Reassuring the Persistent Pain Patient

This post first appeared in The Physical Therapy Tribune on February 6, 2018.

When I was struggling with persistent pain, I saw many providers who confidently reassured me that I’d be fine, that I’d get better. The problem, however, was that even after completing their recommended treatment or exercise program, I was not fine. I did not get better. And not only did I not improve, but sometimes my symptoms got worse, often accompanied by an increasing sense of despair and hopelessness, which would further feed into the pain cycle.

Unfortunately, this experience is all too common among those who suffer from persistent pain. These individuals have often seen numerous clinicians, each of whom may have provided different, and often incomplete, explanations of their pain. The reasons for this are vast and multifactorial, and include our broken health care system, lack of understanding of modern pain science, confirmation bias, inadequate or inappropriate treatment, and the use of quackery, among others. But what I want to discuss in this post is the concept of reassurance. It is quite common, and often expected, for clinicians to reassure patients that they will improve over time with (and sometimes without) treatment. And no doubt, especially in acute care situations, a little reassurance can go a long way toward healing, especially for patients exhibiting fear and avoidance behaviors. Further, sometimes persistent pain patients also just need some reassurance that that pain doesn’t equal damage, and that it’s okay to move.

But is reassurance always helpful to those experiencing persistent pain? I’d argue that there can often be a fine line between helpful reassurance and overpromising. Given the complexities of pain and pain-related behaviors, it is not uncommon for pain to be/become persistent, even in the presence of a strong therapeutic alliance in which patients receive high-quality care from a skilled provider and take an active role in their own recovery. And if pain can persist/be persistent despite these desirable circumstances, what happens in the majority of persistent pain cases in which many factors complicate potential recovery? More pain.

But wait? Wasn’t the patient reassured that they’d “be fine”?

Oh, they weren’t fine? They didn’t “get better”?

What do you think goes through the mind of a patient with persistent pain when they are told they’d improve, but then don’t? I know what went through my mind, but also spoke to a few people I know who are currently experiencing persistent pain, and asked them whether they had been reassured about their pain and prognosis, and if they found that reassurance to be helpful. Several people responded, all with a consistent theme. In particular, the general consensus was that early on, the reassurance was welcome and gave them hope, but as time when on and treatment failures accumulated, they began to lose confidence in the ability of the medical community to help them.

This comment pretty much sums it up:

“At first, I did. It seemed to offer hope, and the first orthopedist I saw as well as a physical therapist said they were determined to find answers and find the source of the pain/issue. At about the 8 month mark, after many tests, x-rays, MRI’s and many, many PT visits, the reassurance seemed hollow.” – Vanessa M.

Although it’s not scientifically based, I think this comment illustrates how important it is to beware of how, as a clinician, your words influence those in your care. Reassurance is an important aspect of care, and sometimes that may be all someone needs to improve their outlook and condition. But it’s also prudent to keep in mind that, depending on the situation at hand, the type of reassurance you offer can also be viewed as false hope or even insincerity by patients struggling with persistent pain.

So, what should you do? I suggest offering gentle reassurance, without overpromising. Recovery from persistent pain is never a guarantee. But is it possible…and there is most likely a path forward for almost everyone. Your job as a clinician is to:

  1. Use your knowledge and expertise to help them learn to find their own way
  2. Help them set realistic goals and expectations.
  3. Offer them support and encouragement.

During my own recovery, the physical therapist who helped me the most spoke this powerful phrase:

“I don’t see anything that would preclude a full recovery”

Let’s break that down. He did not say that I’d “be fine”. He did not say that I’d be better in 6-8 weeks. He did not say that recovery would be easy. Rather, he told me that it was going to take hard work. He told me that it was going to take time and patience. He told me that I’d continue to have some bad days, but over time we’d expect to see more good days than bad days. He told me we would work through it together. He was optimistic. He gave me hope. But he never overpromised. And during some of those dark days that are inevitable while experiencing persistent pain, I would think of that statement. It helped drive me forward. It was, well…..reassuring.

Thanks for reading,




Want to learn more about your pain? Talk about it.

