Inspiration, Encouragement and Therapy – Social Media’s Positive Side

“Strong people don’t put others down, they lift them up.”

Think about how different our lives would be without social media. It’s a game changer. We can find out what friends are doing at all hours of the day, catch up on news, post pictures and memories, and share our opinions on everything happening in someone else’s world. No doubt this open, say-and-do-anything virtual world offers a lot of advantages – but has an ugly side too.

Social media has gotten a bad rap when it comes to bullying. In fact, “cyber-bullying” is now a legit term for bully behavior that goes on within the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram world. Just as anyone with a keyboard and internet connection can utilize social media with good intentions, the bullies can post hateful comments, unflattering pictures of others, even exclude people from virtual groups or events. Sadly, it’s now easier than ever to cut others down and be mean just for the sake of being mean.

There's lots of positivity to be had on social media

There’s lots of positivity to be had on social media

But on the flip side, social media is also a wonderful avenue for spreading positivity and lifting up others. For me, personally, social media has been a source of therapy. Allow me to explain.

I haven’t always had a healthy relationship with health and fitness. In fact, for most of my 20s (and I admit, still a little bit here and there today), I struggled with anxiety over gym life and real life. Like many, I put on a few extra pounds in college and was a far cry from being a good example of healthy. Right before graduation, I decided it was time to clean up my act, drop a few pounds and feel better about myself. Once I started getting into the habit of working out, eating better and not drinking so much, all that happened. I looked better and felt better. In fact, I started getting a lot of comments on my new fitter, trimmer appearance. People seemed so much nicer and friendlier than when I wasn’t as fit.

Then it struck me – was I not as well-liked or accepted by others when I heavier? Would people’s attitude towards me change if I didn’t keep losing weight, or worse, if I gained some back? I quickly became addicted to exercise. I had a massive fear of gaining back all the weight I lost if I took off even one day from cardio. I prioritized the gym over everything – and everyone – else. But it didn’t end with the constant need to break a sweat. I started skipping out on fun events with friends because I was convinced I wasn’t thin enough to be out in public and, worse, those extra calories from a night of drinking would instantly make me fat. I was so self-conscious and anxious all the time about how I looked and how people would judge me based on that, not my personality. I felt like I wasn’t good enough for the man I had in my life. I damaged some relationships. I was even advised by someone very close to me to seek therapy.

Fast forward to now and I’m starting to get to a balanced place in my life. I’ve been working hard on this the past few years and it’s a daily process. But I’ve learned that it’s okay to take a day off from cardio (rest days really are necessary!) and I know I’m not going to gain weight because of it. I no longer blow off Sunday brunches or decline weekend getaways with girlfriends because Saturday is long run day and Sunday is heavy lift day. I accept that I’m not skinny and, shy of completely changing my workouts and eating perfect all the time, I’m never going to be.

While I didn’t seek out professional therapy, I’ve found social media to provide it in a strange way. I’ve managed to surround myself with a circle of really good people. They’re people I don’t know and will never meet but I see them as “friends”. We share like-minded goals and interests, and encourage each other – often in 140 characters or less. I follow fitness journeys, and see others facing my same struggles. I see people with different fitness abilities and levels, yet everyone’s always doing the best they can. These are the people who aren’t striving to compete with or be better than anyone else, just trying to be a little better than they were yesterday, and be happy. I see a lot of positivity exchanged. I see quotes and memes that reinforce the idea that nobody’s perfect nor should they strive to be.

Yes, there’s a lot of fake and negative stuff that happens on social media but there are also a ton of real people, good people and positivity. Just as you would surround yourself with good people in real life, find these people in your social media life too.
They’re free therapists and cheerleaders!

Can you relate to any this? Share your story in the comments or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.

Posted in Life Outside of Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fall Running At Its Finest

“Run for fun.”

This morning, I did something I haven’t done in a really long time. I ran a race purely for the enjoyment of it – and not for a time.

The Fargo Mini Marathon is an annual half marathon, 10k and 5k event put on by the good folks of Go Far Events (the company behind the Fargo Marathon and several other great races throughout the year in Fargo). Back in the day, the race used to be held downtown, with the course following the Red River and all the beautiful trails that are my favorite running trails. Plus, because it’s always an October race, the leaves are changing color and crunchy underfoot. The past couple years, however, the event moved to a newer part of town. No trees. No scenery. The race was still enjoyable and Go Far Events always puts on well-organized events but the course went from awesome to not great. Imagine my excitement when I discovered the event was headed back downtown this year! I knew I had to take advantage of running this beautiful course on a fall day (my favorite time to run) so I wanted to do the half – I just didn’t realize how quickly I’d have to get in shape to do so.

