Tuesday Training Tip: Make Running A Lifestyle

Good morning blogosphere! I’ve decided to get more organized when it comes to blog topics, and it begins today with Tuesday Training Tip. This will be a weekly occurrence, so be sure to visit the blog regularly!

Today’s tip comes from Team in Training Coach Chris Johnston. He writes about the importance of making running more than a hobby, and instead a lifestyle. If you’re ready to make the change, I encourage you to continue reading. Coach Chris shares a lot of insight and encourages you to embrace your place within the running community.

I’ve been a runner for most of my life, having started at age 14. And for most of those years, I have been a competitive runner who trains with a purpose, usually for a target race such as a marathon, or maybe a series of races. For me, running has been a central component of my life; it’s something that identifies me to others and it’s also something around which, to a large extent, I organize my life.

Maybe this is why I bristle whenever I hear someone else, even another runner, describe all this activity as a “hobby.” That word just seems so inadequate and frankly a bit demeaning. It suggests something just taken casually, that I do when I “have the time,” and could give up at a moment’s notice and not miss it. When I challenged someone recently about this, his response was to throw the dictionary at me. Well OK then, I thought in response, let’s play.

According to Mirriam-Webster.com, the definition of “hobby” is “a pursuit outside one’s regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation.”

Taking the first part of this definition, “a pursuit outside of one’s regular occupation,” I suppose it fits, though not as much as it used to. I still have a “day job” working as a proposal consultant to government contractors, and that is my primary source of income. However, I am also a professional coach, at Team in Training, Life Time Fitness, and my own running company, Breakout Running. Right now the income from coaching definitely pales in comparison to my “regular occupation,” but in the past year I have taken a step towards making run coaching an occupation in its own right, and I intend to grow it into a full-time career someday.

Now let’s look at the second part of the definition, “engaged in especially for relaxation.” Do I derive relaxation from running? Yes, along with a host of other physical, mental and emotional health benefits. But is that the only reason I run? Hardly. I run to continually better myself as an athlete, and as a coach, to help spread the love of our sport and its benefits to others.

That leads to perhaps the biggest reason I find the “hobby” definition wanting. We runners gravitate towards each other and together form a community. I’ve seen it happen everywhere I have lived and run. We support one another, train together, sometimes compete against each other, and in so doing form bonds that extend well beyond the road, track or trail. The more ensconced we become in this community, the less likely we are to drop it like a hobby that suddenly no longer interests us. Why? Because even when we have rough patches, that community keeps us going, reminding us that better days are ahead.

In a charity running community such as Team in Training, the pull is even stronger, because we are all running for a purpose bigger than ourselves and even each other. We are teaming up to beat blood cancers, with our running being the difference maker in raising funds necessary to save lives. Talk about instant motivation to get out of bed early on a Saturday morning to train with your teammates! Is that something a “hobbyist” would do on a day when it’s snowing or 90 degrees and humid?

Where I am going with all of this, is to encourage readers here to think of running as much more than a hobby. It’s much more integral to our lives, and to the lives of others than that. In fact, I prefer to think of it as a lifestyle.

What does Mirriam-Webster.com have to say here? Well, it says that a lifestyle is “the typical way of life of an individual, group, or culture.”

That sure sounds like a running community, doesn’t it? We practice it on the individual level, share our experiences with a group, and build a culture around our shared love of running. And while we’re at it, we organize our lives around running; we improve ourselves, form new bonds, and help to create a better world around us.

Perhaps you have taken on the challenge to run your first endurance event this year. If you are new to running or have just a limited background, you may even still feel like this is just a hobby that you’re testing out. And that’s OK. We all try different hobbies; some catch on with us, some don’t. That’s the thing about hobbies; you can give them up if they don’t inspire you. But my challenge to you is this: adopt running as a lifestyle. Commit to it, not just to the training but also the healthier eating and sleeping habits. Let running, training, racing and your community of fellow runners assimilate you, and let the sport change your life. You will be happier and you will be spreading positive energy to others around you. You just might even make a massive difference in our world, whether or not you ever step onto a medals podium or win an age-group award.

If you accept this challenge, I guarantee you the sport will ignite your passions and make you an unstoppable force. And with that, I’ll see you out there!


Coach ChrisChris Johnston, a Team in Training marathon coach, started running in his teen years. As a high school athlete, he was a 4-year varsity letter earner, all-county (Mercer County, NJ) cross country runner, and school record holder in the 1600 meter at Hightstown High School. During his years at Hightstown, the Rams completed two undefeated seasons in cross country, leaving a legacy for excellence that has carried on all the way to Hightstown cross country teams of the present. Chris then ran on the cross country and track teams at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, where he represented the Hawks in the NCAA Cross Country Eastern Regionals, the Big 5 championships and many dual meets.

After his collegiate years, Chris retired from competition, but he never stopped running. When he reached age 40, he suddenly got the bug to race again. Since 2006, he has run 13 marathons, including four finishes at the Boston Marathon. As a master’s athlete, Chris has raced at virtually every distance from the mile to the marathon, and is a contender for age-group award finishes at almost any local race that he runs.

Chris first joined the Team in Training cause as an athlete in 2010, when a close friend was diagnosed with leukemia. Her treatment was successful and today she is in remission. The Team in Training experience was one of several that led Chris to consider becoming a coach. In the fall 2014, he joined TNT as a coach and successfully prepared Team in Training runners for several events, including the Marine Corps Marathon. In addition, Chris is a Run Coach at Life Time Fitness in Centreville, Virginia, and he owns a small business, Breakout Running, which is dedicated to personalized 1:1 coaching of runners of all abilities.

“For me, coaching is a way to pay it forward and to do a lot of good in our world,” says Chris. “I had a lot of help and support when I was young, in developing my own love of this great sport, and I have a healthy life today because of it. I’ve also seen up close how participants in our sport can make a big difference in the world. When we run for more than just ourselves, the power to do great things is limitless. I look forward to once again helping Team in Training athletes achieve both their personal running goals and their mission of saving lives.”


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