I was very fortunate to have runners participating in races literally all over the world this weekend. My heart was full. There were great races, okay races, and “I was just glad to be finished” races. But I want to tell the incredible story of Sharon!
Everyone meet Sharon Chaix, 70 years young! Doesn’t she look pretty good for running 26.2 miles? She first came to me in August 2018 because she saw a running friend wearing a Run With Gina shirt. She went on to tell me her extensive history; breast and thyroid cancer, ripped hamstring, and three previous back surgeries with some clamps, rods, and screws surgically placed in her spine. You know, everyday stuff. She told me that she had went to physical therapy for the ripped hamstring and continued to see the physical therapist from time to time. The good news is, I have a corrective exercise certification.
Sharon hired me to do a movement assessment, gait analysis with exercise prescription and train her for the 2018 San Diego Holiday Half Marathon. Leading up to the half marathon, she started to feel like her runs were getting slower and didn’t go into the race with much confidence. After the half marathon while chatting on the phone with her, I said, “If you are happy, I am happy”. Her reply, “I am not happy”. Really? I thought she had a good race, I didn’t see the problem. I am all about the long-term development of my runners. Rome wasn’t built in a day. I said, “What would make you happy”? Her reply, “To have a younger body so I can be faster”. Mercy! Anyone find the fountain of youth yet? This set the tone for me moving forward as I trained her for the Eugene Marathon.
Guess who didn’t do any hill repeats, speed, or tempo work to train for her marathon? That’s right, Sharon. She trained 100% in the aerobic zone only. She also took part in my nutrition training and my 8-week body weight resistance training program I offer my runners. Sharon has used every service I have to offer.
Sharon’s last marathon was Mountains2Beaches and claims to have had a miserable experience. A week before the race she was telling people she didn’t think she would finish the race. Last night she was telling me she was nervous and questioning why she signed up for the race in the first place.
How did Sharon do at the Eugene Marathon? She ran the first 5k as a warmup and then ran then next 20.1 miles at an even pace. She finished the race FORTY-SEVEN minutes faster than her last marathon and qualified for the Boston Marathon by more than eight minutes! AND earned first in her age group!
I hope you all can find hope and inspiration in Sharon’s story. I am fortunate to have motivated clients like Sharon that want to be the best they can be and trust that I will eventually figure out how to help them be the best they can be. Thank you, Sharon, for allowing me and the rest of the Rwg virtual family to be a part of your journey!
Want to see what virtual coach can do for you? Check out the services section of www.runwithgina.com!
The other night I fell asleep thinking about how fortunate I have been to have truly awesome human beings requesting my coaching services. I wish I could take all the credit for them feeling stronger, getting faster, body composition changes, getting healthier and achieving small and big goals alike. But I cannot. It is the partnership of me and each runner as an individual, as well as the supporting cheer squad. It all adds up to something incredible. The growth of the Run With Gina (Rwg) community has been tremendous in a very short period of time. Some people want to compare my program to group training programs and it just is not the same, plain and simple, end of that conversation.
My program is based on several principles, some of which I have blogged about in the past, such as my brand of using evidence-based research as the foundation of performance enhancement and reducing injury incidence. I also subscribe to the theory of four ingredients for athletic success by former Olympian, Olympic running coach, exercise physiologist, researcher, and my exercise physiology professor, Dr. Jack Daniels. The four ingredients to success in the opinion of Dr. Daniels are; inherent ability, motivation, opportunity, and direction.
By the way there is not one college or elite level running coach that does not know Dr. Jack Daniels, his work and his contributions to distance training as we know it. Every book you can buy on marathon training should have his name/work somewhere as a reference. The four ingredients to success are not scientific principles Dr. Daniels is known for but have become guiding principles in how I work with my runners. Lets take a closer look at them and what they mean to Rwg.
Inherent ability; this is the genetic component. No matter what your talents are, there is a ceiling for your potential. I am not working with performance athletes, but I am working with people that took up recreational distance running and want to be the best they can be. It is my job to figure out where they are at and if their desires even match their inherent ability. If so, pave the road to get there over time and if not be truly transparent with them so we can find smaller goals to achieve and celebrate.
