As Told To Tai Saint-Louis

For Jessica Flores, the concept of community has always been connected to running. Her father– a world-class athlete who has run some of the most difficult races in the world, beating plenty of world records along the way– instilled the idea that being active is 100% the way to a happy and successful life. As a result, the former USC soccer player says her family was, and remains, her first running community. To this day, the first people she reaches out to when she wants to go for a run are her brothers. “We grew up watching my dad get up at two or three in the morning to go run or train,” Jessica explains. “So I know that no matter when I ask, they’ll most likely be down to join me.” 

Truth is: having the right people around to support and encourage you in your running or overall fitness journey is just as important as having the right running shoes or sports bra. And just like today’s fitness landscape offers a variety of design and functionality options to ensure that women have all the tools they need to feel comfortable going out there and getting active, there are tons of resources to help you find your running community. Whether you’re seeking support as you embark on your running journey, or looking to build connections with runners in a new city, Jessica shared a few tips that can help you go the distance.

We All Started Somewhere:

I empathize with how intimidating it can be to start running, especially at the beginning of your fitness journey or if you’ve never really made the gym part of your routine. If you’re worried about how you might look using a machine the first time, or concerned about how quickly you get tired, get those insecurities out of your head! People aren’t noticing you half as much as you think they are. Honestly, those of us in the fitness world are just happy to see someone trying.

Your Running Community May Already Be In Your Life:

Start with the people closest to you. You might find out that there are other people in your immediate circle who have been wanting to start running or embark on a new fitness journey. And if you can’t find anyone within your circle–  on socials or irl–  there are tons of local groups and digital communities out there that exist for the very purpose of building a crew around the shared love or curiosity for running.

Challenges Make The Crew Grow Tighter:

One of the most important tools for my online running family and I has been using challenges like the ones built into the Nike Run Club App to push each other to the next level. On days where I might not have the motivation to get out there, seeing my friends’ progress can be all the push I need. But, we also use these challenges to encourage each other: if we see someone falling behind, it’s not uncommon for us to do a run together to make sure no woman is left behind. The people that will do crazy Run Club Challenges or agree to a 5K on Thanksgiving? Those are my people.

Teamwork Makes Your Dreams And Goals Work

My first experience with team sports came when I joined my first soccer team at the age of 5. I can remember feeling a sense of accountability to my teammates even way back then. Being in team sports teaches you so much in regards to the skills you need to work with others, compromising, communication and self-dedication to your sport. Because at the end of the day, if you’re not competing at your best, you’re letting your team down. And today, I feel that same responsibility towards my community. That extends off the field to how I support my teammates and my overall attitude towards the world.

Your Running Community Isn’t Limited To The People You Run With

If you’re lucky enough to be in a city where big group fitness fairs and activities are a thing, get outside! Not only will you meet other people who share your love, passion or curiosity, these types of events often offer the opportunity to learn from professionals who can give you great tips and tools to support your journey. And a lot of times, these events partner with local vendors and artists that can help you connect with your community at large.

Your Creating A Path For Someone Else

When I was growing up, I remember seeing those Nike commercials with incredible cuts of women being extremely active and killing it at their sport. Those were my heroes. Those were the people that I looked up to. These days, I find that sense of empowerment from my online family, whether they’re inspiring me with a post or recent achievement, or literally encouraging me through their comments and feedback.

But I always try to remember that we’re all on an even bigger mission: showing little girls that, no matter your background or your situation, you can still get out there and get active and you can still do incredible things through sports. Children are so impressionable. And when you only see one type of body or one gender participating in certain activities, it can be discouraging. You don’t have to be a world class athlete to be a role model in that way.

This editorial is brought to you in partnership with Nike.