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Home » Conquer the stigma & successfully run no matter your body type with Wendy Coop! Ep43

Conquer the stigma & successfully run no matter your body type with Wendy Coop! Ep43

#043 – CEO and runner, Wendy Coop, talks about how there is no such thing as the perfect running weight. Wendy shares her running experience along with some inspiration and fun tips for others no matter your weight.

Topics Covered:

  • Being judged as a runner based on body size
  • Reasons to run other than losing weight
  • How to run successfully in a larger body
  • Simple ways to make running fun

Today’s Guest

Wendy Coop after running a 5K at the 2021 Ameris Bank running festival in Jacksonville

Wendy Coop
Wendy is the CEO of Coop Creative Consulting LLC. She is a former naval officer and computer teacher turned writer and speaker. She writes and speaks on the intersection of social media and ministry. In her free time, she runs 5ks and half marathons as well as hones her skills as a plant-based chef. Wendy is also a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and a proud military spouse.

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Richard Conner 0:00

Welcome to Episode 43. Today we’re going to talk about an important topic around the stigma of running in a larger body. We’re also going to talk about other reasons why runners run, and simple ways to make running fun. Hope you enjoy. Here’s what you can look forward to on this episode of Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast,

Wendy Coop 0:24

Due to my slower speed. And the way I’m built. Sometimes people will say all they see me running in the back of the pack, they say, oh, you should have trained harder, or after I finished that 5k Half Marathon day, I was talking to someone and he said, you run races at that size and thinking, Well, of course I run races, like why wouldn’t I run races? But that seemed to be a very odd question. So what I’ve realized is that there are a lot of people out there judging me based on my size, thinking that I’ve never run races before or thinking that I don’t have this extensive running background, or even running knowledge, just due to my size.

Intro/Outro 1:11

Welcome to Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast, whether you are new to running or seasoned. Get tips in the inspiration that you need to achieve your health and fitness goals. Now, here’s your host Richard Conner.

Richard Conner 1:28

Hi, everyone. Welcome to Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast. Today we have Wendy Coop as our guest on the show super excited to have her today. Wendy is CEO of Coop creative consulting, LLC. She is a former naval officer and computer teacher turned writer and speaker. She writes and speaks on the intersection of social media and ministry. In her free time she runs five K’s and half marathons, as well as honing her skills as a plant based chef. Wendy is also a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, and a proud military spouse. So welcome to the show Wendy.

Wendy Coop 2:07

Thank you so much, Richard. I’m so excited to be here.

Richard Conner 2:11

It’s great to have you here as well. So for our listeners, Wendy and I have known each other for I think a little bit about a year we’re both pot in the podcasting world. So super cool. I learned that Wendy is a runner and excited to you know, have you here.

Wendy Coop 2:25

Thank you. Yeah, I I am always down for podcasting, podcast interviews, I just like talking. So you just unleashed the dragon. Alright,

Richard Conner 2:39

well, that sounds good. I’d love to get into this conversation with you, you know about about your running journey, you’ve got a great story to share, which I’m excited to share with our listeners. So let’s kind of jump into it, you know, maybe start at the beginning of your running journey and just kind of how you started to get into it.

Wendy Coop 2:55

Sure. So I actually started by running on my high school cross country team. When I was in ninth grade. It wasn’t my first choice of sport. I actually tried out for the volleyball team and got cut. But the athletic director, who was also the volleyball coach, suggested that I try cross country running, not necessarily because I was a runner, but because it was a small team. It was automatic varsity level, and there was no tryout. So she thought I might enjoy it. And I said I would give it a shot. And I she told me the races were two and a half miles. And I had no conception of what that meant. Let alone having run longer than a half mile. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before. So I did that. For two years before, we didn’t have funding for team anymore. But I just kept running throughout all my sports and at the Naval Academy. And it’s a wonder they didn’t beat the fun out of it. And I still continue to run after I left the Navy.

