Fit Mom: Valerie Marshall on Finding the Balance in Motherhood

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One week overdue with baby number two (left) & just five weeks postpartum (right)!

Most of the time I dedicate my Q&A’s here on the blog to athletes in pursuit of race goals, but this week I’m talking to a now-mom-of-two with some pretty awesome athletic achievements of her own.

I did a double-take when Valerie Marshall posted her pregnancy transformation shots (below) a few months back and was curious to chat with her more about her post-pregnancy journey.

While Val’s results may not necessarily be the norm (case in point: I’ve still got a few pounds to lose seven months out, but I’m in no hurry), they’re a testament to her hard work and dedication.

Yes, Val looks fabulous, but what I particularly love is that she embodies how pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood can be incorporated into a lifelong pursuit of health and fitness instead of approaching them as if you’ve reached the end of the road.

Read on for more of her philosophies, as well as Val’s top tip for new moms who are looking to reclaim their fitness and achieve “homeostasis” in their life…

Your transformation picture after your first pregnancy is impressive! What was your motivation for getting back into shape post-baby?

My motivation for getting into shape postpartum was easy and natural for me; I just wanted to exercise the way I did prior to pregnancy (and breastfeeding definitely helped). Before I was pregnant with Roman, my first pregnancy, I was training for my fourth marathon and I so badly wanted to get back to that place.

Did you do anything during your pregnancy that you think allowed you to bounce back more quickly after?

During my pregnancy I continued to exercise, but I modified high intensity workouts to medium or low intensity. As third trimester approached, I started to walk instead of run and do yoga or barre instead spin class. I believe that I bounced back so quickly postpartum due to exercising regularly before and during my whole pregnancy.

You attribute it to physical and nutritional work, but also a balance of wellness: social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, intellectual and physical – can you elaborate on what that means to you?

I attribute my overall well-being postpartum to the whole spectrum of wellness: social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, occupational, intellectual and physical.

Social: Within days postpartum I had my very first date as a mom with my husband, just the two of us. I had a difficult time leaving my newborn son, but I needed to remember that I am not only a mom, but a wife, too. About a week postpartum, I had my first girls’ night since being a mom. Once again, it was difficult to leave my newborn son, but I needed to remember that I am an individual as well as a momma. Plus, it was great bonding for my son to spend one-on-one time with his dad. From that first week on until now, I make sure to schedule out time for my husband, myself and friends and family; it’s all about balance in life.

Emotional: I was very emotional when I first became a momma, and throughout pregnancy; mainly due to hormones and lack of sleep, but also do to a changing lifestyle. To help keep myself in check, I went to yoga/meditated, exercised, and journaled.

Spiritual: Spiritually, I am a Christian and love to worship. So I made sure to set aside time for God, whether at church, in the car, or at home (usually while breastfeeding).

Environmental: This does not directly relate to how I bounced back postpartum, but I do try to use all organic products and organic/minimally processed foods. I enjoy the great outdoors and breathing in fresh air (I love living in Bend where recreational fitness is all around).

Occupational/Intellectual: Prior to being a momma I was a working-woman with a degree in Fitness and Nutrition. I made it a point to keep up on educating myself, so that one day when I do enter the workforce I will not be lost in the dark. I also really love learning about wellness and educating not only myself, but friends and family, as well.

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Val gained 40lbs while pregnant with her first baby (upper left), then had 10 lbs and muscle left to gain one day postpartum (upper right). She credits a “proper balance of wellness” to her results nine mos later (bottom)!

Walk us through some highlights of typical days of exercise & nutrition – immediately after, then 3, 6, 9 and 12 months out from being pregnant.

Highlights of typical days of exercise and nutrition: We all love to have our cake and eat it, too. I am a huge believer in rewarding yourself whether that be with food or not, but for me, I definitely reward myself with desserts. Plus, breastfeeding made me extremely hungry all of the time. I try to eat a “balanced” diet most days of the week to maintain a healthy lifestyle now and for a healthy future.

