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. 

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How I Run: Team LUNA Chix PDX’s Syreeta Abrams

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In honor of our second Team LUNA Chix Portland Run season, I’ll be introducing our new team members via this interview series throughout the next few months…get to know these impressive ladies, and come join us for a run Monday nights from 6:30-7:30 pm in Portland! 

Next up, meet Syreeta Abrams! If you’ve been thinking about joining our group, here’s why you shouldn’t hesitate to come check us out: there’s more than a good chance that she’ll be the first person to greet you with a warm smile and jog a few ‘get to know you’ laps upon your arrival.

A people person at heart, Syreeta started coming to our workouts last year and quickly became a core member of the team. Whether it’s taking on new running experiences (trail races, Hood to Coast) or tackling some of the Pacific Northwest’s best hikes (hit her up for info), she’s game for anything.

What I love most about Syreeta, though, (aside from her wicked sense of humor) is that she’s a great example to us all for living a truly balanced life; she’s not only a proud mom, wife and successful executive, but she’s also an athlete and an avid world traveler.

The best part? She juggles it all with a positive attitude and level of energy that are genuinely inspiring. So here’s a little peek behind the scenes at how she does it!

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1. What’s your favorite route? I love running around Mountain Park and Tryon Park.

2. What shoes do you wear? Nike Structures

3. What other run gear can’t you live without? I can’t live without my phone, my music and my Garmin watch. I think I’m obsessed with checking to make sure I did a full 3, 4, 5, 6 miles. I hate when it says 2.99 miles!

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4. What’s your best time-saver or “runback?” I don’t think I really have one.

5. What running-related thing are you better at than anyone else? I think I’m better at going the distance. Sometimes I feel like I can run forever — not fast but just far. And don’t let me have a partner that I can talk to; omg I might run to Seattle!

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6. What do you listen to while running? I listen to whatever my college-aged daughter tells me to download — so right now it’s Beyonce, Formation and Fetty Wap.

7. What are you currently training for? I am training for nothing at the moment! Life has happened, and I honestly don’t have the time to train for anything right now.

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8. What are your recovery & sleep routines like? I love to sleep, so lets just say I get my 8+ hours in on the regular, LOL! And I usually like to run every other day, so 3-5 times a week.

9. What’s the best running advice you’ve ever received? Go a 1/2 size up on your running shoes and listen to your body not what a book says. So if you find some good advice try it but don’t force it on yourself because each person’s body has different needs.

For example, I don’t eat before I run (I mean nothing — no water, no food, not even a bite of something!) because if I do I get sick to my stomach while running. Why does this happen? Who knows, but it does, and I’ve met people for years telling me ‘you should eat.’

I tried it a few times and decided it just doesn’t work for me, and when I finally listened to my body, it worked just fine!

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10. What’s your favorite running-related memory? The best memory was when I was running my first half marathon in Williamsburg, Va. — the scenery was breathtaking and I had trained super hard and was ready to run like a maniac.

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to go on a run with __________. My husband. He won’t run, but boy would that make my day!

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Thanks, Syreeta! We’re pumped to have you as a team leader this year, and I’m looking forward to many more adventures together. 

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

How I (Swim, Bike &) Run: Ultra(wo)man Ailie Coulter

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Meet Ailie Coulter, an endurance athlete whose self-described likes include running, swimming, surfing, riding, reading, socializing and red wine.

But if we’re being totally honest, that list is a bit misleading — or, rather, it’s correct in that Ailie strives to live a balanced life…but it just doesn’t do justice to her focus, work ethic and the all-out guts she’s got that have allowed her to accomplish great things.

How? Well, first you’ve gotta familiarize yourself with Ultraman, which is basically an Ironman triathlon (140.6 miles: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bikes ride and 26.2-mile run) DOUBLED. And then tack on another, oh, 40 miles or so for good measure.

That’s right; we’re talking 320 miles total, including a 6.2-mile swim and a 261.4-mile bike ride followed by a 52.4-mile double-marathon run. Put simply, it’s a race that’s “challenged and defeated the world’s fittest athletes for nearly three decades,” as aptly described by Triathlete magazine.

And second, all you need to know is that Ailie placed second at Ultraman Australia last year (watch the video about it here), which means she’s been invited to compete at Ultraman World Championships in Hawaii this year.

The prospect of undertaking (and crushing!) this kind of endurance feat — one that takes stamina, heart and determination to a whole new level — blows my mind. So, needless to say, it was an honor to take a few minutes with Ailie (a fellow Coeur Sports ambassador) to find out what makes this incredible woman tick!

