Leading By Example: PA Brings Healthy and Fit Lifestyles to Local Orthopedic Patients

For James Mabry, the need to be on the move starts early.

James Mabry, a physician assistant who works in orthopedics and sports medicine, draws on his personal experience as an endurance runner and lifelong athlete to support his patients. On his rest days, he enjoys hiking with his family, which is shown here on a recent hike near Donner Pass. Behind from left to right are James Mabry, Sarah Mabry, Aidan Mabry; ahead from left to right are Kilian Mabry and Augustine Mabry.

“Growing up I was always very active,” says Mabry. “I started football at the age of four and played until I was 17. My coaches noticed from a young age that I had incredible endurance. I played teeball but only lasted a few seasons because it wasn’t active enough for me. I am bored.”

He found his true passion when his father made the decision on his own to pursue a healthier lifestyle.



“My dad was a smoker when I was a kid and when he quit he started running,” explains Mabry. “He became a marathon runner. I remember happily riding my bike at Davis on the bike path while my dad was doing his training run.”

It wasn’t long before James left his bike and started running too – first covering miles of high school cross-country and now an avid endurance runner conquering 50 miles at a time. When not running, he likes backpacking and traveling with his wife and three children.



Now, Mabry (National Board Certified Medical Assistant) is also bringing her passion for active living into her professional life. Having spent the last nine years working in hospital medicine, he has joined Dr. Todd Christensen and the orthopedic team at Dignity Health Medical Group – Sierra Nevada.

“Because of my background in running, I have always been interested in sports medicine and orthopedics,” says Mabry. “After speaking with Dr. Christensen, I knew that Dignity Health Medical Group would be a perfect match for my interests and work-life balance.”

Mabry’s personal experience with sports medicine and injury prevention began when she was just 18 years old.

“I had a lot of knee pain and I couldn’t keep training,” he said. “I stopped running for a few years.”

Eventually Mabry saw an exercise physical therapist who provided a game plan to get her back to running, including home workouts that made a huge difference.

“I do my therapy religiously,” he said. “PT was right and within months I was running again – slower, but running! Over time, I progressed and achieved top marks in both the marathon and the 50-mile ultra-marathon. Shameless plug for all patients – feel free to do physical therapy exercises in your home! They work!”

Mabry looks forward to working with patients to help them not only recover from injuries, but prevent them in the first place.

“I believe that injury prevention is multifactorial,” he said. “I have found that a regular stretching routine is important because I tend to get tightness on my left side. I have my own set of stretches that I follow but I have also done yoga in the past. I also believe that taking a day off is important, a day of rest as it’s called in the running community.”

Mabry says she uses her rest days to exercise with her family, going on hikes and walks where she lets them set the pace.

She also recommends weight training to help prevent injury, which can help build your supporting muscles to protect your joints.

For anyone looking to start a fitness routine, Mabry says the first step is consistency.

“Many weekend fighters get injured because their bodies are not used to the stress of an activity,” he explains. “If you haven’t walked in a year, don’t try to go to Tahoe and do a ten-mile hike! You tend to hurt yourself. Instead head to Tahoe and find a three-mile hike this weekend and work your way up to a ten-mile hike. I follow the 10% rule for adding mileage: Don’t add more than 10% per week and no more than 10% on any given day. This will take some time to build but you are likely to find yourself on the couch with an injury.

If you don’t know where to start, Mabry recommends the American Heart Association six-week walking program for beginners, which you can find online (search for “AHA six-week walking program”) or you can get a copy by stopping by the Dignity Health Group. Medical – Sierra Nevada Orthopedic Office.

Mabry also recommends using a balanced, nutritious diet to support overall health and wellness.

“Over the years I have switched to a more plant-based diet,” she says. “My mom had a heart attack in her 50s and so I started paying more attention to what I was putting into my body. I grew up eating red meat a few times a week to now eat it at most once a month. My wife makes eating plant-based so much easier because she is a great cook!”

Of course, whether it’s your diet or exercise routine, Mabry believes balance is key.

“My personal philosophy in life is about balance. I believe that enjoying life is as important as longevity. So, even though most nights you’ll find me eating my vegetables, I still enjoyed my spare ribs with beer a few weeks ago at the family Independence Day celebrations!”

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