Dr. Malachi Henry, DC, is an elite triathlete who recently accomplished the incredible feat of qualifying for the 2017 Ironman World Championship in Kona, HI. Originally from Columbus, IN, he graduated from Xavier University, Cincinnati, in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in natural science. Dr. Henry then attended Palmer College of Chiropractic in Port Orange, FL, graduating in December 2016. His stellar Ironman career has encompassed great heights and one particular abyss, when he was unable to train for six months from 2014-2015 due to acute iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome. What rescued Dr. Henry from this extremely painful and debilitating condition? HawkGrips, which he now passionately advocates as both a practitioner and patient.
At what point did you know that you wanted to become a chiropractor?
I was actually planning to become an MD like my father when I started at Xavier in 2009. But as I progressed through college, the medical profession began to change a lot and I also started doing triathlons. In fact, during my senior year I competed in my first full-Ironman event (140.6 miles). Leading up to that, while training in my hometown I became friends with a guy who had been Ironman World Champion and competed at Kona multiple times. He also happened to be a chiropractor, so between learning more about chiropractic from him and recognizing how much I needed to take care of my body as an Ironman competitor, my career focus started to change from medicine to chiropractic. There are so many different paths you can take as a chiropractor and I really liked that aspect of it. I chose Palmer College of Chiropractic because it’s a great school, but I specifically picked the Port Orange location so I could train year-round and have access to the best training grounds, since I wanted to continue Ironman racing.
Now that you’ve graduated, what’s your current professional role?
I recently started my own practice, Henry Chiropractic Center, in my hometown of Columbus. My mission is to alleviate pain, educate, and inspire my patients to become active participants in their own well-being. I provide natural healthcare, without the use of invasive surgery or pharmaceuticals, to improve quality of life.
Can you describe how your Ironman career has progressed from the beginning until now?
When I competed in my first full-Ironman, I had already won a lot of local triathlon races. A lot of people were telling me that I’d win the Ironman I entered too and qualify for the World Championship in Kona, so I had high hopes going in. Although I ended up missing the Kona qualifying time, every time I did an Ironman after that I always believed I was going to qualify. But it actually ended up taking six years for me to achieve that. I only just qualified in November 2016 at the Florida Ironman competition, so I’ll be competing at the 2017 World Championship in Kona this October.
But while I was in chiropractic school, I raced half-Ironmans as well, which are contested over a distance of 70.3 miles rather than the 140.6 miles for full-Ironman competitions. At the 70.3-mile distance, I actually qualified for the World Championship twice. So I competed in Las Vegas for one of those championship events and in Mont-Tremblant, Canada, for the other. It was cool to reach that point but didn’t feel like my Super Bowl because my dream wasn’t to compete in the half-Ironman World Championship. I wanted Kona.
In what ways did developing iliotibial band syndrome impact your triathlon training?
I had ITB syndrome from 2014 to 2015. It was so bad that I couldn’t walk down steps for three months, and I couldn’t bike, run or swim for six months. What finally got me through it was HawkGrips and instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) to break up the scar tissue in my leg. That’s how I fell in love with HawkGrips, from firsthand experience. I had tried everything before that, from cortisone shots to oral steroids, acupuncture and all kinds of other treatments. The only thing that truly worked for me was HawkGrips.
How did you initially learn about HawkGrips?
There was actually a fellow student at Palmer named Bryan “Chewy” Call who was in contact with the Owner of HawkGrips, Frank Osborne. Bryan helped me out tremendously and was the guy who really sold me on HawkGrips. He was very knowledgeable about soft tissue injuries and actually carried around a set of HawkGrips instruments on campus.
At the time, I couldn’t do any aspect of Ironman training because of the ITB syndrome. With running, obviously there’s a lot of pounding. With biking, there’s plenty of up-and-down movement even though there’s no impact. And even with swimming, I couldn’t push off the wall with my leg at the end of a lap.
So it was a very depressing time because my life was basically all about school and being a triathlete. That’s how everybody knew me back home, because Columbus is a smaller town so I would win pretty much every race. So to have that taken away from me was very difficult. I actually started weightlifting basically just to do something. And I’d lift for 2 or 2.5 hours a day because I was used to being in that kind of training mode. So it was a very dark time, in part because I didn’t have a wide social network since I had sacrificed that for training purposes.