1. What’s your favorite route or workout? Think that would have to be long-distance trail running. Nothing better than getting out of the city early morning, alone, in nature and experiencing all the different seasons. Normally start in fog and can’t see a meter in front of you and by the end of a 4-5 hour run session you have wolfed down all the food in your pack and replaced it with the layers of clothing you have taken off as the day has heated up!

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2. What shoes do you wear — both on the bike and on the roads? Running: Used to wear Asics but then they changed them and made the toe box really small and I started losing toe nails and getting horrid blisters. Then Pearl Izumi introduced their run collection a few years ago, and they made the toes wider than the heel and it is the best thing to happen to the world of running!!

No more foot problems; I went and bought four pair in case they never made them again. Doesn’t have to be Pearl Izumi (although they are my favorite, support, cushioning, colors, etc.) as long as it has a large toe box, meaning it doesn’t taper off small and pointy and your toes can be free to spread out in the shoe each foot strike.

Bike: I wear Specialized S-Works road shoe, as they look the goods and make me feel pro. Also super comfy and can buy a pair new and feel like I have had them for years. Would happily knock out a 200k ride in a brand new pair with no issues. Before these I used to get hot feet, pins and needles, etc.

3. What other training gear can’t you live without? SOCKS!!! I have a bit of a sock obsession and love to sock dope on the bike. Bright, kit-matching, etc. on the bike, and I’m loving the MAAP range at the moment. Sometimes you gotta look good doing what you do!

4. What’s your best time-saver or “workout-hack?” Hill sprints, running or riding and swim sprints. You can get an awesome work out in half an hour!

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5. What part of each discipline (swim/bike/run) are you better at than anyone else? Swim: Rough water, everybody else complains when the swell picks up and there is white wash, I fist pump the weather gods.

Ride: Um… my socks look the best.

Run: I’m a diesel engine. A lot of people use this as an excuse to go slow; I can just maintain my consistent pace for a really really long time.

Overall, I’m not really better than others at any of these things; I think I just know how to hurt more than others and love it.

6. What do you listen to while training? I often don’t listen to anything. I have a hugely hectic life with lots of responsibility and training is my switch-off time. I like to take in the world around me, it’s almost meditative and leads my mind in so many cool places that I don’t want to take that away with music. For gym sessions, love a bit of Presets or something with a heavy beat that makes me feel like I can dominate the world.

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7. What are you currently training for? Ultraman Wold Champs in Hawaii in November. Will try to save some $$ and probably not enter any events in the lead up but will throw in a few big 3-4 day training camps where I completely punish myself in the hills. That way I can include a bit of time away with the man and friends and training partners, too, as its not all-consuming like racing can be.

8. What are your recovery and sleep routines like? They are more crucial than any training I could do! I ensure I get 8 hours sleep; the moment I cut this, I start to have issues with hormones and cortisol levels, which leads to getting sick, sinus infections, fatigue or injury, which leads to less training. So if I have had to work longer hours or have an important social function, I tell the coach in advance so we can plan around it.

For females, especially, this is absolutely crucial in being able to train consistently. In terms of recovery, in high-volume weeks my coach and I schedule in an afternoon power-nap between work and my arvo session; if my long ride goes for 8 hours, I tack on another two when making social plans so I have time to got home, make real food and have an hour of couch time before doing anything. Nutrition is a big part of all of this.

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So many female athletes can’t figure out why they are constantly sick or injured, and it is all because of hormone imbalances in the body. If you want to train consistently, we need to remember that we have three sources of stress in our lives as athletes: mental (work, relationships, finances, etc.) physical (training or other work-related physical strain) and nutritional (what we put in that our body needs to deal with).

If I have a family issue, I will dial down my training and eat perfectly. If I am eating horrible and for some reason including alcohol, I can’t be stressed at work and high-volume training. Given we can’t often control the mental stress, it is the nutritional and training stress that we need to modify when we can not control the mental.

9. What’s the best athletic advice you’ve ever received? Consistency is key!!

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10. What’s your favorite racing-related memory? Would have to be Ultraman Australia in 2015. I finally did what I went out to achieve. We spend so many years in this sport and put so much pressure on ourselves to perform, but the hard fact is that so many external factors out of our control can impact the result. At this race, I finally got it right and it was the best feeling in the world.

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to grab a workout with ______. My friends!!!

12. Anything else you’d like to add? Life can sometimes be challenging; find out what makes you happy, and make that your priority. No matter what it is, find it and own it and smile your way through life.

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Thanks, Ailie! Not only do you exemplify #heartandcourage, but you’re a true inspiration for everyone to get up, get out and get moving. We’ll be rooting for you at this year’s Ultraman World Championships!

