By Jill Farr
Sisters in Shape online trainer Heather Albright has a wealth of knowledge to offer as a trainer; nutrition guidance, strength training help...but her speciality, both personally and as a fitness coach, is running.
“I’m more of a running coach,” Heather explains. “And I personally do about one marathon a year and some shorter things in between.”
Many people love running, both for its entry level ease and because all you need are shoes and space. While many teach themselves the basics, or just start running and never look back, Heather advises that there is a point where specific coaching about your running is valuable.
“I think the toughest part for people is getting over the initial hump with running,” Heather says. While she loves her chosen pursuit, she agrees that it gets a bad rap from those who aren’t immersed in it already.
“Running just kind of sucks for a while,” Heather admits. “It’s not fun when you’re starting out. But once you get to where you can easily run three miles on your own, then you can start looking at, ‘Okay, I want to get faster. I want to add miles.’ That’s when it’s sometimes helpful to get a coach. And a plan. I can evaluate how things are going, help you build in cross training so that you don’t get injured.”
That last part--injury prevention--is another facet of running’s killer reputation. It’s true that there are a host of ways you can hurt yourself, but there are also some basic precepts that can prevent the most common injuries.
“The biggest challenge for runners is getting injured,” Heather says. “You have to pay attention to the little injuries so that they don’t become big deals. You also have to do all the things--the stretching, foam rolling, recovery, sleep...all those things that balance you out as an athlete. Not many people understand that or have been taught that.”
Anyone who has taken up running as a pursuit has probably encountered some joking about it, or heard lines like “I don’t run unless someone’s chasing me,” or, “You know we don’t HAVE to do that, right?”
Running’s perceived (and actual) difficulty may draw a certain personality type, Heather admits, but she also believes it’s a natural desire for humans to move...and sometimes move fast.
“I was just at a women’s running retreat and that came up. Why do we do this? A lot of us are competitive; we want to show the world our times, but that’s not the only reason for it. Most of it goes back to...we were never designed to be sedentary. Running was one of the original ways we moved.”
That primal drive may fuel the famous “Runner’s High” that gets so much press, and Heather acknowledges that both the exhilaration it brings and the intensity that running requires are key aspects of why she loves it.
“There is something just so incredibly freeing about it. It depends on the day, sure; some days my legs are heavy and it sucks. But when you’re flying and you feel like you’re walking on air...that’s the best. We’re just chasing feeling good.”
The fortitude required is also a positive, and Heather alludes to running’s unparalleled potential for cultivating tenacity.
“I believe you develop a mental toughness when you run. A lot of people in this day and age just don’t have that. I asked on a Facebook post recently…”When is the last time you really pushed yourself?””
“My last track workout, it wasn’t great, I didn’t get my fourth tempo mile, but I pushed myself. It’s money in the bank. Not enough people go there. They don't push themselves. I do think runners push like few other people do.”
Coaching is a passion for Heather, but her first love was running, and it’s a love she still holds.
“Running has been such a source of confidence for me. I got into it as a way to lose weight, but I hit that first goal by actually doing a 5k, so I got hooked on the race thing early on. Then the times got shorter and the distances got longer. I’ve surprised myself by getting out there and doing better than I thought I could. That has bled over into other areas of my life, like training women.”
Lessons from Heather:
Change the narrative.
“I like to ask people...what story are you telling yourself about yourself? What are your limiting beliefs? I asked someone the other day, “What’s your biggest struggle?” and she said “Getting to the gym.” I knew her schedule, that she didn’t go to work until around 10 a.m., so I asked when she was going. She said, ‘After work’, and I responded, “Why don’t you go in the morning, before work?” Her answer: “I’m not a morning person.” She’s telling herself that she isn’t a morning gym person. But it’s pretty easy, once you identify that, to tell yourself a different story. Start saying, “I am a morning gym person.” Say it for as long as you need until it’s true. We all like to say, “I’m not a runner”, but unless you have serious challenges, your body is able to do it. Just ask yourself which limiting beliefs you’re telling yourself, and change them.”
“I like run/walk methods; Couch to 5k, etc. Start there. When you get to where you can easily run 3 miles, think about a running coach. If you come to me before that, I would just have you do something similar to that. It’s solid. That’s what I started with. It’s a smart way to build up.”
Don’t ignore recovery and form.
“Recovery is tough because no one wants to take the time off--but recovery has to happen. You have to take care of your body. That’s why there are so many injured runners. Not listening to warning signs, not strengthening, foam rolling, and recovering are not great. Understanding common injuries is important, too, so that you can recognize them.”
“If your form isn’t great, it heightens injury risk. Strength training is important, too.”
You can connect with Heather Albright at @halbrightfit