Mark Cuccuzzella shows good running form Thursday on the C+O Canal at Shepherdstown.

Natural running doctor shares message of healing through MAF and community.

Chances are Dr. Mark Cucuzzella has more jobs than you do. He probably can beat you in a race of any distance, too. And he just may be able to do so barefoot.

Let’s start with the work stuff. Dr. Mark is a physician at Jefferson Medical Center in West Virginia who works in in-patient and critical care. He is also a professor of Family Medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine.

In addition, he is a member of the Air Force Reserves, and travels nationwide giving continuing education courses on healthy running for military healthcare professionals as well as civilians.

He also owns Two Rivers Treads, the nation’s first running shop to specialize in minimal footwear, and he is the executive director of the Natural Running Center web site.

In addition he hosts healthy running courses, directs two running races, together with a friend has built the largest low-carb support group in the country, and advocates for local farming and public parklands — something that recently landed him a Blue Ridge Outdoors Outdoor Pioneer award.

His impressive running resume includes more than 100 marathon finishes, with a personal best of 2:24, plus two wins at the Air Force Marathon in his mid-40s. Until a couple years ago, he had an impressive record of having broken 2:40 for the marathon for 24 of the previous 25 years. At age 49, he still can post times under 2:50.

But if all this has not left you too tired to keep on reading, you might be amazed to learn that Dr. Mark’s real inspiration for all of this is to heal people.

He’s helped people to lose large amounts of body fat, reverse their diabetes, and, oh yeah, to run painlessly again.

It all started with himself, after running his body into oblivion back in 2000. He had just undergone foot surgery and read an article by Hawaii Ironman Triathlon champ Mark Allen about Dr. Phil Maffetone and the MAF Method. He sought out Phil’s books, and embarked on a journey to turn his health around.

“From that point forward I approached health as primary focus,“ he says. “I saw the immediate response in how it affected my performance. Probably within a month I started feeling better and running faster.”

Most noticeably Mark saw improvements in his MAF Test — he was running faster at the lower heart rate.

With the success of the training switch-up, Mark then decided to change his diet to a MAF-style of eating and he saw even more improvement in his health and fitness as he cut carbs and added more healthy fat to his diet.

Ultimately, he became more interested in natural movement, and transitioned to barefoot-style running.

The transformation was so complete that he wanted to share his enthusiasm with others so that they might also share in the benefits of aerobic training, low-carb nutrition and natural movement. Today he spreads the word through his seminars with military and civilian healthcare workers, as well as health and fitness enthusiasts.

During a recent seminar at Fort Carson, a U.S. Army base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Dr. Mark led a discussion about improving natural movement with a group of mostly Army physical therapists, and also touched upon diet and lifestyle.

A large percentage of Army recruits are injured during basic training, many of them no longer able to continue their service. He says this is a huge cost to the military and taxpayers, not to mention a social cost as many of these recruits have turned to the military in the face of shrinking career options.

While many of the PTs in the class were also fitness enthusiasts who could put the information to use personally, they could also use it to help their patients and clients. During his presentation, Dr. Mark promotes MAF principles, saying that most of what he learned in med school was wrong.

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Dr. Mark Cucuzzella leads a natural running seminar at Fort Carson Army Base in Colorado. (Photo by Hal Walter)

He devotes a fair amount of the discussion to the progression of insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome, urging the audience to adjust their diet to restrict processed carbohydrates and increase healthy fats.

“As we get older we all become more insulin-resistant,” he says, noting that diabetes is now rampant in our society and it starts with kids eating so much sugar when they are young.

Once a person actually has diabetes, he says the medical establishment’s answer is medications that don’t treat the underlying issue. “The majority of diabetes meds treat the food rather than the disease.”

Instead he suggests treating the diabetes with food, and says he has helped patients reverse their diabetes through nutritional therapy, which he’s also used to successfully help people with weight loss.

“Ounces are lost gym, but pounds are lost in the kitchen,” he says.

He also leads his classes through a series of exercises and drills designed to improve running form and reduce injuries.

For Dr. Mark it all comes down to a strong desire to help people heal themselves. As a doctor he says he sees the “sickest of the sick.” It’s something he wants to change, and that change, he says starts in the community, one of the reasons he’s helping to promote local food and outdoor recreation.

Dr. Mark’s Family, wife Roberta and two children Leo and Lily , also love being part of positive change in his community of Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

Larger public health happens in the community, not the doctor’s office,” he says, “And people are the drivers of change in their community.”

Join the discussion 9 Comments

  • John Andresini says:

    “…..help people heal themselves.” I am a chiropractor and one of the many satisfactions of our profession is just that to help individuals heal themselves. When individuals grasp the concepts, like the MAF method, and apply them they do wonderful things for their health.
    My compliments to both Dr Maffetone and Dr. Mark Cucuzzella.

  • Hugh Bouchelle says:

    It is changing my life at 62. I am trail running and biking farther, with less physical stress, no injury, no sick time, and I am dropping significant time off my runs and bike ride (I’ve already taken 10 minutes off my four mile run time). I am also running minimalist (barefoot is difficult on the AT rocks). I was actually introduced to this method through the book, Natural Born Heroes. Great read by the way. Lots of good information.

  • Gene Balfour says:

    I am a 64 year-old Skiker ( see http://www.skike.com) . I switched to the MAF system a year ago and I am enjoying my training much more than before when I always felt that I much push myself to improve. The truth is, I had over-trained and was not getting better in either my winter cross-country performance skiing or my Spring, Summer, and Fall Skiking. I am now Skiking at a pace that no 64 year-old should ever reasonably expect and I maintain my HR at MAF approved levels.

  • Tim says:

    As an active man heading for the age of 61, can your training methods be applied to kettlebell training? I find some conflict in the info available. By that I mean warding off muscle loss as a means of slowing the ageing process. Should I stop fullbody workouts? Or tone them down?P.S. the info conflict is not the MAF info its various others ideas that state intensity vs long and slow. HELP!!

  • Tim says:

    With the understanding of individual variables, can I get an opinion on how frequently someone new to specific aerobic training should run? I am 2 months away from turning 61. I have a basic polar heart rate monitor and have done my MAF test. It was a lot of walking to stay under the heart rate limit. Thanks.

  • Tim Castle says:

    Thank you very much.

  • Tim Castle says:

    I was wondering if there is a negative, or any consequence to intermittent fasting combined with a very low carb keto adapted diet? Thanks for any information, up front

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