Don “Red” Walendzak figured out fairly early in life what he wanted to do for a living.
A three-sport athlete at Clay High School, Walendzak seriously injured his knee as a junior and went to St. Charles Hospital for physical therapy between his junior and senior year.
“I went five days a week and I was able to rehab my knee and salvage my senior football season,” Walendzak said. “That carried into wrestling and my baseball year, and I was fairly accomplished in all my sports. It (physical therapy) was really nice. I thought, ‘man, how can you get paid to work with people to teach them how to exercise and improve, either by getting over an injury or returning to something?’ ”
The 1988 Clay grad played college baseball at Cleveland State University and Bowling Green State University as a second baseman. He graduated from BGSU and later got his degree from the former Medical College of Ohio in, you guessed it, physical therapy.
Walendzak, 42, has run his own Oregon business, East Point Physical Therapy, for close to nine years. He said his patients’ rehab programs run the gamut, from torn ACLs to Tommy John elbow surgery, to back injuries, rotator cuff repairs, industrial injuries and auto accidents.
“We get a little bit of everything,” Walendzak said. “We see everything at our clinic. We see anyone from six months old to 93 years old.”
Three years ago Walendzak began a summer sports training program called QUEST, which is an acronym for Quickness, Unique, Explosive, Speed, Training.
“I dabble with this QUEST program so I can stay close to sports,” Walendzak said, “because that’s what kind of brought me along. This will be our third summer. I typically hire one or two people for the program. It all depends on numbers.”
Walendzak’s QUEST program has worked with several local sports teams and individuals, including Cardinal Stritch’s volleyball and football teams, Clay soccer, football and basketball teams, Lake’s football team and some Oregon junior high baseball teams.
“One year we had a golfer come in,” Walendzak said. “Over the last two summers, Clay’s soccer program, which was 40 girls, would participate. That started us in this team training aspect.”
Walendzak has developed his own speed training regimen that differs from many other athletic enhancement programs.
“There are a lot of good programs out there,” Walendzak said. “This is a program that uses a high-speed treadmill and does different things. I wanted to do things that were unique. Parents were asking me, ‘Red, would you do personal training for personal enhancement?’ I put it off for a long time because I was trying to be good at running a physical therapy clinic. Enough people asked me to try it, and I decided to try it.
“Our first summer, QUEST had over 100 participants and we were able to do that again our second summer. We have found a niche in team training. The program utilizes these large rubber bands, or stretch bands, and we also do ladder drills and cone drills.”
Walendzak said the QUEST training regimen doesn’t require a lot of “fancy” equipment.
“For the most part, I can make my program mobile,” he said. “I can put it in a large hockey bag and go to Pearson Park and train, or train on a tennis court, a running track or a parking lot. You don’t have to go inside. It’s real training on real ground.”
Quest is designed to help athletes improve their performance in several areas, including lateral speed and agility, first step, leg/arm drive, power, explosiveness, plyometrics, proper form/technique, functional warm-up, and straight ahead speed. It also focuses on what Walendzak termed overspeed/underspeed training.
“Overspeed is where you’re going faster than you typically would be able to go, like running downhill,” Walendzak said. “Underspeed is just the opposite, where I may hook up a sled and have you drag an extra 50 pounds behind you.”
Walendzak said he’s received positive feedback from the QUEST program because, he said, it works and it’s also fun.
“They have a good time and they get a great workout,” he said. “They know they’re going to train with someone who’s going to push them. They know they’re going to have fun and they know they’re going to improve. Ten sessions over five weeks has shown that (QUEST) typically improves two-tenths of a second in the 40-yard dash time. They say you can’t coach speed, but I can coach speed. It’s been proven over and over.”
Walendzak stressed that QUEST was designed to help all athletes improve, regardless of their sport.
“There really is no sport where we can’t help you,” he said. “If you play a sport that utilizes speed, power and quickness, this will work for that group or individual. We train two days a week for about an hour. If I have younger kids, I’ll scale it back so it’s less intense.”
East Point Physical Therapy, which received the 2012 Prism Award for General Excellence from the Eastern Maumee Bay Chamber of Commerce, is located at 2815 Dustin Rd., Suite B, in Oregon. Hours are Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 7:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. and Friday from 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Call 419-693-0676 for more information.