How I Run: Inside Tracker’s Jonathan Levitt

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I first bumped into Jonathan Levitt in the Twitterverse, which always reminds me how small a world it is that we live in. We connected over the fact that he works for a fitness start-up, and got nostalgic after chatting further and realizing he lives in the same town I did while in Boston (Allston) and is a member of the November Project tribe there.

After hearing about his big running goals for the next year, I asked him if he’d share some of the details via How I Run. Here it is, in his own words:

“Growing up playing hockey and baseball, the last thing I had ever imagined I’d enjoy was running. I was watching the 2013 Boston Marathon in Wellesley, seeing thousands of runners go by at the 13.1 mark. I thought if tens of thousands of normal-looking people (I’ve since learned runners are not “normal”) could run a marathon, why couldn’t I? Just a few weeks later, the One Run For Boston began, a cross country relay uniting runners from LA to Boston. It was then that I fell in love with running and even more importantly, the incredible community that exists.

A few weeks later, while out at a bar after a Red Sox game with a few new One Run For Boston friends, somebody brought up November Project. I had heard about it on Twitter, and had been interested in going. At around 11:30pm, we all agreed to show up the next morning, bright and early (6:30am!) at Harvard Stadium. Since then, my November Project friends have inspired me to run longer, stronger and much much faster. Since joining, I’ve run my first marathon, a few halfs and many other races.

I’ve been working in the health and fitness industry for three years now, and currently work at InsideTracker, a personalized health and science analytics company that monitors your nutrient and hormone levels to provide recommendations on how to help optimize performance based on food and lifestyle changes.”

1. What’s your favorite route? Anything along the Charles River in Boston!

2. What shoes do you wear? New Balance 1400’s for speed work, and Altra Zero Drop Torins for distance.

3. What other run gear can’t you live without? Garmin 220, ENERGYbits and November Project #GrassrootsGear (see photos!)

4. What’s your best time-saver or “runhack?” Run in the morning before other things get in the way!

5. What running-related thing are you better at than anyone else? Tweeting, which is often done while running. I’ve received so much free stuff as a result of tweeting, and am proud to help connect other runners with products and services (my running coach, Steven, and InsideTracker, in particular!) that help increase performance.

6. What do you listen to while running? Podcasts about running/nutrition or country music

7. What are you currently training for? Boston 2016. My plan is to BQ this spring with a 2:59 marathon.

8. What are your recovery & sleep routines like? Sleep by 10pm, up at 5am to train, 3x a week with November Project. November Project is a grassroots, morning fitness/social group/best described by just showing up and experiencing it yourself. (Check it out in 16 cities in the US and Canada, with more to come this year!)

Recover harder than you train! I focus on nutrition with the help of InsideTracker, which provides individualized nutrition and lifestyle recommendations with the goal of optimizing performance and recovery.

I have tart cherry juice, turmeric and black pepper every night before bed, which helps with sleep and has anti-inflammatory benefits.

9. What’s the best running advice you’ve ever received? Get uncomfortable. It’s not supposed to be easy.

10. What’s your favorite running-related memory? The One Run For Boston in 2013, just weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing. It started at 11:30 at night, and went up Heartbreak Hill and to Boylston Street along the Boston Marathon course. We finished at 12:30am, completing a 3300 cross country relay aimed at connecting runners across the country and showing solidarity in the face of a horrible tragedy.

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11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to go on a run with __________. Shalane Flanagan. (Again!)

I’ve run with Shalane at November Project, but I was tapering for her 5k race the next day (my goal race for the season) so I didn’t try and keep up to her on the hills. I hit my goal of a sub 18 5k (17:42) at a 5k she helped to organize and promote, to support her hometown track.

Her bold attitude when it comes to putting yourself out there by sharing your (big) goals has inspired me to do the same, and I’ve been so much more motivated to keep pushing as a result.

Thanks, Jonathan. Always fun to connect with a fellow November Project tribe member, and best of luck with that spring BQ goal!

Runner friends of all levels, please email me — info (at) kineticfix.com — if you’d like to be featured.

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How I Run: Boston-bound Amy “The Punisher” Leedham

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Contrary her nickname, Amy “The Punisher” Leedham doesn’t actually enjoy inflicting pain on others. Well, at least not on purpose. She does, however, regularly push herself to her limits…and tends to do the same for her workout buddies, which they usually thank her for later (after they catch their breaths, that is).

I first met Amy through November Project in San Francisco — we hit it off over a mutual love for running, Boston and Shalane Flanagan — but it wasn’t until she took me up on an invite for my first-ever clipped-in bike ride with the Coeur Sports ladies that we truly bonded: Powering through a few thousand feet of elevation in the Bay Area foothills after getting lost and trouble-shooting a flat tire together will tend to do that to people!

