Disney Marathon 2020

It’s been over a week since I’ve run 26.2 magical (or not so) miles at the Walt Disney World Marathon. I’ve got lots of thoughts surrounding this race. Feel free to keep reading to learn what they all are. But reader beware: it’s lengthy.

If you’ve run with me at all in the last year, then you’ve listened to my gripes about how I had zero exceptions for this race. Here’s why:

  1. Baby #2 (whom I’m still nursing) turned one the weekend of the race. That’s barely enough time for my abs to come back together, let alone run a marathon properly.
  2. While my husband and I (but mostly my husband) taking on extra jobs has afforded me the opportunity to “stay home” to raise these kids, it hasn’t given me time to train the way one SHOULD train to run a marathon- the way I coach my runners to run marathons.
  3. I am not a marathoner. This isn’t the Olympics, folks. I’ve run a few of them. I am still not a marathoner. I’ll be sticking with shorter, faster races from now on, thanks.
  4. My knee. There is something up with it and it needs to be fixed. That is all on that for now.

Then WHY in the world did I run this thing in the first place? Because cancer sucks. And it doesn’t stop, so neither will I. Combined, Jeff and I raised over $5,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma and American Cancer Societies in this one event alone. During this cycle, I hit the milestone of $20,000 over the last 6 years raised for blood cancer research. If that helps even one family somewhere down the road, then bearing this burden has been worth it. So thank you for supporting us, whether financially with your generous donations, or just listening to my negative rants…or both. We couldn’t have done it without you!

With minimal training and no real-expectations, my race plan was to run a strong first half, then re-assess and go from there. I’d planned to cross the finish line on my own two feet at the very least. Though my overall feeling about the race was that it was a disaster, my plan was successful. Let’s recap the day:

1:50 am: Baby wakes up. Mental head-slap, silent groan. Feed baby, lay down for 10 more minutes.

2:15 am: Alarm goes off. Make coffee, eat oatmeal, pee, get dressed, wet hair, drink coffee, pee, etc.

2:45am: Leave Treehouse Villa to catch bus to Saratoga Springs.

3:10 am: Hop on bus to Epcot (roughly 6 miles).

4:10 am: Get off bus at Epcot. Re-read those times. This day was not off to a great start. At least there were no lines at the porta-potties. I pee again.

4:20 am: Hit Team in Training tent to see the lovely, Laura G., drop bags, go pee. Then we continued our trek to the starting line.

4:45 am: Pee again in the porta-potties at the corral…which was 2 miles from the bus. I clocked it.

So, to review, while you were sleeping soundly last Sunday morning, I had already fed a baby, been on 2 buses, one of which I sat on for an hour, walked 2 miles, and peed 5 times- all before 5am. And I still had a marathon to run. I haven’t even described the weather yet…

5:00 am: The race was supposed to start. It’s 81 degrees with 95% humidity. I can’t breathe. I feel like there’s an elephant on my chest. Anxiety? Barometric pressure? More pee? I don’t know. All anyone could talk about in the weeks leading up to the race was how we should be prepared w/ a dozen layers b/c “40 degrees is cold and it’s January, blah blah blah.” LIES! It was freakin gross out. And the start being delayed by 25 minutes didn’t help…

5:25 am: I finally see some fireworks. Let’s gooooo!

I’d had some pain under my knee caps during my 18 and 20 milers a few weeks back that I was nervous about (an indirect result of having 2 babies in the last 3 years), but felt strong going through the first batch of miles. From here, I’ll go to a mile-by-mile timeline as I take you on my journey to the finish line.

Miles 1- 8:

The first 5 miles were just loops around the outside of Epcot. Snoozefest…until mile 4-ish where my wet, messy bun fell out. I had 2 industrial-strength hair ties in b/c that’s what it takes to hold up this heavy mess. I pulled off to the side to put it back up but found only ONE TIE around my wrist Potential catastrophe. Holding my hair on top of my head with one hand, I got close to the ground and after a momentary panic, I found the missing tie. Hair went back up; crisis averted. As I got back on course, I hear a bunch of people yelling, “Already?” “No, don’t come back, it’ll only get worse!”…Uhhh…were they talking to me?! They were! THEY THOUGHT I WAS BARFING! Lol. Different kind of crisis, folks. But one of them struck up a conversation. Her name was Holly (that’s my niece’s name!) and she was a total doppelganger of my friend, Mary (who is also a runner and a Disney fan and I wish she were there with us). Holly was an instant buddy with whom I covered the next 4 super-sweaty miles with relatively quickly. I left her around mile 8 when she stopped to wait in line for a photo with someone I don’t even recall. I might have said, “Goodbye Mary.” Oops.

Miles 9-13.1:

I felt okay. My knee didn’t bother me (yet) and though it was humid as heck, the temperature actually dropped a little. Just before the transportation and ticket center, I saw Mater and Lightening McQueen. There was no line. At all. So I popped in for a photo, figuring Georgie would get a kick out of it (big Cars fans over here!). As soon as I stopped, though, I realized how soaking wet my shirt was and how the humidity was affecting my body’s ability to cool itself down. I decided I’d stop for as many pictures as I could…and take in fluids at every water stop, which runDisney added extras of due to the weather. I was also set on riding Everest once I got to Animal Kingdom, which sat around mile 17 or so- when else would I have an opportunity to do something like that!? I hoped I wouldn’t ACTUALLY barf…But more on that later. I picked up the pace going downhill under one of the world-famous water bridges as the sun was coming up and ran into Laura G. on the other side, with a whole Team in Training cheer station. That put a even more pep in my step as I approached the happiest place on earth. By now, I was sitting pretty around mile 10.

Turning down Main Street USA was kind of awesome. Goosebumps, even. Though, I couldn’t tell if they were from the nostalgia or a touch of heat exhaustion. So I slowed down a little to take it all in and save myself from fainting before I hit the Mad Tea Party. Parts of the course here were SO NARROW with a million sharp turns that it was almost uncomfortable. I felt so crowded that I couldn’t even enjoy my surroundings. I stopped at a row of porta-potties as we exited the park backstage near Splash Mountain. (Side note: I did not like all of the backstage areas we had to run through. I don’t think Walt would have approved, either. I offer no solution. Just didn’t like it.)… My watch read 11.6. Stopping to pee was my downfall.

Mile 10. Woohoo!