Nutrition is not only for weight, but is also for prevention and treatment of many diseases, so I try to keep that in mind when I am planning my meals. Meal planning was extremely important for my nutritional habits postpartum. It is so easy just to snack and graze throughout the day or to go long periods of time without eating. I would meal prep and prepare meals usually on Sundays or even just the night before. This definitely takes time out of your already busy and tiring day, but it is so worth it. I could talk days and days about nutrition, it is a true science to find what works for your body and lifestyle.

0-3 months: Due to nap schedules and lack of sleep, I exercised whenever I could find time. During those first three months I spent a lot of time walking, running and doing Barre3. At the local gym, there is a Baby and Mommy cycle class, where I could bring Roman in with me. This class was awesome, I was able to do an hour cycle class and he either napped in the stroller right in front of me or he played on a blanket on the floor.

3-9 months: I was not quite ready to introduce Roman into gym daycares yet, so I continued to exercise at home or when my husband, mom or best friend could watch him. During these months I ran, went to Baby and Mommy cycle class, started cardio yoga and did p90x.

9-12 months: I was finally ready to introduce Roman to gym daycares, which he loves going to. Roman started walking at 9 months, so he was on the move, which made it difficult to exercise at home. At the gym, I participated in HIIT classes, cycle classes, cardio yoga and some light lifting in the weight room.

And baby no. 2 (the adorable Kennadi) is a girl – congratulations! How was your second pregnancy? What’s the same & what’s different this time around?

Pregnancy #2: I was so excited and much more relaxed with this pregnancy. I had a lot of energy, thank goodness, since I was chasing after a toddler all of the time. I exercised and did my prenatal stretches most days of the week to prepare for the arrival of baby girl. I had a much more difficult time eating “healthy,” however; all I want to do is eat cookies and bagels with cream cheese!

My plan was to just play-it-by-ear for the first month or so when it comes to setting any fitness goals. Basic fitness goals of mine, with no set timeline as of now, would be to run a few more full marathons and maybe even my first sprint triathlon. Physically, I would love to get my body back to where it has been in the past, but I have a feeling that will take more time this round than it did when I was just a mother of one.

What’s your top tip for new moms who are looking to reclaim their fitness and achieve “homeostasis” in their life, as you call it?

My top tip is to set goals, make a schedule, have a plan and stick with it. Most importantly, remember that you are an amazing mother, but you are not only a mother; you have so many more roles in life and they should all be given special attention.

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The Baggs family: Roman, Tim, Val & Kennadi

Thanks for your time, Val — and congratulations again on your beautiful new addition!

Fit mamas, I’d love to interview you! Email me at info (at) kineticfix (dot) com for info. 

How I (Swim, Bike &) Run: Living the Sweet Life with Ruth Rickey

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When I initially set out to do this interview series, I thought it’d be interesting to see what kind of gear people prefer, what their training routines were like and that it’d be fun to hear about racing from all different kinds of perspectives. What I didn’t expect was to get absolutely blown away by the incredible back stories in these athletes’ lives.

Case in point: Ruth Rickey, a former attorney and administrative law judge who, put simply, fell in love with cakes. Ruth worked her way up as Bakery Manager for IGA’s 3200 stores in 31 countries before opening her own shop, Ruth’s Sweete Justice Bakery, and operating it for more than a decade.

Since then, she’s been teaching all over the world as a ICES Certified Master Sugar Artist. Ruth has also been seen on WE TV’s Wedding Cake Wars (her team won), twice on TLC’s Ultimate Cake Off (assistant to Pat Jacoby on two wins) and on three specials on The Food Network about The Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show.

In the midst of all this success, however, Ruth was diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia, which was incurable and untreatable at the time, and she was given 2-5 years to live. Miraculously, six weeks after her diagnosis the FDA approved Gleevec, a drug that revolutionized cancer treatment and saved Ruth’s life.

