Meet the Wellness Professional: Eric Ellingson
Physical Therapist and Partner at BE Fit Physical Therapy
Every week I highlight someone in the Upper Valley who falls under the title of "Wellness Professional" - trainers, nutritionists, therapists of all kinds (physical, psychological, massage), and creators of healthy products, to name just a few. I give them a list of the same 20 questions and they choose to answer as many of them however they'd like.
I grew up in East Montpelier, Vermont, where I rapidly developed a love of the outdoors and of hard exercise. I made it through high school athletics on hard work and size, growing too fast to be very coordinated until later in college (at least that’s my excuse). I think it was appreciation for what the body can do athletically, and that love of nature, that got me passionate about learning biology in general. I attended Swarthmore College where my love of science continued to grow, and I shifted from basketball and lacrosse into rugby, where I enjoyed greater success. After a couple of years working in a cell cycle lab in Boston, I transitioned to Physical Therapy school, and began my career at Mass General Hospital. I quickly moved to outpatient orthopedics and private practice for a smaller and more personal setting, and have been there ever since, building my “treatment toolbox.” I was lucky enough to meet my NH-born wife Elizabeth while living in Boston, and we eventually moved back northward to raise our kids and better enjoy the outdoors again. I had always wanted to have my own practice in order to truly be able to provide care in the best way I felt possible, and meeting David Barlow and Kylie Curtis in the years after I moved here allowed that vision to come true. BE Fit began in 2009, and I have never looked back. It’s been great building a name that people know they can trust for themselves and their families.
What is your fitness/wellness philosophy?
You have to work smart, as well as working hard. There is no one best workout for everyone - while there are patterns, each person has different strengths and weaknesses. Often, the things that we need to work on are not the things we want to work on - it’s important to acknowledge what your weaknesses are and work to improve them.
How did you get to where you are now?
I have always had an interest in how the human body works. After doing medical lab research for a couple of years, I wanted to have a more direct impact on people. I had knee surgery around that time, and really appreciated the role my PT played in getting me back to full participation in what I wanted to do. Therefore I pursued a PT degree rather than becoming a surgeon, my other option at the time. After working in Boston for about five years, I moved to the Upper Valley (I grew up in central VT and I'm still a country boy at heart). Shortly thereafter I met my future business partner David Barlow and we were excited to start our own business and really be able to shape it to be our model of an ideal outpatient physical therapy clinic.
Did you ever have any setbacks and how did you get past them?
Injury setbacks - they required hard work myself, a lot of patience, and knowing when to ask for help. It gives me greater appreciation for where my patients are coming from.
Business-wise, it is a challenge getting known for the quality product we provide, without a big budget for marketing, or a big source of referrals from being right in a hospital setting. I've really come to appreciate the value of word of mouth from satisfied clients.
What makes you unique in your field?
At BE Fit, we offer highly experienced one on one care, with personal sports experience (an active staff), and experience working with weekend warriors and Olympic-level athletes. We network with area MDs, trainers, massage therapists, and other providers and have a casual and comfortable atmosphere, extended treatment hours, and two convenient locations. Our UVAC location also offers a great opportunity to use the gym location to our client’s best advantage, unique for PT clinics in the UV. Personally, I think I am unique in my ability to relate to and motivate clients of all ages, and the level of genuine care I have invested in my patient’s recoveries.
What's your go to meal for: breakfast, snacks/sweets, lunch, dinner, beverage?
- Breakfast - It's gotta be quick - usually cereal with some fiber and protein, or an egg-veggie scramble if there is time.
- Snacks: If I could eat gorp [trail mix] all day I would, but I gotta keep the calorie intake down a bit. I eat a ton of fruit for snacks
- Lunch: Salad w/chicken, fish, or eggs for protein most days.
- Dinner - family favorite: my homemade burritos.
What's you favorite place to eat out in the Upper Valley? What do you usually get?
Candela for Tapas in Hanover (they do a “taco night” with awesome flavors/varieties) or Tip Top in WRJ (fish special and garlic fries) for date night, or with the kids Big Fatty’s pulled pork, craft brews, and the excellent variety on their salad bar.
You're trapped on 12A in West Lebanon starving and you only have $8. What do you buy to get you through your errands?
Moe's every time. Fresh healthy ingredients (if I resist the chips!)
What's your guilty pleasure (food or otherwise)?
Definite sweet tooth. I’ve been an ice cream addict since working at Ben and Jerry’s in high school.
