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  • Dr. Kristen K. Schulte, PT

Has injury kept you from achieving your goals?

I wish I was built like some of the girls I ran with in college. They had symmetrical joints, dense bones, and solid ligaments. To this day, they can run 50+ miles a week and remain unscathed. Alas, I was not built this way; there was a time when I could catch a stress fracture like the common cold. Paradoxically, my brain and muscles are seemingly un-fatigable and were indeed made for endurance activities.

And because brothers and sisters share a few genes, I’m not entirely sure the Schulte siblings were meant to run marathons, but since we think we can and are going to sign up for them anyway, it’s best that we know a physical therapist.

Five years ago, my sister asked me to run the Columbus marathon with her. I was thrilled. A marathon had been on my running bucket list since I was 12. Once I started training, there was nothing that was going to stop me from running it, a mantra that led to my demise. An IT Band issue cropped up for me five weeks before race day; ironically, this was the same time that Jessica started feeling a nagging pain in her hamstring. We opted not to visit any medical professionals (because they might just tell us we couldn’t run it), and though we both finished the marathon, it involved us limping along for the last 6 miles, more injured than ever before.

Oh and we paid, literally paid, afterward. Countless physical therapy visits and 2-3 injections add up. More disappointing was the fact that neither one of us was able to run much over the next year. It was difficult to undo what we had done to our bodies.

Lesson learned. We knew we were going to have to run another marathon, but we decided that we would not do it until after I had become a physical therapist. We had to be able to prevent and combat any potential injuries the next time around.

Fast forward to this winter: My brother decided he was going to run the Cincinnati Flying Pig. John had attempted a marathon twice before, but knee pain had always cut his training short. Not one to do things alone, he convinced me to also sign up. This time, we trained smart.

What did we do differently?

1. Corrective exercises: Though the race was not until May, I evaluated John in November and found that lack of hip flexibility put unnecessary stress on his knees while running. I gave him a program of 3-4 exercises to do daily and taught him how to mobilize his own knee caps. He completed the exercises and mobilizations religiously. John may have had a couple of different ailments arise during training, but even he will tell you that his knees were a non-factor.

2. Less milage: Some people aren’t meant to run 50+ miles a week. We found a program that had us running 4x/week. Come race day, did I feel any less prepared than when I ran 6x/week? No.

3. Taking days off: In order to keep a small injury from becoming a big issue, we would combine rest with physical therapy. John had previously pulled a calf muscle playing basketball and managed to re-injure it during a 14 mile run. Instead of hoping the injury would go away, John opted not to run for the next 6 days. In the meantime, I dry needled his calf to help heal the strain and added a few new stretches to his regimen.

4. Shoe modification: As mentioned above, I am a bit asymmetrical. One leg is longer and one foot flatter than the other. I reached out to a former clinical instructor in December, and she evaluated my feet to help me figure out exactly what I needed to put in my shoes to help strike the ground evenly.

5. Dry needling: I received dry needling almost weekly from my fiancé (also a PT). From years of running with asymmetrical joints, my left hip had nearly forgotten how to work properly, which put extra stress on my back. Even with modifying my shoes, old scar-like tissue in my hip and back continued to affect my running form until we were able to break up most of the tissue with dry needling.

I am proud to say that not only did John and I complete the Flying Pig Marathon on May 6, 2018, we could both walk into work the next day without anyone asking if we had been in a car accident. One week later, we started running again. To me, staying healthy is a greater success than running that 26.2 miles.

Your goal might not be to run a marathon. Whatever your fitness goal may be, though, if you have not yet achieved it due to a propensity for injury, I would love to help you! With careful prevention, dosing, and treatment while training, you don’t have to give up your dream or even “work through it” and pay for it later. You can actually succeed, and more importantly, feel good while doing it.

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