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?

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8 Reasons to Hire a Running Coach

RunningCoachReasons.png

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?

 

10 Fourth Trimester Life-Savers

BabyFeet

Back when Wyatt was just a bump in my belly, I shared a few favorite firstsecond and third trimester essentials that helped us make our way through pregnancy together.

But have you heard of the fourth trimester? It’s the concept that the first three months after birth are quite literally an extension of life in the womb for baby.

And I’m not gonna lie: At times, it can be a rocky transition for everyone involved. Not only does baby need lots of attention, but mama also deserves extra TLC during recovery and those sleepless nights and days spent getting to know the newest family member.

As always, everyone’s experience will be a bit different, but these are just a few of the things that I found helpful for easing into motherhood. And by ‘easing in’ I mean jumping with both feet into the deep end. 

1. Nursing Tanks

If you’re nursing or pumping, not only will you need quick access, but you’ll also need something pretty forgiving as you change size throughout the day. Consider the Gilligan & O’Malley Nursing Cotton Camis part of your new mom uniform; at $20 a pop, they’re as budget-friendly as they are baby-friendly.

GilliganOMalleyCami

2. Support Tights

Another staple in your new mom wardrobe? A pair of tummy-friendly tights, which are both comfortable and versatile as your body shape-shifts in the first few months postpartum. One of my favorites were Blanqi’s Highwaist Support Leggings, which not only help provide some extra core support but also come in handy when you’re between sizes.

BLANQI_support_leggings_baby

3. Nipple Butter

Whether you use it for nursing or as a lube with your breast pump, Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Natural Nipple Butter is the best stuff out there — period. It’s from a local company, it’s all-natural and it works, so do yourself a favor and stockpile this stuff by the case before baby comes.

earth-mama-angel-baby-natural-nipple-butter4. Breast Pump

Speaking of your ‘ladies,’ if you’re thinking of breastfeeding and/or pumping you’ll want something to get the job done without too much…collateral damage, shall we say? After trying the Medela Freestyle, which was awesomely small and portable, I ultimately settled on the Spectra Baby S1. It came highly recommended from a girlfriend, and I found it to be just as effective, but a lot gentler.

Spectra

5. Pumping Bra

If you’re a woman, you’re no stranger to multitasking. And if you’re a breastfeeding mom, you’re no stranger to multitasking while pumping. Enter the Simple Wishes D*Lite Hands-Free Pumping Bra, which is adjustable in size to sustain a perfect fit over time as a nursing mother’s size changes. Brilliant!

IMG_4061-DLite-w-Pump

6. Nursing Pads

And while we’re on the subject of milk, when it comes in you’ll want to be prepared with some disposable nursing pads to keep from leaking through your shirts, on the sheets…you get the point. But after your supply evens out, I’ve found these washable breast pads to be more comfortable and better at wicking away moisture.

breastpads

7. Robe & Comfy PJ’s

One of the best maternity investments I made in terms of cost-per-wear was this robe and nightgown set. I can’t say enough about how handy a lightweight cotton robe with pockets can be for keeping you warm when you’re up at all hours, as well as having handy pockets to stack bottles, pacifiers, burp-cloths, etc.

HappyMamaRobe

8. Amazon Prime

Another invaluable investment? An Amazon Prime subscription, which is worth it’s weight in gold. From diapers to developmental toys and everything else in between, it’s a necessity in those early days when you need something — stat! — and can’t get out to the store. Simply search, click and it’ll be on your doorstep in two days.

Amazon-prime

9. Meals

I cooked exactly two freezer meals and one batch of lactation cookies before Wyatt came, thinking that’d tide us over until I get back on my feet and had time to get in the kitchen again. HA! Little did I know we’d come to rely heavily on frozen foods, take-out, meal delivery services and the kindness of friends and family in those first few months. Have a friend with a new baby and want to know how you can help? Bring over a warm meal, and they’ll be forever indebted to you.

Forelle

10. Thank You Cards

I’m old-school and believe that any gift you receive deserves a nice handwritten thank-you. Save time — and your sanity — by stamping and putting your return address on a bunch of cards before baby arrives. That way you can write them as you go, ensuring you’ll get ’em out the door in a timely manner and also remember who sent what when the time comes.