Amy’s now about to embark on her annual Bostom Marathon training cycle, so I thought it’d be fun to check in and see how she’s faring.

1. What’s your favorite route? My favorite running experience thus far has to be the descent from Skeleton point to the Colorado River on the South Kaibab Trail in the Grand Canyon. However, that is hardly my go-to route. I would have to say my favorite place to run is in Redwood Regional Park in Oakland, Calif. I had never really run on trails until I moved to California, and the first time I attempted it I was seriously humbled, but now that park is my go-to on the weekends. Its large enough to have tons of variety, but small enough to feel like its in my backyard.

2. What shoes do you wear? For trails I am rocking the Brooks Pureflow, and I love them. On the road I am pretty minimal and am loving my Merrell Gloves. I have about 12 other pairs of running shoes in my closet, though, because I can’t bring myself to throw them away. I even still have my college XC racing flats.

3. What other run gear can’t you live without? I absolutely love my Jaybird wireless headphones. I fully support listening to music while you run if it makes you happy or run better, and the lack of an annoying cord makes a huge difference in the comfort of running with headphones. I also love my Garmin because I am huge data nerd.

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4. What’s your best time-saver or “runhack?” If I am pressed for time after a run I stretch in the shower. Its kind of awkward, but you get get in some really good stretches while washing your hair and shaving your legs.

5. What running-related thing are you better at than anyone else? Not running. Actually I suck at this, as my husband says, but sometimes you must adapt. My agonizingly-slow recovery from what was supposed to be minor knee surgery in April has caused me to appreciate and dominate pretty much every physical thing one can do that’s not running.

6. What do you listen to while running? For faster runs, I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I have several playlists with awful music by the likes of Pitbull, but damn is it so good for running. When I head out to the trails for some R&R I usually leave my music behind and listen out for this one eagle that lives in Redwood Regional Park.

7. What are you currently training for? Boston 2015. I have a problem. I keep re-qualifying and can’t let myself not register. Boston is the first city I lived in after leaving my childhood home, and it was my home for (a very formative) 6.5 years.

I ran the Boston Marathon in 2013 and, even though I was not physically impacted by what happened, that day will stay with me for the rest of my life, as will the experience of running it the year after. More importantly, though, I am training to be able to keep running for the rest of my life.

8. What are your recovery & sleep routines like? I’m admittedly not great at maintaining a good sleep routine, but when I get into proper training my body kind of makes the decision on when to go to sleep for me. Usually I’ll be in bed at 9:30 p.m. and get up for a run at 5:30 a.m. or so.

As for recovery, I recently wrote a blog post about it. I also love compression tights and Epsom salt baths. A good sports massage is just the right kind of pain, and is totally worth the financial investment.

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9. What’s the best running advice you’ve ever received? It’s not advice as much as finally letting a certain lesson sink in: Not every run needs to be (or should be) a full-out hard run. Those days of easy running are essential to maintaining a healthy body and building fitness.

10. What’s your favorite running-related memory? It’s a cliche, but it’s got to be running Boston last year. The combination of the unbelievable emotional energy pulsing throughout the city, the camaraderie of running with a friend who I knew was feeling all the same things I was feeling (I had never run any race with someone before) and the burst of energy and love from the mile 18 November Project cheer station all combined to be pretty unbeatable as far as running experiences go. Oh, and PR-ing doesn’t hurt either.

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to go on a run with __________. Shalane Flanagan. I am not ashamed to admit that my fandom of Shalane rivals that of a 13-year-old girl for One Direction. When she ran past our cheer section at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon, I freaked out and sprinted up the hill after her only to realize I had no idea what I wanted to say and that I looked a little crazy. As my husband pointed out later, “I would have thought you would have had a plan in place knowing you were going to see her on the course!”

Thanks for playing, Amy! I miss our weekly workouts, but hope to cheer you on in Boston in 2015. Keep on punishing in the meantime!

Runner friends of all levels, please email me — info (at) kineticfix.com — if you’d like to be featured.

Link-Up: Best & Worst of Racing

Best (or Worst) of My Racing History

Linking up today with Jessie over at The Right Fits to share some of the best and worst of my racing history! I read about this via my Coeur pal Erin over at SweetSweatLife and enjoyed her post so much that I thought it’d be fun to take a little walk down memory lane.

So without further ado, here are my best and worst…plus a few extra categories I added just for fun!

Best Start Line

Hands-down, the 2014 Detroit Marathon. I mean, c’mon, is there anything better than being in your hometown and hearing Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” blaring over the speakers as they count down to the start?!

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Best Finish Line

There’s nothing like crossing the finish line in your first 26.2, so my personal favorite here is the 2002 Chicago Marathon. But if I can also count a race I haven’t run (yet?) but attended, I’d have to go with Boston — an iconic race in a city full of spirit.

