Perry Smith is the owner of Perry Smith Fitness Concepts in Nashville, Tennessee. He has lived in Brentwood for nearly fifteen years, practiced physical therapy for over 20 years, and is a recognized expert in the biomechanics of movement.
I recently had the chance to speak to Perry Smith from his beautiful home in Nashville and he shared an inspiring story about living the Quantum Life. For anyone who has ever faced adversity and overcome all odds to succeed, this story is for you.
“Science has always been a part of who I am. Pretty much anything I do gets put through the filter of science at some point. Sometimes I like to connect the dots between science and life. Science is about what you can test, what is valid, and what is quantifiable. Life is often unknown, unpredictable, and unmeasurable. But there are those times when life does give you a way of measuring it, of being tested, and validating who you are.”
“If you have knowledge of computer science you know that code is defined in terms of 0’s and 1’s. Black and white, you either are or you are not, good or bad. But as we know life is often not black and white, it is most often a blending of the colors as we move from one stage to another. This is also the essence of quantum computing. Quantum computing relies on the truth that there is more between 0 and 1, in fact, a lot more. And that matter is most often transitioning from one state of being to another, moving in the vast land between being a 0 or a 1. And not until the matter interacts with something in its surrounding is it defined for what it is. And at that time it is defined based on what last influenced it. Was it last closest to the 0 or closest to the 1? It all depends on what influenced the particle last as to what it becomes defined as at the given moment. We often think of things as good or bad. Good is a 1 and bad is a 0 and you existing in one of those states. As in the world of quantum, we are on an ever-moving journey between these two points. And that what contributes to defining us at any given moment can be a result of who or what we interacted with most recently.”
“Jim came into my facility after he was referred to me by a colleague. Jim was 5 weeks away from turning 50. 50 is an age that brings about many emotions. It is probably considered the most significant of birthdays. It is halfway to a century, few of us live to 100 so it definitively marks a period of transition, reflection, and thought. As part of our initial client interview, Jim told me some of the highlights of his 49 years. A successful job, happy marriage, and two daughters (one in high school and one in college) who were the apples of his eye. As a part of turning his family’s celebration of his turning 50, he and his daughters committed to all running their first marathon. The race had been chosen and entry fees paid. The three of them had picked a race training program to build them up to marathon distance and for 10 weeks they had been consistent with their five-day per week training runs. There were 6 more weeks until race day! Five more weeks of training runs and then a week of tapering down to allow your body to be fully ready for the race.”
“Training for a marathon is as much an emotional journey as a physical one. Most runners log around 480 total miles run as they prepare their bodies and minds for the race. It is during these miles that bonds between people are strengthened as they go collectively through the forging fire of physical and mental endurance. Jim talked glowingly of his training runs with his daughters and the conversations, laughs, and love that grew out of them. And then a tear rolled down his cheek as he told me that one week ago during a run he felt pain in his lower calf during a run. He had to stop his run and walk back. The next day he tried to run and could not even go a few steps without severe pain. He encouraged his daughters to continue their training and he went to see a sports medicine physician. The physician diagnosed him with Achilles tendonitis and a small tear in his calf muscle. With only 5 weeks until his race and knowing how much key training he would potentially miss the physician told Jim the prudent course of action was to miss the race. Jim was devastated. This race symbolized so much to him. Accomplishing a vaunted goal he had wanted to do achieve for much of his life. Overcoming the grueling physical and mental mountain of running 26.2 miles. A shared moment in time he and his daughters would remember forever. And, a way of walking into the second half of his life by emphatically stating that the best is yet to come. He didn’t want to just give up on all that. He asked his physician, who was a close friend of Jim’s and knew the importance of this race to him if there was anything he could do to possibly let him still run this race. The physician simply replied, ‘You better find yourself a good trainer to work with.'”
