PT Spotlight: Stephan Venter, Aurora Active PT

Let’s face it, running is a fickle sport. As a former competitive (and I use the term lightly) track and cross country athlete for the University of Colorado, and current distance running devotee, I am all too familiar with the thin line that separates peak fitness from season-ending injury. If you have ever had the misfortune of crossing paths with a recently decommissioned runner, you are doubtless aware of the frightening mogwai we become when we are denied our daily endorphin fix. Side note: to everyone who put up with my injured diva-fits throughout my career, I am truly sorry, and I really did appreciate those cookies and I didn’t mean what I said about your old prom pictures; you really did pull off those shoulder pads quite well.

I’m… I’m sorry*

Now that my conscience is clear, I’d like to get down to the real point of this post: to celebrate another superhero PT! PTs are definitely a runner’s best friend. Whether they are helping us keep our balance as we traverse that precarious tight-rope between triumph and trauma, or picking us back up after we have fallen deep into the pain cave, Physical Therapists protect us from ourselves, and the public from having to endure our fearsome wounded-gremlin antics. In honor of these intrepid souls, we are continuing to feature our favorite PT Month Contest Submissions, because we simply refuse to settle for one “winner” amongst this inspiring, elite squad, and also, because we can. This week, I would like to direct your attention towards a man who received not one, not two, not three, but FOUR separate nominations from different patients. Stephan Venter of Aurora Active PT is a miracle worker when it comes to getting his runners back to full speed. This is especially crucial given the fact that he is located in Australia, where pretty much every animal seems to want to eat you, so running is really quite integral to his patients’ daily quest for survival.

Alright, enough of my self-indulgent musings. Let’s take a look at what Stephan’s patients had to say about his tireless efforts to get them up and off the sidelines and back to crossing finish lines.

Majella Fowler: My name is Majella Fowler, and my PT is Stephan Venter from Aurora Active in Bowral (Australia). During 2014, I had commenced training and fundraising to enter the New York City Half Marathon on behalf of the Heart Foundation. It was a huge commitment financially and physically. I was devastated when 3 months from my event I was diagnosed with a stress fracture and my foot was placed in an orthopaedic boot. I thought that I would be unable to train, unable to compete, and also let down all the people that had made donations on my behalf to the Heart Foundation.

Majella Fowler and Stephan Venter

Stephan developed a programme for me on the AlterG that meant I could train without compromising my foot whilst maintaining my muscular and cardiovascular fitness. This was amazing, as I could train even in the last weeks of wearing the orthopaedic boot. Stephan was amazing, and he donated time and developed programmes for use on the AlterG daily, when required. The programme was safe and he adapted the programme to suit my physical constraints. Stephan made every day fun and, even whilst running for many hours at a time, he managed to develop programmes that maintained my interest. He went above and beyond any PT I have ever worked with and I am aware that he spent many hours of his own time liaising with AlterG technicians to develop programmes to enable me to compete. He even sent me to America with a care pack!!!!!!! 

I ran in the New York City Half Marathon…….despite a stress fracture in my foot and being in an orthopaedic boot a month before the event – and I will be eternally grateful to Stephan Venter and the AlterG for enabling me to run in this amazing event – despite some scepticism that I would ever run again. I still run – without pain. I train and would never know that I had the injury. Of course, I still train with Stephan at Aurora Active. He is the BEST!”

Tilsa Collings at Aurora Active PT

Tilsa Collings: “I started going to Aurora Active when I was training for a half marathon and was suffering from very tight calves. I was seeing another Physio and he had said I couldn’t do long distances on the road, but I could build my kilometers up by using the AlterG. So since then I use the machine regularly on a weekly basis and am so happy that I now can also not only run half marathons, but run them without pain. Thank goodness for Aurora Active and Stephan for all their help!”

Tracy Clinch: “May 2014 I was at the peak of my training and preparation for the Goldcoast marathon. I had just been selected for the state team to represent NSW for this event being the Australian marathon championships. Five weeks out from the race, I was feeling the best I ever have, confident to achieve the goal I had been working towards the past six months. It was at this time I had a terrible encounter with a dog, that decided to jump out in front of me, throughout a training session one morning. I came off second best, falling to the concrete ground and sustaining a fracture to my left elbow. Being a physiotherapist, I knew what impact this would have on my race plans.

The impact and jarring effects on my elbow running on land would have been too much and potentially interfere with the fracture healing process. I was still determined to make it to the start line, so looked into training alternatives. Bike? Deep water running? AlterG! The AlterG would be the single best simulation to allow training to continue. I contacted Stephan at Aurora Active in Bowral, and he was more than happy to help me out with this process. I did a three-and-a-half week block before being ready to return to running outside. I made it to the start line of the marathon with as minimal fitness loss as possible and a healed elbow.

Tracy, rocking the Darth Vader Altitude mask whilst channeling the force to defy gravity

In 2015, before the Goldcoast half marathon, I experienced a small strain to my calf muscle in training. I again contacted Aurora Active and Stephan kindly helped me out with another training block. I ran a PB at the Goldcoast half marathon of 1hr25mins. I was able to continue on to come in 1st place at Adelaide Marathon in August with another PB time of 2hrs58mins. The staff at Aurora Active have been so supportive and helpful in my recovery and helping me to achieve my running goals; I wouldn’t have been there without them!”

Martin Cooper: “My name is Martin Cooper, and I have been working with Stephan Venter and the team at Aurora Active for almost a year. I am a 19 year- old distance runner, and like many young athletes, I have experienced a variety of injuries. Using the AlterG at Aurora has allowed me to raise my training ceiling, adding more mileage than I was capable of before. It has been an integral tool in my progress, and my performance has benefited from it.

As my therapist, Stephan has provided me with essential massage sessions that have allowed me to recover from injuries and get ready for my next session. All this culminated in me achieving one of my dreams last month, when I competed for Australia at the World Mountain Running Championships in Wales, finishing 35th. I suffered knee injuries in the lead up to this, and without Stephan and the AlterG, I may not have returned to running in time to be fit. However, Stephan helps many more people than me, and it is those with physical ailments who benefit most from Aurora, and this makes them a fantastic addition to our community. I can’t imagine a more deserving winner of this prize.”

Wow. As they say in Aussie-land, “Good Onya, Stephan! You’re a true Dinky-Di PT. Thanks for keeping us crazy runners healthy, and our knickers unknotted!” Ok, now I’m confusing myself with all this southern hemisphere jive-talk, so I better sign off and go for a run. Hopefully, this post’s PT-power will keep the gremlins at bay… I’m counting on you, Stephan!

Be gone! Stephan commands you!


*In memory of David Bowie. Major Tom, the astronauts of AlterG salute you. The stars look very different today. Godspeed.