How I (Swim, Bike &) Run: Ironman athlete Erin Klegstad

Courtesy of Erin Klegstad

Courtesy of Erin Klegstad

Meet Erin Klegstad, triathlete, yogi, lover of life, happiness, espresso, the outdoors, vizslas and the ocean. She believes that bike rides make every day better and that kindness can change the world.

Here’s a fun fact: We have yet to meet in person, but we connected through social media and follow along on each other’s adventures via our blogs (find her at sweetsweatlife, and I highly recommend it!); I feel like I know her, and I especially appreciate the thoughtfulness, kindness and sense of purpose with which she approaches life. We’ve also been teammates for Coeur Sports (she’s one of the elite racers) for the past few years so I figured it was high time to get to know her even better here on the blog.

Another fun fact? She’s also an amazing athlete. So much so that she placed second in her age group at Ironman Wisconsin this year, which meant she nabbed a spot at the World Championships in Kona for 2016. It couldn’t have happened to someone more hard-working, deserving and supportive person, and I’m even more excited to root her along as she prepares throughout the next few months.

In the meantime, here’s an insider look at her approach to training, along with what else will be powering this fantastic lady on her quest for Kona!

Erin4

1. What’s your favorite route or workout? During the week, I run the same out-and-back route over and over and over (definition of insanity?! Ha!) because it’s there and out my front door and I don’t have to worry about planning out a different route everyday. But, for long runs, my favorite route is the 8.5-mile Ford-Franklin bridge loop along the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and Saint Paul. A running path on both sides with plenty of water fountains and porta potties!

A favorite bike route is a 100-mile loop from our house and along the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi that full of great climbing, wind and a halfway pit stop for Mexi Coke in Red Wing (of Red Wing boots!).

2. What shoes do you wear — both on the bike and on the roads? I’ve been running in Hoka Cliftons for nearly two years and won’t run in anything else! On the bike – love my Sidi tri shoes. I have my eye on a pair of hot pink ones that Sidi debuted at Interbike this year. 🙂

3. What other training gear can’t you live without? Swim gear I can’t live without: baby shampoo. It keeps my goggles fog-free every single swim!

Bike gear I can’t live without: no way could I get through a 112-mile ride without my Coeur Sports shorts. Seamless chamois FTW! Seriously, that chamois is a game changer. Zero chafe ever.

Run gear I can’t live without: I’m a lululemon speeds shorts junkie (I won’t tell you how many pairs I own); love my Feetures socks… blister free always; and, I can’t run without a trucker hat (they keep my hair out of my face)!

Erin1

4. What’s your best time-saver or “workout-hack?” Hmm… definitely using Garmin Express to sync my 920 and Edge 500 simultaneously to TrainingPeaks, Garmin Connect and Strava. And, then immediately logging those workouts with comments across the board and in my spreadsheet. I’m quite meticulous about logging my data every single day. 🙂

5. What part of each discipline (swim/bike/run) are you better at than anyone else? Swim: Who are we kidding, the swim is definitely not my strength… ha! It’s a work-in-progress, but I’m making strides every year by doing the work, even on those cold winter days when swimming’s the last thing I want to do! I’m always tempted to sit in the sauna instead… 🙂

Bike: Living in Minnesota, I spend a good chunk of the year on my bike trainer (even during the summer, I’m on the trainer… that itself is a great time saver, and it’s safer than the road). There’s something really satisfying about trainer workouts… intense focus and staying in control of your watts. Anyway, I’d have to say focus… I have no problem turning off my brain to truly stay in the moment during a trainer workout. I think that’s one reason I love triathlon so much… it keeps me present and enjoying and embracing each second – even when it’s painful.

Run: Pacing is my specialty! Tell me to run x-pace over x-number of miles, and I’ll run ‘em almost on the nose every single time.

Erin6

6. What do you listen to while training? The only thing I listen to while running are my footfalls and my breath. I haven’t ran with music since 2008, the year they banned MP3 players during marathons. I was training for my first (and only) open 26.2 and ditched it since I wouldn’t be able to race with it. There’s nothing better than the quiet of running… I love being able to hear myself think (and not mess with annoying ear buds!).

