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Day 6 – The search for the perfect running shoe

By Brittany Wortley

What if the perfect shoe is an illusion? Some people swear by a certain brand like Brooks or a certain style like the GT-2000, but I have yet to find a pair of shoes to swear by. In my eight or so years of running, I haven’t tied myself down to a single brand or type of shoe. Of all the shoes I’ve tried, nothing stands out as something I want to get over and over again.

When I started running my first year of high school track, I learned the hard way what an important piece of equipment shoes are to the sport. The training shoes I used during the short three-month season ended up injuring me. I tried to ice 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off as soon as I got home from practice, but I’d still be limping the next day.

It wasn’t until a few years later as I was getting fitted for shoes that I learned the injury from high school track was a result of the shoes I had worn. When I began running more regularly, and by “regularly” I mean two to three times a week, I began wearing a supportive shoe for which I had been properly fit. However, the supportive shoe did not stop my calves from getting tight, keep my feet from going numb or my knee from giving me pain. I was convinced that in spite of the fitting that I still didn’t have the “right” shoes since I was still experiencing those things, however this didn’t stop me from doing all my half marathon training in those same shoes.

After completing my first half marathon in 2013 and then a 10k a few months later with quite a bit of knee pain, I called it good and didn’t train for anything for the next two years. I planned to run the Riverbank Run 25k in 2015 and started to train for it around the end of 2014. The beginning of this journey came with another new pair of shoes, but no knowledge gained from the mistakes I’d made during my half marathon training. I encountered the same problems I had experienced during my last big race training and did little to nothing to correct them. After completing the 25k, I had still learned nothing from the process.

I kept running, trying to build on what fitness I had gained, but it fizzled as the weather cooled and I went back to not training for anything at all. As 2016 came around my family was planning a trip to hike the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim, so my training began again with two more pairs of shoes added to my arsenal. This time I was looking to learn from what I’d been doing wrong for the last seven years. How do I keep my calves from getting so tight that it’s uncomfortable to keep moving? How do I keep my knee from giving out? Why are my feet going numb? I began to learn that shoes aren’t always the answer to these types of problems as long as you’ve been fitted well, and I knew I had been.

I was told to stretch to keep my calves from getting so tight. Stretch before a run, after a run, on a day you aren’t running, and use a foam roller as well. I was also introduced to calf sleeves. Wearing these during a workout or a long run help keep the blood flowing, speed up post-run recovery and reduce muscle soreness and fatigue. These tools have not made this problem go away completely, my calves still get tight, but not so tight that I find it hard to walk or run. When looking for help with my ongoing knee problem I was told that if I wasn’t working on strengthening as I was running this would continue to be be a problem.

Again, I learned that my shoes had little to do with my injury. It’s more how you take care of your body in addition to running. I began to do strengthening days at least once a week. After looking up types of exercises to help strengthen knees, one-legged squats and calf raises quickly became my favorite exercises. By adding strength training to my running schedule I began to experience less pain in my knee.

Since I knew I had been fitted well for my shoes, I knew that the fit wasn’t the issue that was making my feet go numb. I researched different ways to tie shoelaces in order to alleviate the tightness around my feet. I tried some new lacing methods, ran with those, and discovered one that worked!

I’ve found it freeing to know that I have the ability to wear a new shoe without it being a big deal. I used to agonize over what shoe to purchase, but now I’m eager to try what I haven’t worn before. I may find a shoe that works well on long mileage days and use it for long runs, another shoe for speed days, and another for the middle mileage range. At this point I haven’t found a shoe I don’t like or can’t use.

To go from always worrying about the shoe to taking care of my entire body so that I can wear many kinds of shoes is better than finding just one shoe. In fact, there is no magic bullet. Shoes are important, and proper fit for your feet vital to running comfortably, but learning to read your body and provide what it needs is instrumental in continuing to pursue your movement goals while staying injury-free.

Day 5 – Love and an active lifestyle

Today, as a part of our 31 Days of Fitness, Kelsey from our marketing team share a little story about her own fitness journey:

“Movement really did change my life, in a way I never expected! About four years ago I started CrossFit as a way to cross train for running. I wound up getting addicted and soon was training for my first CrossFit competition instead of my next half marathon. The thought of competing made me nervous, but I had plenty of encouragement from my coaches, friends and gym “family.”

