Running Changes Everything®: The Evolution of a Beginner Runner

Gina Kutz after a half marathon race.

Gina Kutz still marvels at where her running journey has taken her in just two short years.

After dabbling in running for years, the 41-year-old resident of Fitchburg, Wisconsin decided to go all-in during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020 because she needed exercise at a time when gyms were closed. Since then, she says running has changed everything in her life for the better.

She’s lost weight and gained fitness, developed a new sense of confidence, met new running friends, run two half marathons, completed her first marathon and fostered a closer bond with her teenage son as one of her frequent running partners.

It all started when she agreed to join a group run organized by her gym and a visit to the local Fleet Feet store in nearby Madison.

“My gym was closed during Covid so they started organizing group runs outdoors,” she says. “I signed up for the first one, and I was told I should get a decent pair of running shoes. They recommended I go to Fleet Feet. At that point, I wasn’t a runner and didn’t know anything about running shoes, so I needed all the help I could get.”

Getting Started

Gina Kutz smiles and holds up her medals.

When Kutz nervously walked into Fleet Feet Madison for the first time, she was warmly greeted by owner Jessica Anderson, a longtime runner who is passionate about welcoming new runners and getting them started in the sport she loves. Anderson talked with Kutz about her running history and her new fitness goals, then put her through theFleet Feet fit id® Outfitting Process to find shoes that would be ideal for her feet, running gait and level of training.

That included scanning Kutz’s feet with Fleet Feet’s proprietary 12-camera 3D fit id® Foot Scanning Technology. Combined with the Dynamic Pressure Mapping System, that process determined the precise length, width, arch height and movement patterns of her feet and gave Anderson an indication of how Kutz absorbs impact and stress when she’s running.

Anderson brought out several models for Kutz to try on and test out on the store’s treadmill and on the sidewalk in front of the store. She eventually settled on a pair of ASICS GEL-Kayano, a stability trainer with ample cushioning, a plush interior and moderate support.

Learn more about stability shoes and how they work

“I was intimidated going into the store the first time, but Jessica made me feel welcome and calm. She not only helped me find my first real pair of running shoes, but helped me start my journey as a runner,” Kutz says.

Before Kutz left the store that day, Anderson told her about Fleet Feet’s training program that had coaches for every pace group and was specifically catered to new runners. Once Kutz began doing regular group runs with members of her gym, she decided to start training for her first 5K with the Fleet Feet program.

While Kutz admits she first struggled running a single mile without stopping, she was encouraged by the program’s supportive group atmosphere and the reliability and comfort of her new shoes, as well as the generous return policy.

“Jessica told me ‘if you run in them tomorrow and you really don’t like them, come back and we’ll figure out another model for you,’” she says. “She was so insistent on helping me get started the right way, she said ‘if you get a few miles under your feet and it’s giving you a blister or it’s not working out for this, that or whatever reason, come on back in and we can get you into one another option.’ And that’s amazing, because that means there’s no pressure on the shoes. It’s not like you’re locked in for the rest of your life or the $150 you paid is gone for good.”

Kutz ran her first 5K and then went on to run several more and started joining longer group runs. She says she also lost weight as she gained fitness and really immersed herself in the running lifestyle.

Happiness is a New Pair of Shoes

With about 300 miles on her original pair of ASICS, she returned to the store. As her fitness had changed so had her feet, so she went through the Fleet Feet scanning process a second time. She chose a pair ofASICS GEL-Nimbus, a lightweight neutral running shoe with premium cushioning and moderate support that would help accommodate her higher running volume.

“The scanning process is super cool,” Kutz says. “ It creates a digital image of your feet, almost like a 3-D printing of your feet, and then the store outfitters who know everything about every model can see the exact image of your feet, which gives them an idea of what shoes are best for you.”

Gina Kutz smiles as she ties a pair of shoes.

In addition to Jessica’s assistance, Kutz also received in-store guidance from Megan Sweet and Jacky Hernandez, who double as coaches for the store’s training programs. With their encouragement, plus the inspiration from her own growing level of fitness, Kutz signed up for the Fleet Feet half marathon training program last summer which helped her finish her first 13.1-mile race at the Madison Marathon last November.

Her evolution as a runner continued in 2022 with longer weekend runs, faster workouts, a deeper understanding of how her body responds to training and more confidence in her ability. She also went back in to go through the scanning process again and this time fell in love with On Cloudflow, a lighter and faster neutral model with an energetic vibe. Since then, she’s purchased additional pairs of the On Cloudflow that she alternates in her weekly rotation with her ASICS GEL-Nimbus shoes.

New Year, New Goals

Since the start of 2022, Kutz has maintained a running streak in which she’s been lacing up her shoes and running every single day. She also signed up for and successfully completed her first marathon at the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon.

“One of the best things about my Fleet Feet experience is that it proved to me that I could do it,” she says. “Jessica and Megan and Jacky have been so welcoming and they’re so embracing of all pace groups. All of them made it easy to join something that was hard for me. Some of us don’t have a naturally athletic body or we don’t look like a gazelle just from birth. I didn’t know anything about shoes when I started, so getting help with that combined with knowing that when you show up there’s a team that will be there for you, too, is really comforting.”

“I never thought that I would be a runner, but it’s really become part of my life,” Kutz says. Need new running shoes? You, too, can go through the Fleet Feet fit id® Outfitting Process at a Fleet Feet store near you.

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