But, when I’m doing hard bike intervals on the trainer (never ride with headphones outside, people!), I almost always listen to Girl Talk’s All Day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to this mix. It keeps me focused, and the rhythm is tops!

7. What are you currently training for? The Ironman World Championship! It still hasn’t hit me that I get to race in Kona next year!

8. What are your recovery and sleep routines like? I’m fairly good at recovery. I do legs up the wall daily, take a lavender Epsom soak weekly and am quite lazy after training (think sofa city!). My sleep routine is a work-in-progress, but thanks to the sleep tracker on the Garmin 920, it’s improved. Tracking my sleep each night is a good motivator to get to bed when I get sucked into HGTV or reading!

Erin3

9. What’s the best athletic advice you’ve ever received? A friend said to me before Ironman Wisconsin in 2014: never give up, even when it hurts because everyone else is hurting, too. I think of that during every single race, especially near the end when sitting down would feel amazing. It reminds me to dig deep and to continue giving it my all, all the way to the finish line. Another goodie is: remember to smile! It makes the hurt a bit more bearable… plus, we’re so lucky that we *get* to do this!

10. What’s your favorite racing-related memory? Ahhh… this is a tough one! I’m grateful to cross any finish line, but I think my favorite is Ironman Wisconsin this year. There were a couple mishaps during the race, but overcoming those to run down a few people in my AG for a second place finish and a Kona spot – with my entire family there cheering me on – made the finish line downtown Madison so much sweeter.

Erin5

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to grab a workout with _________. Can all my Coeur Sports teammates move to one place so we can swim, bike, run all day together?! That would be a dream!

Thanks, Erin! I’m stoked to see what 2016 will bring, and we’ll be cheering you along every step of the way as you prepare for Kona. 

Fit friends, please give me a shout (info (at) kineticfix.com) if you’d like to be featured!

Iron(wo)man Meghan Manion on recovery, racing and relationships

MeghanManion2

Meghan Manion will tell you that her Ironman finish last fall is a testament to what an “average” person can do with with proper training and coaching, but I happen to think it’s more about someone who lives her life putting a little (or a lot) “extra” in the ordinary.

And, clearly, I wasn’t the only one inspired by my interview with her about that 140.6 race experience; it’s been one of the most popular posts, most likely because her positive attitude and outlook are simply infectious.

So I thought it’d be fun to sit down again with Meghan to check in on what she’s been up to since swim-bike-running her way around the Sunshine State.

KineticFix: Thinking back to those first few days (and weeks) post-race, can you walk us through the recovery process after your Ironman?

Meghan Manion: When I woke up the morning after my Ironman, I remember my eyes welling up with tears, just realizing that I had really done it. It all kind of sunk in at that moment.

My next thought was that I was hesitant to move for fear of intense pain! I moved slowly, and quickly realized that I was feeling just fine. No chafing, no soreness, no joint pain at all. I walked normally to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I did not expect that to be the way my morning went!

I’ll attribute the lack of chafing to four generous smearings of Chamois Butt’r throughout the day. The lack of pain….I’m still pondering that. I think the most likely answer is that Team Z just prepared me THAT well for the Ironman.

Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Petersen

Photo courtesy of Gabrielle Petersen

I definitely continued training after the race in all three sports, but at a much lower intensity. My motivation did start to fail as the winter arrived; however, I had signed up for the Goofy Challenge (Saturday half marathon, followed by Sunday full marathon) in Disney World two months after the Ironman to give me something else to work for through the winter.

That helped a little bit, but I definitely could have trained better for the race! In March, I ran the Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, feeling not very prepared, but actually ended up with a PR that day!

Ironman does some crazy things to your body; it is incredible how much stronger I feel, even months later.

Photo courtesy of Felipe Wells

Photo courtesy of Felipe Wells

KF: I saw that you just completed another Half Ironman recently, too! What are your other race aspirations this year – triathlon, running, or otherwise?

MM: Yes! I did Ironman Raleigh 70.3 in June. I had raced Raleigh last year as a member of a relay team (I did the bike leg). After that race, I knew that I wanted to do the entire thing this year.

The swim there is fantastic. I had a rough day, including a complete tire blow-out about two miles from the bike finish! I carried my bike the last two miles that day. These things happen!

