by Jason a. Fitzgerald in Health + Nutrition

How Runners Can Choose the Right Doctor

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About eight years ago I was training for my first collegiate cross-country season. I was going to be a freshman at Connecticut College and I needed to prepare to race 8,000 meters over uneven terrain and hills. The distance intimidated me a little, but I knew to trust in my training.

My goal for the summer was to build to 70 miles per week by mid-August. As my mileage slowly built, I became much more confident in my fitness. What used to be a “long run” of 65-70 minutes became an average daily run. I looked forward to my daily training – to head out into the heat and build strength for my college career.

But in the middle of August, disaster struck. The arch of my right foot suddenly became intensely painful out of nowhere. I wasn’t doing any hard workouts and my long runs were not even 90 minutes long. I was dumbfounded – I’d never been injured before!

Fearing the worst, I immediately went to the hospital and got a bone scan to determine if my injury was a stress fracture. Luckily it wasn’t so I saw a podiatrist who diagnosed a simple muscle strain. But he didn’t tell me reassuringly that, “you’ll be back running in no time, don’t worry about it!”

What he said scared the hell out of me.

This podiatrist, who had been practicing medicine for decades, told me the human body is not designed to run (Christopher McDougall would disagree). He said that after five miles the body begins to break down. I pretended to listen  and told him I’d think about his suggestions. When I left with my mother, I told her “that guy is not a runner.”

How to Pick a Doctor Who Won’t Crush Your Dreams

I’ve learned some valuable things from that experience. It’s important not take every word a medical professional says absolutely seriously. Current research is proving that humans did evolve to run and that we are genetically designed for endurance running. The body certainly doesn’t break down after 5 miles (I’m going strong averaging 9+ per day this year!).

I’ve even heard some physical therapists tell me that running is horrible for your knees. That consistent running will pound away your knee cartilage and you’ll be left with a cane. Seriously, I’ve heard this.

Well, after over 12 years of running I haven’t had one knee injury.

The key to finding a doctor who is knowledgeable about running is finding one who is a runner. After seeing so many physical therapists, podiatrists, massage therapists, and other specialists I’ve learned this is vital to helping you recover from an injury.

A doctor who’s a runner will help you prevent injuries much more effectively than a non-runner. They understand what it takes to train for a 5k (and even a marathon), and how to take care of your body so you’ll be ready when it’s time to race.

They know specific strength exercises for runners and how to warm-up the right way. Runners with a medical background are so valuable in this area – they know all the extras that will help you run at your best.

After my struggles with doctors who weren’t runners, I learned that just because they treat people for injuries, doesn’t mean they know the best way to treat runners. If you’re trying to find a specialist who will help you achieve your goals, then my recommendation is to find one who’s also a runner.

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