As I write this, the wind chime hanging from our front porch is clamoring for attention. Brown leaves are dancing across the yard and, oh yeah, it snowed sideways this morning — an annoying wet-icy mix. Wait, now the sun just came out. For a few moments anyway. Yep, it’s April in Michigan.
Not only are we in the midst of a pandemic, we’ve also got a lingering winter-cold spring situation on our hands. Not exactly the kind of conditions that inspire us to head out the door for a run … or are they? I say it’s a personal decision. As I shared a couple of weeks ago on the Michigan Runner Girl Facebook page, it’s OK to be running a lot, a little, or not much at all these days. If I’ve learned anything so far during these uncertain times, it’s that we need to be kind with ourselves as much as we need to do this with others. Some of us find solace in the miles — and logging a lot of them and staying on track with our training (for races we know will return some day). Some of us may prefer switching up our workouts, whether it’s checking out an online fitness class, lifting weights or jumping on the treadmill in our home gyms, or taking hikes and walks with our family and friends — following social-distancing guidelines when we should, of course.
I do think we need to keep moving, however that looks to each of us. But this should be tempered with recognizing that all we can do is the best we can do. And this may change one day to the next. I know it has with me.
I have been thinking a lot about my local running specialty store — Running Fit, which has two locations in Traverse City — and the two managers who are keeping things humming. Marc McCombs, who manages the downtown location, and Jen Teeples, who oversees the day-to-day at the South Airport Road location, are good friends of mine and I know they are working so hard to keep our local running community connected. I wanted to hear how they’re doing (what’s keeping them motivated?), the kinds of phone and online conversations they’re having with customers, and any tips they may have for all of us. Here’s what these running experts had to say — and if you’ve been in touch with your local running store, or if you’re a running store manager and have some thoughts on staying motivated, let us know in the comments below:
First, let’s start with how you’re doing these days — you’re still working at the store. What has that been like?
Marc: I am currently at the store six days a week — Monday through Saturday, 10-5. My entire staff is on furlough, so it’s just me. To be totally honest with you, it sucks. It’s a very stressful time and my work family is a huge part of my support system. I miss them all very much, but I am glad they are all healthy and safe. Our online store has been keeping me very busy. A large part of my day is spent finding, processing and finally shipping out orders to customers. If customers have shoe questions or any questions, I am here and available. I would also suggest that if a customer wants an item, they call the store first before ordering it from our website. They will get it much faster that way and help keep it local. If a customer does not know exactly what they need, I am happy to do a virtual fitting through Facetime, Zoom or any other outlet. I have been staying connected to the running community through Instagram and Facebook. Customers have been reaching out to me via those outlets as well.
Jen: I like people! so not having that daily face to face has been hard. I have discovered the lost communication of talking on the phone. Customers call me up and we may have a 20-minute conversation about whatever, and it’s good! It makes them feel like I’m available to listen and help, and makes me feel like I’m not alone. We’ve done virtual fittings over the phone for shoes and insoles, by having people take pictures of their feet, current shoes and just listening to their needs — the same things we do if the store was open.
What else are runners looking for these days?
Jen: Nutrition has been a big seller at my store — people are still getting those long run in and need GU or other energy sources. I’ve been getting products out the door the same day because I know how important it is on those long runs to have your favorites, while life is not normal right now.
How are you keeping active and staying sane?
Jen: Well, I’ve been keeping up a workout schedule, thanks to Alison and Diane Goss and their coaching business Traverse City in Training. I was not training for Bayshore, but for the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon in April [which has turned into a virtual race]. They have been so supportive and encouraging. I need to run for my sanity, but I’ve always needed that! I give myself some new tunes on my long runs and have a delicious recovery drink after and it makes me happy!
Marc: I still get up, get dressed and go to work almost every day, so my work is keeping me active. In fact, I feel like I am working much harder now than I was before the pandemic. I am running to keep sane, although not nearly as much as I was before all this started. I am enjoying my evening runs and walks through my neighborhood. Running has become the one thing that I do that feels normal. I am currently running for mental therapy and clarity more than just for fitness and race prep.
What advice can you give to those of us who are struggling to stay motivated?
Marc: I would first say that it is OK to not be motivated right now. Take care of yourself and your family. Running can be that escape that we so desperately need. There is enough stress in the world right now. Don’t let the guilt of not running add to that stress. Instead, remember why you started running in the first place, remember how good it feels to be thoroughly exhausted after a run. Run because it feels good and because it strengthens the body and feeds the soul. If you were to ask my wife, she would tell you that it makes me a more enjoyable person to be around, and let’s be honest: we are spending more time indoors with our loved ones then ever before.
Jen: Find a group to help with motivation. Facebook has a ton of running groups. Strava is also an excellent way to keep tabs on your friends’ activities — always nice to get a virtual high 5!
For those of us who are dealing with canceled races, any words of wisdom to share?
Marc: I was in the thick of training for my first ultra marathon — the Lighthouse 50/100 miler on May 30. I had already run 1,800 miles in preparation, so I was pretty bummed. I allowed myself to be upset. It sucks, it really, really sucks. I have been running, but mileage went from 70 miles a week to 30. Then I remembered that I enjoy running. I did not have to run 1,800 miles in preparation for the race. I got to run 1,800 miles, I was able to run 1,800 miles, I had the privilege of running 1,800 miles. A nice side effect of running all those miles is that I feel confident that If I keep it up, I will be able to jump into any race I want to when we are finally able to do so.
For those of us who are unable to run right now because of injury, any suggestions for staying physically active? (Things we can do in our homes, be it weight training or an online fitness class?)
Jen: If you can get outside, take a walk, listen to birds and enjoy nature! If you need to stay inside — there are so many options with live-streaming workouts. Pick something gentle. I’m a big fan of Yoga with Adrienne on YouTube — she has a ton of sessions.
Marc: I have always been a fan of cross-training as an added weapon to fight off injury. Many people are not working right now and have a lot of free time on their hands. The majority of runners are not able to run for hours at a time. But they can run for an hour, lift weights for another hour, do an online virtual yoga class. Use this time to gain strength and increase flexibility. What else do you have to do? Watch the Lion King for a third time?
What are you hearing from runners who are either calling Running Fit, or sharing stories with you on social media? Any common questions or concerns?
Jen: I think there was a slight concern with safe social distancing while running. I’ve had a couple people ask about low-traffic running areas. I always say if it’s safe to run around your home, then just do that. We’ve tried to keep our social media fun, positive and engaging for our customers. Jeff Gaft is a pretty big icon around the area and people love his daily quotes on Instagram. Just know we are here to support our community, whether it’s a need for a product, questions, concerns, or you’re just missing your running group. Call us and we would be more than happy to talk and help if we can.
Marc: One of the common concerns that I am hearing from runners is that of isolation. A majority of runners run because it is a social outlet for them. Runners have the privilege of meeting up with some of their best friends and sharing an activity that allows them to get great exercise, be social and many times afterward get that burger or have that glass of wine with their running buddies. I would suggest that all runners stay connected through social media/text/email/Strava. We also can take this as an opportunity to run solo, enjoy the time alone with your thoughts, and process everything that is going on right now.
Keep running, keep smiling, be kind and understanding to each other, do the things that make you feel normal. If anyone needs or just wants to talk about running/ racing/training/gear, they can call one of our Running Fit stores here in Traverse City. Call me at our downtown location at 231-932-5401, and Jen at our South Airport Road location at 231-933-9242. We will gladly ship items out to customers. No charge for shipping on orders over $75. Our hope is that in the not-to-distant future we can begin doing curbside pickup service again, and hopefully not too long after that re-open our doors to out beloved running community.