Richard Conner 4:05

Okay. All right, great. Well, you know, I have a similar experience. And I actually started running in high school as well. I didn’t I started my sophomore year in high school. I didn’t start in freshman year and it was my first choice maybe by default because I didn’t think that I was really fit for maybe some of the other sports you know, I hand coordination wasn’t really my thing. So so this was something I felt like I could do and was you know, pretty, pretty good at it. Not great. Not super fast, but it’s something I enjoyed, and I felt like I was pretty good. So, right, we share that. But, you know, after high school, I did not run as much. I mean not for workouts not for fun, not really for anything. So it’s kind of cool that you that you kept up with that even through the Naval Academy. So like what, what was your experience after that, like even after the academy.

Wendy Coop 4:55

After the academy, it was more of running was therapy. I lived when I finished my active duty time, or as I was finishing my active duty time, I was in Bremerton, Washington. So I lived around a lot of hills, a lot of beautiful scenery, and things like that. So running was truly contemplative. And I, I just had a good time doing it. One point, I even had a t shirt that said, running is my therapy. I have an actual therapist, but I don’t tell her sometimes running replaces that. But after that, after I left the Navy, it became more of let’s find races to run because I need a goal. Because I no longer had the goal of doing well on a fitness test. i But I needed something to keep me motivated. So I just started looking for races. And I found the longer the better because five K’s are great. But a lot of times I feel like I’m just getting started by the time the race is over. And that’s how I eventually got to the half marathon distance. Because I thought it was interesting. I knew I wasn’t ready to run a full marathon. I still haven’t run a full marathon. But it was like the perfect distance to say, Yeah, I think I’ve left it all out on the road. And I’m good to go.

Richard Conner 6:18

Well, we definitely share that as well. I’ve run the longest distance is a half marathon. I’m not ready for a full marathon either. That’s something I’ll probably look at me be in 2023. We’ll see how this year goes. Maybe Yeah, maybe next year.

Wendy Coop 6:33

Yeah, I’m thinking if I can get registered early enough for the 2023 Disney marathon, which is about two hours away from me, then, you know if I can make that my first marathon. That’s great.

Richard Conner 6:45

That’s cool. And that’s going on this weekend. Right? I think so too.

Wendy Coop 6:49

But it you know, it fills up so fast. The virtual races are all full, all filled. So I just got down to Florida a little too late to really prepare for that.

Richard Conner 7:03

Maybe 2023 will be the year for both of us. I think so. But thanks for sharing that. Yeah. So tell me about some of the interesting races that you’ve done. He said, half marathon is more of your jam. So what interesting races have you done there?

Wendy Coop 7:18

The most interesting half marathon has probably been the Baltimore half marathon. So I used to live in Baltimore City. And I just all my races were pretty much in Baltimore, the Baltimore 10 miler, there was a 10k called the dreaded Druid Hills like Baltimore, people don’t realize it’s a very hilly town like they think hills, they think places like San Francisco, but Baltimore City is so full of hills. And so consequently, the half marathon course, in the Baltimore running festival is also full of hills. But what made the last time I ran that interesting, which was 2019 was that I also ran a 5k Earlier that day, so I ran a 5k in the Baltimore running Festival, and then an hour and a half later, turned around and ran the half marathon or mostly walked, let’s be honest here. But I finished and that was the important part.

Richard Conner 8:21

Wow, that’s amazing. I would not do that. I you know, have the opportunity to do that with Spartan obstacle course races they have these these weekends, the trifecta weekends. I’m like, I’ll just pick one race. And maybe just focus on that because like, imagine,

Wendy Coop 8:38

I love obstacle courses. I do because I almost when I was at the Academy, I thought I was going to be a Marine. So I ran a lot of obstacle courses. Because I and I liked that because it broke up the running, because sometimes it could be monotonous, but I have not done a Spartan Race yet. I have a friend who does them all over the country and I am still like I don’t know how you do that.

Richard Conner 9:00

It’s a lot of fun. And I’m sure you’re gonna have a lot of opportunities where you are you know as racist are to come back the in person ones where you are, there’s gonna be some good ones. So So check those out. I personally think the stadium races are a great way to get into it. Just kind of see what it’s about. But yeah, but the, you know, the real full experience are the muddy ones. So so definitely check into those.

