Monday, December 5, 2011

The Little Things

My kids go gaga over Playmobil, and now after finding the set pictured (left), I do too. It's not just the obvious things that draw me in either, like the subtle writing on Mom's shirt or the red jogger I think every mom should have. What tops my list are the smiles on both Mom's and Baby's faces. That and the fact that my kids are fighting over who gets to play with it... Music to my ears!

I snatched up the two remaining figurines and will be giving one away here (my kids insisted on keeping one for themselves). Pretty great stocking stuffer for any kid on your list (the baby is even dressed in gender-neutral green!). Just add a comment below with your best stocking stuffer idea (or a small gift item for those of you who do not celebrate Christmas) and be sure to sign up to be a follower of my blog. I'll randomly select and announce the winner next Monday! Good luck and let's hear those ideas!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Time for a Curveball?

In Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom we talk about the importance of making exercise a habit, especially when you're first finding your fitness mojo. But once you've been at your routine a while, it might be time to change things up. How do you know when you're at the point that you should try something new? If any of the following sound familiar, you might want to consider adding a curveball to your daily dose of fitness:

1. You've hit a plateau with your weight loss goals.
2. You see a decrease in performance gains.
3. You're lacking enthusiasm to just get moving.
4. It's mentally difficult to make it through your workout.
5. You see an increase in aches and pains, or nagging injuries that don't go away.

If you're experiencing one or more of the above, it might be time to experiment with your workouts. Try something new, whether that means attending a new group fitness class, adding strength and flexibility training, or changing how vigorously you work out. Anything that moves your body in a new way (or new intensity) will do. Stick with your new groove until things feel better. And if you happen to fall in love, stick with it indefinitely. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Celebrating Thanksgiving... Hot (Sweaty) Family Style

Another great year celebrating Thanksgiving Day by movin' it at a local Turkey Trot. So proud of the girls who each hoofed their own best distance--Cady the whole 5K and Maggie two miles! 

Happy Thanksgiving!
Much Love, 


Monday, November 21, 2011

Yoga In Action

My panties are in a bunch this morning. Nothing too life altering, except a general need to slow the world down a bit. Target is opening its doors for holiday shopping at midnight on Thanksgiving and I woke up to an e-mail that read, "Black Friday Deals Start Now." Feels like the freneticism of the holiday season is creeping into the outer edge of what was once considered an unspoken, yet sacred, lull.

Lucky for me, I went to a candlelight yoga class on Saturday night. Getting there on time was no easy task; it was our first real taste of winter in Minneapolis and the streets were like ice rinks. Despite the white-knuckled anxiety I felt getting there, once inside the studio I felt my body make an intentional, purposeful shift. My mind quickly followed. I found myself able to soften the chaos I knew was just outside the brick wall behind me; I was acutely aware of my ability to block out the unwanted noise in my life. Even if just for that moment.
Mind over matter. 

So today I'm going to put my yoga practice to work in everyday life. I'm going to focus on this moment and not worry about the chaos that is most certainly on the way. For me, this will mean making some very deliberate plans for today and, ultimately, our five day weekend. Trips to the science museum, nature center, and the pool will definitely be on the list. Some structure, lots of flexibility. 

Thank you, Yoga, my wise and always friend.

Breathe in. Breathe out. 



What will you do to keep grounded during the holiday season? Start by checking out today's stop on the Hot (Sweaty) Mamas virtual book tour: Kate Hanley's Ms. MindBody. Kate's a yoga instructor, writer, speaker, and mom to two young children. Take a look around and check out her interview of my co-author and me!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book Tour Stops at Bump Life with Guest Post on Mother Guilt Today

Today the Hot (Sweaty) Mamas book tour is making a stop at Bump Life. Bump Life is a one stop shop for lots of great information on pre and postnatal fitness. Megan, the site's founder, has solid information that appeals to the I-like-up-to-date-and-accurate-information part of me. Check out her blog post with spot on answers to these top prenatal fitness questions: 

4 Top Prenatal Fitness Questions
  1.     Can I get my heart rate over 140bpm
  2.     Can I do ab work while I am pregnant?
  3.     I woke up last night on my back, should I be worried?
  4.     My joints feel loosey-goosey, should I avoid working out?
Done making babies? Megan's still got you covered with a great 10 Minute Workout that Really Works for those days when your schedule is tight. And her 10 Steps to Fitness After the Birth of Your Baby provides sound advice on how to successfully and (perhaps more importantly) happily get back at after baby is born. And we all know that Happy Mom = Happy Baby, right?

So, check out Bump Life's review of the book. Later today, I'll be guest posting here on my favorite topic... Mother Guilt. Come join the conversation!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The (Virtual) Trip is Underway!

Going on tour with Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom sounds like a blast. That is until I think about all the stuff I'd miss out on at home, like my kids, my husband and my workouts. So while there are a couple real life trips planned for the near future, the Hot (Sweaty) Mamas book tour is going virtual. My co-author, Kara Thom, and I will spend the next five weeks visiting 23 (and counting) mom bloggers. As the bloggers check out our book, I'm going to do some fun research on my own visiting their blogs and sharing my favorite takeaways from each. Stop back throughout the tour and get to know these bloggers...

Our first stop was right here in Minneapolis with fellow runner, Carly, at Chubby Chicks Run Too. She rode a camel, rode the pole (you'll have to check that post out!), and now wears Dansko clogs...  My kind of girl. Carly's doing the work of the Hot (Sweaty) Mama: managing to stay fit while working part-time and caring for her family and home. Love that she's sharing her struggles and successes with other moms...

Day two we hit Chicago to spend time with Stephanie Mansour from Step it Up with Steph.
Stephanie is a premier, private personal trainer and coach for women. She combines yoga, Pilates, personal training, and body image and confidence coaching for a unique approach to wellness. Steph's workbook, 30 Days to Love Your Body and Your Life, is on my gift list this year (cause who couldn't love their body or their life just a little more?).

