Successfully Recovering from PTSD with Chi Running

August 9th, 2011

Successfully Recovering from PTSD with Chi Running

My name is Bill, I am a police officer of whom was diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) last November.  My doctors recognized one of my symptoms as being as being "avoidance" which is when a person shows a loss of interest in activities and life in general, which eventually can lead to suicidal thoughts and depression.  My doctor asked me what I did when I was young for physical activity, and I told her that I used to run cross country in high school and loved it. However, after the police academy basically drove me into the ground with running, it caused a lot of injuries and I lost my love for running.  Of course, in the academy, we ran miles and miles everyday, but no one "taught" us how to run.  My old high school coach taught me long strides and heel strikes, so that's what I knew.

After my diagnosis, my doctor told me that I needed to get back into running, even if it was one mile a day. So that's what I did.  I went to the store and picked out a nice pair of Nike's and off I ran.  My wife, being  my  greatest support system, joined me in running.  Within only a couple days, I was complaining of severe pain on the outside of my foot, almost like i broke it, but figured... “No pain, no gain” ... And tried to work through it.  I gradually increased the running to a 5k every day, but after the 5k I would go back to my desk and my legs would shake uncontrollably and I would be in tremendous pain.  But I was losing weight pretty good. I lost 22 pounds and was getting a lot of compliments. I later realized that I actually liked the pain, because in PTSD you also have a feeling of numbness. The pain reminded me that this was real. Eventually, 6 months later, I really couldn't stand the pain anymore and changed to a different but still traditional running shoe. Didn’t help, still had pain. I was very close to saying forget about it... I couldn't get past 3 miles because of the pain. My legs literally shook from the pain.

At my gym, my wife convinced me to go to a minimalist seminar taught by an ultra marathoner that wore VFFs. I was amazed that someone could do that. Heck, I was amazed at the 5 mile runners. I thought the VFFs were funky looking. He told me of a new minimalist shoe store in Northampton, Mass, called "Good for the Soles"  that committed to making better runners by teaching people how to improve their form.

I was totally impressed with the store owners, Jill and Tim Murphy, who spent a lot of time with us measuring my feet for a proper fit and sold my wife and I our first pair of Newtons. Also, because Jill is a CRCWIT candidate she offered my wife and I a spot in a Chi Running class.  I was blown away! Wow ... It all made sense. Prior to meeting, Jill I was never taught about form, about heel strikes, core running, cadence etc...   I took it all in... Went home and concentrated on the form. I'm not perfect by any means, but I started running  like a kid again. Who knew there were things to look at on the side of the road?  Pretty flowers, mountains, birds... Running like a needle in cotton, running with a smile!  I really got that, and when I tired I just loosened up and went for a ride! Within two days, yes two days, 90% of my hip, foot and knee pain was gone! Within a week, all my pain was gone.

Chi Running took me from going out for my "daily chore" to WOW! When can I go out again?  I  bought the Chi Running book, Born to Run, and watched Chi Running videos on You Tube.  All this "new" information gave me tremendous inspiration to challenge myself, so two weeks later I found a half marathon that was to take place in six weeks.  I told everyone that was my goal, and I was going to do it!  My therapist and Jill warned me about "unreasonable" goal setting and that Chi Running running is a process, but being PTSD,  I needed a goal that I could achieve, and once I challenged myself I was going to do everything I could do to finish!  I bought Chi Running’s Half Marathon Training Program.  I transitioned from a "jogger" to a runner. Pain free and using less energy!  I wouldn't of believe it if I didn't try it!

Well six weeks later--the day of the marathon--standing at the start line of the half marathon, I was in my Chi!  Form right...Check...Attitude right... Check!  PTSD vertically written defiantly on my right arm for everyone to see. On my left arm, we wrote "13.1 is MY goal."  This run was was for ME... On my legs, we wrote "run like a kid again," which is my new life motto. 25 pounds lighter, smiling with my wife by my side, off we went.  We turned on the metronome... Beep, beep, beep 180 times a minute... I could hear other runners talk.. “Omg that is his heart monitor? This is just the start, he will never make it.”  I explained cadence and Chi Running to the runners by me, and before I knew it, their forms started to change and they ran the same pace at 180 bpm. Now, my wife, who ran beside me from the start of this journey started slowing down, she didn't tell me, but four weeks ago during a speed workout she became tired and lost her form, she got a stress fracture in her foot.  She committed to me, so I committed to her... No matter what, we committed and if we had to we would of dragged ourselves over that finish line and were were going to do it with each other by our sides.  1/4 mile prior to the end of the race, we stopped and took off our shoes.. We tied those shoes around out necks and symbolically ran hand in hand across that finish line barefoot and together!  We believe, it's not the shoes... It's the form!

Like I said, Chi Running is a process... And I'm not perfect at it. I have a small blister on my left foot and a black toe nail to go with it, but the next morning I woke up in no pain with plenty of energy, and started to look for my next goal.. Hmmm... A marathon... That sounds good!

From barely able to run 3 miles, to a half marathon in six weeks, pain free and without great effort, to dreaming of "The Boston.” I would like give thanks to Danny Dreyer and the Chi Running technique, thanks to my PTSD doctor who got me off the couch, thanks to my Chi Running trainer Jill Murphy, you’re awesome! But I save my biggest thanks to my wife Laura, who even with a broken foot, crossed that line with me at 2:39.

Now I wonder...Where will my next run take me?

Bill G.
Greenfield, Mass.

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