ThankYous

*Bonus: Netflix Subscription

Finally, no list of postpartum must-haves would be complete without the mother of all necessities during those first few months: a Netflix subscription. When you’re up at all hours night after night, it’s either stare at the ceiling while feeding or immerse yourself in a season — or three — of your favorite show (my choice was Orange is the New Black). So sink into the couch together and enjoy some quality cuddle time!

Mamas, what were your fourth trimester must-haves? 

Body After Baby: 10 Tips for Easing Back into a Fitness Routine

PostpartumFitness

A fellow active mama and I were chatting over coffee after our Stroller Striders class the other morning. While reminiscing about our racing days and talking about training plans that have since been derailed, we came to the consensus that the whole”bouncing back” after pregnancy concept is a load of crap.

Sure, recovery is one thing. I credit an active pregnancy with being able to get back on my feet fairly quickly after my c-section.

But fitness and performance? That’s another thing entirely.

So in an attempt to set the record straight on the “body after baby” business, I figured I’d share a few of my real-life tips on upping your activity ante post-baby:

1. Go on the offense. I learned firsthand that it’s not so much pregnancy that will sideline you; it’s the fact that you’ll be sitting around for six weeks afterwards recovering, nursing, not sleeping, etc. So start early and often — bank whatever training you can muster while pregnant to keep from going into too much of a deficit after baby’s debut.

2. Wait for the all-clear. As eager as you may be and as great as you may feel, do not disregard your doctor’s orders. Wait until bleeding stops, incisions are healed and you’re given the go ahead from your doctor to resume regular activity. I’ve heard way too many stories of mamas pushing it prematurely only to end up with injuries and other setbacks.

3. Start slooowly. Don’t expect to come out of the gate right where you left off! This was a tough pill for me to swallow, but I made the decision to relish walking and enjoy not working out for six weeks. Think of it as an extended rest and recovery from training — and use the time to stretch your legs, get some fresh air and fight off cabin fever.

4. Take the pyramid approach. When you’re training for a race, you taper down so you peak on the day of the event, right? Well, labor and delivery is the same concept, except in inverse — you slowly decrease intensity and modify exercise as you get more pregnant and then build back up afterwards.

5. Enlist help from a pro. Sometimes it takes an outside voice of reason to make you take it easy, build a solid foundation and help keep things in perspective. And take it from me, it’s well worth the investment to rebuild that core because you’ll need it as baby grows in fits and spurts!

6. Embrace the suck. Know going in that it’s not going to feel great. And expect to end up in a frustrated funk when you realize just how off-balance and generally unfit you feel after having a baby. So set your expectations accordingly, and you’ll have more patience for chipping away slowly at that #mombod.

7. Tag team your little one. A fit mama friend revealed this brilliant approach toward weekend workouts. If you and your hubby are both trying to squeeze in some major training, one person gets priority on Saturday morning while the other person gets dibs on prime workout time on Sunday.

8. Enlist your new workout partner. This took me a while to feel comfortable with, but around two months in, I joined said Stroller Striders class with Wyatt. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em…er, if you can’t leave ’em at home, bring ’em along to your workout!

9. Set a major goal with mini milestones. Time flies when you’re tending to a little human, so set some dates on the calendar to get yourself back in the game. For example, my first post-baby race was the recent Wanderlust 5k, which helped get me fired up for Portland Marathon training.

10. Be kind to yourself. Finally, if you do nothing else and take no other advice from me, give yourself a break. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as a new mom is that we’re all just trying our best to get by, so a little kindness with the self-talk goes a long way. After all, life has changed dramatically and your priorities have shifted, so your best bet is to take the new twists and turns in your fitness journey in stride!

What are your favorite tips for getting back on the fitness bandwagon post-baby?

I’ll (Try to) Spin You Right Round, Baby

It’s said that “most” babies are head-down by around 36 weeks (I’ve read as much as 96-97% of ’em), getting ready to make the journey from womb to world.

Of course, Baby H had other plans and remained comfortably in a stubborn “sweet little breech ball,” according one ultrasound technician.

My doctor first broached the topic around 32 weeks, but when our little nugget still hadn’t budged by 34 weeks, I took matters into my own hands to try to facilitate a flip naturally.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t run in a few months. Or maybe it’s because I’m not following any kind of training schedule. But either way, my inner Type A-proactive-planner took over and I enjoyed researching, laying out a game plan and getting to work on the following options for encouraging a breech baby to turn:

Moxibustion: A Chinese medicine practice of burning mugwort on or near the outermost point of your pinkie toes. Apparently there’s an energy channel located there, and getting things flowing in a downward direction may help baby’s head to do the same.