Today we were up in British Columbia visiting Tamara of Fit Knit Chick. I've never met Tamara in person, but I think I might have a little girl crush on her. Guess she appeals to the student in me... Tamara has a PhD in Ecology and recently moved into the fitness industry. She's a mom to three kids who realized the best way to keep active was to turn that activity into a career. (Good thinking, Tamara!) And, of course, Tamara knits too. That's something I've tried (and failed at) many times...

Love these ladies and I'm excited to keep traveling! Stop back tomorrow to see who we'll be chatting with!


Monday, November 7, 2011

When the going gets tough...

Kara and I could never have given birth to Hot (Sweaty) Mamas without the help of others. Sure, we did some of our work amidst a hurricane of children, armed with junk food and Barbie, err, educational movies for those moments of desperation. Sometimes, however, we had to leave the kids behind and for me that usually meant my girls would have a play date with my father-in-law, Grandpa Tony.

Grandpa Tony didn’t just facilitate writing time for me, he also helped me practice the very things we were writing about in our book. Prioritizing fitness and taking care of myself were logistically more convenient knowing Grandpa, who lives less than a mile away, was eager to spend time with his granddaughters.

It’s been almost two weeks since my father-in-law had his knee replaced, and he’ll likely be in a transitional care facility rehabbing his new joint for a while longer. Without Grandpa around, I find myself doing my version of Bible dipping: opening Hot (Sweaty) Mamas to random pages to get some
encouragement for my balancing act.

For the first time in five years, I’m working outside of the home on a regular basis, completing my internship for my master’s in counseling. I’m in school two nights a week. I’m the primary caregiver for my children and the main domestic engineer. I recently started coaching my daughter’s basketball team. We don’t use a cleaning service and rarely hire babysitters (with the very important exception of date night!), so I’m juggling. Lots. Sometimes it feels like things are falling through the cracks, and I’m playing child swap with my neighbor more than I’m used to. But I’m making this new “normal” work. I’m getting out there, staying active, and desperately finding time to exercise.

The point of this post it to offer kudos to every woman out there who is working hard to keep things going. Someone always has is more difficult, but we should be proud to find our way during both calm and rocky waters…

Cheers to each and every one of you for making this work as best you can. When the going gets tough, the hot and sweaty keep going!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Toeing the Line with an Olympian!

What do you and I have in common with an Olympic runner? Lots. That is, if you've ever been up all night with a screaming infant, exhausted both physically and mentally from the demands of a spirited toddler, or searching for a little "me" time for self care. Motherhood is definitely an equalizer, a shared experience that makes us all each other's training partners no matter how fast or how far we move.

Last week my co-author and I sat down with Olympian Carrie Tollefson to talk about balancing motherhood and fitness. Check out the first of two episodes where we talk about our new book, Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom (Andrews McMeel 2011).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Marathon Dates

My husband and I refer to our first date as our marathon date. It lasted over 12 hours, included a stop at his parents’ house, my first mountain bike purchase, and drinks with his best friend. Nothing like jumping in headfirst. (Ironically, we’ve since run several marathons together, but those are never considered marathon dates!)

It’s been 14 years and two children since that first date and we still make an effort to spend chunks of time together reconnecting as a couple. We’re committed to frequent dates and shoot for an annual getaway doing something active. Just the two of us. Alone.

And so last week, Tony and I returned to the scene of our “best ever date.” We relived the “double crossing” of the Grand Canyon, where we ran from the South Rim to the North Rim, spent the night on the North Rim, and then ran back again. It was an amazing adventure with lots of great memories and nothing but each other’s company to occupy the time.

For two full days it was no kids, no work, no television, no phone. Just us.  We met a retired couple who have spent the last six years driving around the country in an RV, met some marathoners from KY, and enjoyed the beauty of the Southwest. When we finished our adventure in the Canyon, we went to the movies, enjoyed good coffee, and watched television in bed (off limits in our home!).

Surprisingly, the time we spend together never includes my typical dose of mother guilt.  When we take a multi-day trip away from the kids, we make every effort to ensure that they have good care, and they have a set schedule.

This time around they had the pleasure of spending the weekend with their aunt and cousins.  They still had to stick to their routine, but they were rewarded with a couple of impromptu stops at Dairy Queen, and an extra late movie night with pizza.  While their routine gives them the boundaries to know they are safe, the extra treats and later bed times keep it fun while Mom and Dad are gone.

Three and a half days away from the kids gave us plenty of time to reconnect doing something we both love.  And that makes for a very happy couple.  In the long run, happy parents make happy kids and healthy parents make healthy kids.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bed head, anyone?

Getting out of bed before the sun comes up means I’m rarely lookin’ fresh for my early morning workouts. I’m a stickler about sweating with clean teeth, but beyond that there isn’t much prep time associated with my pre-dawn fitness. Hair in pony, coffee in cup, grab the nearest (sometimes not-so-clean shirt) and I’m out the door.

I’m pretty sure we all share that routine to some degree (though you may always be confident your shirt is clean). For most of us, the main priority is getting out quietly, not getting out pretty. We don’t dare wake the kids or we’re up early and without our daily dose of fitness.

That said, there is something wonderful about working out with other people when we’re most ourselves, no primping, no prepping and probably no deodorant. What you see is what you get, wrinkles and all. Perhaps that why some of my fondest memories of fitness, some of my best fit-friendships, have grown during those early hours when the light is dim.

For me, getting out of bed in the morning ranks up there with cleaning the bathroom or making school lunches: Not. Much. Fun. But like most of the really great things in life, there is payback in the effort. The friendships hold me accountable, keep me climbing out of bed and lacing up my shoes.

