The Ripple Effect

My girls pushing their grandma on the tire swing.

My girls pushing their grandma on the tire swing.

As I sat in an interview the other day, I was asked why I had decided to switch careers and focus on teaching fitness classes rather than cute little first graders.  It was the day after my stepmother had just passed away so the answer came right to me.  It was such an easy question to answer, but my emotions almost took over.

As a child I was raised pretty much in the same way most kids around me were raised: eating meat and potatoes for dinner and Captain Crunch for breakfast.  Even now, my dad sees nothing wrong with this type of diet.  Well, my husband doesn’t really either, but he is a bit more willing to follow suit.  When it comes to my own kids, I know that I will not apply my childhood eating habits.  Often I am given grief (even by my own family members) for the food journeys we currently partake in.  My husband will feed the kids bacon when I am gone, but then adheres to the meatless version upon my return.  My friends just find it rather fascinating and occasionally ask what is so great and healthy about eating cardboard.  Then there are the “no candy” policies I have to enforce with teachers.  Eating healthy is basically a daily battle so I can see why most people might just throw their hands up and roll through a McDonald’s drive-thru.  I know I am not perfect either, but I keep coming back to fight.

However, after the toll that heart disease and cancer has taken on my own family, I can’t stop fighting the battle.  If you can avoid a heart attack or cancer, why not at least try?  It’s not going to hurt anybody if you decide to add a few extra veggies to your plate or try a few meatless dishes each week.  Sure, you might still have a heart attack or get cancer, but maybe it will be just a little easier to fight back.  I tried very hard when I spent a spring break with my stepmother (already sick with cancer at the time). I fed her vegan meals all week in hopes that it would make her better.  Of course there are forces of nature beyond our control, but we can at least try, right?

Yes, I know it is hard to chew on that piece of tofu when you would rather be chewing on a piece of meaty steak.  Maybe you have never been a morning person and can’t seem to roll out of bed in time to get to the gym before work.  Those are your choices to make and sometimes you choose not to.  It is especially challenging when you think you are alone and feel like you have no power to make positive changes in your life.

This is where I step in.  This is where I can be there to hold someone accountable with making the change.  I can encourage someone to come back to the boot camp class after finding the courage to try it out one day.  I can encourage someone to join me for a personal training session and find out that it really can be a simple process that fits nicely into your busy schedule.  I can encourage someone to find the strength within and train for and finish a half marathon.  That’s what I can do.  Or at least I can try to do just that.  I know I will not always succeed, but as with teaching small children, if I can at least make the difference in one person’s life, then I have done something meaningful and it will truly be worth the time and effort.

Running has always been an important part of my life and I have my mother to thank for introducing me to the sport as a child (even though I never liked running as a child).   I grew to love running and I strongly believe that it has made me a better person in so many ways.  A few years ago I decided that I would move beyond my personal love of running and learn to share my love of the sport with others.  And that has been an extraordinary experience thus far.  It would take me too long to write about all of the amazing adventures and stories I have experienced through my clients.

Here I am now, a few years after starting Inspired Miles Coaching LLC, and I have decided to take it even further.  It’s not about me becoming a better runner or more fit.  It’s not even about making money (however, an extra income would be helpful in raising 3 girls).  It’s about guiding others down this path to a healthier and stronger life.  I do realize it is not an easy task.  It takes motivation, dedication and a whole lot of patience.  A WHOLE LOT OF PATIENCE.  Lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight.  They might not even happen in a year.  It just takes small steps and a lot of faith in the process.

To me, being fit and healthy is not about looking good in a swimsuit (however, that is a nice bonus) and it is not about fitting in with the latest trends (crossfit, paleo, etc.).  It is just about being a better version of yourself…. from the inside out.  In the process, you might have some extra energy to keep up with your kids or add a few years to your life so you can watch your grandchildren grow.

Yes, the answer to that interview question was easy.  I am here because I am inspired to make a difference and help others see that they can make a change.  Their inspirational stories may then ripple out and touch the lives of others.  This is so big and important that someone out there may save another person’s life through this ripple effect.  My stepmother’s life could not be saved, but she fought so hard until the end.  Her fight lives on through me and I will continue the fight in her memory, my mother’s memory, my grandmother’s memory and my grandfather’s memory.  They all loved me so much and that will give me the strength to continue on this journey.

