Under the Spotlight

Under the Spotlight: Jae Gruenke, The Balanced Runner

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Each month we showcase some of the fantastic stories our community of business owners and professionals have to share.

This month Jae Gruenke, Founder of The Balanced Runner™ speaks to Virtalent about her business, how she manages her work/life balance and the exciting progress she has made in 2017.

Hi Jae, could you please introduce yourself and just tell us a little about what you do?

My name is Jae Gruenke, and I’m a Feldenkrais Practitioner, running technique expert, and founder of The Balanced Runner™. Every runner has had at least one perfect run, where the movement felt effortless–a little like they were flying–and they felt they could run forever. We help runners from beginner to Olympian recapture that feeling and make it their usual way of running.

Our flagship program is the 6-week Balanced Runner Online Camp, and we also offer advanced online courses, one-to-one online technique coaching, and live workshops and one-to-one lessons.

Thank you. I know what you mean about that “perfect run”, there has definitely only been one for me. Definitely! So, what does a typical day look like for you?

I’m up at 6:15, helping my husband and son get themselves out the door to work and school by 7:30. Then I head out for a run, followed by an active isolated stretch sequence, breakfast, and often a bit of housework. I’m usually catching up on running- or business-related podcasts as I do that, then I sit down for a few minutes with my planner to review my goals for the day.

After that I might be at my desk working on marketing projects, doing client consults via Zoom or supporting clients via email, or writing a blog post or article. Or I might be sprawled on the floor developing a new lesson or at my microphone recording it.

Shortly after 3 pm, I’m off to pick my son up from school (a 10-mile round trip bike ride), run errands on the way home, cook dinner and shepherd my son through homework, violin practice, and to bed. Then I usually return to my desk for 1-3 hours, answering emails and supporting folks in my private Facebook groups.

It sounds like you have extremely packed days, you must really love what you do. Why did you choose to work in your industry?

I’ve been a movement-related professional my entire adult life. Human movement is my passion, there really was no other choice for me. I was a professional modern dancer for 13 years after graduating from university; towards the end of that time I became a fitness trainer, then Feldenkrais practitioner, and ultimately decided to focus on running.

I’d solved my own difficulties with running using the Feldenkrais Method of Movement Education and fallen in love with it; running is a fundamental human gait and a deep and ancient part of our humanity. Despite this, the need in the running community to really understand how running works and have an effective learning process for developing better technique is enormous, and I’m dedicated to filling it.

“My excellent Virtalent VA, Joe Timothy, was critical to my most recent online camp launch… I’ve been amazed and encouraged at how much faster my business has progressed since I started working with Virtalent.”

That sounds like a really admirable mission, as well as something of an unknown to many runners. The powerful influence of movement on your running, although it sounds obvious I am not too sure whether people would consider it like that. What has been your biggest challenge since starting your company?

Like you said, what I’m offering is very, very far outside the box, so of course, this creates a huge marketing challenge. I’ve worked every day since I started The Balanced Runner in 2003 to more clearly communicate what really is possible—how learning actually works and how running actually works.

It’s been an uphill struggle. If I were selling services that only worked half as well, required ten times the effort, and were a bit painful (like rolling your IT bands on a foam roller) I would be much more successful because that’s what runners expect.

Nonetheless, my business is growing steadily, as are my reputation and influence. It’s very exciting.

That’s really great to hear. So what does the future look like? What is your vision or long-term aim for the business?

To completely redefine the sport and activity of running, and by the time I pass away to become obsolete because my approach has been so widely adopted that The Balanced Runner as such is no longer needed. Steps along the way include continuing to build my work with elite athletes, as this influences the choices recreational athletes make about their training; writing books; publishing research, and launching training programs for other Feldenkrais practitioners as well as coaches and physiotherapists.

That sounds really exciting, may I ask how did you actually hear about Virtalent?

Google! I’m an American who used to live in the UK but now lives in Germany. My customers are primarily in the US and UK so I wanted an English-speaking VA. I Googled “UK VA services” and Virtalent was one of the top choices. I’m glad I chose them.

Oh Google, the bringer of so much into our lives. So, after finding Virtalent what tasks and projects have we been supporting you with? How has this support changed the way you work?

My excellent Virtalent VA, Joe Timothy, was critical to my most recent online camp launch, helping to create and manage Facebook ad campaigns, do marketing and technical research, solve technical problems on my website, provide customer support, and transition my large library of recorded audio lessons to a new platform.

My goals are big but my time is limited, and I’ve been amazed and encouraged at how much faster my business has progressed since I started working with Virtalent.

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