As I stood up from my crouching hover inside the porta-potty, I knew my best miles were behind me. Something was funky with my knee. A different kind of funky than I felt on my last long training runs, though. I now felt a ripping pain along the outside of my right knee and saw a bruise forming where the IT band inserts. Weird. I haven’t had IT band issues in a decade. As I made my way back to the course, the pain would not allow me to keep the same pace I’d been going. Luckily, there were distractions here to interrupt my running, like water stops, tables with Biofreeze and wild turkeys (What? Noooo!) in front of Shades of Green. As I watched the turkeys curiously (yes, TURKEYS), I thought of my friend Erik (Mary’s husband, bigger Disney nerd than I), who is in the military and stays at SOG often. Again, I curse the fact that they couldn’t join us on this trip. When I saw the 13.1 flag, marking the halfway point in the race, I was satisfied with how I’d run up to that point and decided to convert to a 4:1 run/ walk.

Miles 13.1-18.5:

My running was still pretty quick for the next few miles and the walking portion gave my knee enough rest to sustain the pace. Out on the highway, though, it was hot. And the pain was increasing. I was not a happy camper by the time I entered the Animal Kingdom. My saving grace was the notion of riding Everest in the middle of a marathon. I was still doing a 4:1 when I approached the Yeti-filled mountain. I saw a few people veer off and head to an open bar for a drink. My chuckle quickly turned into a low groan when I saw that the ride WAS NOT OPEN YET! Wind out of my sails. I wished I’d had cash on me to go back and grab a drink at the bar! On one of my walking breaks, I got distracted looking around (angrily) and must have somehow veered off course, because by the time we wound our way back out of AK, my shoes were full of sand. Um, what?! It was so annoying that at mile 18.5, I sat down, took my shoes and socks off (not the first time I’ve done so in the middle of a marathon), and brushed them clear of the sand and dirt. Here is where I mailed it in. I was in pain, I was hot, I had to pee again, and I was angry I didn’t get to go on a ride (what am I, like FIVE?!). I decided to walk a little extra to see if I could find Jeff, who was a few corrals behind me, making his way into the park. It took longer than I’d expected, but I saw him. He wasn’t looking pretty, either. The rest of my race was “run” with the purpose of letting him catch up to me so we could cross the finish line together. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t work).

Miles 19-22:

My 4:1 run/walk had completely fallen apart by now. I ran as much as I could but walked more than I ran. At all intersecting points, I stopped and waited a little while for a Jeff that never showed up. Coach Les from Team in Training found me near Blizzard Beach and dragged me along for a few miles of a 1:1 run/walk with a pair of nice girls from another chapter. It sounded like nobody was having a great day, but I was grateful for the friendly face. At another intersection around mile 22, I could see oncoming runners and stopped one last time. I was confident something was wrong when Jeff was nowhere to be found and multiple pace groups he was previously in front of had gone by. But I had a finish line to cross and only 4ish miles to go, so on I went. He’d cross it too, eventually.

Miles 22-26.2:

Enter zombie-ville, because I felt like the walking dead going into the Studios…but everyone around me looked the same-if not worse. There was plenty of water and medic tents every mile or 2. I was drinking a lot and my fueling was totally on point, but I was worried. Worried I was going to pee my pants. Worried I was going to poison the baby I’m still nursing with the gallons of BioFreeze I’ve been slathering on my knee, absorbing into my bloodstream. Worried my boobs were going to explode, being an hour (or more) behind schedule. Oddly, I was too delirious to be worried about the heat. In hindsight, it probably was affecting me more than I recall because I don’t even remember running through some of the parks. I just remember feeling like someone had a blow torch to my face (which was covered w/ a visor and sunglasses) and being thankful I bought those little packets of sunblock on Amazon to stash in my pockets! I’m sure I peed again, but I couldn’t tell you where or when. I walked an awful lot in those last few miles, really only running when I saw photographers. I even debated walking across the finish line, but my ego got the better of me. I crossed the finish line in a trot, wanting nothing more than to step right onto a bus to take me home. Instead, I downed a bottle of warm Powerade, had my knee wrapped in ice by a medic and found that a wet towel had been placed around my neck (the medal was in my hand, too heavy to wear). I hobbled over to my team tent and ate all the cookies as the ice melted, soaking my socks and shoes. It actually felt good.

Mile 25. Not okay.

The take away:

After the race, I thought to myself, again, “This was a dumb idea.” It’s a sentiment I’d muttered hundreds of times over the last 12 months. It was not my best moment as a runner. Maybe my worst, even. But there isn’t anything I regret about how the race played out under the circumstances:

Do I wish I’d trained better? Of course. But any amount of training in 25-50 degree weather wouldn’t have helped on a day like last Sunday in Florida. I thought of Roberta Groner- a nurse and mother from NJ who placed 6th in the World Marathon Championship in Doha, Qatar in 90+ degrees a few months ago. I wished I’d remembered her ice-in-a-bandana headband trick for this race.

Do I wish my knee didn’t mysteriously blow up? Of course. I have other goals on my list this year that require my legs to function properly, so it will need to be taken care of asap. The good news is, it didn’t hurt while walking. Other good news regarding potential problems I’d anticipated: I did not actually pee (or poop) myself, my wonky hip and my chronically bad foot were both fine. I was well hydrated before and during the race and my fueling strategy worked well. Small victories.

I have no idea what I actually would have been capable of if there were ideal circumstances on race day. That’s the unfortunate risk you take when you roll the marathon dice. But I don’t regret slowing down, or taking pictures, or waiting for Jeff. I’m glad I have those pictures for my kids to see and giggle at. If Jeff had actually caught up to me, crossing the finish line together would have been a fun memory (turns out, by the way, he spent some time in a few medic tents with heat exhaustion. But he’s got that medal, just like everyone else who made it to the end that day, regardless of how long it took them to get there). I’m also proud of the fact that we had a greater cause to run for than just ourselves. When you run for a charity, you’re running for the people who will one day benefit from the money you’ve helped raise. Go Team!

