So many times a runner friend will say something like, “My knee hurts in such-and-such a place, but I have a race in four days that I HAVE to run! What should I do? I don’t want to go to the doctor. He will tell me not to run!”
I’ve heard this often enough that I wanted to write something about it.
I’m really lucky because my first real injury led me to the Maestro.
The Maestro is a gifted physical therapist, but his gift is not really some secret ultrasound machine or the latest massage technique or even that he thinks up really fun exercises to strengthen whatever needs strengthening. The Maestro’s gift is that he treats his patients seriously and with kindness and that he believes he can make them better.
I walked into his clinic the first time teetering on the edge. I was training for my first marathon and I had finished my first 17 mile run on a camping trip with some family friends cycling alongside me. I knew one step post-run that I had done something bad somewhere around my ankle and I called the running store as soon as I got home to ask for PT recommendations. They sent me to the Maestro’s office and I walked in with my marathon dreams in one hand and my two children hanging off the other. Was I a middle-aged mom wannabe runner? Or a future marathoner? I really wasn’t sure. He saw that I could be both.
I worked with the Maestro over the course of several weeks. I took him my training plan and we adjusted it together. He provided the magic ultrasound machine, the heat and the ice and the exercises. I provided the commitment to do what he said to do. I got better, ran my marathon, and my Achilles has never bothered me again (knock on wood).
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was learning a lot more than bird dips and eccentric heel drops. I learned that when I get injured, I can get better again. That insight made me a much braver runner. I started training a lot harder after that first marathon, partly because I was much less scared of getting hurt. Of course, eventually I did get hurt again, but this time I already had the Maestro’s number in my cell phone so I was much less panicked. He fixed up my runner’s knee last spring and he’s fixed a lot of my friends since then. When I finally came up with something he couldn’t fix, he was honest about it and sent me off to find someone else. I found not one, but two, other physical therapists who came up with a new diagnosis and who were confident they could get me running again. One of them did. Good physical therapists are pretty much the bomb.
Which brings me back to my point at the beginning about runner friends who won’t seek help when they are injured. I know I’m lucky that I found the Maestro right off the bat. I know I’m lucky that I have good insurance that covers physical therapy, even for middle-aged mom wannabe marathoners. I’m lucky, but I’m also diligent. I do the exercises I’m supposed to do. I’m lucky, but I also trust my gut and I won’t stick with a care provider I don’t like and trust. I found the Maestro, but I found two other people too. They are out there, those excellent physical therapists.
To me, a physical therapist – or a doctor or a chiropractor or whoever works for you – is a professional runner helper. If you ask me what to do because your knee hurts there or your Achilles hurts here, I can tell you what I did to fix my problem and I’m perfectly willing to share. But if you really want to know what I think you should do, it’s this: Go to your friendly neighborhood physical therapist. They are trained to help you get better and they really want to do that. Once you find that person, be nice to them. Bring them presents (the Maestro likes fancy chocolate). Let them know how much you value them. I’m not going to argue that getting injured has its own benefits. But if it leads you to your own Maestro, you might be surprised at some of the payoffs.