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

How I (Swim, Bike &) Run: Fit, Fierce Feminist Caitlin Constantine

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Meet Caitlin Constantine, digital media producer for a TV news station in the Tampa Bay area, voracious reader, wife, lover of the outdoors, experimenter in the kitchen, and mom to a greyhound and three cats. Oh, and in her “spare time,” she’s also a competitive endurance athlete (who most recently qualified for the Boston Marathon).

But that wasn’t always the case, which is why Caitlin’s achievements are all the more impressive.

You see, after playing on varsity teams in high school, she gave up on sports and most physical activity upon entering the “real world.” She likes to joke that by the time she was in her mid-20s, the most exercise she got was walking to the corner store to buy cigarettes or around the block to get a beer at the local bar.

That all changed, however, when Caitlin turned 27 and met her husband, a former smoker and drinker who reinvented himself as a marathon runner and salad-eater. After watching him finish a marathon, she decided to take up running herself, which eventually led to her completion of two ultramarathons, five marathons, a few dozen half-marathons and too many shorter distance road races to count.

A few years ago, she broadened her athletic horizons to triathlon and has since completed two half-Ironmans, along with several sprint triathlons. And since she’s got big plans for 2016 with the Boston Marathon, her first full Ironman race and a bunch of smaller races in between, I thought it’d be fun to pick her brain about some of her favorite things, as well as where her athletic endeavors will take her next.

1. What’s your favorite route or workout? Right now my favorite workouts are tempo runs, which I usually do on a multi-use trail through a park near my house. The trail runs through a wooded area around a small lake, and it’s so beautiful, especially in the mornings. I also see lots of wildlife — alligators, tortoises, roseate spoonbills — which keeps things interesting. One of the reasons my husband and I bought our house where we did was so we could be close to this park, and I’ve yet to regret that decision.
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As for the run itself, I always love doing tempo runs. I like running hard, but not puke-my-guts-out-hard like you get with a speed workout, and so I find tempo runs really scratch that itch without leaving me utterly depleted.

2. What shoes do you wear — both on the bike and on the roads? When I’m on the bike I wear Specialized Trivents, which I like because they keep my feet cool and well-ventilated (extra important when cycling in Florida heat!). They were recommended to me as a great bike shoe for triathletes, and so far I’ve found they live up to the hype.

I switch between two kinds of shoes when I run. When I do anything that’s half-marathon or shorter, I wear Brooks Pureflow. I had been wearing Newtons Distances for a couple of years and really liked them, but then something changed in the recent model and suddenly I couldn’t wear them without feeling like I’d shredded my calves. A friend recommended the Pureflow to me and my life has never been the same since. Usually with running shoes it takes me a bit to get used to them, but I was running beautifully the very first time I put the Pureflows on. Sorry, Newtons. It was great while it lasted, but my heart belongs to Brooks now.

All my long-distance runs are done in Hoka Conquests. I started wearing them in 2014, when I trained for the Keys 50 (an ultramarathon run entirely on roads and sidewalks) and I found they really minimized the impact of lots and lots of running on my joints. That’s particularly important for me as a tall, solidly-built woman, as there’s more of me to create that downward force on my feet with each footfall. I can still run pretty fast in them, too. I qualified for Boston while wearing them.

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3. What other training gear can’t you live without? My Garmin 920XT. I mean, I suppose I could live without it, but why would I want to? It’s so fun!

4. What’s your best time-saver or “workout-hack?” I love to do my binge TV-watching while riding on the indoor trainer. I’m sure some triathlete purists would scoff, saying that a real athlete would do her trainer rides while in a garage without air conditioning while doing nothing but staring at a poster of Kona, but whatever.

I still do workouts and ride fairly hard; I just have something else to think about aside from how much I hate riding on the trainer. And this is how I see it: if watching TV helps me be consistent about riding on the indoor trainer, then so be it. Anyway, this has helped me go from having a weak bike leg to being decent on the bike. I posted my best bike splits at the end of last year, so it seems like it’s working!

5. What part of each discipline (swim/bike/run) are you better at than anyone else? This is a relatively new development for me, dating back to about the summer of 2014, when I did the Keys 50. During the whole training cycle leading up to the race and then the race itself, I learned a lot about how to be mentally tough. Before that I was a total wuss who would quit whenever things got even the tiniest bit painful or scary, but that race was like a baptism by fire and I came out of it much, much tougher than I was before.

And as any endurance athlete knows, mental toughness is literally like 90 percent of success at these sports. Obviously you have to train your body to be able to withstand the stresses, but all the training in the world is worthless if your mind folds like a cheap card table when faced with adversity.

