Noshers, meet Corinne. She’s a coach at Mile High Run Club, NYC’s foremost running club and one of our newest retail partners. I met Corinne at a demo I was doing at their NoHo location and was immediately drawn to her: she’s warm and genuine and walks around with a unintimidating confidence that makes you want to be more like her. Once we started chatting, I knew I had to interview her to learn more. In this interview we talk about how a vegan diet (not strict) helped her recover from a never ending series of injuries, the unfortunate truth about disordered eating in the sport of running, a healthy perspective on training and competing, how to find what you’re good at (hearing that you’re bad at something), and hearing how she overcame a great loss.
Side note and not at all promotional: I LOVED Corinne’s running class at MHRC. I highly recommend you take her class if you’ve wanted to try MHRC or are interested in learning to become a better runner. She’s got a wealth of information, so introduce yourself and ask her questions about running – she’ll give you the answers you need.
- Injury and vegan diet
- Starting from the beginning – a new coaching perspective
- Coaching & disordered eating in running
- Not afraid of winning… and failing
- She Irish Step Dances too!
- Training (for adults) vs. training in college
- Running gear
- Just keep running
Here’s our interview:
1. Injury and vegan diet
M: when I first met you, we got to talking about veganism, and it was right after I watched Game Changers on Netflix. So I was excited to meet someone who was driven to follow a vegan diet for athletics, rather than long-term health or animal welfare. Can you talk about what lead you to follow a vegan diet for athletic purposes?
C: I ran all 4 years in college, and so when I graduated I naturally wanted to continue the sport. I started training for triathlons a few months out of college and was starting to have some success there. I was running 60-80 miles a week depending on what part of the cycle I was in, swimming 2-3 hours a week, and cycling 3-6 hours a week. This was in 2015 and I was in the best shape of my life. I was 5th in the country in the duathalon: run bike run. And then I went to worlds for triathlon for my age group (inaudible). I was doing okay but I was constantly injured, even though I had never experienced chronic injury in college. I was definitely over-training given that I had a full time job. It was like a second full time job.
I started having a debilitating side pain and I could not pinpoint what the pain was from. It was a new type of pain. I was thinking, it’s gotta be something I’m eating because it’s in my stomach area and I would keel over at the end of my runs. I remember one time I was in central park and I couldn’t even make it out of the park. I got to the end of my run and I was like, I CANNOT get home right now. So I just sat down and breathed until I could stand up again. Turns out I had torn a few muscles in my abdomen area. I had tendonosis in my psoas muscle, which runs from your hip under your rib cage to your spine.
So I was feeling really bummed, but I decided I’m going to run the marathon anyways because I got into the sub elite group which is where they shuttle you to the start, you warm up with the pros, and you don’t have to wait in the village and I really don’t want to pass up that opportunity because I didn’t know when I would get it again. So it was big for me to run this marathon. The race was the first Sunday in November and the October leading up to it I had only run four times. I would rather be a bit out of shape than injure myself. The training wasn’t great but I had an AMAZING race! But I was completely broken after that. I actually had to completely stop running and doing any form of exercise. It was so hard emotionally and mentally because everything I do revolves around and running. Friends. Job. My identity. Who was I if I am not running? This experience shaped my perspective on running. I’m happier today and am performing better. Running is a big part of who I am but does not define me wholly. If I can’t run for some reason I’m OK. My success in life is not measured by my success in running or by my speed. Realizing this changed my mindset from that point on. (Because running in college was like my career so I enjoyed every second of it but I definitely didn’t enjoy it as much as I do now. Now I have a lot of fun with it. I invest time and other things so I invest time in my relationship and my friendships. And I go out more and spend more time with friends whereas before I had to say no to a lot of things because I needed to train the next morning. I’m still running pretty well I’m actually running as well as I did in college so maybe this change is OK ha ha.
Once I stopped running, I replaced it with physical therapy and some yoga and barre. I did this for about 18 months and basically stopped paying attention to details and found myself at my lowest both physically and mentally. Even though I knew what the injury was and was getting treatment, I was seeing no real progress and still couldn’t run. At this point, I had partially torn my oblique, I tore my ab, I had tendinosis in my soaz, I had persitus in my glute, it was just one after the other and a snowball effect. So I started reading up on this and talking to trainers and one of my trainer friends, Sharon Costelli, told me her story. She tried a vegan diet after an injury and healed so much better and overall feels stronger, healthier, and can work out with more intensity. I tried everything and had nothing to lose, so I decided to give a vegan diet a try.