Motivation; athletes that use their inherent ability and those that may not have a high ability but keep working towards their personal best. The motivation of my runners is very high. Have you ever heard of the Hawthorne Effect, also called the “observer effect”? Simply put, it is the concept that behaviors change when one knows they are being observed. As a virtual coach, I have a proactive style. I am always watching what my runners are or are not doing via my coaching platform. They know this and complete more runs than someone might when they know the accountability from the coach is slim to none. I can honestly say that since the inception of my virtual half/full marathon coaching program, 97% of my runners have completed 90-100% of their run training in preparation for their races. That is pretty good statistics if you ask me, especially when sometimes my biggest competition is the couch and Netflix.
Opportunity; environment. The environment of the Rwg family is extremely motivating as well. I may be a virtual, individual coach, but the virtual family has provided more support and motivation to my runners and it is truly worth its weight in gold. There is A LOT of power in vicarious experiences. The proof is in the pudding with those that invest time in being their best. Naturally, it has others wondering what their possibilities may be. It has been incredibly awesome and humbling to watch the dynamic of the Rwg family evolve into something so inspiring.
Direction; coaching, training plans, and teachers. Ah, the last ingredient to success, the “direction”. Let’s get real, you can get a training plan online anywhere or from any group training program. What you won’t get is “my” training plan/coaching. Have you ever heard of pride of ownership? My name is on my plan, stickers, shirts, and hats. It is my brand. I take pride in what I have to offer others that goes leaps and bounds beyond just run training. I offer a mutually beneficial relationship built on honesty and trust. Skeptical about what a virtual coach can do for you? Only one way to find out. You invest in me and I will invest in you.
Ah the Boston Marathon. What can I say about the Boston Marathon? It is the world’s oldest annual marathon and an age-group runner’s dream to meet the qualifying standard. There is a saying in Boston, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute, it will change”. Sometimes it can be favorable, outright nasty, or bipolar. Who remembers the favorable tailwind of 2011, the inferno of 2012, or the headwind downpour of 2018? Although this blog post will be geared towards the age group recreational runner, Des Linden comes to my mind immediately because she ran the 2011 tailwind, 2018 downpour, and this year.
Let’s take a closer look at her performance in all three races. In 2011 with the assistance of a tailwind, Des came in second place, running 2:22:38. At the 2018 downpour she persevered the elements to come in first place with a time of 2:39:55. This year she finished in fifth place with a time of 2:27:00. What gives? Do you think she prepared more or less for each year? Likely not. Five minutes is a lot of time for a professional runner, by the way. The unpredictability of the elements in Boston can make that much difference. This year, Worknesh Degefa of Ethiopia took first place female with 2:23:31, which is actually almost six minutes slower than her personal best at the 26.2 mile distance.
I also ran the 2011 tailwind and the 2012 inferno. I may still have PTSD after the 2012 Boston Marathon, which ended up being the second hottest Boston Marathon to date. I ran that race one hour and sixteen minutes SLOWER than my personal best in the marathon. Was that embarrassing or what? No, it wasn’t. I trained hard for the race. I followed the schedule my coach at the time gave me. I never missed a day and I did everything else right to support my training. It simply was what it was.
In yesterday’s Boston Marathon, I had three runners competing. None of them had their best race. As a matter of fact, all three of them had the cards stacked up against them from the start. None of their bodies were 100% going into it, but they got on that bus to the starting line in the dark, cold rain and eventually made their way to the finish line during the midday sun with hot and humid conditions. Hello bipolar weather and welcome to Boston!
As a coach, I have to sit back and do a critical appraisal of what I did or did not do for my runners. Did they run too much or too little? Did they train too fast or too slow? Why weren’t their bodies 100% if that is what we always want to strive for? A big part of my brand is the goal to reduce injury potential. The truth is, sometimes our bodies turn on us. Take me for example. I sustained stress fractures in both feet while training for my first marathon. Who was at fault, my coach? I don’t think so. It was multifactorial as many injuries and illnesses are, which is exactly what my runners were faced with from the start.