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The shot above is from 2004 while I was living there and going to grad school; we’d start our day at mile 26 to cheer runners along the last stretch. The shot below isn’t from the actual race (it’s from the Pats Superbowl parade), but gives a good idea of the crowd support at the end; I worked at Boston Sports Club Copley at the time, and we’d finish the day standing on that very same rooftop to watch people cross the finish line.

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Best Expo

Nobody puts on a pre-race party quite like Nike, which is why the expotique from the 2013 Nike Women’s Marathon takes the cake for this category. From live DJ, fashion show, social media integration and a host of other activities, it’s something that ever runner should experience at least once.

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Oh, and if your gut can handle it, they have a pretty sweet spread there, too. Care to carb-load with a macaroon, anyone?

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Best Crowd Support

Hm, this one’s a tough call. While 2002’s Chicago Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart for the thousands of people lined up along the route, it’s probably a close tie with this year’s Detroit Marathon.

Why? Well, anytime you can run through the wall (and not hit it) while running 26.2 is a win.

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Hottest Race

No question, I was burning up for most of the 2014 HITS Napa Olympic triathlon. Not only were we battling hot temps while on a course with little shade, but I also found out later that I was racing with a low-grade fever.

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Coldest Race

Hubby and I rang in the start of the holiday season with the 2010 Walnut Creek Turkey Trot…and froze our buns off in the process. At the last minute, I threw on an ill-fitting vest to try to keep warm, but ended up tugging at it for most of the 10K. Outfit fail!

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Most Beautiful Course

I’ll let the picture from the 2014 Lake Chabot Trail Run 30K speak for itself. You can see why it’s so easy to get hooked on the trails!

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Most Coordinated Outfits

Put a hot glue gun in my hand, and I’m not responsible for what’ll happen next. Case in point: I got a little crafty before the 2013 Turkey Trail Trot XI and made Hubby and myself some matching outfits to get into the spirit of this wacky race.

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Funniest Memory

Easily the 2011 Detroit Half Marathon. Here’s the before, with my sister, whom I was going to pace for her second half marathon.

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And the during, in which I proceeded to not only chatter incessantly in an attempt to keep her mind off the pain, but also take a bunch of pictures along the way to document our experience. She was clearly not amused.

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Best New Experience

Running a new distance (especially an ultra) can be scary. But tackling it with a friend, who just so happens to be an accomplished trail runner and fabulous pacer? Awesome, as you can see from this shot from 2014’s Canyon Meadow 50K.

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Best People Watching

Bay to Breakers. Every year. ‘Nuff said.

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Hilliest Course

While it may not rank as my hilliest race in terms of actual elevation, I remember the hills in the 2005 U.S. Half Marathon in San Francisco shocking me the most mid-race. Not only was it my very first 13.1, but I’d never run over the Golden Gate Bridge before, so the steep ascent, steady climb over and switchbacks on the Marin side were a rude awakening to Bay Area running!

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Flattest Course

I’m sure I’ve run on many a pancake-flat course, but the 2011 Oakland Running Festival Half Marathon sticks out as a particularly level one. It also helped me snag my second sub-two-hour time!

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Course That Took the Most Mental Strength

The picture below is from this year’s HITS Napa Olympic triathlon, and it’s also one of my toughest racing moments to-date.

Those other guys in the shot? Yeah, they’re done with their swims and headed out on the bike. Me, not so much — I’ve still got my second lap, and I’m pretty much trying A) to force myself back into the water for round two, and B) not to cry.

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Most Disappointing Start

Making a rookie racing mistake at the 2009 Nike Women’s Half Marathon meant that I had to run it without a time chip (forgot it in the hotel room), effectively meaning I didn’t do it (i.e. there’s no official record of my participation).

Lesson learned: Now I always put my timing chip on my shoe or bib the night before the race, and make sure to double-check it on race morning!

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Most Disappointing Finish

My face says it all in the shot below: Try not to puke.

In 2007, I ran the Big Sur Half Marathon and didn’t respect the distance. Not only was I under-trained and went out too quickly, but I was also coming down with a cold and mistakenly experimented with some Airborne and cold medicine that morning.

Big mistake. My poor friend Marlene was such as saint as I slammed into the wall at mile six, then proceeded to poorly manage gastrointestinal issues and leg cramps for the rest of the race before ending up in the fetal position at the finish line.

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Crappiest Weather

Despite Oregon’s reputation for rain, they say that it’s only been wet once or twice during the city’s very popular fall marathon. So, of course, my 2010 Portland Half Marathon was one of those lucky years where we experienced a downpour.

And, in case you were wondering, that’s not happiness on my face to be running, soaked and chilled to the bone.