It’s been a long time since my last post, and even longer since I’ve written about my chronic pain experience. In case you missed it, you can read my basic story here. I’ve also been very fortunate to have had several recent opportunities to tell my story on a couple physical therapy based podcasts, beginning with the Duck Legs podcast (episode 8) this past spring and more recently on the Pain Reframed podcast (episodes 14 and 22). Talking about my pain experience on these podcasts turned out to be not only a wonderfully cathartic experience, but also provided some additional insight and clarity to my pain as well as some of the challenges I faced while trying to find appropriate care and during my recovery.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the more I’ve talked about my pain experience in public, the more people have reached out to me looking to gain insight into their own pain or that of a loved one. I feel much empathy and compassion for these individuals, as I understand all too well how pain can quickly become all-consuming in the search for answers and relief. Pain is a highly individualized experience, and modern pain science tells us that pain is complex with biological, psychological, and social components. And the reality is that there is rarely a simple answer or solution to pain.

When I was in chronic pain, my family and friends quickly grew tired of hearing me talk about it, and quite honestly, I didn’t really blame them. It’s difficult to listen to someone talk about his or her pain day after day. And while it’s often true that focusing or dwelling on your pain can amplify or prolong it, it is also true that the act of explaining your pain to someone else can help you learn more about your pain and provide clues as to what provokes it and what relieves it. This information has much value as it can help you identify ways to manage or control your own pain, which is often a more effective long term strategy than one that relies primarily on external sources. Further, this increased self-awareness can also be particularly useful when seeking care from medical providers who are often under scheduling constraints and only have a limited amount of time to spend helping you.

To be clear, when trying to understand something as complex as pain, I feel that the act of actually speaking the words out loud has advantages over just thinking quietly about it. The process of forming the words when speaking (or writing) forces you to think more clearly to find the right words to describe exactly what you are feeling. And by the “right” words, I don’t mean to imply that you need to use proper medical terminology. Rather, use the words that come natural to you. For example, what movements or positions seem to make your pain worse? What activities are you having trouble accomplishing and why? What relieves your pain? Take the time to talk through and explore these questions and possible solutions, and speak them out loud or write them down. What did you learn about yourself and your pain? Take that information and make a change! Mindfulness is key (and the topic of an upcoming post)!

Hopefully, you have a close friend or family member who is willing listen to you, but if not, don’t be afraid to talk out loud to yourself! (Of course, you may want to do this in the privacy of your own home, or risk looking a bit odd in public.) I’m completely serious though…speak the words out loud. I think you will be surprised at how challenging it can be at first, but how valuable it is the long run in helping you to clarify your thoughts and emotions as well as aid in the identification of various recovery strategies.

Over the next few weeks and months, I plan to write more about my own recovery strategies, as tell you about my first triathlon. Yes, you read that correctly. I did a triathlon this summer as a celebration of my recovery from chronic pain. Woohoo! Stay tuned….

Thanks for reading,

Getting my Duck Legs on

I recently had the honor of being a guest on the Duck Legs Podcast, run by physiotherapy students Jared Aguilar, Dy’mire Jones, and Tyler Adams. Their mission, if you will, is to interview various professionals in an effort to go beneath the surface to better understand the mindset needed to be successful.

First, let me say that these guys make a fantastic team! I had never been on a podcast before, and admittedly I was a little nervous. But after just a couple minutes of talking with them, it was as if I was chatting with a group of old friends.

In Part I, we discuss my journey to becoming a scientist, including how I battled self-doubt and self-awareness. You can hear my complete origin story as a researcher and how I transitioned between several fields of science, from muscle development to neuroscience to genomics. You will also learn about my struggles with persistent pain and my frustrations with the US healthcare system.

In Part II, we discuss my physical therapy journey, including how I got into strength training, pain science, appreciating movement, finding a passion for coaching, empathy, epigenetics, natural selection, and…wait for it…evil turtles!

You can access the full episode on iTunes by clicking here.

I have to admit that one of the hardest things about doing this podcast was reviewing the recordings afterwards. (cringe) Do I really sound like that? Ugh!

That aside, overall I had a great time, and it was a valuable learning experience. Sure, I could have probably done a better job explaining some of the scientific concepts, used few more analogies, etc., but we are our own worst critics, and the first time for everything is always a bit rough. Truth!

In any case, I want to thank  Jared, Dy’mire, and Tyler for the wonderful opportunity, and encourage you to follow the Duck Legs Podcast on Facebook and Twitter. They have had some great guests so far and have big plans for the future. You won’t be disappointed! Go get your duck legs on!

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Cheryl Keller Capone




Do you feel the need, the need for fatigue?

If you’ve never seen the classic ’80s movie, ‘Top Gun’, go watch it. For those of you have seen it, you may recognize that the title of this post is based on an oft-quoted line: “I feel the need, the need for speed.” The movie is about a group of advanced fighter pilots in an elite US Navy flying school. These guys are in the prime of their life, physically speaking, and they go hard and fast. All. The. Time.

