If you’re a runner, chances are you’ve seen Debbie Richards at a local race. If you plan to start running, she’s the person you want to meet.
Richards, 52, of Haslett, is the women’s walking and running coach at Playmakers when she’s not doing her full-time job as a human resources administrator at Michigan State University.
Richards was voted one of Healthy & Fit Magazine’s Top Fitness Pros for 2018.
“I love helping people in a positive way,” she said. “As a walking/running coach, I am able to help guide women to see themselves as athletes. When I first share with women that they are athletic, it is a hard concept for most of them to wrap their head around. I enjoy being that person to help them see where they can start and where this can take them. Being athletic is more than fitting into your ‘skinny’ jeans. It includes being physical, emotional, spiritual, ethical, and learning the etiquette of sportsmanship. Through this journey, we learn to be examples, as well as learners.”
Richards has been a coach for seven years and is very passionate about her position. In high school, she played all the sports that she could. That included track, basketball, swimming, and gymnastics.
Running is definitely her passion, but she likes to incorporate strength training, biking, swimming, and yoga. She said she likes to evaluate the different options and provide recommendations to others.
“There are definitely more women walking and running in a competitive or very active style,” she said. “Women are helping other women see that they can do more for themselves. We are realizing that their ability can improve by committing to this program, and they can easily see that a size or age is not a reason to hold back. If most women will live to be 85, then how do we want to live? Currently, I think of all the daily tasks I am able to do physically and yes, at 85 I still want to be able to carry my purse, a bag, and four plastic bags of groceries into the house at one time.”
She said her group continues to grow and embrace the challenges of a healthy, active lifestyle. She thinks the new generation of athletes are stronger and faster than ever.
“The ability of today’s 60-year-old is so different from the same age five or 10 years ago,” she said. “I know women and men that age who can run as fast as a 20-year-old. I think this will only become a more competitive group.”
But don’t think the group is just for the elite runners. She encourages anyone who may be thinking about running to give her a call and try her group.
“When you are inspired to do something, do it,” she said. “Too often we get interested in something, but won’t join mid-way because something has already started. If a session has started, I will take time with anyone new so they feel not only welcomed, but they know the resources available to them and they can call, text or email with any questions. I am asked questions all the time about goal setting and planning; short goals and long goals! It’s worth a conversation.”