My first love was running.
Well that’s not entirely true.
My first EXERCISE love was running.
As a kid, I swam on my town’s swim team, but it wasn’t until I grew up that I fell in love with this particular form of exercise. Running is my physical, emotional and spiritual exercise. I find the time spent running to be the clearest in my days. I often solve problems or sort out tricky emotional situations on my long runs. I get to know new areas of my own neighborhood, and explore new places when I’m away from home. I run all year round, and in the colder months, it provides me with much needed time outside.
I love that running doesn’t need a lot of equipment. I put on my sneakers, put up my hair and off I go. It’s so liberating to be able to get such a good workout so easily.
And what I love most about running is that I do it all by myself. While I love participating in races, I’ve never been part of a running group. I like to go out there and just run.
So imagine my surprise when four years into my career as a personal trainer, I found myself leading a running group. Every week, I gather a group of runners at 6am for a running-focused workout. We run hills, we do track work, we do strength workouts. My group had been asking for a trail run, and I was hesitant. Not only because I was unsure how to manage runners at widely varying paces, but because I was unsure whether I wanted to run with a group.
The trail run turned out to be amazing. It was a small group of runners and we ran about 5 kilometers in the summer steaminess. I loved it. I’ve loved coaching this wonderful group of runners, and know that I am getting just as much out of being their coach as they are in being part of the group.
Top five things I remind my runners every time we meet:
Start out EASY. It’s way easier to start slow and speed up than it is to start fast and burnout. If you are racing, whether a 5K or a marathon, this is something to keep in mind. We get caught up in the excitement of a race and the speed of others racers and tend to forget all that we learned about pacing during our training. Don’t start too fast. Leave something in the tank.
Do a body scan. Running should be fun. It should be something you enjoy. Leave the stress behind and relax your body. From time to time, scan your body for tension. Are your shoulders in your ears? Are your hips tight? Let your arms swing (forward and back, not side to side) and let your hips do the same. Don’t hold tight fists and don’t try and hold your hips steady. Let your fingers be free and move your hips freely throughout their natural range of motion. We are built to run. Let your body do what it knows how to do.
Exhale. When you are feeling short of breath, concentrate on the exhale. This is especially important if you are doing speed work. We often forget to breathe, not only while running, but in all forms of exercise. By focusing on the exhale, you can be assured you will inhale. Exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale. And you are breathing.
Don’t hold back. Don’t be afraid of your run. All too often, I see people running with a very straight posture. Lean into your run. You are moving forward, so aim your body forward. Be careful not to hold too much tension in your spine.
Use your arms! If you doubt that your upper body is important during your run, try running up a hill without using your arms. Keep your elbows bent at 90 degrees and move your arms from the shoulder. Be mindful that you aren’t tensing your fists -- keep your fingers nice and loose. Keep your upper body strong by regular strength training with a trainer or in the gym. With a strong core and active arms, your run will be much easier.
Enjoy your run! Let me know where it takes you.