It was at that competition where I met a guy I had only seen around the gym maybe once or twice beforehand. We started chatting and it wasn’t long before he asked me on a date. A couple years and lots of dates later he asked me to marry him on a beautiful hike in Sleeping Bear Dunes!

I am so excited to get to spend my life with someone who values an active lifestyle as much as I do. And I am so thankful to everyone I’ve met along the way as I’ve explored running and CrossFit. Maybe my fiance and I would have met all on our own one day. But if you ask me, it’s thanks to the awesome people who’ve continued to inspire and push me on my fitness journey that I met the love of my life!” -Kelsey B., Gazelle Sports DC

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Day 3 – Independence as a motivator

Today’s 31 Days of Fitness nugget of wisdom comes to us from Eddie of CrossFit Soaring Ledge in Holland:

“Fitness and being ‘fit’ sound great but why does it matter? Independence can be a sufficient motivator. Can you alone open that jar of pickles or run through the airport with baggage trying to catch a connecting flight? What about being independent as you go into your retirement years? Having friends and family to help is nice, but they may not always be around. Fitness, however, is something that will stay with you as long as you are committed to it. So make a practice of lifting something heavy and getting out of breath a few times each week. Eat real food and be consistent with your exercise and nutrition. Independence will find you in 2018 and fitness will be your new companion.” -Eddie

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Day 2 – Don’t forget your speed work

The 31 Days of Fitness continues, with today’s tip coming from Caroline C. in our GR store:

“This is the time of year when many of us are thinking about those long-distance races in the spring. What we sometimes forget about in logging mile after mile in preparation is the importance of speed workouts for distance training. Speed workouts improve your running economy (shorter, faster repeats train your body to burn less fuel while going further, like getting better gas mileage for your legs), they break up some of the boredom and monotony of long run after long run, and short, fast repeats allow you to add some volume of running at a pace that is significantly faster than race pace (which will help get you to your goal race pace). If you’re in Grand Rapids, consider joining the Rapid Herd, which has been running year-round in the best and worst of weather since 2012 on Tuesdays at noon. The workouts are cleverly disguised speed workouts that incorporate fun into the science of training.”

Learn more at http://gazellesports.com/wp/the-rapid-herd-speed-training-groups/

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Our Story

To say Gazelle Sports sells high quality running, soccer and athletic lifestyle apparel and footwear would certainly be true, but that hardly tells the whole story. Each and every day, we strive to provide the best customer care, building relationships and empowering and inspiring others to move. Our mission is to foster and support an active community in every place we call home, giving back more than we take. This was true when we opened our first store in downtown Kalamazoo back in 1985, and it’s still true today with our five stores across Michigan. At the start of it, there were just two guys who were working at a local Kalamazoo running specialty store. The year was 1983. The hair was big, the apparel colors garishly bright and the shorts were super short (for the men anyway). Chris Lampen-Crowell and Bruce Johnson were having a ball – two young guys hanging with like-minded people, selling running gear and, mostly unbeknownst to them, learning the importance of exceptional customer care and relationship-building.

Co-owner Chris Lampen-Crowell welcomes guests at the Kalamazoo Grand Opening in 1985.
Co-owner Chris Lampen-Crowell welcomes guests at the Kalamazoo Grand Opening in 1985.

 

A change in ownership caused Bruce and Chris to develop a plan to buy the store themselves. With bank support to buy the existing business, they ran into a wall when the current owner decided to raise the price at the last minute. Undeterred, Bruce and Chris decided to start a store of their own. Thus was born the dream of Gazelle Sports. But Chris and Bruce couldn’t find a bank to buy into the dream. Seven different banks were unwilling to loan the duo start-up funds. In a time before Kickstarter, this should have been the death knell of the dream. Chris and Bruce, however, knew that they had something to offer the Kalamazoo community and were not ready to give up. They were smart enough to know the value of all of the relationships they had built over the years, and reached out to family and friends for support. They were men on a mission. And other people started buying into that mission, literally. In short order, they raised just over $60,000 to start their running store. To say that everything went smoothly from here on out would not be an entirely true statement. The two found an 1,800 square foot space in downtown Kalamazoo in July 1985 that would become the home of Gazelle Sports. Thanks to timing constraints that involved the landlord needing to sell off some fur coats, plus an over-eager postcard mailing promising a December 7 grand opening (to a mailing list of their former employer that just happened to find its way into Chris and Bruce’s hands), the duo found themselves taking occupancy of the space on December 1 with one week to prepare for the promised grand opening. It was within this timeframe that they had to demolish and rebuild just about everything in the store. But once again, friends and family – the community that Chris and Bruce had started to nurture – rose to the challenge. By the Thursday before the Saturday grand opening they had 30 people helping. On Friday, that number doubled, and they were ready to open their doors the following day to welcome the Kalamazoo community to Gazelle Sports with open arms.