Sportin the all-important finisher shirt after I ran the half marathon

Sportin my finisher shirt after I ran the half marathon

Almost three weeks ago, the longest run I had done since my full marathon in May was about 6.5 miles. Fall is usually my racing season, where distance is not a concern, speed and shorter runs is my focus. That didn’t deter me from taking a leap and signing up for the half anyway. Less than three weeks til race day meant I had only two long runs to prepare (an 8-miler and an 11-miler) so I knew I wouldn’t be in my best shape to run the race of my life. So I decided to go out and just run for fun. Forget about my watch and enjoy the race for what it was – a beautiful day and a great course.

Now that being said, the overly competitive runner side of me came out a few times and I did push it a little bit! Despite some stomach troubles early on and a little pain in my hip around mile 10, I finished in 1:47:35, a time far from a PR but still pretty good! I loved the course, loved the spectators and volunteers, loved the fact I was given my finisher’s shirt after I actually finished the race and really loved the cookie dough handed out at the finish line hospitality table. Major win for Go Far Events and the Fargo Mini Marathon.

Do you usually run races with a specific time goal in mind or are you more of a “run just for fun” runner? Comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.

Posted in All About Running | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Letter Of Inspiration

“Nothing worthwhile is fast, easy or comes without work”

I have a friend who has done something incredible. It’s not something she did in a day, a few weeks or even several months. It’s something she has been doing more than a year and is continuing to do every day.

This woman, who I’ll call, MV, has lost more than 100 pounds. More impressive than that, she has done it the right way. No pills, starvation diets or unhealthy amounts of exercise, instead by making lifestyle changes and working hard to continue to make good choices every day.

Her remarkable journey is especially meaningful to me because I preach all the time about lifestyle and sustainability. Making changes like starting a fitness routine or eating better are great but, too often, people take too drastic an approach and can’t stick with it in the long run. Healthy changes have to be sustainable and fit into a lifestyle. Shows like The Biggest Loser feed into people’s misconceptions that they can and should be able to drop a ton of weight and get fit really fast. But what this show also proves is that sort of method isn’t sustainable, it’s not a lasting solution, as a majority of the contestants gain back some, even all their weight.

I want to recognize what she has done so I did in the best way I know how: I wrote her a letter. I’m sharing it here because I believe her story will inspire others and prove that, yes, it can be done.

Dear, MV:

You’re amazing. I had to say that first. You’ve done something great. Something admirable. Something most wouldn’t have the patience and dedication to do. You’ve made the decision to live a healthy lifestyle. Along the way, you’ve lost weight, gotten stronger and gained crazy amounts of energy and positivity. Best of all, you’ve done it the right way.

You’re a mother and a wife, you have a full time job, numerous social commitments and a family that lives 3 hours away. Yet, you never complain that you’re too busy to plan healthy meals. That you’re too tired to work out. That work sucked, you feel sluggish, you’re having a bad hair day, KJ kept you up late or any of about a million reasons you could use to excuse unhealthy choices. Sure, you may say all those things to yourself from time to time (let’s be honest, we all do) but you never say them aloud. Because once they’re said out loud, they’re out there and available for you to use as an excuse. Rather, I’ve only heard you preach positivity.

Then there’s the sheer weight loss and level of fitness you’ve achieved. Everyone wants to lose weight and be fit. They want a magic pill, a “super food”, a machine that just take 7 minutes a day, anything that equals fast. Achieving “health and fitness” is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes time. It’s a long-term lifestyle, not a New Year’s Resolution. I admire so much how you’ve embraced this long-term, healthy approach. How you’ve stayed positive over the months and stayed motivated. Many would have thrown in the towel, given up and reverted back to the easy way. You didn’t.

Speaking of the “easy way”, just like most people want a fast solution to weight loss and fitness, most also want it to be easy. They don’t want to work for it. To earn it with sweat, time and dedication. Those who live a healthy lifestyle don’t bust their ass in the gym or “diet” for two weeks, then just expect it to be smooth sailing after that. They put in work and effort every day. Is it easier to watch TV after work vs. go to the gym? Of course. Is it easier to go to the drive thru vs. plan and prepare a healthy meal? Definitely. But you choose what’s right, not what’s easy.

I’ve used the words “choice” and “choices” a lot in this letter. That’s because being healthy is a choice. Being healthy isn’t a gift or a right. It’s not something we’re entitled to or deserve. It’s a choice. It’s a commitment and it’s work. Some days, the work is easy but most days, it’s hard. A year ago, you made the choice to be healthy, and every day since then, you’ve made about a million other choices to support that commitment to your health. As I’ve already said, a lot of those choices weren’t the easy ones or what you may have felt like doing. But you understand the small choices are really what matters in the big picture.

