by: Elly Ayres
Whether you're training for a marathon, exercising semi-regularly, or just looking for ways to remix your weekly routine, running can seriously switch things up. We spoke with three women whose running exercises fuel them — helping them to create, motivate, and empower others through being active.
In partnership with adidas Running, we caught up with life coach and fitness expert Neghar Fonooni, actor and film producer Tiffany Lighty, and musician and music producer Kiran Gandhi for their takes on how running has reset their lives. From providing emotional breathing space and a sense of focus, to giving them the drive and determination needed to overcome obstacles (both the physical and metaphorical), here's why running is the ultimate release.
Kiran Gandhi (or Madame Gandhi, as music fans will know her) has a powerful relationship with running. While it helps her focus on her music, it also helped her combat menstrual stigma in 2015, when she ran the London Marathon bleeding freely on her period.
Previously a drummer for other artists, Gandhi found that this experience empowered her to begin making her own original music. An advocate for social change and justice, the positive messages in Gandhi's music appeal to listeners' empathy, she says, calling for a change of perspective.
"In my work, my mission is to paint a positive and celebratory picture of the female and femme experience," she says, "so that we change how womxn and femmes are understood in the world today."
It was Gandhi's marathon training that taught her the value of being goal-oriented, too — not just in running, but in her music. "This has taught me, in an era where we have constant stimulation and distraction, that extreme focus and shutting out the noise can lead to far greater productivity than trying to do several things at once," she says.
And in four years of producing and performing her own music, Gandhi's worked to spread her message of inclusivity and equality for everyone. "In my music, you can hear ideas about living in a world that is collaborative instead of competitive, that is emotionally intelligent instead of aggressive and that sees femininity as something that is aspirational as opposed to something that needs to conform or be eradicated," says Gandhi.
While Gandhi says she's still learning how to focus on one thing at a time, running has equipped her with what she needs to succeed. "It is my commitment to running and specifically distance running," she says, "that reminds me that staying focused and consistent is the key to achieving great things."
Tiffany Lighty chooses to run because it gives her strength, discipline, and peace when handling anything life throws her way. After all, that mindset is crucial when you're as busy as Lighty, whose multifaceted career has seen her assisting film directors and producers, and now transitioning into acting full time in Miami.
"Being active empowers me because I choose to take care of my body, spirit, and mind," says Lighty. "If you can go the distance, then you can beat the resistance, and nothing is better than a runner’s high."
Coming from a music industry family, Lighty's passion for film storytelling began when she was just a kid. "I can recall being on music video sets as young as six years old, which is where I fell in love with production and storytelling," she says. But her familiarity with the industry doesn't mean ideas materialize on demand — in order to jumpstart that process, running helps Lighty get the creativity flowing.
"I do find myself getting inspired during my runs because my imagination runs wild – no pun intended!" she says. "I find myself lost in my thoughts, flipping through ideas, to-do lists or goals while I’m running, and when I finish, I feel unstoppable."
That's why running's been a constant in Lighty's routine — plus, she says, you can do it anywhere, especially while traveling. "All you need are your sneakers and a good playlist," she says.
Los Angeles-based life coach, writer, and entrepreneur Neghar Fonooni has been running regularly since she was 19, when she was preparing for Air Force Basic Training. The rigorous practice taught her mental discipline, which gave her courage to meet every other aspect of training head-on.
When she tested in the 2-mile run, Fonooni was the first female to finish. "I remember hearing the training instructors screaming my name and cheering me on," she says. "'Beat the guys!' they shouted."
It was an accomplishment that still drives Fonooni today, and now she runs because it energizes her — in body and mind. "The more I prioritize my fitness, the more powerful I feel," says Fooni. "And when I feel powerful in my body, there’s nothing I can’t accomplish in my professional life."
As a life coach, business consultant, writer, and more, Fonooni works to build up people around her, particularly when it comes to helping womxn-identifying people empower themselves. In a culture where womxn are made to feel small, silent, and apologetic, she says, "choosing to take up space and show up in our fullness is an act of rebellion."
Fonooni runs because it makes her come alive, she says, and her running routine provides mental balance. "I truly believe that movement is therapy — that in moving our bodies, we are able to process many of the emotional and energetic aspects of our being that will otherwise remain stagnant," says Fonooni.
But ultimately, running remixes Fonooni's life by helping her feel her best, which prepares her to step into the world and do the same for others. "Sometimes the simple act of showing up and owning your magic is enough to encourage someone else to do the same," says Fonooni.
Design: Julie Vaccaro/ Bustle; Photos of Kiran Gandhi: Jen Rosenstein; Kiran's Lighting Assistant: Sarah Hyland-Rosenstein; Photos of Tiffany Lighty: Genesis Bonilla; Photos of Neghar Fonooni: Melanie Lim.
This post is sponsored by adidas Running and the new Ultraboost 19.