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What does it mean
to be coached and loved?
Several months ago, Lindsey Hein was cooling down after an empowering track workout when an older man walking in a different lane noted that she should probably do some crunches because she was getting a belly. Hein’s response: " I laughed a big hearty laugh and said I have 4 kids, the youngest of which isn’t even one and I told him I am proud of my belly." She then gave the man her phone and asked him to take her picture. He did, and she shared it on Facebook along with the story of the interaction . When Coach MK and I spoke to her about it on our podcast last month , Hein reflected that she was genuinely amused by the whole thing - a little disgusted at the presumption, sure, but nonetheless quite secure in the knowledge that whatever it was, it was not about her needing to lose weight. Hein had, among other things, run the Boston Marathon just a few months prior, less than a year postpartum. She was really feeling herself that day, which gave her the clarity to dismiss this dude’s opinion about her belly as totally ridiculous.

But even she admitted during the course of our chat on the podcast that if the same thing had happened to her at age 22, this interaction would have rocked her foundations quite a bit more.

Now imagine that that was you. And that you’re not 22 but 18. And imagine that that wasn’t some random dude ambling around the track, but your coach. And not just any coach, but the coach, the one who wants what’s best for you and is only trying to help you reach your potential.

This week, the running world is rightfully outraged at the way Mary Cain was abused when she joined the Nike Oregon Project - the way Alberto Salazar decided that she had to weigh 114 pounds if she wanted to be fast, the way he weighed her in front of teammates and publicly shamed her when she was over his benchmark, the way no one on the coaching staff noticed her declining health or even reacted when she told them she had begun cutting herself. If you haven’t yet watched the video that was published yesterday on the New York Times, listen to Mary tell it in her own words .
When I was 18, I was 30 or so pounds overweight according to nearly every societally accepted metric: the body mass index, the sizes at the clothing stores my peers frequented, the rankings on the crew team. I was a rower in high school, and weight matters to coaches when they are putting together a “fast eight” - you want your most powerful rowers who will give you the most return, pound for pound, on the inertia of their bodyweight. There were not a lot of fat girls on the crew team; in fact I struggle to recall a single one other than me. No one was openly unkind to me about my weight, but the coaches didn’t mind ignoring me and leaving me in the boathouse with a workout to do on the rowing machine. Being the dead last pick every time was as insulting as it was boring, so I quit the team my senior year.

I have often wondered what might have happened if my coaches had taken any kind of active interest in me or seen any potential in me, and my assumption has always been that that would have been nice. Now, it occurs to me that I might well have been far better off having escaped their attention. If a crew coach I liked and trusted and looked up to had suggested I lose weight in order to get faster, how would I have responded? I suspect not with a breezy request to take my photo (which, by the way, is absolutely going to be my stock response now and forever more, thanks to Lindsey Hein).

Fast-forward to 30-year-old runner me on the phone with Coach MK Fleming, who was telling me that she wanted to coach me one-on-one. I was flattered, elated, and terrified. It had only been in the previous year, during my pregnancy with my daughter, that I had finally stopped feeling like every weight loss ad in every magazine was speaking directly to me. And, I didn't know MK, I only knew the way coaches had looked me and judged me for my entire life. If she knew what I looked like or how much I weighed, would she still want to work with me? When she asked if I had seen a nutritionist since giving birth to Ros to make sure I was getting my needs met, I slammed that door shut instantly, informed her that I was FINE. “Okay,” she said. I badly wanted to work with someone who seemed to know their shit as much as MK clearly did, but I assumed that we would reach a point where she would tell me to lose weight in order to run my best, and I was terrified of the prospect of that conversation. Of course, that conversation would never happen, and now I know that it never will. Not with MK, and not with me.

A good coach understands what a huge responsibility he or she takes on with every athlete. A coach who is invested in you is a beautiful thing to have in your life, as I now know. But in the hands of the wrong coach, either now or back then, I would be in a very different place than I am now.

I am so gratified to see how widely Mary Cain’s story is spreading. It matters. And I am so grateful to be working with Coach MK in the Fitness Protection Program, where we will never, EVER tell you that you need to lose weight to be a runner. You are already perfect and you do not need to change. Neither did Lindsey Hein, and neither did Mary Cain. Here’s to many years of happy and fulfilled running for them and for us all.