Wendy Coop 9:26

That sounds like a whole nother shoe purchase so I can destroy a pair of shoes. I don’t know if my husband is down for that because he’s kind of a cheap guy. Don’t tell him I said that. He might say you have to buy your own shoes too, which I’ll reply No problem. No problem.

Richard Conner 9:46

That’s funny. That’s funny. So so you know thinking about your running career. You started in high school, running through the Naval Academy. Then you find these races 5k to half marathon, just kind of thinking about your journey. What would you say was it Then like the toughest thing you’ve had to kind of go through deal with during your running journey.

Wendy Coop 10:07

I would say the toughest thing has, it’s kind of twofold. One, I’m not that fast. Um, and I have finished last in races before. It didn’t make me sad or anything. Again, I was just glad I finished. But the hardest thing thus far would be. So I weigh about 227 pounds, I don’t look 227 pounds, I look like I weigh less. But I look bigger than what people consider the stereotypical long distance runner to be. I’m not tall, I’m not skinny, and that’s okay. But due to my slower speed, and the way I’m built, sometimes people will say all they see me running in the back of the pack, they say, oh, you should have trained harder, or after I finished that 5k Half Marathon day, I was talking to someone and he said, you run races at that size. And thinking, Well, of course, I run races, like why wouldn’t I run races? But that seemed to be a very odd question. So what I’ve realized is that there are a lot of people out there judging me based on my size, thinking that I’ve never run races before or thinking that I don’t have this extensive running background, or even running knowledge, just due to my size. And it’s only something I think I’ve become aware of in the last few years. Because I spent my childhood being a skinny person, I spent my naval career being a skinny person. So running in a larger body is definitely harder, not just physically harder for me, but mentally harder, because now I’m dealing with people’s unwanted comments and opinions about, you know, what I should be doing, or the fact that I’m not that fast. This one,

Richard Conner 12:03

thank you for sharing that. I think that’s a really, really important topic. You know, first off in terms of the stereotype, but also for others, who may be, you know, maybe at a certain weight and may not think they can run because of that right because of their way and get into running. So I think that’s, that’s really important that that you shared that, you know, how have you? I mean, let’s talk about the comments or the mental aspect of it for social aspect of first, like, how do you overcome that? How do you get past that when you get those comments? How do you react? Or what do you do with that?

Wendy Coop 12:37

I’ve remember all I think about all the people who have run faster than me, who are bigger than me. And I remember that running is about conditioning, it’s not, there’s no perfect running weight. In fact, in a recent issue of Runner’s World Magazine, the cover article featured, this guy was maybe six, six and a half feet tall, and he weighed I think, 300 pounds. And the headline was the dangerous lie of the perfect running weight. And I read that article, and it was great. And it featured profiles of for people whose lives had been damaged in some way by this idea that there is an ideal running weight, and that if you’re running, then you’re only doing it to get faster and slimmer. When that is not necessarily the case, people finish at the back of the pack all the time, because they just want to have fun running. So I keep thinking, if I’m having fun. That is the sole determining factor of whether or not I’m going to keep doing this because otherwise, there’s a million ways to get fit. I don’t have to go out and literally pound the pavement. If I don’t have to, you know, I could do kickboxing or I could do yoga, or whatever. I don’t have to run. But it’s fun for me, and I’m determined to keep it that way. And, and again, knowing that it’s not about my size, knowing that I’ve seen skinnier people come behind me and larger people go before me shorter people go before me. You know, it’s it’s about getting out there and training. Not, oh, do I weigh the perfect weight? Am I at my peak speed? Like, that’s not me. And it would I don’t think it’ll ever be me. So I try to keep those things in mind. Listen to my music, and just have fun.