Now, I don’t know if I’d say I’m mentally tougher than anyone else, but I do think it’s a quality I have that has allowed me to have a lot of success with racing and training in the past 18 months or so, and it’s a quality I recognize not everyone has. The good thing, though, is that if I can develop mental toughness, ANYONE can.

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6. What do you listen to while training? Just about everything, as long as it has a good beat. I actually just wrote a post on my blog about this with some of the songs I’ve been listening to lately.  It includes everything from 80’s pop like “Maniac” to classic rock like Van Halen to Janelle Monae and Britney Spears.

7. What are you currently training for? Right now I’m about two months out from the Boston Marathon, which marks the first time I’ll be running the race. I worked pretty hard and consistently for a few years to get myself to this point, and so while I have a time goal for Boston, I’m mostly just looking at the opportunity to run that race as my present to myself for all the hard work I put in over the past few years.

By the way, I’m also using the Boston Marathon as a way to raise money for Free to Run, which is a non-profit organization that uses running and outdoor sports to empower women and girls in Afghanistan.  If you’re interested in learning more and possibly contributing, you can do so by clicking this link.

After that I’m training for the Hurricane Man Roughwater 2.4-mile swim, Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga, and then Ironman Louisville, which will be my very first full iron-distance triathlon. I’ll also do a bunch of smaller local races in between, but my eyes are on those big goals right now.

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8. What are your recovery and sleep routines like? If I’m being honest – they could be better. I’m old enough that I really feel the effects of a lack of sleep or inadequate recovery, plus I demand so much more of my body than I ever did before. I’m getting better, though. I try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night, and if my job (which, as I work for a 24/7 TV news station, often has wonky hours) means I don’t get enough sleep, then I skip training and prioritize sleep. I just don’t see the point in training when I am also exhausted.

I do make an effort to eat shortly after a workout, because I’ve noticed if I go for a run and then don’t eat anything for a while afterwards, I’ll end up headache-y and tired all day and then my legs will hurt the next day. It makes sense that this would happen, though, as doing so is basically like asking a construction crew to build a house without any tools or materials. Except worse, because then the construction crew riots inside my head and I’m miserable all day long. So I definitely make sure to eat plenty of good food.

I also like Epsom salt baths and having my husband use The Stick on my legs. I try to foam roll regularly and to strength train to keep my muscles strong and healthy. And lately I have been SUPER into yoga. I practice at home and I also go to a hot yoga studio once a week. I like it not only for the restorative aspects, but also for the way it helps me be more chill and centered.  It’s good for my mind as well as my body.

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9. What’s the best athletic advice you’ve ever received? To enjoy the process and not be so focused on outcomes! My super-wise husband gave me that advice, and I’ve really taken it to heart. A friend was talking with me the other day about the path I took from being a middle-of-the-pack runner to a Boston qualifier, and he said he really appreciated seeing someone put in hard work to become faster and stronger.

I was like, “But I don’t think I’ve been working that hard?” But then I thought about it for a while afterwards, and I realized that I actually have been working quite hard. Because I’ve coupled workouts with a mindset that appreciates each run/swim/bike/race/yoga session/strength session (well, if I’m being honest, about 80 percent of them) as I’m doing it, it hasn’t really seemed like hard work because I’ve just been so immersed in the process.  Achieving my athletic goals has just been a side bonus to the overall experience of living this lifestyle.

10. What’s your favorite racing-related memory? Goodness, that’s a hard one to choose.  Part of me wants to say the very first finish line I ever crossed  — a 5K way back in 2007 — or the first marathon I finished, where I sobbed as I ran the last 0.2 miles or the first triathlon I finished, where I realized I could survive swimming in open water.

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But really it’s a tie between crossing the finish line of the Keys 50, where I was just totally blown away by the enormous difficulty of what I had just accomplished, and crossing the finish line of the Albany Marathon, where I BQed, and getting to savor the experience of realizing I was on my way to accomplishing a long-held goal that I had worked so hard to achieve.

The one thing all of these things have in common, though, is that I was forced to change the way I thought about myself afterwards. Like, I had no real choice but to accept that certain things I thought I knew about myself were no longer true, and that I had to come up with new ways to think of myself.

And the awesome thing is that all of those new qualities I’ve now assigned myself — based on real proof in the forms of things I had *actually done* — are all qualities that I believe have made me a better human being.

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to grab a workout with _________. Another hard question!  If I were to think of professional athletes, probably Chrissie Wellington, because she is not only an amazing athlete but also a smart, funny person, or Hillary Biscay, just so I could experience one of her infamous smashfests.

But the truth is, there are a lot of women I’ve met over the internet — both as a blogger and a member of the Coeur Sports team — with whom I’d love to go for a run or a bike ride or hit the weights alongside, and I would likely choose them before anyone famous. I couldn’t even start to name them because I’d forget some and feel like a jackwagon.