I started seeing changes within a few weeks and I started to feel really, really good. For nine months it really stuck. To get some more information about why this diet was working for me, I went to the doctor – and this is why I feel like everything is so individualized – I took an allergy test. It turns out I have a light allergy to milk and to tahini. Finding out the latter was quite disappointing as a vegan because I love and relied on hummus. But these two things could have been causing me a lot of inflammation over previous years. Once I truly cut those two things out, I started to feel even better. It was very helpful information. And maybe it’s psychosomatic but in general after I switched over, if I’m feeling like I have some inflammation, I will be 100% on point with my vegan diet, and I’ll start to feel better. An entirely vegan diet might not work for some people but I think I have a pretty well-rounded diet which helps me get the nutrients I need. I get iron sources from a lot of different vegetables, for example. They really haven’t done that much research to know whether you can or cannot be vegan. But I really believe we are intuitive beings and that you know what makes you feel good and what does not.
M: I think a lot of people have a hard time getting in touch with that intuition.
C: I think everyone has it but I think it’s been masked by eating horribly over the years. I think we have the intuition but I think it’s masked by the craving of sugar that we’ve had for so long because of how much is added into our foods that we’re not cooking at home. So all of the sugar starts to change your brain. Refined carbs are not necessarily the healthiest things but it’s all about finding a balance. When you eat raw for a few days you just don’t crave sugar like that anymore and once you’re over that hump of feeling really badly you don’t crave it anymore and you start to crave healthier things. so I do think balance is great and is essentially every smart doctor will tell you have whatever you want but everything in moderation. I just don’t think we know how to nail that down. It also is different for all of us.
2. Starting from the beginning – a new coaching perspective
C: After I started working out again after my injury, I was SO out of shape. I would do 20 minutes on the elliptical and get exhaustion headaches. And it was an aha moment! I was like THIS is what people feel like when they are working out for the first time and it gave me a whole new perspective on my students.
M: You were able to put yourself in beginners shoes.
C: I think it gave me a whole new perspective on how I coach and how I see the people that come into that room because I used to think a class wasn’t exciting to coach if no one was running fast. I didn’t think they were trying. But now I’m looking at everyone with a new light and I think it’s really awesome that people come to class period. I don’t care if you WALK the whole damn class but you’re here and that’s all that matters. So I am trying to show that perspective to other coaches. Sometimes as coaches we think that people are not trying because they’re not improving week to week. But we don’t know that. They could be injured. I didn’t improve for six months! I was stuck at like 5 mph on the treadmills for like three minutes at a time. And now I can run much much faster than that and it took a long time and patience to get there. So it’s definitely an eye-opener.
MHRC Coaches from L to R: Jess Movold, Corinne, Scott Carvin, Mary Cain
3. Coaching & disordered eating in the running industry
M: When did you start coaching at MHRC?
C: My first job out of college was at a real estate investment software company. I was so miserable there. I ended up quitting my job 6 months after starting and found Mile High Run Club immediately after. I decided to stick with a career doing something I love. Around this time, and when I injured myself, is when I started studying for my physical therapy certificate. I knew a lot about running but I didn’t know much about the body and since I was going to be coaching a lot of people in group fitness I thought I should know about the human body in order to coach my students better. I learned the importance of strength training and will now teach that in my private training sessions. I also learned that moving your body in the right ways after an injury is an important part of the healing process.
M: How do you handle a situation where a client or student is exhibiting an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise?