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Most Surprising

My very first triathlon — a sprint in the local quarry — was 2010’s Tri for Fun in Pleasanton, Calif. My goggles leaked, the water was warm and full of goose poop, my bike was a poor-fitting Craigslist purchase, and my legs cramped on the run…but I finished with a smile and enjoyed every moment!

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Most Rewarding Race

Helping my sister cross her first 13.1 finish line in the 2009 Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon holds a special place in my heart. Not only is the city one of our favorites, but to share that experience with her was also something I’ll always remember.

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Coolest Medal

No one will argue with the Nike Women’s Marathon “medal” (below is last year’s version). As far as bling goes, you can’t do much better than that pretty Tiffany necklace!

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Best Worst Experience

A friend joked with me that Hood to Coast was the “best-worst race experience,” and after running this year’s event, I couldn’t agree more. It’s exhausting, intense and overwhelming at times, but so worth it for the 200-mile bonding experience…and getting to cross that sand-filled finish line!

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Got a best (or worst) race memory? I’d love to hear!

Fit Fix: Sarah Evans on bouncing back (with a PR/BQ) post-pregnancy

Source: Sarah Evans

Source: Sarah Evans

After wrapping up my own racing season at the end of November, I spent much of the final month of 2013 not only reflecting, recovering and planning, but also (and perhaps more importantly) returning some of the love I felt this year by rooting on fellow runners as they rounded out their respective seasons.

And in the Bay Area, as I’ve come to find out, that usually happens at one particular event: the California International Marathon, a popular race with a flat, fast course that serves as a focal point in many a runner’s calendar.

On that day, aside from me having some major anxiety while tracking friends and cheering them along online, there was much to celebrate: Not only did Stephanie (a new blogger friend) finish her first full marathon in an impressive 4:09, and Pavement Runner (my trusty training partner & all-around amazing dude) rock an 11-minute PR to finish in 3:37, but Page (a fellow Coeur lady) also snagged her own PR — at a blazing 7:22 pace, no less — to finish in 3:12. Congratulations again, guys!

But there was one other success story from CIM that, when spotted on Twitter, stopped me in my tracks:

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Wait….what?! I had to meet this rockstar runner and hear her story.

So thanks to the power of social media, the rest is history. Her name is Sarah Evans, and she’s one of the most down-to-Earth, no-nonsense, inspiring and motivating athletes and (new) mamas you’ll ever meet (oh, and did I mention she’s an Ironman, too?).

Below is our conversation, which I promised her will be continued (when I eventually work up the guts to join her) on the trails…

Kinetic Fix: Congrats on your recent PR/BQ at CIM! You’re just four months out from having a baby; what was your game plan going into the race & to what do you attribute the awesome result?

Sarah Evans: Thank you!  It was a great day, and I’m so proud of my PR and Boston qualifying time! The last four months have been a whirlwind adjusting to life as a new mom.

My game plan for CIM was to push myself, see just how fast I could go and, ultimately, just enjoy being out there. It was important for me to have a goal time, as well, since I am very competitive with myself. Having a specific race to train for after having my baby girl was important to me so that I could still maintain my identity as a runner.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel or what kind of pace I would be able to hold until I started actually training about a month after giving birth. My husband knew how important it was to me to get back to running, so he was very supportive in helping me achieve the balance between new motherhood and having some time to myself, which for me meant tying up my shoes and going for a run. I seemed to feel stronger and stronger as the weeks passed from having my baby girl and almost relieved to run “solo” so I could see how hard I can push myself.

Achieving a PR was not really a priority at first, but as I started training again, my speed work splits and endurance told me that my best time might be within reach. That fueled my long weekend runs on the trails to build my base and helped me turn up the tempo on my short, interval-based workouts on the treadmill. While I would consider the treadmill to be my least favorite method, it was a great way to work out and still keep an eye on my baby. The fact that I was in running shape throughout my pregnancy also gave me a great foundation when it came time to train specifically for the marathon.

KF: You’re definitely no stranger to a tough workout; tell us a bit about your pre-pregnancy training, accomplishments and level of fitness. 

SE: My pre-pregnancy fitness was at an all-time high due to the volume of runs and the type of running I was doing on the trails.  In the recent years, I fell in love with trail running and believe it’s responsible for a lot of my endurance, strength and, ultimately, my success with road races.

In addition to speed work during the week, every Sunday I meet up with a small group to run the Marin wilderness. Discovering more about my abilities as a runner, as well as taking in nature’s beauty each week, refuels my spirit and gives me confidence – but it also gave me my most significant running injury to date, a broken foot before the 2012 Northface Challenge.

