Friday, February 19, 2010

Reality Check

We had our first training session with the New Team last weekend - and, as usual, I came away feeling re-energized and inspired by such a great group of people taking on the task of running and fundraising.

Despite it being only the first week,
the group already seemed to bond well, sharing laughs and jabs in the pre-run routine and along the route. One of the things I like about Team In Training is that it brings together people who might otherwise have no reason to meet. And things just seem to click.

The run schedule ranged from two to five miles, depending on what event you're training for, so I joined in with the five-mile crowd.

Unlike some of the TnT teams I've started with, this one is particularly advanced.

Many of them have already run marathons or half-marathons. (Kudos to those who are doing it again - and raising more money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.) For many of them, their pace is already impressive. To be honest, I know some of them will leave me in the dust as their training progresses.

This morning, I received a copy of an email that was sent to Coach Geno from one of our new athletes.

In the interest of space and to protect the innocent, I won't share all of its contents here. Essentially, the writer questioned whether she would stick with TnT because she felt the physical bar might be set a little to high.

She described herself as coming "off the couch" and "very out of shape" -- although, in my brief interaction with her, I think she certainly is above the level of some of the previous athletes I've seen. I'll note that all of those athletes (yes, I consider them all athletes) successfully finished their events.

She admitted to struggling through the two miles assigned to her on the first week, even noting that her running buddy came away with such pain that she visited a doctor later in the week.

Adding to the problem, she felt, was the lack of focus on stretching and warm-up.

Excellent point. Excellent.

Coach Geno admits to being a non-stretcher - and he's been lucky enough to avoid injury. I guess, to some extent, I have to. I've said this before, stretching is my weakness. And trust me, I pay the price. My body tightens up overnight and takes time to work itself out during the first part of my runs.

More than a few times, I've recruited help from TC to work out the particularly knotty spots.

I chuckled when I was asked to lead the stretching routine - because it's something that I all-too-often just gloss over. Most of the time, I ignore it completely.

The email today made me realize that I -- and perhaps all of us leading up the team -- shouldn't pass on our bad habits to these new runners. Perhaps, in this case, a new team member could teach the mentors a thing or two.

My response to Coach Geno was as follows:

I think it's probably a good reminder that we should be telling everyone what they should be doing in terms of stretching, etc. (I know I pay for my lack of stretching, so it's a good reminder for me, too!)

We need to stress that everyone needs to go at their own pace - even if that means walking. I think our team is a little unique in that a lot of them are "ahead" of training in a lot of ways.

It can be intimidating -- I can tell you I probably would have been intimidated on the first day, coming to the team as a non-runner like I did.

Perhaps we can have someone come in and do a stretching clinic before the run?

Also, with the Seacoast Team, we did a warm-up lap (usually a 1/4 mile), slow and steady, before we headed out. We could probably do that around the campus?

I think her feedback is pretty valid and I'm sure she's feeling a bit overwhelmed/intimidated.

It might be helpful, too, to have either me or Shawnna talk to her... to share our stories on a personal level... I think both of us started from the ground-level not too long ago.... and I think she'd be surprised to see that we're really not that different from her... they CAN do this ... just need a little confidence and training at their own level.

Just my two cents.

What I hope she realizes is that she's gotten to the heart of what the training part of TnT is about - it's about taking non-athletes and training them to do something they didn't think they could do.

Equally as important, I hope her email reminds us (the coach, mentors and fellow teammates) that not everybody starts as "an athlete."

I know I didn't! She might be surprised to learn that on my first day of training, I had the same 2-miler on my training schedule -- and I walked/ran the whole thing. There was NO WAY I could have run the whole thing. And that's totally okay.

We'll all get to there eventually -- whether that means becoming "an athlete" or "a runner" or just crossing the finish line with a smile -- a
nd we'll all get there together.

It's what being part of a team is all about.


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