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On the road again

By Timothy Cocks Science and the world 07 Feb 2020

Wouter Ramboer, a physiotherapist from Belgium and a good friend of NOI, has written some brilliant posts for noijam over the years including a harrowing story of his house burning to the ground, reflections on music and life, having a wisdom tooth removed, whiplash, and shoe goo.

It’s an absolute pleasure and privilege to have Wouter back with another story… and some questions.

Deciding to run again

Y’all know the story – almost turning 40-ish, quitting smoking after 15 years because the son asked so nice…. and the feeling that creeps on to you that age is slowly catching up with you.

SO I DECIDED TO START RUNNING AGAIN! Yes again. I started running at the age of 5 or 6 because my father was an athletics coach here in Belgium (and quite a good one if you look at his track-record). I ran competition starting at the age of 7 and quit running when I was about 18; never ran a step again. Unless it was crossing a road when a car came towards me at high speed. I ran 5-ish times a week and when I was a bit older I trained (in school holidays) twice a day, to get into race-mode shape. I never did drugs of any kind to run faster. Worth mentioning maybe, is I never trained with guys/girls of my age. I had high ambitions for myself, I wanted to be the best…. so I trained with people roughly twice my age.

I can remember suffering on training days

If I run through my memory I can recall that I suffered quite a lot on training days. Running till my lungs started to burn, and having this weird taste of blood in my mouth (a lot of runners out there will recognise this). Running till you see little black dots dancing in front of your eyes. I also remember when we had to do speed work, we had to remain in a squat position, to keep the lactic acid in the legs, lovely feeling that was.

Strange thing is I suffered a lot, but I don’t remember the exact pain/feeling. I know it was very hard, but I can’t recall the exact feeling I had in my legs.

First things first

Now, 20 years later (including those 15 years of smoking, but the last 18 months smoke free), I am starting to feel that old age is getting at me, nibbling away at my physical condition.

So I decided to start running again, not with a lot of enthusiasm. What I loved doing as a young kid, running as fast as possible, now felt like an enormous task – knowing I was going to suffer. You know the stories around from all those people “starting to run”…. they’re all hammered after the first couple of minutes of running. Feel like their calfs are going to burst open 2 minutes into a run. Hyperventilating etc etc…. then the dreaded next day, muscle pain and stiffness. Difficulty walking down the stairs or getting up out of the chair! Jikes!

But first things first…. online shopping. No need to get up and buy some running shoes…. sit down, relax, no need to waste unnecessary energy 😜.

Now that I couldn’t fit the shoes, buying them based on how comfy they feel is out of the question! I decided to base my choice entirely on which shoes looked the fastest ones. Don’t know if other people do this. But entire black shoes seem heavy to me, as do thick soled shoes (probably with good cushioning though)…. so light coloured thin-ish soled shoes, with, wait for it… soles made from Continental (car tire) rubber. If sports cars wear this rubber and have amazing grip, so would I! 😜 No stone unturned for the perfect shoe!

About a week later….. ring a ding, shoe delivery guy! Things would turn ugly later that day after finishing practise! In my mind 2 blocks of 10 minutes at a speed of 8 km/h with a 5km/h walk of 5 minutes in between….

I died, twice! The walk went fine….. shortness of breath, calfs on fire, never finding comfort in my stride/rhythm (misstepped twice on the treadmill), the taste of fresh blood in my mouth…. yikes…

I felt tired, disappointed at how my general condition was, expecting the day after to be worse, cause my legs already felt toasted.

Off to bed then….

The morning after the run before

The first moment I thought of my first run was when I was already downstairs…. “wait, I didn’t feel my legs getting up, coming down the stairs, now did I?” Shit no I didn’t…. a couple of squats and calf raises next to the coffee machine, nothing! Legs felt great? Why? I should be feeling terrible!

Strange. I decided to run again tonight!

Same speed but fusing the 2 block of 10 minutes with a 5 minute walk at the end of the session, that was the plan…..

And so it happened, the calves felt the same as the day before… conditionally I felt better, 20 minute run felt more comfortable than the previous training. You would expect it to be worse no? Not being fully recuperated from the previous day?

So now I’m on to my 6th training session in 3 weeks. Volume remains steady just playing around with different paces. Last training: 5 min warm-up at 10km/h, 10 minutes at 12 km/h, followed by 5 minute block at 14 km/, some recup. at 10km/h, 2 minute block at 16 km/h, some recup. and 1 minute all out at 20 km/h…

So many questions

This blog isn’t about training. It isn’t about smart build-up, shoe choice or anything else…. it’s all about questions popping into my mind:

– Why is this running thing working? I feel good and I’m progressing really fast!

– Physiologically a lot is changing, but why doesn’t my system respond with pain/soreness the day after?

– How much does the past play a role in this (15 years of running)…?

– Is this barrage of sensory input not threatening to me, my brain and I?

– Can it just be due to training effect!?

– Is this just beginners luck?

– Or are the shoes I picked really just super fast?

You tell me….


-Wouter Ramboer

Physiotherapist, West Flanders, Belgium


Wouter is a very active Twitter user and can be found by his Twitter handle @neuromanter, where he will be regularly posting links to some of the latest and most interesting articles related to pain and neuroscience, and discussing the future of the physiotherapy profession with others from around the globe.


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