You are coached, you are loved, and you are winning at life,

Coach Sarah
PS: Coach MK writes THE BEST marathon course reports! Check them out on our blog here!!

PPS: If you enjoy the content I am creating over here, PLEASE forward this email to your friends and encourage them to sign up! I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your support as I start this totally new, totally unexpected, career change!

P.P.P.S. Did you see Coach MK's AMAZING photos from the NYC marathon? ? Click here to subscribe to her newsletter if you haven't already!
Weekly Podcast Roundup
Did you know that you actually do deserve an existence where you want what you want and feel what you feel? Coach Sarah urges you to forget lattes (well, maybe don't) and Treat Yo'self to THAT this holiday season.

And while you're at it, relish the easy victories and Take The W instead of telling us why you didn't really deserve it,

This week, Coach MK takes us through Shady Bitch Lessons 3 and 4 on the mantrapod: The Backhanded Compliment and The Unhelpful Suggestion. Get ready to throw SHADE, Southern-Belle style! And if you have a situation that would benefit from a Shady Bitch lesson, email and TELL US ABOUT IT!

On the Running Life podcast this week, we dive into SLOW BURN, the strength program we beta-tested this fall! We hear from participants about their experiences and discuss the ins and out of what sorts of benefits a strength program can offer a distance runner. If you want to give it a try in 2020, STAY TUNED!

And lastly, make sure you tune in for Coach Sarah's first solo appearance in quite a while on
#AskAway! She talks about swollen hands, easy effort runs, and losing fitness, and she salutes the New York City marathon finishers, from the first to the last.

If listening to podcasts isn't your thing, don't worry - transcripts and notes live on the blog!
If you have ever run a race and been denied a medal and/or a shirt in your size, e-mail us and tell us about it . We are on a mission to make it right, because you deserve to be front and center.
Do you like downloading things and yogurt for snack time? BABY ROS DOES! OMG, how was this three years ago.

The Maintain PDF is available for your downloading pleasure - check it out as you listen to the podcast!

Click HERE for the EAT Explanation sheets ( and here for the EAT podcast).

Click HERE for the EAT execution sheet.

Click HERE for Coach Sarah's recipes for running success.

IF YOU ARE A RUNNER NOT CURRENTLY RUNNING for ANY reason, please ask about joining Runner, Interrupted, now open to the public! Stay tethered to the running community while you maintain that space in your day and that real estate on your calendar for when you come back. It sucks to be a Runner, Interrupted, but we're going to have fun ANYWAY! (Spoiler Alert, there will be MORE THINGS TO DOWNLOAD!)

If you are RETURNING to running after a long period of interruption, you might be interested in giving our ReBuild program a try!

Click HERE for the ReBuild Puzzle Document that accompanies the ReBuild Episode of the Running Life Podcast (air date 9/7/19).

BE LIKE ROS and follow Coach Sarah EVERYWHERE!

#WINNINGATLIFE of the week!
Karen Sutton is #winningatlife bigtime this fall. Karen is a dentist and a mom of two in Herefordshire, UK, and she runs AND dances like a boss. Beginning with a cautious comeback from plantar fasciitis this year, Karen has been running strong from ReBuild to Maintain and recently ran her first half-marathon since her injury, finishing triumphantly despite the POURING rain! Karen is excitedly looking ahead to her first 50K in honor of her 50th birthday and feeling strong. This week, she ran her SECOND FASTEST MILE IN STRAVA EVER. "And," she says, "I was ‘only’ doing my 10k pace. Omg. I DO have a bag of speed. I am so happy."
Erin Harkness is #winningatlife in SUCH a big way, now and always. Erin is a runner, a mom and a speech pathologist from Huntersville, NC. In addition to all of those things, she is an expert at knowing what she needs on any given day. Erin has Crohn's disease, as she talked about on our ReBuild podcast , and that means she often finds herself unable to run for an undetermined length of time when her symptoms take a turn for the worse. She takes a deep breath and focuses on what she can do and gives herself grace to gently come back when her body is ready. THAT is the hardest work of all, and we are so lucky to have you with us, Erin!
To be featured here as well as on our Facebook and Instagram pages, use the tags #coachedandloved or #fitnessprotectionllc when you post photos on Instagram, telling the world what Fitness Protection means to you!