Okay, now that we have today’s ’80s education out of the way….

I was talking to a friend the other day, and she was telling me about a recent workout she did at a local gym. She had taken a high intensity interval training (HIIT) class, which involves alternating short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less-intense recovery periods.

“It was great, “she said with a big smile on her face, “My legs were toast. I could barely walk afterwards!”

Let that sink in for a moment. She could “barely walk” at the end of her workout, and she was happy about it!

Now, I’m sure she was exaggerating to some extent, but her sentiment is not uncommon. In fact, I regularly see posts on social media from people who brag about feeling completely spent from spin class, kickboxing, running, or a workout involving scores of burpees, push ups, lunges or whatever. Regardless of the nature of the exercise, these individuals regularly push themselves close to their breaking point. Not only do they believe that exhaustion is the hallmark of a good workout, but they seem to have a need for fatigue. They crave that physical, psychological, and emotional rush that often accompanies a really hard effort. It can feel satisfying in more ways than one, and serves as an immediate confirmation (and sometimes as a lasting reminder) that you “worked out”….an invisible badge of honor, so to speak. And I get it. I used to seek it too. In fact, prior to my long bout with injuries and chronic pain, I often viewed deep fatigue as an integral, even desirable, aspect of exercise. If there was no fatigue, I didn’t work hard enough. But I was wrong.

Complete exhaustion does not equal great workout.

Before I go any further, allow me to explain. There is nothing wrong with hard work that challenges you. And I’m not picking on a specific form of exercise. Crossfit, powerlifting, running, HIIT, just to name a few, all have value and provide exercise benefits. Getting your heart rate up to promote cardiovascular fitness is, indeed, a valuable component of a healthy exercise program. There is also a time and place for pushing your limits and going for PRs. However, these times should be saved for competition and/or lightly sprinkled on top of a large volume of quality training that is designed to help you improve, not stress your body to the point at which you have difficulty moving your body.

Wait…doesn’t exercise reduce stress? Yes! Many studies have demonstrated that regular exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.

So, why would exercise cause stress? Well, exercise itself is a form of physiological stress. The body actually needs stress to grow stronger, faster, more agile, etc. and, in fact, the stress must be above a minimum threshold intensity in order to produce these adaptations. But here’s the rub: Too much stress, in the form of intensity and/or frequency, can result in chronically elevated stress hormones such as cortisol, which can interfere with learning and memory, lower immune function and bone density and has been linked to weight gain, high blood pressure, and heart disease, among other things. Further, pushing your body to the point of excessive fatigue also places a tremendous amount of stress on your nervous system. The reason you may have “trouble walking” after a hard workout is because you’ve taxed your nervous system to the point where the brain starts shutting down your ability to move before you’re able to inflict serious or permanent damage to yourself.

Does this sound like a good path to better health and fitness?

I don’t think so either. The goal of any health and fitness program should be to improve, not take a step backwards. Yet, day after day…especially in January….people flock to the gym and push themselves beyond their limits. Quite frankly, it’s counterproductive and not helping them reach their goals. The hard part for most people, however, is finding that sweet spot. How do you know if you are getting enough exercise, but not too much? How do you know if you are putting in enough effort, but not too much?

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-12-22-18-pmAsk yourself…

Are you making steady progress toward your health and fitness goals? Are you moving well, seeing improvements in body composition and strength? Are you less “out of breath” after you run up a flights of stairs?

Are you practicing quality over quantity? More is not always better. Better is better. Strive for high quality training. If quality starts to fall off and your form or technique starts to fall apart, then you’re done. Better yet, stop before your form begins to break down. (An exception to this rule is hypertrophy training, or bodybuilding, which requires working to failure.)

Can you see yourself exercising this way a few times per week for the next 10-20 years? A good exercise program should be sustainable over the long haul.

How do you feel after your workout? A quality workout should leave you feeling invigorated and ready to tackle your next task of the day.

Do you feel completely recovered before beginning your next workout? If not, you are very likely are overtraining which depletes your body’s resources and inhibits your ability to recover, putting yourself at increased risk for illness or injury.

“Suppress your desire to keep pushing and learn to do the minimum amount in order to progress.” – Neil Meekings, Trainer and Therapist at Kinect Health

One also should keep in mind that, in addition to recovery, proper nutrition and adequate sleep are critical to good health and fitness. You can be on an ideal exercise program, but if you are eating and sleeping poorly, your performance will suffer and progress will stall.

