Find What You Love

Last Wednesday I was strolling up Fifth Avenue with earphones in and cruising along.  I had been in NYC for less than 24 hours and was admiring the marathon route flags all over the place and still enjoying the excitement of just finishing ours.  As I was daydreaming a woman walked past me and I noticed her stop.  Then she tapped me on the arm, “Coach Sarah!  What are you doing here?  Thank goodness, I need your help.  I am running the marathon in a few weeks and I am a bit lost in my training.”

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I have to admit, it felt pretty awesome to be stopped like that.  I felt a bit like a celeb (just a tiny bit).  It was the parent of a student I have worked with and she had heard from other people that I was a running coach.  I was relieved to know I hadn’t been forgotten here in NYC while I was away.

On Monday my husband and I went to the first hockey practice for a school here in the city.  For over eight years my husband was the director of their early hockey programs and I was one of his assistant coaches.  From the moment I met him he has always had a very special patience with children.  They flock to him and he works wonders.  It has never been about the actual sport to him nor worrying about being the best athlete.  For both of us it has always been about instilling a joy in whatever the activity is and about feeling good about yourself.

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For that very reason we have always taken the group of skaters who cannot stand up or are struggling.  On Monday there were about 15 of these kindergarten boys who needed help just standing up.  Together we crawled on our knees, held boys up, and showed them how to stand on their own and march across the ice.
It would be easy to get frustrated with ourselves, each other, or the children but we have both learned that things never go as you expect and a little sense of humor is the key to everyone surviving  By the end we had 15 little penguins moving across the ice and some hilarious stories to share later that evening.
I survived!

I survived!

As we laughed about some of the funnier moments at the rink my husband said, “It was nice to be out there again and to remember just how good we are at that.”  He didn’t mean it in a cocky way.  It was just an honest and proud moment for both of us.  Over the years we have watched coaches come and go in various sports. Some were great athletes and others were just new to the sport.  Those that lasted and succeeded understood that each child is different and not everyone is going to love this sport.  But our job as coaches is to be patient and make sure each child or athlete receives the love and attention they deserve.
It blows my mind that I have been coaching for 18 years now.  I started coaching figure skating at the age of 16 when my own coach was looking for an assistant.  When he saw me succeeding with students he helped to encourage me and share his knowledge, less about skating and more about being a good coach and ambassador for any sport.  I was lucky enough to be taken under his wing and travel with him around the country to teach clinics.  Despite the fact that he was a figure skating coach he encouraged me to also put on hockey skates and work to understand that sport more as well.  He emphasized a positive attitude and caring demeanor, both of which will be passed on to those you are teaching.  He also taught me that an end of the day Chardonnay can improve just about any rough session.
My beloved coach was lovingly known as LKS "Lord Kollen Sir."  He will forever hold a special place in my heart.

My beloved coach was lovingly known as LKS “Lord Kollen Sir.” He will forever hold a special place in my heart.

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I once went into a political science course in college and the professor said, “I love political science.  I realize not everyone else does and that is okay.  But I hope I can make this a fun enough course that you come away with something you like about political science.”  It worked for me because I switched my biology major over to political science a year later.  What I loved most was that he understood that the subject wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea.  A good teacher or coach finds a way to bring out something about that subject that you enjoy.  Great coaches motivate!
Over the years we have taught dozens of sports to children.  Some kids stick with it and others move on to greener pastures.  Sometimes parents will see my husband or I and sheepishly say, “Oh Bobby doesn’t play lacrosse anymore.”  My husband will quickly say that it is okay and ask what activity they are doing these days.  “Oh he’s really into soccer now,” they might respond and my husband’s honest response is always that it is great to hear.  Sometimes lacrosse isn’t for everyone but it is great to see that an athlete has found something that works for them and gives them enjoyment.
I think this is important for all of us to keep in mind as coaches, adults, and parents that we all should strive to find something we truly enjoy.  For me it is running, although there was definitely a time when it wasn’t.  But I also know that running isn’t for everyone.  And I wouldn’t recommend running to a person who doesn’t like it.  On the other hand, as a coach I always try to be like my political science professor.  I KNOW running can seriously suck and I try my hardest to find something, anything, about running to make it fun for an athlete.
Find something you love and enjoy and stick with it.  We are never too old to try new things.  It honestly is all about staying active and having fun.  Give everything a shot, because you just never know….
Thanks Coach LKS.  I love my hockey skates!

Thanks Coach LKS. I love my hockey skates!

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Do You Take This Man As Your Lawfully Wedded Running Partner?

Oh boy did I ever!  This weekend was a true testament to this.  When we got married last summer we should have had this added to our wedding vows.  Not only is he my husband and best friend but also my business partner, co-worker and of course my running partner.  We are also both certified running coaches and I have watched my husband for the past few months on a pretty awesome project.

One of his students that he has known since early childhood recently turned 13.  As part of his Bar Mitzvah celebration he chose to run a half marathon and to raise funds for a cause that is very dear to him.  I won’t divulge much more because I have asked him to share his story about all of this on here soon.

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I watched them set out each weekend for their long runs and once a week for an additional training run together.  I even was lucky enough to get to work with this boy a few times during his weekly runs and it was so fun to watch him transform as a runner and young man.

