Using Life Experience to Enhance the Training Process

Gloves are to…Vibrams? Image via

I love analogies. Much of my job involves using them in an effort to help others better understand their situations. And here at SR we’re always using analogies to enhance running performance with our Friday 5 posts inspired by Celebrities and Pop Culture.

Recently, my new coach used a great analogy with me that inspired me to look a little deeper into my training. He pointed out that I took a big risk in going back to school to become a therapist, and told me I shouldn’t be so nervous about taking risks in my running.  High risks yield high rewards, after all!

Using coach’s “going back to school” analogy, I’d like to talk a bit about that risk. The training process in my career field is intrusive and anxiety-provoking. Imagine being placed into a 11 x 9 room with someone you don’t know, forced to use skills you have only read out of a book, and be videotaped for an entire hour! Then imagine watching that videotape in front of an entire class. They get to see you fumble over your words, talk too much, and make fun of your loud laugh that you never knew you had.

In the beginning, it’s often hard to tell who’s the counselor and who’s the client! Image via

Six months into my internship (the last stage of my graduate program), I began to worry I would never feel comfortable in the therapist’s chair and feared that I would never become confident in my skills. Most seasoned counselors say the first two years of practicing are the toughest, and that it takes time to grow confidence in your ability. And I’m learning that’s true; now that I’m a whole year into practice I can say I’m finally hitting my stride. I’m less nervous when showing up to a new house for the first time and more willing to try new techniques. And I even feel like I know what I’m doing–for the most part!

So where am I going with this?  Well, until recently I hadn’t had a coach in a long time. In college I spent three weeks on the cross country team, but gave up because I felt unsupported, and went on to do everything by myself. Where did that get me? Well, the fact that I’d been doing the same things and running the same times for over 10 years answers that question; it was time for a change!

Nonetheless I was hesitant to hire a coach and make that change. Over the years, and as a fan of the sport, I’ve developed my own opinions and was leery of any advice given to me because I thought I knew it all already. Turns out, I really didn’t know squat. I’m starting over now. It’s like…I’m going back to school.

My new coach is school and his training is the graduate program. Much like grad school, I’m going to be tested, defeated, and critiqued often. And my new coach is supportive but challenging, much like the grad school professors who pushed me to excel. I’ve only known him for a little over a year but because we share similar views on running as a sport I feel a real connection with him. Most important, he didn’t laugh at my outrageous long term goals… in fact, I think he dreams big too. And I get the impression that even though I’m nowhere near his fastest athlete he still believes in me.

The supportive coach with Pepper, Salty, and James earlier this year.

Right off the bat we’re actually decreasing my mileage but speeding up the paces. Ah, paces! I know, I know. This is going to be the first challenge for me. I know to expect awkward moments, personal failures and even a few tears. But looking at my training like it’s the start of graduate school puts me at ease! My experience tells me there will come a day where I’ll be confident and proficient enough to break 22 minutes in the 5k. And then when that happens I’ll develop even more, have more triumphs and more failures, and ultimately break 21 minutes. And then the cycle will continue as I break 20 minutes, 19 minutes, or even (go on, say it, Ginger!) 18 minutes.

Of course, there’s a chance I won’t ever be that fast, but I’m learning that challenging myself and breaking through the barriers of what I know is the key to discovering untapped potential. It’s those moments where you want to give up and then don’t that allow you to grow. The therapist I was four years ago at the start of my graduate program is a lot different than the therapist I am today. I can’t wait to see the runner I will be four years from now!

What kind of life experiences have you used to help your running? 

I write about mindfulness, mental health, and the professional sport of running with the occasional poking fun at the sport. When I am not running, I'm either helping people as a counselor or trying to make them laugh as an amateur open mic comedian.

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  1. Jinger, you are being totally realistic about furthering your ‘running education.’ And…you are starting NOW, at the young age of 29+ years, with Coach Glenn! Looking back, I wish I was being coached 30+ years ago – but, I guess I’m living proof that it’s never too late 😉
    One thing is for sure – you’ll get out of running what you put into it. I know already that you ‘got what it takes,’ as I ran with you yesterday and you ran well up those freakin’ hills! Everything will come together, and that’s what makes the process sooo worth it!

  2. Thanks Barb! It was a pleasure running with you yesterday as well as every Tuesday! You truly are an inspiration and I can’t wait to share your story with the site!