A Physical Therapist’s Journey Back To Running – 1 Year Update

Well, it’s been just over a year since I transitioned from riding my bicycle to running and I want to share my insights and thoughts 1 year in.

As you can read in my previous posts, Part 1 and Part 2, I started running again for exercise about a year ago after I finally realized that my new lifestyle doesn’t support the time it takes for me to ride my bike the way I want (3 days a week for 2-4 hours). Riding a bicycle the way I want too is just too time intensive for my busy schedule (ie: family, entrepreneur, with competitive cyclist mentality) and I’ve sacrificed it all before for cycling (friends, family and $$$) and don’t need to do that again.

My Running Progression

running injury physical therapy greensboro

Running in ATL with my bros!

I started running, actually mostly walking with a bit or running here and there at the end of February 2014. By March I was able to run most of a mile, but not much more. About that time, I went out for a run on a beautiful day, ran a bit harder than usual because it felt great, but afterwards my feet hurt. It was actually not that great, because the head of my 2nd metatarsal, (base of my second toe) hurt quite a bit for way too long. I gave it some rest, didn’t run for a few weeks, got some more cushiony minimalist shoes, and it still hurt. I thought I might have a stress fracture. Ok, another 4 weeks went by and it was still there, just a little niggle, like there was a pea in my foot. Upon closer inspection, what looked like a callus that was causing pain now seemed like it could be a plantar wart. I proceeded to treat it like a wart, because it was well past the time where a bruise or fracture should heal, now well into summer.  Not much running had been happening and I was beginning to get frustrated. I actually put some duct tape over the area ala the best internet suggestion and that actually helped. Wether it was actually a wart, or the duct tape (like kinesio or rock tape) helped change the sensation and information relayed to my brain processing center (Pain is all in the brain).

I don’t know exactly why, but it worked and I was able to run pain free again. I know now that it started with a run that was too long, too fast and too soon, and ended with duct tape on my foot, however wether I actually injured myself, or had an existing plantar wart is still up for debate.

During this time, I decided I needed to treat running as a skill, work on my hip stability, my form and not focus on getting in a “good” or “hard” workout running or even training my cardiovascular system. This was my goal until I could run without feeling like my feet hurt at the end or my ankles were unstable as I ran. I started when I was in great shape from racing cyclocross, and my cardiovascular system was way ahead of the muscles in my feet, legs and hips for the demands of running.

Finding the Right Shoe

Ultimately, and through trial and error, I found that running in a more minimalist shoe New Balance MR10v2 gives me a better feel and ability to monitor my body than the more cushioned shoe New Balance 3090. I bought the more cushioned New Balance 3090 as a reaction to my foot pain,  hoping that more cushion would = more comfort. This was not the case. The New Balance 3090 are good shoes, but have a narrow toe box, and when I run in these shoes even now, I can tell my feet hit the ground very differently and I get less feedback for what my body should be doing. Maybe it’s the cushioning, maybe the inability for my toes to splay, or the lack of feedback, or maybe all three. I’m not a running shoe guru, I just know what works for me.

Transitioning from Walk to Run

Take it slooooowww. When starting to run set your long term goals, and give it a year or more for your body to adapt to the specific requirements of running.

Work on hip stability. Hip instability can lead to injuries, especially as you increase your mileage.

Listen to your body. It will tell you when to move, slow down or stop. Repetitive sharp or shooting pain means stop. If you feel sharp pain, check in with your form and see if correcting your form decreases the sensations you are experiencing. Sometimes, it’s just your body’s way of telling you that your muscles somewhere are fatigued, once your form degrades, your legs, hips, and rest of your body are not moving the way they are meant too. At this point stop, check in. Maybe it’s time to wait until the next day. Your cardiovascular system may say keep going, but your knees say stop. Listen! There is always another day. 🙂 Sometimes as you warm up the sensations will change or go away. That’s ok too. It’s even ok to run if when you start you hurt, are sore or feel some pain and it doesn’t increase in intensity. Many times, just getting out in the fresh air, sun and moving your body will help it feel better.

Other Things to Consider

Couch To 5K is not a program for people sitting on the couch all day. I started with this because it seemed like a fool proof way not to overtrain and it actually moved too fast for me. I don’t think I could recommend it to anyone because it progresses training too fast for someone who has not run in years and doesn’t really encourage one to monitor their body and move at their own pace.

Definitely find a coach, mentor or local running group to train with such as the Fleet Feet Streakers with my friend and running coach Jen Goff.

Final Thoughts

physical therapy for running injuries in greensboro

Running in Charleston, SC!

Treat running as a skill you are training vs. endurance & performance training until your body adapts and you can finish your run with good form. (Start with the video above) Gradually add mileage, take rest days, go to yoga and listen to your body, and you’ll be off to some beautiful long runs before you know it.

Running has been freeing for me as I can do it anywhere I am and my shoes only take up a small amount of room. I’ve had the opportunity to run in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Charleston, Asheville, Atlanta and out my front door. I can fit in a run between kids and work, work and home or anytime I have 30 minutes to an hour.

I still love riding my bike, but I’m beginning to catch the running bug.


About The Author

Aaron LeBauer

Dr. Aaron LeBauer is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Business Coach to 1,000's of healthcare entrepreneurs. He owns LeBauer Physical Therapy, LLC, with his wife Andra, in Greensboro, N.C. He has been helping active people stay fit, active, healthy and recover from injuries without needing more pain medications, injections or surgery since 1999.

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