running with a coach

I have been IMG_4769running for decades, although the task has never been particularly easy nor have I been very fast, so I thought it time to learn about this sport I hope to continue for yet another decade. With this in mind, last April, on Fool’s Day, I began a ten week running clinic. I really didn’t know what to expect other than what was offered in the short blurb in our weekly paper: meet every Wednesday evening, 2 hour running time coupled with short lectures, gather at the town recreational path, and most importantly, all levels are welcome. After 5 weeks, I’m thrilled I signed up for what I have gained in such a short time is far more than I could have anticipated. Our very first class, shockingly, still met in frigid weather, 26 degrees on the thermometer. Ten women arrived, bundled in hats and gloves, and wearing multiple layers. Our coach arrived in a full down-parker. But what he told us on that night was to first and foremost keep running fun, and his weekly message has kept that theme at its very core. Then we learned how to run hills because this is Vermont after all.

The second class was 36 degrees, an improvement, but snowing, sideways. This night was devoted to stretching. We reviewed 16 stretches both static and moving. Some felt like torture while others came easily, just like yoga class. We hopped, lunged,  twisted, moving across the packing lot and stretching on the cold ground, all the while laughing like school kids. Oddly, despite the snow squall stuck overhead, I loved it and finally realized that stretching is essential to running.

Our third class was a balmy 48 and most of us came to run in tee shirts. Oh my, this made the evening feel like fun! Our coach loves to talk, and is quite entertaining. I imagine during those day-long track meets that he is still organizing, this gift comes in very handy. On this class he pulled out his hand distance measuring gadget, and we all walked a 1/2 mile, listening to his sage wisdom about arm placement and stride length.

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We proceeded to run an easy mile, then after a short break, we ran the same distance but faster. He set his stop watch for each of us so now we had two times to ponder. He asked our goals and emailed us individual programs to do during the week. He told us not to run every day. To not overdo it. To remember to keep running fun. I really appreciate those reminders.

Two running exercise he suggested for me on week 3, to better my 5K time, follow:

Practice#1  Run for 10 minutes using the concept of ” happy feet ” ( remember that is short little increase in speed for 10-15 yards as many times as you like ). Stretch and walk for 5 minutes and then repeat the 10 minute run the same way.

Practice #2  Run for 7 minutes and then walk briskly for 1 minute. Then go right into a 6 minute run followed by a brisk 1 minute walk. Follow the same sequence using runs of 5 minutes, 4 minutes, 3 minutes and 2 minutes with the brisk walk between each.

A new routine we learned last week, our coach calls the sandwich: you run a mile, walk for 5 minutes, run a fast 1/2 mile, again walk for 5, and follow that with another mile. Just mixing up the routine I discovered breaks my stagnant pace, occupies my mind, and increases my overall speed.

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This past week, the measuring gadget once again came out of the coach’s van, and we walked a two mile route which included crossing two fields, across a road bridge, and back on the the bike path. Along the way we heard stories of his running career, his team’s achievements, and all sorts of antidotes that made the walk a more than pleasurable lecture hall. Afterwards, as the sun dipped to the horizon we each ran a timed two miles.

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For the trillion reasons why regular exercise is important for your mental and physical health, I recommend, whatever your fitness level, you find an outdoor activity you find fun. Walk, run, bike, blade or dance. And if you can find a group, with a coach, willing to join in your delight, all the better!

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