MKFIII’s birthday was a roller coaster of emotions. (Is it possible for the same day to be the best and the worst day of your life?) My water broke 6 weeks early, so Michael K. Farrell and I rushed to the hospital.
Shortly after arriving, I was wheeled into a surgery room for an emergency C-Section. It wasn’t exactly the birth plan I’d gone over with my OB, but the little guy had to come out right away.
I didn’t get to put my endurance skills to the test. I didn’t get to go through labor and push a baby out, the way countless other mothers do. I felt—and to some degree still feel—cheated out of an experience that would have allowed me to prove my toughness. (I’ve completed three marathons and over two dozen half marathons; surely I could have risen to the challenge of contractions.)
Nonetheless, MKFIII entered the world with a healthy scream, and he has been making me smile ever since. He’s here, we’re happy, and that’s what really matters.
I have yet to lace up my sneakers for an actual run. But MKFIII and I have been racking up the miles walking along the Embarcadero. I have big plans to buy a new pair of shoes and a proper jogging stroller. Until then… I’ll be working on getting the nursing and napping schedule down (sleeping through the night would be nice!) and focusing on my core—my abs still haven’t finished knitting back together and my lower back is getting tired of doing all the work.
I’ll be doling out my “get back in shape” tips and mother runner advice soon. And I’d love to hear yours—please share in the comments!
You may have noticed I took some time off from blogging. Okay, a lot of time off… I thought about apologizing, but honestly I’m not sorry. I’ve been focused on myself and my own daily goings-on, and I simply didn’t feel the need to document those activities here—mostly because they weren’t running related, but also because I was being, well, selfish. (Gasp—I know!)
Now I’m ready to share the love! Here’s why I’ve been absent lately:
1. Michael K. Farrell and I tied the knot! Last month, the 53 people who love us the most in this world squeezed into a small church in Virginia and witnessed the beginning of our marriage. Planning the wedding took over my life. Don’t believe what you hear, single ladies, even a small event pulls your attention away from the rest of your life. But in the end, I loved every minute of it. It was a day filled with love and laughter—and I still get all smiley thinking about it!
2. I became a pregnancy expert. I’ve never had the pleasure of bringing a life into the world. (Michael K. Farrell hopes to knock that off my bucket list later this year. Wink. Wink.) However, I took on a really awesome set of assignments for Parents.com and learned more about pregnancy weight gain, breast tenderness, and relationship changes than any non-mom needs to know. I can’t say that I’m looking forward to swollen ankles, but at least I’ll understand where all that fluid is coming from.
3. I’m the new managing editor at MyFitnessPal! This month I started working with the phenomenal team at MyFitnessPal. The incredible health-tracking app that you know and love is beefing up its healthy living content, starting with its blog, Hello Healthy—and I’ll be steering the ship. Stay tuned for fun changes over there (and possibly some spillover here)!
The New Year brings with it an opportunity to reassess and reevaluate. For most of us, that includes taking a hard look at our health and wellbeing and figuring out ways to improve our lives.
Michael K. Farrell and I spent New Year’s Eve moving to a new apartment. We decided we want to spend less time in the car this year, so moving downtown to be closer to coffee shops and work became a must-do. It was a big change, and we made it happen with about a two-weeks’ worth of hard work—and we’re still swimming in boxes, so there’s another week or so of unpacking to go. But eventually, we’ll feel more settled and have more time to fully enjoy our pedestrian-friendly lifestyle.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. And the resolutions you set on January 1 won’t necessarily be accomplished before the month ends. Still, the sooner you start, and the more attention you shine on them, the more quickly you will notice the benefits. Whether your aim is to become a better eater, improve your fitness, or take control of your calendar, here are some ideas to get you started as you set your goals for the year ahead.
Eat outside of the box. The easiest way to clean up your diet is to stop eating packaged and processed foods. That means, opting for steel cut oatmeal and berries for breakfast rather than toaster waffles, and fresh fruits and veggies at snack time instead of pizza pockets or cheese twists.
Get your blend going. Veggie-heavy green smoothies are another fun way to get more healthy vitamins and minerals into your day. I like to start with spinach or kale, then toss in a banana, frozen fruit, almond milk, and a handful of nuts. There are tons of recipes online if you need a little direction (here are some of mine!). But you really can’t make a mistake with a smoothie, so have fun creating your own signature blends!