Richard Conner 14:33

I love that. I love that. I love how you have your reasons for why you run and running is fun for you. And you mentioned earlier that it’s therapy for you. Again, not to replace your therapist there but you know, those are those are great reasons to run and you know, some folks may think well like What do you mean running is fun. Like that’s probably not what comes to mind when they think about writing but it really can be if you make it fun. So you know I love to get back to that topic in a moment, but I want to just quickly shift over to the physical aspect of it. Because you mentioned, you’ve run when you’re at a lower rate your lower weights, you’ve run at the weight that you are now. And it’s challenging, like what has been the challenges and what have you done to overcome them.

Wendy Coop 15:15

When I was a lower weight, I didn’t train, I didn’t feel like I had to train as much because I wasn’t moving as much weight when I was running. But now that I’m larger, while larger, relatively speaking, and I have type two diabetes, well, now this is an issue of MRI training. Because I don’t necessarily set out to run the entire 5k I, I alternate running and walking, and that works for me. But it’s just it’s become training itself has become more important than sides. Because at the lower size, I could get away with not training at 227 pounds, I cannot get away with that, because it’ll show up in my time. And I’ll take 5054 minutes to do that 5k. Whereas someone more fit, but maybe larger, could do it in 40 minutes, or 35 minutes or 30 minutes. So I know that I want to get faster. But I know getting faster means better training, not necessarily losing weight.

Richard Conner 16:25

Okay, okay, that’s really good to know. And then we talk about, like the conditioning and the training isn’t like specific training plans, or you’re talking about maybe mixing in like tempo runs and strength training, like what kind of training do you feel like you’re, you’re missing or would do to get faster,

Wendy Coop 16:43

right. So for me, I’m going to reintegrate strength training two to three days per week, and then do tempo runs along with my regular training. And I’m also going to start going out with a group, so usually go run by myself, I’m not very good group runner. But there is a group, that’s actually a nationwide group, but they have different chapters, it’s called Black Girls Run. So I’ve signed up with them, and I’m on their list and in in their Facebook group for Jacksonville. And I’m anxious for the next group run and we support each other at races in the area in it, it makes running, not lonely. But it also says, Hey, there’s a group of women of varying fitness levels that I can run with, who understand both the struggle of running and the joy of running.

Richard Conner 17:40

That’s super cool. That’s super cool. And to each his own, I mean, running in a group or with a partner is is is a lot of fun, if that’s what you like, some folks like to run alone, like that’s kind of their time, their space. So it depends on what you’re looking for. But that’s great that if you find that group that can help push you and motivate you and help you with the mechanics of running. That’s super cool.

Wendy Coop 18:01

Yeah, I don’t subscribe to, you know, certain person’s fitness plan or a certain person’s training plan, I just make sure that I get at least 30 minutes in, and then work on speed from there.

Richard Conner 18:18

And you had mentioned when we’re talking about kind of the physical elements of running at this stage, you’d mentioned type two diabetes. So is that introduce another element of complexity and kind of your your health and fitness and your running, or how was that kind of manage

Wendy Coop 18:34

at this point, because I don’t take insulin regularly. Actually, I don’t take insulin at all, it hasn’t produced a high level of complexity. I take my blood sugar before I run. And I take it after I well, more specifically after races, not necessarily after every run. But I just want to make sure my blood sugar is high enough to sustain the level of activity. I always have some fluids with me. And I always carry some fast acting glucose because running be an anaerobic activity, it has a tendency to lower your blood sugar. So I want to make sure that I always have something with me, just in case there’s diabetic emergency, but just the same as somebody running a long distance would carry like sport beans or gummies, or some, you know, fast acting carb with them. I just make sure I do the same thing with the diabetes. Now somebody who takes insulin, that’s going to be a little bit more complicated. But thankfully, that’s not my life right now. But if that ever becomes my life, then I know that my next step is seeing a dietician who works specifically with athletes, so that I can get a better sense of what I need to do to manage things if I’m going to be out running a half marathon or a full marathon,

Richard Conner 20:03

okay, okay, that that’s really good advice. I’m just thinking for our listeners, who just might be in various stages in fitness and various stages as it relates to kind of kind of these health challenges issue to know what to do, because they may not think number one, they may not think to have a runner’s body, or maybe you know, fit, let’s say to run, or they may have these health challenges. So it’s good to know like, there are options that you can pursue to take this up safely.

