5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Post-COVID-19 Fitness Program

As the globe creaks back to life, the fitness industry is following suit. Gyms are re-opening, group classes are resuming…and we’re gradually reemerging into a much different world – one where we evaluate everything in terms of risks and cost/benefit.

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re certainly not out of the woods yet.

This can be tsough when it comes to fitness, because goals, consistency and dependable routine are the stepping stones to success.

But instead of throwing in the towel on 2020, why not re-calibrate your fitness strategy with a new set of goals? Here are a few questions to use as a jumping-off point:

  1. Where am I now? Take an honest assessment of where your fitness stands. Did you spend quarantine in maintenance mode? Did your body and mind need an extended break to cope? Did you find solace in setting and pursuing challenging goals? There’s no one correct reaction to a global pandemic, mind you.
  2. Where do I want to be? In an ideal world, what did you have planned for this time, and for the near future? Is it realistic to still get there from where you currently stand, or are you better served setting an interim goal to help get yourself up to speed safely? Or has your goal now changed completely?
  3. Who am I now? There’s no denying that this time has changed us. Have you transitioned to Zoom classes, or abandoned the group fitness scene altogether? (It’s ok to break up with the gym. Really. And this is coming from my friend Al, a seasoned fitness trainer). Has your motivation waned, or were you inspired and invigorated to pursue something new?
  4. Where do I see myself in the future? Identity and fitness are often intertwined, and this time for pause and reflection has allowed many of us to reevaluate whether our goals align with our true desires. Were you “not a runner” who has now developed a jogging habit? Are you a “marathoner” who has had to abandon your typical fall race? What are you identifying with nowadays?
  5. How will I get there? Getting successfully from Point A to Point B always requires a plan. Your original route may have fallen by the wayside, so what are the steps needed to get you to you new goal? How will you go about taking each step? Who can help? What stands in your way, and how can you overcome any obstacles? Why are you motivated, and how can you maintain that momentum?

As you can see, there are no right or wrong answers here.

But going through the process will help you design a goal that will stretch, thrill and inspire you. And when you’re working toward something with that kind of meaning, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.

Six Simple Ways to Incorporate (More) Movement in Your Life

Exercise is more important than ever right now. Not only does it boost the immune system, prevent weight gain (hello, Quarantine15) and improve sleep, but it also (and perhaps most importantly) reduces stress and anxiety and supports mental health.

But what if you’re stuck in rut or not feeling particularly motivated at the moment?

First, I don’t blame you. Now is the time to give ourselves grace – not extra pressure. And second, that said, it’s still important to move your body as regularly as possible with the current constraints.

So here’s the plan: Al Painter, 19-year strength training veteran and owner of Integrate Performance Fitness, and I teamed up for six quick tips (three physical & three mental) to help you get back in the game.

Three Ways to Put the ‘Physical’ Back in Fitness (c/o Al):

  1. Twenty is plenty. Ready for the fitness revelation of the ages? You DON’T need a 60-minute ass-whooping of biblical proportions with each workout. Keep it short and sweet; 20 minutes is more than enough to make a change.
  2. Use compound movements. Pick 2-3 exercises that will use every muscle in your body – preferably from the push, pull and squat departments. For instance, body-weight squats are a great option because there are so many varieties. You could even go with something as simple as a crawling. Throw in some lunging left and right, and you’ve just put together a full-body workout in a very short amount of time.
  3. K.I.S.S. The rule of thumb here is that basics work best. Don’t try and to combine your favorite CardiogaPlyolatesKickBoxSculpt-X classes in your workouts. Trying to get better at everything in the same workout leaves you better at nothing over all.