Just move. Fitness should be fun! I repeat: Fitness should be fun! There’s no rule that says you have to spend an hour a day slogging it out on an elliptical machine, while staring at a gym wall. Get outside! Skip up a hill—don’t laugh, this will make you a faster, stronger runner if that’s your goal. Invite your friends for a power walk and some girl time. Find an activity that you love—track, adult kickball, roller-skating, anything!—and make that part of your routine. You’re more likely to stick to an exercise plan that makes you smile than one you dread.
Make sleep a priority. A lot goes on when you’re snoozing, skin cells turnover, muscles go into repair mode, and much more, so skipping a date with Mr. Sandman has negative effects on your health. When you’re exhausted your hormones go haywire, causing you to become cranky, your appetite goes into overdrive, leading to cravings for all kinds of unhealthy stuff, and your immune system slows down, making it nearly impossible to fight off colds and infections. Aim to get eight solid hours of sleep at night, and listen to your body—rest when it tells you you’re tired. If that means napping on Saturday afternoon or sleeping late on Sunday morning, do it.
Stop scheduling in stress. We like to feel as though we’re in control of our lives, but the bottom line is: Balance is an illusion. Trying to stick to a rigid calendar can often be more stressful than helpful. It’s easy to feel down on yourself when you can’t fit it all into one day, so my advice is to stop trying. Instead, do what absolutely needs to be done first—like that expense report that’s overdue, and then have tentative plans to do what you love. Only say “yes” to the activities you truly enjoy, like chaperoning your kid’s field trip, and turn down the things you don’t (not everyone was born to make cookies for bake sales). Doing so doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it means you’re authentic and true to you.
Don’t slack off. Science tells us it takes 21 days to fully create a good habit or to give up a bad one. That can feel like a long time when you’re starting out, but sticking with it will not only add a healthy new ritual into your life, you’ll also be proving to yourself that you can do anything you set your mind to—and that’s a powerful lesson.
Don’t focus on what you’re giving up. Instead, think about all the positive benefits you’ll be adding into your life. For example, if you decide to stop biting your nails, you’re not losing a coping mechanism for stress; you’re gaining gorgeous hands—not to mention suffering from fewer colds. Or, if you decide to start a daily yoga practice, you’re not losing 20 minutes a day; you’re gaining stronger muscles, greater flexibility, and a more peaceful mind.
Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? Share your goals for 2014 in the comments below!
Well, folks, the inevitable has finally occurred: I have appeared in my very first “bad” race photo. I knew it was coming. Everything had lined up perfectly for me to score some incredible shots at the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot—I felt great, the weather was terrific, all of my smiles were genuine. But I never once caught the eye of a photographer on the course, and I didn’t even see this one at the finish. C’est la vie!
Running on Thanksgiving is typical for me, but I can’t remember the last time I signed up for an organized trot. Registering for the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10K was a no brainer—it fit perfectly into my training plan, and it was sponsored by the Sharks Foundation (which was enough to convince Michael K. Farrell to run).
Bright and early Thanksgiving morning, Michael K. Farrell and I donned our race tees, and joined the purple-clad crowd in the “6 to 7” corral. My plan was to do an easy 6 miles, so lining up just behind the pros made me anxious. (I didn’t want to hold sevens for the entire race!) My fear dissipated shortly after taking off, when I realized most of the runners around me weren’t dropping into a higher gear at the beginning either.
One of the largest trots in the nation, 23,552 people participated in the Silicon Valley Turkey Trot 10K and 5K events this year. That’s a lot of people! Surprisingly, though, the course didn’t feel congested. The route started toward downtown, hooked left through Japantown, then meandered over to The Alameda, and took us on a tour through the neighborhood.
Michael K. Farrell and I ran side by side until around mile 4, when he picked up the pace just slightly during a left turn. I weighed my options—I could push myself to keep up, or I could stick to my plan and enjoy the run. I decided to be on my own for a bit, but I didn’t exactly let him out of sight. (I finished in 52:48, just 30 seconds behind him.)
Michael K. Farrell was waiting for me with a big smile just beyond the finish line. I pretended to be annoyed that he had attempted to leave me in the dust at first, and then gave him a huge sweaty hug.