Wendy Coop 20:33 Yes, absolutely. Talk to your doctor, make sure you’re cleared for exercise, make sure your doctor knows what type of exercise that you want to do. Hook up with a group at the local running store and talk to the people who work there about any additional gear you might need. Do you need a belt to carry your goodies and things like that. And then also try to connect with other people who have similar conditions with that you have who are also running so that you can see what’s working for other people and to give you ideas that you may not have thought of before, because people like people with diabetes, we want to increase our insulin sensitivity so that we don’t have a high percentage of sugar in our blood. And exercise is very good at lowering those blood sugar numbers. It’s like instant gratification if you if you want to think of it that way. So I don’t want people to think, oh, I have asthma. I can’t run. Oh, I have diabetes, I can run I have both you absolutely can. You know, and you don’t have to run the whole time you run slash walk. You know, movement is what’s important. Just get out there and start. Richard Conner 21:51 Yep, definitely, definitely. And I think, you know, I’m really inspired by what you said, when you you know, you owned it, you said you know what, you’re not very fast. And you come in at the back of the pack. And you’re proud of that because you completed the race. And I’m really inspired by that. Because when you’re thinking about these races, you may naturally think of it as a competition. Well, if I can’t be in the top 10 or the top 25%. Like, why am I going to do this, I don’t want to come in come in last. And you know, you’re doing it for different reasons. You’re not doing it for competition, like we talked about earlier. So so I’m really inspired by what you said there. Wendy Coop 22:26 Right. And there’s always some coach out there, if your desire is to get faster, if your desires to get slimmer, there’s somebody out there who can help you do that. But also know that there are coaches out there who can help you if that’s not your desire. And that, you know, running isn’t just for the thin. It’s not just for people want to get faster. If there’s it truly is a sport where there’s room for everybody. And that’s one of the best things about it. Richard Conner 22:55

That’s great. That’s great. So I’m thinking about something you said earlier about ways that you can make running fun. And again, to some folks that might be an oxymoron. I like running fine. So now I’m curious, like what are some of the ways that you either make running fun today or thinking about it in the future?

Wendy Coop 23:16

Well, my first invested is music. So break out those headphones, air pods, I wear aftershocks that connect to my phone via Bluetooth, and I love them. And I create playlists for running. Some people like to listen to podcasts, and that’s cool too. Or they listened to an audio book. But the music helps me move faster, just like if you were taking a group fitness class or, or if you were at the gym, and you’re like, oh, this music is really good. I’m gonna like go harder or something like that. So to me music helps make it fun. Also, your clothes. So if you like if you like the way your shoes, look, if you’ve got these cool running shorts, and you’ve got some awesome tech shirts or whatever to run in. And those clothes make you feel good. Well, then it’s not going to matter that you’re at the back of the pack or that you’re running a 15 minute mile. It’s okay because you like the way you look. And you’re like I’m styling this is cool. Like, I’m just going to show everybody my style as I’m running around the neighborhood. People wear costumes and races. People. A lot of women like to wear running skirts like that’s a good fashion. Now people wear tutus, there are races with color, paint bombs, and like all sorts of themes. Like I think next month we’re doing a superhero themed race. So find a race with a theme or like make your own theme like whatever is special about you that makes you enjoy life. Try to bring that into running. And I promise you it’s not as hard as like you think it is some people only run races in costumes, like every single race. They’re in a costume is just what they do. You know, I know of a guy back in Baltimore, who would do the St. Patrick’s Day 5k every year. And he juggled the whole way. So yeah, he juggled the whole way. And I’m like, This dude is awesome. So true. When I say there’s room for everybody, there’s room for everybody. Bring your kids, bring your spouse, bring your partner, bring your best friend, Bring, bring your dog, like, just, you know, make it a low pressure event where you can truly shine.