I am incredibly proud of my runners for their tenacity to cross that finish line regardless of what their finishing time would be. It takes a lot of courage and humility to put yourself out there to be “watched” by all your friends, family, and those that say they are cheering for you, but really may not. Remember, not all your followers are your fans. Speaking of humility by the way, do you know what makes a coach valuable? First, to have humility. Second, to have compassion and relatedness. I have been compliant with my training and fractured bones in my feet. I have been compliant with training and ran my personal best. I have been compliant with training and ran my personal worst. It is what it is yo! We are all human, which means we are not perfect. But the human spirit says, keep on keeping on because you never know when you will be at your very best. Never stop believing in your possibilities. Love to all my runners for believing in me, the same way I believe in all of them.
P.S. The picture is of me in the 2011 Boston Marathon medical tent. Mercy!
Back in February I wrote a blog post about a 3-week low sugar experiment that 31 runners participated in. Didn’t read it? It is a must read for the epic results and ah ha moments. Just return to the blog section of www.runwithgina.com to check it out.
As mentioned in the low sugar blog, the biggest ah ha moment for me was that many of the runners were eating like dieters and not athletes. The bottom line is, if you want to perform your best, your nutrition needs as much attention as your run training. As far as nutrition goes, I believe some recreational runners have fear based thinking. The fear of gaining weight, so they don’t eat appropriately for their level of activity. Many out of shape or overweight individuals will take up running as a way to lose or maintain weight loss and maybe it works for a minute, but if you chronically have higher energy output (exercise) and chronically lower energy in (calories), your body will get out of whack and the weight loss plateaus or like me when I trained for my first marathon, gain weight. You will also notice performance decrements after a while too. I gained 10 pounds when training for my first marathon, yikes! It was not muscle weight, as I have pictures to prove it.
The runners in my 3-week low sugar experiment were excited to move onto a second, longer experiment with all the improvements in objective variables; decrease in scale weight and inches off the hips/waist and equally important, subjective variables; improved sleep, clearer skin, less joint pain, no heart burn, less sugar cravings, less bloat, and less fatigue.
The second experiment was an 8-week experiment where each participant would have a goal of the same macronutrient profile. However, each runner’s calorie needs were calculated based on their age, sex, height, weight, and ACTIVITY level using the Mifflin-St.Jeor equation. When the numbers were crunched, the backlash began, and the excitement waned away. One participant felt the calories were too low compared to what she typically consumes. Many and quite honestly, I lost count, but let’s just say everyone that chose to reach out to me regarding their calories told me it was too high compared to what they typically consume. Why was this a problem? Fear based thinking…I don’t want to gain weight. Sound familiar? Unfortunately, after spending I don’t know how much time crunching numbers for 34 participants, most of them chose not to fully participate from the get-go. With that, I cannot give the best synopsis of the experiment over a larger sample size.
What can I tell you? During this experiment, I asked the participants to take pictures so we could see body composition changes. Five participants did and we did indeed see body composition changes. This is a shift in fat and muscle. The scale can remain the same even if you lose fat, due to a gain in lean muscle mass. This was one of the big lessons of this experiment. You can eat more, when your body requires more, and you will not gain weight back that you previously lost. The participants also took part in this study during ever increasing training mileage and didn’t miss training to fatigue or under recovery, which is where under fueling would fall.
If you participate in a sport at a recreational level and want to be the best you can possibly be, this requires a mindset shift not only with appropriately loaded training, but with fueling your body like an athlete. We live in a time when there is an abundance of information literally at our finger tips. As a healthcare provider, I frequently have listened to consumers (of information) tell me, “I read” or “I heard” this and that and it couldn’t be farther from the truth or a twist on the truth. One of my runners once told me, “Everything you tell me is completely different than what everyone else has ever told me”. How did that make me feel? It made me feel proud quite honestly. I don’t coach by tradition or trends. I coach by science and with it comes a feeling of pride and integrity. Do you want someone to invest in you the way you should invest in yourself? Check out the services section of www.runwithgina.com
P.S. I was going to include some of the photos of the participants (as I have been given permission), but I think I will leave it up to them to share if they choose when they share this blog post across social media.