Six months after breaking my foot in Muir Woods, I toed the line at Northface and completed my first trail marathon, which gave me a real sense of accomplishment. But that race will always mark a more significant event in my life because I found out I was pregnant the next morning! So I was lucky enough to go right into my pregnancy in marathon shape, which meant I was trained and healthy enough (with the support and consent of my OBGYN) to continue running and training up to a marathon distance.

While I have maintained general fitness since my college track and field days as a sprinter, I have focused on training for endurance events starting in 2007. Over the past six years, I’ve done six marathons, seven half marathons and six triathlons, including Ironman Lake Placid in 2009. My marathon and half-marathon PRs are 3:26:23 and 1:35:30 respectively, and I am a three-time Boston qualifier, running it in 2013.

Source: Sarah Evans

Source: Sarah Evans

KF: Wow, finding out you were pregnant the day after your marathon must’ve been an exhilarating few days, to say the least! So, what was your attitude toward working out with baby-on-board?

SE: I was excited to be so fit at the beginning of my pregnancy because I knew that would put me ahead of the curve for being healthy and staying in shape. I’m very much a “no-excuses” kind of girl, so during the first few weeks, even though I felt a bit nauseous, sick and exhausted, I got myself out the door to exercise every day. It actually made me feel much better, once I got halfway through a workout, and gave me more energy afterwards. There were some workouts I had to fight through, but I knew it would do my body good in the end so I embraced the discomfort.

“Hurts so good” is definitely a mantra I embody, but I was, of course, cognizant of my baby’s health and made sure anything I did was approved by my doctor. I also recognized a fact that I believe is universal for all expectant women: Running while pregnant is typically more cumbersome, uncomfortable and induced a bit more soreness than usual. But as long as that discomfort was within the realm of what my doctor and I considered to be safe, then I was determined to continue to run.

KF: And run you did, all throughout your pregnancy, including completing the Boston Marathon. Can you tell us what was it like doing 26.2 with a “passenger?”

SE: I feel fortunate that I had no complications during my pregnancy and was given the green light by my doctor to continue to run. In fact, her main concern was that I would suddenly stop running, which I was told might be more detrimental to my health and pregnancy than anything. I continued to run a lot of trails, which helped build strength and balance and gave me more cushioning for my joints and back than the road and pavement.

Running the Boston Marathon with a baby on board was really a coincidence, as I had qualified and booked the trip before I knew I was expecting. It had always been a dream to run this race, and relaying that desire to my OBGYN was among the first topics of my first appointment. With everyone’s support — including my husband, who initially thought that this might be too much — I set myself a goal of sub four hours (realistic and challenging enough, but allowing for some fun along the course) and finished feeling strong and healthy.

Despite finishing 30 minutes slower than my qualifying time, I felt fortunate. And the day’s tragic events helped keep everything in perspective.

Source: Sarah Evans

Source: Sarah Evans

KF: What surprised you most about running while pregnant?

SE: That I lost my speed quickly! I know it sounds ridiculous, but I thought carrying a few extra pounds wouldn’t slow me so fast, but to be fair it wasn’t just being pregnant that slowed me down. Bouncing back after I broke my foot was not as easy as I thought because I had a fair amount of apprehension starting back running on the trails on a healed foot AND being pregnant at the same time.

So I built up the miles gradually at the new slower pace and found that even warming up took twice as long as before. Easing slowly into a run was new for me, as I was used to taking off quickly, and I had to challenge myself not to turn back after two miles because I wasn’t “feeling it,” knowing that my growing situation meant that I had to be patient to find my running happy place.

There were plenty of times towards the end of my pregnancy when I felt like skipping my runs, but in the back of my mind I had to remind myself that these times running solo would soon be limited. Mostly, I was anticipating the period after birth when I couldn’t really exercise due to having a C-section (my stubborn little girl was breech and couldn’t be flipped). And any running, however slow and uncomfortable, was going to beat being on bed rest for a while after birth!

KF: Can you share some of your favorite tips for moms-to-be who want to follow your lead and keep up with their running?

SE: First and foremost, clear it with your doctor. While a few are still old-school enough to recommend just sitting on the couch and resting, thankfully most will assess your current fitness and exercise level to suggest what effort you can take on.

Next, realize that it might not always feel comfortable but no matter how bad you feel, just lace up your shoes and get out the door – if only for a mile. You may (and most likely will) find yourself running longer than you anticipated and enjoying the fresh air, which can really invigorate you and make you feel better.  The only special “equipment” I got was a bellyband that supposedly helped support my mid section along with providing some back support.

Finally, and especially for first-time moms, remember that you might not have this kind of freedom after baby is born to run and be active. Trust me, as tired as I felt while pregnant, it doesn’t compare to how exhausted being a mother can make me feel. And there is no better excuse to skip a run than to cuddle with your sweet baby – thankfully I can make time for both, but it does take its toll. Another huge benefit that you should keep in mind is that keeping fit will prepare your body for labor, help speed things along, give you the energy you will need, and ultimately make it easier to bounce back.