Put it in action:

Here’s how Al describes one of his favorite “Twenty is Plenty” circuits with an exercise band:

  1. Squatting with an alternate arm pull because this gets my glutes, obliques and every muscle of my pull chain.
  2. Stepping and pressing with an alternate arm pattern because it looks like running, walking and skipping and lets me hit damn near every muscle in my body at once in an incredibly functional way.
  3. Anti-Rotation Lunges because this hits all of the muscles that stop rotation that will reduce your chances of having lower back issues. Plus this is a left and right side exercise so you can get an additional bang for your buck with more movement.
  4. I like to set a clock for :30 of moving and :30 of rest and a total set number of 20. This gives me just under 20:00 (19:33 to be exact if you’re keeping score at home) of movement.

Three Ways to Up Your Mental Game (c/o yours truly):

  1. Give yourself a goal. Set your sights on something S.M.A.R.T. – that is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Once you know where you want to go, it’s easier to make a plan for how to get there. And being able to break that plan into small, incremental steps will help you focus your efforts and stay motivated.
  2. Try it for 21 days. Whether or not you subscribe to the fact that it takes 21 days to develop a habit (one study says it’s more like 66, on average), three weeks is a great starting point when making a new behavior part of your life.
  3. Peer pressure FTW! Groups are great for accountability and morale, so find a like-minded community to help you go the distance. If that’s no an option, try recruiting friends and family to help keep you honest; their support – and cheerleading – can go a long way when it comes to achieving your goal.

Put it in action:

Here’s an exercise I like to use when setting up a S.M.A.R.T. goal; just start small and go from there:

  1. Specific – What do you want to achieve exactly? The more detailed, the better. If you commit to more speedwork in your running, saying “I’m going to join X group on Monday nights for their coached track workouts each week” is much better than “I want to work on my speed.”
  2. Measurable – Define criteria for measurement (if your goal is weight loss, say a pound per week), which allows you to check your progress regularly and make adjustments as needed. Smaller increments are more manageable, meaning you have a better chance of staying on track.
  3. Achievable – The best goals stretch you outside of your comfort zone but aren’t so unattainable that they become demoralizing. On the other hand, go too easy, and you may never find out what you’re truly capable of. Find the middle ground, and go for it.
  4. Relevant – Pick what’s personally meaningful, not necessarily what’s most popular, and you’ll be willing to work towards it. Don’t set your sights on a marathon if you can’t stand running long distances; instead, find something that suits you and your investment will be that much higher.
  5. Timely – Give yourself a deadline. When your goal is time-bound, you’ll stay motivated, focused and on schedule. Ahead of schedule? Great! Pat yourself on the back, then adjust your goal and keep moving toward that next milestone.

If you’re interested in testing out these tips for yourself, Al and I have a proposal for you: We’re launching a Core Commitment Challenge starting June 15 and would love for you to join us.

It’s 21 days of just 20 minutes of movement per day. Short, sweet, simple. Designed for people who are crunched for time but want to add some movement to their life.

Register here (use code 21DAYS to get the challenge for just $14 if you register by 6/11/20). It’s open to everyone, and we can’t wait to get moving with you!

Runners: The Mistake You’re Making That Could Cost You Future PRs – Part II

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If you’ve landed here from the Integrate Performance Fitness blog, welcome to Part II of our trilogy! If you’re wondering, “Where’s Part I?” click the link above to get up to speed.  

In Part I of this series, my trusted trainer friend Al Painter, a strength coach specializing in endurance athletes, and me (longtime runner, certified run coach) talked about a mistake many runners are making right now: Chasing PRs.

As he noted, what we’re really searching for is a sense of normalcy.

We like the motivation and purpose that comes with racing. We find control amid the chaos when we check off the boxes on our training plan. We feel productive when we’re able to nail speed workouts and see progress being made.

But with so many things up in the air – races cancelled or on hold, living our lives in an indefinite holding pattern – we agreed that now’s not a time to ramp up; it’s a time to reset your body and re-evaluate your goals.

Then when it’s go-time again, you’ll actually be a step ahead.

