A Runner's Journey to Coaching
My mother used to tell my siblings and I this Old Spanish saying, “Dime con quien andas y te diré quien eres.” Translated means, “tell me who your friends are and it will tell you who you are.” I have carried this idea that your friends are a reflection of who you are throughout my coaching career and connections with making friends.
When I moved to Virginia from Los Angeles, California, I focused on finding a job and making sure my girls were settled. It wasn’t easy but we all managed. Back in LA, I used to work out a lot at a Gold’s Gym and trained with a bodybuilder named Theresa. She taught me a lot about cross training, running, weights, and core work. I did what I could because my career took up a lot of my time, long hours and even on weekends.
So here I am in Virginia, with a job and going to our Homeowner’s gym. I prefer being outside but this is where I started. Lucky for me I met a couple, Kevin and Suzanne, who recommended I join their newly formed running group. At first I was a bit intimidated, being an introvert makes it a bit more difficult, but being with the group made me feel like a kid again. It reminded me of when I was in elementary school hanging out with friends after school, riding our bikes, running around, and going to the park. I felt energized. The group helped all members train for any kind of race. They even had a walking group and no one was ever left behind.
After I ran my first marathon ‘Marine Corp Marathon’, it was such a high that it ignited my hunger to sign up for more marathons and learn more about training. I signed up for a Fitness Certification Program held at NOVA. It was an intense course that included courses in communication, CPR, aerobic fitness, exercise nutrition, weight training, and health development. The program was based on American Council on Exercise. I interned at Crystal City Sports Club and I learned quickly how there are so many different kinds of coaching, and observed how the coaches established relationships with their clients.
Once I received my certification, I realized it was time I tried my hand at coaching. As a runner and as a coach I learned about injuries and how cross training helps. I decided to challenge myself further and signed up for a sprint triathlon. When I told the group I didn’t know how to swim they thought I was kidding, until they saw me in the pool and I was swimming backwards. They laughed, but I laughed along with them, that was the type of camaraderie we built together. I did finish it even before some of my fellow friends.
I spent countless hours learning about running, injuries, nutrition, and cross training. The more I researched the more I realized how much I loved it. Yoga became part of my training when I learned how much it helps with injury prevention. At one of the Kingstowne Striders board meetings I heard about the RRCA Coaching program, so I decided to sign up and shortly thereafter, the 200 hour Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) certification program. These certifications were an investment to my coaching and enabled me to help others with their goals and steps to progress.
My style of coaching may not fit everyone but it fits my style and mindset. I use a more holistic approach to running; I incorporate yoga breathing and movement. I prefer the client to first learn how to run without any ear buds; it’s important to pay attention to your senses. Running to me is a form of meditation, mindfulness, bringing one’s attention to the present a movement without judgment. Benefits of running without devices, improve focus, reduced stress and irritability, and creating neuroplasticity in the brain. It allows your brain to re-wire or re-organize.
After coaching track for the running group, clients, and kids programs I realized how it made me feel. Being around people, moving, laughing, energizing positivity, is what makes this career so rewarding. So my mother was right, “tell me who your friends are and it will tell you who you are.”
Tips/ advice to Coaches and Runners.
- Be honest, if you don’t know something, admit it and do your homework.
Listening is hard but take the time to listen to what is the goal of the individual. Remember we are all different.
- Learn a bit about anatomy it helps understand different muscle groups and most importantly different age groups.
- Assess the client/group thoroughly.
- Be prepared always to provide alternative plans. Understand what their goal is. There are many people.
- Come up with realistic goal for your client/group.
- Do not promise weight loss unless that is your expertise.
- Individuals come with different background, experiences, etc. Be prepared to research and find the right plan for them.
- Do not provide medical advice.
- Provide resources, sports clinics, etc. or remind them to see their doctor. I see so many people give medical advice and it can increase more harm to the injured person.
- Food and hydration are a big part of everyday life but with running it is a bit different; especially if you have a long race. It still amazes me how this is ignored. Trying a new gel or food the day of race is a big mistake. While training one should try out what food works best. I have some suggestions and usually it works for those that listen.
- Running shoes, what to wear, etc.
- This is a big question but again, it’s an individual’s responsibility to find what works for them you can only guide. Provide research on pronation, foot type gait, etc. You can recommend a running store that has experts that do help with this. There are many reputable stores that do that. I have my favorites.
- Yoga and running. I incorporate this
- Pay attention to oneself while running creates calm and clarity, all your senses are working.
- Don’t focus on breath. Focus on steps, the ground, location, weather, and surroundings.
- Start with a list – its almost like cooking – you have a recipe and there are ingredients and instructions (I learned this from a yoga workshop; taking cooking and bringing it to your teaching). create a clear roadmap of where you are going.
- Staying present in each moment fosters awareness, awakens clarity, and contentment in our bodies and minds.
- Make it fun!
- Share your knowledge and share what’s new. People enjoying hearing about new trends, techniques, technology, etc.
Experienced coach for all ages; includes running and yoga. Recently completed Virtual Cherry Blossom and looking forward to Virtual Broad St and Army Ten Miler.
Retired July 2020 from her career as Digital Products Executive Producer at ASCD
Looking forward to next chapter.
Life without change is not a life.
Written by Carmen Yuhas, fellow strider