We refueled with water and bananas in the park beyond the finish line, then started heading back to the car. That’s when my lower back decided to give me something I wasn’t so thankful for—a terrible muscle spasm. Suddenly, I could barely walk and I had to drop to the ground to do a couple of spinal twists. It put a damper on the drive home, and it certainly doesn’t bode well for my upcoming secret marathon. (I rethinking my strategy for that, and questioning whether or not I should even toe the start line.)
The rest of our day was spent with food and friends, which is exactly how Thanksgiving should be! I hope you all enjoyed the day!
Which moments from last week are you still thankful for?
Thanksgiving is around the corner, but before we share our gratitude over a table full of food it’s time to celebrate Globally Organized Hug A Runner Day (G.O. H.A.R.D.) with a little swapping of sweat!
I’m doling out hugs all day, starting with a couple of virtual ones to the guys over at Run The Edge, Tim Catalano and Adam Goucher, for masterminding this incredible holiday. Without their vision, G.O. H.A.R.D. simply would not exist. (They’ve put together a great list of ways to celebrate over on their blog—check it out!)
Runners come in all shapes, sizes, and speeds, and no matter how far we’ve come or how many more miles we’ve got left, it’s awesome to take a moment to give thanks for each other and the thing that brings us together—running!
Michael K. Farrell slogged it out on a treadmill last night in preparation for next week’s Turkey Trot (which I lovingly signed him up for without telling him), so he gets the first real-life hug of the day from me. Who else wants one? I’ll be hanging out in the Mission in San Francisco today with my arms wide open!
Are you celebrating G.O. H.A.R.D.? (Of course you are!) Who will you be hugging today?
I have a hard time throwing away my old, worn out running shoes. The minimalist in me (Yes, Michael K. Farrell, there is an ounce of my being that hates my magazine piles, too) wants to immediately toss them in the trash when a shiny new pair enters my life. But the packrat in me has a hard time letting go of my running buddies. These foot huggers protected me from the pavement, cushioned my joints on long runs, and added spring to my speedier efforts. Clearly, we have a bond like no other.
I’ve read that you should collect memories, not mementos. That advice could not be truer when it comes to sneakers—there’s no need to hang on to worn out foot gear. But how do you know, I mean really know, when it’s time to say goodbye?
Most experts recommend retiring a pair when they’ve supported you through 300 to 500 miles. The wide range has to do with how they’re constructed—minimalist styles will break down faster than ultra cushiony models. Still, keeping track of the mileage on a pair can get confusing, especially if you happen to rotate a second set in for special workouts (maybe you’ve got running shoes you only wear at the track, or perhaps a pair that just gets laced up for long runs). I usually decide it’s time to let them go when my legs feel flat or achy, even after short, easy runs. That’s the point when I’ll think to myself, “Oh yeah, I bought these two seasons ago,” and know for sure they’ve passed their prime.
In the past, I’ve donated not-quite-worn-out sneaks to charities, like Shoe 4 Africa, which puts them on the feet of children to prevent the spread of diseases such as hookworm. Others have been lovingly washed, wrapped in plastic bags, and tossed into Good Will bins. But I can’t bear the thought of someone less fortunate logging a few miles in these old things—I wouldn’t wish angry joints on anyone. So this pair of Brooks will be going to the Nike store. Nike recycles all brands of used sneaks into Nike Grind, a substance used to make sports surfaces like basketball courts, turf fields, and tracks. How’s that for putting old shoes out to pasture?
Is it tough for you to toss old running shoes, too? Where do yours end up?
When you’re just getting into running, there are a lot of little aches and pains—muscle soreness, side stitches, skin chafing, and the like—that might make you stop in your tracks. But when you push through, they ease up and running begins to feel better. Usually.
Tracey H. started running in the spring. “I’m new to running, so I thought I’d stick to softer surfaces,” says Tracey, who was hitting the trails three to four times a week, logging about 3 miles at a time. “My legs feel great, but somewhere around the 2-mile mark the soles of my feet start to burn. Any idea what’s going on?”
My initial thought was that Tracey’s sneakers were too tight and perhaps she should loosen up the laces—you want snug shoes when navigating roots and rocks on trails, but tying them too tightly can cause friction, making your feet feel like they’re on fire. To be sure I was giving her the best advice possible, I reached out to Brooke Jackson, M.D., marathon runner and associate professor of dermatology at the University of North Carolina, for a more official diagnosis.