Special thanks to my parents, bother and sister-in-law, for taking care of Georgie and Johnny while we ran. This race was a good excuse to travel as an extended family again. However… I don’t see another runDisney event nor a full marathon in the near future. At least not while the kids are little. I have more important things to do with my time than run for 4 hours on a Sunday. I respect other mothers who make the choice to do it, but my priorities at this stage of life are quite different. Instead, I’ll be focusing on teaching my kids the importance of staying active and healthy by keeping them involved in my shenanigans, fixing whatever imbalances are causing this knee pain, and training for shorter races, like the Rutgers 8K, the inaugural Rock-n- Roll AC half, a Spartan Sprint, and a spattering of local 5Ks between now and the summer.

If you’ve run any runDisney events or had a crap marathon experience, share your thoughts in the comments! I’d love to hear what your goals are for the spring road racing season, too!

Part 2: Adaptation

According to the Road Runners Clubs of America and legendary running coach, Jack Daniels, superb training and racing success is built upon this idea: the body adapts to stress. Time spent running is the stimulus for your body to make 3 major cellular adaptations which improve running efficiency and performance:

  1. Muscular cells modify as the number, size, and distribution of mitochondria (tiny powerhouses responsible for converting stored energy into usable energy) increase. More running = more mitochondria produced = more energy supplied to running muscles!
  2. More capillaries become active, distributing more blood. More blood means more oxygen delivered to muscles, enabling them to fire more efficiently.
  3. An increase in certain enzymes means delivered oxygen can be processed by those muscles at an improved, faster rate.

Is it cliche to say that running changes you? Maybe. But biochemically speaking, it does. Running, over time, changes you right down to the cellular level. The more miles you put in, the greater the chances your heart, lungs, and skeletal muscles (i.e. legs) will start to function more efficiently, making you…a better runner. These changes can ONLY occur in the aerobic zone, which is about 1½ – 2 minutes SLOWER than your current (yes, CURRENT- not “best” or “before I had kids” or “when I’m not injured”) 5K race pace. This is the magical, albeit sometimes elusive “conversation pace,” achieved when you are easily able to carry on a conversation while running.  But don’t confuse “‘feeling good” with “easy.” Conversation pace involves no huffing or puffing. It is slower than almost every runner I chat with feels like they SHOULD be going, but it’s important to find it! CP will enhance overall training duration and eventually have a positive impact on your racing speed. Trust the science.

What does this mean for YOU? Essentially…slow the heck down. For the vast majority of us, MOST of our miles should be easy. Slower running is the best way to allow the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to adapt to the stress training puts on them and recover in an appropriate amount of time to continue stressing them. Remember that time spent running is a key component to this deal- by slowing down, you are significantly decreasing your chances of injury, allowing you to stay on your feet longer. Easy miles means more miles! This is especially important during the “off season,” the time before your 12,16, 20, etc. week race-specific training plans begin. Building a good, strong aerobic base before a true training regimen begins makes setting and achieving higher level goals easier to attain. You can double down on these effects by heading up to the mountains and really amp up your red blood cell count, but if travel isn’t already in your plans, altitude training is best left to the pros. 

Of course, there is a time and place for going fast and running hard. A good coach can tell you when, how long, how often, and how fast your hard sessions should be based on your training, performance and ultimate goal. If you’re looking for a running coach to help you navigate the ins and outs of this whole running thing, you’ve come to the right place. Head over to my Contact page and shoot me a line! Stay tuned for the 3rd and last installment of why you need to run slower to run faster!

Why do I need to run slow to race faster? Part 1: Energy

 

One of my running clients recently asked me to answer one of the Big Questions in running: “Why do I need to run slower to race faster?” It sounds counterintuitive- crazy, even- when I oh-so-often tell my runners to SLOW DOWN after analyzing their data. But running slowly is an important part of meeting your goals- just as important as running hard during a speed session or other “effort” workout. For all the nerds (like myself) out there, I’m going to break this answer down into a 3-part series: Energy, Adaptation, and Effective Training.

To begin understanding why running slowly is an effective part of training, here’s a crash course on how your body converts and uses ENERGY. As heterotrophs, all of our energy comes from the food we eat. Adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, is the energy in your body originally derived from all that food. There are 3 systems in place that your body uses to access ATP: the phosphagen, anaerobic glycolysis, and aerobic glycolysis.

The phosphagen pathway uses the tiny amount of ATP stored in your muscles or synthesizes it using creatine phosphate and can provide immediate energy lasting up to 30 seconds. A short sprint, flipping a tire, and jumping out of a chair when you see your toddler holding out her food for the dog each activate the phosphagen energy pathway. Running anything more than a 100 yard dash requires additional energy systems. Your body knows when it’s time to switch gears automatically.

Next up- anaerobic glycolysis, which breaks down glucose in the body to produce more ATP without the use of oxygen. This allows for a slightly longer yield of energy- anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 or 3 minutes– but is still insufficient for most activities, such as running longer than 400 meters. This system IS important when we talk about improving your lactate threshold, but we’ll get to that in a later post. What your body needs now…is oxygen.

Aerobic glycolysis is the body’s ability to convert energy stored in fat and carbohydrates in the presence of oxygen. Even though all 3 energy systems work together in any kind of exercise, this is the primary energy system for the endurance to last more than 2 to 3 minutes- i.e. distance running. The aerobic system depends on the circulatory system to deliver oxygen and while it is slower, it is much more efficient at providing you with long term energy than the previously mentioned pathways. Therefore, the best way to improve your capacity to run long distance is to increase your aerobic base. In order to increase your aerobic base, you need to run more. But we’ll get to that in the second part of the series. In the meantime, may the wind be at your back!

 

Erica Marina

Who am I….as a runner?

“So, tell me, who are you as a runner?”

Runner, coach, and author of Run Tall, Run Easy, Gerard D. Pearlberg asked me this question while we were chatting over some java last week. I stumbled for an answer as Georgie was squirming on my lap, eager to explore. I gave him an answer that I was unsatisfied with, so I committed to writing an in-depth answer as a blog post. When I couldn’t decide how to begin, I scrolled through my pictures for inspiration. What you see below is an organic stream of consciousness that flowed from my memories onto the keyboard, without edit. It’s certainly NOT my best writing- it’s quite atrocious, actually- but it IS an accurate portrayal of who I am as a runner. Enjoy!

