Marathon Month SPEARunner: Kenneth Festa

Posted by | Posted in Back to Life, Community, Events, Inspiration, Running, Success Stories, Tips & Favorites | Posted on 30-10-2014

It’s the final week of Marathon Month, a time we get to spotlight our patients who are running this year’s TCS New York City Marathon! In this entry we share the story of a special SPEARunner treated at our Chelsea location: 51-year-old Kenneth Festa.  He has battled through a torn Achilles with Laura Muzzatti, DPT to walk his 13th NYC marathon! Determined to complete 15 marathons by 2016 to qualify for lifetime entry, Kenneth is the epitome of grit and SPEARIT!

Marathoner and SPEAR Physical Therapy NYC Patient Kenneth FestaWhy do you run? I run for all of the usual reasons…health, fitness, problem-solving, family time (my wife and two sons are both runners), to get to work without having to use the subway (I live about 6 miles away from my job), and because people were just plain born to run.

How long have you been running marathons? I’m 51, and I think I did my first marathon when I was 30, so a little over 20 years. I’ve done 16 of them, in total.

Which physical therapist do you see at SPEAR and what treatments have you been doing for training? I primarily see Laura (although I’ve had others in the office work with me, and they’re all excellent!). Been doing a lot of calf raises, balance exercises, massage, and flexibility exercises. Laura has encouraged me to supplement my PT program with yoga and barefoot conditioning workouts.

Do you have any words of wisdom or training tips for anyone thinking about doing their first marathon? Words of wisdom for a first timer? Enjoy it. Enjoy every minute. You may have last-minute doubts–a little voice might whisper in your ear that you’re not meant to be a marathoner, that you should have done a couple more long runs, and more stretching, and more strength training. Know that this voice will evaporate at the start of the race, and you will feel like a superhero (at that point, don’t get too overconfident–relax and flow easily through the first half of the race). When you’re done, you’ll be a marathoner for the rest of your life!

More than earning that achievement, though, you’ll learn something about yourself… I’m planning to learn a little acceptance and humility in the 2014 NYC marathon. This past spring, I was running the best that I can remember, attaining age-graded percentages that I’d never reached in over a hundred NYRR races. I was beginning to think about (possibly) qualifying for Boston for the third time (not an easy goal for me). Then, in late May, I had a surfing accident and completely ruptured my Achilles. Even as I was lying on the surfboard just after it happened, I knew what I’d done, and I could see my marathon drifting out to sea. In the emergency room, they basically told me to forget about the 2014 NYC marathon.

I had another thought at the time–related to the fact that if you do 15 NYC marathons, then you have guaranteed entry for the rest of your life. I’ve done 13. They’re ending that program in 2016…so I’d still be able to get my 15 using the 2015 and 2016 races. But there’d be no more room for error. No more surfing accidents.

I spent a couple of days feeling sorry for myself (I’m not proud of that, but I’m human). Then I had a thoughtNYC Marathoner runner and SPEAR Physical Therapy NYC patient Kenneth Festa …if Zoe Koplowitz, who has severe MS and uses a walker, can do the marathon in 30 hours, then I can walk it in 10. If you don’t know about her, see her website at She’s a wonderful lady, a real NYC treasure and an inspiration to many.

Laura was the first person to tell me that walking the marathon this year might be possible, that it wasn’t the dumbest thing she’d ever heard. Important: She made me promise not to tell my doctor that she’d just cleared me to do a marathon, because she hadn’t. But if I could get approval from my doctor, then she’d help me work toward that goal. When I ran it by him in September, he assessed my progress (he was very impressed by the strength I’d regained in the foot), shook his head and said that no one had ever asked him if they could do a marathon 5 months after Achilles tendon repair. Then he said yes, but I need to stop if my heel starts hurting. Deal!

So, yeah, it’s been a huge amount of physical work, from taking those first few halting steps in my living room in August, to my longest walk of 21 miles, around the perimeter of most of the island of Manhattan. Just as hard, though, has been learning to accept my limitations. I’m not a great runner, and never have been, so I didn’t think it was that big a part of my ego. I learned otherwise in the 5th Avenue Mile race this past September. I needed to do a few more races to qualify for the 2016 marathon, using the NYRR Club’s 9+1 entry path.

To put it in perspective: in a race in April, I came in 20th out of over 200 guys in my age group. In the 5th Avenue Mile, I came in 3rd from last out of 5200 athletes. The sidewalks were crowded with spectators, and they were encouraging me to run (which I couldn’t) and the race course was empty, because all of the other runners in my heat were long gone. There was just nowhere to hide. I had to keep my head up, keep smiling, and keep walking. It was one of the hardest things I can remember doing. Surgery was WAY easier.