Dr. Jackson, what could be causing that burning sensation? “Your assessment that her shoes are too tight is a good one, but it might be more than the laces. I would also make sure she’s wearing the right size. It’s normal to go up one half to a full size bigger in running shoes than regular shoes, so Tracey should head to a reputable running store for a proper fitting.”
Do you think she’s heading to Blister-ville if she runs longer distances? “Not at all! I’ve been running for over 10 years, and I rarely get them. Blisters are caused by friction, which can stem from too-tight shoes that rub or socks that get bunched up. I like to coat my toes and heels with Aquaphor before heading out for long runs to reduce potential hot spots. Tracy might also benefit from rubbing some on the soles of her feet before slipping on her socks.”
Do you think her socks are part of the problem, too? “If she’s wearing cushiony cotton ones, definitely. Cotton doesn’t breathe the way technical fabrics do, which can add to friction and chafing when your feet start to sweat. If she’s serious about running, I would suggest Tracey trade in thicker socks for thinner, CoolMax or dri-fit ones—they really do make a difference.”
Thanks for the anti-friction advice, Dr. Jackson! “My pleasure!”
Tracey took all of this info to heart… and sole. She picked up a new pair of shoes, fancier socks, and a tube of skin lube. Then she hit the streets, added miles to her training routine, and recently participated in a 200-mile Ragnar Relay. That “on fire” feeling? “It’s totally gone now!” say Tracey. Hooray!
Have your feet ever been on fire, like Tracey’s? How do you prevent hot spots, blisters, and chafing?
Tori Sager and her business partner Maryellen “Mel” Charbonneau are in the inspiration industry. Their company sells hairpins and t-shirts meant to motivate women on the run. Fellow Flowers goes beyond simply hawking accessories and workout apparel, it creates a space for women to find encouragement and share strength when they need it most—a space Tori tapped into on Sunday when she wasn’t sure if finishing the Chicago Marathon was in the cards for her. Even though she still couldn’t walk down stairs without grimacing, Tori graciously took my call shortly after the race to chat about Fellow Flowers, the meaning of commitment, and other awesomeness.
Thanks so much for speaking with me, Tori. How are you feeling post-marathon? “Of course—I love talking about running! I’m feeling ok, still walking a little funny and taking the stairs sideways. Ha!”
Was this your first time running the Chicago Marathon? “No, this was my third marathon, and I’ve only run Chicago, so I’ve done it three times now—in 2011, 2012, and now 2013. I wasn’t sure if I’d be running it this year because I’ve been battling an Achilles injury, but when I heard the date—October 13, 2013, I knew I had to do it. Thirteen is a lucky number for me, believe it or not. I was born on a Friday the 13th, and Fellow Flowers got its start when I invited friends to run a half marathon with me to celebrate my birthday one year. Thirteen of my girlfriends trained and ran thirteen miles with me! We put flowers in our hair to celebrate that run and our company was born!”
Wow! Really? How did running with your friends turn into a business? “The women who had signed up to run with me didn’t know each other—I was their connection to the group. But over the course of training for twelve weeks an email chain started. Initially my friends were simply introducing themselves and talking about their workouts, but over those weeks something really powerful happened. Suddenly, we were sharing our inspirations for running, motivating each other to keep at it, and honoring our commitment to the race and to each other. Those emails became a safe space for us to honor, share, and celebrate our stories. This was something bigger than me, bigger than simply running for my birthday, and when Mel and I talked about it later, after clipping flowers in our hair for the race, we realized we wanted to build a company that would allow every woman to have that experience—to create a united place to honor, share, and celebrate our reasons to run. Fellow Flowers is the embodiment of that space, and each flower offers its own reason and motivation for running.”
Which flower were you wearing on Sunday? “I wore a red flower and a red flower t-shirt with the message, ‘It takes strength to do what you love,’ on the back. I really needed that mantra for this marathon. I spent this past winter trying to heal Achilles tendinopathy, and it flared up again over the summer during marathon training, which made me reevaluate my race goal. I wanted to PR this year, and I was on track to do that, but with a recurring injury you sort of have to step back and rethink things. For a while, I wasn’t sure if I would even make it to the start line. My longest run leading up to the marathon was only 14 miles, and I knew I wasn’t going to hit my time goal, so I decided to just get there and do my best to push through and finish. I needed inner strength for that.”
