Local training group depends on camaraderie

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BENNINGTON — Whether you're looking for a New Year's resolution to get off the couch, a way to rebound after a rough break-up, or maybe it's time for a new fitness challenge; training for a race might be the answer for how to kick off 2016 the right way.

There are hundreds of "Couch to 5K" plans across internet platforms, but one issue with virtual training is the lack of in-your-face motivation. Training alone puts all the blame and guilt on the individual if a workout is skipped for watching "Dancing With The Stars" instead. Local running/walking coach and owner of Optionz Health and Fitness, Andrea Malinowski, takes women's running and walking goals to the next level with her Train for More (TFM) program.

The group's most recent event, the Jingle Bell 5K run/walk, benefitted the Arthritis Foundation in Halfmoon, N.Y., on Dec. 5. Additionally, "Help the Hungry Holiday 5K/10K" run/walk was held on Dec. 13 to receive donations for "His Pantry" at the Church of Sacred Heart St. Francis, as well as $100 in cash donations.

"Our group is all about paying it forward and helping those in our community," Malinowski said.

In November, Malinowski donated $100 to BROC-Community Action in Southwestern Vermont through a Small Business Saturday to Giving Tuesday promotion, and $5 from every training group's registration went to charity.

TFM offers training groups at a variety of levels and prices that include a 5K (3.1 miles) for $35, 10K (6.2 miles) for $45, half marathon (13.1 miles) for $55, and full marathon (26.2 miles) for $65.

As a part of being certified through Road Runners Club of America, Malinowski provides a written training plan to each trainee, they meet mid-week and once per weekend and train together as a group.

"The camaraderie and group support is key to each person's success. Many would not continue training if they were doing it alone," she said in an email. "Through their training though, I do offer training advice and support via email as well as in person."

As important as practicing running is, practicing other exercises and a balanced diet is crucial to achieving wellness goals. A 10-, 12-, or 16-week training plan is designed for each participant, Malinowski said.

"Cross-training (exercise other than running) is recommended but it's up to each person to determine what best fits their schedule and lifestyle," she explained. "I do not offer specific meal suggestions as I am not a registered dietitian, but advice for pre-run and post-run nutritional requirements is reviewed."

TFM's primary focus is the connections made between participants, which results in motivation and support.

"The unique thing about TFM versus an on-line app is the group support and encouragement we offer," she said. "Anyone can download an app, but the friendships and family we've created is second to none!"

The training program was founded in 2008 by Lynn Grieger in Manchester who started a women's training group for the "More Half Marathon" in New York City. Eventually it was expanded to full marathons, and once Grieger moved to Arizona, leadership was switched over to a group member, and then Malinowski.

In 2015, 235 women were enrolled in training programs with eight different groups working toward 5K to marathon distances, while 170 were a part of TFM. This year, there will be nine training groups offered.

More than often, races participated in by TFM members benefit a charity, as most large road races do recently. Malinowski likes to stay local when deciding on races and the charity linked to its outcome.

"Looking for a race to benefit a charity or a non-profit group is important to us. I will look to see what is being offered locally for races and pick an organization to help," she said. "Our February 5K goal race will benefit a Relay for Life Team while the Spring 5K, 'Go the Distance' will benefit the Peer Support Programs of United Counseling Service."

There are training groups beginning in January and February of 2016. For more information contact Team Coach, Andrea Malinowski, at andreamalin@gmail.com or call 802-379-5468.

Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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