By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
As a high school cross country runner, there was one aspect of preparation and training that Liberty had not cared to explore. Each year, her teammates returned from summer with innovative stretches and tasteless jokes, sharing stories from running camp.
Each spring, the girls on Liberty's team gave her camp leaflets and encouraged her to attend, but something always kept her from going. Liberty saw no real reason for attending running camp. There was nothing to learn that she did not already know. She thought camp would be a waste of time and money.
There are two kinds of running camps, depending on their location. Many college running programs offer summer camps, where campers stay in residence halls and eat in cafeterias. College camps also offer many amenities, from outdoor and indoor tracks, swimming pools and weight rooms, to training under the watchful eyes of collegiate coaching staff.
Country-style running camps offer an alternative. Located in rustic settings, the range of facilities varies widely among camps. Campers may share a tent or a cabin. The facilities range from shovels to community outhouses, while streams and lakes offer many options for bathing.
Beyond the choice of accommodations, running camps offer an intense regimen of running and playing, mixed with learning and motivation.
Double workouts are the order of the day, and feature easy runs in the morning and strength sessions in the afternoon. When the campers are not running, they are socializing, eating, listening to expert talks, or just napping.
Guest speakers provide many memorable moments, as the heroes of yesterday inspire and motivate the hopes of tomorrow.
Liberty's curiosity and sense of adventure got the best of her. She eventually attended running camp, and lived to tell about it. The evolution of the idea followed an unexpected path. She registered at a running camp different from the one her teammates attended. Liberty chose an outdoor camp, where she shared a cabin with a mouse named Ted.
Collecting the various items required for camp - including bug spray, a flashlight, clothespins and rope, footwear - provided a welcome distraction. Besides the fear of the unknown, Liberty added the fear of loneliness.
Running camp gave Liberty a sense of confidence in many ways. First and foremost, she developed self-assurance around people, and befriended new, wonderful runners. The coaches and counselors spread around their contagious love for running. Their accomplishments and goals may have been different, but they provided compelling role models.
On the running front, Liberty felt a boost in her running, probably more psychological than physiological. Even though her overall fitness level may have remained the same, she learned to believe in herself. She absorbed information on stretching, water running, speed drills and hills, and developed a better understanding of running's underlying scientific aspects.
Mentally, running camp gave Liberty a runner's high that carried into the cross country season. Her body and mind were ready for speed drills three times a week. She explored static and ballistic stretching, and participated in workouts with a better understanding for their purpose. In the process, her mind developed new ways to conquer doubts.
Last but not least, Liberty's fear of making no friends at camp proved groundless. Thanks in part to her experiences in country living, which she shared with other campers, she was selected as the winner of the Social Butterfly award.
Kamal Jabbour looks forward to the peace and quiet when his children go to running camp. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at email@example.com.