In the end, were you happy with your time? “Yes, I’m thrilled that I finished and that I felt strong doing it. The first half was great for me—and if it had just been a half marathon I would have gotten a PR. But around mile 15 I started to struggle. I was experiencing some pain and I could feel a blister forming on my toe, so I made the decision to stop. I rehydrated, ate an energy bar, adjusted my sock, and then started running again. There was an aid station at mile 17, so I stopped again to put Vaseline on my foot. From that point on, I kept running, only slowing down to walk through the water stations. Considering all of that, I’m very happy with my time.”
That’s awesome! A lot of people would have thrown in the towel, but you didn’t. “Yeah, I’m really proud of myself for running smart, and for taking care of myself—I don’t think I would have made it to the finish if I hadn’t done that. I really leaned on that red flower statement: “It takes strength to do what you love.” The word “commitment” is also connected to the red flower. It’s a very powerful idea to stay loyal to what you said you were going to do, even when you’re no longer in the mood you were in when you set that goal. I was mentally ready to run a marathon, but I wasn’t physically able in that moment, which really put me in a hard place. But I wanted to be true to that commitment.”
You must have felt so relieved to see the finish line. “Yes, I felt relieved. But I was also really inspired. The last miles of a marathon are just rough. You get to mile 22 and you’re starting to doubt yourself, and then by mile 25 you’re thinking, “Just one mile to go. I can do this! I can finish this!” In those last few miles I came up on a wheel chair participant who was moving fairly slow. He was obviously the last wheelchair, and he seemed to be struggling, it was taking all he could to move those wheels around, and the crowd was going wild cheering for him. I took out my earphones to listen for a bit. His determination was infectious, and I think it gave me and the other runners out there a little extra oomph. It was probably the most emotional moment of the marathon for me, because I knew he would finish and I realized I could finish, too.”
From injured to inspired, you crossed the finish line! What’s next for you? “My goal now is to heal up again. And as soon as my body tells me it’s ready, I’m going to focus on shorter distances. Realizing that I could have gotten a PR at the half mark on Sunday has me thinking about getting faster. I’m planning to run some 10Ks and maybe a half marathon in the spring. Getting faster and stronger in shorter distance races is what I’m into now.”
She may not have mentioned it during our phone call, but it’s obvious to me that Tori embodies the black Fellow Flower message, “Why yes, I am a force to be reckoned with.” Check out the Fellow Flowers line up of colors to find the one you connect with—I’m a big fan of the purple, “No excuses!”
With marathon season in full swing, I want to know: What keeps you running when the chips seem down?
I’m really proud of myself for not being too spendy lately, but a recent trip to Sports Basement put me to the test. All I really “needed” in there was a water bottle, and instead of walking out after only buying that, my hands were very full on the trip back to the parking lot. I had refused the bag at the checkout counter, choosing to leave the store clutching the bottle and an extra goody, like a 5-year-old with a new toy. I’m happy to report that my money was well spent, and I ended up “needing” a FlipBelt after all!
Ever since Michael K. Farrell put his foot down about me running with my cell phone for safety last year, I’ve been resigned to wearing a nerdy waist belt. I’ve always hated the stupid thing. It sags. It bounces. I can hear my keys clanging around inside of it. I hate it. (Hate it. Hate it. Hate it. And I don’t hate much.)
The FlipBelt is a game changer. It seemed a bit risky to try it out on an 8-miler this past weekend, but I was almost home again when I realized I hadn’t thought about it once. The FlipBelt fit flush against the waistband of my shorts, the stretchy fabric didn’t ride up, and it never bounced, not once. My next runs with it were just as fantastic!
Clearly, my new little running buddy is a winner, and priced at $20 (at Sports Basement; online it’s $25) the FlipBelt is a reasonable running investment. (Unlike the new energy gel I decided to try—yuck! They keep those near the registers for impulse buyers like me, you know.)
Have you picked up any great gear lately? How do you carry your necessary items when you’re running?
Disclaimer: This post was all me. I didn’t receive compensation or nudges of any sort from either of the companies mentioned.