This has been one of the greatest things about blogging, by the way — meeting so many incredible people. It’s the best!

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Thanks, Caitlin! Can’t wait to cheer you along this year as you check some pretty awesome items off of your running and triathlon Bucket Lists. 

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

How I (Swim, Bike &) Run: Aussie “Ironmum” Rachel Gorrie

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Rachel Gorrie is no stranger to persevering through adversity, so it should come as no surprise that this Aussie “Ironmum” tackles the physical challenge of 70.3-distance triathlons with the same kind of determination she’s used to overcome the other curve-balls life has thrown at her.

Rachel’s first victory was delivering her son safely despite myriad complications for both her and baby, but it’s been a marathon of a journey ever since. Her son, Lachlan, was born at 31 weeks weighing 1300 grams, and the family has since discovered he has left Hemiplegic Cerebral Palsy and permanent brain damage to the right frontal lobe.

So when Rachel decided to do the Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney last year, she had a lot on the line — but not only did she finish the race, she also managed to raise awareness for children who have Cerebral Palsy. And in the process, she was able to collect more than $5000 in donations towards the cause, which will help provide funding to support their needs with things like access to yearly checkups, regular Physio, Speech and OT assessments, as well as social worker support.

Once again, I’m honored to share the story of another incredible Coeur Sports ambassador. It just goes to show you that heart, courage and all-around baddassery know no geographical bounds!

1. What’s your favorite route or workout? I actually like them all. I love a cruising ride, a long run and also a relaxing swim. But then I love a great tough strength session. I do enjoy riding with friends on the M7 and on the path around Lake Illawarra. I just need to do something to keep active and my mind clear.

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2. What shoes do you wear — both on the bike and on the roads? I just updated my bike shoes. I switched to a men’s pair of Shimano as they are a wider fit. So far so good, as the numbness has gone. Also love that they are black.

For running I wear Nike Luna Glide. I over-pronate, and these have been a great shoe for me with enough support yet light, too.

3. What other training gear can’t you live without? Can’t live without my Coeur tri shorts, bike jersey and visor! The jerseys are not as heavy as other jerseys I have had previously. The fabric is lighter and keeps you so much cooler. Feels great against your skin. And I have also found that the Coeur visors fit perfectly. Not too tight around your head and full elastic for a quick transition.

4. What’s your best time-saver or “workout-hack?” As a mum, I am very time-poor and need to be very organized with my training. I have found that switching from distance training to time is working best for me. Allowing that one hour or two hours instead of how many kilometers I need to do is a great approach and easier to commit to.

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5. What part of each discipline (swim/bike/run) are you better at than anyone else? Swim: I am natural at breaststroke! You know that one person who is doing breaststroke during the race overtaking you? Yep, that’s me!

Bike: I am awesome on downhill and on the flat. I can hold a good speed for a long time but as soon as a hill hits you are guaranteed to overtake me.

Run: I am great at pacing myself, I do like a good chat along the way when racing especially if there is a no headphone rule. It’s amazing the inspiring stories you hear during a race if you have the time to talk and encourage others.

6. What do you listen to while training? I have a 70.3 mix at the moment. Good old Aussie music in there like INXS and Divinyls, as well as Fleetwood Mac and Guns n Roses. I like all music, but it has to have a good tempo to keep me moving.

7. What are you currently training for? Training has started for IM70.3 Cairns. I got the 70.3 bug after I completed my first one last November. I can’t wait to get there and tie in a family holiday, too. My son Lachlan loves Ironman and is eager to watch it again.

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8. What are your recovery and sleep routines like? I love naps!! Really, really love naps! I nap as much as I can. I seriously could sleep now if you told me to, LOL! If sleep is the 5th discipline I can’t say I’m not great at that.

9. What’s the best athletic advice you’ve ever received? Would be from my girlfriend before my first 70.3: “You know these entry fees are expensive, you really need to take your time and get your money’s worth!”

Enjoy it, take your time, soak up the atmosphere and eat all the snacks provided, enjoy the recovery area and thank the volunteers. After all it’s a hobby for the majority of us, it’s not the Olympics.

10. What’s your favorite racing-related memory? Hands-down has to be my first 70.3 last November in Western Sydney. The reasons why I did it (see links below for details) and my son presenting my medal.

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11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to grab a workout with _________. Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke from The Bold and the Beautiful), I met both her and Dom at Western Sydney. She was so supportive and really took the time to have a chat before the race to settle my nerves. I think she does fabulous work for Breakaway from Cancer and is also doing wonderful things for Women For Tri. I would love to meet her again and train with her.