 

I’m the kind of runner who loves to talk about running, who enjoys subtly dressing up for certain races. I love to talk about running shoes. I love to buy running shoes. I love returning running shoes when they don’t work for me. I’m the kind of runner who likes to talk about races. I like that I’ve checked off a few bucket list races. I don’t love that my bucket list keeps growing. I’m the kind of runner who will PROBABLY never qualify for Boston. I’m the kind of runner who decides on a Tuesday night after PLYOGA that she’s game to run a half marathon the following weekend. I’m the kind of runner who used to log enough miles to be able to do that without a problem! I’m the kind of runner reads Runner’s World cover to cover the day it comes. I’m the kind of runner who needs a bagel and coffee (or beer) after a long run. I’m the kind of runner who needs to poop before she runs. I’m the kind of runner who runs throughout most of her pregnancy and starts again only a few weeks after giving birth. I’m the kind of runner who will stop to take pictures of cool stuff along the way. I like running through the woods, up hills, and around cities. I like to look at my surroundings when I run. I like running in my neighborhood where I will see a dozen people I know pass by logging their own miles. I like running in places I know I won’t see a soul. I like to run fast. I like to run slowly. Apparently, I like to run through the mud. And away from zombies. And while pulling trucks behind me. I like to run for good causes. I like to run with a team. I like to run to remember people, to remember fallen heroes. I like running to inspire others to keep- or start- moving. I like to run with friends. I like to run with kids. I like to run with my husband (despite him not always wanting to run with me). I like to run in the cold. I like to run in the heat. I don’t mind running in the rain, but I do NOT like running in the wind. I like traveling to run and running where I travel. I LOVE running in Disney World. I like running on holidays. I like running in the morning and at night. I like running races and crossing the same finish line as elite athletes, like Meb and Shalane and 94-year-olds, like Harriette Thompson (RIP) alike. I like running before weddings and parades. I like gathering people to run before parades. I like running to breweries. I like running places I’ve never run before. I like running with people who can tell a good story. I like running with music, though I like running without music more. I really, REALLY like coaching running of any kind, whether it’s the 20M dash of beach flags, navigating a graveyard on a middle school cross country course, training a group of kids for a local 5K, or helping a friend redeem herself and finish a marathon without #cryinginaportapottie. I love to coach running…and I think I’m pretty good at it.

 

I’m sure when he first asked the question, GP was looking for something more along the lines of “I’m a 1:52 half marathoner and I can rock out a 24 minute 5K right now if you want me to,” but, especially after having a baby and having my schedule knocked upside-down, I find numbers to be deceiving. My “training” is no longer consistent …and maybe I never really trained to reach my full potential as a runner to begin with. My high school track coaches love telling the story of the <insert expletive> Memorial Race circa 1997, when I finished a middle distance race able to laugh and yell at them for torturing me. I bring this up, because never, in my life, have I completed a race with an empty tank (unless you count that time I emptied the contents of my stomach inches shy of the finish line at the Belmar 5 a few years back). In other words, I have never run as fast as I could. Therefore, I don’t actually know how fast I CAN run. When I revealed this truth to GP, he suggested perhaps I have a fear of success- that being successful would be too much pressure to keep achieving. Maybe he’s right. But that only depends on how you measure success…

Bodyweight Workout for Runners…or anyone looking for a simple workout

A recent issue of Runner’s World* has a great spread on lifting and glute work. Most runners looking to improve race times or stay injury-free don’t need more mileage- they need more strength training. A strong core, glutes that fire properly and strong-but-nimble hip flexors will definitely make for a better athlete…but what if you don’t have time (or money) for a trip to the gym and don’t have any fancy equipment at home? Good news! You’ve got yourself and you come with your own weight! While weights, resistance bands, and other equipment are an important part of an effective fitness regime, your own bodyweight can provide you with a sufficient workout to activate muscles and build strength in specific areas. Here is a quick workout you can do anywhere, anytime, with no-stuff-necessary:

Warm-up: (5-10 minutes) Walk, jog (in place or around the block), jumping jacks, etc. to get your heart rate up and muscles warm.

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Work Out: Complete 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions of each exercise (on each side!!!) with rest in between as you need it. Use a stop watch for the planks and bridge at the end.

Short Version:

  1. Squats
  2. Single-leg Deadlifts
  3. Lunges
  4. Bird-Dog Crunches
  5. Fire Hydrants
  6. Full plank
  7. Side Planks
  8. Glute Bridge

Detailed Version:

  1. Squats
    • Sit the booty back and down, keep the chest lifted, core engaged, don’t let your knees sneak out over those toes!
    • Bonus points for doing lateral (side-to-side) walking squats and/or jump squats in the last set.
  2. Single-leg deadlift
    • Balance all of your weight over one, straight leg while hinging at the hips, reaching towards the ground as the other leg up swings up and back, toes and hips pointed towards the floor…Keep your back flat (do not hunch over) and go nice and slowly, engaging the glutes as your come back to stand.
  3. Lunges
    • Step forward, keep shoulders over hips, and drop until both legs are at 90 degrees. Think about staying tall and dipping down, rather than leaning forward. A small hinge at the hips is okay, but there shouldn’t be any stress on the knee in this move- it’s all about the quads! Explode off of that front foot to come back to stand. I like to alternate legs each time.
    • If you’ve got any kind of knee issue, try stepping BACK into your lunge instead of going forward.
  4. Bird-dog crunches
    • Start in table-top (on your hands and knees); head and neck stay neutral. Engage the entire core and lift your left arm straight out in front of you while kicking your right leg out behind you. Crunch your knee and elbow inward towards each other under your belly. Extend both limbs back out to starting position.
    • Want more booty work? Add a donkey kick at the top of your extension, getting that heel up as high as you can.
  5. Fire hydrants
    • Stay in table-top; head and neck remain neutral. Engage the entire core and lift one knee out to the side, keeping your leg bent at 90 degrees and foot flexed (think dog-peeing-on-hydrant). Bring the knee and leg up to hip height before slowly lowering back down.
    • Bonus points for keeping the knee up and kicking foot out to side, straightening the leg a few times at the end! You may hate me while your tush and hips burn through this move, but you’ll thank me for it later. Promise.
  6. Full (or forearm) Plank
    • Start with your belly on the ground, hands directly under your shoulders. Push up, keeping your shoulders directly over your wrists and gaze out in front of your finger tips (resist the urge to look down or at your abs!). Keep EVERYTHING from your shoulders to your quads engaged. Hold it here!
    • Start with 30-45 seconds x3, work your way up to 90 seconds.
    • Bonus points for adding a few push-ups or plank jacks to the last set.
  7. Side Planks
    • Start in full plank position, shoulders directly over wrists (if you’re on your forearm, shoulder over elbow, arm at 90 degrees). Shift your weight onto one hand and rotate so you are facing the wall. Free hand can hangout on your hip or extend upwards with palm facing out, shoulder retracted down the back. Keep your obliques engaged, hips extended and body in one straight line. Hold…
    • Start with 30-45 seconds x3 each side, work your way up to 90 seconds.
    • Add a hip drop or elbow-to-knee crunches for additional oblique work!
  8. Glute Bridge
    • Start on your back, knees bent, soles of your feet to the floor. Engage your glutes and lift your hips up high. Be sure to squeeze the transverse abdominis (deep, inner core muscle) and keep your neck neutral by untucking the chin.
    • Start with 30-45 seconds x3, work your way up to 90 seconds.
    • Add pulses or march (send one foot at a time towards the ceiling) for the last set to burn out the glutes and core.

