FITNESS: Q&A with Marisue Cigler of C2 Coaching

  1. How long have you been running? I started running seriously about 15 years ago. Before that, I did a lot of walking with jogging interspersed – wasn’t really sure what I was doing (seeing as how I didn’t have a coach or anything, he he).
  2. How did you get interested in running? Not sure I really remember; I do remember that I was in a bad marriage at the time and “running” (my version) is something that made me feel good about myself.
  3. How did you get started? As I mentioned, I did a lot of walking – tried to do at least five miles every morning before work – with some jogging mixed in, because you can only do so much walking before it gets to be “too slow.” In decent weather, I went outside; in the winter, I walked or jogged on my treadmill before or after work.
  4. What prompted you to take the steps to start running? What really prompted me was a guy I met through eHarmony (after ditching the bad marriage guy). He lived in Vermont and was an avid outdoorsman (trail/road running, mountain biking, hunting, camping). He ran almost every day, and everywhere. I eventually married him, and he put it in the marriage contract that I had to become a real runner (just kidding, but it was important to him, so I made it important to me).
  5. What was your process getting started? Getting started was definitely a process; there was way more to it than just putting on my little Avia cross-trainers and running out the front door. Because, honestly, that almost always ended in disaster. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just take off and run without getting winded or hurt or discouraged. Mike (the new husband) took me to a running store in Burlington, and I got fitted for my first real pair of running shoes. He bought me running clothes and all kinds of accessories I never realized existed. Then he made me run with him. Well, at first that was a disaster; he had been running since high school and didn’t understand why I couldn’t keep up with him. Finally, he told me to go at my own pace on my own time. So, I did. Without even knowing there really is a running method that consists of walk/run/walk intervals (see Jeff Galloway), that’s what I did. And, eventually worked my way up to three miles of non-stop running.
  6. What was your training plan? I didn’t really have a formal training plan at that point; my goal was to enter and finish a 5K (3.1 mile) race. I just gradually added time and mileage to my workouts over several weeks until I felt ready to do it.
  7. What was your first race experience like? My first race (which Mike ran with me) was the Race for the Cure at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. I remember that I ran the entire distance and did not finish last. And I remember how proud I was to cross that finish line: my very first finish line.
  8. What about that first race surprised you most versus what you expected? What surprised me the most were two things: 1) how quickly the time went from the start to the finish; and 2) how super excited I was when I crossed the finish line. I think all runners have the same feelings about their first race: they are scared, nervous, worried, afraid they’ll come in last. And, I was no different. So I expected to have those feelings during the entire race; but once I started, all those negative feelings disappeared and were replaced by sheer joy.
  9. What drove you to do it again? The same thing that motivates almost every other runner on the planet: I wanted to beat my time from that race. I am not a competitive person at all, but I am like all the others in that I am constantly striving to improve my performance.
  10. Did you have a friend or mentor in running? The only mentor I had was my husband at the time; he was a great runner but not such a great teacher. A good coach will determine where you are in your abilities and build from there. I think he just expected everyone to run as well as he did, right off the bat. I’m surprised I didn’t quit before he finally realized I needed to do it on my own schedule.
  11. What kind of support did you get and from whom? Lucky for me, I’m my own greatest cheerleader. Mike and I divorced, and I kept running – probably because it – again – was something that made me feel better in the midst of the dumpster fire I called my love life. Then I met my current husband, Ken, an avid runner. He has been my biggest supporter and mentor for the past almost 12 years. Because of him, I had the courage and self-confidence to run my first half-marathon … and my first marathon.
  12. How did you set goals and develop action steps to meet them? Since I didn’t have anyone to guide me, I knew I had to do my own research. I fell in love with the internet and Runner’s World magazine. I read everything I could find about running, and training, and famous runners, and races, and running clothes and running shoes and running gadgets. I bought my first Garmin GPS sports watch. That was a huge milestone. It meant I was a real runner and I could record data and there would be a record of it. Setting goals was easy: I signed up for races. You pay for a race, you feel obligated to show up. I used Runner’s World’s online training plans to prepare (which used to be free, but now have a fee) and did surprisingly well in my races (for an old lady in her 50s).
  13. How do you feel when you run? When you train? Ask any runner how they feel when they run and they will all tell you, “It depends on the day.” There is a general “feel good” vibe from just being able to get out there: that is pretty much a constant. Individual runs, however, can run the gamut from sensational to “I wanted to quit after a minute.” I’ve had great runs where nothing hurt, my feet had wings, the weather was perfect, etc., etc.; and I’ve had runs where I felt like I was wearing lead boots and my stomach was upset, and I couldn’t breathe without wheezing. But in the end, I feel like I’m doing something great for myself when I run. It’s healthy, both mentally and physically, and it’s stress-relieving. It’s also a very spiritual experience for me; when I am outside, in nature, by myself, with only my thoughts for company, that is when I connect to my late son Kevin. And, invariably during my runs, I am visited by a lone cardinal. I know it’s him. When I’m training for a particular race, the feelings are pretty much the same, except maybe I am a little more focused on completing the workout that is on the schedule rather than just enjoying the run.
  14. What are the benefits of running in general, for you and possibly for others? Oh my god, the benefits of running are infinite. In general, running regularly as part of a complete fitness lifestyle – notice I didn’t say fitness program – can add years to your life. Running helps you lose weight, strengthen bones, lower blood pressure, increase stamina, help you sleep better, help maintain mental acuity and help stave off diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. Running can also help reduce depression, anxiety and stress. And, let’s not forget all the great social benefits of running. You meet so many great people through running who become fast and wonderful friends. Personally, I have found that in addition to helping me maintain a healthy weight as I approach my golden years, running makes me feel good about myself: I know I’m healthy, I know I look younger than my age and I know I can do so many physical things that a lot of people my age can’t. The greatest benefit to me, though, is the number good friends, fellow runners and athletes, I have made along the way.