12. Anything else you’d like to add? If you want to know “why I tri,” you can read more here, here and here.

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Thanks, Rachel! I can’t wait to see you cross another finish line at IM70.3 Cairns and am thrilled for what that will mean for both you and Lachlan this year. 

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

How I (Swim, Bike &) Run: Athena National Champ Sarah Girven

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Meet Sarah Girven, a wife, mother, triathlete, animal lover, hiker, runner and all-around adventurer. She’s another fellow Coeur Sports ambassador — new to the team for 2016 — so I was excited to get to know her better after reading about some of her adventures via her blog.

What I find particularly inspiring about Sarah, however, is that she began working out in February 2012 and has been going strong ever since. And by “going strong,” I mean that she’s since trained for and competed in all kinds of events, ranging from 5k’s and half marathons to sprint-distance and 70.3-mile triathlons.

Not too shabby of a race resume — especially since it’s a mere four years old, right?! 

Although Sarah’s currently sidelined due to injury (but on the mend, thank goodness), she usually spends her time racing in triathlons, duathlons, aqua-bikes, bike, road and trail races. And when she’s not working with her local triathlon club or as a board member, she’s busy running her house, shuttling her kids and volunteering.

Sarah seems like the consummate multitask-er, to say the least, so I was excited to pick her brain about tales from training, as well as get the low-down on her favorite gear and the best advice she’s received as an athlete.

1. What’s your favorite route or workout? My favorite route and workout is riding my bike on HWY 159 from Las Vegas towards Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. I do about a 50-mile ride with more than 3300 feet of elevation gain. The backdrop is amazing, and makes the ride totally worth it.

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2. What shoes do you wear — both on the bike and on the roads? I currently wear Brooks Glycerin 13. I am on my third pair and really like how they immediately fit my feet when I put them on. All three pairs have had a long run as their break-in and have never caused any issues. I bike in Shimano SPD SL SH-WR41. They are dirty and beat up, but I love them. They fit great and are tough!

3. What other training gear can’t you live without? I have a few things that I love to train with. I always wear a hat or a visor. I live in Las Vegas and need it to protect my face and catch my sweat. My favorite visors are Headsweats. I love the elastic back strap because it is so easy and quick to get on during a race. I also usually run with my Nathan Hydration Pack HPL #020 on training runs. It carries a 2-liter bladder and is fit for running, so it does not bounce. It also has enough storage for my phone, a small first aid kit and some snacks.

I never leave home without my Garmin 910XT. I’m able to use it for lap swimming, open water swimming, biking, running and hiking. I enjoy looking at the stats when I’m done with a workout. Finally, I’m always wearing sunglasses. I have two types that I wear, XX2i France1 and Rudy Project Rydon or Stratofly SX. I like the XX2i for running because they really grip my nose and do not move when I run no matter how sweaty I get. I like the Rudy for biking; they have transition lenses so they adjust to whatever lighting I am in.

4. What’s your best time-saver or “workout-hack?” I have two tips or hacks I use: One, I set my workout clothes in the bathroom so I get dressed in my gear as soon as I get up and go to the workout as soon as I drop my kids off to school. That way I am already out of the house and ready because if I go back home I might not leave again. Two, I try to pick things close to my house or from my house. If I have to drive a long distance to do a workout, I am less likely to go but if I can walk out my door and start, I am more likely to do it.

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5. What part of each discipline (swim/bike/run) are you better at than anyone else? Swim: I grew up around the water, so I am very comfortable in it. I have a good, steady pace and have no anxiety about training or racing in it. I am tall with a long torso and arm span so I tend to be a smooth, quick swimmer. My friends enjoy swimming with me because they say I push them to go harder.

Bike: I am a rocket when going downhill! I can make a steady climb but I will fly by you on the down-side. I can definitely use my larger frame to my advantage.

Run: I have a pretty accurate internal pace setter. I can set a pace and hold it for a long period of time.

6. What do you listen to while training? I do not listen to anything while swimming or biking. I do occasionally run with an iPod Shuffle. I put one ear bud in and leave the other out so I can hear and am aware of my surroundings. The playlists are just songs I enjoy and are not selected for pace or tempo. I use it as a tool to take my mind off my run.

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7. What are you currently training for? This is a hard question to answer. This past October, I tore my ACL and meniscus in my right knee, and I had the surgery to replace the ACL and clean up the meniscus in December. Currently, I am in physical therapy to regain my strength and flexibility.

I am not training at the moment but I do have a few races on my schedule, though: I have one sprint, two sprint relays where I am the swim leg, two Olympics, a 70.3 half triathlon, Ironman Arizona and a few running races on the calendar.