Stretch: It’s important to keep your muscles happy by releasing tension that builds up during a workout. Self myofascial release (i.e. foam rolling) and gentle stretching, such as with the moves listed below can expedite the healing process and limit muscle soreness. Hold each of these for 10-15 seconds (on each side). Breathe deeply, moving into and out of positions on the exhale.

  1. Reclining pigeon or standing figure 4 (gluteus maximus/minimus- your bum and outer hip)
  2. Hip flexor stretch (hip flexors- front of groin area)
  3. Runner’s stretch (hamstrings- back of leg)
  4. Quad stretch (quadriceps- front of leg)
  5. Side-body reach (obliques- side of abdomen)

Don’t forget to have a snack with some protein within 30 minutes of completing this workout and drink lots of water throughout your day. Happy lifting!!!

 

 

*This issue’s also got an article of NJ’s own Montclair Bread Company owner and running club, Fueled by Donuts founder, Rachel Crampsey. Go grab a copy if you don’t have one yet!

 

 

Baby, it’s cold outside!

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I posted the above picture before my run along the Atlantic the other day. It got a bit of attention, as the Northeast is in the middle of a SERIOUS cold spell. On this particular morning, my Weatherbug app told me it was 13 degrees, “felt like” zero. But the sun was shining! Also, I’m about to start training for a half marathon with Team in Training (to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society) and needed to add some base miles. My friend, Anne, had already posted that she had braved the cold, so if she could do it, I could, too. Some people told me I was nuts. Others asked what it was like and what I wore b/c they wanted to go out, too. That’s the spirit! My general advice is always to dress as if it’s 15-20 degrees warmer than it actually is, because you will generate a  good amount of body heat as you move. Also, dress in layers that are easy to remove and carry (or stash somewhere safe for you to grab later). I am notorious for over-dressing when the temp is between 40-60 degrees, so having an appropriate base layer on is super-important in my book. I’ve always got to remove something! But we’re talking COLD here. That same tendency is what keeps me comfortable in temps fit for eskimos. These are my favorite pieces to wear when running in the bitter cold:

  • The REAL Base Layer:
    • Thick and supportive sports bra. Do I need to explain this one? My current favorite is the Senita Sarah Bra (Bonus- removable pads plus a pocket in the racerback for your phone or some cash).
    • Full undies to keep your bum warm. Who cares about lines when you’re freezing your tuchus off!?!?
    • Smartwool socks high enough to cover ankles (bonus points when you find them at Marshalls for a lower-than-normal price)
    • Long, thin tech tank, tucked into leggings
  • Base Layer: Some kind of meant-for-the-cold long sleeve top that is thick enough to be warm, with a high neck, and is thin enough to be flexible. Bonus points if it has thumbholes. My favorites are the UnderArmour ColdGear Cozy Neck (I have 3), Oiselle Wazzie Wool, and Athleta Remarkawool (which keeps me warm and looks cute, but the neck is a bit tight for my liking and its slightly itchy).
  • Bottoms: My go-to are UA ColdGear leggings….but I must warn you- their newer models pale in comparison to older ones. Athleta and Nike have awesome cold-gear, too, if you’re willing to dip into your pockets. Look for something that is a thick material with a thin fleece-like lining to trap in warmth while letting you “breathe” and wick away sweat. For the dudes, Jeff (hubs) prefers UA and Nike.
  • If it’s 30 or above, I may stop here or add a light windbreaker (winds along the ocean can be gnarly) or a vest (fave: Oiselle Katron Vest).
  • If it’s below 30, I will add a thin fleece (Champion 1/4 zip, Polartec, etc.) and if it’s REALLY cold (like it’s been this week), add that jacket or vest on top of the fleece.
  • Accessories:
    • Gloves: I wear gloves if it’s 50 or below (sometimes I’ll go as high as 60 if it’s fall and the temp dropped quickly). My hands are often cold, but I usually ditch them after the first mile. We use cheap “magic” gloves, like ones you can get at for a few dollars at any drug store. They’re my go-to for early races so I can cast them aside and not worry about my wallet taking a hit. They’re comfortable, warm, and let my skin breathe. I also have a good pair of Brooks with a thin water-resistant mitten that folds over gloved fingers, but will only wear those in the rain and if I know I’m not going to take them off or have pockets with zippers (I once had a missing glove incident that involved an unintentional extra 2 miles).
    • Gaiter/ Neck Buff: Never leave home without it! When I do, I curse myself for it. I have a bunch- some were gifts, some were cheap ones from Target, but my favorite is a stretchy cotton one from Lululemon (as seen in the pic above). It was on sale for $20 and is in excellent shape after almost 5 years. It’s long enough to pull over my face in the wind, and thin enough that I can wrap it around my wrist if I am warm and need to take it off. Some double as headbands/ ear warmers, too!
    • Headband/ Ear Warmers (b/c I’m uncomfortable running in hats w/ this thick-ass mop of hair): Also another must!!! This one is Oiselle and is usually awesome, BUT in today’s frigid air, I stepped outside to find it’s just not warm enough. I went back inside and dove into my winter accessory basket. I have a fleece headband from TNT that is thick but a little loose, and 2 Nike’s that are a bit tight and also not quite warm enough on their own in this Arctic nonsense. So after experimenting with some combinations, I went with the Oiselle headband UNDER a non-running but adjustable headband, knit by one of my BFFs and sent to me from NC. She has her own ETSY shop- check her out at GiaRoseArt!!! She made a mini one for Georgie, too! Anyway, the pair of them were a perfect match. My ears were kept nice and toasty.
    • Snow? Ice? Trails? If you simply MUST go out, add some YakTrax to your shoes. It’ll prevent falls by adding friction and they make you feel bad-ass. Think of them as snow tires for your feet.
    • Nighttime? Make yourself visible. Anything that glows in the dark, reflects, or shines light is a go. We like to wear reflective stuff (headband, jacket stripes, etc.) and old-school slap bracelets w/ led lights in them.