C: I can speak with experience about this. With running and with everything that is coming out with Mary Cain (pictured above), it’s a hot topic right now. Honestly, it’s really sad that it wasn’t a surprise to me that they were telling Mary Cain to lose weight. She was on the Nike running team which is one of the best in the world, she holds a junior world record, and she teaches at MHRC. It’s VERY common in the running world to compare yourself to others based on how skinny they are and think about how that’s going to affect your race. Here’s a story about a friend of mine who I ran with throughout college. She had visited Korea for a few weeks and since she’s a picky eater, was finding it hard to find things that she wanted to eat. Because of this, she lost a bunch of weight. When she returned from her trip, she was SO much faster and as a result of her success with the weight loss, she developed a really bad eating disorder. Once I saw her success and how she was achieving it, I developed an eating disorder too. Once you’re at the top, and you see that everyone else on the starting line is eating less food to attain a faster pace, you don’t question it – it becomes the norm. It’s crazy! There were days when we would have five carrots with peanut butter the ENTIRE day. It was torturous. My friend was way worse than I was but she started running really well. She ran a 10K in 33 minutes which was the best in the country. And we were D2 but she was running D1 race times. There is a balance there that not many people can find and it’s a quick fix, lose weight and run fast. But then you look at Allie Kieffer (@kiefferallie), a marathoner with an a-typical runners body and she’s running some of the best times in the country for the marathon. So there’s definitely a balance but I think the sport hasn’t recognized at the top level that, yes you do need to monitor everything to take in. It’s like a pro football player, they really make sure they perform to the best ability and are eating really well. It’s important that we start doing that in the running world too. These girls and women who are running at the highest level are losing their periods and have bone density issues which leads to stress fractures. Those are the red flags. But if you’re running well, coaches don’t care. And that’s what Mary Cain was trying to bring to light: That this is not healthy and that we can still run well with plenty of healthy food. When it comes to my clients, I’ve maybe seen two people in my whole career that have eating disorders to the point where I need to pull them aside and say something. An eating disorder is a mental disorder so there’s a very thin line that I have to walk. With that said, I do feel that it’s my responsibility to say something because it’s a potentially life-threatening disorder. And I’ve gone through it and have seen my best friend go through it. Mostly I’ll hear clients saying that they love to eat, and so they’re there to run so they can eat. I respond by keeping it light and encouraging them to enjoy themselves. Everyone takes it way too seriously nowadays. Run well and do what feels good. I’m a very simplistic coach. I like to take the watch away and just go by feel.
M: When I took your class at MHRC, I did see that they were numbers on the treadmill to tell you what the speeds were for the low, mid, and high levels – which I knew were just guidelines, but I really felt like you took the pressure off of those numbers which I’m sure is what they intend coaches to do but it was definitely noticed. You were talking about the effort/percentage of speed to run at, and so I just went with that and how my body was feeling.
C: And to be honest, being able to pay attention to what’s going on in your body and knowing how you feel is an advanced way of running. A lot of people can say ‘I’m running hard but I can’t tell you how hard I’m running.’ This is what I call runners IQ. If you can tell where you are on the effort scale or if you know how fast you can run for certain lengths of time, then you have runners intelligence. If you know you can hold one speed for three minutes and not for five minutes, that’s good and takes practice. Not a lot of people know that and I’ll have students who run at the same speed from January to August and I’ll tell them ‘You know you’ve been coming for eight months now, you know you can run a little faster right?’ So that’s the fun part – I get to help my recurring students get to faster speeds with a little encouragement and confidence boost. I actually had a client, we didn’t have a lot of time together but she took my class every Tuesday, her name is Susan. And I said ‘Susan you know you’ve been running the same speed. Do you know that you’re actually faster?’ And she said ‘What?!’ And I was like ‘Yeah, you’ve been stuck at 9.0 for a long time. You look pretty good there and your level III is more around six minute mile!’ She was shocked but is now running at a speed of 10.5 mph! Someone just needs to open the door.
M: That’s what a great coach is – showing you that you have the skills and have put in the time and effort to be confident that you can achieve the next level.
C: And I really only do that with people who I see come often. It takes a lot to figure out as a groups instructor who wants to be spoken to and who does not want to be spoken to. Some people just come in and want to zone out and run and run it at their own pace and do their own thing. As a coach we play a few rolls. We are the hype man we are the knowledgeable coach we bring the science we are the cheerleader. I love spreading my passion to other people.
4. Not afraid of winning… or failing
M: when did you start running?
C: In high school I did every sport. Golf, Field Hockey, tried basketball and soccer, and did indoor track to stay in shape for my other sports.
M: I can relate to that! I also did indoor track to stay in shape between soccer and lacrosse season.
