Run Chattanooga Is Not Your Average Running Club

Wednesday, June 04, 2014
Free, Fun Fitness Movement Motivates The Community

Every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30 a.m., fitness-minded people get together in downtown Chattanooga to work out together for free. They call it Tough Love, a fitness flashmob, hosted by Run Chattanooga, a running club that promotes with hashtags like #FREE and #endorphins. It’s exercise meets social media meets, as they put it, building community.

The designated workout location is promoted on Facebook (www.facebook.com/runnooga) and Twitter (@runchattanooga) the day before the workout. They’ve done burpees by the Chattanoogan hotel and pushups at the Hunter Museum, run stairs on Ross’ Landing and done crunches at UTC. Sometimes they are in a park and sometimes they just pick a street corner with some curbs to jump up on or benches to use for dips.  

One participant cites his favorite workout they’ve done as the Winter Olympics-themed Sochi-Nooga, which included running up the hill at Renaissance Park and ‘sledding’ down on a cardboard box. 

Nobody gets left behind because the workouts are done in circuits and there is always someone nearby to give a high five or encourage people to push harder. They don’t get bored because no two workouts are ever the same, said officials. 

Run Chattanooga founder Courtney Bird says there is an intimidation factor that comes with joining a gym or a traditional running club, and this is one way that they are trying to break down those barriers. Going to a workout costs nothing. Parking in metered spaces is even free at that hour. There are no contracts to sign and no membership fees to pay, so there’s no pressure. Participants don’t have to already be in shape, because they can scale the workout to any ability. Their flyers even advertise welcoming ‘athlete-wannabes.’ Everyone is encouraged to just show up and jump right in.

“You just do what you can do, at the speed you can do it," said Kim Sissom, who has been a regular participant at the Tough Love workouts since they began several months ago. "Then the next time, you try to do one more rep or go a little faster. There’s a really positive vibe with the whole thing. Everyone cheers each other on.  Someone usually takes a few pictures and they get posted on Twitter and the Run Chattanooga Facebook page. We all get to be a star online from time to time, so that’s fun too.”

To keep track of how their fitness is progressing, once a month they race up and down the stairs at AT&T Field and then do a lap of the hill on 3rd Street, seeing how many rounds of that combination they can do in 25 minutes. They're racing only against themselves, but they use each other as motivation.  

“The slower people are working hard to try to keep up with the faster people," said former college track athlete Katie Stanford, who is now the cross country coach at Covenant College and one of the fastest at the Run Chattanooga events.  "The faster ones are pushing to go even faster so that they don’t get caught.  Because the Tough Love workouts stay in one area, as opposed to a group run where people can get spread out, everyone gets a little something different out of it but we can all work out together.” 

Run Chattanooga is a fitness movement that started several months ago. Founder Courtney Bird will be the first to tell you that it’s not a typical running club. In fact, there are people who join them who don’t consider themselves runners at all. “They are just people who want to be active and enjoy the camaraderie and accountability,” she explains. “The reason it works is because we nurture and promote this positive atmosphere, we're not afraid to get a little goofy and fun, and it has attracted some fantastic people who, up until they find us, had mostly be running or working out alone. We’re not competing with each other, but we do challenge each other to reach our own individual goals - whatever those may be. And we celebrate with each other when we reach a new level.” 

Run Chattanooga hosted a free 5K flashmob run - the Bun Run - on the Saturday before Easter. Ms. Bird told everyone prior to the race that Run Chattanooga events have some strict rules. “You cannot leave without having made a new friend. You have to high five at least one person. And you have to have fun.” Runners and walkers made their way through downtown Chattanooga wearing bunny ears, high fiving unsuspecting passersby, and having fun while being active.  

The positivity and high fives are a staple of the Run Chattanooga culture now. When they are running in a group, they will high five other runners that aren’t part of their group. If they are doing a Tough Love workout and a runner comes by, many will stop what they are doing, get over to the sidewalk, and hold out a hand for a high five. "Lots of people in this area run alone and will avert their eyes when they cross paths with another runner or walker," Ms. Bird says. "So giving out lots of high fives is part of how we are working to build a community. We're all connected because we're all being active."

Run Chattanooga hosts group runs with the staff of Front Runner Athletics several days during the week, but Ms. Bird admits that the Tough Love workouts are her favorite. “I’m not a morning person. None of us are. I’d much rather sleep in. But on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I find myself bouncing out of bed looking forward to doing planks and push ups. I still get shocked by that!" She laughs. "Not only have I gotten stronger and lost weight, but I’ve made so many new friends and gotten to meet so many interesting people that I never would have crossed paths with otherwise, simply because of these workouts.”  

To find out where the next Tough Love workout is, follow Run Chattanooga on Facebook (www.facebook.com/runnooga) or Twitter @runchattanooga.


Williams Accepted Into Chattanooga's Women's Leadership Institute

Chattanooga’s Women’s Leadership Institute announced their 2014 mentees and includes Joyce Ann Williams, senior tax accountant for Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain, PC, Top 50 Accounting Firm. Ms. Williams, received her B.S. degree in Accounting and her Masters of Accountancy from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  Prior to joining LBMC, she worked as a ... (click for more)

Hearing Loss Rehab Institute Will Conduct One-Day Seminar

The Hearing Loss Rehab Institute will conduct a one-day seminar for the hard of hearing, families and friends this Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at First Lutheran Church, 2800 McCallie Avenue in Chattanooga. The institute will teach coping skills for the hard of hearing as well as those who love them, and introduce new strategies of communication, including a session ... (click for more)

City Sound Control Ordinance Goes Into Effect In 30 Days

A controversial Downtown Sound Control Ordinance will go into effect in 30 days after being approved by the City Council on second reading. Councilwoman Carol Berz said she believes it is a good ordinance, but not a perfect one, and that it should be under continual review for possible revisions. The ordinance itself calls for it to be examined at the end of the first year. ... (click for more)

Boy, 15, Shot In The Shoulder On Taylor Street

A 15-year-old boy was shot in the shoulder on Taylor Street on Tuesday night. At approximately 7 p.m., Chattanooga Police received a call of shots fired in the area of 3200 Taylor  and were advised at 7:22 p.m. that a person arrived at a local hospital suffering from a gunshot wound. Investigators were advised that the young black male sustained a gunshot wound to his ... (click for more)

Noise Fallout Coming Soon On Chattanooga's Flawed Sound Control Ordinance - And Response (3)

I have been practicing acoustical, audio and sound engineering for more than twenty years. Since I understand many aspects of sound, I sent the enclosed letter to the Chattanooga City Council members regarding some of my concerns on the impending noise ordinance changes. My comments were unacknowledged.     August 19, 2014 Dear Chattanooga ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Al Sharpton’s Wise Remarks

I’ll admit I paid little more than scant attention to the Monday funeral of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was shot and killed by police bullets in Ferguson, Mo., after he allegedly was involved in strong-armed robbery. There are too many tawdry details and, in my way of thinking, there is nothing under God’s sun, absolutely nothing, that gives others the right to riot, burn ... (click for more)