Meet our Running Guru, Elinor Fish

For those runners lucky enough to be coming to our running and yoga retreat in June, you'll get to be mentored by Elinor Fish for the entire weekend.  Here's a bit more information on this beautiful soul and fantastic runner.

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Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the little ski town of Rossland, British Columbia, though I spent a lot of my childhood in Nelson, sailing on Kootenay Lake and riding horses.  After many years of running, traveling and studying on three continents, I now live in Carbondale, Colorado, which is about 30 miles north of Aspen.

Why did you move to Colorado from Canada?
I moved here from Canmore, Alberta, in 2006 to join the editorial team at Trail Runner magazine. I met my husband soon after and we decided to raise our family here because it’s a fantastic outdoorsy mountain town ideal for raising active kids.

You’ve competed in events ranging from  track and cross country in University to 100-mile ultramarathons. What keeps you going?  
Over the course of my 25-year competitive career, my source of motivation has shifted dramatically. In the beginning, I thrived on the competitive aspect of the sport, and spent many years pushing myself to see how fast and how far I could go.

But more recently, running has become much more about managing stress and supporting my overall health. I have a chronic auto-immune disease that reacts to stress. I’m good at working myself to the bone and pushing myself to always do more (at work and in sports), but if I don’t take care of myself, I suffer immensely.

Not only does my condition flare, but I get exhausted to the point I can’t get out of bed.

Trail running puts me in beautiful mountain places and wipes the mental slate clean so I can do everything I want to do in life, and have the energy to show up for the people who rely on me.

Lots of people say that running is not a lifetime sport.  What do you say to that?  
I specifically wrote The Healthy Runner’s Manifesto, an e-book published last year, to dispel that misconception.

Running is one of the healthiest habits we can possibly have, and when you run for health above all, then you can do it well into old age. When I see stories about people running marathons in their 80’s, I see them not a physiological marvels, but people who’ve got it right: they not only place a high value on their physical well-being, they find immense joy in the experience of running.

Instead of running to achieve specific performance goals, when you run for the process of it, of being in your body and truly experience running’s meditative qualities, then you’ve just tapped into a bottomless source of motivation that can last a lifetime.

You do a lot of personal coaching; what inspired you to help other runners? 
Trail running helped me through dark periods of mourning, loss, deep sadness and discomfort during many transitions and disappointments in my life.

So I committed myself to understanding specifically how running makes us more resilient to stress. This led me to dive into a four-year research project (that’s still ongoing) to fully understand the science behind how running changes the mind as well as the body.

What I discovered blew my mind, and I want to share those lessons with other runners. My clients are runners who are broken, burned out, disillusioned, or desperate to have running in their life, but face many obstacles.

I help them get a clear picture of their total stress load (from all aspects of life) and how it  affects their health. Then we take specific action to reduce the stress and rebuild health. It’s customized to each person, but usually involves a combination of natural running form, nutritional habits, self-care and recovery, sleep habits and mindfulness.

That foundation of health becomes the basis for their running training, whether they run ultramarathons or run to socialize or whatever their goal.

Retreat participants are looking forward to your running technique sessions. What immediate improvements will they experience?
Yes, tweaking one’s running form can create immediate improvements in running economy (efficiency), endurance, comfort and post-run recovery.

At the retreat, we’ll talk about what is means to let gravity do more of the work. Instead of using muscular force to push them through the gait cycle, I’ll show runners how to align their posture to lessen the work load.

When you don’t have to work as hard, you can be more relaxed while running, which helps you not only decrease your chance of injury, but find more joy in the experience.

What are you most looking forward to running during the retreat? 
I’m really looking forward to Kristen Stuart’s yoga classes. As a mountain athlete herself, Kristen has a deep understanding of how we endurance junkies can benefit from the thoughtful, controlled movements of yoga. I began doing yoga with the intention of working on flexibility and core strength, but I’ve learned that it offers so much more. Yoga is great for teaching runners about how to find ease and relaxation in the face of discomfort or challenge.