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Welcome to the Herd, our Gazelle Sports community. A place to connect, gather and find friends to get you moving. Spark a running routine, fine tune a fitness regime, learn tips, tricks, discover perks and more – the Herd is here to help you move.

We’re very proud to introduce you to several of our inspiring friends. Connect with them. Be well with them. Run with them – wherever you happen to be. Meet our newest Herd Friend Sammie! Learn more below.

A running group

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We're working hard to revamp the Herd, and will be partnering with some of our favorite vendors to get you all cool swag!

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Meet endurance runner, Co-Leader of Trail Sisters Grand Rapids, and NEW Herd Friend, Sammie Bennett

"My name is Sammie Bennett. I am 32 years old and a Michigan native! I am an endurance runner, who loves all things outdoors; trail running, road running, cycling, and hiking! I have a passion for getting outside, supporting mental health organizations, and being a part of the running community in West Michigan. I am a member of Lyon St. Run Club and co-leader for Trail Sisters Grand Rapids. I love to travel all over, but my favorite adventure thus far is my trip to Moshi, Tanzania to summit Mt Kilimanjaro in 2020. When I am not adventuring I am focusing on my career in tech sales, going to see live music, or spending time with friends and family.

What does mental health have to do with running?  

 

Mental Health has had a nasty stigma for far too long, phrases like: “everyone deals with that” “your life is great, you have nothing to worry about”  and “you just want attention” are dismissive and when we hear these responses we are taught not to talk about it. We are not guided gently in managing the symptoms or addressing them. If you aren’t being admitted into a mental institution you are fine, right? Wrong! This toxic pattern is beginning to break down these days thankfully and people are looking to exercise and community as a few ways to cope.

May is Mental Health Awareness month and it has been a passion of mine to advocate for. Running started out as a way to support my mental health, but slowly grew into an obsession. I was in a rigid and toxic cycle with running and other issues and it was time to face my fears and talk about them. Each year my mental health journey has evolved through learning and acting on things I uncover along the way that need attention.

Running was a great outlet for my anxiety and depression at first - until it wasn’t. What changed for me was the pressure I put on rigidity in training and a poor habit of punishing myself for overindulgence or late nights on the weekends. I essentially turned my body into a running robot while under-fueling with the expectation to perform at high intensities all the time - and never miss a run. At first, it freed my mind a bit, but then it diverted to a new language “I have to run hard to keep my mind and body well” vs. “I choose to run for enjoyment or release.” I crashed and burned.

After the crash came many injuries, insomnia, whacky hormones, an eating disorder, intense anxiety, and depression. But what I thought was such a positive thing and an identity I could jive with was something I began to resent and hate.

It took a while to admit, but I saw a toxic pattern in me and I quit running in 2018 through part of 2019. I was sad and depressed, but it forced me to find other ways to move my body and I found a new love for the outdoors through hiking and biking. I was trying to fit the mold of a “runner” when in reality I was a runner because I showed up at any capacity to run. With the help of therapy, loved ones, and immersing myself in the running community in Grand Rapids I began to fall back in love with running and created boundaries within my commitment to race, train, and lead others in their journey.

It’s not always easy to stay in my lane with my boundaries, especially when I see others performing well or PR’ing every race, but I remind myself I want to love running and to love running means I must have to do what’s best for me and it isn’t always about what others think. This is a constant practice. That does not mean I do not run or sign up for races, I am just choosey about what I commit to and what I have the capacity for with other commitments I have in my life. I stopped comparing my Strava times to others and don’t feel pressure to hop out of bed first thing to get my run in so everyone can see my Strava grind while they sip their morning coffee. And if I miss a run - so what. These last few learnings are new for me, but I am only getting better at identifying them.

In 2020 I hired a coach to help monitor my paces and mileage. He gives me the grace to be flexible during my cycle as a woman and just being a human in general. It took me a few months to learn to communicate and trust I could come to him when my mental health was declining due to rigid training. It’s easy to tell my coach this muscle hurts or I broke a bone, but it’s not easy to know right away when my mind is not well and I need a break. I knew I needed that kind of trust with my coach otherwise I would fall back into the same toxic traits, which has happened, but I was able to catch it early on and redirect it.

I can proudly say I will walk away from any run or race if it does not align or make me feel excited or happy. Although I wish was a mini Shalene Flanigan I am not. I am simple Sammie, a 33-year-old sales professional who has a passion for moving her body, staying healthy, and loves getting the community together to do some social miles each week. Despite my balance with running these days I still manage to have *40 (*exaggeration) pairs of Brooks and Hokas and all the running swag that goes with them. Why? Because I am a runner. It’s my passion. I still race, I still run, but I do it because I want to and because of the community.

When my language shifts to “I have to run x miles this week or this day.” I know it’s time to stop running and check in on why that language is coming up. It’s an “I GET TO RUN” or it’s a no go for me.

Remember, running should be fun and can be used as a tool to manage your Mental Health, but it is also YOUR journey and something to build upon. Not an identity. Never make it a chore, use it as a tool to make you better. Happy Mental Health Awareness Month Herd Community, be kind to your mind!

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Sammie Bennett is the co-captain for Lyon Street Run Club an all-inclusive run club that meets Tuesdays at 6 am and Trail Sisters Grand Rapids an all-women trail running group that meets monthly. Connect with Sammie on Instagram here!