In fact, here are the five things runners should be focusing on right now (adapted from elite performance coach Mike Robertson):

  1. Family & Relationships. We’ve got the gift of extra time with loved ones; how are you making the most of it?
  2. Nutrition & Meal Prep. We also have a unique opportunity: unprecedented control over our fueling with fewer distractions; take advantage!
  3. Recovery & Sleep. If bedtime is creeping later each night, we’ve got choices to make; create and prioritize good sleep habits.
  4. Mindset & Meditation. Runners, this is where we shine! We already know we can do hard things, and normal won’t be back for a while, so flex mental muscles to stay positive and use running as both a moving meditation and stress-reliever.
  5. Mobility & Movement. Formerly known as “cross-training,” this is what we now want to make routine in order to take our running to the next level.

So when it comes to running, what exactly do we do?

Running coach Mario Fraioli put it well when he said, “step back and reexamine your relationship with training and racing, find new and different meaning in this pursuit of running, and start dreaming up personal projects or creative goals that excite you and can be pursued within the current constraints of this strange situation.”

Keep it simple, and just move. But listen to your body, and be willing to adapt, depending on the day.

I hesitate to post a specific running workout here because we’re all at different places at the moment – physically, mentally, emotionally – so instead I’ll issue a challenge: This week, commit to at least three days of “running-inspired”movement.

It could be as simple as setting your watch with a 15-minute timer then walking or running for that amount of time before turning around and re-tracing your steps (an out-and-back outside, or even laps around your apartment).

It could be finding a hill nearby (or set of stairs in your home), setting a timer for 20 minutes and working out current frustrations on the incline – run up quickly, staying tall with a slight forward lean at the hips. Walk down the other side or do a slow lap (around the hill or your house) to recover. Repeat until the time is up.

Or if you’re feeling up to it, take yourself on a long run. My new Sunday morning routine is to go out and get lost – in the miles, in my head, in the music – to build endurance and get my mind right for the week ahead.

As for the other days of the week – and the strength training and mobility I’ve been touting as the magic that will help us all run stronger, longer and without injury?

Well, for that I’ll send you back over to Al, who’s written up a runner-specific strength workout that he’ll cover in Part III of this series. Head on over here to check it out when it posts in a few days!

 

Why KISS Should Be Your New Fitness Mantra

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Well, hello! It’s been a while, but it’s great to be back. Time away to reflect (and raise two tiny humans) has given me a renewed mission: to inform and inspire, along with igniting a passion for the process of getting fit. It’s not about letting go of your dreams, aspirations and ultimate goals; it’s about gaining the perspective to maintain a healthy balance while pursuing them. Curious about this new outlook? Read on…

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and that’s where we’re at with the fitness industry these days.

Set goal –> Achieve goal –> Set bigger/longer/faster goal –> Get injured –> Recover –> Set even bigger/longer/faster goal –> Achieve goal (maybe) –> Get injured again –> ???

Sensing a pattern here?

Now, I’m not knocking goal-setting. It’s great to test yourself every now and then, both in relation to your former self and to others. But solely focusing on the achievement of a goal (or string of goals) isn’t just short-term when it comes to fitness; it’s short-sighted.

I’m guilty of this myself. After my son was born, I couldn’t wait to start training again; I had BIG GOALS for a half marathon PR. I thought I was being responsible, doing preventative PT, easing back into running and even going as far as to hire a coach to help rein in my training mileage.

But now I realize that a need to prove myself combined with a narrow focus was ultimately my undoing; I was still missing key strength components to help my new (postpartum) body navigate training.

The PR came, but at a cost: a stress fracture that left me wondering what it was worth.

It turns out there’s a fine line between relentless and reckless. And you don’t often know you’ve crossed it until it’s too late.

Over the past 20 years (I started my writing career at Windy City Sports magazine in Chicago during the early 2000’s), I’ve seen the industry evolve in a way that’s become a lot about ego: followers, PRs, races, workouts in “beast mode.”