For how long had you been injured when you first became exposed to HawkGrips?
Probably five months. And within two weeks of starting treatment, I already noticed a significant difference in how my IT band felt. After three weeks, I felt great and actually started training again. But I didn’t train hard yet because I knew it was a gradual process and nothing was going to instantly cure what had been hurting me for so long. But after probably about a month I was back to hard training again.
How did it impact your mental state to finally find a treatment that was so effective?
Like I mentioned before, I had been in a very dark place. When you’re a dedicated runner, it’s a life-changing event both to have that taken away and to get it back again. After I was able to resume full training again, I actually talked Bryan Call into doing his first half-Ironman with me. It was pretty cool how things worked out because I qualified for the World Championship that day at the same event where Bryan competed in a half-Ironman for the first time.
Returning to the topic of full-Ironman competition, what was the time you achieved in November to qualify for the 2017 World Championship in Kona?
I completed 140.6 miles in 9 hours and 32 minutes. The distances are broken up into 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, and a full running marathon of 26.2 miles to complete the event.
How would you rank the three Ironman components based on your level of performance in each?
I would say that I’m very even throughout, which helps me because a lot of people do tend to have noticeable strengths or weaknesses. For example, maybe they’re an extremely good biker but are too big to run the marathon distance at the speed they need to. Or some people aren’t real adept at swimming because they didn’t swim growing up, so they struggle through that part and waste a lot of energy. But I was fortunate to swim when I was younger, so I’m able to conserve my energy during that stretch of the race.
About how many hours a week do you train and how do you balance that commitment with the demands of your profession?
Probably 20-25 hour each week. I spend the least amount of training time on swimming and the most on biking. A lot of sacrifices go into it, especially relating to my personal life. But if you want to be great at something, you have to be nearly obsessed with it. A lot of people feel that’s a negative word, but I believe if you’re not obsessed with something you’ll never reach your potential in it. So that’s how I view triathlon training, and it’s also how I approached school. If I’m going to do something, I want to give it everything I have. So sacrifices are part of that. I realize that I didn’t have as much fun in college as some other people, but I think long-term that will benefit me.
Now that you’re recovered from the IT band injury, do you still utilize HawkGrips for injury-prevention purposes?
Yes, I continue to treat myself with HawkGrips at least once a week. Last year, I competed in five half-Ironman races and one full-Ironman, plus a lot of local races, so I beat my body up every day. I’m not having any pain right now but I still treat myself with HawkGrips preventatively, as well as to lengthen the muscles that are being contracted every day, breaking up the scar tissue and adhesions. I’ve taken a couple HawkGrips educational courses, so I can feel the adhesions so well now and know what my body needs because I’ve been doing it for quite some time. I tend to focus on my quadriceps, IT bands, and calves.
Does your private practice tend to focus on the sports medicine population?
I actually treat a wide-ranging population, from young athletes to older construction workers. It’s really a great variety of patients, which keeps me on my toes and enables me to see different problems. But I do have a lot of sports patients too due to my training and the community knowing me as a competitive triathlete. We also attract athletes because of the different modalities I have to increase performance. I utilize HawkGrips and IASTM with pretty much every patient because it can help so many people, even if somebody isn’t particularly active or has a job where they sit at a desk for eight hours a day.
What would you say to clinicians who aren’t yet familiar with HawkGrips?
They are great instruments designed for both the clinician and patient. From a clinician standpoint, the ergonomic design enables us to feel adhesions well while simultaneously preserving our hands. There are multiple cheaper instruments on the market, but the feel for a patient is much superior with HawkGrips.
The fact that HawkGrips offers many types of instruments is great as well because every patient is different, so you can’t use the same instrument for each person and expect to get the same results. Personally I have a HawkGrips Gold Set, which is a complete instrument set including a handlebar, and I’d highly recommend it to other clinicians. The instruments have helped me tremendously, as well as my patients, and I couldn’t be happier with them.
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