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Tearing her calf muscle might have been one of the best things that happened to Jennifer Conroyd. She certainly didn’t believe it then, but ten years later, her story is worth sharing. It’s a story that began as a tremendous disappointment but turned into a gift not just to her but to thousands of others as well.
Ten years ago (Sunday), Jennifer toed the line at the Chicago Marathon on October 10, 2010 (10.10.10). She wasn’t sure she would be there because she tore her calf muscle on a training run six weeks earlier. In the grand scheme of what so many people experience, tearing a calf muscle is not a tragedy. But at the time, Jennifer was devastated because this particular marathon was so important to her. Jennifer’s four siblings, not all runners and all living out of state, had committed to run this race for their nephew, Ben, diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes. They had raised money and awareness for Juvenile Diabetes, and Jennifer didn’t want to let her family or supporters down. But a visit to the doctor confirmed her worst fear: no running for at least a month. The marathon was in a mere six weeks, and Jennifer was determined to find a way to be there.
Discovering the solution
She did what any person living in the 21st century would do: she took to the internet. Jennifer “Googled” how to stay in running shape while injured and was disappointed to find very few solutions other than upper body exercise. That’s not what she needed; she needed to keep up her endurance and build strength to get to, and finish a marathon. Finally, after scrolling down a few pages, she found an article on deep water running written by a running coach. Knowing very little about deep water running, Jennifer was fascinated by the promise of “running” in deep water even through an injury. She contacted him and explained her situation. He responded immediately and, without hesitation, told Jennifer he would get her to the marathon. Skeptical, but out of options, she decided to give it a try.
Marathon training in water
What happened next was nothing short of miraculous. Jennifer could barely walk, was prohibited from weight-bearing activity, yet she could follow her marathon training schedule and “run” 10, 12, 15, and 20 miles. Jennifer strapped on a flotation belt around her waist and ran only in the deep water. According to Jennifer, it wasn’t easy. Water is 800 times denser than air, which means it felt like she was running through pudding. But she realized that resistance paid off later by strengthening muscles in her legs, core, and arms.
Crossing the finish line
Jennifer started that marathon six weeks later and, more than just finished it, she ran fast enough to make the qualifying cut for the Boston Marathon. You can imagine the sheer joy of accomplishing what she thought was impossible but add to Jennifer’s delight the fact that she ran it not much slower than her pre-injury pace. Crossing the finish line and looking up at her time, Jennifer knew she had stumbled (quite literally) onto something, and she knew she wanted to share it with as many people as possible. Jennifer found hope and a solution when she thought there were none, and she was determined to share what she had learned with others.
On a mission
Thus began her quest to bring deep water running to as many people as possible, not just the injured athlete but anyone unable to exercise because of pain, weight gain, or simply fitness stagnation. She was also determined to make deep water running exciting, something she would have appreciated during her long pool runs. Canada and Australia were the only countries offering certifications for deep water running instructors, so Jennifer chose Canada, the closer option. Armed with her new certificate, her knowledge as an A.C.E. certified fitness instructor, USA Track and Field Coach, and her nutrition certification she created a deep water running group class called Fluid Running. Demand for the class became so great Jennifer needed more instructors. Sending people to Canada didn’t seem reasonable, so she created her own Fluid Running instructor training manual and certification. It’s the only such program in the country, and it has when offered, has been approved by A.C.E. (The American Council on Exercise) for continuing education credits for fitness professionals.
Expanding globally with the Fluid Running App
With new instructors trained, Jennifer satisfied the demand for classes in the Chicago-land area, but she still needed to address Fluid Running requests from across the nation and world. By pure luck and good fortune, she met someone at the co-working office space she works at who said he had an idea and could help her expand Fluid Running. Mike Lambert, now one of Jennifer’s partners, suggested creating an app-based version of Fluid Running classes for individual use. The Fluid Running app includes instructional videos and music backed audio workouts coached by Jennifer. These workouts are motivational and encouraging and range in difficulty for elite athletes to those just beginning to discover fitness. Best of all, as Jennifer’s story demonstrates, Fluid Running consists of running in the density of deep water but without jarring joint impact making it perfect for everyone.
Fluid Running changes lives
Jennifer didn’t set out to create a deep water fitness company, but her incredible story and experience made it almost unavoidable. Setbacks and disappointments have been a part of Jennifer’s journey, but the grateful testimonials of people able to exercise after they thought they couldn’t have been the greatest reward. Time and again, emails, phone calls, and Facebook posts have fortified Jennifer’s passion and resolution to offer everyone the gift of exercise through Fluid Running. Jennifer’s torn calf muscle is a distant memory but not a forgotten one because it started a fitness movement that has truly revolutionized how we exercise. And it’s brought joy and fulfillment to her and thousands of Fluid Running fans throughout the world.