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Why do I need a running coach?

My coaching days started back with Team in Training.  What a great group to work with!

My coaching days started back with Team in Training. What a great group to work with!

I won’t forget the first “race” I did.  It was in Anchorage, AK and it was with my friend and her sister.  I don’t even remember how far it was… I think it was 5 miles.  Anyway, I just thought I could go out and run that far so that is what I did.  Yep, I made it.  Barely.  I think the only reason I made it across the finish line was because I was young and participated in some sport-like activities.  I might have even gone to the gym a few times a year.  But I definitely paid for it the next day when I could barely walk.

The next time I ran a race (many years later) I was obviously older and wiser.  I knew I actually needed to go out and run a few times before the race.  I remember that.  I ran a few times on the flat roads and then I entered a race that required running uphill on a trail.  I guess I still couldn’t get it right.

Finally I decided to read a book (or maybe just glance through it).  I figured that I needed to know a little more if I planned to run a half marathon.  That seemed like a really far distance and I could probably hurt myself if I didn’t prepare correctly.  Lucky for me, I had a running buddy to drag along and we somehow managed to haphazardly follow a plan I had read somewhere.  That worked out pretty well.  I finished the half marathon.  Slowly, but victoriously!

At one point I felt that the marathon was within reach and maybe I was finally crazy enough to get it done.  Yet, I had no clue how I would get it done.  I figured it probably wouldn’t be a good idea for me to just wing it or even follow a free plan I had downloaded off the internet.  That is when Team in Training entered my radar.  Well, actually they had already been well within my radar because I did a Grand Canyon hiking event with the Team back in the day before I became serious about running.  I knew that they trained people for marathons too.  I wasn’t nervous about raising the money because I had done that before, so I thought it might be a great way for me to get the help I needed.

I met them at the very first meeting.  The coaches.  They were so full of life and excited about helping me to get to where I wanted to go while helping out a great cause in the process.  I left the meeting energized and ready to get started on accomplishing my goal of running my first marathon.

The Team in Training coaches wrote plans, organized runs, provided advice and handled the logistics.  Most of all, they offered support, encouragement and motivation.  If I was feeling down or weak, they would lift my spirits and point out my strengths.  If I was feeling unsure, they would encourage me to push through and reap the rewards of new challenges.  I always felt like I could do more than I ever thought possible.  Sometimes I took it too far and my coaches had to help me pull in the reigns.  Coaches are all about the checks and balances.

I was so inspired by my experience with the coaches that I decided to become a Team in Training coach too.  It was truly a reward to watch my group cross the finish line.  I held on to that feeling for a while until I decided to make a serious change in my life that involved the start of my own business: Inspired Miles Coaching, LLC (www.inspiredmiles.com).

On occasion, I have been asked “why would someone need a running coach?”  That is a good question and I think I have an answer.

Never ran before?  Or has it been awhile since the last time you went for a run?  A coach can help you get back on track by helping you develop realistic goals and providing guidance on how to reach those goals.  Maybe you have been previously injured and need help improving your running form or finding exercises and running drills that will make you stronger.

What about that half-marathon or full marathon goal?  Do you know which path has the least resistance or will you run blind and risk encounters with injuries, over-training, time constraints, disappointments and other setbacks?  It is hard to know what to do if you don’t have the necessary experience.  I was there once.  It took me awhile to navigate the sport of running and my Team in Training coaches helped me to feel more confident.

Knowledge is valuable, but it is just as important to have someone there to keep pushing you in the right direction.  Tim Noakes (author of the Lore of Running) points out: “A running coach is needed not necessarily for the physical preparation of the athlete, but for inspiration and support, and to provide an objective analysis of when the athlete is doing too much.”  It is well-known that runners are a determined, hard-working, dedicated and often stubborn group of people.  Sometimes they need to be told when to push hard and when to take it easy.  It’s all about the checks and balances.

I like how Franz Stampfl, a world-renowned athletics coach of the 20th century, puts it: “the coach’s job is 20% technical and 80% inspirational.”  So, who needs a little inspiration?