Dr. Rebecca Smith Focuses On The Core Values Of Physical Therapy


My guest today is a physical therapist that specializes in working with runners both in person and virtually.

She helps to solve issues they are dealing with currently as well as working to prevent issues from happening in the first place.

I am looking forward to learning more as I go a few easy miles with Dr. Rebecca Smith today.

Dr. Rebecca Smith

Adjust To The Conditions

Rebecca has been running for about 10 years but has only recently begun racing.

She completed her first official half marathon in 2014 and 5 years later moved up to the full marathon.

Rebecca has found that she loves the long distance because there is so much unpredictability on race day.

Running for multiple hours also allows more time for her to prove herself.

In the two marathons that Rebecca has completed thus far, she has had less than ideal weather 100% of the time.

For Rebecca, the challenges come with adjusting to the conditions on race day and committing to having fun.

Understanding Her Patients

Rebecca wouldn’t have called herself a runner when she first began working as a physical therapist.

Though she herself didn’t run, a lot of her patients were runners.

Rebecca’s thought process was that she couldn’t hate a sport and not understand it while at the same time try to treat those athletes.

In an effort to fix that, Rebecca first began by reading the book, “Born to Run.”

The book changed Rebecca’s entire thought process of running.

Rebecca was determined to give the sport a chance.

An Identity Wrapped Up In A Sport

It didn’t take Rebecca long to understand just how much being a runner comprised her patient’s identities.

A runner being told they could no longer run meant they may lose their identity, community, and sense of normalcy.

In her experience, Rebecca has found that if a patient is told to stop running they may walk out the door or think that physical therapy doesn’t work.

Rebecca’s goal as a PT is to know how to maintain an athlete’s fitness and performance while rehabbing around a specific injury.

Any patient of Rebecca’s will never be told they will never run again.

The key is to find the correct path back to healthy and pain-free running.

Dr. Rebecca Smith

Lifelong Love Of Science

The decision to become a physical therapist was not a straight line for Rebecca.

Rebecca was an athlete from a young age and loved sports.

She also grew up with a father that was an orthopedic surgeon.

Her love for sports and the medical field started young but they didn’t converge until later in her life.

Rebecca initially entered college as a pre-med major but decided on a different path due to her desire for a work/life balance someday.

While in college, Rebecca injured her back and found herself in a physical therapy office.

It was during that moment that she connected the dots and found what she was passionate about.

Not One Size Fits All

After a few stints at other practices, Rebecca recently opened her own clinic in Orlando, FL.

Being her own boss allows her to spend as much time with each client as they require.

Individuals seeking a physical therapist should take the time to do their research.

Not every physical therapist will have the specific knowledge needed to provide the best treatment for runners.

It can be disheartening for an injured athlete to not see progress.

Finding the appropriate PT could mean saving time and money while getting back to what they love sooner.

Small Changes Make A Big Difference

According to Rebecca, there is no one right way to run.

A runner can change their form, but it is critical that it is done slowly and incrementally.

When changing your form the load from running still has to go somewhere and the change when done quickly can lead to more injuries.

Even small seemingly minor changes can sometimes make a big difference.

Each person’s running mechanics are unique to them.

Rebecca does PT with local patients, but she also does virtual running assessments regardless of location.

Strength training is one aspect of her treatment plan that is non-negotiable.

The strength training Rebecca emphasizes is unique for runners.

Strength Training Reveals Weaknesses

Strength training has a way of opening an athlete’s eyes to what their weaknesses are.

Two of the first tests Rebecca does with clients to determine weaknesses are toe raises and side planks with leg raises.

The results of strength training appropriately are a more efficient athlete along with increased tissue tolerance to handle training loads.

Cross-training is also beneficial in providing stimulus and taking some of the load from the repetitive nature of running.

Rebecca stressed that not just any strength program will accomplish what the athlete requires.

A running-specific program will target the muscles most often neglected in runners.

Some of the fundamental exercises that should be incorporated in any strength program targeting runners are:

  • Deadlifts
  • Squats
  • Side planks
  • Banded side steps
  • Bridges

A quality strength program will incorporate functional strength along with runner specific exercises.

Along with exercises, there are many valuable resources available including any book by Matt Fitzgerald.


Mentioned In This Episode:

Stay connected with Dr. Rebecca Smith by following along on Facebook and Instagram.


Dr. Rebecca Smith is a physical therapist that focuses primarily on runners. Her vast amount of knowledge and understanding of a runner's mindset will assure that she never tells a runner they can't do what they love. There is always a… Click To Tweet


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