Working hard to get the store ready in time for the grand opening!
Working hard to get the store ready in time for the grand opening!

 

There were certainly bumps in the road. For a while, it was a monthly toss up on who they were going to pay. The utility company? The insurance company? Or the vendors so that there was product to sell? But all the while they were building relationships with their customers, creating value with exceptional customer care and product knowledge. Even in 1985, it was a tough retail landscape. A discount shoe store was operating not two blocks away. So from the beginning Chris and Bruce emphasized that what they were doing was so much more than a transactional business. They were there to foster and inspire a healthy lifestyle in the Kalamazoo community. And they discovered that people wanted to shop with them for that reason. They brought that same philosophy to Grand Rapids in 1989, and added a new partner Ken Sung. Ken had been around from the beginning, as a friend and fellow running enthusiast working at Playmakers in Lansing and later as a vendor rep for Hind, one of the brands Gazelle Sports carried from the start. Ken knew the guys at Gazelle Sports were on to something and wanted to bring it to Grand Rapids. In 1990, Gazelle Sports was going strong with a staff of 15 in two cities, but the accounting was still being done by Chris, a biomedical science major with a chemistry minor. Chris and Bruce were both good at knowing what they didn’t know. And Chris did not know accounting. So they brought Jean Sequite onto the team, guru of all things financial at Gazelle Sports.

Original Kalamazoo store cash wrap.
Original Kalamazoo store cash wrap.

 

And they kept on growing, adding stores and staff to help spread their movement mission across Michigan. Gazelle Sports added a store in downtown Holland in 1994, a retail website in 2008, and then expanded to the east side of the state in 2015, adding a store in Northville and shortly after that, downtown Birmingham. Bruce has since moved on from Gazelle Sports, but Chris, Ken and Jean remain, keeping the herd on the path of providing not only the best in running and soccer gear, but exceptional customer care, building lasting relationships and inspiring movement in others. They also never forgot their commitment to giving back to the community. In 2012, the Gazelle Sports Foundation was brought to life. Starting with the very first One One Run 32 years ago, all of the proceeds from any Gazelle Sports owned event have been given back to charity partners. The Gazelle Sports Foundation was founded as a way to focus these efforts in fostering movement and a healthy lifestyle in underserved parts of the communities we call home. The Foundation is dedicated to assisting Michigan in becoming one of the nation’s healthiest states through movement and encouraging active living. As we continue to grow and navigate the admittedly tough retail landscape, we look back on all that we’ve learned through the years. We are not new to battling discount and big box retailers. Nor are we the kind to back down from a challenge. We believe wholeheartedly in what we’re doing: we exist to inspire others to move. And we’re proud of that. We’re proud that every day we help break down barriers to movement. Whether that’s fitting customers for quality footwear designed to meet their unique needs, providing training programs that get people through their first or fiftieth 5k, getting folks geared up in the latest footwear, apparel and electronic technology, supporting an active lifestyle at an early age through Girls on the Run, or just being willing to have a conversation about what’s going on in your fitness journey. We believe movement can change your life. And we’re here to help make that happen!

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Holiday Gift Guide

This holiday season, we’ve got gifts for all the movers and shakers in your life. Check out our gift guides below and get gifting!

