Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lauren Fleshman Runs Like a Girl

   Lauren Fleshman is not only a successful professional runner, she is also an entrepreneur, a columnist, a motivational speaker, a Oiselle spokesperson, a wife and mother, and a creative personality. 

    Fleshman is famous in the running community for her role as an advocate for empowerment, self-expression, and creativity.  As a runner, she has many great accomplishments.  She was an All American fifteen times, the NCAA 5k champion five times, two time USA champion in the 5k, 7th place 5k finisher at the World Championships, and has been running professionally for the past 12 years. While these achievements are impressive, what sets Lauren apart from other successful runners are her actions off the track.  She paved the way for other runners to express themselves as intelligent people rather than just brawny athletes. By utilizing her talents in a variety of domains, she opened doors for the world of athletics.

    In 2009, Fleshman created her own company along with her husband, professional triathlete Jesse Thomas.  The company is called “Picky Bars” and it sells  bars that cater toward real athletes. Fleshman and Thomas noticed that the only nutrition bars on the market were either loaded with artificial ingredients or were not substantial enough for high performance athletes.  Fleshman and Thomas decided to create a bar that was both healthy (not to mention gluten and dairy free) and a good energy source. She put her Biology and Athletic Performance degrees from Stanford to use by not only creating the bar, but also an entire brand to go behind the bar.  The “Picky Bars” brand is sold in select running stores and online and has since branched out to selling other running-related merchandise.
    Through Picky Bars, Lauren tore down the barrier between athletics and business. She recognized a need for an athlete-friendly nutrition bar and took the initiative in solving the problem. In doing so, she not only created a product that could benefit other runners, but also sparked other runners to take action and create their own products. 
    Fleshman is also an outspoken advocate for women’s running. She is an active columnist for her own and Runner’s World Magazine where she writes articles about her own experiences of balancing her training with running her business and raising her two-year old son that are both relatable and inspirational for her fellow runners to read. On her website,  Fleshman blogs about diverse topics from food to fashion and also allows fans to ask her direct questions. In 2013, Lauren switched sponsorships and began running professionally for an exclusively female company called Oiselle. The mission of this company is female empowerment and Lauren takes part in this mission by using social media to inspire both a healthy body and mindset for all women.

    Last September, Fleshman came to Chicago in order to pace a group of runners for the Chicago marathon.  She spoke at the Fleet Feet shop where runners were picking up bib numbers and I went with the other members of the Loyola women’s cross country team to meet her, since we all view her as a mix between an idol and a relatable role model. She gave a brief speech about her background, mentality, and motivations and then opened it up as a question and answer session.  In her speech, she expanded on her motivations for her non-running ventures. She said that although running is her passion, there is so much more to her than running and she wants to incorporate all of her other talents into her life as well.
     Lauren reminds me of our Csikszentmihalyi reading and discussion about flow state and its role in the creative personality. Fleshman experiences flow state when she runs-- her conscious state fades away and her motivation becomes purely intrinsic.  Her body naturally moves to ensure maximum efficiency while her mind meditates. In turn, she benefits from her running long after her daily run is over, because the ideas that her running inspires carry over to her outside life. 
    Lauren’s innovation within multiple domains of the running community have made her one of its top creatives. Her multifaceted nature makes her much more than just a fast runner; she is a force to be reckoned with on and off the track.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: Harper/Collins.

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