A Runner’s Hands Forge a Fitness Community

Posted by: Natalie Chladek
Global Newsroom

Ask a runner about his tools of the trade, and he will tell you about his … hands.

Yes, it is Chris Clark’s feet that carry him through the streets of Chicago as a devoted member of November Project and from San Francisco to Napa, Calif., as part of an Ultra Reebok Ragnar Relay team.

But it is his hands that tell his story of finding community in fitness.

“My hands have been tools for trade, hobbies, exercise and entertainment, but what I find most valuable about them is their ability to welcome and embrace the warm greeting of another,” he says.

Clark is part of Reebok’s 2017 brand campaign, highlighted by the emotional spot, ‘Hands’ – an evolution of the company’s “Be More Human” platform. The campaign highlights how our hands tell the stories of our effort and hard work, successes and failures, and dedication to improvement.

For the Chicago resident, Clark’s hands show the toll of brutal winter weather on gloveless hands.  They also tell the story of his athletic pursuits and the physical, social and mental benefits that accompany them.

Though running is frequently a solitary sport, Clark has found friendship, motivation and a sense of community at early morning group workouts and sharing a van, a sleepless night and 200 miles with his Ragnar teammates.

“My hands provide assistance and affection for friends, family and community, while supporting my physical challenges and tests of endurance,” he says.

As a member of November Project, the free fitness community with 32 chapters around the world, Clark finds a meaning in fitness that extends beyond physical health.

“I had always been really bored with exercise unless I had a specific goal to achieve,” he says.

“November Project provided an environment that was so much more social.  The support that it gives, through the cheers and circuit workouts, is really encouraging.”

The better together mentality of November Project is expressed in many ways, from the high fives at every turn to the warm up of jumping and chanting that precedes every workout.

Nothing, however, exemplifies this more than the copious number of hugs that occur at each workout: as a greeting, message of congratulations or replacement for “see you next time.”

For Clark, these hugs are representative of how November Project espouses his own beliefs, and all the good that his hands are capable of doing.

“November Project infused some of the core values and attributes that I have in everyday life,” he says.

“Nothing beats a good hug, and I hope the hugs initiated by my hands help spread kindness and compassion to people the world over.”

How do your hands tell your story?  Let us know by tweeting @Reebok and tagging #BeMoreHuman

Endurance Coach Chris Hinshaw’s Hands Point to Progress

Posted by: Natalie Chladek
Global Newsroom

Behind every successful athlete is a coach, and for the CrossFit community’s biggest names, it is endurance coach Chris Hinshaw who has proven indispensible in guiding them to the top of the sport.

For Hinshaw, his fundamental coaching tools are his hands.

“As a coach, it’s interesting when I see photos of myself because I am non-stop pointing,” he says.  “I am very expressive in my expectations.  I put a lot of time into my workouts and decision-making into my workouts.”

Hinshaw is part of Reebok’s 2017 brand campaign, highlighted by the emotional spot, ‘Hands’ – an evolution of the company’s “Be More Human” platform. The campaign highlights how our hands tell the stories of our effort and hard work, successes and failures, and dedication to improvement.

A quick scroll through his Instagram feed reveals the same image over and over again: Hinshaw with one arm outstretched, pointing and encouraging his athletes.  The image has become so ubiquitous that many of his photos include the hashtag #fingerpointfriday.

“My fingers are all splayed out all the time, and you can see this tension in my hand,” he says.  “It’s always giving direction.”

Hinshaw’s direction has proven invaluable for his accomplished athletes, who have won the Reebok CrossFit Games multiple times and have even more victories at the Open and Regional levels.

CrossFit legends Rich Froning and Katrin Davidsdottir, as well as Jason Khalipa, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet and Tia-Clair Toomey all count Hinshaw as their coach.

Given that most of his athletes focus on functional training rather than solely endurance training, much of Hinshaw’s coaching philosophy revolves around the concept of efficiency.  Regardless of the level of athlete, Hinshaw makes sure whatever workout he assigns them gives them the maximum benefit.

“I respect people’s willingness to come to me and trust me to help them develop their fitness,” he says.  “When we go out and do something, I want to make sure my directions and what we are trying to accomplish are crystal clear. “

That mutual respect is something Hinshaw seeks in all of his athletes.  While Hinshaw’s most notable athletes are Reebok CrossFit Games champions, he coaches all ability levels, and when deciding to take on an athlete, he looks for one attribute: coachability.

“I get frustrated by athletes that have zero interest in the knowledge behind what we’re trying to accomplish,” he says.  “Those athletes may be naturally gifted, but at the end of the day without that knowledge they’re never going to build any level of confidence.  Without confidence, when I’m gone, I can’t help them.”