After switching medicines a few times, Ruth is happy to report that she’s now back in genetic remission. And to pay her miracle forward, she spends her free time doing marathons, half marathons, century rides, triathlons and various charity events to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Go Mitch Go Foundation.

I can’t even imagine what it’s been like for Ruth as she wages a fight for her life all while balancing a successful career, endurance events and philanthropy. But I can imagine that every one of her victories — whether in the kitchen, at her doctor’s office or out on the race course — probably tastes pretty sweet.

1. What’s your favorite route or workout? I love riding our new River Trails route. It starts in downtown Oklahoma City in our Boathouse District. It is a cool new area where the Olympic rowers train. The route winds past the boathouses on both sides of the river. There are some gentle inclines/descents and turns to keep the ride interesting. It then connects into the West River Trails, which take me by two different lakes. The route doesn’t have a lot of pedestrian traffic and is closed to vehicles. It is newly paved and simply makes me happy to ride! Besides the normal geese, ducks and other birds, I can even see a buffalo on this route. Only in Oklahoma!

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2. What shoes do you wear — both on the bike and on the roads? I run in Brooks Ravenna and I cycle in Pearl Izumi tri shoes.

3. What other training gear can’t you live without? I love my Garmin 920! I like being able to use the bluetooth to get the data onto my phone immediately. I love the live tracking part of it for my hubby…due to my medical issues, he worries if I’m out training without him. Now he can see where I am whether I’m training or racing!

My Coeur tri shorts turned out to be a game changer! After my 70.3 in September, I was in so much pain from chafing. I never realized how much the seams could rub. Since changing to Coeur, I’ve been so much more comfortable! I’m not sure why all chamois aren’t done this way. My hubby wants guys’ shorts to be made like them.

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I also love my Bontrager Windshell Pants. Oklahoma has crazy wind. It is normal to ride in 15-25 mph winds with 40 mph gusts. These shell pants keep me warm through everything and because they don’t have the chamois in them, I wear them when I run in the cold, too. They were pricey, but I think they were worth every penny!

I know it isn’t really gear, but I cannot live without Base Salt. I’ve always needed salt, but once I started using Base, I found that my active recovery during races and training improved dramatically. It seems like such a minor thing, but a hit of Base salt every hour or so keeps me going.

My other recent find is Infinit Nutrition. When I did Redman 70.3, I struggled on the bike, which was supposed to be my strongest area. I had no energy and could not make myself eat enough while riding in the heat. I knew I needed to make a change. Once of my coaches highly recommended Infinit, so I went to their site and created my own custom formula. So far, I’ve used it on several three-hour rides and have maintained my energy the entire time and have not been hungry at all. I know that the nutrition issue is going to be big for my upcoming races, so I’m truly happy that it looks like I have a workable solution now!

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4. What’s your best time-saver or “workout-hack?” I used to lose so much time every day packing the bag for the next workout. I finally went and bought three Nike bags in three colors: Red for run; Black for bike; and Blue for swim. The bags are ready for me to grab at a moment’s notice and have everything I need in each one of them.

5. What part of each discipline (swim/bike/run) are you better at than anyone else? Actually, I came into triathlon without excelling in any of the disciplines. I had done more than 20 endurance events with Team in Training for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, but I was a walker, a slow biker and a non-swimmer.

I actually think my strength is my mental game and my heart. I figure that if I’m out there training or racing while taking chemo twice a day, there isn’t much I’m going to encounter that will stop me. I’m not athletically gifted, but I enjoy doing what I can and seeing my body get stronger. I am the girl who can finish a race 10 hours later and still be smiling.

6. What do you listen to while training? My water iPod has classic rock on it. I’ve changed the music I use while swimming. Originally, I had very relaxing music as I was getting past my panic attacks. Now, it is time to work on speed, so I need my 70’s rock to get me going! On my bike trainer or while running, I have a playlist of all of the “Now That’s What I Call Music” cds. They are generally high-cadence, fun pop hits that keep me going.