The common thread? Bigger, better, stronger, harder, longer, faster, more, more, MORE!

We push-push-push to validate ourselves, thinking that we’ll finally feel the sense of worth that comes with PRs, qualifications, nailing skills or hitting certain levels.

But, the truth is, we still won’t feel good about ourselves, and the finish line just keeps running away.

I’ve talked about this extensively with Al Painter (a friend, colleague, 19-year fitness industry vet and former mountain bike racer), and we commiserated over the shared experience of chasing the elusive “win.”

“When I raced my mountain bike, getting faster was never fast enough. Every ride had to be a training challenge,” Painter told me.

“Winning races weren’t really victories because the second I crossed the finish line, I realized I had to start training for the next event, keeping me from feeling good about the one I just finished.”

We agreed that it’s high time to stop putting pressure on ourselves for PRs, and us competitive-non-elite-athletes are in desperate need of a mental shift.

Whether it takes getting sidelined by a major injury or being quarantined at home due to a global pandemic, we should be utilizing this time not to bemoan missed races, but to re-think our current routines and get back to valuing – and celebrating – the basics.

But don’t basics = boring?

Nope. That’s just your ego talking.

Think of fitness like a pyramid. At the bottom are things like adequate sleep, good nutrition, postural alignment, structural imbalances, etc. When we master these things and are doing them consistently, only then should we gradually layer on other training components.

The top of the pyramid is reserved for elite athletes; not only are they invested in conditioning their bodies for super specific niches, but they also benefit financially from doing so.

“If your livelihood depends on a certain level of fitness to get paid to perform a demanding physical task, you’re playing by an entirely different set of rules,” Painter said in a recent Red Delta Project podcast interview.

For the rest of us, we need to have an honest conversation with ourselves about training our bodies for the life we are living. Or, as Painter says (and I’ve since adopted as my mantra), “You’re not getting paid to play; you’re paying to play.”

I used to measure my fitness in running PRs, but now I define it more broadly: Running’s always been my therapy, so can I keep doing it and stay pain-free, with the occasional race thrown in? Can I lift my toddlers without tweaking my back? Can I go into each day feeling my best, so I can show up for myself and my family?

My challenge to you (and myself) is to take a simpler, kinder approach to your fitness. KISS, if you will. And here’s how we can start:

  1. Define why, then what. There’s no better time to do some soul-searching. What’s are your motivating forces, and how can you translate them into improving your health in ways that make you feel genuinely good about yourself?
  2. Develop body-listening skills. Pain isn’t something to be ignored, pushed through or “dealt with;” it’s your body trying to communicate something. Instead of trying various ways to shut it up, have the courage to converse.
  3. Identify blind spots. Your least favorites are usually the things you need to focus on most: core work, strength training, mobility, posture, etc. Turning weaknesses into strengths is the game-changer. What are you currently resisting?
  4. Learn what advice to take. And, more importantly, learn who to ignore. There’s a big difference between “expert” and “influencer,” so do your research.
  5. Reframe fitness success. Mastering one skill is impressive to people who are also concentrating on that one skill – i.e. running. But, again, unless you’re operating at the elite level, it’s not real life. Are you able to touch your toes, do yard work, take a dance class or throw a ball with your kids?

Think holistically, and the way you define yourself, your fitness, your successes and your failures fundamentally shifts.

Don’t stop dreaming; there’s a time and a place for goals. But just don’t base your self-worth on the achievement of them because it’s a slippery slope.

Channel your excitement into what it takes to get from here to there, and then that PR will simply be icing on the cake.

 

 

Top 5 Things to Look for in a Running Coach

In my previous post, I talked about the fact that I’m now a running coach convert. It covered why, but now we’re talking about how — as in, what exactly does it take to find someone who’s a going to be a good fit?