While his hands now help others pursue their athletic goals, that confidence played a fundamental role in Hinshaw’s own growth as an athlete.

A former All-American swimmer, Hinshaw competed as a professional triathlete for six years and notched several top international finishes, including 2nd place overall at the Hawaiian Ironman World Championships.

When Hinshaw first started triathlons, he was terrified of biking, and an accident during a training ride that busted both wheels and forced him to walk more than 20 miles home in his biking cleats left a mark on his psyche.

“It took me a long time to build the confidence, and my hands were such a big part of that,” he says.  “Early on, I gripped the bars so tight that my hands would go numb.  But I did develop an ability over time to control the bicycle to do things that I never thought I could.”

What was once a daunting skill developed into a major strength as his confidence increased.

“I was a good swimmer in the sport of triathlon, but I was a terrible runner,” he says.  “My strength which I developed and was totally a surprise was my ability to ride a bike.”

That sense of accomplishment and confidence in developing the skill proved fundamental to his success, and he now strives to develop the same in the athletes he coaches.

“That was the thing that I was most proud of, and it was only something for me,” he says.  “I went from something where I wasn’t confident, I was super hesitant, and I turned it into a strength I didn’t have before.”

How do your hands tell your story?  Let us know by tweeting @Reebok and tagging #BeMoreHuman.

Advice From an Expert: How to Buy a New Pair of Running Shoes

Posted by: Ryan Gwaltney
Global Newsroom

We all like to hit the pavement looking sharp from head to toe, but there’s a whole lot more to buying a great pair of running shoes than choosing the ones that match your favorite outfit.

We spoke with shoe expert Kris Hartner, the owner of Naperville Running Company outside of Chicago, to teach you how to secure your next pair of running kicks.  Hartner has been in the industry for decades, ever since his first job at a running specialty store as teenager in the 1980s.

Not only are running specialty employees trained to analyze your foot and stride, but stores also offer a premier and curated shoe selection.

“We only stock shoes that are performance-oriented,” says Hartner.  “They have to be able to handle the rigors of running a marathon.  We pick shoes based on athlete performance.”

Running specialty stores will also be the hot spot to find this year’s Floatride shoe for serious runners come April.  The new Floatride shoe offers an innovative cushioning system that is both soft and responsive, giving runners the feeling of floating through their miles.

The last thing a marathon hopeful needs is a poor shoe choice getting in the way of a PR, so Hartner dished on his five best tips for your next shopping trip.

1. Size Up

“The most common mistake is that people come in wearing the wrong size,” says Hartner. “People wear their shoes too small, especially on the women’s side.”

Feet often swell while running long distances, and running socks are often thicker than normal ones, so don’t be surprised if your running shoe size is larger than your flats or heels.

2. Ignore Shoe Envy

“People will come in thinking that they’re going to get the same shoe their friend has,” says Hartner. “You have to think of it like glasses. If you liked your friend’s glasses, you wouldn’t go get them and wear them around because they’re made for each individual.”

No one expects you to buy a pair of shoes you think are ugly, but the feel is more important than the look.  Sales associates will help you find an alternative that satisfies both requirements so you can earn style points and run fast at the same time.

3. Focus on the Feel

“A new pair of shoes should feel like a slipper,” says Hartner.

“We go about fitting people based on their comfort. The research has come back to show that even with stability, neutral, motion, pronation, and everything else considered, the most important factor in the end is comfort.”

Running specialty stores have technologies and expertise to help you find the best running shoe for your needs, but no one knows your comfort more than you.  Be vocal about how the shoe feels when you’re going through a fitting so you can find the pair that makes you the most comfortable.

4. Consider Multiple Pairs

“There is a lot of research supporting rotating out multiple styles of shoes,” says Hartner. “Two to three pairs in rotation will help combat injuries because different shoes assure that you’re not making the same movements over and over and over.”

Not all running shoes are made for the same purpose.  Depending on your workout, some shoes are better for agility and speed drills while others are more appropriate for distance.

5. Break Them In

You should be able to take your new shoes out for a spin straight out of the box, but take it easy before knocking out a long run.  Hartner suggests wearing them around the house for a day or going for a few short distance runs to allow them to mold to your foot.

“Don’t just run in them once or twice and give up on them,” says Hartner. “If you can give the shoes eight to 10 runs, that’s when I’d say your feet will get used to the shoe. After 10 runs and it’s still uncomfortable, then it’s time to get yourself in a new shoe.”

Most running specialty stores have generous return policies, so if you still don’t like them, take them back and find the pair that will help your PR your next race.

How do you find shoes that help you float through your runs? Let us know by tweeting at @Reebok!