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7. What are you currently training for? I may have overshot this year, but I’m registered to do Galveston 70.3 in April, the Legends 100 Tri in June, The World Championship Long Course Triathlon at Redman in September (97 miles) and Arizona 70.3 in October. I really want to do a full Ironman, but know that I’m not physically ready for it. I figure if I can do Legends and World’s, it will show me if I’m ready for IMAZ 2017. If so, I will be volunteering at IMAZ this November to grab an early spot.

8. What are your recovery and sleep routines like? On top of my leukemia issues, I also have Addison’s disease. My adrenal glands don’t function properly, so I can end up nearly bed ridden when my levels get low. I hurt to the bone when this happens. I have to take steroids twice a day to make my body function like normal.

I’ve learned a lot over the last year or so to look for the signs of when I need to increase my dose. My coach schedules a day off weekly for me, and I try to honor it and respect his plan. I used to be an insomniac, but I sleep really well these days! I think all the activity is good for me in that respect.

9. What’s the best athletic advice you’ve ever received? Stop saying “I can’t.” I at least make myself try everything. Even if I know that I don’t have the physical capability, I have to try. Because most of the time, I discover that I CAN.

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10. What’s your favorite racing-related memory? I attempted New Orleans 70.3 and ended up with an asthma attack in the water and a DNF. It haunted me…I was so disappointed. So a few weeks later, I stepped up for a local sprint tri. It was the first time my husband wasn’t racing at my side as my “protector.”

The day before the race, I did a practice swim at the site and felt like I was ready…the water was calm and the weather was perfect. But that is never how races go! On race day, a front blew in. Temperatures plummeted, and the winds picked up. The race director later said it was the roughest he had seen it at that lake and that he nearly called the swim.

I was a nervous wreck, but got into the water and started in the last wave. I was still mostly using side stroke to swim. I got to the first buoy and was about to call for a kayak to go in, but I looked around and saw numerous people hanging onto all the kayaks. I realized I was actually ahead of all those people. It kicked something into gear for me, and I was determined to finish that swim.

I did the entire 750-meter swim using side kick drills…I didn’t even use my arms. I got out of the water and was actually not the last person. I headed out on the bike, almost in disbelief that I had survived that cold, choppy swim. And my bike time actually matched my normal speed when I was just doing a bike training.

I started the run just happy to be out on the course. I set a 5k PR that day. It wouldn’t be fast to anyone else, but it was EVERYTHING to me! When I ran across the finish line and they put that medal around my neck, I knew that it would only be a matter of time until I became an Ironman. I found a strength that day that I never realized I had. I found a joy in the experience.

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11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to grab a workout with _________. I’m sure everyone picks someone famous for this, but I just want to work out with my husband and my brothers, Verne and Robb. The four of us have started racing together and it makes my heart smile. How lucky am I to get to share the love of this sport with my family?!!

12. Anything else you’d like to add? A lot of my friends think you have to be super fit to do triathlons. They think only elite folks attempt this. I think I’m proof that there is a place for the person at the “back of the pack.”

Since I started on this journey, so many of my cake decorator friends have become more active. My industry is full of overweight people…it can be really hard not to taste the amazing things we create. I love that so many of them have messaged me that they are starting to move, to walk, to run, to do ANYTHING because of my posts.

I share the ups and downs of my training. I share my fears. I share my victories. If you’ve ever thought about trying triathlons, I can genuinely say that this is the best group of people. They have never made me feel bad for being slow. They celebrate the “final finisher” with as much joy as the winner. What a great group to be a part of!

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Thanks, Ruth! I’m honored to be able to share your story, and I’m excited to watch you crush your goals this year as you prepare for all the adventures ahead. 

Friends, if you’re interested in being featured here (all levels & abilities welcome!), please drop me a line at info(at)kineticfix(dot)com.

3 Tricks for Warding Off a Workout Slump

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Usually my top tip for getting fired up for workouts is to sign up for a race and commit to a training plan. Because even if you don’t end up following it to a T — let’s face it, life happens — I figure that a compliance rate of, say, 80 percent will still net you good results.