As darkness takes over a little more of the morning, resist the urge to crawl back under the covers. Remember those friendships, those naked truths we love to see in each other, and keep moving! Even if the only face you see is your own reflection in the window, remember there is someone waiting for you and continue to embrace the dawn!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

Ten years ago today, my life changed. Less than two hours after watching a second line appear on a pregnancy test, I witnessed the horrors of 9/11 unfold from the coffee shop at work. I had just told a friend (another high mileage runner) about the faint line; told her we planned to test again the next day “just to be sure.” But I knew. A second line was a second line, no matter how faint.

For the thirty minutes we talked, my main concerns about being pregnant were how far and how fast I could run with a baby on board. Would I be able to run throughout my pregnancy or would I have to settle with walking in the later months?

As I got up from the table with my friend and saw the crowds of people behind us watching the television coverage of the attacks, I remember thinking that running during my pregnancy wasn’t important. I felt silly at having worried; now there were more serious considerations. Like, how could I bring a child into a world where such terrible things were happening?

From the moment I stood up (close to 8 am CST), I was terrified. I remember crying that night as I realized the enormity of the attack. Watching the aftermath on television with my husband, knowing we had a baby on the way, made the event seem even more grievous. It was an attack on everyone, even our unborn child.

We went ahead and took another pregnancy test the following day. We’d deluded ourselves into the “uncertainty” of the test from the day before. Wanted a new, happier day to know for sure. As expected, the faint line had turned into a confident, bold declaration.

As our baby grew I continued to worry about the world, but I also continued to run. After time, I realized that the running really was important. It was something I could control, something that made me feel like I was making a difference in my world. It was a statement, a proclamation of how important health and fitness were to me. It was my way of telling myself, my child, and my community that I wasn’t going to live in fear.

But admittedly, a small amount of fear remains with me today. I hate the thought of anything threatening the safety of my family. So I’ll do what I can each day to keep them safe in the ways I can control. I’ll do what I can to stay healthy and teach them to do the same.

We’ll never forget the tragedies of 9/11. We’ll never forget that first pregnancy test; the day we first learned we were going to become parents. The events will forever be connected, and forever remind us how fragile life really is.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sneaking a Kiss

A new school year is upon us!
Dropped my youngest off at her kindergarten room today and did something I hadn't done yet during her six day tenure in school. I lingered outside her room, peeked in through the glass to see what she did as her day began.

First, a pause. She leaned over the counter in her classroom as if powering up some internal engine. Then, with a bounce of energy, she planted a big kiss on her palm and danced off out of sight. 

If you're into children's literature at all, you're familiar with Audrey Penn's book The Kissing Hand in which Chester Racoon's mom puts a kiss in his hand that stays with him for his first day of school. Understand why my heart turned to mush?

I've been grieving the transition this year, having both girls in school. Watching Maggie this morning took a little of the bitter out of bittersweet. She's a wonderful person; I'm happy I get to share her spirit with others but I still miss her. Miss them both.

After dropping the girls off, I walked out of school with a smile on my face. I climbed into my car, looked at my palm, and gave it a little kiss.

Pretty sure it's gonna get me through the day.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Post-Race Blues: How to deal with depression after crossing the finish line

After more than 15 years of racing, I realize that crossing the finishing line is still not the final step in any athletic event. I have a post-race phase to move through before setting my sights on the next event.

After training and competing comes post-race depression.

For me, post race depression seeps into the downtime I’m supposed to enjoy between events. It’s that feeling of letdown after something big happens—much like returning from a vacation or actually getting a promotion that you worked hard for. It leaves me asking answerless questions like: What did that really mean? Did I do my best? Now what?

And what makes this kind of downer so intense is that we are in recovery mode. When we pull back the reins on exercise, perhaps taking several days off from our primary sport, our bodies miss the endorphin high. In a survey I conducted for Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom, I learned that many women (and men too) rely on the antidepressant effects of exercise. Take it away and many of us feel pretty hollow.

So what should you do?
1. For starters, if you know you are apt to feel depressed after a big event, listen to your body and recognize the triggers and patterns in your mood. You will eventually be able to step outside of the feeling and realize that mood doesn’t define you and the sadness will pass.

2. Keep positive energy alive by talking with others about the event and perhaps taking time to journal about your experience and reflect on your accomplishments. Acknowledge the magnitude of your efforts as well as your feelings surrounding them.

3. Eat a healthy and balanced diet. This is especially true if you participated in an endurance event that requires sugary supplements to keep you going. Gut rot may haunt you for a day or two, so be sure to consume healthy, whole foods to keep your spirits from bonking.

4. Get lots of sleep. Extra rest will help bring back your ability and desire to train hard again.

5. If you are feeling the effects of endorphin withdrawal (that is, you simply cannot fathom taking a few days off), commit to cross training in new or enjoyable ways. In order to allow your body time to recover, consider less strenuous exercise, like easy cycling, walking or relaxing laps in the pool.

6. While this may be a bit counterintuitive, do not schedule another big event right away.  Learn to enjoy the unstructured time in your life.  Your aim is to have longevity in your activity, and going from one big race to another is a prescription for burnout. 

Post-race blues are real, but thankfully they last only a short time. Follow these steps and the symptoms of situational depression (that’s the real terminology) won’t prevent you from basking in your post-race bliss!

Laurie Kocanda will complete her Master’s in Counseling Psychology in spring 2012 and is co-author of Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom. Despite her predictable post-race blues, she has completed over 40 marathons and ultramarathons.

This post recently appeared in Inside Dirt, an online publication distributed by Trail Runner magazine.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Rites of Passage

“You run marathons? Wow! Have you ever pooped your pants?” If I had a nickel for every time someone has asked me that… Seems like some people think uncontrolled bodily functions go hand-in-hand with long distance running. (Hint: They don’t! And I’ve never pooped myself on a run!)