After all, there’s more to running than just…well, running. It’s as much a mental sport as it is physical, so here are the top five things I considered when shopping around for a running coach:

  1. Credentials – Look for someone with at least one type of professional certification (e.g. RRCA, USTAF, Revo2lution Running) under their belt that covers the fundamentals and mechanics of the sport. Continuing education is also important to they stay on top of the latest industry news, research and trends.
  2. Experience – While not completely necessary, I like working with someone who has firsthand experience and can speak from the athlete’s perspective; it’s especially helpful when explaining abstract concepts and working on the mental game.
  3. Personality – Consider what kind of relationship you want with your coach and what motivates you. Do you need a nurturer or someone no-nonsense, a cheerleader or more of a pragmatist?
  4. Philosophy – Ask about their approach to training to see if it jives with your schedule and lifestyle. Are you heavy into cross-training but working with a coach who believes it takes six solid days of running per week to get you to your goal? If so, you may want to reconsider.
  5. Budget – There can be quite a range here depending on how much access you want to your coach or how much direction and feedback you need along the way. A tip: more hands-on means more expensive, so think about how you work and what makes sense to keep it cost-effective.

Bottom line: There is no formula for a perfect running coach; the best one is simply someone who meets your specific needs, gets you fired up to put in the work and helps guide you safely toward your goals.

And if you decide that a coach isn’t in the cards for you? That’s totally fine, too!

There’s always the option of working out with a group under the guidance of a coach — like Portland Women’s Run Club, for example, if you happen to be in the PDX area 😉

What’s your best tip for meeting your match when it comes to running coaches?

8 Reasons to Hire a Running Coach

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Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve always been an advocate for running. But it wasn’t until recently that I also became a believer in the wonders of a running coach.

I’d soured to the idea after a negative experience back in high school, but fast forward to post-baby, and I needed help busting though a plateau of irregular workouts, fits and spurts of mileage and an overall lack of direction.

Who knew that after 20+ years in the sport, sometimes the answer is as simple as getting out of your own way? So I happily handed the reins over to my coach, who ultimately helped me find my mojo again.

Now I’ve change my tune: Hiring a running coach is totally worth it. And here’s why:

  1. Accountability – No more lame excuses for skipping workouts; you’ve got someone to answer to now, plus they can provide valuable motivation and feedback to help keep you on track.
  2. Health – Not only will a coach keep you in check to help avoid injury, but s/he can also provide tips for better nutrition and fueling (or at least keep you honest about it).
  3. Performance – Instead of relying on trial and error with your training, why not go with a tried-and-true methodology for results? A coach can help you decrease race times, train more efficiently, define realistic goals and keep expectations in check.
  4. Training – Learning the correct cadence of a good training plan (here’s a hint: more ≠ more) is invaluable, plus a coach can help you achieve consistency and push you safely within your limits.
  5. Support – Whether you’re coming back from an injury or just processing a poor workout, it’s always good to have an outside perspective. A coach can offer encouragement, boost confidence and be a sounding board.
  6. Personalization – Because they know where you need to grow, a coach can purposefully schedule in ways to help strengthen your weaknesses.
  7. Restraint – One of a coach’s jobs is protect clients from their worst enemies: themselves. If you have a tendency to get overzealous, caught up in numbers or take on too much too fast, this is critical.
  8. FUN – One of the best parts of having a coach? They do the hard part (thinking), while you get to do the “easy” part (running)! Turn your brain off, focus on the task at hand, and you just might find that elusive runner’s high as you nail that next workout.

Do you work with a running coach? If so, why do you think it’s worth the investment?

 

Race Report: Vernonia Half Marathon

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After a year and a half hiatus from racing, it feels SO good to be back in the saddle!

When my plans to race 26.2 last fall got put on hold (because sleep > running), I set my sights on what felt like a more manageable challenge: the half marathon (my 15th!).

My PR was 1:47 and change from a few years ago, so when I signed on with a coach to help me with my postpartum comeback and restrain keep me from over-training, I told him I was eyeing not only a PR, but also an even bolder post-baby goal of 1:45.