C: Field hockey stuck for me. The boys coach was very influential to me and I also knew him from school – he was my bio teacher. Sean Robinson. Since I graduated, we have been coaching high schoolers together in the summer and coach the same summer camp. But in high school he pulled me aside and told me he thought I could be really good at running and that I should give it a try. I really like to field hockey but since our field hockey team was so bad, I couldn’t help but think more about running. Sean was even telling me that I have the potential to go to college for it. I didn’t even think about college because no one in my family went to on to University. I have two older siblings who dropped out of community college after the first year, so I was the first one to go to school. With his encouragement, I gave cross country a shot. Very quickly I started getting offers from schools. I think running came naturally to me. I am not very good with hand I coordination. In field hockey I was only good because I was fast and in soccer I could run everywhere but ball handling was not my best skill.
M: what do you think made it so you were good enough to go to school. It’s not like you were in the sport for very long?
C: I think it’s because of how much I loved running. I loved running as fast as I could until I could not go any faster and that made my body feel so exhausted afterwards. Like when we would do sprints in a field hockey or laps around the field that was my favorite part. Just lapping everybody was so fun. I love the competition and I love beating people. It might sound shitty.
M: No! I love to hear that! I think we need to be admitting that more often.
C: I love competing. I have a goal to run sub 17 minutes in the 5K this year. I use these little goals to get better and as a way to compete, but I don’t take them too seriously anymore. AKA I am not disappointed if I don’t reach them. I used to get so disappointed in myself and it was not healthy. I find that the more I do it for fun, the better I am at reaching my goals. But I like the competition, because without it, I don’t find it as fun. So I am always working towards something. So I’ll tell my clients to pick something and work towards it. Whether it’s hitting a certain speed by this month or see if they can run a 5K. I think I’ll always be competing just because I love the feeling. I think I was always a competitor because I was the youngest in my family, I had to compete with my older siblings. My sister was an all-star basketball and soccer player. I tried it and was terrible at it and that’s why when I found running I enjoyed it. I was constantly competing and my parents instilled in us that you need to try to be the best at what you do.
M: How do you think they did that? What were they saying?
C: Haha well it was very funny. They had a dry sense of humor. They’d say ‘If you don’t win, you’re not getting breakfast. Don’t even bother coming home if you don’t get in first place.’ Light-hearted but serious. We can make a joke out of it, but at the end of the day it was to tell me that they knew I was better. So it was coming from a place where I knew they believed in me and they believed that I could be better than what I am. I have confidence in myself and I think it shows when I step on the line. I definitely don’t look the fittest but I am going to do my best.
M: Wow. That’s such a nice story. That is special to have parents like that.
C: I feel pretty lucky that I had two parents like mine. We didn’t grow up the wealthiest, but they supported me and we made ends meet however we had to. And I feel like to grow up with a support system that wasn’t happy if I came in 70th place! Right now our society has a mentality that if you come in last place that you’re a winner as long as you did your best. Well actually you’re not a winner! And it’s okay to lose! I’ve lost several times in my life and that’s okay! But I worked towards being the best that I can be and if I still wasn’t good, I tried something new until I found something I was actually really good at! I think nowadays everyone needs to be a winner to boost peoples egos, which I think came from a good place, where on social media there’s a lot of bullying and so many other ways kids can get brought down, but I don’t feel like it’s the healthiest way to boost kids back up.
M: It’s also showing you that you don’t have to work hard to get something
C: Yes exactly. It’s showing you that you will win no matter what, so you don’t have to search for the thing you’re really good at or try your best. I really searched for the thing I was good at. I was bad at a lot of things and I found the one thing I was good at, and I built my whole life around that.
5. She Irish Step Dances too!
M: Where are you from?
C: North Jersey. Morris County. My mom is an actor so I get the flair for the dramatic from her.
M: So I figured out from your Instagram page that you do Irish step dancing?! Tell me about that! (By the way readers, it's step dancing, not line dancing!)
