Over time, I had become accustomed to living in pain. Simple activities like unloading the dishwasher, getting dressed, driving a car, and climbing in bed became increasingly more difficult. Eventually I could not even climb on the bike that I loved to ride. I began to develop ways to compensate for the chronic pain I felt, furthering my problems as large muscle groups became weak, and ultimately, inactive. After nine long months, I started to listen to my body and realized that I needed help. At first I saw a chiropractor, who explained that my lower back pain could be fixed quickly and I would be able to return to my active lifestyle in a matter of weeks. Three sessions later, my pain had increased excruciatingly. I remember lying in bed, crying, completely immobile, and feeling helpless. I was 23. A long-time friend and endurance athlete suggested that I contact Renee Hodges, her physical therapist who helped her recover from a running injury and return to racing ultramarathons.
For the next three years, I attended physical therapy sessions, often spending at least twelve hours a week in the clinic with Renee. I also received training in rehabilitative yoga and weekly deep tissue massage therapy. There were many setbacks along the way, including a pulled muscle in my upper back, pinched nerves, inactive glutes, hernia surgery, and tendinitis, to name a few. I felt like an onion – as soon as one issue was repaired, another was revealed. Gradually, however, I began to see results. I even left the teaching field to start my own business, so I could focus on a full physical recovery and spend less time on my feet. Through Renee’s constant guidance and encouragement, treatment, and following her at-home exercise plan I was gradually able to resume physical activity. At first, it was just walking laps in a pool, then it was walking outside for 30 minutes at a time. Eventually, after three years, I was exited from physical therapy and left the clinic with the dream that I would someday complete a triathlon, something that had once seemed like an impossibility.
Some eight months after receiving treatment for physical therapy, I completed my first sprint triathlon. It felt like a tremendous personal accomplishment, yet I wanted more. To be successful and prevent re-injury in this multi-sport event, I needed help, and I knew who I wanted to coach me. Again, I contacted Renee, now at her own start-up, Foundation Physical Therapy and Endurance Coaching, to train me for my next goals – a half marathon, and an Olympic distance triathlon. Her professionalism, knowledge of the sports, and clinical background helped me accomplish these events with ease, injury free, and well within my goal time. From feeling completely helpless and debilitated, to disciplined and empowered, I am now a trained endurance athlete with my sights on a half Ironman next year. As I race, I am overwhelmed by the journey that I have been on that leads me to the finish line. Each step represents some overcome obstacle, a shed tear, a sleepless night, shooting pain. It is impossible for me to not cross the finish line with a smile on my face. Experiencing recovery to this degree would have been possible without the support of my friends and family, especially Renee. Few people have impacted my life as significantly as she has.