But what happens when there’s NO race on the horizon or NO looming goals to keep you in line? Whether you’re on a temporary hiatus (like me) or your motivation is flagging for another reason, I promise there’s still hope for getting (or staying) in shape.

Here are the three tricks I’ve been using to keep myself going during pregnancy in the absence of training plans and racing adrenaline; the great part is that they apply universally when it comes to avoiding any kind of fitness slump:

1. Define your “why”

Maybe you want to play with your kids without feeling winded. Or you want your wardrobe to fit like it did before the holidays. Whatever the reason, figuring out what lights a fire in your belly will help you stay strong when you’re at a crossroads and in danger of making poor decisions (i.e. the couch is calling).

For example, running goals usually keep me inspired — either challenging myself by time or distance — and workouts are geared accordingly. Instead, I made it my mission to stay active during pregnancy in the hopes of having a smoother labor and healthier baby, which tugs at my heartstrings and gets my butt to the gym on days where I’m feeling more ‘meh’ than motivated.

2. Take a week at a time

While a great idea in theory, sometimes a goal like, “I’m going to work out five days per week this year,” is just too daunting. Especially if you have an ‘off’ few days and end up scrapping the whole thing in frustration. Instead, biting off a smaller chunk — like planning just a week’s worth of workouts at a time — will allow you to celebrate frequent victories instead of agonizing over intermittent defeats.

While I happen to be the opposite (I thrive on making a plan and sticking to a schedule), I was concerned about not having any kind of big-picture structure during my pregnancy. But having ClassPass has come in handy; you can only reserve four classes at once and are limited to scheduling one week out, which means I plan workouts just a few days advance and they end up fitting better into my ever-changing schedule.

3. Piggyback your workout

Take a page from Katy Milkman’s book and try bundling your temptations, as described in this study. The idea is that by pairing “instantly gratifying but guilt-inducing ‘want’ experiences (enjoying page-turner audiobooks) with valuable ‘should’ behaviors providing delayed rewards (exercising)” you’ll be more successful in the long run.

It was only after I’d read about this concept that I realized I’ve been applying it to my own workouts for the past few months. You see, I’ve gotten hooked on a few podcasts (Serial, anyone?), but will only allow myself to listen to each week’s episode if I’m at the gym on a piece of cardio equipment. And you know what? All of the sudden walking on the treadmill got a whole lot more appealing!

How do you trick yourself into making workouts stick in your schedule?

My 5 Goals for 2016

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‘Tis the season to look back at 2015’s learnings so we can get another batch of goals going for 2016!

But first things first: It’s been really tough to get as specific and measurable as I’d like when I know things will be up in the air with the arrival of Baby H in March. Since I’m not sure exactly what my own labor, delivery, recovery and life with a baby will entail, I’ve decided to take a more “agile” (read: iterative) approach and make educated guesses at goals, which I’ll revise quarterly throughout the year.

And in case you’re wondering — yes, I’m still working toward my long-term goals of going further (another 50k and possibly an eventual 50-miler) and faster (sub-4 marathon), but I’m realistic enough to know that this may not won’t be the year for all of that. So my plan is to continue to lay the foundation to be able to focus on some stretch goals down the road.

As you’ll see, not all my goals are fitness-oriented this year because there are some other areas in which I’d like to focus good chunks of time. But in the meantime, here’s what I’ll be working on for the next 12 months (well, aside from that whole ‘having a baby and keeping it alive’ thing):

1. Health & Fitness: Until Baby H arrives, my goal is to continue regular workouts with a mix of cardio, strength and flexiblity work 5-6 days per week. I’m hoping that my continued prenatal movement classes and other prep will allow me to avoid a c-section, but you never know…so depending on how delivery/recovery goes, I’m expecting anywhere from 6-12 weeks of easing back in with long walks and gentle cross-training. From there, my next step is to get back into ZOOM+Performance around April or May to get baseline measurements done so I can set more specific goals and a timeline for getting safely into a training cycle.