C: I did Irish step dancing from 10 to 14 years old, but had to stop when I was getting serious about sports. My dad is 100% Irish and was a part of the Friendly Saints of St. Patrick’s. He would set up the Saint Paddy’s day parade in Morristown, NJ. I used to play the drums and a bag pipe in the band in the parade! And I wore a quilt! I would always see girls doing the Irish step dancing and always really wanted to do it. My dad passed away in 2017, which is when I got back into it. Now you’ll find me line dancing every and Thursday night, usually with a Guiness in my hand!
6. Training (for adults) vs. training in college
M: The injury that you got after college, why do you think you got it after college instead of during college when all you were doing was training?
C: I think mostly it was that I had a big team and resources around me in college and my only two jobs were running and school. I slept a lot, saw the physical therapist a lot, sat in an ice tub every day, and got in strength training.
M: It is so much harder when you’re on your own as an adult to do all of these things
C: Once I graduated, I didn’t have anyone telling me I needed to be in the strength room two days a week. I wasn’t recovering well or sleeping well. I was getting 6 hours of sleep instead of 9 to 10 hours of sleep. I was left to my own devices and was just go, go, go! To do my best to avoid any future injuries and be able to run my best, I am building a team around me, similar to what I had in college. I have an acupuncturist, a physical therapist, who doubles as my trainer. He gives me my strength work. I do my own running plan and if I choose to be competitive again I would probably go back to John Henwood.
7. Running gear
M: What are your tips when staying warm while running?
C: It’s the gear. I used to run in the cheapest stuff in college when I had no money. Stay away from cotton if you can. When you can invest in running gear, do it because it’s so much better and you’re actually going to be more excited to go out and run. For me I always wear a vest. The ones from Uniqlo are thin but warm, light and cheap. You can put all your stuff in the pockets. I wear a headband. When my head gets hot I take it down. I always keep my gloves on. I have fold over gloves that block the wind and are waterproof. They’re definitely not cheap, but they last a long time. I get the cheap throwaway gloves when I’m racing because you want to toss those if you need to. Although I’ve never done that because my hands never get too hot haha! I also have a pair of shoes that are water and wind resistant that are good for the winter (not summer!). Nike Pegasus Air Shields. I wear those when it’s raining or very cold. And then there are a lot of layers – but I prefer thin ones. I wear a cheap brand called Danskin. I think I got it from Walmart. They’re my favorite to run in because they’re super thin and are very warm.
8. Just keep running
M: It sounds like you started having the injury right before your dad passed away.
C: It was actually probably 2 years before. He was pretty sick in Nov 2016 and no one knew because he didn’t tell anyone. That’s when the marathon was. He came and watched the marathon. He passed in the summer of 2017 and I was starting to get injured about 2 years before that.
M: I was thinking it must have been really hard to lose your dad and lose the ability to run at the same time, which seemed to be your happy place. How did you find your stride again after hitting a point when you couldn’t work out? What do you think helped you get through all of it to get to be where you are now? Was it a cumulative life experience? Or was it because you knew you needed running in your life?
C: When my dad passed away I was like, ‘I need to go for a run.’ Every time I would go for a run when I was back home, he’d go outside, smoke a cigarette, see me off, and be like ‘how long are you going to be?’ I’d say, ‘if I’m not back in an hour and half, send the search party!’ And when I got back he’d come outside and we’d talk while I stretched. So when he passed and I went for that run, I was very injured but I didn’t even feel a thing. I did the loop I would always do when he would wait for me, and I came back and I remember thinking that I need to get back to where I was because my dad loved to watch me compete.
M: What did your dad do?
C: He did telecommunications for a big pharmaceutical company but then he had a bunch of jobs after that. He was working for a contracting company doing all of the electric. He was the kind of guy that could build a house from scratch. Do the heating, the air conditioning, the electricity, everything.
M: Those people amaze me! Like how do you trust that you’ll be able to do this haha?
C: Well what’s funny is that right after he passed away, everything in my house started breaking down!
C: And my mom was like, ‘Everything’s breaking down!’ He was literally the glue to our house. At his funeral, I met so many of his friends from work and more that I hadn’t met before and they kept coming up to me asking, ‘You’re the runner right?’ Rr saying ‘Your dad talked about you non-stop and about all of your accomplishments.’ I remember thinking, ‘I need to get back into running and back into dancing, almost to make him proud.’ Now, when I run and dance I feel closer to him.