When in doubt, use a generic what-to-wear calculator, like the one the folks at Runner’s World developed: https://www.runnersworld.com/what-to-wear

Also, if you go out solo in harsh conditions, make sure someone always knows where you are, what direction you’re going in, and how long you expect to take. Wear a Road ID or something that identifies you in some way or bring a phone and turn on the Find my phone/ Friends function (non-tech-savvy dork alert: I don’t even know how to do that- good thing I run mostly in a place where everybody knows my name). If you’ve got a favorite article of clothing for cold-weather running, or questions for me, hit up the comment section below!

Top 10 Must-Have Items for Active Parents

I live on the Jersey Shore, where we have endless miles of beaches, boardwalks, and promenades, and are only a few miles from a handful of wooded trails. We also travel a lot, incorporating running and lots of walking into said travels. If you are an active family building a registry and are looking for ways to include baby in your ‘funtivities’ or need a gift for expecting parents, this list is for you. Here is my top 10 list of really good gear for active parents*:

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1. A good baby carrier:

I LOVE. LOVE. LOVE my Boba 4G Carrier. We use it EVERY day. I started when Georgie was only a few days old and now, over a year later, it’s still every bit as awesome. Although she’s been showing signs that she’s ready for it, I have yet to try it as a back-carrier (but I’ll get back to you once I get around to that). I get a LOT of comments from people with older kids and those who have other brands about how comfortable we look and how convenient the straps, clips, and pockets are. I can probably write an entire post one this one item alone (maybe you’ll see that pop up on here one day)! To check out the benefits of babywearing click here. I can attest to the “comfort and convenience” tenfold.

2. Jogging stroller:

We have a gently loved BOB Revolution jogger that was handed down from friends. Unfortunately, they don’t make adapters for our car seat, so we didn’t start running with it until Georgie was 6 months old. We were doing short, slow runs and lots of walking with our Uppababy, which is totally awesome, too, but holy moly was the BOB a game changer. So smooth, it was like the fog had lifted and suddenly I was a runner again. There are lots of brands out there if you can’t swing the price tag (or don’t have totally awesome friends to loan you one for a while). According to this review: http://bestreviews.com/best-jogging-strollers , BabyTrend is the best bang for your buck.

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3. Baby bunting:

Author of A Coast to Coast Walk, Alfred Waintwright said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” In NJ, we have weeks when temps reach 60 degrees one day and can drop to below freezing the next. Therefore, in order to continue to do the things I enjoy most in life, we adapt through our wardrobes, including the little peanut’s. Babies don’t need to be bundled beyond recognition, though. Experts, like those at the St. Louis Children’s Hospital, say to dress babies as you would yourselves in the same conditions plus one additional layer. A general rule of thumb to remember is “cool feet, warm belly.” Our layer of choice for long walks with the dog, winter bike rides or when going for a run in the cold is the Columbia Tiny Bear fleece bunting (which came from Amazon). It got so much use last year that I bought one for this winter, too. She’s already gotten her money’s worth out of it (see picture in previous post). You can get any kind of bunting at most outdoor retailers such as L.L. Bean and the North Face. Gap and Costco have some more affordable options, as well.

4. Sunblock (for you and baby):

While it is important to get a good dose of vitamin D every day, a few uncovered minutes in the sun is more than sufficient. Anything beyond that requires coverage. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “there is strong evidence that sun exposure and sunburns during childhood multiply the risk of one day developing skin cancer, including melanoma.” Therefore, it’s imperative to protect baby from the sun. You can do this with clothing and accessories (see below), but you’ll also need a good, safe sunscreen to apply to baby’s skin (don’t forget the tops of ears and feet!). Check out your favorite brand on www.ewg.org/skindeep to see an analysis of the ingredients. We use Babo Botanicals (b/c we need more things that that start w/ B’s in our lives) but there are plenty of brands readily available that are low on the toxicity scale. If you hike wooded trails, add bug spray to your search and opt for one made from essential oils.

5. Long Sleeve Rashguard:

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Any time baby is in the sun for an extended time, he or she should be covered as much as comfortably possible. Wearing lightweight and lightly colored rashgards is an easy way to allow baby to enjoy fun in the sun and water while staying smart about their skin. My favorite brands are Rufflebutts for girls (as seen in picture), Primary and i play inc. for both boys and girls.

 

6. Swim diapers:

You’ll need them for swim lessons and- unless you want an explosion of ooey, gooey gel- any time baby is submerged in anything other than a bathtub. Most brands make disposable swim diapers, which we do use, but a 2nd layer of insurance never hurt anyone. We layer on reusables from Alva Baby, which I like b/c they have SUCH CUTE patterns and are adjustable. (Target also has some that are around $10). We often used them on the beach, in the pool, and during Mommy & Me Stand Up Paddle sessions, paired with a solid-color rashguard in place of a swimsuit. Interested in putting baby on a board?! Shoot me a message via the contact page or visit http://www.endlesssupcompany.com.

7. Sunglasses:

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Protecting your eyes is important when you spend as much time outdoors as we do. I’ve been wearing Smith Optics for 20 years and they do the job fine. I buy a pair at our local surf shop once every few years (although I did also have to grab a pair from Curl in Disney Springs a few years ago b/c I left my sunglasses at home!). Georgie has an awesome polarized, flexible, lifetime-warrantied pair that we purchased at the Endless SUP Company around the corner. If you’re local to me, grab yourself a pair at 809 Main St. in Belmar! They’re awesome.