2. Training: There’s no better way to get motivated to get back in shape than with a race, so I’m already signed up for the Portland Marathon next October. I’ve got my fingers crossed that I can start training for it in June, but my plan for the race (to simply complete it or run for a time) is TBD until after Baby H arrives. In terms of other events, they’re also pending recovery, but I’m eyeing my first duathlon, as well as some other shorter events (5ks, trail races, etc.) in between, so I can proudly represent as part of the Coeur Sports 2016 team!

3. Community: We’re baaaaack! Team LUNA Chix Portland Run is gearing up for its second season, and we’re in the process of going through applications for new team members. I’ll announce our new team in mid-January, and in February we’ll have a local retreat before the season officially kicks off in April. We’ve got some ambitious goals in terms of growing the team and raising awareness, as well as fundraising $1500+ for our charity partner, the Breast Cancer Fund — but we couldn’t be more excited to ring in a new year together!

4. Career: While this blog is what I call my “passion project,” I’ve actually got a day job in marketing and PR. In fact, as some of you may know, I launched Pulse Creative (my consulting business!) in 2015 after years of agency life and working in-house. It’s been growing steadily in the sixth months since its inception, and I’ve been very fortunate that most of my work has been referral-based, but my goal is to double revenue for 2016. So, shameless plug: If you know of anyone in need of marketing, PR or copywriting services, please let me know; I always appreciate referrals 🙂

5. Life: Finally, after hearing rave reviews from friends about Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” I’ve been inspired to de-clutter our apartment. Whether it’s nesting instinct kicking in, or just the fact that I’m tired of keeping half my clothing in our storage unit, it’s high time to shed all of those unused goods and make space for more streamlined living. My goal now is to finish the book by mid-month, and then I’ll put it in action in January and February. I’m nervous because it’s tough getting rid of “stuff” you think you need — but I’m excited to bring Baby H home to a place that feels lighter and brighter as a result!

What’s on your to-do list for 2016? 

Happy New Year from KineticFix!

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“Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.” — Oprah Winfrey

Happy 2016! Guess what? It happens to be a leap year, so we’ve got almost a whole extra day on our hands to turn resolutions into reality.

Therefore, I’m posing a challenge to all of us today: Let’s set the tone for the 365 days to follow and take one small step towards our goals.

Because doing something significant over the next 12 months doesn’t necessarily require massive action. Incremental investments, over time, can lead to big payoffs.

So what small step can you take today to bring you closer to those 2016 goals?

One Look Back at 2015 to Go Two Steps Forward in 2016

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Kicking off 2016 without defining your health and fitness goals is like taking a road trip without knowing your final destination. Sure, there’s a time and place for wandering around aimlessly — but it’s not what you want to do if you’ve got an idea of where you’d ultimately like to go, which most of us are in the process of mulling over right about now.

One of my favorite posts on this exact topic from last year was, “9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Next Season,” based on my fellow Coeur Sports teammate Kecia’s blog post evaluating her 2014 triathlon journey in order to set S.M.A.R.T. goals for 2015. She just did the same for her 2015 season, and it inspired me to do a reprise, as well.

The point here isn’t just to pick a few things to accomplish willy-nilly over the next 12 months; it’s about reflecting on the previous year and taking a look at what went well and what needs improvement before planning for the future.

As a reminder, here were the five goals toward which I was working in 2015, as well as how I think I did on ’em:

  1. Seek Balance. I did have a nice mix of races for time and for fun, so I’ll give myself an 80% for this one!
  2. Train Smarter. I’ll give myself a 50% on this one because I was consistent, but it could’ve been more measurable. 
  3. Face Fears. Ditto — 50% here. Points for recent consistency in the pool, but toward what am I working?
  4. Push Myself. The duathlon, ultra and century ride all fell through after Baby H came into the picture = 0%!
  5. Give Back. This one’s my only 100%; we knocked it out of the park with LUNA, and are pumped for 2016.

