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Overcoming Life’s Challenges with Cash Based PT Kristen Schulz

Karen Tanso, CEO of Inchstones PT

Join me on our latest DPT to CEO interview, with cash based practice owner Kristen Schulz. Kristen is the owner and operator of Run Your Life LLC, specializing in physical therapy & strength coaching for runners, as well as provides business coaching services to other providers looking to work with runners. During this interview, Kristen shares with us some of her most impactful life challenges that changed her mindset and business path for the better. If you’re looking for some real-life advice from a successful business owner and inspiration for rolling with the punches life throws at you, this interview is for you!



What we're covering:


If you don’t mind telling us a little bit more about your background and update us on how the past couple of years have been for you overall and in business


Kristen: I'm a physical therapist like Morgan, and I was very burnt out by the field, so I started my own thing, initially cash-based and online, which transitioned into mainly online. Then, unexpectedly, I began helping clinicians, particularly those working with runners, and created a program for them. Running has been a passion of mine for over 20 years, alongside being a strength and run coach. Personally, I've faced health struggles since I was last here, which affected my business journey and made me prioritize what's important in my personal and professional life. Saying no to many things was challenging but necessary, and it influenced the offerings I've created.


Morgan: That's really cool, and I'd love to hear more because when it comes to working on and growing your business, it can be all-consuming. You have to put in the work, energy, and dedication to succeed. But there's a fine balance between that and prioritizing yourself and your health over the business.


Before the health challenges started, how long had you been in business?


Kristen: About three years, or two and a half years, depending on how you count it, not exactly a beginner business owner, more like a sophomore, not quite a freshman anymore, in terms of running a business. When things started, I was beginning to intertwine my personal health with the business. I had long COVID symptoms that were consuming for a couple of months. I had to prioritize my health; I couldn't market for at least two months because I wasn't sure if I could handle more clients. It reinforced the importance of health being at the forefront of everything, though it wasn't surprising, just clearer. It also forced me to trust that everything would work out because that was the only option I had.


Who's going to run the business if you're out of commission? There's so much behind that. Having systems in place is crucial. At that time, I felt fortunate that I had sorted out my finances in my business after about two years. I had savings in both my business and personal life, so I felt lucky. If I hadn't done that, I don't know what I would have done during the few months I wasn't marketing or doing anything. It was a significant learning point, but I was grateful I had taken care of that aspect in my business.


Morgan: Yeah, definitely. When you first start your business, your whole goal is just to make money. But then, once you have the money, it's like, okay, what do I do with it? I know a lot of people, maybe listening, but just business owners in general, one of the most popular ways to manage money is the Profit First method.


It's very tedious sometimes to keep track of everything, but it's so helpful. If you don't have savings, it can be really scary to figure out what to do. I didn't start doing that until maybe a year or so into it. It's really common for business owners to either pay themselves nothing or keep everything, with no in-between, not even for taxes. The sooner you can set something up, whether it's the traditional profit-first method or something inspired by it, to start building up reserves and savings, the less stressful being a business owner becomes. You're not always worrying about how to pay yourself, which is huge. I'm really glad you had that in place.


What other kinds of things helped you at that time?


Kristen: I don't know if there was necessarily anything in particular business-wise. There were a lot of health-related issues. I had to focus on calming things for my nervous system because I couldn't tolerate much due to brain fog and other symptoms. As for systems, I started to work on them more, making it easy to follow steps if something went wrong. Long-term, I realized the benefit of having more people in my business. At the time, I only had my podcast editor. It made me see the value in not just being the sole person in my business.


Morgan: Absolutely, it can be really difficult to start delegating things because you might think you're the only one who can do it as well as you can. Maybe that's true, but you'll find that your business can still function and thrive even if someone else can do it 80% as well. That's like everything in life; you don't need to do everything 100%. 80% is usually good in most things.


Learn more about the importance of having an entrepreneur mindset in my blog post here.


What are some things you do to calm down your nervous system?


