We all know how hard it can be to actually start running. Even with the best intentions, sitting in bed watching everything on Netflix will always be more naturally enticing than actually getting your trainers on and exercising outdoors. There are always apps that can help you along the way, but sometimes even that isn’t enough.
Shauna Reid was one of the many women who felt the same about running; she wanted to try it but was scared to actually go outside where all the ‘svelte chicks with bouncy ponytails’ would be showing her up.
Eight weeks after being convinced into being coached by her now-business partner, Julia Jones (on the left, with Shauna in the above picture), Shauna ran a 5K race, and the two later launched the very successful website, Up & Running, giving everyone, even beginners, inspiration to get up and running!
We spoke to Shauna about how the website got started, what advice she’d give to trepid runners, and why she can’t live without her Fitbit Flex.
So, tell me about the Up & Running website, and your role within the company.
At Up & Running we offer running e-courses and training plans for women, from walkers through to 5K and all the way up to the marathon. The courses have step-by-step training plans, video tutorials, support forums, plus no matter what your level you have access to an expert running coach.
That coach is my friend and business partner Julia Jones, whereas I’m the Community Manager. My mission is to provide technical, practical and moral support to make sure everyone crosses the finish line! I also manage the website and the business admin side of things.
How did you get into it?
I met Julia through my old personal blog, The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl. I’d written about my burning secret urge to try running and my fears about actually trying it… running was only for svelte chicks with bouncy ponytails, right? But then Julia wrote to say she was a running coach and that she could get me moving. I was skeptical, but eight weeks and dozens of angsty emails later, I ran a 5K race!
We became best buddies after that. We were both writers and expats (I’m an Australian in Scotland and she’s an American in Italy) so we had a lot of common ground.
Five years after my first 5K she had the brainwave of offering online group coaching. I’d never thought about starting a business before – I loved writing and hiding behind my computer, but that 5K experience had changed the way I saw myself, so I loved the idea of helping other people discover that kick-arse feeling.
We spent three months writing our 5K Beginners Course then launched our website in January 2011. The first course was a hit and I got totally hooked on watching all these women from around the world, and all different walks of life, finding their inner athlete.
What motivates you?
Making an idea HAPPEN! I was always rubbish at that – I’d start projects and never finish them. Up & Running began inauspiciously with a shared Google Doc called ‘Wild And Crazy Ideas’. We spewed out all the mad things we wished we could do, no censoring. Slowly, over the last four years we’ve managed to accomplish a lot of them – a book deal, a runners’ retreat in Italy, designing a training diary, creating a walking course for exercise newbies. The rush I get from actually ticking it off the list fires me up to do it again.
Do you ever feel like running is seen as male-orientated?
Not particularly. There are so many female runners, and lots of women-specific races and websites out there. That said, we decided to make our e-courses women-only as Julia had noticed a lot of recurring patterns with her female coaching clients, such as the difficulty they felt making time for themselves in their crazy busy lives. We also wanted to go deep and talk about motivation and goals, and making the courses women-only helped a close-knit community form on our forums, and everyone feels safe to share their ups and downs with honesty and humour.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into running but aren’t sure about it?
We have a four part formula for getting started…
1. Choose a training plan – having a structure and knowing exactly what you need to do and when will help you stay on track
2. Tap into your motivations – Why do you want to do this? What will inspire you to get out for your workout, even when the weather is appalling? It could be to feel a runners high, or to be able to run round with your kids, or you want to feel strong and foxy… make it something personal that stirs the emotions.
3. Set a tangible goal – so you have a concrete way of measuring your progress. That could be run 3 times per week, or to do one 5K race per month, or to follow your training plan for X weeks.
4. Run like a robot – don’t ask yourself whether you feel like running or not, just put on your shoes and go. Once you’ve completed your training plan, that’s when you can decide whether running is for you or not. But just give it the whole 8 weeks, one run at a time.
What’s your proudest achievement?
At our first running retreat in Bologna, there was a moment when I came up the stairs and heard this loud, laughing blur of international accents. All these women who’d only known each other as forum avatars had finally met in person and were getting along brilliantly. I was so chuffed that all those hours of self-doubt and slaving over the computer had turned into something real!
Also, writing the Up & Running book with Julia over Skype and Google Docs earlier this year (it’s out in January 2015 from CICO Books). My nerdy heart will never get over the novelty of how the internet lets you meet random people and do cool things.
What else do you want to achieve?
I’m busting to create an app for our 5K Course so our runners can have Coach Julia in their ears, telling them exactly what to do on their workouts.
Do you have a five year plan?
While we do have an overarching long-term vision, we plan one year at a time. That way we can pay close attention to what our runners actually need and want, and create our offerings accordingly.
Planning is definitely an in-person event. We meet somewhere between Scotland and Italy in mid-November. We like Amsterdam as it’s an affordable short flight… and we have a favourite cafe that dishes up an amazing apple cake. We divide up a huge piece of paper into Sensible and Crazy goals, then each scrawl down our thoughts as we eat the cake. Then we turn that piece of paper into solid action plan for the next year.
Have you made any mistakes along the way?
Oh yes! The biggest clanger was when we published our Running Diary. We launched with Christmas shoppers in mind, and only after dozens of orders had gone out around the world did I see that despite my hours of proofing, some key pages were missing. I felt like a stinking failure and convinced I’d ruined everyone’s Christmas.
But after a tearful Skype with Julia and a large glass of wine, I learned some very valuable (albeit expensive) lessons. Firstly, that perfection isn’t possible. I really had thought up until that point that anything less than perfect was unacceptable. Secondly, if you are honest about your mistakes and rectify them immediately, your clients are totally understanding. And finally, when there are only two of you running a business you cannot do everything. You need to reach out for help… and proofreading is something that’s very easy to get help with!
How do you deal with criticism and setbacks?
It may be the running endorphins but the criticism we’ve had is largely constructive. We’re always tweaking our courses based on comments and ideas from our runners. In the early days I’d be devastated if someone spotted so much as a broken link, but now I welcome feedback as I want to make our stuff better and better.
What five apps couldn’t you live without?
You Need A Budget – this budget tracker worked wonders on my sloppy spending habits
Redbooth – to keep my To Dos tidy and synced
Kindle – that cosy feeling of knowing there’s always a book close by
TripIt -the geeky joy of having all your travel plans in one place
FMC – to know exactly when I’ll be cranky every month
What phone do you have an why did you pick it?
I have a creaky iPhone 4 which I’m trying to nurse along until the iPhone 6 comes out. I previously had an iPhone 3 that I accidentally put through a 40 degree wash. I went back to an old Nokia for about six months before I cracked. I missed tracking life’s minutiae a gazillion apps!
Aside from your phone, which piece of tech do you rely on the most?
My Fitbit, to remind me when I’m doing too much writing about exercise instead of doing actual exercise. I’m on my second one now as I put the first through the wash (hmm, a pattern). I’m hoping they’ll come out with a new wristband model with step display, like the recalled Force. My iPhone 4 is too old to sync a Fitbit on the go, so I spend all day rummaging around in my bra to check the step count.
How do you deal with haters, trolls and other internet nasties?
Breathe and Delete! I learned this the hard way from my first book, when a one-star review sent me into a cave of gloom for a week. I’d had lots of positive feedback but all I could think about was the stinker than I could recite by heart.
With Up & Running I’ve accepted that the occasional troll is the by-product putting yourself out there online. I’ve learned to focus on the nice folks who are impatiently waiting for us to launch our next thing. I picture their faces when we’re in writing mode. If I focused on the nasties I’d never finish anything!