I had mentioned (and whined a bit) the past few weeks that I have some tendonitis in my foot that has kept me out of running.  I had to bow out of the 10k that the boys were running as a preparation race for the half marathon and that was a bummer.  Yesterday was the half marathon and as the week was coming to a close I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to participate in the race.  I was bummed and although my foot was getting better it wasn’t 100% and I figured I would be better off waiting to get back into running.

I arrived back in NYC on Saturday night from a week in Chicago and was thrilled to see my husband waiting for me.  That was until I saw him hobbling around with his own case of tendonitis that decided to flare up a day before the race.  His big toe was red and swollen and didn’t look good.  I talked him into some help (aka torture) and had him keep his foot in an ice bath for most of the evening.

We talked it over and decided it might be best for us to do a team effort for the race.  So I suited up (it was a superhero run after all and our boy wanted us to run as Team Batman), put on my bib and met the boys at mile 5.  It was my husband, our student and his friend from school and they were all looking great.  I jumped in and to my surprise found out that the foot was holding up nicely.   Our original plan was that I would take over at this point but the running actually seemed to help the foot a bit and he was able to stick it out.

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My husband is also a genius.  He just cut a hole where the foot hurt and voila!

My husband is also a genius. He just cut a hole where the foot hurt and voila!

We all ran together for the rest of the race and we adults finished the last 3 miles each with one of the boys as they split apart a bit.  It was a really fun experience and both of our feet held up nicely with the even pace.  I really enjoyed the last quarter of a mile as we approached the finish behind a wooded area and one of the boys could hear the crowds roar.  I told him to take off and it was a blast to watch him sprint his way to the finish.  Just before he ran away I told him to enjoy this and remember that he was about to become a half marathoner.

Don't worry.  It is a pink Batman tank.  I stayed with the theme.

Don’t worry. It is a pink Batman tank. I stayed with the theme.

I can be very selfish about my running.  Sometimes the distance and speed come more easily to me than others and although I recognize it, I am not always as easy on my husband.  I have dragged him along on 20 mile runs and rolled my eyes when he has needed a drink of water or a restroom break.  But when it comes down to it we have always been and always will be one awesome team.  I watch him with admiration as he patiently teaches young children and guides them through new sports and activities.  To be able to be a part of their journey to the finish of a half marathon today was an incredible experience.  I am so proud of everything he does and he constantly shows me what it is like to be a great leader.

Now those are some pretty cool superheroes.

Now those are some pretty cool superheroes.

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A congrats to everyone who ran long or raced this weekend.  And a very special congratulations to Zach and Raf on their first ever half marathon.  Not bad for 13!

Put me in coach…..

RRCA2I’m ready to run, today!

For over a year I have been trying to find a Road Runners Club of America coaching course.  As a trainer and athletic/skating coach I wanted the opportunity to learn even more about teaching the sport of running and to officially be certified as a distance running coach.

As luck would have it, I was able to get into the Ann Arbor course a few weeks ago.  I had an amazing time at the clinic.  I learned so much valuable information from the lead coach Randy Acetta and all of the training material.  The most incredible part of the weekend was that Olympic marathon gold medalist and the man credited for the running boom in America, Frank Shorter, was sitting next to me the whole time.  Mr. Shorter was taking the class along with the rest of us students to become a certified coach as well.  This speaks mountains to see that even an Olympic champion realizes there is always more for coaches to learn.  To be able to sit in on the course and hear Frank Shorter relate a lot of the topics to his training and races was invaluable.

The RRCA packs a ton of information into the two day training session (but plan on spending 18 hours during those two days in class).  The first day focused heavily on the history of running and coaching the sport, types of running you can use in your training, along with nutrition and form.  The second day finishes up with a large portion focused on learning to create training programs for different athletes of all levels and racing styles.

I came away from this clinic with a lot of information.  Some of it I was familiar with but a lot of it was insightful or brought new ideas for helping train individual athletes to meet their needs.

Below are a few key points that I took away from the weekend:

•We runners tend to get stuck in a rut, we need variety in our training and it is important to switch it up with short runs, long runs, slow runs, speed work, hill work, you name it. Point being, there is no need to get bored.  There are plenty of workouts to make running fun. And runs are runs, a long run and a short run are all relative.  I remember first running and doing a 30 minute run and thinking I was the running queen.  Running is hard, whether you have done it for years or just have started.  But if you just started, it does get more fun, I promise!

•Slow down!  One of the best training techniques you can do for yourself is to slow it down and take your time.  It isn’t always a race and when you are training for a race your body needs some slow conversation paced runs.  The slower you run and the longer the times you spend on the road running slow, the more your lungs and muscles love you!

•Life and running are about making do.  If your schedule doesn’t permit it or your body isn’t handling it, something has to give and you need to find a new prescription to your training to make things work.

•No two runners are the same.  We can’t use cookie cutter programs when training athletes.  Every athlete has individual needs and we need to find a way to work within each athletes parameters.  You don’t like to run long?  You get tired after a few minutes?  That is ok, there is a way to tailor a run to suit you.

•Put good stuff in your body, rest, and listen to your body.

•Find a way to be a cooperative coach.  Sitting back and not doing anything or constantly yelling at your athletes isn’t the way to effective coaching.  Listen and TEACH!

RRCA3If you are interested in coaching or to just learn more about the sport and yourself as an athlete I highly recommend this class.  You can find more information on coaching certification clinics at www.rrca.org.  Keep in mind that these courses fill up incredibly fast.  Be prepared to check their site often and if a course opens near you, don’t hesitate to sign up.