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Getting to know physiotherapist and sub-3:00 marathoner Maura Wieczorek

We caught up with Maura (and her husband and 2:25 marathoner, Greg Wieczorek) to talk physiotherapy, running and their busy lifestyles as new parents

Maura Wieczorek

Road running is booming in Halifax.

The Maritime metropolis is home to the 2016 Canadian Running club of the year, the Halifax Road Hammers. The club now exceeds 175 members of all ages and abilities, and it is growing. Unfortunately, more running may lead to injury. Enter registered physiotherapist, mother of two, and sub three-hour marathoner Maura Wieczorek.

Her practice in downtown Halifax, Bluenose Physiotherapy, is as popular venue for people dealing with aches and pains – it is especially popular among the Road Hammers. We caught up with Maura (and her husband and 2:25 marathoner, Greg Wieczorek) to talk physiotherapy, running and their busy lifestyles as new parents.

Alex Cyr: What is your favourite part of being a physiotherapist?

Maura Wieczorek: I love helping to get patients back to their regular level of activity, so that they can achieve their long-term goals – whatever those may be. For some, they have to do with running, but for others, it might be to get on the floor to play with their grand kids, or gardening, or work. Either way, it is very gratifying to help someone get back to doing whatever they enjoy doing.

AC: You treat many of the runners of the Halifax Road Hammers – the biggest group of runners, competitive and recreational, in Halifax. Without going into specifics, what is it like to deal with this group?

MW: The group is interesting, because it is comprised of runners of all abilities. They are, generally, a motivated and goal-oriented group. A lot of its members have the common goal of working hard together, to achieve personal bests. Unfortunately, second nature to the sport of running is injuries. I will see similar types of injuries in runners of all abilities within the group. But, most of the group members I see are so motivated to get back to running and competing that they are compliant with the home exercises and are open to my expertise and advice. They are easy to work with.

AC: Do you find that being a runner yourself makes you a more effective physiotherapist?

MW: When treating runners, yes. I understand the training principles, and I am familiar with the biomechanics of the sport. Additionally, I have dealt with running injuries myself. Though someone can learn about these injuries through their schooling, to have lived them becomes an advantage – I see it from another angle. I can empathize with my patients, and understand how they feel. Counselling becomes a big component in the healing process. Understanding the mental aspect of running and dealing with injuries is a very important component to physiotherapy.

AC: Being an experienced marathoner and a physiotherapist, what would be your best advice to individuals undertaking marathon training for the first time? How can they stay injury free?

MW: It’s important to understand that there are never any guarantees in training. It is important not to rush into the distance. Having a base of mileage is key. Every runner has a different experience level – I’ve seen runners go from the couch to a marathon rather quickly, and develop devastating injuries. It is important to consider that running is not only about training the aerobic system, but also about strengthening muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments. A good piece of advice would be to follow a systematic, gradual plan from a coach, or from a magazine if you are a beginner. Also, keeping recovery runs easy is key, to give the body a chance to recover.

AC: You are a practicing physiotherapist, a mother of two-year-old twin girls, and a competitive runner yourself. How do you balance it all? Take us through a day in the life of Maura Wieczorek.

MW: I am up early. Greg and I have a schedule. Depending on the day, one of us will start our run a bit after 5:30 a.m., and the other parent will stay home to take care of our girls, and then we alternate. Once they are up and ready for the day, I go to work. If I haven’t gotten my run done by then, I can usually fit it in sometime during the day as I’m self-employed. After work, I come home, spend time with the family, and put the girls to bed relatively early. Before bed, I will do my exercise routine – to upkeep my strength and avoid injury. And then, repeat.

Greg Wieczorek: We are pretty efficient with our time – we don’t waste much of it. But, running with a busy schedule works. It takes the pressure off having to perform. It helps us maintain a good balance between all aspects of our lives. I disagree with those who claim that a full-time job leaves no time for running or exercise. Though it can get busy, it is very possible to raise a family, work and run high mileage.

MW: It comes naturally to us, now. A part of physiotherapy is to help people lead a healthy lifestyle and stay active. Sometimes, we do a bit of life coaching – helping people organize their days and building good habits.

Spot Greg and Maura at future marathons sporting the Bluenose Physiotherapy singlet. Greg is eyeing to defend his title of Bluenose Marathon champion in May 2018. Maura also hopes to run a spring marathon. “Right now, I am trying to decide between Fredericton and Mississauga,” she says.

Alex Cyr is a St. FX alumnus and a runner for the Windsor Lancers who writes when he can’t run, and runs when he can’t write.