KF: Did you do anything else to stay in shape throughout your pregnancy?

SE: Throughout my pregnancy I tried to change as little as possible about my routine and exercise habits, though I did avoid outdoor cycling on the road, as well as skiing and winter sports (doctor’s recommendation). What I found was that I could still do my usual variation of cross-training activities, but just at a lower level of exertion.

I did a lot of strength training to keep some muscle tone, and spinning was one of the best exercises to relieve the pressure on my joints. It gave me some time off of my feet, and I think it’s one of the best ways to keep in cardio shape during pregnancy if running gets to be too much. I also did more power and vinyasa flow yoga classes, which helped me relax, feel one with my body, and stretch out my sore ligaments.

During my maternity leave (two weeks prior to birth), I also took advantage of the extra time by pampering myself, which meant spending some additional time working out! 🙂 I was lucky enough to get in one last run and yoga workout the morning the day my water broke and my baby girl arrived, so I held on to the end!

Source: Sarah Evans

Source: Sarah Evans

KF: Sounds like it! And then you were able to get back on the trainer and go running a few weeks after your C-section; how was the transition back to your usual activity levels?

SE: Having a C-section was not my plan, as I really wanted to have a drug-free, “natural” birth, but my little one was stubborn and turned breech so I was relegated to a C-section. It did slow down my recovery and my return to running, but what felt like an eternity only ended up being a limited timeframe.

My OBGYN gave me the green light to start exercising 18 days after I had my baby girl, and the first thing I did was 40 minutes on my bike trainer that very afternoon! I eased in carefully the next day by walking uphill on the treadmill for 30 minutes and the following day by doing intervals of slow jogging and walking uphill on the treadmill. I did these kind of workouts for the next 10 days, and exactly 4 weeks after having my baby girl I went for my first run outside: a lovely, solo six miles, and it felt amazing! I couldn’t have been happier (if a bit sore) to be running again – especially without the extra weight on my frame!

I think I bounced back so quickly because of my mental drive and strength – it didn’t hurt that I also went into my pregnancy in top shape. I was resolved, as much as I could, to stay in running shape and continue to run up to the day I gave birth. I really pushed hard to get back to running as soon as possible, and I was also lucky to have no complications other than my unplanned surgical procedure. The support of my family and husband, who knew how important it was for me to get a little piece of myself back after giving birth, also aided in my quick turn around and recovery.

KF: Now that you’re a few months out, how do you think having a baby has changed your running, currently?

SE: Honestly, I feel like having a baby has made me a stronger runner. I have a quickness in my step that wasn’t there before (maybe it’s getting home faster to hold her!), but I also think it comes from the extra weight load I’m not carrying and an increased mental toughness from going through pregnancy and birth.

While it’s nice to be able to head out the door for a run, I’ve learned that efficient and quality runs are now much more important since I don’t have all the time in the world to be out and away from my family. When I’m struggling on a run now, I think about how I felt right after giving birth, hobbling to get to the kitchen or feeling sore after a 20-minute walk. The fact that I’m now able to exercise again encourages me to pick up the pace and not take for granted how quickly I bounced back.

I think that if I could handle the pain of pregnancy and birth but still love and enjoy every minute of it, then I can handle the physicality of the last miles of an intense running effort. Many athletes understand the odd enjoyment with the pain of a marathon, racing, or pushing yourself on a run, but to experience the parallels between exercise and pregnancy is particularly rewarding.

KF: With baby girl in the picture, how have you adjusted/will you adjust your routine going forward?

SE: My routine has definitely changed! I can’t wake up on the weekends and head out the door whenever I’m feeling up for a run or come home from work early and go for a 5pm yoga class.

Now I wake-up earlier, especially during the weekdays before my husband leaves for work, if I want to get in a solo run outside. Otherwise, I know I will be running on the treadmill (it’s a blessing and a curse to have the option of a treadmill in my home). Most recently I got a BOB Ironman running stroller, which is a good option to get out on a slower run with my daughter, but race-specific training is best done without my adorable companion.

I do have my standing day, Sunday mornings, when I trail run with my group. My husband knows how much I enjoy getting out on the trails, so we make Sunday my “free mama” day! For me, being able to run and have some solo time makes for a better, happier and saner person and mom at home. I think it’s important to have a set day and time every week that’s just for you, no matter what you feel like doing with it!

Another big adjustment is working out from home a lot more. I’ve had a long maternity leave and worked from my home office a lot before I went out, so I get in my workouts whenever I can in my little fitness area (which is set up in our garage). That relieves any stress of getting out the door and preparing baby for a gym daycare. Working out at home has really given me the best way to stay in shape and get it in when I can!