8. Bike seat:

We get around town on our bikes often. I would not have survived summer w/ a baby if it weren’t for a child bike seat. We use the Limo from CoPilot. It’s easy to use, stable, safe, and looked kind of cool (gray with just a splash of bright blue and neon green, which happen to match my beach cruiser). It also transfers easily from one bike to another in roughly 30 seconds, provided you’ve already got racks on both bikes. I don’t like the idea of front-mounted seats for the same reason you never put a baby in the front seat of a car- objects in motion remain in motion (thank you, Mr. Newton). Weekends are crazy around here in the summer, so the thought of dragging a trailer on the ground behind me also feels a bit scary, but if you’re looking to ride on paths or trails without cars, go for it. My husband, Georgie, and I are all extremely happy w/ our rear-mounted CoPilot.

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9. Helmet:

Because we were only using it for one summer on such a tiny head that would soon grow, we opted for an affordable (i.e. less expensive, but still safe!) Lazer Baby on Board Helmet. When she’s a little older (and I am back to a regular paycheck!), maybe we’ll grab a nicer Giro or a Nutcase that will last a few years. Remember that helmets don’t cover baby’s face like a good hat does, so be sure to apply sunblock!

10. Fun w/ Fido:

Got a dog? A hands-free leash will make your life as a parent of 2- and 4-legged creatures whole lot easier. I don’t think I could live without one now that there’s a baby here. It allows the pup to get her exercise and feel like she’s part of the pack without it being a chore to fit in at odd hours. Of course, I could use the regular leash, but having both hands free to push a stroller, point things out when Georgie is in the Boba, or carry packages to return at the post office is really convenient. We’ve had our leash for years- we used to run w/ the dog often- and I have no recollection of where it came from, but you can find them at your local pet store or on Amazon.

If you’ve got comments on great brands you love for outdoor fun with babies, shoot us a message! I’d love to hear your thoughts on balance bikes, skooters, and toddler sneakers.

*Disclaimer- I am not compensated in any way by ANY of these companies for my thoughts and reviews (though I wish some of them WOULD pay me b/c I promote the heck out of them). I’ve just spent countless hours researching and don’t like to keep quiet when I find something worth sharing.

Sunday Runday: The Church of the Sunday Long Run

It’s Sunday. Have you logged your miles yet?!?

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Your 2017 NYC Marathon Champion, Shalane Flanagan sometimes mentions attending the Church of the Sunday Long Run. Other pro runners, like Nick Symmonds, and myriads of Average Joes and Jills post pictures of themselves running miles in meditation, honoring the same practice (b/c if you don’t post about it, it never happened, right?!). Blogs have been written on the topic with taglines such as “conversational etiquette” during said exercise, t-shirts have references to it splayed across their fronts. The “Church” has its own hashtag on social media, its own Facebook page, its own Twitter account (go ahead, check it- I’ll be waiting right here). It’s on the internet- that means it’s real (right?!?!). Please don’t mistake this for heresy. Real Church is still a thing- and an important one to many of us. It’s just that runners can easily compare the experience of a good long run with attending a worship service, regardless of what day it actually falls on (I typically run long on Saturdays, for instance, and try to get to church on Sundays). Running gear company, Tracksmith, has the following to say about the Church of the Sunday Long Run:

“The Sunday long run is often conflated with spirituality. It’s an easy comparison: like church, the long run is a Sunday ritual. And like any religion, it encourages us to reflect on our shortcomings and appreciate what we have. The fact that it’s the one run of the week where we push for distance, not speed, only encourages that – done correctly, it’s an introspective, centering experience. We don’t all share the same religion, but as runners, we’re all parishioners at the Church of the Long Run.” (http://churchofthelongrun.tracksmith.com/)

Whichever faith you practice, it feels good to know there are other people- near and far- believing in the same ideas and values you do. As humans, we have a basic, instinctual need for belonging to a group and practicing religion can offer us that security. The running community- whether in your own neighborhood or worldwide- offers the same sense of “family” and the Church of the Sunday Long Run is one way of showing solidarity and feeling connected. Despite the intensity of your training plan, the length of your goal race, your years of experience, level of achievement, age, gender, or your ACTUAL religion, the weekend ritual of slowing down for a nice, long run and having a chance to think, reflect, and appreciate brings us all together. So whether you’re a seasoned vet or lacing up for the very first time today, welcome. As we enter this Christmas season, may the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be at your back, and may all your miles be merry from here on out. Amen.

Poncho Baby!!! And 5 Fitness Tips for New Moms

Georgie is allergic to polyester. It’s an annoying allergy. SO MUCH STUFF has polyester in it. SO MUCH STUFF gives her rash. A sometimes really ugly rash, making her look slightly neglected, dirty, and/or sick (I promise you, she’s none of those things).

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Do you have any idea how hard it is to find something like a simple little square of fabric (aka a”lovey”) made of 100% cotton…that doesn’t rattle? In my house, we tend to be so low maintenance that it’s high maintenance. I was SO STOKED when I stumbled upon Poncho Baby. Hailing from the west coast, Poncho Baby was the answer to some of my material frustrations. Georgie loooooves their little green lovey, made from 100% organic (bonus!) cotton. They’ve also got nursing covers, blankets, onesies, and more. Be sure to follow them on Instagram and grab some of their organic cotton baby gear for your favorite moms, babies, and moms-to-be! And more importantly, check out this article I wrote for their blog:

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https://ponchobaby.com/

5 Fitness Rules for New Moms

Congratulations! You’ve just incubated and evacuated an actual human being from your very own lady parts. As you well know, growing and squeezing a bowling-ball-sized object out of a dime-sized hole takes a major toll on one’s body. The good news, however, is that the postpartum body is really quite trainable and can return not only to its previous state, but a stronger, more stable one- IF you train it properly. Professional runners, Kara Goucher, Stephanie Bruce, and Alysia Montano all returned strong to qualify for the US Olympic trials in their respective distances after having babies (I’m waiting on you, Adi Nelson!!!). If you’re reading this, you’re PROBABLY not a professional athlete (though if you are, I’d love a shout out!), but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn lessons from them. Take a look at these guidelines that will help you lose weight and rebuild the necessary muscle tone, functional strength, and mobility to carry out the new demands of “momlife”:

1. Restore That Core!!!

This is, perhaps, the MOST important thing you can do to achieve your fitness goals safely and effectively. Pregnancy and childbirth stretch and weaken the muscles and connective tissue of much of the core, including the deep core and pelvic floor muscles (such as the transverse abdominis). Most women also have some degree of diastasis recti- the separation between your rectus abdominals that leaves a gap, making your belly “pooch” out after birth. A weak inner core is also why you might pee every time you sneeze, jump, or laugh (SO annoying, amiright?!) and Kegels are just not enough. Your first inclination might be to jump back into popular “ab exercises” like sit-ups/crunches, planks, and leg lifts, but you’d likely be doing more harm than good. Instead, focus on your breathing, engaging the appropriate muscles, and using small movements to progressively re-train your deep core and pelvic floor. Rebuilding these muscles will ensure proper function and the stability necessary to carry out more intense movements later on. Exercises done while laying down, like “drawing in,” pelvic tilts, bent knee marches, and glute bridges are sure to help.