We started working together in early January with a mission to get me safely to the start line of the Vernonia Half Marathon on April 9. Training went smoothly; after figuring out my paces, we exchanged emails each week as I eagerly tackled my nap-time workouts on the treadmill.

It felt good to be on a schedule. It felt great to be running regularly. And it felt awesome to finally start pushing myself again.

Although I was nailing workouts, my coach was frank about setting expectations when it came to race day: Based on my tempo runs, overall paces and our conservative build-up of mileage (I started at square one, so my long runs maxed out at 10 miles by the time we got to race day), he warned me that a PR may not be in the cards this training cycle.

By that point, however, I was just happy to be toeing the start line well-trained and healthy, so I figured it’d be a good opportunity to set a baseline from which I could work for my next race. It also meant that I’d leave my watch at home and just run by feel.

Fast forward to race day, and I was battling a serious case of self-doubt. Would treadmill mileage translate to the roads? How would I handle the last few miles (which I’d likely be running on fumes)? Could I even get in the head-space to go hard? Hell, I wasn’t even sure if my race kit from 2016 would fit.

We arrived about an hour and a half before the 9 a.m. start because the course was point-to-point and there was a 20-minute bus ride to the start. Luckily, it’s a super low-key event (~150 marathoners & fewer than 400 half marathoners), so everything went smoothly and we soon found ourselves inside Stub Stewart State Park at Hilltop with a little more than an hour until the gun went off.

To say it was cold for Oregon in April would be putting it mildly; there were more than a few “penguin” jokes circulating as several hundred of us huddled in a shelter, hopping from foot to foot, in an attempt to share body warmth.

Several cups of water and trips to the HoneyBuckets later, Ben, Matt and I lined up at the start barely able to feel our feet. The race started without much pomp and circumstance; no National Anthem or so much as a countdown or warning before we were off.

The course took us uphill for the first mile or so before joining the Banks-Vernonia State Trail at mile two, so my plan was to A) warm up for the first mile, B) go out conservatively so I didn’t expend too much energy, and C) try to run separately from Ben and Matt because they were anticipating slightly slower and faster finish times, respectively.

When we hit the first mile marker and I was still next to Matt, I figured he was having an “off” day because I just assumed my first mile would be around a 9:00 pace due to the hill. But when he said we were at 8:20, I decided to double-down and go for it.

The next six miles or so took us along a paved trail, through scenic woods on an abandoned railroad bed. And since we had a gradual downhill until mile seven, everyone was taking full advantage of it.

Things were going well until somewhere after mile eight when we hit an open section of the course and the wind picked up; even though the final stretch was flat, the previous downhill had taken a toll on my quads. That, combined with a lack of mile markers at this point made for a total mental battle as I fought fatigue and wondered where I was on the course.

Not wanting to tempt the GI gods, I had also avoided any kind of fuel for the first hour or so. But after mile seven I paused at each water station to take a few sips of Gatorade. Somewhere around mile nine, I felt the first gut flutter and around what I think was mile 12, I pulled over to take a quick nip of Gu to help get me to the finish.

For those final few miles my brain was squarely at the intersection of “I-just-wanna-walk,” “the-faster-I-run-the-faster-I-am-done” and “uh-oh-my-gut.” But words of encouragement from my coach and fellow mama runner friends kept me pushing along.

When we turned off the trail and into town I knew we had to be close to the finish. In a matter of minutes, we turned in to the Banks High School parking lot and made our way to the track where we had one lap to complete the race.

Per usual, that last lap felt like the longest portion of the race. I didn’t allow myself to look at the finish line until we rounded the first curve, then silently cursed because it was, indeed, a full lap.

As I rounded the last curve, I saw the clock read 1:46:XX. With one final kick, I crossed the finish line, found Matt, then headed straight to the bathroom; thank goodness for ample facilities at this race!