I expect that I’m going to encounter a longer, harder version of that experience on November 2nd. And I think it will be good. As Zoe Koplowitz says, you can either go through life with your arms open, or you can go through life with your arms closed. I’m going to try my level best to embrace this marathon with my arms open. It’s still an immense privilege. And that would be my final bit of advice–embrace the experience, whether you’re a 3-hour or a 5-hour marathoner. Or a 10-hour marathoner.

Marathon Month SPEARunner: Jo Ralston

Posted by | Posted in Community, Inspiration, Running, Success Stories, Tips & Favorites | Posted on 21-10-2014

It’s our second annual Marathon Month, a time we get to spotlight our patients who are running this year’s TCS New York City Marathon! In this entry we check in with 84th Street SPEARunner Jo Ralston, who has been treating with Joe Losurdo, DPT in preparation for her first NYC marathon!

Why do you run? For many reasons, and the list keeps growing.  It started as cardio at the gym and then after watching friends run the London marathon for a second time it progressed to running to and from the office to avoid the tube.  Living in London at the time it then progressed to running around Hyde Park and I realized it was an amazing way to discover parts of the city I had lived in for years but had no idea about!
When I moved to NY, a friend was training for the Philly marathon encouraged me to join the NYRR and do the Jingle Bell Jog.  After the first race I was hooked and I decided I would do a half marathon in January. After that it was the idea of completing the 9+1 to qualify for NYC just in case I felt like doing it!  It’s such an amazing way to get outdoors and explore and it definitely helped me to settle in NYC quickly. It is also insanely easy to get involved in NYC with things like the NYRR, the hundreds of running clubs and meet-ups and now the crews like the bridge runners.

Now if I don’t run it affects my mood, and while I don’t think or problem solve like some people describe, I do feel like I burn off any anger or frustration that is lurking.  My other half says that he thinks I burn off my ‘[to keep things family-friendly, let’s just say Jo wrote a word that begins with “b” and rhymes with “rich”] points’ but it definitely makes me a much nicer, calmer subway rider!

How long have you been running marathons? NYC will be my first although I trained for Philly last year and wasn’t able to compete at the last minute.  For NYC, after a year running the 9+1 to qualify, plus the training I would have been gutted had I not been able to run on Nov 2nd!

Which physical therapist do you see at SPEAR and what treatments have you been doing for training? Joe (with an e) is my therapist.  The best thing he did was tell me on my first day that I would be ready for the marathon.  I honestly had no idea what had happened and could barely stand or sit and I thought he was a madman for even suggesting I was going to be in good enough shape to run! Somehow I had inflamed my piriformis muscle which meant I felt like I had sciatica. Since then I have been doing a lot of foam rolling, monster walks, core work with planks and squats in addition to more simple stretches.  I actually believe that despite reducing my mileage I am now in better shape than ever for the marathon.

Do you have any words of wisdom or training tips for anyone thinking about doing their first marathon? I think its setting small goals.  When you look at a 16week training plan or think about 26.2 miles it is overwhelming so just go week by week or even day by day.  Be kind to yourself and be prepared for good days and bad days.  Like anything, it’s trying to make it a habit and also building things into your lifestyle to remind you why you do this crazy thing.  I am also really motivated by the idea of two or three shake shack burgers when I finish, maybe that will work for others too! Oh and Pinterest running motivation boards – strangely helpful!

Marathon Month SPEARunner: Ilana Epstein

Posted by | Posted in Community, Inspiration, Running, Success Stories, Tips & Favorites | Posted on 14-10-2014

It’s our second annual Marathon Month, a time we get to spotlight our patients who are running this year’s TCS New York City Marathon! In this entry we check in with 16th Street SPEARunner Ilana Epstein, who will be running her second NYC Marathon in November!

Why do you run? I run because of how amazing it makes me feel. It is one of the few things that can make me forget about everything else and just live in the moment. I love being outside and seeing how far I can push myself. Running marathons is something that I never imagined I could do and I love the feeling of accomplishment that it provides.

How long have you been running marathons? I ran my first marathon in 2011. As soon as I finished I couldn’t wait to do another one. I trained to run in 2012, but because of Sandy that didn’t happen so this one will be my second.

Which physical therapist do you see at SPEAR and what treatments have you been doing for training? Kellen is my therapist at SPEAR. I initially came to see him due to a stress fracture. Since then he has been helping me stay strong for this year’s marathon. We have been doing a lot of stretching, balance and strength training. Improving my core strength has played a key part in my treatment as well as some drills to improve my running form.