2. WALK.

Anywhere and everywhere. Walking will increase blood flow, which is important to the healing process while the movement boosts your endorphins (happy hormones), making you feel good. Fresh air doesn’t hurt, either! We are fortunate enough to live in a place where I can do most of my errands on foot and our primary mode of transportation has 2 wheels. So we walk (and bike). A lot. In all kinds of weather. If you have a safe place to walk near you (i.e. sidewalks, a path, a promenade, a boardwalk, etc.) and proper attire, then get your tushies out the door and walk. It provides time to bond with your little one, teaching him or her about your surroundings, and is good for your heart, soul, and leg muscles. You’ll kick-start your metabolism, making it easier to lose weight, while showing baby that healthy activity is valuable and important to you (bonus points if you have a dog and bring Fido with you!). Don’t live in a place conducive to a walk? Look for opportunities to do so in other ways. Park far away from the entrance to the grocery store, head to the mall and walk the corridors, grab your carrier and drive to a safe wooded trail at a state, county, or local park to walk with a friend. Just move as much as possible, as often as you can. With all the time we spend sitting (resting/healing, feeding, cuddling, etc.), your body will thank you for any kind of activity. The more you try to make it a habit, the easier it becomes to get out the door.

3. Drink a LOT of water.

Seriously. Giving birth depletes us of a LOT of liquid that if not replaced, can leave you feeling dehydrated for days (weeks? Months?!). This is especially important if you are nursing. While drinking more water probably won’t have any affect on your milk supply, it’s essential to keeping YOU feeling good. Your brain, muscles, skin, and other organs all need water to perform at their best and now they have to compete with a suckling infant for access. Recovery (from birth and a hard workout) is much easier when your body is well hydrated. You don’t need to overdo it, either. Adding just a few extra 8-ounce servings of H2O to your regular routine can do the trick (drink more if you’re not typically a conscious water-drinker).

4. Start slowly.

The shortest gestation period of any mammal belongs to a species of opossum and is less than 2 weeks. By contrast, an elephant’s gestation period is 95 weeks. Well….thank goodness we are not elephants. And 2 weeks sounds cool until I think about the fact that I didn’t know I was pregnant until roughly week 6, so I guess I’m also glad I’m not a rodent-like marsupial (opossums are GROSS). That being said, as a human, you just spent approximately 40 weeks- FORTY WEEKS (!!!!)- gaining weight, turning your flesh and blood and everything you ate into a baby. Then you delivered it and had to heal from that delivery while taking care of said baby. Your body probably does not look nor behave the same way it did before conception. AND THAT’S OKAY (I repeat…40 weeks)! My best advice here is to get back into the groove slowly. Your full recovery and your baby are more important right now than how you look. How quickly you return to your exercise-of-choice will depend on your fitness level pre-baby. Most physicians recommend waiting until 6-week check-up to resume or begin any kind of fitness regimen. Any sooner and you run the risk of injury or delaying your body’s ability to heal. Walking and a few minutes of core exercises each day until you’ve regained a little strength and stability are sufficient at first. Don’t overdo it and be sure to progress at a safe rate. I refer you back to rule #1 with retraining your core properly before you move on to anything more intense. When you are ready, add a few reps of new, simple exercises, like squats, deadlifts or bicep curls. You can quicken the pace while lengthening the distance you walk as you feel things returning to normal. Some gentle/restorative yoga is a good idea around this time, too. If you do things right up to this point, you’ll be able to kick it up a notch with some running or other cardio and more intense upper body and core training with little to no problem (aside from, ya know, time and energy). If you suspect any issues, such as a pelvic floor injury or high degree of diastasis recti, speak to your healthcare provider asap.

5. Get baby involved.

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So about that time and energy thing…I can’t be the only mom who struggles with finding time to get a good workout in. What I find is that it’s not really finding the time itself, but prioritizing effectively. Based on the schedules in my house, I am very limited in my opportunities to work out solo. However, if I’m willing to change my expectations of the workout, I can get baby involved. Squats, lunges, shoulder presses, planks (when you’re strong and ready for them!), and some stretches are moves that can be done while holding or engaging a baby. Hello resistance training! It’s convenient that they grow and gain weight as you get stronger and want to progress (or are you getting stronger BECAUSE they’re gaining

weight?!). If you’ve got a set of TRX or similar bodyweight straps safely anchored in your home, strap baby into your preferred carrier (the Boba 4G is my fave!!!) and bring him or her along for the ride. If you need external motivation, almost every city and suburban area has some sort of Mommy & Me or stroller fitness classes. They are usually not free, but they get you out of the house to interact with adult humans, provide socialization for baby, and get you your workout. So how much is your sanity worth? A simple

 Google or hashtag search on social media (i.e. fit4mom or stroller fitness and your city or town) will set you in the right direction on finding a local group. If you live in an area too far from one, start your own! Grab a group of like-minded friends and find a place to put the work in. Your future self, your baby, and probably your significant other will thank you for it.

Patience and consistency are key when upping your fitness game after having a baby. Start small and remember to think about function and stability before any intense training. With some careful planning, you can and will restore your strength and, in turn, your body confidence. Maybe you, too, can qualify for the Olympics Trials. Hey…an old girl can dream, can’t she?

Erica Coviello is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, an ACSM Certified Group Fitness Instructor, a Road Runners Club of America Certified Running Coach, and is currently on maternity leave from teaching middle school science in NJ. Check out @runnercov on Instagram.

Sweat&Milk: Fit Mom One-on-One

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Are you an active mom who is also nursing (or planning to be in the future)?!? Then you HAVE to check out Sweat & Milk and their awesome nursing sports bras. You can also check out their interview with me and other #fitmoms here:

Sweat & Milk: Fit Mom One-On-One

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