Source: Sarah Evans

Source: Sarah Evans

KF: Speaking of — can you share your favorite exercises for toning up and getting your core strength back post-baby?

SE: Getting my core strength back was probably the toughest part of recovering from baby. I didn’t start any specific core workouts until about six weeks out from giving birth, and when I did I started with planks — both regular and side planks. I also added in leg throws, v-ups, planks with a twist under and roll-ups. Then I added in a P90X ab workout (a quick 15 minutes of intense abs; perfect to do on a yoga mat in your living room when baby is rolling around on her playmat!).

I’ve recently added in some cross-fit type work (specifically called IronStrength that I found on RunnersWorld) that incorporates so many mixes of activities that you don’t realize work on your core. All of this is done at home in my living room on a yoga mat with little equipment needed, and it’s something you can do while your baby is awake and incorporate them into the routine.

I do a lot more core work and abs now than I did before pregnancy because I feel that area was the most difficult to tone while pregnant, and it didn’t quite bounce back like everything else. I also need the extra stability in my back to carry around baby, car seat and lug everything around. So I would say planks and incorporating a short 15-minute ab workout 2-3 times a week would be a good combo to building that core strength back!

KF: Great advice! Finally, do you have any other best practices you can share with new moms who are finding it a struggle to get fit again?

SE: Schedule it into your day! Like anything else — a meeting, a doctor’s appointment or lunch with a friend — try to schedule your workout. On the other hand, you have to be very flexible, too, so be willing to fit it in when you can.

I have recently canceled my gym membership and am solely working out at home between naps, feedings, etc. I have a mix of free weights, a treadmill, bike on a trainer, yoga mats, exercise ball, Pilates ring and bench all set up along with some of my favorite workout DVDs and a few online yoga sessions that I follow.

Many times I’ve had to end a workout early to get her up from a nap or change a diaper, and I just pick up the workout later in the day. So I piece together my workouts…or if all else fails, I go for a long walk.

I also try to wake up early a few times a week before she awakes if I want to run outside solo or fit in a worry-free workout before my husband leaves for work. This is obviously much more realistic once baby is sleeping through the night, which I am thankful to say is now happening!

Another thing I suggest is to get on the floor with your baby while they play and roll around. You can do abs, a little yoga session or stretch. I get my baby girl involved with my workouts, holding her or carrying her while lunging or doing squats, or laying her on my legs while we do crunches or lifting heels to the sky. And right after she was born (and before I could be too active), we went for a lot of walks! A more recent “bonding” exercise is running with her in the BOB stroller, which has been an additional challenge to my running strength!

Make your baby and your health a priority, and schedule in time for yourself – for me, that time is almost always spent on a run or a workout, which helps me maintain my old identity as a runner, but also embrace my new role as a mom!

Thanks to Sarah for taking the time to chat! And you can find her here on Twitter, if you’d like to follow along on her adventures in training, racing — and motherhood. 

We are #BostonStrongSF

BostonStrongSF6

Proud to run strong for Boston tonight in San Francisco

We’re a week removed from the unimaginable attacks in Boston, and so many of us in the running community are still in search of ways in which we can make sense of the madness and begin the healing process.

That’s precisely why blogger Brian Kelley of PavementRunner launched #BostonStrong, a grassroots global campaign borne out of the chaos of the Boston Marathon bombing.

It started with a simple request from a reader to join him in San Francisco for a run, and within 48 hours more than 150 people signed up to join him. This ignited global interest, and today more than 2,500 runners from 80-plus cities around the world ran between 3‐4 miles in support and remembrance.

“I feel like I need to do something. Something more than a donation. Something more than a blog post or a photo or a graphic,” said Kelley. “I’m inspired by the community and how we have come together and shown our support, shed our tears and expressed our fears. With a simple look at your Facebook page, a refresh of your Twitter feed or scroll through Instagram, and you can SEE the love. With #BostonStrong we FEEL the love.”

As a former Boston resident, last week’s tragedy hit too close to home. Not only did I have friends running and watching this year’s race, but two of my colleagues have husbands who are in local law enforcement and were on the front lines during the manhunt.

Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to participate and come together with our local running community to take a stand against what was meant to divide us.

Among the group were fellow East Coast transplants, running enthusiasts of all levels, impromptu participants moved to join mid-run, as well as a few Boston Marathon runners who were there to pay their respects and begin to get some closure.