Left to right, top to bottom: Saucony Women’s Vitarun Jacket ($125) - Wind and waterproof FlexShell laminate is whisper quiet, super lightweight, and features exceptional stretch.Thermal, stretch fabric across the back and under arms keeps you dry and moving with ease. Soft, ultra-breathable fleece lining wicks sweat and feels great. Front and back reflectivity keeps you visible. Zipper garage for chafe-free comfort. Envelope thumbholes keep sleeves in place and hands warm. Also includes zippered front hand pockets and hidden front zippered chest pocket. New Balance Men’s Windblocker Jacket ($160) – The Windblocker Jacket is designed to help you run comfortably all season long. It’s made from lightweight woven fabric with windblocker panels that helps make running through blustery conditions feel like a breeze. Plus, a zip chest pocket and hand pockets safely stash essentials, while 360° reflective details shine under city lights. Brooks Men’s Threshold Tight ($100) - Warm running tight, Fleece interior: DriLayer thermal fabric retains warmth, wicks moisture and moves with you. Sweat-resistant pocket. Ankle zippers all the tights to be taken on/off over shoes. New Balance Women’s 860v8 Running Shoe - Lace up the new 860v8 for women and you get responsive cushioning and reliable support when you hit the road for your run. Sneaker features TruFuse midsole that delivers sustained cushioning, while a dual-density post helps ensure stability mile after mile, so you can go the distance. (In-store only). Brooks Women’s Threshold Tight ($95) - Warm running tight, Fleece interior: DriLayer thermal fabric retains warmth, wicks moisture and moves with you. Wide flat power waistband, 1 sweat-resistant pocket. Garmin Forerunner 935 ($500) - Who needs rich data like running dynamics, wrist-based heart rate, training status and VO2 max that Forerunner 935 offers? A dedicated athlete like you who’s ready to beat yesterday. This premium GPS running/triathlon watch helps you fine-tune your training and recovery to be a better athlete. Kahtoola NANOspikes ($49.95) - Ultralight, low-profile flexible winter traction that lets you run across iced-over and snow-packed trails and streets—as well as on pavement—with confidence, and without affecting foot strike. Brooks Men’s Ghost 10 ($120) - The smoothest ride possible, for runners who want a plush, adaptable fit. SHOP THESE AND OTHER GREAT GIFTS FOR THE RUNNER IN YOUR LIFE HERE >>

PrintLeft to right, top to bottom: Patagonia Men’s Nano Puff Jacket ($199) - Windproof and water-resistant, the Nano Puff® Jacket is made with warm, incredibly lightweight, highly compressible 60-g PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation; ideal as outerwear, or as an insulating layer in colder climates. Merrell Moab 2 Vent ($100) - With a performance suede leather and mesh upper, the Merrell Moab 2 Vent feels great and performs even better. This ventilated hiker uses a breathable mesh lining and M Select Fresh technology to keep your feet dry and odor-free, even as you work up a sweat. A molded nylon arch shank and a rubber toe cap grants stability and protection in rough terrain. Patagonia Women’s Nano Puff Jacket ($199) - Windproof and water-resistant, the Nano Puff® Jacket is made with warm, incredibly lightweight, highly compressible 60-g PrimaLoft® Gold Insulation; ideal as outerwear, or as an insulating layer in colder climates. Garmin fenix 5X ($600 now thru Dec. 24) – This GPS sports watch is packed with features, including built-in maps that can direct adventurers to nearby sites and attractions. Prana Men’s Brion Pant ($75) – The Brion Pant is cut from Prana’s Stretch Zion Fabric, designed with performance 4-way stretch, quick-dry technology and a water-repellent finish. These slim-fit active pants are abrasion resistant and feature mesh pockets, 5-pocket styling, reinforced rivets and UPF 50+ sun protection. Keen Women’s Terradora Waterproof ($130) - Major comfort and a secure fit, with style to spare. This waterproof hiker goes from off-grid trails to treks around the city, propelling you on the uphill climb and cushioning you on the way back down. Prana Women’s Meme Pant ($85) - The Meme Pant is cut from Prana’s Stretch Zion Fabric, designed with performance 4-way stretch, quick-dry technology and a water-repellent finish. This cargo pant is cut for a fitted silhouette with a mid-rise and skinny leg. SHOP THESE AND OTHER GREAT GIFTS FOR THE ADVENTURER IN YOUR LIFE HERE >>