Kristen: I feel like that's all I had to learn, and it was actually so challenging. Also, I help runners, and running is a big part of my life. Exercise is a part of my life, so not being able to work out for five months was ridiculous. I'd try a bodyweight workout, then experience flares of symptoms a few hours later. It was frustrating because even the smallest amount of exercise would flare me up. So, for five months, I couldn't do anything, couldn't exercise, which is my main stress reduction method. It was cool to find that I could be calm and relaxed without exercise because I had to. I learned different techniques, like breathwork, which I still do today. I use an app called the Stasis app for guided breathing sessions, which works really well for me. Another thing I got into was frequency music, like listening to 528 Hertz, which my functional medicine practitioner recommended. These techniques helped calm my nervous system, making it easier to do deeper healing work. I still find them helpful today and suggest them to others, like one of the clinicians I'm working with now who feels overwhelmed. These techniques could help depending on what she's dealing with. So, those are a couple of examples of what I did to help during that time.


Morgan: I think that's super helpful, and I know someone out there listening will find it rings true for them as something they may have been missing. It's a part of growing a business and taking care of yourself, recognizing that your nervous system can get overwhelmed. Even though we're healthcare providers, we often overlook this aspect. Personally, I struggle with it too. Various stressors can pile up, making everything feel tense and on high alert. Then, even a tiny thing can feel like the last straw. When I hit that ceiling, I have to step back and rest. Awareness is crucial. If you find yourself easily overwhelmed, just sitting with that awareness is a significant first step. There are different techniques you can incorporate into your routine to lower the baseline level of your nervous system's alertness. Reminding myself and others that none of this is an emergency is essential. Though it may feel urgent in our bodies, it's crucial to keep perspective and not super-freak out about everything.


Kristen: Yeah, and when you said that, it's not really off-topic, but it is, I guess. When you're new to business ownership, you feel like if a client reaches out to you, you need to get back to them right away. This can create overwhelm. It's great to prioritize customer service, but it's essential to establish boundaries in your business. Setting response times for clients and managing DMs can help prevent everything from feeling like an emergency. Knowing your response time ahead of time can alleviate the pressure to respond immediately. It's great if you can respond promptly and that's what you want to do, but if feeling overwhelmed is creating stress, taking a more logical approach can help you manage it better.


Morgan: Yeah, absolutely. For me, something I realized, which wasn't new but maybe a month or two ago, was that I used to check my email on my phone in the morning while having coffee. It seemed helpful to stay updated, but it was also stressing me out. I'd check my email throughout the day, even at the gym or grocery store, feeling like I had to respond immediately to non-emergencies. So, I took email syncing off my phone. None of it is an emergency. The worst that could happen is someone cancels or reschedules, which isn't a huge deal. Nobody expects me to bend over backward to accommodate them instantly. Turning off Instagram notifications also helped. I still check it but avoid being overly reactive. Sometimes, I put my phone on do not disturb, responding to messages later in the day. It's about not dedicating every moment to work and preserving some mental space. It's helped to calm things down a lot.


Check out my blog post here where I go into detail about tips for stress-free time off as a business owner.


How else do you maintain boundaries for yourself?


Kristen: I'm trying to think of any other examples outside of just maintaining that with my clients because that's the big one, what we talked about before. With my clients or just with my social media. For that, sure, there's nothing urgent. Although the quicker you respond to someone in the DMs, the more likely they'll work with you. But it's also about not putting that pressure on myself. Personally, I don't stick to a specific checking time. Some people find that works well, but it hasn't for me. Usually, more pressure is not good for me. I'm trying to think of any other examples we haven't talked about. I can't say I'm good at not checking my phone before bedtime, sometimes that happens. Outside of that, my notifications have been off for forever, except for text messages. That's another thing I do.


Morgan: Yeah, like you said, basically, no social media is an emergency. If it's urgent, they'll text or call you. I remember seeing some quote, I can't recall who said it, maybe a famous actor like Tom Holland, but don't quote me on that. It was something like, "If it's an emergency, text or call me. If you don't have my number, you don't know me well enough for there to be an emergency." It puts things into perspective. Obviously, there could be rare, extreme situations, but we can't operate like that every day.


Tell us a little bit more about your experience going from working with people in person to working online and what that was like for you


Kristen: First off, my whole reason for going online was a personal desire. I wanted the freedom to live wherever I chose. Even when I started my business in person, I knew I was eventually moving. It's kind of crazy looking back at it now. I started in person knowing I was leaving, but ultimately, I wanted to be online for that freedom. Yes, I still treat runners in person. I don't talk about it much, but I do treat them at running clubs when people ask. As for why it's been so nice for runners, it's because I've been able to connect with people from anywhere, especially those who may not have access to a running physical therapist locally. When it comes to runners, many just need a solid training and strength plan, along with guidance to prevent recurring injuries. This approach serves multiple aspects for me. Personally, I want to be online, and it's what runners truly need. It's also what I enjoy doing. When I started my business, I'd get frustrated working with runners in clinics because often, they needed more than just a Band-Aid solution. They needed proper training and strength work, which can be done online or in conjunction with therapy. It's proof that we don't always need hands-on treatment. While manual therapy still has its benefits, reaching people from anywhere has been rewarding, and it allows me to operate in my zone of genius.