See below for a few shots from the evening…

It's a beautiful evening to run #BostonStrongSF

It’s a beautiful evening to run #BostonStrongSF

BostonStrongSF2

Pavement Runner Brian Kelley greets the group prior to our run

Great turnout from the San Francisco running community in support of Boston

Great turnout from the San Francisco running community in support of Boston

Pavement Runner Brian Kelley leads the group out on our run

Pavement Runner Brian Kelley leading the way in the #BostonStrongSF run

Such a sense of camaraderie cheering participants towards the finish

Such a sense of camaraderie cheering participants towards the finish

Healing our hearts and minds in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon

A woman kneels and prays at the scene of the first explosion on Boylston Street near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15. (Credit: Getty Images)

A woman kneels and prays at the scene of the first explosion on Boylston Street near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15. (Credit: Getty Images)

After being glued to the TV, transfixed by social network updates and in a perpetual state of prayer for the safety of Boston residents and law enforcement last week, many of us are feeling emotionally drained in the wake of the marathon bombings and subsequent manhunt.

Such tragedies and shocking news events are not only beyond stressful for those involved, but they can also impact those of us who are observing from afar. Plus, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when we’re bombarded with emotionally-charged images and graphic descriptions in today’s 24/7 news cycle.

I sat down with media psychiatrist and bestselling author Dr. Carole Lieberman to discuss the emotional impact of last week’s gruesome events – and how we can begin to move forward from here.

Kinetic Fix: There seems to be an uptick in these horrendous acts in our society; would you hazard a guess as to why?

Dr. Carole Lieberman: The world definitely seems to be spinning out of control with more violence than ever. There are many reasons for this, including desperate people wanting their 15 minutes of fame, copy cat crimes, a bad economy that’s dragging on for too long, violent media (especially violent video games), children being raised in single parent homes, and increased stress in general.

What kinds of feelings are normal after an event such as the Boston bombings?

People will feel anxiety, depression, insomnia, a desire to stuff themselves with comfort food, and so on.

The psychological impact of the Boston Marathon terror attack is to trigger the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that is still laying dormant in us from 9/11. The similarities between the Boston attack and 9/11 trigger our memories. These similarities include there being two bomb blasts in mid-city with buildings crashing on top of people and people running in a panic on an otherwise beautiful sunny day. On top of this, the ricin letters are triggering our memories of the anthrax letters that followed soon after 9/11.

At what point should we consider seeking help from a doctor?

If your symptoms last more than two weeks, or if it is interfering significantly with functioning well in work and family settings, you should consider seeing a mental health professional for psychotherapy and, in some cases, medication.

What are some steps we can take to alleviate our feelings of anger, sadness, hopelessness, etc.?

There are many things you can do to alleviate these symptoms, such as spending more time with your family and friends, going to religious services, volunteering to help people who are less fortunate and spending time in nature.

Finally, what would your recommendation be to those of us who may feel as though we are losing our faith in humanity?

It’s easy to lose one’s faith in humanity after reading one violent headline after another and feeling like the world is filled with evil people. The antidote to this is surrounding yourself with people who have a lot of humanity, such as people involved in your church or those who are volunteering to help the less fortunate.

Offering prayers and miles for those in Boston

Channing Tatum uploaded this image on to Instagram.  Copyright [Instagram/Channing Tatum]

Channing Tatum uploaded this image on to Instagram.
Copyright [Instagram/Channing Tatum]

Whether you’ve crossed it as a runner or watched it as part of the crowd, there’s no place on Earth quite like a marathon finish line – especially the Holy Grail of races, Boston.

Although I’ve never run the race myself, some of my fondest running-related memories were made on the Boston Sports Clubs‘ (BSC) rooftop near the race’s finish line, where I worked part-time as a personal trainer while in grad school.

The entire staff would gather above the entrance and cheer runners on for hours at a time, relishing in watching the range of emotions as they crossed the line – pure joy, relief, pride…and a thousand other thoughts at once.

That’s why it’s especially painful and surreal to see the stark contrast in this year’s coverage – of the same exact place where so many good memories have been made. Except now, in one moment, it’s been marred by an unbelievable tragedy. An incomprehensible act of evil.

But only momentarily will we falter. Little do they know they picked the wrong city and the wrong group of people. Boston is tough and has so much heart – and so do runners – which is why I know we will prevail and not allow this to let us lose our faith in humanity.

I think Kristin Armstrong said it best in her reflection on yesterday’s race, saying:

We cannot undo the evil that was done. But we can inhibit the goal of division. Let’s do that. Let’s not give them the pleasure of our division, the foothold of our futility.

Let’s instead do what runners do best. Let’s be strong. Let’s be patient as information comes in. Let’s pace ourselves. Let’s endure. Let’s close the gap and tighten up the pack. Let’s recover together.

The road ahead is long. But little do they know, we’re good with that.

Join me in praying and offering miles for the good people in Boston.

Yes, Kristin – I will be praying and running today for all those who cannot.