I’m not immune to similar ignorance. For years I’ve watched other runners lose toenail after toenail (including my husband, who lost all 10 after running the Western States 100 miler!). Somehow, I saw this loss as a badge of honor, a mark of commitment to the sport. My internal dialogue kept reminding me, “You aren’t a true ultra runner until you lose a toenail.”

Well, after running the Voyageur 50 mile a few weeks ago I’ve had a sudden change of heart. I endured over ten hours of heat, humidity and hills. I had existential moments I thought came only with a Timothy Leary experiment. My husband has a pithy little saying he heard somewhere: “If you make friends with pain you will never be alone.” I suffered. I made friends with pain, and as it turns out, I got my wish granted. I am going to lose a toenail.

Now I would like to unfriend this particular insidious version of pain. It’s there constantly. I rub my toenail on the sheet and it hurts, I stubbed said toe on the dresser and it sent a scream out of my mouth that brought the whole family running into the room. I thought that draining it might reduce the pressure and make it feel better. It turns out that my Dr. Oz moment may have just got it infected. It’s not the glamorous party I thought it would be.

I gave birth to my two kids without drugs.  What I wouldn’t do for an epidural right now.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Why Run 50?

It was mile 25 and my daughter heard my plea: “I’m so tired. I just want to quit.” I was exhausted from four and a half hours of trail running in the Minnesota Northwoods and felt nauseous thinking about running the course again in reverse.

At 9 years old, Cady didn’t quite understand why, when I had just said I wanted to stop, I was about to turn around and head back. “Just stop, Mom.” Simple logic.
My husband, on the other hand, pulled me up out of the chair I’d just crumpled into and got me turned back toward the finish. “We’ll see you at the next aid station!” Somehow he’d tricked me into moving again.

The Minnesota Voyaguer Ultra is a 50-mile foot race on some of the most beautiful and rugged trails I’ve ever run. It’s rocky, rooty, hilly, and muddy with a few stream crossings, scramble-on-your hands-and-knees ascents, and slide-on-your-butt-descents. For the first 25 miles, it’s more fun than anything else. But at the turnaround it becomes a test of wills, an exercise in mental toughness.

So as I started to climb the trail out of the Duluth Zoo, I began thinking about why I was running this distance. What it was that was keeping me going. I came up with a few reasons that, even in my post-race return to sanity, sound pretty compelling:

My kids had fun, but the day was mine.

  1. As a mom, there are few things I do that are JUST for me. This race, this weekend, was all about me. Like it or not, it’s something my kids need to experience. They need to see Mom as an individual, her own person with goals and aspirations. Hopefully it’s something they’ll remember (and replicate in their own way) when they have children of their own.
  2. Self-confidence isn’t always easy to come by for me. Running 50 miles reminds me that I am worthy and capable of much more than I sometimes give myself credit for.
  3. There is a sense of community I feel when running these races that is unmatched anywhere else. It’s not like a quick trip through a water stop during the marathon or 5K. It’s people taking the time to figure out what you need and get you back on your way. Each individual’s finish is really a group effort. I love that.
  4. Trail runs are beautiful. There is a sense of peace when running in the woods that I don’t get anywhere else. Trail runs are the perfect excuse to run through mud, and splash through puddles and streams. I get to “wear” the beauty that surrounds me, and that is pretty cool.
  5. I enjoy the solitude of the run. It’s fun to start out with a group of runners, but I really enjoy the alone time offered in the middle and late portions of a trail run when there isn’t anyone around me. It’s a great time to think, or as is sometimes required, to turn off my mind and just focus on what I’m doing.

As the day wore on and I got closer to the finish, I grew increasingly excited to see my husband and daughters at the aid stations along the way. My body was tired, but knowing they were waiting for me kept me moving at a steady shuffle. Maintaining that slow jog helped me catch and pass a number of runners, all of who offered enthusiastic words of encouragement.
Coming into an aid station, excited to see my hubby and the girls.
 I crossed the finish line with my daughters in 10:27:54 (6th woman, 1st masters woman). I’m a little sore, but feel much better than expected. Big thanks to my husband, Tony, who pushed food on me at each aid station (who knew potato chips on PB&J would taste so good!), and kept me going with salt, fluids and his amazing smile.

Crossing the finish line with my girls, who wouldn't hug me because I was too sweaty!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Family Friendly Runs

Trail runs offer a special kind of freedom to runners, and the kids who come out to cheer them on. My dance with dirt at the Afton 50K  Trail Run on Saturday was intense. With over 8,700 feet of ascending and descending, it wasn’t easy. But knowing my kids were out exploring and having fun meant I wasn’t worrying about them being bored or getting into trouble. And best of all, my kids didn’t just get to cross the finish line with me, they were dancing on it when I got there. My oldest even put the medal around my neck. After 6+ hours of running, it was the best finish line I could imagine!

What’s your favorite event for the family? What makes it so special for you or the other members of your clan?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Giveaway: Be happy in the (this) saddle

Friend or foe?
There is a special freedom found only on a bike. It’s one of those rare thrills we feel at every age and ability. Whether it’s your first wobbly ride off training wheels or your umpteenth century (100 mile) ride of the season, cycling makes us feel independent, strong and happy.

Except when it doesn’t.

For some of us, particularly women, climbing onto the saddle causes more than just a little discomfort “down there.” And until you find a saddle that fits just right (and take off your panties!), biking will never make you feel like a kid again. Instead, it will make you feel like you’ve just had one—right there on the bike.

I have vivid memories of a long ride with my husband back when were first married that resulted in him winning the Heisman Award for a good week. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I pushed through the pain, fleshy one minute and boney the next. Didn’t matter how I sat, I was uncomfortable. Not strong. Not happy.

I went through a few saddles before I fell in love (or should I say, my crotch fell in love) with the Terry Butterfly Ti saddle. It’s lightweight and designed just for “her” by folks who specialize in ladies cycling. The guys like it too since it eliminates the Heisman phenomena–at least as it relates to the bike, anyway. (Come on, riding really shouldn’t be a pre-coital excuse!).