So with that in mind, here’s my stab at the nine questions outlined in this article from USA Triathlon, which will allow me to more effectively evaluate the season and plan for next year:

1. In hindsight, were your season goals clear and attainable?
Did you achieve what you set out to do at the start of the year? Knowing what you know now could you have aimed higher, or were you somewhat unrealistic in your expectations of your time, commitments or the physical skills you needed to develop? Use hindsight as a barometer for thinking ahead to next year and create goals that push you and inspire you to go for it.

Hm…yes and no. Knowing in the back of my head that we might be starting a family this year — and having the timing of it up in the air — prevented me from being as specific as I would have liked with respect to my goals.

For example, when it came to “training smarter,” I talked about building an aerobic base using heart rate, continuing strength training and pre-hab to activate glutes, along with regular cross-training for flexibility and functional fitness. All great things, yes, but I should have made them measurable — e.g. hit a certain range for heart rate training or designate a number of days per week to focus on pre-hab, etc. — in order to be able to better track progress.

2. What were you most proud of this season?
Was it the improvement you saw in your swim, bike and run splits? Or your dedication and ability to balance your other responsibilities around the sport? How you overcame setbacks and still performed at a high level? Think of the big things and the little moments that you look back on with pride and delight in what you accomplished.

Although I’d love to claim a shiny new PR here, this just wasn’t the year for that. But I am most proud of the fact that I’ve been on top of my game when it came to cross-training in 2015. From kettlebell to barre, bootcamp to yoga, spin to kickboxing — you name it, I’ve tried it and had a blast challenging myself in the process.

3. What would you like to duplicate next year?
Perhaps it’s working with the same coach or training plan, continuing to do a variety of races and taking on big challenges that excite you and motivate you to train consistently. Of the things that you really enjoyed, what would you like to be sure you experience again?

The first half of next year will be interesting, to say the least, with Baby H making his or her entrance on the scene. But I think, at least at this point, I would like to try maintain some kind of consistency when it comes to working out to re-build my foundation — as well as weave a heavy mix of cross-training into my marathon training in the second half of the year.

Signing up for different classes this year kept me from falling prey to boredom, but I have a feeling that being committed to classes in 2016 will be more about holding me accountable when I’d much rather be cuddling a cute little baby…or catching up on sleep.

4. What frustrated or disappointed you the most this season?
Did you struggle to see consistent improvement in your speed? Fail to summon your determination when things got hard? Were you unable to overcome nagging injuries? What concerned you and took some of your energy away from the positive things?

Just like last year: injuries. Although my plantar fasciitis has cleared up, my SI joint has been plaguing me for two years now.

Pregnancy has caused it to flare up for different reasons, and I’m hoping some time off from running will help. But I know this will be a big goal for 2016: Finding the root cause of this SI trouble and addressing it so I when I’m able to train, it’ll be full speed ahead.

5. What do you not want to happen again next year?
Were you unprepared for some races and found you performed better in training than in racing? Did you take yourself and the sport too seriously, forgetting to have fun along the way? Look for insights from question four — things that you need to avoid in order to be at your best. Put emphasis and focus on things that you can control or influence.

Basically, a repeat of years past where I know there’s a lingering issue but don’t address it before proceeding with training. If it’s there now, it’s not going to go away as I push my body harder and harder.

6. What did you learn by going through these experiences?
We all have good and bad days (and races and seasons) but what you take away from them can make all the difference the next time around. Despite the challenges or painful times, what valuable lessons did you learn? What meaningful lessons can you take forward as you build on your experience as an athlete? How can you catch yourself from slipping backward the next time you hit a rough patch?

It’s not always about the PR, the epic race or going longer/further/faster. Some seasons are for that, yes, while others are more for taking time to regroup, reflect and refocus. And grow babies!

I’ve also learned to keep the bigger picture in mind (being pregnant definitely helped with this). Health and fitness is about playing the long game, and there are so many ways to honor your body and feel a sense of accomplishment, so it’s been rewarding getting to explore different parts of that.

