by Louis Cinquino

In most of my solo running, I like to mix things up. I rarely know exactly where I’m going to run when I head out the door. I have a time or general location in mind and just go where my interest seems to take me. It shocks many of my running friends (and ALL of my fellow running coaches), but I don’t even like to run with a watch.

Yet when I have some specific goal in mind, everything changes.

Then it becomes critical to know exactly where I’m going and how fast I’m proceeding. So I get the GPS out and do some planning.

As with planning the route of any trip, I want to know:

1) Where am I?
2) Where am I going?

When I turn the device on, GPS automatically tells me where I am and locates me on the map. I just consider where I want to go, enter in the specific destination, and follow the instructions, turn by turn.

But with the WholeRunner approach, it’s the opposite. We know where we want to go—but we aren’t really sure where we are. We know we want a happier, more positive life, even if we don’t know exactly what that will look like. But first, we have to investigate the specifics of our lives to determine exactly where we are right now.

That’s why WholeRunner starts with a couple of assessment techniques used widely by positive psychology coaches. We will discuss the SPIRE technique in this post and VIA Character Survey in the next post. Together, they give us an idea of where we are starting from and what we have to work with on our path to our happier, more positive life.

As with every tool of positive psychology we discuss, we will adapt each of these assessments to be supported and enhanced by our running.

That adaptation is the 1 + 1 = 3 of the Whole Runner approach—each by themselves, good; together, better. We know that running is good for us. We also know that these assessments, and other tools we will work with, have been shown to be very effective in bringing awareness and laying the groundwork for proven strategies to build happiness.

With WholeRunner, we integrate these tools with the passion and rituals of our running. The tools become more effective and our running has new purpose. We turn our running from a simple means of exercise into a meaningful practice and source of even greater joy.


“How was your run?”

When someone asks me that, I don’t really know how to answer, because there isn’t just one answer. Do I want to talk about how fast I ran? Whether my signature aches and pains flared up? Where I ran? What I saw? Who I was with? What I thought about (the weather? chafing?)?

I usually just say “Good.” And leave it at that.

Which is perhaps the same way you answer when someone asks you the most ubiquitous (yet important) question of our times …

“How are you doing?”

In Wholebeing Happiness, her mini workbook on the SPIRE method, Megan McDonough points out that there really isn’t one answer to that question, either.

“The truth is, the question isn’t just one question—it’s five,” she writes. “When you understand the five perspectives that create the whole of your well-being, you can see more clearly how you are doing—how you are REALLY doing—in each aspect of life. These perspectives are your Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Relational, and Emotional (SPIRE) well-being.”

We will look at each of these facets individually and start to track our progress just like some of us track the mileage and details of our runs. This will allow us to appreciate the best aspects of what’s working well in our lives, while also identifying the areas we’d like to address with intention.

For a complete introduction to the SPIRE method of building well-being, click here. You’ll find a short video introduction and a free download of Wholebeing Happiness.

Inside Track to Happiness Exercise

Here are some options for you to consider when deciding how to bring the SPIRE approach into your running.

If you already keep (or want to start) a running log:

1. Incorporate your SPIRE entries to your existing running log.

Just add five columns and assign a number from one to 10 for each of the five perspectives for every day in which you make a log entry.

That way you can keep an ongoing record of your progress in each area of your life, right along with the details of your runs that you are already recording.

2. Add SPIRE and a SPIRE-Running Vector to your running log.

This means adding a total of 10 columns to your running log—five to track the SPIRE perspectives as they relate to wholebeing happiness and five additional SPIRE perspectives as they specifically relate to your run that day. (See below for details.)

If you don’t keep (or want to start) a traditional running log:

3. Create a SPIRE-running vector.

Create the SPIRE log described in the workbook, but instead of tracking SPIRE perspectives in your overall wholebeing happiness, think specifically about how the five perspectives came through in your running that day. This will give you a SPIRE- running vector, a specific prism to look at your wholebeing happiness through your running experience.

Consider …

Spiritual: Was I able to savor the moments of my run? Did my run help me consider how to lead a more meaningful life? Did my run help give meaning and purpose to my day? Did I use that time to pray or meditate? Did being out in nature bring me spiritual satisfaction?

Physical: How did my body feel during my run? Did I stay aware of how I felt during different phases of my run? Was I satisfied with my pace? How did I care for my body before, during and after my run? Did I respect my body’s need for recovery and injury prevention? How did my run help me feel later in the day?

Intellectual: Did my run help me engage with curiosity? Did my run open my mind for the pursuit of learning? Did my run refresh my mind for my work?

Relational: Did my run help nurture a constructive relationship with myself or others? Did I appreciate the people I was running with—even if it was just myself?

Emotional: Did my run help me feel certain emotions during or after my run? Did I clear out toxic emotions that were bothering me? Did my run help me reach toward resilience and positivity?

4. Create a SPIRE that tracks both your wholebeing happiness (using the SPIRE method described in the workbook) and your SPIRE-running vector.

When you do that, you establish two parallel data lines and see how your overall SPIRE tracking compares to the data line that is specifically about your run that day.

This helps show how your running can support your wholebeing happiness by giving you a focused opportunity to bring positive emotions to your day.

Importantly, it can also show if your running is somehow standing in the way of your progress. For example, it can point out if your runs are riddled with rumination about difficulties in your relationships, if the kind of running you are doing is making you feel physical pain instead of normal exertion and recovery, or if you are so judgmental about your time and distance that you are beating yourself up about your workouts instead of appreciating the joys they offer.

Whichever approach you take, the application of the SPIRE method to your running will immediately have you deeply considering your runs in ways you may have overlooked or taken for granted. And by doing that kind of reflective work on something very specific and tangible like your running, you gain practice for looking at other aspects of your life that may affect your wholebeing happiness in even more impactful ways.

Watch for the next installments in Louis Cinquino’s Whole Runner series—and check out his previous posts and series for the blog here

Get your free SPIRE check-in.

Go deeper. Take the Introduction to Wholebeing Happiness course.

Louis Cinquino is a writer, Certified Distance Running Coach, life coach, dad, and graduate of CiPP4 and Positive Psychology Coaching Fundamentals. His personal observations, discoveries, and training plan as he prepared for the Fifth Avenue Mile race were featured in “The Mulligan Mile,” (Runners World, September 2013). He is currently developing WholeRunner: Your Inside Track to Happiness, a project to explore and explain the positive psychology of running. You can read more from Louis on his blog,