Having saddle issues? Got that “not so fresh feeling”? Just want to try something new? I wanna hear from Hot (Sweaty) Mamas like you about why you like to ride, or about your favorite two-wheeled adventure. I’ll draw one winner from the entrants here and at and post the winner on Friday. Good luck!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Running in Circles

My friend Greg once told me he likes to draw an imaginary circle around himself and every person with whom he has a relationship—his wife, kids, friends, co-workers (you get the idea). As often as he remembers, he takes a little inventory of his life to make sure he’s keeping all the right stuff inside each of those circles. He reminded me that everything we do within a given circle has the potential to strengthen the relationship therein. And sometimes when we leave things out of certain circles we ultimately make them weaker.

Thinking about all this made me realize how important health and fitness are to my overall wellbeing, not just my physical health. How they’ve helped me establish and deepen a number of relationships in my life. When my husband and I met, we shared a passion for the outdoors and a passion for running; and each year our marriage grows through some shared physical activity including these things (i.e., running the Grand Canyon, sailing trips, camping).

Many of my closest friends are also running partners, riding buddies or fellow gym rats. Those that don’t share my passion at least appear enthusiastic about my goals and accomplishments. And it’s okay if they’re just faking interest, to share a circle with me means to share my interests no matter what. And I share the things that make them tick, too (even when I don’t find them interesting).

I’ve had a couple of friendships that haven’t fared so well over the years; there have been times I’ve let fitness get in the way of a relationship by simply not sharing it with someone else. Greg got me thinking that maybe I can use my passion for fitness as a means to rekindle those old friendships, repair relationships that might need tending to or strengthen an already strong bond with a loved one. It even works with people who don’t quite “get it,” who don’t understand that it’s fun to work up a good stinky, sweat.

I can keep circles intact by sharing what it feels like to be me, and that doesn’t necessarily mean running a marathon (though it’s always nice to have some company). There are plenty of other options—a short walk with an aging parent, a leisurely bike ride with my kids, a lake swim with a friend who usually hits the beach for a tan. If fitness is a big part of your life, find some way to share it with those people who are most important to you. Let it bring you together instead of tear you apart.

We all know that good relationships can be the best, most challenging endurance events out there. And as a mom, having a good support network is a sanity saver. So when you think the finish line is in sight, loop back and keep going. Sometimes running (or walking, biking, swimming, etc.) in circles can be a very good thing. 

An active lifestyle keeps me physically and mentally fit, better able to handle the demands of motherhood. How about you? Does fitness keep you strong in more ways than one?

Friday, May 13, 2011

How Much is Enough?

Spring cleaning... Which ones do I keep?
In the twelve years my husband and I have owned our home, we’ve toyed with the idea of moving into a bigger house quite a bit. While it would be nice to have a little more space, we’re confident a bigger home would not translate into less clutter. Staying in our current home has required constant examination of what we need versus what we have.

We try to teach our kids that more isn’t better by suggesting they donate the things they are no longer interested in.  For the most part it has worked (with the exception of the brothel of Barbies bursting out of the toy bin across the room from me). At five, our youngest doesn’t quite get it yet. But our oldest (who will turn nine next week) seems to understand. She actually agreed to a nice gift from Mom and Dad instead of having presents at her party.

Accumulate less. Donate more.

Over the years I’ve gotten better at eliminating excess, too. I finally got rid of my wedding shoes and I no longer hold on to every piece of artwork my kids create. I’ve recovered from my need to keep every cotton race finisher’s shirt; a problem solved by creating a quilt (who knew I could be crafty?).

I’ve learned to live leaner, except when it comes to my running shirts. There are too many to reasonable wear in any one season. I'll admit to some odd emotional attachment. There's the shirt I wore running the Grand Canyon, the one from the first marathon my parents came to see, my very first long sleeved wicking shirt. I’m not sure why I keep them all; I still pick my favorites when I hit the gym or lace up for a run.

I know someone who makes sure her kids have only enough seasonally appropriate clothes to get them through a week. Kept her laundry to a minimum and the clutter down. Not sure I can go that far, but I’m looking for an ideal number. Enough to cover a weeks worth of runs and workouts? Only my favorites? What do you do?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Off 'N Running (in Chi-Town)

My co-author Kara Thom and I heading out early tomorrow morning for the first push of our book tour, promoting our new book, Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom... We're headed for Chi-Town for a hot (sweaty) weekend that begins at the Empower! Fusion Fitness Celebration at the Donald E. Stevens Convention Center in Rosemount, IL. Our presentation, "What a Mom Wants (at the Gym)," is geared toward fitness professionals who want to learn more about making your experience at the gym better. Comforting to know we're recognized for what we do, isn't it?

If you're in the Chicago area and looking to get your sweat on, check out one of three classes that are open to the public at 5:30 p.m. (promise they'll provide equal parts motivation and energy!):
  • More than Just Core with Holly Krohn (She's small but mighty and will make you feel like you can do more than you thought possible!)
  • G-Force Reunion: Ultimate Cardio Party with Patrick Goudreau, Darrin Grove and Rob Glick (Might just be more fun than Zumba!)
  • Warrior Sculpt with Nick Bez and Katie Haggerty (I've been to this one and it's guaranteed to leave you both smiling and sore!)
Sunday's events include a 9:30 a.m. Mama Spin class at the Schaumberg Life Time Fitness. I've got a great lineup of songs picked especially for the mom-set and some great video for accompaniment.
Lot's of great giveaways, some good grub, and even better girl-talk.

Before heading back to the Twin Cities, Kara and I will stop in at the Barnes and Noble in Oak Brook for a 2-3 p.m. book signing. If you already have a book, stop in and talk with us. If you don't have a book yet, there will be plenty on hand. Either way, we'd love to see you and hear about your life as a Hot (Sweaty) Mama!

