Charlotte Browning

Training Tips

It is hard for me to believe that I moved to the US over 9 years ago. It is my home, and my parents said they knew that as soon as I left the first time. Most runners who go to University in the US go for 1-2 years while they complete a masters and use up their eligibility. There are only a few runners I know who came here from the start, and even less of us are still here.

I met Charlotte at a running camp when we were about 14-15. At that time, Charlotte was dominating every race, winning national titles everywhere. I definitely looked up to her, heck, I still do! We have stayed in touch over the years, being there for one another, venting about America when we needed it, and of course supporting one another through the ups and downs that running brings.

I think you are going to love her story. Charlotte has been through a lot of struggles recently, and she has showed her perseverance. I know it is going to pay off for her big time, and I can’t wait to see it happen!

Charlotte graduated from the University of Florida with 2 NCAA track titles and 4 All- American honors. She currently runs professionally for Hoka One One and trains with Team Run Eugene. Here she shares her journey on dealing with set backs and injury post collegiately and ways to deal with stress on and off the track.

Running away from stress

I first started running in elementary school. I realized I was fast when none of the boys could catch me in tag. I was an outdoorsy child and grew up in rural West Sussex on the south coast of England. I would run everywhere, down the lane with my neighbor Alice, around the school field on my lunch break and I would join my dad on a 3 mile loop after school … Running was so care free back then, I didn’t think, I just ran and I absolutely loved it.

As a teen, I joined a running club and won multiple national age group titles. I was selected for various international competitions which everyone made a big hurrah about.

Running was still a lot of fun but it started to feel restricting. I had to miss the yearly school ski trip to prevent injury. I was forced to skip a lot of fun things with friends at the weekend as I was always traveling to meets.

It was disappointing at times, but worth all the sacrifices I made because the feeling of improvement, was like no other. I progressed each season, I was injury free and my performances were giving me lots of exciting opportunities.

I was offered a full ride scholarship to compete at a division one university in the USA.  I quickly found that attending college in a new and unfamiliar country was stressful in many different ways. Homesickness, homework, class and relationships became stressors on my mind and body.

Life can become overwhelming at times and responsibilities can mount up.  Like many people, running allowed me relieve a lot of stress. My life outside of practice was never dull and the external stressors of college could be pretty draining.

What I loved about training was that I could throw myself into it and forget about everything else. It was about the process rather than running fast; getting out there and doing it, even though I had other things on my mind. Running repaid my hard work with focus, it allowed me to escape and zoom in on the process.

Committing mentally during the two hours of daily practice was benefitting me in lots of different ways. I progressed each season, I was (somewhat) injury free and my performances were giving me even more exciting opportunities.

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I signed a professional contract upon graduating with high hopes to make the London 2012 Olympic team. Unfortunately life post collegiately as a runner has been far from smooth. Up until four years ago running was my release… but what happens when running starts causing the stress?

Over coming injuries can be one of the biggest challenges a runner can face. Many individuals will put in weeks or months of hard work and not be rewarded with reaching the goal they deserve.

For me, I was plagued with reoccurring lower leg injuries. My main career the last 5 years has been to train and race…any runner’s dream. Having a major surgery, not being injury free for a single training cycle, with the added pressure of the Olympic year mounted up quickly. The reoccurring injuries kept putting me back to square one. Towards the end of 2012 I stopped training  completely.

Running, that I once loved and thrived on, had broken my heart. It had worn me down to the point of no return and I couldn’t recall a pain free run that year, I needed a mental break. I took some time off and let my body and mind fully heal and then got back on the trails when it felt right.

Many elite athletes compete with such confidence and strength that they can seem superhuman, but almost all of them have had to overcome injuries and disappointment along the way, we just don’t always hear about it.

Very rarely does an elite progress every race and we have many running and life stressors that contribute to that. Managing them is what’s important. Whether the issues are directly running related or external, there are ways to take your mind off them and stay focused, confident and still see progression in training.

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To take the edge off ‘just running’, I decided to focus on my weakness’s and take confidence in the process. Even as an elite there are lots of aspects of running I could do better. I decided to pick three: Strength, flexibility and cooking.

The weight room used to terrify me, I would just avoid it. I signed up to an S&C class at my local physical therapy clinic and I now work with a great strength coach and look forward to going. I have progressed every month and feel so much stronger when I run.

Yoga is an amazing way to stay flexible, mentally refreshed and challenge yourself. Racing well is still my number one priority over being strong. That being said, if my fitness isn’t back to where I want it to be yet, I can get positive vibes from the headstand that’s taken three weeks to conquer in my yoga class.