How Much Running Is Too Much? Coach Nate Helming Teaches Versatility

Posted by: Natalie Chladek
Global Newsroom

For endurance athlete and coach Nate Helming, his running enlightenment didn’t come while crossing a finish line or reaching the podium.

It happened while he was injured.

Ever since he was sidelined for weeks seeing specialists for a calf and hamstring injury, he has trained, competed and coached differently.

“I thought to be a better runner I had to run more, and do other things less,” he says.  “That worked really well until I was doing so little of other activities that I had lost overall strength, some range of motion, coordination and connection.”

In the second of a series of videos profiling San Francisco runners, Helming explains that his goal is to change the way that runners train.

Helming’s philosophy stems from his own realization that putting in the miles wasn’t enough to keep him healthy and improving.  When he was solely focused on increasing his mileage, his body became worn down and unable to perform at a high level.

He began to embrace full-body strength training and started incorporating movements like push-ups, lunges and sprints.  As a result, he became a more versatile all-around athlete and a better and healthier runner in the process.

“It wasn’t until I brought back a much more holistic athletic lifestyle into my running that not only did my body heal itself, but I also started to perform on another level too,” he says.  “Since then, I’ve been helping other runners figure out this balance.”

Helming founded The Run Experience, a coaching organization based in San Francisco, where his coaching focuses on all-around training and injury prevention.

His training philosophy, which includes strength training and CrossFit WODs, is informed by an appreciation of all aspects of fitness, not just the physical.

“There is a huge social and mental component to being an athlete and to being a human being,” he says. “The worst feeling about being an injured runner is the isolation.  You’re alone.”

Helming has found that athletes train better together, especially if they are nursing an injury.  His versatility-based approach aims to protect his athletes from the isolation of injuries by spending time working on other aspects of their training.

“Just because you’re injured doesn’t mean you have to stop being an athlete, and it doesn’t mean you have to stop training with other people,” he says. “What I’ve found is that when my runners are injured, that’s when I want them in the gym with me the most.”

Helming works with runners of all ability levels, but he is continually inspired by their common drive to get better.

“You see how universal human improvement and performance is,” he says.

Helming still believes that lacing up your shoes and putting in the miles is still the best way to become a better runner.  But now, he preaches how functional training enables you to run your best.

“To get better, runners have to run a lot,” he says.  “But for us to be able to consistently run a lot, we have to be athletes.  We have to move like athletes, we have to strength train like athletes, and we have to work on injury prevention like athletes.”

What exercises keep you running healthy and injury free?  Let us know by tweeting @Reebok!

San Francisco Runner Finds Purpose, Health in Fitness

Posted by: Natalie Chladek
Global Newsroom

When most people talk about their dream job, they’re not talking about an actual dream.

It’s different for Chris Douglas.

A lawyer by training, the endurance athlete’s vision for a sports management company came to him in the middle of the night, in a dream so vivid it included the logo on the future company’s letterhead.

“I had a dream about starting this company that was going to be a hybrid of sports law, sports management and brand building,” says Douglas.   “I couldn’t shake the idea, so with my wife’s blessing I gave it a shot.  I immediately started representing athletes and representing companies.”

Douglas founded Presidio Sports Management in 2014 and currently serves as the president.

“One of the things that I’ve always loved about running is that running is so acceptable for so many people,” he says.  “All you really need to run is shoes and a door to walk out of.”

While Douglas was an athletic kid growing up and now devotes the majority of his waking hours to fitness, there was a low point in his life when that wasn’t always the case.

After he graduated from law school, he had gained 60 pounds and was going through a divorce.  His unhappiness spurred him to rededicate himself to fitness.

“I started training for my first marathon, the San Francisco marathon, and that reignited my passion, and it hasn’t stopped since,” he says.  “I’ve done over a dozen marathons, an ultramarathon, triathlons, ultra cycling and rough water swimming.”

The endurance sports junkie and president of the Golden Gate Triathlon Club finds gratification in seeing how hard he can push himself.

“I like the hard stuff,” he says.  “Flat and fast doesn’t interest me.  For me, the challenge is seeing how ridiculous I can go and what’s the end of my endurance ability.”

Douglas, who is also a new dad, is kept busy but finds fitness keeps him grounded.

“Now that fitness is again a big part of my life and something my ego is strongly tied to, if I don’t workout I become a cranky human being,” he says.  “If anything, it’s what keeps me most in balance.”

In the third film in a series of stories profiling San Francisco runners, Douglas explains how his dual passions of endurance sports and helping others drove him to found both Presidio Sports Management and Team Cancer Sucks, a nonprofit organization that helps cancer patients access medical care.