Listen, it would be great if we were forever in our physical prime like Maverick and Goose. (Well, maybe not so much like Goose. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go back and reread the first sentence of my post!) But the reality is that most of us are not in our twenties, and if you are in your twenties, you won’t be there forever. Going hard all the time is just not sustainable, and it won’t improve your health and fitness in the long run.

Finally, always remember to put health before fitness. If you are having any pain or discomfort, make time to seek help from a physical therapist who can help you address it before it becomes a bigger problem. They can help facilitate your return to a pain-free, active lifestyle.

Happy New Year!

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Cheryl Keller Capone

Why do people ask strangers for medical advice?

I belong to a local “moms” group on a popular social media site. It is a closed group of over 3,700 members. Most of the posts are fairly mundane with members usually looking for recommendations or support for this or that. More recently, however, I have seen an increasing number of posts in which people are looking for medical advice….and not just medically related advice, such as newborn sleeping patterns, but specific questions about illnesses and injuries.

To illustrate, here are three recent posts (unedited, but names omitted for privacy):

I think I may have plantars fasciitis. What’s the best way to treat it?

My 2 yr old has been complaining that his belly hurts for 3-4 days. He won’t eat but wasn’t really an eater before. He won’t drink much, if anything. He won’t play or be himself. Temperature was 99.4. He’s not puking, no diarrhea. Flu?

I’m looking for opinions on the flu shot for my 9 month old son. Last time we were at the doctor they offered it to me but I declined because I was unaware babies that little could have one and I needed some time to think about it. He has an appointment tomorrow and I know they are going to ask again. I’m having some mixed feelings about it! Help!

The last one was particularly disconcerting to me because this poster got a lot of support from anti-vaxxers, all of whom encouraged her not to vaccinate her son.

To be very clear, this group is not moderated by anyone with a medical degree. Rather, members of this group are asking other, equally unqualified, strangers for medical advice. When I first started noticing these posts, I was somewhat surprised. Why would someone ask a bunch of strangers for medical advice, I thought to myself, incredulously? But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I did understand at least some of the reasoning behind it, because (shhh….don’t tell anyone) I’ve done it myself.

Wait, what?!

Yes, it’s true. I turned to the internet for medical advice after losing confidence in the local medical community when I was struggling through many years of chronic pain, paresthesia, and movement dysfunction. Before I go any further, let me clarify that I started off taking a relatively standard route for some pain and intermittent tingling in my feet that developed in 2009 after I stopped using my orthotics for running. I saw my primary care doctor who sent me to an orthopedist, who referred me to physical therapy. Mind you, each provider had a different opinion as to why I was having pain and tingling. I faithfully completed my home exercise program and “graduated” from physical therapy, except that my symptoms were not really any better. Instead, things got worse…much worse. Over the course of the next 4 years or so, I not only had pain in my feet, but I also developed a multitude of other symptoms, including pain in my back, constant tingling in my feet and one hand, vertigo, nausea, heart palpitations, difficulty walking, and every time I tried to sleep on my left side, my entire leg would go completely numb from hip to toe.

To be perfectly honest, this was just the tip of the iceberg. I could write pages upon pages describing my various symptoms and how I felt betrayed by my own body. My nervous system became so jacked up that at one point I’m pretty sure I could feel all the seams of my clothes against my body. Given my background in neuroscience, I came to understand that pain is a complex beast with biological, psychological and social components, but knowing that did not lessen my symptoms. I needed help. In hindsight, I needed someone to help me calm my nervous system and teach me how to regain control of my body. The problem was that I could not find anyone who could (knew how?) to help me. Over the course of several years, I saw two primary care doctors, four orthopedists, three physical therapists, two chiropractors, two podiatrists and a massage therapist.

I hated filling out new patient forms. How could I possibly describe all of my seemingly-unrelated symptoms without sounding like a hypochondriac? I couldn’t. Sigh. No, I didn’t want pain meds. No, I wasn’t depressed. I was afraid, however, and angry. I was afraid of being essentially disabled at the age of 40, and I was angry that no one could seem to help me. In a matter of only a couple of years, I went from being able to run sub-20 min 5K to having difficulty just standing up and cooking dinner for my family. I didn’t care about running anymore. I just wanted to be able to get through the day without pain and numbness.

Frustratingly, everyone had a different opinion on what was “wrong”. Each provider focused on only a subset of my pain/symptoms (some of which didn’t arise until late in the game) rather than looking at the big picture, and each recommended a different treatment plan. And when the treatment didn’t work, I was told that there was “nothing wrong” with me.