Matt had finished in 1:42, an impressive PR. Ben ran a 1:49, which was fantastic for the amount of training he didn’t do did for this race. And my official time was 1:46:06, which was good enough for a new PR, a 4th place finish in my age group and a top 20 finish among women.

Immediately my mind went to what I did well (in order to replicate it) and what I can improve upon (i.e. remove a negative variable) next training cycle: Having a coach was beneficial in so many ways, as was the consistency of my training and speed-work. But I definitely need to focus on improving my nutrition going forward — not only fueling during the race, but also the days/weeks leading up to it.

And although I’m still in shock about the outcome, the wheels have started turning about what’s next. My coach assured me that 1:45 is doable with more mileage under my belt, which is tempting. But I’m also mulling over going shorter and faster; I’d love to finally beat my 5K PR from my high school track days.

But just as life evolves, so does a runner’s relationship with the sport. And as good as it feels to nail a new PR and chase after the next one, I’m also realizing that there’s much more to it now than just the numbers.

I run because it makes me feel alive. Running makes me feel like I’m unstoppable. It makes me feel as though I’m capable of anything.

But now I also run because I’ve got an example to set for Wyatt. I want him to see his mom setting goals and working hard to achieve them. I want him to learn that it takes dedication to reach our goals and that we can do hard things.

And my ultimate goal is that he’ll be inspired to chase after his own dreams, running or otherwise.

October Goal Check-In

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The end of October is always a little bittersweet, isn’t it? As exciting as it is to really settle into fall and celebrate Halloween, now we’re suddenly barreling towards the holiday season and a brand new year is just around the corner.

And has anyone else seen all the holiday commercials already?! I’m the first to admit I’ll be cranking up the Christmas tunes before too long…but October 26 was just too soon to start seeing ads about Santa and stuffing stockings.

All that aside, I’m still focused on sticking loosely to my 2016 goals before setting new intentions for 2017. So here’s an update:

1. Health & Fitness: In terms of a typical week, I’m now trying to move at least four or five out of the seven days. With a baby’s schedule and Portland’s rainy season to factor in, this means taking whatever I can get whenever I can get it: Namely stroller jogs, treadmill runs, cross-training on the Nordic Track (yes, you read that correctly; it was left behind by the previous owners of our house), plus a smattering of free weights.

And as much as I miss the accountability of a training schedule, it’s been refreshing to exercise for general fitness for a change. If there’s a day where a workout just doesn’t work out, it’s a relief at the moment to be able to take it in stride versus fretting about getting behind schedule.

2. Training: Speaking of schedules…just last month I mentioned there wasn’t a race on the horizon, but that may soon change because I’m mulling over a potential spring marathon. It’d be a change of pace from my usual summer training cycles focusing on fall races, and this time I’m also considering working under the general guidance of a coach to train smart and stay healthy while ramping up mileage.

3. Community: Our 2016 Team LUNA Chix Portland Run season has officially ended, and we celebrated with our annual party at Title Nine Portland on October 24. In addition to a fantastic group of community members joining us this year, I’m proud to say that we also managed to raise nearly $3,000 for Breast Cancer Fund.

As for next year, we’ll be changing things up a bit, so stay tuned for details! We’re opening applications for team leaders for the 2017 season in early December, so if you’re interested in getting involved with a dynamic group of women who are making a difference in the Portland area, along with getting in some great workouts and making new friends, like our Facebook page for updates.

4. Career: This has been an area where I’ve been feeling reenergized as of late. First, Fit4Mom Cedar Mill hosted a very cool “Mindful Mamas” event this month where we worked out together and then sat down with a life coach to talk about time management and priorities. Lesson learned: Make sure what you’re spending your time on is truly aligned with your goals.

Second, I signed a new boutique fitness client in the Portland area, and we’ve been hard at work on messaging, positioning and PR planning. I love working with business owners who understand the importance of connecting — not only with clients to help them get fitter and feel healthier, but also with the community to give back. So inspiring!

