When The Joyful Approach platform launched, I recruited Sean Fortune, founder of Central Park Coaching to the Joyful team. I was honored to have Sean aboard because he leads by great example with his elite level of training and coaching with holistic lifestyle. His expertise in running both personally and as a coach is so inspiring and motivating. With the continuous miles I run in Central Park, I get to see Sean training on his own and also coaching others on a daily. His enthusiasm and love for what he does is so apparent and admirable. I can tell by the expression’s in his athletes faces that he provides great dedication with each individual. Last year Sean was so kind to give us a detailed protocol on the NYC marathon with great tips.
I was curious to catch up with Sean and hear about what he’s been up to for some motivation with moving into the holiday season.
Hi Sean .. It’s been a year since your opening feature for TJA. It seems like you’ve been up to great things. We’d love to hear what you’ve been up to?
SF~ Aw, thanks Joy! Yeah, it’s been a fast moving year. From a running perspective, I challenged myself to start racing again last January. I wanted to compete for an age-group nomination from the New York Road Runners in 2017 and also make a push to get my 100th New York Road Runners race. I’ve always felt that when I’m racing often I get the most out of myself and my running, along with a deeper sense of connection to the NYC running community, so I wanted to get back to that. Also, a side benefit, perhaps counterintuitively, is that I seem to stay healthier with less injuries.
Anyways, I raced 6 times up until the Brooklyn Half Marathon in May. Regularly placing high in my age-group and winning a little prize money, I was pleased with how the year was shaping up. Unfortunately, due to my coaching schedule I wasn’t able to sustain the rigorous workout schedule I felt I needed to do in order to remain competitive, so the cord snapped and I fell off from racing . I also may have overdone it a bit, racing 6 times in 5 months. Once a month is plenty for me. Anyway, I’ll be back hopefully this winter with some indoor track racing and getting out on the roads for 2018. I’m only 8 races away from completing my 100th NYRR race, so that’s compelling to me. Also, 2018 will be my 20th anniversary for my NYC Marathon debut, so I’m planning on running that as well.
Professionally, I had an amazing opportunity to work with Laura Barisonzi on a drone video shoot in the Rockefeller Preserve with two of my athletes, Ella Ketchum, a Dartmouth cross country and track runner, and Walter Rodriguez, a Hunter college cross and track alum. The images and video came out spectacular. It was an exhausting day getting all the running shots she needed, but working with Laura you felt like a pro and you know the finished product will be amazing. We also had so much fun doing it, it was just a great time. I was also featured in BELLA magazine (a glossy Lifestyle magazine) giving tips on springing back into shape after a winter layoff. The article came out great! Working with them was fun and hopefully we can continue a relationship where I’m offering their readership tips on improved running.
This month I’ll also be working with another Hunter cross and track alum, Mark Carles, doing a short documentary on my coaching. Excited to see how that comes out. Mark’s a creative dude, so I have high hopes it will come out great.
Finally, there’s been talk between Walter and I about adding him as an “assistant coach” to Central Park Coaching! We haven’t figured out all the details, but one thing that could come out of it is that I may add a little group coaching in 2018. Something many people have inquired about over the years. So we’ll see about that.
Personally, I’ve met an incredible person and we’ve had the opportunity to do a little traveling – Moscow, Rome, and Capri. Weather wasn’t great in Moscow so I was confined to the treadmill, but the city is so cool! Great food, beautiful architecture in the city center, great museums, shopping, cool people. Nothing not to love about it. Gorky Park seems like the place to run. It’s Moscow’s Central Park. Very large, beautifully maintained. Lot’s of running and bike paths along the river!
Rome and Capri are my favorites, like anyone’s who’s ever been, I’m sure. And, as you know, the running in Capri can be quite challenging with the unrelenting inclines and narrow paths. But my favorite run was an easy jog down to the beach – Marina Piccola, and then a hard pace back up the 1.25 mile hill. If I stayed there for any great length of time, that would be my staple. My other favorite was a nice jog with my girlfriend to the top of a mountain where there’s a great overlook of the sea and other islands in the distance. There were some benches to take it all in and another secluded little area where you can do some beautiful trail running.
JD~ Have you made any significant changes in your training routine, (strength training as well?)
SF~ I have! I’ve been focusing a lot on strength training, particularly my upper body. I just love how it makes me feel. I simply like feeling strong, having muscles. Running competitively, I lost some of the upper-body muscle I put on swimming in college as a lifeguard, so it feels good working on regaining it.
JD~ What are the ranges of athletes you’re working with and what successes are you most proud of?