I’ll also be racing a Rev 3 Williamsburg on June 15. I’m doing the Olympic distance there, and I’m really excited to head back to Williamsburg. I raced the 70.3 last year, and it was my first half distance race.

Even more exciting, I met my fiancé Nate at that race last year, and we are both looking forward to reliving that first meeting. And after Williamsburg, Nate will be focusing on training for his first Ironman in Chattanooga in September, so I will most likely follow him around to whatever races he finds useful in his training.

Photo courtesy of Matt Koirtyohann

Photo courtesy of Matt Koirtyohann

KF: Speaking of…you two just got engaged (congrats!).  Any tips you can share for successfully balancing a relationship with training, racing and other commitments, since he’s a fellow triathlete?

MM: Nate and I were engaged on May 1, and we are planning our wedding on the beach in Florida in November! What an exciting year it has been.

We both love having triathlon as a shared interest, and we will always have it as the thing that brought us together. We aren’t able to train together much, because I cannot keep up with Mr. Speedy Pants. But every once in a while we will run together, or go on a casual ride.

We definitely enjoy racing together, or just being there for each other’s races. I think we motivate each other to get out and get the workouts in, too!

Photo courtesy of Stacie Edington

Photo courtesy of Stacie Edington

Thanks, Meghan, for taking the time to chat. And here’s wishing you just as much success and happiness in the second half of your year! 

Scenes from a Sunday ride of firsts

Source: Jess Smith

Source: Jess Smith

“Coeur” is French for “heart,” so it was only fitting that those of us in the Bay Area met up during Valentine’s weekend for our first of (hopefully!) many ladies’ bike ‘n’ brunch rides with Coeur Sports and Osmo Nutrition.

Interestingly enough, “coeur” is also the root of the word “courage,” and I ended up needing a good dose of it in order to get myself out the door this morning. To say I was nervous pulling up to our meeting spot would be putting it mildly…I mean, this group touts some serious racing resumes (we’re talking pro triathletes, Ironman finishers and all-around endurance sport superstars), and I’m still very much a noob when it comes to the swim and bike stuff.

Our hosts Hailey and Jess not only welcomed everyone with open arms, though, but they also offered encouraging words as I admitted to them that I was feeling super intimated and in waaay over my head. But before I knew it, we were off…and it was sink or swim (or more like punk out or pedal), so I rode along with my friend Amy, a fellow runner and November Project member, and we joined up with Doris, a local triathlete with whom we both hit it off immediately.

It turned out to be a ride of many firsts as we hit the road for our adventure:

First time meeting the Coeur crew in-person and cycling in a group…

photo (27)

First time riding in bike shoes and cleats…

photo (35)1

First time helping to change a flat tire (successfully, I might add!)…

photo (30)

 

Source: Doris Steere

Source: Doris Steere

First time taking in the beautiful scenery in Woodside, Calif. (although we did get a bit lost)…

photo (32)

 

photo (28)

First time realizing how good brunch tastes after a ride, especially when you’re surrounded by incredibly inspiring women…

photo (34)

 

photo (33)

And, finally, first time in a long time realizing you’re never too old to still have “firsts” — whether it’s making new friends, conquering fears, tackling challenges or simply believing in yourself…

photo (29)

We ended up riding about 18.5 miles total, which included almost 2,500 feet of elevation gain for what I dubbed the “thigh-thrasher” workout. While it ended up being a more, er, “creative” route (read: we got lost and took a totally different path), it was a good metaphor for the day: It’s not always about sticking to the planned journey; sometimes it’s when we veer off track that the magic truly happens.

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:

SE7

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. 

Fit Fix: Meghan Manion on becoming an Ironman triathlete

MM_Ironman6

Sometimes social media can feel invasive and impersonal, but then there are moments where you really appreciate its power to connect us with new friends, keep us in touch with old ones and make the world feel just a little bit smaller.

Case in point: When I saw triathlon training photos start popping up in my Facebook feed from Meghan Manion, sister of my best friend growing up (shout out to Katie) and daughter of my grade school Spanish teacher (hola, Senora Manion!).

Next thing I knew, she was toeing the start line at the Florida Ironman (that’s a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2 mile run, FYI) and I was virtually cheering her on, along with hundreds of her other friends around the country, on race day earlier this month.