Richard Conner 25:44

That’s awesome. That’s awesome. I completely agree with you. And a lot of the things that you said absolutely make running fun. And those races and the gear like all of it, it just depends on kind of what you’re into. And can we talk about aftershocks for a moment? No promotion here, but I just picked up. I just picked up a pair and I am just like, This is magic. I don’t even understand, like how this works as well, as it does. It’s phenomenal.

Wendy Coop 26:12

Yes, those I’ve had aftershocks, I think for about a year and a half, two years now. And they I’ve never run in my air pods never plan on running it with my air pods. If you’re listening and you don’t know what we’re talking about, go to your local running store. And you’ll see these headphones, they’re not really headphones, I guess. But they have an open ear design. So you can still hear what’s going on around you. But it uses bone conduction, right behind your ear so that you can hear the music but still hear what’s going on around you. And it is the bomb. Like I recommend them to everybody. Um, I don’t even know the last time I use my air pods for anything to be honest with you, cuz I break out the aftershocks. They are that comfortable. And they are that cool?

Richard Conner 27:00

Definitely. So I’ve actually used air pods for the last two or three years and they’ve served me very, very well. The the quality of those are very good, but the battery isn’t lasting now. And I’m like, Alright, it’s time to look for something new, a new pair of air pods or something else and someone had recommended aftershocks, which now they’ve changed your name to shocks. And I am just in awe like this is fantastic. So yeah, good first experience, I’m really looking forward to you know, more runs with them.

Wendy Coop 27:28

But the most important thing is still your shoes, get a good pair of shoes if you’re going to spend money on anything first. And only it’s your shoes. And make sure you find your local running store. It might be a fleet feet, it may be a local franchise. So just make sure it’s a place where someone can actually analyze your gait. See how you run and make the appropriate recommendation for shoes based on that. And how much running you actually plan on doing. You will save yourself so much time and heartache and potential injury by just making sure you have the right shoes.

Richard Conner 28:08

Agreed. Agreed. So you know when the thank you so much. This has been just an awesome conversation. And you know, kind as we wind down here, I’d love for you to share kind of any words of wisdom or any advice for listeners who again may not feel like they have a runner’s body or they can run like what would you share with them to help inspire them to to get into running,

Wendy Coop 28:33

I would say first of all, running is cheaper than therapy. I probably have that shirt do. So it is very good for all the benefits of exercise in general, but also for you to kind of work things out in your head. Walking is good too. But I feel like running is just a little bit better for a lot of people. And as far as starting, I would say don’t feel like you have to run continuously the whole time. If you alternate running and walking. That’s perfectly fine. That’s perfectly acceptable. There’s no right one right way to do this. Someone’s gonna finish in the back of the pack. That’s okay. You still finished you still get the metal you still get to enjoy the Mimosa at the end and that’s okay. I I’m about to get a shirt that says looks like walking feels like running. And that’s how it is for a lot of us. We may not look like we’re very fast, but we’re doing something a lot of people don’t do and we’re moving, which is something a lot of people are not doing. So be proud of yourself for for doing the movement. Be proud of yourself for taking one step after another and just celebrate whatever it is You cover that I think that’s more important than anything else.

Richard Conner 30:04

Thank you so much when the sage advice for our listeners, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show today. This has been a really fun conversation. And I would love for the community to be able to find you and follow you online. So where can they go to do that?

Wendy Coop 30:19

So the probably the best place is going to be Instagram. And I am Mrs. Wendy coupe, Mrs. W e NDYCOP. On Instagram, that’s actually all my handles. But Instagram is the fun platform, right? So you can check out my reels and videos and photos and whatever on Instagram and definitely DM me if you’ve got questions or you just want to say hi.

Richard Conner 30:46

Okay, perfect. We’ll I will certainly include that in the show notes to make it easier for our listeners to find. Again, Wendy, thank you so much for coming on the show. Thank you for sharing your story and the advice and with that, thanks and have a great day.

Wendy Coop 31:00

Thank you so much Richard it was my pleasure.

Intro/Outro 31:05

That’s it for this episode of Inspire Virtual Runs Podcast. If you enjoyed this podcast, please leave a review. Also, be sure to click the subscribe button so you don’t miss an episode. Thanks for listening

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