The Marathon Diaries: Opening Up the Stride

Sid and I got off to a late start Thursday, and when you're trying to cram in a workout before work, every minute counts, so we were scrambling a little.

In spite of the time pressure, we got it done. Before I started working out with Sid, I didn't concern myself with time or warm-up or drills. I just wanted to run -- and as a busy professional, most of the time I would give myself a gold star for just shaking the sheets loose, showing up and getting something done.

Now I have a little more structure to my workouts. Even though I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing when I follow Sid in these funny-looking drills, and even though I feel a little like the Karate Kid gone totally wrong, I do appreciate the work because I'm seeing a difference in how I run.
This week, we worked on loosening up my hips, which are crazy tight and definitely impacting my stride (it resembles the James Brown shuffle). We also did a drill which I call the Super Mario Brothers Bounding Jump Thingy (I'm dating myself) to help with opening up my stride.

When I run, according to Sid, I tend to scoot or skid along the ground, rather than hit the ground and bounce or spring forward. I do this naturally when I'm sprinting but I have a tendency to revert to a shuffle as the distance wears on, mainly because of how I first learned to run while training for my first marathon.

Now that I'm aware of it, I'm trying to change it to a longer stride, but it's just not totally natural yet. We don't have a lot of time before the big marathon, and the most important thing is that I feel comfortable running Race Day. Realistically, changing my stride will be an ongoing process that will continue long after Nov. 6, but I'm working really hard to change what I can now.
Sid also had me doing some weird My Pony prancy thing to dig my heels and loosen my calves. We also did a Four Tops Sugar Pie Honey Bunch side-to-side twist drill to open the hips and stretch the hamstrings. (Can't get some of this on camera, so you guys will have to visualize!)
Finally, after all those warm-ups and with me being in a hurry, I just wanted to run FAST. Be careful what you wish or. Sid had us run 800 meters at a 6-minute-per-mile pace for half a mile. He totally left me in the dust.

Then, we did 400 meters at a 4-minute-per-mile pace. I was a little better at this: I had a better sense of the distance, and it turns out I'm pretty decent at speed. I may not have been able to sustain it -- but I can kick it at least for a few nanoseconds.

I think I'm naturally better at sprints and said as much to Sid. He replied, "You work on the things you're not good at, not the things you're already good at." Yeah, yeah, yeah, thanks for the razz, Sage Coach.

On Saturday, Sid had another group to train so I was left to my own devices. I was given specific instructions to run 15 miles -- two loops on the bridle path for a total of 12 miles, plus the three miles it took to run to and from my gym.

Just like it will be on Race Day, Sid was not there but I could still hear him: "Hold your pace, girl! Pick up your feet!" -- and I did! It's still not easy, and I'm not sure I look like the gazelle-esque runners in Central Park who just seem to float. But I do feel a difference, especially on the long runs. My stride is opening up and it's more free; I'm moving more efficiently. And even though I am tired after a run, I'm breathing better.
Bottom line: Pretty good. I'm seeing results and I feel like in a good place for the race. I guess this grasshopper will keep hanging with you, Sid. Don't know what next week's workout is yet (Yay! A surprise!)... but try not to bust me too much!

Jennifer Turner is a veteran television executive in New York City. A certified group fitness instructor and self-proclaimed "fitness activator," she believes that everyone has ability, with the right tools, social support, and inspiration to be able to connect to fitness in an emotional way. Her mission is to activate that ability and to inspire communities across the country. Jennifer blogs at

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