5. Life: Finally, I need to do a whole in-depth post on the glory that is ‘sleep training.’ But for now, I’ll just say this: If you’re having any trouble getting your little one to sleep — whether it’s through at night or just for regular naps, it’s a total game-changer. I’d go as far as to say it’s the best baby-related investment we’ve made because it provides the confidence to do what you need to do to help everyone get some more zzz’s.

The woman we worked with was simply amazing (parents, ping me if you want an intro), particularly because she specializes in minimizing the amount of crying during the process. I had heard horror stories of people having to camp outside of baby’s door enduring hours of screaming, but our experience was quite different. We had a total of 12 minutes of crying in protest the first night before Wyatt slept 12 HOURS.

There’s a lot that goes into it — both in terms of preparation and consistency in order to develop new habits, plus (duh) you’ll still have the usual hiccups now and then — but, overall, it’s been nothing short of life-changing. Chronic sleep deprivation (seven months, in our case) can leave you in a pretty dark place, so it’s pure joy to finally come into the light at the end of the tunnel.

Ready or not, here we come: Are you excited for the final stretch of 2016?

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. 

September Goal Check-In

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Last month’s check-in was about re-prioritizing and not beating myself up about it. So in September I committed to following through on that — not just in words but with action.

So here’s how the past 30 days panned out:

1. Health & Fitness: Ah, glorious sleep. Not that we’re getting a full night’s rest yet by any means, but the fact that I’m only having to get up once or twice is a game-changer. Which is why regular workouts are slowly making a reappearance; more zzz’s means actually having energy again!

2. Training: There’s no competitive racing on the horizon just yet — but that doesn’t mean I can’t scratch the itch just a bit in the meantime. I’m officially on the lookout for some shorter distances (5k/10k) to start testing my legs after the whole having-a-baby hiatus.

3. Community: It’s that time already; we’re winding down our 2016 Team LUNA Chix Portland Run season — but not before celebrating at our last practice on October 24th! We’re also planning ahead to next season and talking about how we can get even better and make a bigger impact.

4. Career: Figuring out my roles as “entrepreneur” and “mom” continues to be a balancing act. I did, however, get some great advice from a colleague: Be the best at what you’re doing in that moment. When doing it all isn’t an option, you do what you can when you can.

5. Life: An infant’s schedule is a moving target. But Wyatt and I have gotten into a pretty good daily routine, and having just that little bit of predictability feels wonderful. Next up, sleep training to nail our nap time routine and middle-of-the-night wake-ups!

In the process of mulling things over this month, I also came to a few realizations about the intersection of endurance athletics and motherhood (which is also, arguably, an endurance event in and of itself!):

#1 – It’s not about you. Whereas my old training days were divided into two segments (Before the Long Run & After the Long Run) there’s no longer time to prep and wait for the perfect moment, let alone take an ice bath and chill on the couch with a protein shake and legs up after. The opportune time for running is whenever you can — and you’re grateful to be able to make the most of any amount of mileage.

#2 – Celebrate consistency. I used to need something to be training for, building toward and looking forward to…but now I recognize the sense of accomplishment in just getting out there and moving regularly. In fact, sometimes that’s even tougher because there’s much less accountability and motivation without a race-day deadline looming.

#3 – Go with the flow. ‘Nuff said. This is pretty much the mantra of any parent because you’ve always gotta be ready to change course and problem-solve on the fly.

#4 – Throw expectations out the window. Again, pretty self-explanatory. Some days you’re on your game, others you feel like a total failure, but it’s the effort that counts most when you’re looking at the bigger picture.

#5 – Define ‘success’ in your own terms. Run your own race, whether it’s completing a marathon or chasing after your kiddo. We’re all here just trying to do the best we can and feel good about it at the end of the day. So cut yourself some slack, and remind those around you to do the same!

Is there anything you’d add to the list?