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Left to right, top to bottom: Lole Faith Jacket ($330)Facing winter is a piece of cake in this two-tone Lolë jacket. The shaped-fit and adjustable hood keep you warm and protect you from the elements on long hikes. Spiritual Gangster The Universe is on My Side Tank ($72) – In GR and Birmingham stores only. Prana Briann Pant ($79) - The Briann Pant is made from Prana’s original Stretch Zion performance fabric and woven with a durable water repellent finish. These mid-rise fitted pants feature quick drying technology, UPF 50+ sun protection, traditional 5-pocket styling, and a skinny leg in multiple inseams. Lole Bellamy Sweater ($125) - On cold days, slip on this Lolë sweater made of alpaca wool. In this warm and soft knit, you’ll stay wrapped up in warmth and comfort all winter long. Smartwool Popcorn Cable Socks ($22.95) - Wearing the Popcorn Cable is like wearing your favorite comfy sweater on your feet. Bursting with varying texture zones and patterns, this cushioned style is one of our most comfortable socks ever. Adidas Ultraboost LTD ($180) - Combining sport-proven performance with sleek style, the Ultraboost recaptures the feeling of your best-ever run. Built for the dedicated runner, these women’s shoes deliver superior long-distance support. They feature a sock-like adidas Primeknit upper that adapts to your foot’s changing shape as you run. In store only. SHOP THESE AND OTHER GREAT GIFTS FOR YOUR FAVORITE SUPERMOM HERE >>

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Left to right, top to bottom: Alo Yoga Glimpse Long Sleeve Top ($68) - For days with a bit of chill, spring for the Glimpse Long Sleeve Top. The high-low hem with extreme side slits will keep things stylish. In GR and Birmingham stores only. Hydro Flask 24oz Standard Mouth Flex Cap Bottle ($34.95) - From office to trail, this tall drink of water will go anywhere you go – and will provide 24 ounces of pure refreshment along the way. Alo Yoga Moto Legging ($114) - From the mat to what’s before and after, Alo’s patented Moto Legging fits into your lifestyle. On-trend moto-inspired quilted stitching and mixed matte shine fabric with mesh detail. In GR and Birmingham stores only. Picky Bars ($2.75) – These bars feature all natural ingredients pulled straight from the “Feel Good” pantry. The result? Energy bars ready to go all-in on your next adventure. AfterShokz Trekz Titanium ($100) - The lightweight and comfortable Trekz Titanium wireless stereo headphones are the safest alternative to traditional sport headphones and earbuds. Bone conduction technology, an open ear design and a suite of convenient features deliver premium music play and crystal clear calling without compromise. Patagonia Atom Sling ($59) - The take-everywhere classic sling design with just the right amount of organization and close-fitting comfort. A staff favorite for good reason. SHOP THESE AND OTHER GREAT GIFTS FOR THE STUDIO LOVER IN YOUR LIFE HERE >>

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Left to right, top to bottom: Toad&Co. Merino Merritt Hoodie ($199) - Here’s a heartfelt recommendation: Add the Merino Merritt Hoodie to your wardrobe this fall. It’s light but ultra-warm, has a draped hood, wrap styling, and handwarmer pockets. Trust us, you won’t regret it. Hydro Flask 16oz. Wide Mouth Flip Lid ($24.95) - Caffeinate and Go. A perfect companion for your grande coffee or tea, our 16-oz Wide Mouth is the perfect size for carrying your warming beverage of choice. Kula Women’s Mitten ($45) – This super warm mitten from Kula will keep your hands toasty all winter long. Little Hotties Hand Warmer ($1) - Little Hotties Hand Warmers are an odorless, environmentally safe heat source that provide warmth and comfort in all cold conditions for 8 hours. Sorel Cozy Joan ($140) - The sporty aesthetic of a sneaker with the warmth of a winter boot, so you can adventure without being weighed down. The Cozy Joan is crafted with supple waterproof leather and suede and 100g insulation to seal out the elements, while plush faux-fur collar trim keeps things super cozy. Smartwool Trekking Heavy Crew Socks ($20.95) - Our thickest Smartwool sock, heavy full-cushioning provides shock absorption, offers insulation against the elements, and supports under weighty loads. An arch brace holds the sock in place and adds additional support. SHOP THESE AND OTHER GREAT GIFTS FOR THE FRIEND WHO IS ALWAYS COLD IN YOUR LIFE HERE >>