We've been working at this project for a long time and are so thankful to all of you for helping us get this book off 'n running! Hugs, kisses and lots of sweaty love to you all!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Mama Sisyphus

You might know the story in Greek and Roman mythology about Sisyphus, the man who is punished by a king to roll a giant boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat the process for all of eternity. While making the beds this morning, I realized how much of my day is filled with those push-the-rock-up-the-hill-and-watch-it-roll-back-down-the-hill moments.

Laundry gets soiled, dishes get dirty, beds get unmade, meals get eaten.

Even fitness can feel daunting if you're not careful to take note of the overall changes that happen along the way. The changes can be physical transformations like tightening and toning, maybe even regaining bladder control after birth. But they can also be mental, like gaining the self-confidence or discipline to make big life changes.

But here's the real evidence that we don't belong in mythology:

Yep, our kids grow up.

Every little thing we do, even if it seems repetitive, makes a big mark on some very important lives. Suddenly rolling those boulders up the hill isn't such a bad thing...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Back from Disney World...

It’s my first full day back from our family vacation to Walt Disney World and I already feel like I need another vacation. Reality can be a little slap on the backside, can’t it? But before I get too steeped in the present, I wanted to share a few thoughts about our trip to visit Mickey and pals.
  1. Theme parks are not as physically exhausting as you might think. Turns out nine hours of walking around Disney parks isn't quite as tiring as I anticipated, except for Grandpa who at 74 made an impressive show of endurance. Truth is, when you factor in ride time, show time, wait time, eat time, and rest time, nine hours at a park isn’t nearly nine hours of walking. According to my Polar Activity Monitor (which my daughter enthusiastically wore around her ankle to account for those times she didn’t let her arm swing--like pushing the stroller and holding the camera) it’s not much more than a typical day around the house. Our ratio of time spent in the park to time moving was something close to 3:1. That means for every three hours we spent in the park, we spent about one hour walking.  
  2. Theme parks are more mentally exhausting than you think. More exhausting than nine hours of walking in the hot sun is the insufferable sales pitch of the Disney marketing monster, unmatched at Sea World or Busch Gardens. Disney has every exit covered, every corner staffed. Looking for something test to your Zen state of mind? Disney is there for you. My suggestion…  give your kids an allowance of money they can spend at the parks, then let them decide where the money goes. 
  3. Our kids take their pool time as seriously as we do our runs. While the parks are fun, having a pool seemed equally important to my kids. They swam at least once a day, if not twice and registered more activity in the pool than anywhere else. Cady's almost perfected her flip turn and Maggie has a flawless "CANON BALL!”  Every early morning after every late night, my kids found a hidden reserve of energy in the pool. 
  4. You DO see gators while running in Florida. Let’s just say I felt better running on the road than the sidewalk after witnessing a few beady eyes not far from my path. 
  5. You can eat healthy in Disney. After our visit to Disney in 2007, we vowed to bring our own snacks on our next trip; back then we didn’t see much nutrition on the kiosks of ice cream sandwiches, popcorn, and cotton candy. This time around, however, we did see some GoGo Squeez applesauce packets in Epcot and lots of fruit in Animal Kingdom. We didn’t see many healthy options in Magic Kingdom, but luckily we’d packed out own. Turns out there are a few places you can go to get healthy food. At the Princess Dinner in Norway, I had what seemed to be a very healthy serving of salmon (though the kids options were less than friendly—hotdog and pizza). If you’re interested, check out this post on the Disney food blog for some food stops that offer healthy eating alternatives.  
  6. Disney is something every kid should get to see at least once. In a perfect world every child feels special and important. In a perfect world every kid gets to smile until it hurts and yell, “I love you, Sleeping Beauty!” at the top of her lungs (yes, my little Maggie is in love). In a perfect world every kid would get at least one visit to Disney.
Share your recent Disney experience or post a question if you’re going soon. I'll be taking notes for next time.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jungle Gym-Nastics: See Mom Sweat Giveaway

Every day that we are blessed with warm weather is another day I have to feed a lame excuse to my kids about why we can't head to the park yet. My top reasons so far involve mud and water, which basically means I'm not keen on yet another pile of dirty laundry (and means virtually nothing to my dirt-loving children).

I'm usually pretty hands on at the park, but age has made the swings less enjoyable (renders me dizzy) and anything that spins virtually impossible (vomit-city!). To be honest, once I plunk my butt down on a park bench it isn't long before I start thinking about the things I should be getting done at home. I love to watch my kids play, but the park bench feels like an assault on both my productivity and my sanity. So I'm hopeful that my new deck of Playground Pump cards will make park visits as much fun for me as they are for my kids this year.

A husband and wife team who work extensively in the field of health and fitness, Chris Rauchnot and Nancy Levin, created the cards as a way of "incorporating working out into your life" and to get clients "out of the gym and into the fresh air, sunlight, and sounds of nature." Sounds like a perfect fit for moms, doesn't it?

The deck includes cards that are color coded by type of exercise (warm up, upper body, lower body, abs, and stretching), each using familiar equipment found at most playgrounds--swings, parallel bars, benches, monkey bars, rings.

For those of you who don't visit the park or have kids that nap, these exercises will work great on a backyard play structure, too. Focus on upper or lower body exercises, pick out cards using only certain types of equipment, or do a little of everything for a circuit training workout.

Got any great playground or backyard workouts to share? Maybe it's just your favorite piece of equipment (monkey bars for me!) or a funny experience. To help celebrate the March 29 release of Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom (Andrews McMeel 2011), I'll pick a winner from the comments and send off a box of Playground Pump cards next week.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Competitor Within

Before life got complicated with things like marriage, kids, dogs and a house, I thought I knew exactly what it meant to be a competitor. Being a competitor meant pushing myself to the limit—racing for a personal best, an age group win, or to outkick my nemesis at the finish line. With age, though, comes wisdom. 