While she claims her story is about what your average person can do with with proper training and coaching, I tend to think she’s anything but average considering the dedication, courage and sheer tenacity needed for success in this sport. Manion crossed the finish line in an impressive 13:57:29, and I caught up with her after the race to get her take on the day, as well as her training leading up to it.

KineticFix: Meghan Manion, you are in Ironman. Congratulations! Can you even put that feeling into words now that you’ve completed the race?

Meghan Manion: I can finally wrap my head around it, but it took a few days. It was a really surreal thing in the days immediately after the race. I had so much fun reliving the day with my friends and family, and that has helped me form some great memories of the day. I feel so happy that my day went as planned, and when I think back to the experience of crossing that finish line, it brings tears to my eyes every time. I really think it was the most incredible day of my life so far.

KF: What’s the first thing you did when you crossed the finish line?

MM_Ironman3MM: When I crossed the finish line, a volunteer caught me immediately and congratulated me. I started crying the happiest tears of joy, and she asked if everything was ok. I told her, that it was amazing, and she hugged me and celebrated with me. The next thing I remember is looking to the left and seeing my boyfriend Nate with identical crocodile tears in his eyes. Next came my mom, pushing Nate out of her way, and she was crying, too. It was such a fantastic moment. My mom handed me the biggest can of bud light that I have ever seen. I had so many friends and family with me there at that moment, and I felt like I was on top of the world.

KF: What’s your favorite memory from race day? 

MM: My favorite memory of the race happened on the bike course at mile 60. I was coming up to a cheer station that my triathlon training team, Team Z, had set up. I noticed a lot of familiar faces along the road, and they were all lined up jumping and screaming. As I rode past, every single one of them mooned me! It was hilarious, and I laughed about it for hours afterwards. They had me distracted and amused for the rest of the race with that one!

KF: What was the toughest moment, and how did you power through it? 

MM_Ironman4MM: The toughest moment, for me, was waiting for the race to start. I fear the swim more than anything in triathlon. I’ve spent a few years learning how to swim, but I still have a long way to go. I’m not the most confident open water swimmer either, and IMFL is an ocean swim. In the days before the race, Nate swam with me each day, and we battled some pretty huge surf. The practice was great for me, and definitely helped me on race day. The funniest part about all of that pre-race nervousness is that I ended up having the swim of my life. I remember stopping at one point and realizing that I was having FUN! That is unheard of for me; I always struggle through swims. I finished the first loop smiling, eager to get back in and do it again. I never would have predicted that, and it set me up for a great day. The lesson here is that you will always doubt your training, but it is important to trust your coaches and trust in the work you have put in leading up to race day.

KF: What do you think was the key factor in your success?

MM: The key factor in my success at IMFL was joining a triathlon training team in the Washington DC area, called Team Z. Besides having amazing coaches, training plans and workouts, Team Z provides a social aspect that cannot be matched. It is so much easier to get up at 4am to go on a seven-hour training ride when you know that 100+ of your friends will be waiting for you, they will ride with you all day, and then your coach will welcome you to the finish with a beer and a burger. We had 40 people compete in IMFL, and hundreds more come down just to cheer us on. It was a race day experience that I feel very lucky to have had. I really recommend looking for local triathlon clubs or training programs when taking on the Ironman. It can make all of the difference.

KF: Anything that surprised you or that you weren’t expecting?

MM_Ironman8MM: Yes! The wonders of hot chicken broth! I had heard from previous Ironmen that there is nothing quite like the broth that Ironman serves on the run after the sun goes down. I did not know the power of this stuff until I decided to give it a try. The sun sets early at IMFL, and I did half of the run in the dark. I was chilly and feeling weak. That salty treat perked me right up at the perfect moment.

KF: Is there anything you’d do differently next time?

MM: I really don’t think I would change a thing! I had such an unbelievable day, and I really have no regrets at all. Well…I guess I could follow the rules better, to be completely honest! I received a drafting penalty early on in the race. It made me laugh more than anything. I had to stop at the next Penalty Tent and serve a four-minute penalty for drafting off of the person in front of me. I guess I’d try to not be a “cheater” next time around!

KF: Your background is mostly in running. So how’d you get into triathlon?