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Left to right, top to bottom: The North Face Thermoball Jacket ($199) - Ace your next multiday backpacking trip in a lightweight jacket with synthetic ThermoBall™ insulation that retains loft to keep you warm in wet conditions. Packs down into its own hand pocket. Prana Payne Beanie ($35) - The Payne Beanie from prAna is a men’s beanie with medium gauge textured beanie with twisted yarns and a ribbed edge with Fair Isle pattern. Garmin Fenix 5 ($500 now thru Dec. 24) - This multisport GPS watch is packed with features and fit for adventures with a rugged design that has a stainless steel bezel, buttons and rear case. Nikwax Specialty Gear Fabric Detergents - Keep all your gear in top shape with these specialty gear washes designed for specific materials and needs. Smartwool PhD Outdoor Mountaineer Socks ($34.95) - The right gear can make or break any expedition. That’s why Smartwool created the new PhD® Outdoor Mountaineer socks, our most technical mountaineering socks ever. There’s some serious sock science to work in these all-mountain socks, including revolutionary Indestructawool™ technology for ultimate durability and the 4 Degree® elite fit system for a dialed fit. Kombi Sanctum Gloves ($100) - Warm and dry as long as you need it to be, the Sanctum glove features a heater pack pocket with waterproof YKK zipper. Glove friendly ladder-lock wrist cinch with easy-grab bead. Soft nose wipe on thumb. Fingertip wrap-cap construction. Soft-Stretch fleece inner cuff. The North Face ThermoBall Lifty Boot ($160) - Burly and super warm, this execution of the modern and lightweight. ThermoBall™ Versa is built for long, hard days in below-freezing temperatures.  SHOP THESE AND OTHER GREAT GIFTS FOR THE SNOWBOUND IN YOUR LIFE HERE >>

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Give locally this Giving Tuesday

We believe in giving back to the communities that we call home. This Giving Tuesday, we encourage you to join us in giving back to the local organizations that make a difference in our own communities. Need some suggestions? Here are a few of our favorite organizations:

  • Kids’ Food Basket - Kids’ Food Basket is attacking childhood hunger by providing sack suppers to thousands of kids in West Michigan experiencing food insecurity. A healthy dinner is the first step in building healthy bodies and healthy minds.
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo - Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo serves over 2000 youth each year. By providing programming related to character education, recreation, homework support, the clubs provide a safe, nurturing environment for youth in Kalamazoo.
  • Helen Devos Children’s Hospital - Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital supports child-focused care for families and children from all over Michigan. From play-rooms and programming to volunteer mentors for parents, the children’s hospital is a resource for the entire family.
  • Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes - Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes provides groceries for an average of 700 individuals each day. Grown from a collection of compassionate people, the organization has become one of Kalamazoo’s most valued resources for those in need.
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters – Big Brothers Big Sisters is a mentorship organization that makes meaningful and mindful matches between adults and children in our communities. By fostering these relationships, Bigs helps to encourage confidence and inspire greatness in local youth.
  • Girls on the Run - Girls on the Run is more than a running club: it’s a character-building, confidence boosting program for girls in many of our Michigan communities. By training for a 5k, the girls learn to work together, support each other and grow in self esteem.
  • No Surrender Running Club – No Surrender Running Club hosts at-risk youth from the Grand Rapids area in a training program culminating in a 10 mile run. Participants are challenged to persevere and discover a sense of accomplishment by completing the physical challenge of a long distance race.

 

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Finish line tears and the importance of cross-training

By Chea Jackson, Gazelle Sports Public Relations

In 2011, I ran my first half marathon. Tears were streaming down my face as I crossed the finish line. Not because I was overwhelmed with a sense of accomplishment, not even because I was so happy it was over. But because I was in an incredible amount of pain.

Let’s back up. I started running regularly in spring 2010. I did a 5k with a group of friends and was immediately hooked. I stuck to short distances—three to five miles—and started my collection of bibs and event t-shirts. When my brother-in-law asked if I wanted to train for the Detroit Free Press Half Marathon, I dove in without thought. Ultimately, the “without thought” part is what hurt me—literally.