SF~ It’s funny you asked because just this year I started working with a 6 and 7 year old. I never thought I would work with that age, but I told the parents we could give it a shot if they were sure the kids really wanted to be there and could focus. Both have been a success and they’ve both been a real pleasure. It goes to show you, always keep an open mind!
The typically age range is about 12 to 60 years old… Oh, and tough question… I think I’m most proud of the successes that are achieved by the youth runners I coach and the adults who are fairly new to running and come to have a new, more “advanced” relationship to it. When someone like Ali, a 16 year old I’ve coached since 11 or 12, wins the championship race in an event she’s made for, in a savvy, nuanced way, and begins to fulfill the promise she’s shown from the very beginning, I’m absolutely overjoyed. There’s no better feeling for a coach. Or when Nick, as a freshman couldn’t break 5mins, and after coaching him for 2 years he places 8th in the Junior Olympics his Junior year with a 1500m equivalent time of a 4:24 mile, and I see all the work they put in, all the dedication, while balancing their school work, I’m simply in awe and completely overjoyed. And it’s not all about the results, it’s about them as individuals, learning real life lessons through committed athletics training. It develops character. Responsibility. Empathy. And to see them get paid back with results for their long and hard efforts, I feel like I’m doing something good in the world.
JD~ What is the most important thing you try to offer to your clients/athletes?
SF~ Understanding. Empathy. Knowledge. Experience. Through that, I can shape or reshape their relationship to running, and hopefully, how they approach life. Running is truly a transformative endeavour. Achieving results-based goals is just a component of that.
JD~ I’m amazed at how you manage to get your optimal training in and still be able to handle a heavy load of coaching others throughout the day. Can you share about your holistic lifestyle habits that support your success?
SF~ Thanks Joy! That’s really nice for you to say. I really try my best. But it doesn’t always work out. I’m grateful to have some good running buddies who live a similar lifestyle and I try to meet up with them for early morning workouts. I’m usually up at 4:30am to 5am each day. In order to do that, I have to be in bed by 9pm usually, lights out, 9:30pm. It sounds ridiculous, but I really don’t mind it. And really, in order to feel good, I need that sleep! With that schedule, there’s not much room for alcohol or an unhealthy diet. I always try to eat the most nutritious food I can eat that my body craves at that time. Crappy food makes me feel crappy, so I don’t even want it. It’s not an indulgence when you’re healthy, you want to avoid it.
JD~With all the recent traveling out of the country can you share how you manage to get your training in while traveling and if you have any tips on dealing with jet lag?
SF~I do the best I can but I do not hold myself accountable for training the same way I do when I’m home. I look at it this way: maintain what I have, but don’t try to increase fitness — it’s too much stress to do that and I’m sure I’ll come up short anyway, so I give myself a break and when I return home I can pick right back up from where I left off. You’d be surprised how little you have to do to maintain what you have when it’s just for a week or two. So, for me, that’s just making sure I get in at least 30mins of easy aerobic jogging — making sure I’m getting blood flow to the legs, and keeping my blood plasma (95% water; helps moves the oxygen carrying red blood cells efficiently) at the same levels. By also doing “strides” (15-20 second sprints with an emphasis on relaxed, smooth form) every other day I keep my leg muscles toned and fast, so when I pick back up with the peed workouts, my legs are ready. Also, wherever I go, I always make it a priority to find out what the situation is with running and try to find a gym. If no gym, I do push-ups, crunches, and planks in my hotel room.
I can’t sleep on planes, so I do feel the jet-lag pretty badly. I try to get my first run in as soon as possible. I try not to miss a day of exercise because I feel that helps to make me feel regular, back on schedule. But, like I said, I don’t overdo it. Just enough to maintain, get a little benefit from it.
JD~ What advice can you give to those of us on maintaining a healthy lifestyle with the longevity in running and fitness?
SF~ I think about this often, particularly on my solitary runs — ways to motivate or communicate effectively to people the importance of staying consistent with exercise. I most often come back to this: it’s a battle, or a war, so to speak. Each day is a fresh start, what you’ve done in the past is over, and you need to get to work, take care of business – today! I think it’s only when you look at it as a journey, not a means to an end, that you truly begin to understand exercise as a lifestyle.
JD~ What is joyful in your life now?
SF~ The relationship I’m in with the most wonderful person I’ve ever met. I know it may sound syrupy sweet but I feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world to be a part of her life and to have her in mine. I’m also thrilled to just continue to have the opportunity to do what I’m doing and build on it. I feel like I have so much more to give the world and I plan on trying my best to be in situation where I can manifest those dreams.
Photos by Laura Barisonzi