Since its inception, Team Cancer Sucks has raised $150,000, and 100 percent of it has gone directly to patients.

“We started Team Cancer Sucks as an alternative for people who wanted to raise money and wanted to show exactly where the money was going,” he says.

The organization allows endurance sports athletes to train together while also giving meaning to their races.  They recently partnered with the Lazarex Foundation, which helps patients and their families navigate clinical trials and also funds their ability to participate in such trials.

“Team Cancer Sucks has been recommitted to our efforts, not just around helping people access treatment but get screening and preventative measures,” he says.

Douglas has devoted himself to pushing his own limits, but his commitment to fitness has ultimately benefited many more lives than his own.

How do you use fitness to keep you happy and to help others?  Let us know by tweeting @Reebok!

Why Fitness Friends are the Best Friends

Posted by: Natalie Chladek
Global Newsroom

Whether you’re a freshly minted college graduate or relocating to a different city came with a promotion at work, many experience moving somewhere new and leaving friends, family and the comforts of home behind.

Once you figure out where the nearest gas station is and which restaurant serves the best brunch, the next step is often finding your squad in your new spot.

The benefits of fitness extend far beyond the physical; exercising can improve your mental and social life as well.  In fact, nothing brings people together more than sweating through an intense WOD or spin class together.

Even better, many groups, classes and clubs are free, meaning all you have to do for a good workout and a new friend is to show up.

One such group is November Project, a fitness community that began as a two-man club in Boston and has grown to include 32 tribes, or chapters, around the world.

“We don’t feel like you need to pay to be fit, especially in cities like Boston where you have so many resources you can utilize,” says co-founder Bojan Mandaric.

A combination of running and bodyweight strength training, November Project consists of morning outdoor workouts all over Boston, the most iconic one being the Harvard Stadium steps, proving the gym is indeed everywhere.

November Project began as a promise. Mandaric and Brogan Graham, both Northeastern crew alumni, vowed to work out together in November of 2011 to hold each other accountable to staying fit even as winter weather descended upon Boston.

They tracked their workouts on a shared Google doc aptly titled, “November Project,” and the project quickly became an exercise in proving we are better together.

To attend a November Project is the polar opposite of a typical gym experience, where each person is lost in his or her headphones, counting reps or tracking miles on the treadmill.

At November Project, bear hugs replace customary handshakes.  Many participants are wearing t-shirts and jackets with “November Project” stenciled across the front.

The group warmup includes hundreds of people bouncing on their toes, chanting the November Project mantra.  “Are you good?” the leaders yell.  “F*ck yeah!” the group responds.  Every workout ends with a photo, high fives and more hugs.

For Chris Clark, a Chicago November Project devotee, the community is what sets the group apart.

“What’s unique about November Project is how much people not just push each other but support each other, and that’s something that I think is really lacking in other exercise environments,” he says.  “No matter how they felt or what else they have going on in their lives it’s a place for people to go and feel good about each other and start the day off right.”

The morning workouts have given Clark motivation to exercise as well as new friendships.

“Now I actually want to go downtown and want to be in the city because of the relationships I’ve built with other people through November Project,” he says.  “Because of that inclusiveness, by being there you are assured to meet people who you know you are going to get along with.”

November Project’s founders never intended to make it a global phenomenon.

“We didn’t set it out to be that way, and I think that’s one of the magic ingredients,” says Mandaric.  “We’re doing a common sense thing.  Be kind to strangers, try to include as many people as we can, and keep a low barrier for entry.  Once you provide those things, everything else just happens on its own.”

When 1,500 participants showed up for the transition workout in 2014 when the founders handed the reigns to three new leaders, they realized just how unique the group had become.

“It just shows that it wasn’t about the two of us, it’s about the community,” he says.  “It’s about the people that continue to show up.  The leaders are here to motivate and create that beacon of direction, but it’s the community that keeps driving it.”

The community based on sweat, hugs and inclusiveness highlights the social benefits of fitness and can be the perfect vehicle to making you feel at home in your new city.

Think you’re tough enough to survive one of November Project’s brutal workouts?  Monday morning workouts are called “Destination Deck,” and the rules are simple: run to the designated location (if you live farther than six miles away you can use public transportation or drive), and the group will do a workout together based on flipping through a deck of cards.

Black cards are pushups, red cards are situps, and the number you do corresponds to the number on the card.  Don’t try to cheat on the ace – it’s worth 14, not one.

It’s an easy concept but a tough workout, designed to work your arms, core and all over toughness.

You can find your local November Project tribe here, or check out other free fitness events by looking up classes based out of fitness apparel stores or searching sites like Eventbrite or Meetup.

Have you found friends through fitness?  Let us know by tweeting @Reebok!