Runner-yogi Liz draws from her professional training and career experience in running and yoga to craft an exceptional retreat experience.
Originally from Charlotte, North Carolina, Elizabeth Arnold, (who goes by Liz), who now lives in Denver, Colorado, where, in addition to running and yoga, she enjoys skiing with her family, hiking Colorado’s biggest peaks with her two daughters, trail running with friends and strolling alongside her English Setter, Wendell.
Now at 54 years old and with over 20 marathons under belt, Liz is always up for an adventure, so you can count on her to sign up a 24-hour relay with running friends, to click into her skis and venture out to a remote backcountry hut in winter, or to huff up the infamous Manitou Incline trail in Colorado Springs at a moment’s notice. Liz often finds herself the one responsible for coordinating these activities and supporting the less-experienced members of the group; a role she feel she was made for.
Complimentary to Liz’s gung-ho attitude is the measured mindfulness to which she approaches all of her adventures, cultivated in part, during her personal development as a yoga instructor, who has taught four classes a week for the past 13 years.
How does your training as a yoga teacher shape your running retreat leadership style?
As a 200-hour certified yoga instructor, I like to share yoga postures and principles than transcend the mat and help runners take pressure off their joints, optimize use of the core and maximize their lung capacity.
For example, the yoga pose known as Half Moon Pose, which is an arching side stretch that lengthens the intercostal muscles, allowing for full lung expansion and glorious inhalations and exhalations while running.
Basically all the yoga postures we do in the studio can benefit runners. Since there are so many ancient yoga postures, I enjoy creatively integrating yogic philosophy with training methods that make running and yoga sustainable over a lifetime.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve found in leading women?
The biggest challenge is helping women manage the element of fear. For some, fear is wrapped around uncontrollable concerns like weather patterns, encounters with strangers, or potential for injury. For others, their fear arises from negative self-talk that erodes their can-do spirit and drains their mental energy.
What have you found helps women overcome their fears?
I use the same mindful breathing techniques I used when coaching third- to fifth-graders for Girls on the Run for turning fear into calm. I saw the young girls who were new to running overcome their fear by focusing on postural alignment and good breath mechanics. I remember that experience when leading women for Run Wild Retreats + Wellness because, regardless of age, all runners benefit from deeper inhales for feeling energetic and light and powerful exhales for creating a sense of groundedness.
What do you find most fulfilling about being a retreat leader?
I find women incredibly impressive, which why I love doing all kinds of adventures in my everyday life, like hiking a Colorado 14er (a mountain summit above 14,000 feet in elevation) with my daughters and races with my women’s running group in Denver. When leading trips for Run Wild Retreats + Wellness, I love meeting women who lead interesting lives and hear stories about their struggles, scars (visible or invisible) and triumphs.
I witness the magic when women connect with one others and start to trust themselves other others more. Being a part of their journey into greater self-worth reinforces my faith in humanity’s goodness, even when current events in the larger world are bleak.
Do you have a ritual or practice you perform to prepare for a retreat?
People tell me I’m a natural leader, which is one reason I’m often asked to lead organizations of types, from our Ragnar relay teams to the Graland School’s Parents Association, where I mentored 30 sub-committees, conducted monthly meetings for our executive team and parent groups. But despite all that experience, I don’t take leadership as a skill for granted, and am very intentional in my approach and preparation.
About two weeks before departing for a Run Wild retreat, I meditate on the clients and their aspirations and the region and specifics of the trails and the opportunities for growth. I meditate for staff, safety and purpose. I meditate that the process of each day matters more than the outcome. I mediate that at the retreat’s end, the women feel more peaceful and in touch with their greatest potential.
How do you know when you’re being an effective retreat leader?
I witness the group caring for themselves and each other. Like when a faster runner runs with a women who runs slower than her, simply so they can have a conversation. It fills my heart to overhear them talking about topics that reflect what we’re experiencing as a group during the retreat, about their lives back home. I love that each retreat group has its own personality based on the chemistry of the women, so each one of those conversations is different.
Another way I know I’ve done my job is when I hear them laugh! They create haikus on the trail, dance across bridges or pose for creative—even silly—pictures.
“I loved every minute of this experience. Liz was our fearless leader! She became a dear friend right off the bat. Her positive energy only added to the wonderful retreat.”
“I just completed the Level 1 Moab Mindful Running Retreat, and I’m already trying to find my next one. Our leader, Liz, was amazing – truly authentic, knowledgeable, and so welcoming!”