What's something health and wellness related that you wish you'd known years ago?
I wish that I had taken all of my own standing and sitting postural advice that I have given my patients more seriously. It’s easy to feel invincible in your 20's and 30's, but it does catch up to you as you get older. Building the right habits for posture early and sticking to them is critical.
What's your favorite quote or mantra?
“It doesn't get any easier, you just get faster.” Meaning - you need to stick with it. Wellness is a lifelong process that needs consistent work. You can't just get over the injury, lose the weight, hit the speed goal... and then forget about it. Our bodies need regular maintenance, and that is always hard work! You will get results, but there is always another milestone, always something else to keep working on.
Who or what gives you inspiration?
I am often most inspired by my patients: people who work hard to overcome injury, people who manage to have a positive outlook in the face of pain, and people who continue to stay very fit and active well into later life, without using the standard excuses of “old age.”
What's something you wish your clients/class participants knew? Or did? Or didn't do?
I wish more people knew the value of just 10 minutes a day of strength and stretching work at home to work on their physical limitations. It really can make a difference.
I also wish more people would seek help for their pain sooner - rather than waiting until it has become chronic, and their body has learned compensations. Generally speaking, the longer you have had a problem, the longer it will take to fix (with the exception of traumatic injuries).
If you could only have one piece of fitness/wellness equipment what would it be?
My body! But seriously - you can do a ton with just body weight - squats, various planks, bridges and presses, and so on. If I had to pick one thing, I would say a simple resistance band - again, you can do so many different things with it.
What's your favorite non-gym physical activity?
For this I really can’t pick just one…
Regular exercise: My bike has always been my best friend - from commuting (I didn’t own a car until I was 25!), to long solo road rides, to hammering over a climb for great personal satisfaction and burn, to roller-coastering down a sweet single track, there’s nothing like the feeling of two wheels.
Solo or family/small group: Hiking. I love the mind-freeing openness of nature out on the trail, the way the rest of the world recedes. There’s also just something about being on a mountaintop.
If I can get nine other like-minded folks - basketball for sure. It’s one of the few activities that really brings out my competitive intensity.
What are your passions outside of your field?
Family first - I have a wonderful wife, a 10-year old girl, and a 13-year old boy. I have been lucky to have a great home/work balance in my life, with a mix of being Mr Mom on my Tuesdays/Thursdays over the past 13 years, along with a rewarding MWF career.
Other than that, it is really those non-gym activities listed above, along with about 10 more (running, snowboarding, ice climbing, lacrosse, paddling…).
What's your least favorite exercise?
For my patients, I would have to go with: anything with bad form. There are so many people working so hard, putting in the time, cranking up the weight - but without the proper form - that are doing themselves more harm than good.
For myself, hmmm… I guess I would have to admit that it is stretching my hamstrings, which I really need to do more. Psychologically I know that it helps in the long haul, but in the moment it tends to feel a little futile, and is always hard to motivate when I could be doing something that gives that “instant reward” feeling instead.
One leg side plank - hits the super important glute medius, stabilizer of the hip and knee, as well as working shoulder and core stability.
I love anything that gets a lot of things at once, like doing RDLs (one leg deadlifts) on something unstable, with some arm weight: getting hip strength, ankle stability, core and spine strength, and a bit of shoulder stability.
What are one or two tips you can give to help people be successful in their wellness journey?
It’s not enough to be strong or flexible, you have to be some of both.
Don’t expect to see results right away - it can sometimes take even a few weeks to start to reap the benefits of all that hard work.
Ask for help! It’s hard to know what to do, how to get better most efficiently and successfully. It is what all those physical therapists, doctors, and trainers are for. We want to see you succeed!
What question have I not asked that you wish I had?
- What motivates you? Seeing the joy people have in getting back to doing what they love, after injury or pain has taken it away, and knowing that I was a part of getting them there.
Where can people learn more about you?
www.befitphysicaltherapy.com, or definitely stop in and say “Hi” at our new office inside the UVAC!
Would you or your business like to be featured in "Meet the Wellness Professional"? Email Amy at RVCAmy at gmail dot com
Last Week's Interview - John Dame - Personal Trainer at Dartmouth's Zimmerman Fitness Center
Next Week's Interview - Erin Messier - Massage Therapist and Business Owner at Four Fine Hands Massage Therapy
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More about the author, Amy Fortier: A short interview