I followed my training schedule religiously: three shorter runs and one long run each week, going up in mileage as the weeks went on. Mid-training, I started getting some aches in my left knee. So I iced. Stocked up on ibuprofen. Carried on with my life. In the final weeks leading up to the race, the pain was becoming intense. So I rested and hoped that if I took it easy, I’d be able to finish on race day.

Fast forward to the face full of tears. Turns out I strained my IT band and ended up in physical therapy for several weeks. Why? Because I didn’t cross-train. It took all that pain and PT for me to learn that you should add other types of exercise, strength training and stretching into your routine to prevent injury. Cross-training can increase your stamina, prevent muscle imbalances, and work your muscles in different ways so they don’t continuously get worn down or overused by the same repetitive activity. Failing to incorporate cross-training into my routine was a critical mistake on my part, especially since I had no experience with long distance runs.

I learned my lesson. When I did my second half marathon three years later, I did it right. I dedicated time to stretching and I worked different types of training into my routine. I found that two shorter runs during the week and my long run on Sundays was enough running to get my mileage where it needed to be. I gave myself one hard core rest day, and filled the remaining evenings with hot yoga classes or body weight circuits. If you don’t want to pay for classes or a gym membership, I highly recommend mobile applications that walk you through super effective circuit workouts that you can do at home. I’ve personally had great experiences with Nike Training Club and Aaptiv.

I felt strong and prepared for my second half marathon. I didn’t need to take painkillers as part of my preparation and I left all knee and ankle braces at home.  At the end, there were tears again—but these were tears of excitement and happiness as I saw my mom and my husband with our sweet golden retriever pup cheering me on at the finish line.

 

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Marathon Memories and Motivation

By Rod Wortley, Gazelle Sports Grand Rapids

Approaching the 16-mile mark of her first marathon, Erin Laplander found herself struggling. Her coach asked how she was doing. “Terrible,” she replied. The event was the Collegiate National Championship. Erin began the race with three teammates, who all had pulled away after 25k.

“I agreed to stay in for another two miles and moped along. I figured I’d go to 20 then drop out,” Erin said.  “At 20, I got to the aid station and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve run 20 miles. I only have 10k to go. I can’t stop now.’ My coach asked me how I was doing and I said, ‘I’m finishing this!’”

Erin not only finished, her 3:29:26 qualified her for the Boston Marathon. However, Boston would have to wait two years as she still had her senior season of track.

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Since then, Erin has run eight marathons and a 50 mile trail ultra, plus hiked rim-to-rim-to-rim in the Grand Canyon in one day. Of all her running adventures, she still considers a half marathon on a track to be the craziest experience.

“The 2013 Q-Elite Spring Half Marathon was going to be my qualifying race for Nationals,” Erin recalls. “I got in the van the morning of the race and found out the course was flooded so it had been moved to the track at Forest Hills Northern High School. We turned left for 52 ¾ laps, but it was also great to have teammates cheering for me the entire time.”

After high school, Erin spent the next year working before heading to college and walking onto the cross country and track teams. “Nothing was expected of me. I stayed because I fell in love with my teammates. I wound up redshirting my first outdoor season. It was hard to watch everyone else when I wasn’t running,” she said. “After that I started setting goals.”

She ran her first half marathon the next summer because her training plan called for a 13 mile long run and she wanted to get credit for going that far.

After college, Erin made it to Boston, twice. In 2015 she ran a PR 3:26:43. “That was my favorite marathon experience,” she says. “I never had a mental slump. So many people cheering the whole time.”  She considers Boston 2016 her most humiliating marathon. It was hot. Her goal at the beginning was to re-qualify, but by halfway through she was simply hoping to finish. “I did a lot of walking in the final miles and spectators would say, ‘It’s okay to walk. The important thing is you made it here,’ but I thought, no, it’s not okay, I didn’t come to Boston to walk.” She finished in 3:46.43.

Finishing is not negotiable. “I can’t quit,” Erin says firmly. “Just because it’s painful or not going well, I have to get to the end. Usually, the hardest part for me is between 15 and 19 miles. Mentally, I just have to get through that and I can make it the rest of the way. I don’t want a DNF on my record.”