Do you have any words of wisdom or training tips for anyone thinking about doing their first marathon? If you have that itch to run a marathon you should absolutely go for it. The sense of pride and accomplishment that you feel when you cross the finish line is difficult to even put into words. The longest run I had ever done before I started training in 2011 was maybe 7 miles. If you put your mind to it, you can absolutely do it. Take it slow; don’t build up your miles too quickly. The early morning wake-ups, the aches and pains, are all worth it in the end.

SPEAR’s Kellen Scantlebury Shares Running Tips at JackRabbit Union Square!

Posted by | Posted in Community, Education, Events, Our Therapists, Running, Sports, Tips & Favorites | Posted on 05-09-2014

Whether you’re just starting to run or are training for a marathon, you’ll love physical therapists Laura Muzzatti and Kellen Scantelbury‘s running tips from their fun and informative talk, “Running For Life: How to Keep Doing What You Love, Injury-Free!

Kellen will be sharing his tips and expertise at JackRabbit’s Union Square Location! Make sure to stop by on September 15th at 6:30PM to learn how to stay on your feet, injury-free!

Can’t make it to Kellen’s talk?  Check out his Top 5 Running Tips!

Yoga, Yoga Everywhere! How To Practice Yoga Safely With Tips From SPEAR’s Phaeleau Cunneen!

Posted by | Posted in Education, Tips & Favorites, Yoga | Posted on 14-08-2014

Gisele Bündchen shared this picture of her doing a headstand on Instagram.

“Everybody’s doing it!” says this article on the recent wave of celebrities sharing their Yoga pictures on social media.  It’s no secret that Yoga’s popularity as a fitness and wellness activity has grown exponentially in the United States.  The Huffington Post touted Yoga as a $27 Billion Industry and even former pro-wrestlers are getting in on the Yoga action, with Diamond Dallas Page’s D.D.P. Yoga profiled this month in a NY Times Magazine feature.

But is Yoga a one-size-fits-all activity? In a recent article on Yoga Dork, Brooklyn yoga instructor J. Brown reveals the dangers of being swept up in the pressure to do challenging poses, the headstand and shoulderstand in particular. Mr. Brown experienced a pinched nerve in his neck that went away immediately after he stopped doing headstands. He stopped teaching headstands all together when a student of his injured himself while performing one and never returned to Yoga again.

Mr. Brown’s story is a good reminder to listen to your body’s signals. In this entry, SPEAR’s Phaeleau Cunneen PT, CHT, shares his insights on the Yoga phenomenon along with his tips on how we can all practice Yoga safely!

Mo’ Yoga, Mo’ Problems

1. Yoga has exploded in popularity and with that increase, many new yoga teachers have also come onto the scene, some with more experience than others. The quality of instruction then has been diluted a bit, so make sure you are working with an experienced and highly rated instructor. Don’t be afraid to speak to your instructor and find out more about their training and education.

2. Many yoga classes can be overcrowded, so that the instruction and attention to detail and form you receive is less than ideal. Try to find a yoga class with less students, or enough that you are able to receive some attention to your form as you practice.

You Don’t Have To Be The Valedictorian of Yoga

Hilaria Baldwin practicing a headstand with no hands!

3. We are experiencing the rise of a fitness culture where more and more people want to be pushed beyond their limits by instructors, whether it be through P90X, CrossFit, boot camps, or tough mudders. While it’s admirable to want to push your personal limits, you should understand that safe (and effective) training takes time.

4. Many of us are walking around with slight disc bulges, even disc herniation. They are not always symptomatic, but that doesn’t mean that they are not there. Before practicing Yoga, consult a physical therapist to have your body mechanics evaluated.  This way you can understand your body’s limits and any underlying conditions you may have.  This will not only help your Yoga practice, but will also help you train up to the more challenging poses safely.

5. Most of us spend most of day with our neck in a forward head position – staring at a computer, looking down at our phone or iPad. The neck is in a flexed position for the majority of our waking hours. The after work we rush to class and go into a shoulder stand! The shoulder stand exerts extreme amount of posterior forces on the cervical spine.

Listen to Your Body

6. If you develop chronic pain from any form of exercise, stop! Don’t “suck it up” or listen to “no pain no gain” chants in your head. Do not continue doing something that is hurting your body because of peer pressure or because everyone else you know does it and it helps them.

7. Serious injuries can occur in any sport from improper form, improper supervision, poor strength and flexibility, and performing a stance or exercise that your body is not ready for.

Phaeleau’s Bottom Line: Although yoga benefits millions, it can lead to injury if you have an unknown preexisting condition, weakness to key stabilizers of the neck and shoulders, poor posture, and or poor flexibility. Listen to your body; it is smarter than you think it is. Chronic pain is often your body trying to tell you something. Your friendly neighborhood physical therapist can help translate!