Monday, April 18, 2011

How to Choose the Right Walking/Running Club For You -

What an exciting morning! Watching the Boston Marathon, for the first time. I couldn't of asked for a better first-time experience.  Incredible athletes with amazing finish times.  I can only dream of being able to qualify for that race, anytime in the future.

Since this morning and the excitement of the day - several of my Twitter followers (who don't run) have messaged me asking my thoughts on joining a local running club. 

As Walking/Running becomes more and more popular, clubs and groups are springing up everywhere!  It can be overwhelming, it was for me almost a year ago.   

Here are a few tips you may want to consider when looking for a group:

1.      Google “running club” in your local area or ask your Gym for recommendations. 

2.      Visit the club's Website/Facebook page.  What is their Purpose?  Fees?  When do they meet to run?  Location?  Are you looking for a trail club?  Then, you probably don’t want to join a street running club and visa versa.  Only can run in the AM’s?  Then, it goes without saying you need a club that meets in the AM.  Location? – make sure you have enough time to drive to and from with your current schedule.  Are they a marathon group or are there 5k’ers and 10k’ers involved?  Make sure the group matches the fitness goals you have for yourself.

      During my initial training for the Vegas Half, I visited a half/full marathon focused group.  A new person showed up on the same day who only ran 5K's.  That person felt so out of place (and rightfully so).  However, if that runner had done their homework, they would of known that group trained for Half's and Full's.  Oops.  Please do your homework on the group before your visit.  

3.      What are YOUR fitness goals?  To meet other runners?  To improve your time?  How do you think running with a group will help you?  

4.      Phone the Leaders of the club.  I strongly encourage you to get to know them.  If they are a great leaders, they will appreciate knowing who you are, before you arrive.  It also serves as a chance for you to get to know them.   If all they do is talk about THEIR qualifications – run for the hills.  No joke.  The club is about several people running together – and managed by a trainer/coach/mentor.  If you find the only focus of the group is the Leader/Trainer – again, run for the hills.  I have met so many runners in my community who have left their respective running clubs, because of that very reason.  Egos.  Any sport activities and clubs can be full of egos, no doubt (we are human!).  Don’t get caught in a club that is a bunch of self-promotions and disregard to the members needs.  A good question to ask the Leaders, “why did you start the club?” and “why should you join their club?” Listen to their answer.  It will tell you what their focus is and then you can decide if it is a match for you.    Then, ask yourself "why would I want to join this club?"  "what can it offer me?"  and "what can I offer the club?" 

5.      Don’t (only) read the Leader’s bio – find out what type of person they are.  You do this by meeting them or chatting with them on the phone.  A fancy bio does not indicate their leadership or management skills of a group.  Remember, the best coaches in any sport were not the star athletes.  Being a trainer and coach is a different skill than being a great athlete.  I have seen lots of great athletes who lack the ability to lead, manage or inspire others.  If you can find a great leader/trainer – you have the best of both worlds, but that is rare in the athletic world.

      What is the focus of the club?  To promote the club or to help you become a better runner?  If you are joining a club just for the sake of joining a club - that's not the club for you.  Find another club.  In the long run, you will want to improve both as a runner and as a person and it is enhanced by meeting others to help you achieve the goal.

      Does the club teach you how to run and race?  A good club should equip you with race day strategies and techniques.  For example, do you know how to grab a water cup along a race route?  (during a race - I found out the hard way there is a technique to that method).  Does the club teach you about race day strategies? (if you are a racer).  If a running club only gathers to run together...well, quite honestly - you can run with friends, without joining a club - especially if they charge a fee. 

6.      Do they offer Seminar’s and ways to learn?  (besides club runs).  Look for groups that offer you to learn about new products and new skills.  I have visited several of the clubs since the Summer of 2010, and I can tell you the most organized and fun clubs are those who offer education & inspiration for their members.

      Does their website offer information to help you grow and be a better walker/runner? 

7.      Go visit the club, run with them at least once, if not twice.  Experience the personality of the group.  See if you fit in or like the people.  Chat the members, find out why they come to that club.  They will be happy to share with you. 

9.  A club should support your fitness goals, belonging to a club should never be the focus your running, in my opinion.

If you are looking for a club in your local area – there is no doubt you can find one that matches your fitness goals. Remember, finding the right club can enhance your athletic ability - most importantly - have fun meeting other runners!

How did you find your running club?  I would love to hear your stories how running clubs have benefited your running goals.

Live and Run Strong,

Charlene L. Ragsdale - Las Vegas, NV
Half-Marathoner, Business Blogger, Public Speaker 
~My Facebook Fan Page ~Follow Me on Twitter

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