Eventually, I lost confidence in the ability of the local medical community to help me, so I turned to the internet for information, desperate to find something or someone who could shed some light on my situation.

I asked strangers on the internet for medical advice.

Truth be told, asking unqualified individuals for advice did not solve my problems, but I did learn some helpful information from online professional resources. I also discovered that there are many other people out there who also feel let down by our health care system for a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons are relatively straightforward and related to access and cost of care and insurance coverage. My own quest for relief forced me to take a lot of time off of work for appointments, and I spent many thousands of dollars (out-of-pocket) for treatments, procedures and physical therapy. Fortunately, I have job flexibility and decent health insurance through my employer, and could therefore absorb these costs and not lose my job. This is not a viable option for most people, however, and so I can understand why many people turn to the vastness of internet and the “crowd sourcing” of social media….someone out there must have the answer, right?

No doubt that there are numerous other factors at play that lead people to seek medical advice on the internet, the discussion of which are beyond the scope of this post. But I think the fact that people are willing to ask complete strangers for medical advice speaks volumes about the depth and complexity of this problem.

As for me, when I was at the proverbial rock bottom in the summer of 2013, I finally happened across a compassionate physical therapist who helped me calm my nervous system and taught me about movement and strength training, and more recently, an insightful chiropractor who identified a few more pieces of the puzzle and facilitated my return to running. It was not an easy road, and I still face some challenges. But I’m very grateful for these two caring clinicians who helped me and taught me the skills I needed to get control of my life.

Ironically, my successful treatment by these two providers was not supported by our traditional health care system. The physical therapist runs a small cash-based practice, and while this model cost me a lot of money (worth every penny!), he was also not constrained by insurance company rules and regulations dictating the number and length of visits that would be covered. Thus, we had the flexibility to arrange a treatment schedule and plan that worked for both of us and met my individual needs. By comparison, the chiropractor that helped me did accept insurance, but my insurance company refused to pay for about half of the visits, claiming that there was no evidence of medical benefit or reduction of pain as a result of his treatments.

When I received that denial letter from my insurance company, I actually had to laugh. In the past, my insurance company had paid for several MRIs and mutliple injections, none of which helped relieve my pain, but they refused to pay for some manual therapy and movement patterning, treatments that did actually improve my condition. I glanced at the letter again and shook my head. With all the hassle and frustration built into the system, is it really a surprise that people turn to strangers for medical advice? I don’t think so.

Then I laced up my running shoes and went out for a run.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Cheryl Keller Capone

What’s the harm?


One day last week, I found myself talking to a small group of friends about this blog and why I felt it was important to explore some of science and pseudoscience in the health and fitness industry. The conversation took an interesting turn when someone asked me if there was any real potential for harm in allowing unsupported claims about health and fitness to persist….

To illustrate some of the misinformation prevalent today, I used the example of the “alkaline diet”. For those who may be unfamiliar with this concept, proponents claim that certain foods can affect your body pH (acidity level), and can thus be used to treat or prevent disease, including cancer. To be very clear, these claims are NOT supported by scientific evidence, and they make grossly inaccurate assumptions that are in complete disagreement with the modern understanding of human physiology.

Rather, basic biology tells us that while the pH of the stomach is highly acidic with a pH value between 2 and 3.5 (which is necessary to break down food), human blood is always slightly alkaline with a pH between 7.35 and 7.45. This narrow pH range of the blood is critical for human health, and is very tightly controlled by normal processes in the lungs and kidneys. In the absence of any pathology or disease, it is virtually impossible to significantly change your blood pH through consumption of food. In fact, nothing you eat or drink can significantly change the acidity of your body, with the exception of urine. That’s because any extra acid or base that you eat is simply removed by the kidneys and excreted in urine, while the pH of the blood and most other tissues in the body remain essentially unchanged.

Consider this fact: Any significant deviation outside of the normal pH range of the blood can lead to death. So, if it were that easy to manipulate our body pH through the inclusion or exclusion of certain foods, we would either not have survived as a species or we would have drastically different body chemistry!

No doubt there are some people who do feel better on an alkaline diet. Any improvements in health, however, are likely due to an increase in consumption of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables and a decrease in consumption of processed foods and sugar, both of which could help normalize blood sugar and insulin levels and help improve hormone regulation. One thing is certain, though–these benefits are not from a change in body pH.

