On Burnout, and the Early Beginnings of Pedal PT

The inspiration for what would soon become ‘Pedal PT’ was sparked by a period of frustration, stress, and dissatisfaction in my then-current PT career after moving to Portland, OR in 2002.

It was the Fall of 2006. I was starting to feel the pressure and burnout of seeing 14+patients/day at a Physician-owned worker’s comp clinic I helped manage. I was making great money, getting yearly bonuses, enjoying decadent Christmas parties, solid benefits, and my wife and I were living the DINK (‘dual-income no kids) lifestyle. Business was booming, and the group had opened 5 PT clinics in 3 years that I helped to manage, as well as treat clients, and mentor/train the PTs working in these offices. However, as staffing got tricky, oftentimes I was forced to travel around a lot more. Soon, I found myself traveling to a different clinic 20miles away, each day, and spending a ton of time (for me) in my car.

With so much to do and in so little time, each minute I spent stuck in traffic was like a tiny dagger stabbing into my soul. I found myself getting aggravated, stressed-out, angry, and lashing out at other drivers while stuck motionless in traffic jams. I cursed road construction, accidents, and other ‘idiots’ on the road. I was wearing thin, getting overwhelmed, and was feeling less satisfied, motivated, and inspired. More work. Less time. More work. Hurry up. Go. Go. Go!

I couldn’t believe my situation: Here I was, making good money, working with good people, and at a stable job that was growing. I had an awesome wife (still do!), a house in Portland, and could buy whatever I wanted. Why was I so dissatisfied with my work? Isn’t this what you were striving for the whole time?

As the stress of poor management at the clinics was to adding more pressure and responsibility t my plate, I found myself starting to lose my passion for PT.

I knew I had to make the tough choice to quit that job and pursue a simpler lifestyle. I also knew I had to get away from that car, and the growing traffic mess in Portland, that’s for sure.

And so, with the birth of my son Ivan in May of 2007, it sealed the deal: I quit the office, the stress, and the responsibilities of running 5 clinics, and took a job at a smaller private-practice clinic only 3 miles from our house. With Portland being so bike-friendly, I figured, my goal was to simply ride my bike to work, re-ignite my passion for PT, develop my own treatment style and skills, and just enjoy working as a staff PT.

Riding the bike changed everything. My mind was blasted open, the breeze in my face was invigorating, and I arrived to work fresh and ready to take on the day. And best of all, my patients were reaping the rewards: By the end of my first year at the new office, I was seeing more patients than any of the other 5 staff PTs, and commonly had a waiting list of clients wanting to see me. It felt great.

However, what didn’t feel great was a growing ache in my neck and lower back as I rode my bike. As a Physical Therapist, I was even more annoyed, because I couldn’t figure out the underlying cause of why this was happening. I was riding only 15–20minutes/day, nothing intense or long distance. . . yet I was hurting. What gives?

I immediately began to research ‘bike fitting’, i.e. the positioning of ones body on the bike, and soon realized there were many others just like me who were just told “Pain is just part of riding a bike.. You’ll get used to it..”. Bike Fitting became my keen area of interest, and I devoured as much information as I could gather, and took continuing education coursework dedicated to the cycling population. I kept riding, adjusting and ‘playing’ with my bike positioning, my posture, and how I pedaled. What gears I could use to minimize stress to my spine and legs. Exercises I could to do help with my mobility and strength. I tried different equipment, including a stem riser and different handlebar positioning. Saddle positioning, height and fore, aft, and tilt.

I loved how the PT-side of my brain was being worked, and it was like solving a complex puzzle: the bike is adjustable, and the body is adaptable- so let’s look at both! I started to think that there was a place for the‘medical side’ to intertwine with the ‘bike-side’, while still allowing me to enjoy and experiment with my new-found love of living the bike lifestyle.

By 2009 I was performing Bike Fits at the clinic, all while combining PT sessions geared towards cycling symptom resolution, with really great results. Riders were stoked. My growing interest and passion for helping cyclists resulted in me becoming Portland’s very first certified Bike PT in 2009–10.

I was well on my way.

So I began to dream. . .

What if there was a ‘Bike Friendly’ healthcare office that provides highly skilled, hands-on care/rehab for active people, provides a exceptional customer experience, and who also has a specialty in Bike Fittings and managing complex cycling injuries?

Hmmmm.. what if. . . ?

. . .

Owner/Founder of Pedal PT. Passionate Cyclist, Physical Therapist, Clinical Bike Fitter, Dad, and Entrepreneur, living the #BikeLife in Portland, Oregon.