Successful Recovery from PTSD with ChiRunning

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My name is Bill, I am a police officer diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) last November. My doctors recognized one of my symptoms 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. As you would expect 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 had lost 22 pounds and was getting a lot of compliments. I later realized that I actually liked the pain, because  it reminded me that this was real. Six 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 just couldn’t get past 3 miles because of the pain. My legs literally shook from the pain.

My wife convinced me to go to a minimalist seminar taught by an ultra marathoner that wore Vibram Five Fingers. He told me of a new minimalist shoe store in Northampton, Mass, called “Good for the Soles” that was committed to making people better runners by teaching them 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. Also, Jill offered my wife and I a spot in a ChiRunning 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! Within two days, yes… two days, 90% of my hip, foot and knee pain was gone! Within a week, all my pain was gone! ChiRunning took me from going out for my “daily chore,” to WOW!

I bought the ChiRunning book and DVD and Born to Run. 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 it was my goal, and I was going to do it! My therapist and Jill warned me about “unreasonable” goal setting and that ChiRunning 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 to finish!

I bought ChiRunning’s Half Marathon Training Program and  transitioned from a “jogger” to a runner, pain free and using less energy! I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t try it!

Six weeks later–the day of the half marathon–standing at the start line, 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.

Twenty five 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 ChiRunning 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 hadn’t told me, but four weeks earlier, during a speed workout, she got a stress fracture in her foot.

No matter what, if we had to, we would drag ourselves over that finish line with each other by our sides. A quarter mile prior to the end of the race, we stopped and took off our shoes, tied them around out necks and symbolically ran hand in hand across that finish line barefoot together! It’s not the shoes… It’s the form!

Like I said, ChiRunning is a process… And I’m not perfect at it. But, the next morning I woke up with no pain, and with plenty of energy, and started to look for my next goal.. Hmmm… A marathon… That sounds good!

I went 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 ChiRunning technique; to my PTSD doctor who got me off the couch, and to my ChiRunning 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.