I picked cooking as my third aspect of training. Even though it’s not physical I wanted to make one hundred percent commitment to the 2016 Olympic year. I have followed some awesome recipes and enjoy the forty five minutes I give myself in the kitchen. I’ve challenged myself to eat-out less and cook-in more.

Fueling your body the right way so it can handle all of the training load is very important for recovery, injury prevention and adaption to training.

Adding in three enjoyable attributes to my schedule has made me happier and healthier on and off the track. If life or running starts to become overwhelming, add something beneficial you have never done before and you’ll love the confidence it brings you. I currently spend a lot of time focusing on staying healthy and enjoying the process of training and life.

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I don’t run away from stress anymore, I face it with new and exciting challenges that benefit my mind and body.

Charlotte is in the process of creating a website for female runners, and I am REALLY excited about her plans with it for the future! The website will be launched in January, but for now you can follow Belle Lap on Instagram and Twitter.

[bctt tweet=”What an inspiring and thoughtful post from @CL_Browning on @tinamuir blog. Running away from Stress” via=”no”]

What would you like to ask Charlotte?

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25 Comments. Leave new

  • Such a fantastic post, and I can’t wait to see her website! Please keep us posted! Running can do so much for you–and I think we often forget that for elites, as much as running can turn into a job, running can still be that escape and they can still keep the love! Something we all need to keep in mind!

    • Thanks so much for the kind words. What running has taught me as a person over the last several years is far more valuable to me than the times and accomplishments. Even though my body has struggled, it has given me such a growing experience.

  • Wow such an incredible story. I really hope you get to where you want to be. It sounds like you’ve had a tough old time but that you’re a strong person who doesn’t give up easily. Good luck!

    • Thanks Anna, it sure has had its highs and lows, but I’ve found that through adversity you become a stronger person, so I can thank running for that also.

  • Runningwithallergies
    December 9, 2015 8:54 am

    I am excited to start reading the articles on her website, when it launches, and thank you Charlotte for sharing your story with us.

    • Thanks, I’m launching Belle Lap early January. I’m getting really excited and I cannot wait to go live. Every runner has a story and we can all learn so much from each other. Thanks for the support.

  • A great read. Good luck for Rio 2016

  • i’m excited to start reading your website when it launches! I love the emphasis on journey in your story. Many of runners, myself included, tend to focus on results over the process, when the process matters just as much, if not even more.

    • The Bellelap.com blog is live, since yesterday. I will be introducing more content each week. Thanks for the support!

  • Sandra Laflamme
    December 9, 2015 2:05 pm

    Loved reading about Charlotte. So inspiring and I cannot wait to check out her new website Belle Lap!

  • Really well written post and great to read your story. Like you say, you rarely hear anything about elite athletes when you get injured & most people are unaware of how tough it is for you away from the track. You’re so positive and delighted that you’re doing so well. Best of luck in the future & look forward to your blog 🙂

  • Laura Anderson
    December 10, 2015 9:22 am

    I like that you picked a few things to work on and improve rather than just blanket say I want to be better. Picking something (or 3 things) lets you focus and not get overwhelmed. I really admire that, and your story!

  • Hi Charlotte- thank you so much for this inspirational post! While I am nowhere near your level of fitness and running, I consider myself a runner that has also had to deal with some setbacks over the years. One includes not making the cut into the Boston Marathon for 2016, even after qualifying (BQ) by nearly two minutes. After this setback, I decided to sign up for another marathon in February, but am starting to lack the motivation. I am inspired by you and will keep going with my training. Thank you again, and best of luck in your next training cycle! 🙂 -@janerunswild

    • Set backs are tough and relative for every runner. Anyone who has set a goal and is working towards it in any walk of life will find adversity difficult to come back from. Setting a new goal is great and that means you are well on your way, but every runner will go through a stage where they lack motivation or compare their fitness to where it was and be hard on themselves. Just keep going through the process of daily training and take one day at a time and you will be rewarded. Sometimes just getting out the door (especially in the colder months) is tough but once you’re out there you feel better.
      If you can meet up with running friends or other runners in the community then that usually helps a lot with motivation. Good Luck!!!

      • Thank you so much for your note, it all makes sense! I am wondering if I could quote your response in my blog (www.janerunswild.com)- I think a lot of fellow runners could relate. Let me know and thank you Charlotte! 🙂

  • I love what Charlotte said about focusing on her weaknesses and taking confidence in the process. I tend to focus on my strengths because it’s just easier to keep doing what you already do well. But taking time to build weaknesses so they can become a strength (or at least an equalizing factor) is a brilliant way to spend time off the track (or roads or trails) 🙂

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