7. What decisions did you make that were empowering for you?
Think about the conscious decisions you made about what you committed to or improved: your nutrition, getting support from a coach or community, your approach to training and recovery, how you managed your life around your workouts, the number or frequency of races, etc. What were some of the most important decisions of the year for you, both related to triathlon and other parts of your life where relevant? And therefore, what decisions must you make for next season to experience even more success?

Opting out of races, whether it was restraining my itchy trigger finger the day a race’s website opened for sign-ups or even bailing on a grueling century ride in poor weather conditions when I knew my body was in need of rest. I felt torn every time, but am happy in hindsight that I went with my gut in those situations.

Also, I’ve enjoyed dipping my toes into the waters of alternative and preventative medicine, be it chiropractic manipulations, acupuncture sessions, regular massage or prenatal movement classes. Not only have I learned a lot about my body through this kind of work, but it also feels great and helps to (hopefully) keep some of those injuries at bay.

8. What habits seemed to hold you back from achieving your potential?
We all have them. Recurring ways of behaving and thinking which sometimes we realize — even when we know it’s not in our best interest — and sometimes we don’t. What causes you to skip training sessions? What do you tend to say to yourself during a race or training session, or when the alarm goes off before sunrise? In which ways has your diet been limiting your body’s potential? Where have you procrastinated or not been as disciplined as you’d like to be? Be really honest and list the items that you must change in order to achieve your goals.

I probably sound like a broken record, but I need to quit ignoring my body when it’s trying to tell me something. I’ve learned time and time again that if something’s bugging me, putting my head down and trying to train through it is not going to make it go away.

So while I would like to make at least a goal or two that really pushes me in 2016, I won’t until I know that my body is strong enough and healed enough to handle it. I won’t let my enthusiasm for going after a new goal with my usual zeal get the best of me again!

9. What decisions should you make in order to have your best year ahead?
Building off your insights from all the previous questions, what will you continue to do, where do you need to get extra help, what will you stop doing? This is a critical step, take your time and identify the key decisions you need to make.

I know myself well, and that means I’ll be anxious to jump back into things as soon as possible after Baby H comes in March. But rather than leap-frogging to a crazy goal to get myself motivated, I know I’ve got to have the resolve to take baby steps in order to build a solid base.

I’ve got to be ok with a half-step forward instead of the alternative — going too quickly and having to take two steps backward — as I heal and get “my” body back. 

For example, starting up a marathon training program before I regain my post-baby continence (something I’m genuinely worried about after reading up on the subject and chatting with other mom runners) is probably not the best idea. It took 10 months for my body to make a baby, and I know it may take a while afterwards for it to figure out what the “new normal” is.

And, in the meantime, the most important thing for me to remember is to not put the cart before the horse. Or, in this case, the race before the runner!

Stay tuned for my 2016 S.M.A.R.T. goals…

What were your biggest lessons learned from 2015?

Happy Birthday, Ben!

Son, little brother, loving husband, newly-minted dentist, doting dog-father and awesome “nuncle.”

Eternal optimist, die-hard sports fan, fiercely-loyal friend, Beaver believer, crazy sock wearer, football aficionado, goofball and Italian foodie.

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From Boston (then) to Portland (now), plus a handful of cities in between, the past 12 birthdays we’ve celebrated together have been full of adventures.

But they’re what got us here (and there and everywhere…seriously, I know we’re both glad we’re finally in our forever city!), so I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Your wardrobe is almost entirely orange and black. I still can’t figure out how you never, ever, get cold. When we met, you weren’t a runner, and now you kick my butt on a weekly basis. You know entirely too many useless football stats.

A natural people-person, you’ve got a genuine interest in people and their stories, which I admire. You’ve got a huge heart and leap before you look, often with both feet (which can sometimes drive me crazy!), but I love your zest for life and hope you never lose that irresistible sparkle.

Here’s to many more birthdays and trips around the sun together.

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Happy Birthday, Ben…I love you!