The 42nd Paris Schneider Electric marathon is barely just over a month away on April 8 and people are gearing up. Normally that means a solitary, punishing run through the winter months of darkness, or a companionless, endless jog on a treadmill staring straight ahead. The loneliness of the long distance runner is a famous saying and a bit of cliché, but it's true. However, one running group, supplied with the decades worth of knowledge and groundbreaking tech from ASICS, is attempting to change that.
Sound Body, Sound Mind—shortened to SMSB—is based on the ASICS founding principle: Anima Sana In Corpore Sano, or a 'sound mind in a sound body'. However, the link is far deeper than that, translating ASICS's founding ethos to help people get fitter and healthier but with the support of a community of like-minded people. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the benefits of exercising in a group include a social and fun environment, as well as a group accountability factor–all of which helps keep you motivated and, crucially, keeps exercising and looking after your body a fun thing to do.
SMSB training involves not only staged runs in a group, but a varied regime incorporating stretching, and low and high-intensity interval training (such as yoga, pilates, climbing, or boxing). It's all about leading a life well-lived through sport. SMSB Crews are in six cities around the world, but we caught up with four members of the Paris chapter—Yoga instructor Aurélie, Maud from international pop-culture marketing agency Konbini; freelance creative marketer Angie; startup developer Antho; with the stunning photographs from fellow SMSB Paris crew member Albin Durand—to find out how SMSB helps them and how they're using ASICS to train for one of the world's most gruelling marathons in the French capital.
Tell us about yourself. What do you do?
Aurelie Louis Alex: Yes! I'm 27 years old and I’m a yoga teacher. I graduated in 2017 and since then, everything has been like an amazing big dream for me. I meet a lot of people by doing what I love the most. I traveled and had the chance to teach my very first class in Tokyo last year with ASICS. It was amazing, so I teach yoga and hopefully help people understand their bodies, love them, and take care of them a bit more every day.
Angelina Nieddu: I work as the Marketing and PR manager of Le Pain Quotidien: a health restaurant chain. I also created Granolalala, which is a sugar-free, natural and healthy alternative to the regular store-bought granola. I also work as a freelancer on a few different projects. As I said, it is crucial for me to stay active physically, socially and professionally so that I never get bored.
Maud Darabasz: I work in media. I’m a business developer so, like in sports, my role is connecting good people on the right projects. It’s a job with a huge part of representation so I have to be positive in many situations.
Anthony Maison: The team is really a source of motivation for me. There's always a great organized program of activities. It's impossible not to find what we are looking for!
How do you like to move? How do you like to exercise?
Aurelie Louis Alex: I'm a dynamic person, so I always seek an activity that helps me feel all the sensations in my body. I like yoga because it combines deep breathing and moves similar to dance when practicing. I like to sweat, so running is always a good thing for that. But dance and yoga are my favorites.
Angelina Nieddu: I like to work out in the morning between 6 and 8 a.m. before work. It gives me energy and boosts my day. I used to be a cardio person but now I'm more into cross training. I like to try new forms of exercise to vary my technique and routine, such as pilates, dance, CrossFit, boxing, electrostimulation, cycling, and meditation.
Maud Darabasz: I like to move every day, at every moment of the day, especially in the morning. I like to try out every kind of sport at least once. I'm always very active, I would always choose the movement instead of a lazy solution (I never use the elevator, for example...). I love challenging myself in both sports and in my everyday life. It's not like I have any more energy than the average person but, then again, I think I have.
What’s your daily routine and how do you stay active?
ALA: Well, I stretch a lot. So three times a week I take at least 15 mins to stretch. And also do my pranayama yogic breathing exercises. Then I either run and do yoga or I do my yoga routine and then have 30 mins of high-intensity interval training (HIIT)—again, the sweaty part that I like! I stay active with those but also by learning new yoga postures or training in my flow for my classes.
AN: First, I wake up at 6.30 a.m.. Then I either do home training or I run outside (depending on the weather) and then I have breakfast at home. If the weather is really bad to train outside I usually choose to take a class in one of Paris’s gym clubs. Work usually starts at 9.30 a.m. and ends up at 5.30 p.m. and if I am not too tired I usually work out for the second time. To finish my day on a good note I go out with my close friends to have a drink or two or go to the cinema with my boyfriend. It's very important for me to also stay socially active.
