The Army veteran and 50-state finisher prepares her athletes for a lifetime of healthy, injury-free running, based on their individual goals and fitness levels.
Lynn Grieger has been a runner for 40 years, and has a long list of accomplishments.
Grieger, who achieved her 50-state goal this year, has finished 56 marathons overall. Additionally, she has completed several triathlons, 20 half marathons, four ultra relays and dozens of other races.
However, Grieger, a new coach with Marathon Training Academy, puts coaching over her own running.
“I’m most proud of coaching people to finish a race distance they didn’t think they would ever be able to complete,” she says. It’s more exciting for me to run with them and cheer them on than it is for me to finish a race on my own.”
Meet new MTA coach Lynn Grieger
Grieger, an Army veteran, grew up in an active family. Her dad was a high school basketball coach until she was 12 years old, her parents both played tennis and her mom played softball. “We were an active, outdoors family and my parents encouraged my sisters and me to always do our best at whatever sport we chose,” she said.
For Grieger, she chose volleyball in high school and competed in synchronized swimming in college — “neither of them very well but I was very enthusiastic.”
She started running while in Army ROTC in college “because running is a part of life in the Army.” Her roommate, who ran cross-country in high school, “dragged me out of bed early in the morning to run with her. I ran for about 10 years before I ever ran a race, and ran my first marathon right before I turned 40 just to prove to myself that I could do it.”
From there she started running one marathon per year with a sister as a vacation get-together. And “gradually running marathons became a big part of my life,” she said.
Inspired to coach
Grieger’s first foray into coaching was supposed to be a simple one. She wanted to coach a group of five women to finish the More Magazine women’s half-marathon in New York City.
Instead, she had over 60 runners who trained and completed the race.
“They wanted to keep running, and the group evolved into training for other races,” she said. “I loved encouraging people to reach difficult goals and seeing the personal and physical transformation as they trained for a race. Cheering them as they cross the finish line is a truly amazing experience.”
It was an easy decision for Grieger to join Marathon Training Academy. “I love working virtually with people all over the world, and MTA is a wonderful program with excellent coaches and a philosophy I believe in.”
Her coaching philosophy fits in nicely with the approach by Marathon Training Academy’s Angie Spencer.
“I want each person to reach their personal goals in a way that fits within their life, keeps them injury-free, and emphasizes having a whole lot of fun along the way,” Grieger explained.
“I spend a lot of time talking with each of my clients to understand their overall life goals, and how running in general, or a specific race in particular, fits into those overall goals. A running program needs to include stretching, strength training, cross-training, rest, nutrition, hydration, and sleep along with running.”
She also personalizes the actual running part of the program to the individual client.
“I like to mix up the runs so they’re interesting and challenging, incorporating longer runs, speed work, hill work, intervals, and tempo runs designed to fit each person’s current fitness level and to help them progress with their overall goals,” Grieger said. “I really want running to be fun and enjoyable, something that people look forward to and treasure.”
For Grieger, she wants everyday runners to achieve their personal goals, whatever those may be.
“I find that people often make running more difficult than it needs to be, and the idea of running a 5K — or even around the block — is really intimidating,” she says. “People see fast runners on TV and think that’s what they have to do in order to be a ‘runner,’ so they never get started or do too much too soon and get injured. My goal clients are the mid-pack and back-of-the packers who want running to be a part of their life, not their entire focus. By working with a coach they are able to incorporate running into their busy schedule in a way that is fun, realistic, and helps them become the runner they want to be.”
An eye on nutrition
Grieger is also a nutritionist.
Many people think that healthy eating means never eating anything just for fun, or because it tastes amazing. But Grieger says that is a misconception.
“I love Ellyn Satter’s definition of normal eating: Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied,” she said.
“It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it — not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life. In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.
“This is the way I eat, and the way I encourage my clients think about healthy eating throughout the year.
“I encourage people to focus on the ‘why’ of their goals,” Grieger said. “Why do they want to lose weight? How will losing weight affect their lives? Why is this important to them? When we understand the deep-seated reasons for making a resolution to change our habits, we’re reinforcing why making those changes is important to us. We often stop at the first reason that pops into our mind to make a change: I should exercise. I want to wear a smaller clothes size, Running a half-marathon sounds like fun. Dig deeper to understand what really motivates you to make a change, and you’ll move from “I should do …” to “I can’t wait to …”
‘Spreading the fun of running’
Grieger and her husband love to travel by motorcycle.
“My husband rides a BMW motorcycle, and I’m the pillion rider,” she said. “We’ve ridden the motorcycle to several marathons, traveling over 2,000 miles this summer for a marathon in Portland, Ore. It can be a challenge to get on — and off — the bike after a race!”
For her own goals, Grieger wants to continue to “enjoy running injury-free, keep running as fast as I can, travel to races around the world (I’m running the Rock n Roll half in Dublin, Ireland in August), do more trail races, and complete my first ultra distance.” She plans on doing the Whiskey Basin 57K in her hometown of Prescott, Ariz., on April 8, 2017.
Also on her list: the Berlin Marathon, the Great Wall of China Half-Marathon and two races in Vermont, the Shires Marathon and Maple Leaf Half-Marathon. “I was on the race committees for both of these races for several years so I was never able to actually run these races even though I’ve run each of the courses countless times with training groups.”
But most importantly, she notes, is her coaching clients.
“I’m looking forward to working with the MTA team and spread the fun of running,” she emphasized. “I want to reach those folks who think that they can never be a ‘real runner’ and help them cross the finish line and feel so good they immediately sign up for another race.”
Hometown: I’ve lived in Prescott, Ariz., at one mile elevation about halfway between Phoenix and Flagstaff, for the past three years. It’s considered high desert, so we have snow, cactus and lots of sunshine. Before that I lived in southwestern Vermont for 21 years. I grew up in Valparaiso, Ind., and also lived in Augsburg, Germany, for three years when I was in the Army.
Number of years running: 40
How many miles a week do you typically run: 30-50 depending on what race I’m training for.
Point of pride: I’m most proud of coaching people to finish a race distance they didn’t think they would ever be able to complete. It’s more exciting for me to run with them and cheer them on than it is for me to finish a race on my own. I’m thrilled that I finished the 50 states plus D.C. in 2016, but really it’s just determination and stubbornness that lead to reaching that goal. Plus a very understanding family and husband who don’t mind taking vacations to a state so I could run a marathon.
Favorite race distance: I don’t have a favorite distance and enjoy each one for various reasons. I really enjoy traveling to new places for a race, and participating in the Vermont 100 on 100 as part of a six-person relay team is one of my favorite race events.
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: I always eat a plain mini-bagel with peanut butter before I run. I’ve been doing that for years and it keeps working!
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: I’ve never run with music, and really enjoy running listening to the sound of the wind in the trees and my own breath. I’ve been known to sing Army running chants toward the end of marathons to motivate myself and anyone around me in listening range.
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: I use various ones: Pick it up; dig deep; you’ve got this. I also wear an angel pin in memory of Gail Harwood, a dear friend and member of the Training for More running group in Vermont who lost her battle with breast cancer in 2014. Gail and I ran many races together, laughing and telling stories along the way. When she couldn’t run any more, she walked a marathon. When she couldn’t walk that distance, she rode her bike alongside us. And when she couldn’t ride, she cheered us on and made us believe in ourselves. When I’m struggling in a race, I talk to Gail and she keeps me going.
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
• Twitter @healthcoachlynn
• MTA Member’s Facebook Group