At first by necessity, then later by choice, my perspective has changed. I gave up weekly races a long time ago; runs don't always hurt. I’m not always racing against the clock and I don’t care as much if someone passes me on the trails. I love running with my dog and stopping to let him make a new friend. I’m still a competitor, though, perhaps even more than I was in my younger years. 

I’ve come to realize that being a competitor isn’t so much about physical prowess or building an impressive athletic resume, it’s about character. You are a competitor when you decide you’re not going to let life’s uncontrollables bring you down, or when you pull yourself off the couch and get moving when you’re already depressed. It’s about finding ways to make a visit to the park a workout too. Just enjoying an easy bike ride, resisting that temptation to push hard, can be a significant accomplishment for some of us. It’s all about knowing what you need to do, and then doing it.

There will be times in your life you need or want to race hard and often; at other times it's best to use that energy to attack the mudane. Take a look at where you are right now and then figure out where you want to be, where you really want to be. Start taking steps in that direction—Olympic fast or small baby steps—just get moving. Do that and you are a competitor.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

More Ways to Exercise

As winter drags on, workouts seem to require more mental energy than I have available. True, suited up and out the door I usually escape my motivational black hole, but getting to that point is becoming increasingly difficult as the season wears on. And the degree of difficulty is directly correlated with the temperature outside: the lower the temps, the lower my motivation.

I know I’m not alone in my struggle. One of my close friends, another obsessive runner type, recently took an entire week off running. This wasn’t an intentional, planned vacation for her. No, those are the kind that actually boost our energy levels and return us to mental rock star status. Instead, it was a week filled with disappointment and negativity… exactly the opposite of what she’s used to getting from fitness.

It’s time to remind myself of some important tidbits you’ll find in Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom (Andrews McMeel, 2011) when it hits the stores at the end of this month. In the book, my co-author and I devote an entire chapter (Chapter 8: Get Moving: There’s More than One Way to Exercise) to the various types of exercise we can engage in—from the therapeutic kind that helps heal an injury or muscular imbalance to those hard core athletic workouts that leave us wonderfully tired and exhausted. Somewhere in between those two workouts is the secret to my sanity for the next month.

As an endurance athlete, I think I sometimes take my fitness for granted. If I miss a workout, I feel bad in a guilt-ridden sort of way. I think about the impact my missed run or ride will have on my performance, but I usually don’t think about what it’s doing to my body. And that’s where the different kind of workouts fit in.

My goal for the next month is to focus on protective exercise (for me means stretching and strength training) that will get me ready to turn things up a notch in the spring. Lucky for me these are the same kinds activities that help me settle my mind, too. (Read that as lots of hot yoga. I did say hot, right? Hot as in NOT COLD!). I’m going to knowingly dial back a bit on my cardio be happy with whatever time I can collect.

What are you doing to push through this final month of winter (especially if you're in a colder clime like me)? Are you going to put your head down and plow on through, or slow down and watch the snow melt a little more?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Act Like Others Are Watching

"I want to do my sun salutations, Mommy."

I grabbed the camera to catch her in motion and here's what followed. Guess I don't need to feel guilty about my nights away at yoga... my kids are reaping the benefits, too!

It's time to brag, folks! How has your fitness rubbed off on your children? Speak up... We can all use a reminder that this is good stuff!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sleep Interruptus

I know how important it is to get a good night's sleep. It's when we're catching our Zs that our body gets a chance to recover, rebuild and rejuvenate. Problem is, eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is not the same as eight hours of sleep with three or four interruptions from 43 inches of twisting, kicking, hot energy that's crawled into my bed at night.

Our bodies (especially this 40 year old one) need the deeper sleep to benefit from the growth hormone that plays a major role in tissue repair. Not hitting the later stages of sleep means your denying your body of the best natural recovery there is. There's a mental price tag to this sleep-and-wake game, too. The later stages of sleep are where we get REM sleep--that good stuff that keeps us alert, perky and less forgetful.

Maybe it's not kids jumping into your bed at night. Maybe it's the cat or the dog. Perhaps it's your Valentine that keeps you awake with more creative pursuits. Regardless, I bet this sleep interruptus explains the physical and mental fatigue many of us feel, especially the moms out there. Finding a remedy for this has been on my "to-do" list for a long time. Unfortunately, it's likely to remain there for the foreseeable future.

I'll admit to being a sucker when it comes to snuggling up with my girls. I have a hard time turning them away when they crawl into bed with my husband and me during the night, even it it means I get no more than one or two hours of sleep before being sucker punched in the gut or having the covers kicked off. I'll even endure the "bitch hold" from Maggie--where she slides her arm under my neck and falls asleep choking me with her embrace.

Last night we had the entire family in our queen-sized bed: one cover-kicker, one thumb sucker and two parents with limbs hanging over the edge. We've tried carrying and/or walking the kids back to their rooms, just never sticks.

I'm exhausted.

It helps to remember that my kids won't be doing this forever. That some time in the not-so-distant future, I'll wish for a midnight snuggler. Bitch hold and all.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Let's Get Physical

Still have the patches! Think the middle one (still in the sealed package) is worth big bucks?

Pulled a flier out of my daughter’s backpack last night for the President’s Challenge. Looks like times have changed a bit. What was once an anxiety-provoking program for school-aged kids has been softened a bit (err, melted?) to coax our couch potato kids to put down the Nintendo DS and get moving.  

The main event is now the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (the kids call it PALA), and it has become, like a good PAL, much more approachable. The flier says it is “really quite simple, yet can lead to the improved health of most children and youth.” In order to receive the award, kids must participate in activities that get their bodies moving with an increased heart rate, 5 days a week, 60 minutes per day for 6 weeks. To the fit set (myself included) it probably seems like another program where everybody wins. Sort of is, I guess. Meet the requirements and the kids earn a patch, certificate and an “I’m a Champion” wristband. 