“So Jim ended up in my office after hearing my name from his physician and several other people in his running community. His posture as he told me his history said as much as his words did. He felt defeated and down. Physically his body was hurting but emotionally he was suffering also. I assessed how his body moved and what he could not do currently secondary to pain and injury. I had Jim provide me with his running log. His last long run with his daughters had been 17 miles. Luckily he wore a GPS watch and heart rate monitor so I was able to see that his HR during his last 17-mile run was well within an acceptable capacity for a soon to be 50 year old. This told me that overall the fitness level he had acquired during his training was good. But one of the devastating effects injury can have on a runner is how quickly a level of fitness can be lost with the inactivity that often comes with injury. Based on the information I gathered we came up with a plan. We were 5 weeks away from race day. For the next 2 weeks, there was no running or attempted running. He was to focus on a list of interventions I wanted him to do for healing, a series of exercises to address imbalances of posture and muscle mobility, maintaining endurance via stationary biking making sure his HR effort was consistent with his running levels, and educating himself with literature I provided him on mild modifications in his running posture and form that would decrease strain on his legs. I also broke a cardinal rule of running that you do not change your shoewear this close to a race but in his case, I knew it would be worth it. Finally, I told him to do all the detail-oriented things you do when planning to run a marathon. Know what the temperature is going to be to choose your clothing, know what your nutrition and hydration plan is. I wanted him to mentally start rethinking ‘I am going to run this race.'”
“The first 2 weeks of our plan went well. Now came our next hurdle. Using his new shoes and implementing the new running techniques he race walked 1 mile and then after a day of rest 3 miles. Race walking actually requires more mobility than running below the knee and the fact that he could do it without pain let me know the plan we were doing was working. Now running applies more GRF (ground reaction force) than race walking and that was our next step. On Friday of week 3, I had him do his first run since his injury had stopped him. He was scared, scared he would feel the familiar pain, scared that he had started to have hope again and all that would come crashing down. I went with him to a track so his first run could be on a level surface. Partially I was there to go over his running form and warm-up techniques but more than anything I was there to support him no matter what the outcome. He didn’t even tell his daughters he was going to try his first run because he didn’t want them to feel more disappointed if it didn’t go well. His first 2 laps around the track were slow and you could tell his mind was busy evaluating if he was running in the ‘correct’ way and also scanning for that pain. During his 3rd lap a cautious smile showed up and with his 4th and final lap, a thumbs up accompanied the completion of his task. We went through his cool down and discussed his recovery plan. We also discussed what the next 2 weeks would look like. How often he would run, the distance, what exercises he would do, how his biking would decrease as his running ramped up. Our goal wasn’t to have him back to what his exact pre-injury training plan had been. Since I knew he had built up to a 17-mile long run prior to the injury I knew his endurance would be in the ballpark of where it needed to be to complete the 26.2 miles. I needed to know that his tolerance of longer distances would there. We were 2 weeks from race day. I planned out he would 5 runs during that time building up to a maximum distance of 10 miles to gauge his tolerance to the longer distances. His final run would be a shorter run just to physically and emotionally give himself a ‘walk through.’ He checked off each of these runs with no pain from his prior injury. We were at race day eve!”
“The day prior to Jim’s race I emailed him to check in and make sure he had all his race day items taken care of. For those who have not run a race, there are a lot of preparation items to do prior to the actual race. With a marathon depending on your pace you could be on the course from 2 to 6 hours. We went through the list and he felt good that he and his daughters had all their T’s crossed and I’s dotted. I wasn’t able to go to Jim’s race because of a work commitment, but I did receive two 2 word texts around noon. The first one was ‘I finished!’ and the second one said ‘No pain!’ I replied that I was so happy for him and I would see him next week at a follow-up session we had scheduled. On the Tuesday after the race, we had a final session. Jim told me it was his best birthday ever. His daughters and he ran a marathon together and his wife was there to cheer them on.”
“At the end of his final session, he handed me an envelope. I opened it after he left. In it was a picture of him crossing the finish line of the marathon. His hands were in the air and a huge smile on his face. There was a long letter accompanying the picture. Jim detailed what this experience had been like and how I had impacted his life. He closed the letter with this statement… ‘Over the course of running 26 miles I thought about many things, but as I approached the finish line and was about to accomplish my goal I thought about my doctor telling me if I was going to run this race I had better find a good trainer, well, I found a great one.’ By my interaction with Jim for that moment in time, I was defined. Just like in the realm of quantum what often defines something is how it was impacted by what it most recently interacted with. This was how it was for Jim and me. By our interaction together I impacted him and he impacted me. And for that moment in time, we were both defined.”