as healing for veterans

On this week’s Tango Alpha Lima podcast, guest Theresa Larson talks about her service as a Marine combat veteran, her transition and how she now helps adaptive athletes and others with physical therapy.

Larson, a member of American Legion Post 310 in San Diego, founded Movement Rx with her husband in 2013 in order to break free from the limitations that traditional physical therapy puts on practitioners and patients. Her path to Movement Rx took some time.

“Transition isn’t easy for many people, and it wasn’t easy for me,” she said. “I didn’t want to do engineering any more — that’s what I did in the Marine Corps. I went back to PT school. Loved what I learned but the practical application wasn’t for me.”

Then she found the fitness industry, which fit her but she didn’t like the typical PT approach. Instead, she wanted to focus on Crossfit, Spartan and other similar athletes. “Yes, this is my thing,” she recalls thinking when she found her niche.

Larson focuses her clients on movement to heal and participate in their sport of choice. “In a traditional practice you rarely get to do movement with patients,” she said. “I want to teach them how to do movement in their new normal.”

She also addresses how to combat the lack of physical activity some have experienced during the pandemic.

“Most people are in the same boat. It’s the COVID-25 or 30,” she says, referring to the weight gain brought on by stay-at-home orders during the pandemic. “Mental health is going to impact your ability to get out and be active. I know this environment is challenging. It’s a bit chaotic.”

Larson advised to find goals based on where the individual is now, not reflecting back to when they were 22 years old. “We’re all in a new place,” she says. “We need to all accept where we are now. Shooting for what you previously did in the Marine Corps is not acceptable. That’s when injuries happen.”

She recommends setting new, realistic goals. For example, completing a 5K. She outlines a plan where someone would start with a half-mile run for two weeks, then run a mile and then progress to three miles.

“The key is for everyone to take a deep breath. OK, I’ve gained 25 pounds. What can I do now? I can get up a little earlier, drink a glass of water and go out for a long walk or do movement breaks.”

For those interested in a fitness challenge, The American Legion will unveil its second annual 100 Miles for Hope next week. Stay tuned to the national website for information on how to participate, the improvements from the inaugural challenge and how it supports the Legion’s Veterans & Children Foundation.

Learn more about Larson, her wellness platform and more by downloading or viewing this week’s episode of Tango Alpha Lima, The American Legion’s weekly podcast for veterans, servicemembers and others. Each episode is available for download by 9 a.m. Eastern each Tuesday. All of the previous 40 episodes are also available in both audio and video formats here.