Yes. Times have changed.

Back in my day the “Presidential” was a grueling test of athletic ability that set the pecking order of athleticism for the year. I remember holding on to the flexed arm hang until it felt like I might pee my pants. Somehow, it seemed that important. 

I still have my Personal Fitness Record log from the 7th grade. Evidently it was pretty significant cause it ended up in my middle school scrapbook along with those patches (up top) and a few other ribbons I earned at various field days from grade school. I’m guessing most kids today won’t save their medals and ribbons into adulthood. And if they do, they'll have a large collection of “Participant” souvenirs with no memories of where they came from or that they risked wetting themselves to earn them.

I know I'm being a little snarky. I actually love the idea of promoting a healthy way of life that isn't about comparisons, success vs. failure, or besting your classmates. I love that kids who aren't exposed to fitness  are learning that it should be a part of everyday life, not just a few days of standardized tests. And I love that my daughter, who participates in sports all year round, gets to see that she doesn't have to be a competitive athlete to be fit and healthy.

That said, schools can still participate in the Physical Fitness Test. And it’s not far removed from the test I remember, except now they’ve replaced the 50-yard dash with the V-sit reach—a measure of flexibility (a school record my little Miss Competitive is out to break this year!).

Do I have you feeling nostalgic for the good old days? Are you still bitter about not getting that fancy blue patch? It's not too late. Register online at (No, I'm not kidding!) Evidently it’s not just for school kids anymore. Adults can register for the PALA program or the Presidential Champion challenge (which is a grown-up version of the physical fitness test for kids where you can enter your data and receive an evaluation online). The adult version includes aerobics, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and body composition components.  

You can even buy yourself a patch.  Go get 'em!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mind Games

I'm not averse to the cold temps or even the piles of snow we've had in Minnesota since early December, but lately I'm running low on the mental juice required to get suited up and out the door for my daily run. And other than draining my body of essential vitamin D, I've found hitting the treadmill an attractive alternative. It's not the warmth of an indoor run that keeps me going, though, it's the mind games I play while cruising along on Old Reliable.

I do it outdoors, too, it's just not as precise. Doesn't keep me quite as accountable. Since we can all use a little help at some point, I thought I'd share some of the mental tricks I use to keep me going when workouts are more difficult mentally than they are physically.

Increase the speed and/or incline every half mile until I hit the mid-point of my run. Then I go through the same profile on the way back down. Yesterday's run went something like this:
  • One mile warm up at 9 min pace, 0% incline
  • .5 mile at 8.5 min pace, 0% incline
  • .5 mile at 8.5 min pace, .5% incline
  • .5 mile at 8 min pace, .5% incline
  • 1 mile at 8 min pace 1% incline
  • .5 mile at 8 min pace, .5% incline
  • .5 mile at 8.5 min pace, .5% incline
  • .5 mile at 8.5 min pace, 0% incline
  • One mile cool down at 9 min pace, 0% incline 

Thought Chunking
This one works well in the pool where I dedicate each lap or length to a year of school, a year of my life, a year of my children's lives, a year of marriage, etc. Sometimes I'll thought chunk a run and give myself 10 or 15 minutes to think about the different projects or problems I'm working on. Makes good use of the countdown timer on my sports watch.

Musical Movement
Listening to music doesn't just motivate me to work harder, it's also a good way to break up my workouts into bearable increments when my head is less than clear. A well planned playlist helps me look forward to "what's next" and keeps me moving so I can hear my all time favs positioned strategically at the end of my workout.

If you have any good strategies that keep you moving, post them here. I think we can all use a few more ideas in our fitness arsenal!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mommy Meltdown

Had me a good old fashioned meltdown last night. Felt pretty good. There something about a good cry that exhausts me almost like a workout; leaves me ready to exhale and start over again. Almost creates some sort of newness for me. Truth be told, however, I prefer achieving that state of wonder through sweaty means instead of tearful ones, but sometimes you take what you can get.
When you can't work in a workout, is there anything else that gives you a hint of that sweaty exhaustion? Anything that helps you start over and begin again?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lessons Learned in 2010

The year is fresh and hopeful. I'm still busy drafting my official resolutions, but first things first... here's my list of lessons learned in 2010, in no particular order...

1. I've learned from experience that you don't have to travel to the other side of the world to find yourself. If you can't find you at home, you're likely chasing an impostor.

2. Taking a sabbatical from your life as a mom isn't selfish, and it certainly isn't easy. Making the effort for an hour, week, or (gasp!) month away will teach your children the importance of self-care and help them deepen relationships with other caregivers.

3.  Never assume to know what anyone else is thinking. If you're not sure, ask. Then repeat what they said back to make sure you got it right.

4.  Enjoy the present moment. Don't spend too much time mulling over the past or fretting the future. When you need to feel connected or centered, just stop and listen to your breath.

5.  Personal trainers aren't just for the rich and unmotivated. Hearing an encouraging voice directed solely at you, pushing you on, is akin to good psychotherapy.

6.  Change isn't so bad...  but regret is. You can spend years contemplating change and learn nothing. Give it a try and you'll either recommit to what you had or enjoy the fruits of change.

7.  People can and will say and do things that surprise you for the better. Take time to listen to what other people have to say--especially those the closest to you. Sometimes we don't listen to the voices we hear most often.

8.  People can and will say and do things that surprise you for the worse. Listen to what others have to say, but be careful not to turn your disappointment in others back on yourself.

9.  Usually when people surprise you it's about them, not you. Everyone has baggage that they have no choice but to carry. When someone does or says something that seems out of left field or offensive, remember you can never know exactly what it's like to be them.

10.  When pursuing a dream, never give up. Period.