For people who don’t know what that is, zone of genius, can you tell us what that is?


Kristen: I'd say coaching, in general, really is my forte because that's what I do for everything. I coach runners, I coach... Coaching is my zone of genius. Within the rehab world, I particularly enjoy writing running plans and strength plans. That's the part of rehab I truly enjoy. While manual therapy is great and I do it, planning and coaching are what I find most fulfilling. On the clinician side, I love coaching other clinicians. It's about finding something you're good at, genuinely enjoy, and can get paid for.


Morgan: Yeah, which is the dream, you know? And here we are, telling those of you who are reading that you can also do this.


What has been your biggest challenge?


Kristen: I've thought of a million things, honestly, but I'm just going to go with not being scared to do things my own way, I guess. Technically, I have two businesses, and I know you do multiple things like me. I've been told multiple times that I should focus on just one thing, but whenever I've tried, I just don't enjoy it. If I don't enjoy it, it's not going to happen. Also, not putting a bunch of "shoulds" on myself, like I need to do this or that, and really growing my business how I want to grow it. That's been a challenge. I had a million things come to mind when you asked me that question, so I was just like, what can I actually share? But at the end of the day, from the years I've been in business, the more I really focus on what I feel like I really need to do versus what I should do.


Morgan: Yeah, absolutely. I think that makes a lot of sense. We always hear the advice to focus on one thing at a time to grow quicker, and I've definitely gone through the same thing with treating patients, coaching physical therapists and other clinicians, and also doing marketing for practices. It's a lot to manage. But one of the biggest pros, I'm sure you and I can agree on, is allowing yourself to follow your interests and passions, which makes everything more enjoyable. A key value for many of us in starting our own businesses is freedom, and having the creative freedom to try different things is important. So, even though technically focusing on one thing at a time might lead to faster growth, if it's important to you to explore things, it's not wrong.


Kristen: I agree, and I think the longer you're in the field or, you know, as I think back to when I was younger, I was always just like, "What should I do? I don't know what I should do." I was always looking for a mentor or someone to tell me what to do. But really, there's no one right way. So even with this today, for anyone newer to business, if you're feeling overwhelmed by different advice from various sources, just know that anything can work. You just need to pick what works for you and start doing it.


Morgan: Yeah, you know, that's definitely something that could be calming for your nervous system—to realize that you could try any and all of it, you know, if you want. You know, realize it's going to take time, but if you want to try it, go for it. Everybody's going to have an opinion about everything, just go with your own opinion for your own business.


Read my blog post here to find out if you're truly ready to start your own practice.


Tell us a little more in detail about the programs that you have to offer

Kristen: So, for my coaching services, I offer both run coaching and strength coaching. The minimum duration for any program is six months, as I believe it takes time to invest in your running and see significant gains. This also applies to clinicians working with runners; I encourage a similar timeframe. After the initial six months, it's month by month. The people I work with are typically either chronically injured, currently injured and aiming to return to running, or those who tend to overdo it and need guidance in proper training methods. Additionally, I work with individuals who want to integrate strength training into their running routine to enhance their performance. Another category includes those who tend to overthink and benefit from a structured plan.


On the coaching side, my main program is "From Clinician to Coach CEO," a comprehensive six-month program covering everything from writing running programs to marketing, sales, and setting up business logistics like finances and LLC formation. Recently, I've added a course on nervous system regulation to address overwhelm, which has received positive feedback from clients. This program primarily targets clinicians looking to work with runners, although I've also assisted clinicians coaching weightlifters online. It's tailored specifically for online business, although I've previously worked with individuals integrating online coaching into their in-person practice.


Morgan: Yeah, that's exciting. That's really cool.


How to contact Kristen:

*For runners, find her on Instagram here

*For providers, find her on Instagram here

*Check out her podcast here

*Connect with her on Facebook


Listen to this episode on my podcast!

DPT to CEO: The Podcast

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