Without her college teammates, Erin has discovered similar value in training and racing with other like-minded folks. “It doesn’t matter if you run a 5 minute pace or 10 minute pace, if you’re out there trying to be the best you can, you’re an athlete,” she says. “I’ve joined RunGR and I’m recognizing more people at races, and being recognized myself! Some people can’t understand why anyone would get up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday to go run 20 miles, but that’s my social time. I get to spend three hours with my friends.”

 

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The Lydiard Method and Gazelle Sports Training Programs

By Allison Land

When it comes to training, there are a lot of different methods out there. You could follow the Galloway Method, the Daniels’ Method, the Hanson’s Method or any other training plans that are built off the aforementioned models. Every year, many runners pick a plan (or an amalgamation of plans), follow it as best they are able, and then go out and run their race. For some, it is enough to simply finish upright and uninjured. Others seek to push themselves – to chase that PR or time goal. This season, in training for the Detroit Free Press Marathon and the Metro Health Grand Rapids Marathon, all five Gazelle Sports locations tried something different. Not a new concept, but one that has helped to build many different training programs over the years. The program used? That of the legendary Arthur Lydiard – a New Zealand coach whose training method revolutionized running as we know it today.

Both Jane Clark and Annie Dandavati, two of our Run Camp participants in Holland, completed their first Lydiard training followed by their seventh and second marathons, respectively. Despite tough weather conditions on race day and some initial reservations about training, both women found success with Lydiard.

Lydiard is a pyramid style training. You start with an aerobic base-building phase and work your way up through hill training, anaerobic training, integration (putting it all together) and finally race day. The program is individualized to each runner’s level and physiology.

Annie Dandavati

“I did the most running I’ve ever done,” Annie said. “But I never felt like my body took a beating.” One of the key elements of training is proper recovery – something many runners seem to neglect. “I’m almost 55 years old,” Jane said. “This plan was so much easier on my body. I ran last year’s marathon with plantar fasciitis, and then had to visit the orthopedic doctor afterward to be sure I didn’t have a stress fracture. I didn’t set out to PR this year – I just wanted to finish happy – and if this training method could get me to the finish line without tearing my body apart, that would be enough. It did.”

Jane Clark

Annie ran in Chicago. “It was very hot and crowded,” she said of the race. This year was the Chicago Marathon’s 40th anniversary which drew extra runners and spectators onto the course. There was a lot of anxiety surrounding her race. “People were like, ‘How are you going to do this?’” Annie’s training had not had her run any 20 mile training runs. But she felt comfortable. “I told myself not to start too fast. The first 12 miles were at an even pace, and then I sped up,” Annie said. The fruit of all of her hard work? A PR of about 13 minutes under her 2016 Chicago Marathon time.

Jane ran in Grand Rapids, where this year it poured rain nearly the entire race and the wind howled. “I was a nervous wreck, checking the weather forecast the 48 hours before the race. I was so scared it would be black-flagged because of thunder. I went so far as to see if there was another marathon scheduled that same day that I could drive to with a better weather forecast,” Jane said. Despite the weather, the race went on. Following a 4:29 pace group deemed the “Oprah Group,” Jane stuck with them all the way until mile 20. “Then it got hard. Really hard,” she said. “But at that point I was doing a lot of math in my head and knew that even if I slowed down, I would still PR.” And she did, by about 10 minutes under her previous time. “It rained the whole way and there were big wind gusts, but that was all part of the shared experience we all were having that day.” And, of course, the fear of the unknown also followed her. Jane’s training also did not take her to – or past – that ever-exalted 20 mile training run. “I think we were all waiting for that first running friend to have their first race and we were all rooting for them to ‘prove’ that the plan worked,” said Jane.

With any training plan, it takes trust and hard work to get to the finish line. It is no different with Lydiard training. In Arthur Lydiard’s own words, “It’s just a matter of understanding what’s necessary and discipline yourself to do it.” Jane and Annie are just two examples of runners who benefitted from Lydiard training with Gazelle Sports this season. There were far fewer injuries and many more successes out there this season. Be it crossing your first finish line, setting a new PR or finishing a race upright and smiling, Gazelle Sports is here to help!

Click here to learn more or sign up for our training programs.