I joined REI more than three years ago to make a difference in the way people perceive exercise.
It actually pains me to use the word “exercise” as it has gained a negative connotation over the years. Exercise is not a “chore” to me, nor a “workout;” it’s an activity I do that bonds me closer with friends and Mother Nature, gives me strength emotionally and physically, and gives me peace to handle life’s occasional obstacles.
My happy place is trail running, and I want to challenge you to make it yours as well.
I didn’t know what my future held at REI, but knew I had to follow my heart and explore the possibilities. Magical things happen when you take a leap of faith. After three years on the retail floor I was asked to come onboard the REI Outdoor School program to be one of the Run Club instructors. (How did they know?)
This was my opportunity to bring fun and enjoyment back into running. I know the words “running” and “enjoyment” haven’t always been seen as words that go hand in hand. But I was here to create change, and I was up for the challenge. After all, taking the easy route is not exactly my style. If there is a choice between a steeper trail and an easier route, we are taking the more challenging—and empowering—route.
I knew exactly how I wanted to implement the Run Club. I focused on three things:
- Keep everyone running with proper form so they can enjoy a healthy running experience.
- Show participants beautiful places to run with less focus on miles and more on the experience.
- Build a positive, safe and non-competitive running community.
I had a leg up on the beautiful places to run and comfortable weather, as my family and I are based in Burbank, California. Just two short miles away we can be on the strand, a wide sidewalk that runs next to the soft beach sand and steps to the Pacific Ocean.
We also have access to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, which has equestrian trails, exquisite cliffs and coves that give a bird’s-eye view of migrating whales, lounging sea lions and surfers enjoying being in their element.
I know, I feel your energy. Somewhere in-between Pacific Ocean and migrating whales you were throwing your belongings into your suitcase and planning on joining us next week. But wait. You have beautiful locations to explore in your own neighborhood. I believe two of the biggest reasons people stop running is because of boredom and the feeling they have too many more important obligations that should take priority. If you are nodding your head in agreement I challenge you to mix things up by finding new routes on the trail, road and track. Sometimes the best locations are hours away. Grab a friend and go there when you can! It’s worth it and your life will be enriched because of it.
I am a mother of three and taking that first step of asking for an hour a day to run was harder than running a hundred-mile race with 22,000 feet of elevation gain. An interesting thing happened: The house didn’t fall apart, the pets were still napping in the same position, the kids didn’t even notice I was gone, and I was happier and more calmly able to handle the workload of motherhood.
Running is the foundation of a healthy mind, body and spirit that will help you accomplish successfully whatever your activities encompass.
Coming from this experience my goal was to create a program that was welcoming, enjoyable and diverse in abilities. We decided on a plan for a group run that wasn’t dependent on speed but merely time. The turn-around time was set at 45 minutes. This gave equal opportunity for everyone to run the pace that was comfortable for him or her. I witnessed a wave of relief after explaining this concept.
We are a “club.” It’s similar to being a member of the REI co-op. Our motto is: We are a family of like-minded individuals who support, protect and inspire each other to be better than we were yesterday.
Please allow me to share some of our successes and comments from REI Run Club LA.
A woman went from couch to walking a brisk half-marathon pace in 10 short weeks. She is not stopping there.
A mother and her two young kids happily join us regularly, rain or shine, and the kids usually set the pace for the adults.
A gentleman realized that his pace could qualify him for the Boston Marathon. Therefore we are training for the qualifying race.
A young woman is signing up for her first 50-miler.
A woman expressed to me that this was her first time running.
My friend who has completed multiple Badwater ultra-running events runs with us and inspires us to do more than we ever imagined we could.
It’s these stories and the relationships we’ve made that keep me striving to create a better program every day for my family.
Inspire me to reach my next mile by sharing your story below in the comments on what motivates you to wake up and run each day.