Inversions: Whenever I’d feel Baby H get particularly active, I’d try out different inversions to see if I could give him/her more room in my belly to move around. A number of people recommended SpinningBabies.com, so I tried a bunch of the moves on the site (again, much to Ben’s amusement).

Acupuncture: Similar to moxa with the energy channel hypothesis, this uses needles to balance your “Chi” and get baby to turn. It’s been shown to have a decent success rate in studies such as this one, and I found it to be a great way to relax for an hour, as well.

Swimming: Whether it’s the change in pressure, buoyancy or body position, some people think that getting in the pool can help get baby re-oriented in the right direction. There are no official studies on this, but being in the water once a week definitely felt good and, I think, decreased swelling.

Chiropractic: The theory here is that if your skeletal structure is out of whack, it could affect your inside organs (i.e. uterus) and baby’s positioning or ability to move. Chiropractors use a special move called the Webster Technique, which is supposed to restore proper pelvic balance and function.

Old Wives’ Tales: Other suggestions for turning a breech baby include things using cold packs, talking, music or light to incite movement. Again, none are proven to be particularly effective or supported by studies, but they’re something to consider nevertheless.

Although ultimately unsuccessful for us, I do feel these techniques are well worth a shot if you find yourself (and your baby) in a similar situation. But — and I probably sound like a broken record with this — pregnancy really is a total crap-shoot, so don’t go into anything expecting guaranteed results.

The only thing I can guarantee? A laugh about the whole predicament, if you read this post from Pregnant Chicken.

And as for me, I’m learning that this process — along with expecting the unexpected and just going with it — is all a part of preparing for the next adventure: parenthood.

Disclaimer: I’m not a health professional, so be sure to consult yours first before trying anything new!

Anyone else out there have experience with a breech babe?

So You Wanna Snowshoe? 5 Must-Haves for Your First Trek

Source: SnowshoeMag.co

Source: SnowshoeMag.co

Looking to venture off the beaten path and explore uncharted territory this winter? Snowshoeing can offer maximum benefits for minimal investment — not only is the sport easy to learn and inexpensive, but it’s also a great activity for staying in shape during the cold months.

According to a study from the University of Vermont, runners who traded their sneakers for snowshoes actually gained fitness and escaped impact-related foot injuries in the off-season. The fluffy white stuff provides excellent resistance when training, plus it absorbs heel strike for a lower-impact workout that’s beginner-friendly for all ages.

But even though the sport is an accessible one, it’s smart to prepare in advance when planning on tramping through the woods for a day. Here are my five must-haves to make the trip fun, safe and memorable:

Sustenance

When you’re burning up to 600 calories an hour, it’s important to fuel your body well. Pack nutrient-dense, portable snacks that can be eaten intermittently throughout the day to keep your energy up and blood sugar levels steady.

Need ideas? Check out 15 of my favorites here (and, nope, they’re not just for preggos!).

Survival

Occasionally there’s an element of surprise when it comes to outdoor activities, whether it’s broken gear, an injury or just Mother Nature messing around with you. And the last thing you want to do is tempt fate as the temperature drops, so take the proper precautions and you’ll be ready to address any issues that may arise.

If your trek includes mountainous terrain, for example, consider toting some avalanche-preparedness gear (portable shovel, collapsible probe, avalanche beacons), along with snowshoe repair tools (duct tape, spare grommets, wire, zip ties) and a basic first aid kit.

Spares

No, not tires – we’re talking clothing here. Remember that as you work out, more than 70 percent of the energy that powers your muscles is converted to heat, causing core body temperature to rise. In an effort to keep from overheating, warm blood gets diverted from organs to skin, causing you to sweat, which evaporates to cool things off.

It’s a fine line to walk between being sweat-soaked or shivering, though, so pack lots of layers and plan on adjusting based on your level of exertion and the ambient air temperature. The American College of Sports Medicine outlines some general guidelines here if you’re interested in more info.

