The new year is just around the corner and you know what that means: resolution time! According to a report released by NBC News, getting fit is the number one resolution in the United States. We’ve got plenty of health-conscious ideas for you in the January/February issue of Neighbors magazine and here’s a sneak peak with tips from Dr. Miriam Donohue, Ph.D., an anatomist and a certified triathlon coach. See the full story and more fitness ideas in the first 2018 issue of Neighbors magazine on newsstands January 2!
Written by Cassie McClure
After studying animal science at NMSU, Miriam Donohue, earned her doctorate in anatomy and cell biology at SUNY Upstate Medical University. While living in New York, she found a local sports store with a beginners’ running program. Slowly, she hit her stride and in a year, found a sense of community, along with an improved state of health. “I fell in love with a group of people who were doing something to change the quality of their lives,” she says.
After that first beginner’s class, Miriam was recruited into coaching running by her own coach, Brendan Jackson. Ultimately, that grew into coaching in Jackson’s triathlon program for several years as well. “I worked with the ‘back-of-the-packers’, those who have had injuries or those who are just naturally slower athletes. It’s incredible to get to work with adults who never learned how to swim or had an accident and are afraid of the water. Some of them had never been in the deep end of the pool, but in our program, I had seven weeks to get them ready and safe for swimming in open water,” she remembers. “I’m just amazed and inspired by these athletes. They fight the mental barriers we put on exercise; those lying voices in our heads that tell us we don’t get to call ourselves a runner or a triathlete if we don’t perfectly fit the pictures we see in magazines. I’m an incredibly slow athlete myself, so I completely understand how hard and frustrating it can be at times, but also how rewarding.” As a coach, Miriam uses her training in anatomy to help athletes figure out exactly what works best for them and how they can be more efficient as a triathlete.
Two years ago, Miriam moved back to Las Cruces. She’s now an associate professor and chair of the Anatomy and Cell Biology Department at the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine. Coaching, for her, had kind of taken a back seat for the past two years, but when Coach Jackson passed away suddenly this year, Miriam decided it was time to do what he had always encouraged her to do: get her national USAT Level I triathlon coaching certification.
“Brendan told me I brought something different to the field, being an anatomist in a coaching world,” she says. “I want to honor my coach and honor all the experience that has been given to me. I want to help others believe that triathlons are accessible to them, if that’s something they want to try. Triathlon training and coaching has been one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done and I’m so thankful for all of the experiences it has brought into my life— especially the people I’ve met through it.”
5 Tips from the Coach
1. Lower Swim Stress
“Too often it seems like swimmers are just forcing themselves through the swim and they really hate it,” she says. “Being stressed in the swim is oftentimes an indicator that you’re not well-balanced in the water and essentially having to fight the water. A good coach can help balance you out in the water and work to lower that stress level.”
2. Get Fitted
Coach Miriam’s best tip for bikers: Get a professional fitting that is specialized for triathletes. “Road bikes can be fitted to better accommodate a triathlete and it makes a huge difference when transitioning from the bike to the run, if you’ve had a good – triathlon specific – fitting.” she explains. “It does cost money, but it’s a lot cheaper than buying a triathlon bike right out of the gate.”
3. Enjoy Confidence
Beginners oftentimes tuck their chin in to their chest and stare down at their shoes – which actually makes it harder to breathe. Lifting that chin and looking straight ahead can help align the body in a way that makes breathing and blood flow in the neck easier. “Plus, having a confident posture makes you feel more confident!” Miriam says.
4. Slow Down
A lot of times in coaching, I see beginners trying to go too fast,” Miriam says, “During a regular training run or ride, you should always be able to say 3-5 words at a time. If you’re too out of breath to get 3-5 words out at a time, you’re going too fast.”
5. Join a Pack
Donohue recommends training in a group. “Not only do you build lifelong friendships, but it’s safer and more motivating. My coach Brendan would say showing up to the parking lot is 70 percent,” she remembers. “Just show up and the group mentality will carry you through the other 30 percent.”