My “A” race is Ironman Arizona on November 20, 2016. I am not sure if I will be able to compete in this race, though. It will all depend on my recovery, healing and training. I am staying hopeful but am also realistic and do not want to do anything to jeopardize my health.

8. What are your recovery and sleep routines like? What are those? LOL! I would sometimes do ice baths or Epsom salt baths after long runs or extra intense workouts/races. I occasionally foam roll. I also try to do a light swim, bike or run to loosen up a day or two after a hard race. I try to get to sleep by 11 p.m. and am up at about 6:30 a.m. on a normal night.

If I am training, I wake up between 4:30-6:30 a.m., depending on the activity. Since the summer heat is so intense in Las Vegas, I tend to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to get my workouts in before the heat gets too bad.

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9. What’s the best athletic advice you’ve ever received? The best advice I have received is to enjoy the journey. I have had it delivered to me in several ways. One story I often tell others is when I was about to race my first 70.3 (actually 70.4 because the swim was 1.3 miles), and a friend told me that when I am hurting to take a minute to look up and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

The race was in Long Beach, Calif., and as it turned out, the run was hurting. I reminded myself of her words, so I looked up and took in the sights. It truly was amazing. The ability to do this sport is a gift! Our bodies are able to do amazing things and we are blessed to be able to do it. Another friend recently said that we get to spend an entire day doing what we love. How blessed are we?

10. What’s your favorite racing-related memory? There are so many! If I have to pick one it would be from the Athena National Championship race at the Grand Rapids Triathlon on June 16, 2015. I was racing for the 70.3 title, and I was in the 40-54 age group. I had a goal of finishing in 6:15 going off of my previous times. It was raining that day and since I have zero experience training in the rain, I was not too optimistic of my results.

I had a strong swim, and it appeared that I was the first Athena at the bike rack in the transition area. My ride was solid and even with the rain, I was hitting my time goals. I made it back to T2 fourteen minutes ahead of my goal time. Once again, I was the first Athena to the bike rack. I hit the run and was able to hold steady. I knew that this is where I would win or lose the race.

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At mile 7, my husband saw me and told me that I was crushing my times. He said that I was about six minutes ahead of another Athena. As expected, I was passed at mile 10 but I was ok with that because she is one of my best friends so I was extremely happy for her. As I approached the finish line, I gave it my all. I crossed the finish line and found my husband. He wrapped his arms around me, kissed me and told me how proud he was of me.

We found out that I finished in 5:53:29! I placed 2nd overall and 1st in the 40-54 age group becoming the National Champion for that division. I loved racing with my friend and seeing her win 1st place overall, but I will never forget the pride I saw in my husband’s face when I crossed the finish line.

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to grab a workout with _________. I would love to workout with all the girls from my Athena Facebook group and my Coeur Sports ambassador team. There are so many ladies that I am inspired by, and I would love to meet them in person. They are encouraging and are a wonderful support network. I also wouldn’t mind working out with Andy Potts or Ryan Lochte!

12. Anything else you’d like to add? I love to trail run and hike. I could spend days out on the trails. It is my happy place. I love the fresh air, quietness and beauty of it all.

I write about my adventures in racing, training, and hiking here. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram, too. I’m also a proud ambassador for Coeur Sports, Pierce Footwear, FitFluential, Fusion Sports USA and RACEPLACE.

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Thanks, Sarah! Here’s hoping that your recovery goes well so you can be in tip-top shape for training this season. 

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

How I (Swim, Bike &) Run: Ironman athlete Kecia Place-Fencl

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Meet Kecia Place-Fencl, wife, mother of two black Labradors, 8th grade science teacher, triathlete, yogi and lover of fitness and outdoor adventures. She’s also a fellow Coeur Sports ambassador, which is how we first met (well, virtually…although we hope to get the Coeur crew together someday) and have been rooting each other along via our respective blogs ever since (check hers out here for some inspiration!).

What I love most about Kecia, though, is that no matter how jam-packed her schedule is between training and teaching, she’s never too busy to lift others up with a few encouraging words or offer support when someone’s in need (i.e. she’s talked me down from the ledge after my open water swim meltdowns). She’s a true team player, and in the world of solo endurance sports people like that are few and far between.

What’s also admirable about Kecia is the way in which she trains using SMART goals to set clear objectives and hold herself accountable. It’s changed the way I approach my own personal planning for the year, be it training or life in general, and I’d highly recommend trying out her technique.

But don’t let this lady’s kind demeanor and thoughtful approach to life fool you; inside Kecia also beats the heart of a competitive athlete. She’s set her 2016 race calendar and will be ramping up to her “A” event for the season: Ironman Wisconsin in September, her fourth time tackling the 140.6 distance.