  15. What made you decide to start coaching? Honestly, I don’t even think it was originally my idea. Once I got comfortable in my own running routine, and with my training and racing, I started reaching out to others (friends and family) who expressed an interest (any interest) in running. I helped several friends become runners – guiding them through buying the proper shoes, how much/how fast/when to run, nutrition, cross-training, you name it. I even ran with them in their first 5Ks. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I started working with my neighbor (who is now one of my best friends and a running success story), that the subject came up. She told me repeatedly that I should become a running coach, and I could (maybe) get paid to do what I’d been doing for years for free. She planted a seed, and it grew. I asked my husband what he thought and, more important, would he be my technical advisor/partner? He said sure, and C2 was born.
  16. How can coaching more smoothly transition for others what you had to figure out yourself? Simply put, working with a coach takes all the guesswork out of the entire process. The coach develops a training plan, the runner follows it. The runner has a question, the coach can answer it. There is no dangerous trial-and-error that can cause pain, injury or, worse, destroy a beginner’s desire to continue.
  17. How can coaching help those who want to start running or help runners who want to train to race? Running may be a simple sport, but there is a lot that you need to know before you even start. And, unfortunately, there is a lot of bad information out there, especially on the internet. With someone to guide them, people can begin a running program armed with the information they need to succeed. The average Joe/Jane will have to ease into running by building time and distance gradually, will have to make sure they are properly fueled, and make sure they rest and recover adequately. A good coach will build a plan for each individual based on their ability at the beginning of the journey, taking into account their motivation and goals, and their commitment to achieving those goals. If the goal is just to run for health and happiness, that’s where the coach will take them. If the goal is to train for a 5K or a half marathon, that plan will have a very different feel. If someone just wants to get faster, again the plan will be different.
  18. Who would benefit from coaching? Almost everyone, but beginning runners especially. Ken and I have experience in every distance up to and including 26.2, but we especially like to work with beginners of all ages. Beginners are the most vulnerable and the most likely to quit because they get injured or discouraged. Beginners need the most guidance, the most encouragement, but they also show the fastest improvement, which is the world’s greatest motivator. This is not to say that we only want to work with beginners; we are ready and able to help anyone who wants to improve their game, one step at a time.
  19. What should potential runners discuss with their doctors before taking up the activity? In general, someone should make sure they are healthy enough to withstand the rigors of cardio exercise. Also, if a person is severely overweight, they should work with their doctor to lose at least some weight before starting an exercise program that requires repetitive pounding of the joints. And, by the way, if your doctor says that running is bad for you, find a new doctor.
  20. How do you help people design and achieve their goals? By asking a lot of questions. All new clients complete an information sheet which covers everything from their current physical condition to what their short- and long-term goals are. We ask them what they eat, what they do for fun, what concerns they have, and we ask them to describe their ideal coaching situation. We take into consideration how much time they can devote to training and, if they have their eye on a particular event, we make sure there is enough time to train for it. Every training plan we design is unique, tailored to each person’s abilities and goals; there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all training plan. All of our training programs incorporate cross-training and, if they request it, nutrition guidelines, because successful running is not done in a vacuum.
  21. What are the top facts people don’t know about running and racing that you wish someone had told you before you got started? I wish someone had told me that you will not be successful overnight – that it will take time and persistence – but in the end that persistence will pay off. So many people get frustrated and discouraged because they compare themselves to the elites running in the Boston Marathon or the Olympics. They need to be reminded that those are the one-percenters … that the vast majority of runners are ordinary people. I also wish someone had told me that there is nothing like the feeling of accomplishment you get from crossing your very first finish line, and that feeling is the same whether you are fast or slow, first or last. No one wants to be slow or last, but in a race everyone runs the same distance. If you get to the finish line, you have succeeded. There’s a world of information out there about running, and the saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” certainly applies. If you don’t know what to ask, you will never get the answers you need. That can mean the difference between running success and failure.
  22. What is the biggest misconception people have about running? Without a doubt it is that running will ruin your knees. The truth is people who run (or do other types of resistance training) have fewer joint (and overall health) issues than those who choose not to exercise.
  23. What do you wish people knew about running coaches and the process of working with them? Two things, actually, about coaches in general: 1) Coaches are teachers. There are good ones and there are not-so-good ones, and 2) Coaches are not cheap, but a good one is worth the money. Anyone can say they’re a coach, print up some business cards and self-promote. A good coach is more than someone who has been doing a particular activity for a number of years; it is someone who has the experience and knowledge, along with the ability to impart that knowledge to others in a way that they will understand and be able to put into practice. The process of working with a coach is exactly that: a process. Everyone starts at the beginning, no matter where that beginning is, and works towards a goal, no matter what that goal is. A good coach will encourage feedback, be accessible, and not be afraid to modify the plan if it is warranted.
  24. How can people evaluate a running coach to know it’s a good match for them? If the coach spends the entire first meeting talking about him- or herself, that is not a good match. Seriously, though, the only way to know is to ask a lot of questions. Meet with the coach in person, especially if you’re a beginner. You’re planning to part with your hard-earned money – that is really the only way to know if you are a good fit for each other. Ask questions, express your concerns, state your goals and ask more questions. If you don’t walk away from that first meeting feeling positive about going forward, you’ll probably want to keep looking.

For more information, call 315.806.5334, email C2LetsRun@gmail.com or on Facebook.

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