Most runners know a thing or two about a sprained ankle or shin splints. Runners like Adam Schwerdt know all about them.
Throughout his cross country and track career in high school and college, he ran into all sorts of injuries. What kinds?
“Most everything,” he says now, before listing things like stress fractures, plantar fasciitis and tendonitis that often kept him from racing.
After spending so much time getting his injuries treated, Schwerdt got curious about what was causing the breakdowns. By the time he enrolled at Maryville University in St. Louis, he had already decided on a major: physical therapy.
“As much as I promote wanting to help other people, there is a selfish part,” he said. “I wanted to figure out what’s going on with me and my body.”
Through his work as a physical therapist, Schwerdt now has answers for runners who come in with injuries. But he started thinking, “Wouldn’t it be better if they didn’t get injured in the first place?”
“Ultimately, it didn’t take long for me to realize that when someone comes to see me, it’s too late,” Schwerdt said.
With that idea in mind, he started a side project in 2018 called RunMental aiming to “help redefine how we approach training.” Schwerdt puts his USA Track and Field coaching certificate to work along with his physical therapy training to help runners “run faster and run longer,” as RunMental’s website reads, with reduced risk of injury.
“It’s my attempt to get on the front lines and to get people to avoid injuries so they can continue what they’re doing,” he says. “And be better and stronger in general.”
He offers advice for free, too, via posts on social media and blogs, offering tips on how to properly do strength exercises or how to get out of a running rut. He has one instructional video about toe yoga.
In a Facebook group dedicated to Colorado Springs runners, Schwerdt posts frequent videos, sometimes while he’s at the gym or during a hike, and offers “pro tips.”
Schwerdt, who is 28, also hosts a podcast, called “Making Strides,” about common running questions.
And, yes, runners have a lot of questions.
“You could almost phrase it like there’s a lot to de- educate people about,” he said. “There’s a lot of myths portrayed as facts because that’s how we’ve always done it.”
He tells people about the three biggest myths he hears: “Shoes will fix everything, stretching is a must and you don’t need strength training.”
On that last point, Schwerdt recommends his clients lean into strength training.
“Some things you don’t get just by long distance running,” he says. “You have to look at the bigger picture.”
When offering advice, he always has his own experiences to draw from.
Before he and his wife moved to Colorado Springs in March, he was “super fit” and chasing a personal record in the 5K. His best time so far is just over 17 minutes.
But he didn’t take into full account how much the altitude and hills would affect him. He ended up with an injury in one of the tendons of his ankle.
“As much as we know as a (physical therapist), we don’t know everything,” he said.
It’s slowed Schwerdt down, but it also has given him time to explore the other outdoor activities he moved here for such as hiking and biking.
And it’s given him more time to build RunMental, which he hopes to turn into more than a side hustle one day. While he’s still working on getting the word out about RunMental in Colorado, he has one regular client: His wife, Emily.
The two met on their college cross country team.
“Sometimes she does what I recommend and sometimes she doesn’t,” he says.