MM_Ironman5MM: I started running marathons in 2006. I never really loved running like some people do, but it was an easy way to burn the calories. Once I was bored with marathons, I bought my first road bike for some cross training. Next thing I knew, I was signed up with Team in Training for my first Olympic Distance Tri in 2010. The rest is history! I really enjoyed the challenge of learning a new skill (swimming) as an adult. I also enjoy the variety of the three events. Plus, riding your bike is just plain fun!

KF: When did you join Team Z & how has that factored into your racing? 

MM: I joined Team Z in October of 2011. Just two years later, they led me to my first Ironman. That is incredible! I feel like I am an unlikely Ironman. I was never the most athletic person growing up. Team Z showed me what a normal person can do with the right training and coaching. It is truly incredible to learn what the human body is capable of with proper training. I have also formed countless friendships through  my team.

KF: Walk us through your decision to take on the Ironman distance. 

MM: I traveled to Panama City Beach in 2012 to watch a great friend from college compete in her first Ironman. Stacie Edington is one of my friends from the water-ski team at the University of Michigan. She was supposed to have her Ironman year in 2011, but fell off of her bike on a training ride that year. She postponed her race for a year while she recovered from a broken leg. I was really inspired by her determination and toughness. She powered through the rehab, and had a fantastic race at IMFL 2012. Watching her was amazing. She encouraged me to sign up, and along with some more pressure from one of my Team Z coaches, (Ryan Pettengill) I just suddenly found myself in the line to sign up. It was a decision that I considered for about 10 minutes before handing over my credit card. I’m thrilled that it happened like it did

KF: Any advice for people looking to get into triathlon?

MM_Ironman2MM: My coach Ed Zerkle has a famous line that I love: “You’ll never know unless you Tri.” That just says it all. Find yourself some good people to help you a long the way, and give it a go. You never know where you will end up after doing that first Sprint tri. You might just surprise yourself.

KF: Any advice for runners, in particular, who want to try it but who are afraid of open water and intimidated by the bike?

MM: Being afraid of open water and/or the bike are problems that every triathlete has faced. They are real fears! The fun comes in conquering them. With determination, you can learn to overcome those fears, and when it happens, you’ll never feel better. Be sure to celebrate along the way as you achieve even small goals. Give yourself some credit for the awesome things you can accomplish!

KF: You’re an accomplished endurance athlete with quite a few races under your belt; got any tips for training hard but keeping injury at bay?

MM: I believe in training just enough, and not over-training. I do just what my coach prescribes, never more (but…yes, sometimes a little less!!). When something flares up, you have to be willing to take a break while it heals. A few missed workouts will not ruin your race, but a chronic injury might. Seek professional help early, and do what you are told!!

KF: I’ve heard that there are two reactions upon completing an Ironman: A) “Never again!”, and B) “When’s the next one?” Which camp are you in & why?

MM_Ironman1MM: I haven’t decided yet! I loved my day so much, and I don’t know if it could ever be the same the second time around. I might be happy to take this experience, continue celebrating it, and be happy with shorter races going forward. I have a feeling that at some point the idea of trying and Ironman again with come up. I’ll have to figure that out then. I know that at a minimum, I will take the next year to let myself recover, and enjoy some shorter distance racing.

KF: What the next goal you’ve set your sights on?

MM: I’m going to Disney World! (For real!) My Ironman inspiration, Stacie, suggested trying the Goofy Challenge in January. We will run a half marathon on Saturday, followed by a full marathon on Sunday all at Disney World. We signed up for the races with a big group of friends, and I am looking forward to the craziness!

KF: Any final words of wisdom that you can pass along to other Ironman hopefuls?

MM_Ironman7MM: One more piece of advice for future Ironmen: We all focus on the physical training. It is so important! But remember that Ironman day is a mental race, too. I was lucky enough to do some pre-race mental prep sessions with accomplished Ironman, Kendra Goffredo. She helped me train my brain for race day, using a variety of strategies, such as visualization. I cannot say enough about the importance of paying attention to this part of the training in addition to your workouts.

Many thanks to Meghan for taking the time to share some wonderful triathlon tips and Ironman memories. And congratulations on your incredible race results; your story will no doubt inspire all of us to ‘tri’ something new!