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Inspiring Conversations with Stephanie Mundt of Volante PT & Performance

Today we’d like to introduce you to Stephanie Mundt.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?

I started running in elementary school and fell completely in love with it – nothing compared to feeling fast, strong and successful while I was out on the track or the roads. When I started high school, I was pretty successful at the state level right away and wanted to do anything I could to get faster and perform at a higher level. During my junior year, I started to run a little extra after practice and cut back on my food intake with the goal of being “fit” and fast.

This began a long struggle with anorexia and exercise dependence that would have a huge impact on not only my running career but also my health. My first running injury happened my senior year of high school, and was the first of many subsequent stress fractures. Not taking in enough calories combined with extra exercise led me to develop osteoporosis (usually a diagnosis reserved for the elderly) at the age of 19.

I had signed with Arizona State University with the hopes of being competitive at the college level and joined the team in the fall of 2008. At that time I wasn’t allowed to run with the team due to my eating disorder. I felt helpless and alone, and though I knew I wasn’t supposed to, I continued running on my own and sustained another stress fracture.

When I returned for my sophomore year, I still wasn’t allowed to run with the team – and this time it finally hit me that something needed to change. I started intensive outpatient treatment for anorexia at a local center in the fall of 2009, which really started to turn things around. During my time in treatment, I started to learn how to nourish my body, gained weight, and was cleared to run with the team again. I got to race a few times, though I continued to have stress fractures due to my poor bone health.

Fast forward a few years (running & injuries off and on, but still doing well with my weight and nutrition) and I decided to go to physical therapy school. While there, I realized that I could help young females like myself, in a preventative capacity or by managing the emotional and physical stressors of running and running-related injury.

This realization and hope drove me to start my own physical therapy & coaching business in 2020, with the overarching goal being to keep females running. Running is a way to see yourself in new ways, as someone who is strong and capable, who can do hard things and push the limits of what you previously thought was possible.

When that’s taken away, as is the case frequently with injuries, your whole world changes. I want to help female runners of all ages to first, see there’s so much more to them than running, and second, help them continue running in ways that are sustainable and serve long-term health and wellness.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
The road has not been smooth! One struggle faced along the way is the fragility narrative surrounding female athletes in pain. Historical and current explanations of pain are disempowering and often not backed by evidence – for example, “your knees hurt because your glutes aren’t firing”.

This, along with many other explanations, doesn’t put power back into the client’s hands, in addition to just being plain false. Another struggle is my continued battle with running injuries and the internal challenges of feeling capable of helping others while simultaneously managing your own injury – though I believe this has also been an advantage, allowing me to empathize and see these situations from a unique perspective.

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Volante PT & Performance?
My business specializes in helping runners continue running. Though people often think of rehab from a knee replacement when they think of physical therapy, what we do involves so much more, and you don’t even need to be in pain or have an injury to benefit from seeing a physical therapist. I offer physical therapy, running performance assessments, and virtual running & strength coaching.

Physical therapy involves assessment & a plan for athletes who currently have difficulty or pain with running. Running performance assessments are aimed at runners who want to maximize their performance, and involve gait analysis, strength testing, and strength programming.

Virtual running & strength coaching involves private training plans and monthly coaching calls for runners training for a specific race, returning to running postpartum or post-injury, wanting to learn healthy training strategies to continue running for life, and hoping to gain strength.

I have personally experienced several bone stress injuries, a hip labral tear, and knee osteoarthritis, and have helped many others return to and continue running while managing these conditions. I believe I am best known for my knowledge of and expertise in bone stress injury management.

I also believe what sets me apart is my ability to help runners feel autonomous & empowered in their rehab programs and training plans, as well as my experiences giving me insight into the nuances of recovery from both running injury and eating disorder.

So, before we go, how can our readers or others connect or collaborate with you? How can they support you?
Runners can work with me by contacting me on my website, volantept.com. We can set up a free phone consult to find out if we’d be a good fit for working together! People can collaborate with me by reaching out – let’s grab a coffee and see what comes of it! Collaboration with registered dieticians, coaches, other physical therapists, and other healthcare professionals can be so helpful for the athletes we work with.

People can support me/my mission by seeking second opinions in healthcare when something doesn’t sit right, and asking themselves if what they’re being told actually does make sense to them. They can also remember that there isn’t anything inherently wrong with them that necessarily means they’re not built for running or need to stop running – there’s always hope, training may just need to be modified in the short term.

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Image Credits:

Melissa Tassone

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