MD: I wake up at 6.45 a.m. every morning. During the week I put my sportswear on and go directly to yoga, pilates, or a spinning class or even join some of my friends for an early run. It gives me energy, helps me to focus on my work and to be more efficient. Always having new goals and giving myself new challenges helps me stay active.
How does ASICS help you with that?
ALA: Well, that’s easy! I'm a member of the SMSB crew! So I teach my yoga classes to my SMSB mates and I have a lot of fun doing it because I can express myself and share what I love the most with other people, people who want to discover new activities, new ways of moving. Also, we have the chance of discovering other sports: climbing, pilates, those kinds of things... It's really cool to be provided with those classes.
AN: ASICS provides me with a lot of very high-quality equipment like shoes adapted to my run and high-quality textiles. It also gives me a large and broad panel of activities such as the Paris Marathon that allow me to get better and reach my goals. With ASICS I feel like I'm part of a team, we're always trying to understand and motivate each other to train better to improve our techniques and performances.
MD: ASICS gives me the opportunity to try so many different disciplines! From climbing to running there's a big gap but always the same goal: to learn, experience new things, and to improve myself. It also fills me with a real sense of team spirit. We're partners, and that allows us to motivate and challenge one another to go out of our comfort zone.
How does Sound Mind, Sound Body’s training help you?
ALA: When I meet up with SMSB folks I discover their passions and what they like to do. So naturally it helps, you know? Because we are open-minded people who agree to go on adventures together and do new things that sometimes are out of the box.
AN: SMSB members are all very active and all work in similar fields like sports, arts, and media or digital. But sport is a big part of their lives. SMSB brings us together and because we share similar passions for training, it helps us discover new exciting sports like yoga, pilates, or climbing. It's really cool and rewarding to train together and to motivate each other so we can all set new goals and reach new limits and progress.
MD: SMSB gives me the chance to share my experience with my partners. We help each other and give advice not only on sports but also in life, like about our jobs or our travels. There's a real team spirit.
Anthony Maison: It helps me to find a certain regularity. It helps me discover new sports. The coaching SMSB provides also helps me, day after day, to improve my posture, whether that be in running or climbing.
You're all training for the Paris Marathon. How does SMSB's diverse training schedule, like climbing and bouldering, yoga and pilates, help with your training?
ALA: I won’t lie, [training for the marathon] is not easy, and I say this because running for yourself is cool: you put your trainers on and go outside and run and that's it. But when you have to train for a specific race... well, a little pressure comes with it. I don’t want to do a personal best, it’s gonna be my first marathon. But I want to finish it. And just that seems huge enough when you have rainy or windy days to run through. But yoga and pilates help me to control my fears, with the breathing exercises and core training too. Most people will do abs and only HIIT to maintain the cardio when not running. I don’t want that—I want to stay and train soft sometimes and treat my body gently because it needs it.
AN: It's so exciting to train for the marathon, and it's my first one ever, too! I usually run three times a week, with distances between five and 20 k.m.. Pilates and yoga help me reinforce my deepest muscles as well as my articulations, increasing my performance, limiting muscle soreness, and keeping me in a good and motivated mindset.
MD: Yes I am training—it's in less than a month and I can’t wait but I'm also kind of afraid. It's my first marathon and it's such a big challenge! I actually have a weekly routine for my training. It’s a little bit hard to follow my program properly but I try to be serious and stick to it.
AM: I run a lot, however, I stretch very little. Pilates and yoga allow me to stop and focus on myself, and that stretching gives a lot back to the mind and body.
It seems like groups like SMSB help people be more confident and committed to exercise. Would you agree?
ALA: Yeah, it’s true. Our captain created a thing that gives everyone the chance to contribute. Every month our captain selects a co-captain and during the month, the co-captain will schedule activities that can be related to whatever he or she loves the most or simply just activities we wouldn't have thought about before. It develops in each others’ minds a certain curiosity and envy to do more to explore and play with our confidence: "Will I do this right?", "Oh that seems cool, let see what it is..." It expands our sports playground. And that's a chance to enhance our own self-confidence but also to be more committed because we are invited to do it in good company. I mean, what else can we ask for?
MD: Sure, I'd agree. SMSB is about connecting people who have different feelings about sports but who have the same desire to share their experience with positive and inspirational people.
AM: For sure. We are friends, we help each other, and share advice, even when sometimes we’re picky! It makes us want to surpass ourselves and gain confidence because we know that others will always be there.
