Sarah Bowen Shea: Building My Athletic ‘Shed’

Sometimes Sarah trades her beloved Saucony Guide 7s for bare feet in barre class. Photo: Sarah Bowen Shea

I am not a natural athlete. Flexibility, coordination, agility, speed and strength: None of those attributes come to me naturally, although at 5-foot-11 and 166 pounds, I can fake “strength” by my mere mass.

Yet I know that to have speed—something I achingly crave in my running races—I have to have at least a semblance of those things. So after years of solely running, I have committed to building up the other fitness tools in my athletic “shed.”

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 6 a.m. for the last 18 months, I have positioned myself in front of a barre and mirror for an hour-long barre class. As you can guess from my brief description of myself—long yet not lithe—no one mistakes me for an aging ballerina. I look like the former rower I am, with broad shoulders, mixed with the runner I currently am, with tight hamstrings and hips. Oh, and throw in a hearty dash of the mother I am so my core looks more like a pillow rather than a solid foundation around which to build.

Yet the instructor understands the limitations of my runner’s physique, helping me modify moves when needed and reminding me to drop my shoulders and firm my core. After more than a year in class, I can sometimes even self-correct—something I now feel myself doing when I’m putting in my miles. Relaxing my shoulders on long runs and engaging my abs doing strides.

In addition to these twice-weekly classes, I’ve started doing strength moves and agility drills after a few runs a month. This core routine is brutal (so far I’ve only completed it a few times, and I look nothing like the gal demo’ing it!), but this series of hip strengtheners is do-able and super-effective.

All combined, I think these classes and routines are going to serve me well on marathon race day.

For more on the Saucony 26 Strong program, which pairs up 13 coaches with 13 marathon rookies, visit 26Strong.com.

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