Snowshoes

I did a spring snowshoe review a few years back with tips on selecting the proper pair based on your desired type of activity (packed trails, deep powder, etc.). One of my personal favorites is still the Atlas Elektra 10 Series because it’s a smaller, more efficient female-friendly model that provides a great mix of comfort and stability on winter trails.

But the best way, by far, to get started is to “try before you buy” in order to A) see if you like the sport before investing in it and B) get a feel for the types of snowshoes available for the terrain you prefer. Many ski resorts, Nordic centers and retailers (such as REI) now offer rentals, so do a little research and try a few options before you commit.

Snapshots

Finally, what’s the fun in reaching the summit if you can’t document the view, for social media’s posterity’s sake? Invest in a good waterproof digital camera, waterproof phone case or a GoPro, and you won’t have to worry about dropping it while fumbling around with frozen fingers.

Know that it can get a little lonely out there on the trails, too, so if you’re flying solo or want a group picture but don’t have access to a cameraman, consider bringing along a selfie stick for your phone or camera to document the day. Two of my favorites are the Mpow iSnap Y for my phone, which I got as a Christmas gift, and the Xshot Pro Camera Extender, which I’m currently testing with my GoPro (stay tuned for a review, coming soon…).

Have you added snowshoeing to your repertoire of winter sports? 

15 Healthy Snacks for the Pregnancy Homestretch

SmartSnacks

Combine shrinking stomach space and a temperamental tummy with the mounting nutritional needs of growing a baby, and you’ve got a potential recipe for pregnancy disaster.

Case in point: When an earlier ultrasound revealed that Baby H might be measuring behind, my doctor had me double down on healthy fats, cut back on exercise and increase meal frequency. Now we know it was just a wonky measurement due to breech positioning, but nothing like another dip on the emotional roller-coaster that comes with being a first-time mom! 

Normal-sized meals may be out the window, and lack of time and energy can make it tempting to grab whatever’s nearby (or cave in to cravings) so I’ve been relying heavily on snacking. Having the following 15 mini-meals in my arsenal have been key to putting my mind at ease — and keeping my blood sugar levels from dropping.

1. Protein Shakes. Convenient grab-and-go-option for a quick shot of protein and calcium; my go-to is banana, ice, protein powder, peanut butter and milk in my trusty immersion blender.

2. Cheese Sticks & Crackers. Protein, calcium and just the right amount of carbs when you’re craving something salty and starchy.

3. Fruit with Nut Butter. Think of your usual apples, bananas and pears as a blank canvas for all the great butter flavors and blends out there.

4. Guacamole. Avocados are a wonderful source of good fats, and they’re especially delicious as a zesty dip (for chips) or spread (for sandwiches).

5. Cereal & Milk. Although my current favorite is shredded wheat with fruit in the middle (fiber!), I’ve eaten my fair share of fortified kids’ cereals without guilt these past nine-plus months.

6. Yogurt, Granola & Berries. One of my very favorite breakfasts, this parfait delivers good protein, nutrients and fiber without being too filling.

7. Oatmeal & Mix-ins. Pick a theme — sweet or savory — and there’s no limit to the amount of good stuff that can be packed into one bowl!

8. Fresh Fruit. Delicious, portable, bursting with nutrients and full of flavor, I aim for a few servings a day to add variety to my diet.

9. Hard-Boiled Eggs. Incredible and edible, these protein-packed bites are a great way to stay satiated between meals and keep energy levels steady.

10. Dried Fruit & Nuts. Mix and match for a sweet and salty treat that’s great for taking with you for anywhere, anytime snacking.

11. Ants on a Log. Don’t discount the old childhood throwback! Spread your favorite peanut butter on celery sticks, and top with raisins.

12. Cottage Cheese & Sunflower Seeds. I know, I know…it’s a weird combo. But don’t knock it ’til you try it — the creamy, crunchy, savory flavors hit the spot.

13. Dates With Cream Cheese & Walnuts. Halve dates, fill with a smear of cream cheese and top with a walnut. Also makes an elegant appetizer!

14. Baby Carrots & Hummus. When you’ve got a craving for crunch, nothing does the trick quite like this sweet, tangy combination.

15. Healthy Bars. Make your own or pick up a few favorites (mine are KIND, LUNA and Larabar) to pack in your purse for when hanger strikes.

What are your favorite pregnancy (and non-pregnancy!) snacks?