Can you talk a bit more about Parisian running culture? What's it like to run in the city?
ALA: Well, a year ago I had the chance to join a running club in Paris. I discovered what "running with people" actually means. Before that, I was a lonely happy runner. You know: waking up at 7 a.m. in the morning, going for a run before work, and that was it. But today I can say that I have a running world of my own, and it’s populated with like-minded people. I also discovered the team spirit. Not only does it create links with other people, which are incredibly important, but most of all it cheers you up, literally.
There are so many paths to take and so many paths to run and have fun on! Running in a city is always different because, say, after a mile, you might find yourself on a street you hate, and then suddenly you find yourself running across a bridge or a stretch of road that gives you a wonderful sensation and an incredible view. That’s the feeling of running in a city: you hate it sometimes but you won’t stop, and you can go again anytime you want.
AN: I'm the kind of person that doesn’t like to run in a natural kind of environment but instead I’d rather run in the city. I do it to rediscover the beautiful French architecture and to feel the concrete ground. In Paris, the running culture is quite developed. In my opinion, it represents a real democratization of the city and of the sport because all types of people are realizing that taking care of themselves is crucial... and makes you feel so good!
MD: Running is one of the most accessible sports you can do, you don’t need anything to do it, except your own motivation! Paris is such a beautiful city—everybody knows that. But we don’t have too many playgrounds or stadiums to train in so we're obliged to reclaim the city. It will give you confidence. I don't like to run at all, and it’s exactly at this time where SMSB has a special role! The crew has the power to motivate me and push my limits.
AM: I think Paris is an ideal place to observe the running culture. There are plenty of different running clubs, some performance oriented, others much more social. We all know each other here because Paris is small. And no matter the mood of the different clubs, we feel that behind each one is a whole load of passion—we're trying to push the limits of what we know about running and running clubs.
What do you think are the common barriers preventing people getting active today?
ALA: I'd say laziness and money. Laziness because you will often hear an "I don’t have the time to do sport". This excuse is lame. We all have the time, you just have to organize. Even five to ten minutes a day is good enough. And money... Why? Because when you live in big city, if you are not a person who likes to go to the gym, then you have a hard time spending 30€ for a spinning class, HIIT training session assisted by coaches, or anything else. Those things are great but when you are on a budget and you don’t do sport for leisure but to achieve a goal, it's harder to be motivated.
AN: Most people say they lack time. I think it's an accumulation of stress and overwork, to be honest, that creates fatigue and then demotivation. You add in bad eating habits and a non-healthy lifestyle and then you've got a combination of factors that prevent people from getting active and working out.
MD: I think that barriers are only in people's mind. For example, it's so easy to say "I don’t have time" or, "It's shitty weather today, I can’t go outside." But, sometimes, when all the factors aren't in place to make it a 'perfect' run, this is often the best workout you can have because, at the end of it, you're doubly proud of what you've done.
AM: The main barrier is to think that sport is simply useful for losing weight. If we think about it, we start the sport as a punishment, and we take no pleasure, so it’s hard to continue in the long term. I think everyone should take the time to experiment with sports because there are a thousand things to discover.
How has exercise and movement changed the way you approach your day-to-day work?
ALA: Well that's easy for me as I'm always moving because I'm a yoga teacher. Movement is my way of living. But it does help. I feel far less stressed than years ago. Back in the day, I used to work in the Luxury retail world. I had days where I was too tired to do anything and it was like a vicious circle because sport was the way for me to chase away my stress, my fear. And to do it daily was not possible every time. And I got frustrated and not able to do anything. But now I know what to do and when to do it to give my body the strength and the energy it needs to move more, to go on and stay active and dynamic, to stay alive! And stressless!
AN: I feel like when I get to work in the morning I'm much more awake and energetic than my colleagues. They're normally still sleepy. I feel like it’s also due to the fact that I don’t feel like my whole day revolves around work as I had some time to take care of myself beforehand. I'm much more productive than when I was less active and I never lose my focus.
MD: I’m so much more effective at work, especially in the morning! I think I give good vibes to my colleagues. I don’t want to be a role model but some of them are impressed by my lifestyle and the only thing I have to say is that it's a question of mental power and a little bit of bravery to find the right balance that works for all of us.
AM: It allows me to arrive fresh at work. A little more tired on the big periods of training like the marathon, sure, but, in any case, I'm always smiling!
For more on ASICS' SMSB crew, check out asics.com.