How a running injury actually stepped up my fitness game.
By: Katie Gott, Group Fitness Instructor and Running Coach, Community Coordinator for She.is.beautiful
Take a peek at your favorite running magazine or blog, and you will surely see a write up on the benefits of cross training. Cross Train for injury prevention! Cross Train to spice up your running routine! Prevent boredom and burnout! It’s Fun!
Well, I’m here to tell you they’re right! We all love running – it sets us free and immerses us in nature. But, to be real, it’s a very repetitive movement pattern with a high amount of impact between your body and the ground. And for everyone from beginners to experienced runners, that can take a toll.
Let’s flash back to my first year out of college. I grew up playing sports, and always did a little recreational running, but I never considered myself a ‘runner’. Fresh out of college, I was acclimating to being in the work force full-time as a journalist, learning to be an ‘adult’ and finding balance and identity in the next phase of life. After a few months of spending more time than I’d like at a desk in an office, I was persuaded by a co-worker to join a co-ed running team. “It’ll be fun! All levels welcome,” he said. When I showed up to the first run, I found myself as the only woman surrounded by male runners who all ran competitively in high school and college. I was way out of my league but I gave it my best shot. That first season on the team fast tracked my fitness, stepped up my running game… and left me with my first running injury – a VERY aggravated IT band that hurt every time I ran. I felt defeated. I had just started to feel like a runner, but now I couldn’t run. What should I do?
I decided to seek help at my local gym. I met with a personal trainer who suggested that Spinning and Strength Training classes would be good options to maintain my fitness level while taking a break from the impact of running and allowing my injury to heal.
Spin Class Day #1: I entered class as the new girl, with no water bottle and no towel. Despite being totally unprepared, I walked in feeling self-assured that I was a runner, how hard could riding on a stationary bike for an hour be? Famous last words. The workout was brutal and amazing, my legs and lungs burned, sweat was pouring and my endorphins were through the roof. The feeling of driving the pedals for an hour required a different kind of strength and determination….and I liked it. Plus, the music was pumpin’!
Body Pump Class Day #2: I couldn’t tell you the last time I had picked up a dumbbell, let alone a barbell. Getting out on the gym floor amongst the guys was intimidating and un-motivating to me, so I headed into a class called Body Pump. Body Pump is a 60-minute high-rep weight training program using a barbell (and I would later find out the most popular group fitness program world-wide). Whoa! After my first class, every single muscle group was sore. I was hooked! There was so much potential for me to get stronger. And if I got stronger, maybe my running would improve too.
I realized something very quickly after that first week in the gym. Fitness comes in all forms. There are so many different outlets to move your body and sweat. I felt a conviction that I needed to diversify my fitness, that I wanted to be strong in different ways to keep myself injury free for the long haul. I also realized that as my body got stronger, so did my mind. Running is my first love, but now I have many loves. Those first group fitness classes, that first running injury, changed the course of my life. Within a year, I became a certified group fitness instructor, and within 2 years I left the journalism field to work full time in the fitness industry as a manager and coach. If moving my body in new ways and getting stronger changed my life, I wanted to help others do the same. To feel strong. To feel empowered. To feel confident. Mentally and physically. To run, ride, lift and move better. In a supported, group setting.
Now, let’s flash forward over a decade. At 36 years old, I am NOW in the best running shape of my life. I am injury free. I run, I spin, I strength train and I do Yoga. I am strong. Find your strong. Strong is beautiful.
Stay tuned for the next installment of Finding Her Strength, where Katie shares her top 4 cross training must-dos to complement your running routine. Find out some of her favorite moves and favorite tunes to move to!