Back to the conversation with some friends…

After mentioning the alkaline diet myth, someone asked, “What’s the harm? So what, if someone wants to drink a lot of alkaline water and it makes them feel good about themselves?”

I paused and thought about her question for a moment…what IS the harm? Am I just bothered by the pseudoscience aspect, or is there a real potential for negative consequences from following an alkaline diet? Good question, right?! It is true that I’m very fact-driven, and pseudoscience is a pet peeve of mine. But is there an actual potential for harm? I would argue, yes, for several reasons.

  1. Believing that alkaline diets can be used to treat disease could delay individuals from seeking proper medical treatment.
  2. An alkaline diet promotes excluding certain families of foods, and thus, could result in a less-balanced diet and nutritional deficiencies.
  3. Finally, the belief that body pH is so easily changed by eating or avoiding specific foods could lead to unnecessary and excessive fear and anxiety about one’s health.

None of these possible effects are desirable and certainly do not improve one’s health, physical or mental. Unfortunately, I regularly read about individuals promoting the need to “alkalize” your body….not only by celebrities, bloggers, and fitness professionals with no scientific or medical training, but even from some registered dietitians and respected clinicians!

People are constantly being swamped with misinformation and half truths about health and fitness, and led to believe that they must be increasingly concerned about the “fragility” of their body.

“Our health becomes something we have to protect with a never failing, always higher reaching diligence.” – Mark Sisson

In reality, this is simply not true! The human body is remarkably resilient. No doubt that most of us would be better served by making a greater effort to make better choices with regard to our health. But the human body is not so frail as you are sometimes led to believe. You deserve better. You deserve accurate information that will aid you in your journey to better health and fitness, not hinder it.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Cheryl Keller Capone

Are you open to evidence?


When I think about bias, I’m often reminded of the story of the blind men and elephant. If you are not familiar with the parable, it goes something like this: A group of blind men touched an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one felt a different part of the elephant….but only one part (eg. trunk, leg, ear, etc)….and afterwards, they compared notes. The one who touched the trunk described it as a snake, the one who felt the leg thought it was a tree, the one who touched the ear said it was a fan, and so forth.

The men then began arguing among themselves. Each blind man insisted that their description was correct and that everyone else was wrong. Only when they paused, and took the time to listen to each other and combine their knowledge, were they able to develop a more complete picture of the elephant.

There are several lessons to be learned from this story, but the one most relevant to this discussion is “confirmation bias”. In other words, we only see what we want or expect to see, and we tend to disregard evidence that does not support our own opinion or preconceived notions. We are all biased to some extent. It is part of being human. But it often prevents us from growing and making positive changes in our lives.

“The most dangerous phrase in the human language is “We’ve always done it this way.” – Rear admiral Grace Hopper

If you are not seeing the long-term progress that you desire, it is time to examine your own biases and evaluate how they might be affecting your path to better health and fitness or improved athletic performance.

One example that comes to mind from my own past involves strength training. I started running back in the mid-1980s,  when runners were advised to avoid strength training, or at the very least avoid training with heavy weights, especially with any exercises involving the lower body. At the time, it was thought that strength training would impede performance by tiring the legs and causing runners to “bulk up”. Like many runners, I followed this advice diligently, and avoided strength training like the plague! And, although I did go on to run at the collegiate level, my training was routinely derailed by injury after injury.

Today, there is sufficient evidence to indicate that strength training can lead to improved running performance in the form of faster running times, reduction of injury risk, and even enhanced enjoyment of the sport. Despite this evidence, however, many runners continue to shun strength training out of fear that it will negatively impact performance and take time away from running.

In my situation, it was not until early 2014, after experiencing several years of chronic pain, and facing the possibility of never being able to run again, did I finally set aside my biases against strength training, and embark on a path that has completely changed my life for the better. Not only am I running again, but I’m feeling stronger now at age 45 than I did at age 20!

“As soon as you declare something to be an absolute certainty someone will find evidence to the contrary. I think it’s important to be relaxed in your opinions and open to the ideas of others.” – Tom Goom, a.k.a. The RunningPhysio

As a scientist, I’d like to believe that I’m not biased, that I’m open to evidence. However, the evidence from my past suggests that this is not always the case! It was a good lesson for me….one that I’ve carried forward into other aspects of my life.

Humans often make decisions based on emotion rather than facts. It is yet another element of the human condition. But if you want to make changes in your life, there is a real need to develop sufficient self-awareness to examine your own biases, be open to evidence and have the courage and fortitude to be willing to make a change.

Thanks for reading,

Dr. Cheryl Keller Capone