Here she gives us a peek at how she’s prepping to make 2016 her best year yet…

1. What’s your favorite route or workout? Riding my bicycle in the fresh open air with my main squeeze beside me makes my heart happy! But honestly, I even love to ride my bike on the trainer! Insane??? Maybe!! But the trainer gives me safety, better time management and provides me with a more controlled environment for riding. There is a reason I refer to any bike ride I do as #bikelove…I truly LOVE to ride my bicycle!!

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2. What shoes do you wear — both on the bike and on the roads? When running, I rotate between the Newton Kismet (which I LOVE) and the Asics Gel-Nimbus. On the bike, I wear my Specialized Ember.

3. What other training gear can’t you live without? Swim Gear: My Roka X1 swim goggles are da bomb! They don’t cut into my eye sockets and allow me to focus on my swim stroke instead of the pain my face is enduring, which I have experienced with other brands. I know they were designed for open water swimming, but I use them for every swim I do…even in the pool.

Bike Gear: My Coeur Sports tri shorts. Hello seamless chamois and no angry kitty!! I have zero chaffing and can’t imagine my 120 mile rides without them.

Run Gear: My Coeur Sports tri top. Before I started running in these amazing tops, my chest would chafe until it bled. Since running in these amazing tops, I have experienced no chafing. It no longer looks like someone shot me in the chest after a run…that is a definite WIN!!

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4. What’s your best time-saver or “workout-hack?” My situation is unique. Both my husband and I train and race most of the same events throughout the year, especially Ironman races. This requires a lot of communication, planning and preparation. Each weekend, we plan and make meals (almost always homemade and healthy options), set out workout and work clothes, and coordinate who will tend to the dogs and when.

5. What part of each discipline (swim/bike/run) are you better at than anyone else? Swim: I grew up swimming in Lake Okoboji, so open water swimming does not cause me to panic like it does some people. My parents often called me “a fish” growing up…while I may not be a fast fish, I can swim at my endurance pace All. Day. Long. I often find myself singing “Just keep swimming” as Dory does 😉

Bike: Living in Iowa, I spend a great deal of time on the trainer. It provides me with safety and allows me to save time while completing my workouts. For many people, a trainer workout can give them too much time in their own brain, but that is not the case for me. The trainer gives me focus, structure and allows me to feel completely in control of my workout. It allows me to get physically and mentally stronger on the bike by teaching me about focus, strength and fortitude.

Run: I started my endurance lifestyle as a runner. I may not be fast, but I am very comfortable running and often control my pace quite well. I typically set myself up for a pretty successful run coming off the bike!

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6. What do you listen to while training? Swim: Growing up on the lake has instilled water as a calming agent in me. I love listening to the water move past my ears…it calms me.

Bike: During power work on the trainer, I listen to music with a good beat to keep my cadence up and help me push more watts. While riding on the open roads, I am always listening for traffic, animals and any commands from my main squeeze and other friends who ride with us.

Run: I typically listen to my husband and friends converse, my breathing and our feet striking the pavement. I have never listened to music while I run and enjoy listening to the natural sounds around me as I pound the pavement. I love the peace that comes with the sounds of nature that surround me.

7. What are you currently training for? My “A” race for 2016 is Ironman Wisconsin on September 11, 2016. I am excited to go back to my home course in the Midwest and push myself to new limits at Ironman no. 4!

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8. What are your recovery and sleep routines like? I definitely have my sleep routine down! I am typically in bed by 7:30 pm with a book in hand…this is my way to decompress before lights out shortly before 8 pm to guarantee at least eight hours of sleep. The alarm clock wakes me at 4 am for my “rise and grind” morning workout.

As for recovery, I consume chocolate almond milk with Osmo recovery after every workout to immediately start the refueling process. I also take an Epsom salt bath every week and get a massage every 2-3 weeks. I love hot yoga, but definitely need to incorporate more of it my training plan, especially during peak training. According to my massage therapist, I also need to spend more time with my foam roller 😉

9. What’s the best athletic advice you’ve ever received? To measure my success by the size of my smile. This came from Jim, a blogger friend. Definitely advice that will stick with me for years to come!

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10. What’s your favorite racing-related memory? Definitely Ironman Boulder 2015…I had the time of my life with lots of family and friends cheering me on and racing alongside of me. I raced to a PR of almost 72 minutes and finished before both my husband and a male friend who were also racing. Girls rule!!

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to grab a workout with _________. All of my Coeur teammates! I would love to be able to workout with all of these amazing ladies at the same time. The amount of inspiration and awesomeness that these ladies exude is astounding!!

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Thanks, Kecia! Looking forward to following along on all the adventures to come this year…

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