Thursday, July 29, 2010

Finally walking (well running) my talk...

My college professor Stacie's words still ring in my ears: "If you don't at least walk 45 minutes 3 times a week, you are a hypocrite." Actually over the last 14 years they have occasionally haunted me. You see I am a physical therapist, ummm.... technically an exercise professional. In my professional life I have asked the question "Have you been doing your exercises?" thousands of times... just waiting for one of my patients to look me over and say: "Have you?"

I have finally lived up to Stacie's expectation. I finally don't need to dread that patient. I have been doing my exercises!

I had my rationale, I specialize in homecare and geriatrics. If you have a running injury you don't come see me. Now, if you can't walk or get out of chair, I come see you. So, I was not asking my patients to do exercises I couldn't do. And I was never injured and asking someone to fix me, but not complying. I was just generally out-of-shape, but not actually complaining about it. But I was far from a good example.

I had a patient who recently inspired me, just as I began learning to run. She was close to 90, and had been diagnosed many years before with a dreaded debilitating disease of old age. I was amazed at how well she was doing both mentally and physically, considering the length of her diagnosis. Near the end of my visit I found out why she still functioned so well. Her husband told me she was a runner. She had even won several big races. As I thought about it, this sweet lady would have been my age in the 50's, not exactly a time when running was a common activity for a Midwestern homemaker. She was a pioneer. Even though she couldn't really have a complete conversation with me, she was an inspiration to me to start and keep running.

This brings me to a confession. Years ago I did a brief stint in our hospital's outpatient department. On one of my last days in outpatient I had a new patient who was a runner. He had complained of knee pain and I couldn't find anything wrong with him. Eventually he reported that it only hurt after he ran 3 miles. While I am happy to report that being the professional I am I suggested he schedule another evaluation for a time when he could run immediately before his appointment. I am ashamed to say that I really wanted to say " Well, then just run 2 and a half miles." I really couldn't see the point of running if it hurt. I wish I could have that one back. (Side note: if you have a running injury please only see a PT who has extra training in sports medicine!! Actually now I would have recommended that patient be evaluated at a sports medicine clinic. Even small cities usually have those.)

Running has enhanced my professional life. I have become more keenly aware of form and quality of movement. I have personally experienced the process of building up endurance. I love my job. I love my older patients, and helping people be able to function in their homes. And, I am good at it. Even though I am learning to love running, I have no plans to become a sports PT. But running has allowed me to relate better to my patient's experience. It is something I have to physically push and discipline myself to accomplish. For some of my patients, walking down a flight of stairs independently is their 5K. And as I work on my goals in running I can better sympathise and cheer them on toward their therapy goals.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you finally came clean with your dirty little secret!! I just came back from Dallas, visiting my 90 year old grandparents. They act like they're 60 (or younger). Neither has been a runner, but they are extremely active and such an incredible inspiration to me.