What you’ve done has no doubt inspired others and will continue to every day. Someone out there who has a long journey ahead and feels hopeless can see what you’ve accomplished and realize, yes, it can be done. I know, in your heart, you know you’re awesome and you’ve done something remarkable. I know ’re proud of yourself. And you should be. I want you to know that others are too. You deserve to hear it. You’ve earned it. Now keep kicking ass!

LB xoxo

Does this story inspire you? What would you say to MV? Comment below, tweet her @kjsfitmomma or follow her on Instagram for daily inspiration.

Posted in Life Outside of Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Recipe For Pumpkin Spice Protein Pancakes – Hell Yeah

It’s the first day of fall! I love this season for so many reasons, one of the obvious ones: PUMPKIN. Pumpkin Spice Coffeemate (sugar-free of course), pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin ravioli – there’s so much delish pumpkin, I have to make a conscious effort to consume it in an appropriate amount.

My tasty Pumpkin Spice Protein Pancakes

My tasty Pumpkin Spice Protein Pancakes

In honor of this glorious time of year, I’m excited to share a great pumpkin recipe of my own. Because breakfast foods are my absolute favorite, I give you Pumpkin Spice Protein Pancakes. I’ll add this to my Yum, Food page of recipes but, for now, here it is. Make up a batch and let me know what you think!

What You Need:
(Makes approx. 6-8 pancakes)
Vanilla Protein Powder – 1 scoop (I like V-Core)
Egg Whites – 2 (you can substitute one egg)
Canned Pumpkin – 1/4 cup
Unsweetened Applesauce – 1/4 cup
Skim Milk – 1 tbsp
Baking Powder – 1 tsp
Cinnamon – 1 tsp
Nutmeg – 1 tsp
Mini Chocolate Chips – 1-2 tbsp (optional – but mandatory for me)

Add your favorite toppings to make these even better

Add your favorite toppings to make these even better

Prep egg whites in a separate bowl, set aside
In large mixing bowl, combine protein powder, canned pumpkin and applesauce
Gently fold in egg whites
Add cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder, mix until well-blended
Mix in skim milk
Add chocolate chips, mix until all thoroughly combined

Cook over low-medium heat as you would normal pancakes then add your favorite toppings to finish em off! I’ve topped with applesauce, blueberries or, the classic, a little butter and sugar-free maple syrup. Did I mention YUM?

What’s your favorite fall recipe? Pumpkin or not, share with me! Comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.

Posted in Life Outside of Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Product Review – Energy Bits

“Powered by bits”

Today, I broke the cardinal rule of racing, something I frequently advise people against: I tried something new the morning of a race.

Love trying out free samples!

Love trying out free samples!

Gasp! Yes, it’s true. I made one change to my morning race-day ritual – Energy Bits. I’ve been curious about Energy Bits for awhile now, seeing many runners post their success stores on Twitter with the #PoweredByBits hashtag. I was fortunate to receive a sample and have been excited to try them out. But, as I mentioned in my last race-related entry, I haven’t been training like I usually do. New job, weekend trips, College Game Day being in Fargo again…Yes, yes and yes, but not trying to make excuses. Simply put, I have been slacking on my speed training so hadn’t given myself much opportunity to try them. I decided to take a leap and try them out on a race day. Results? I came in second overall for women and put up a time of 45:04 (not my best performance but not bad, considering).

Now let’s backtrack a bit. When I first heard about Energy Bits, they sounded great. Just pop a couple vs. downing a full energy gel or bar and be good to go. When they arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by how tiny they were. Bits? Indeed! But reading the label, I noticed approximately 30 bits was listed as the standard serving. 30? Holy sh*t. Especially for someone who has never been a good pill-taker, that’s a lot to swallow – literally. Still, I wanted to give them a shot, so popped I did.

As I made my way to the start line, I was feeling really good – energized and ready to run. I didn’t feel any strange effects from the bits so that was a good sign. The first two miles were tough – not on my stomach, my legs felt tight and heavy. I know this was due to my lack of training yet somehow I maintained a 7:05 pace. My legs started to feel better going into mile 3 but then a sideache hit. I’ve been running long enough to know that this could be attributed to a dozen different factors and likely had nothing to do with the bits so I just tried to keep even breathing and forge ahead. My pace dropped slightly the next three miles, as low as 7:28 on mile 5. But I was pleasantly surprised by how good and energized I still felt. Sideache gone, I managed to push my last mile a bit, crossing in 45:04. All in all, I feel this was a great race for me – not my best, but still a good one.

Another solid 10k race in the books

Another solid 10k race in the books

Do I think the Energy Bits had a positive effect on my run? Absolutely. Truthfully, I had no business running as fast as I did. At the pace I was going, I should have been gassed halfway through, and especially the last mile. But I wasn’t. Granted, I wasn’t in the best racing shape to push my pace to the max of my capabilities. But still, something kept me churning and I know, today, I’m officially one who can say I was #PoweredByBits!

Side note, I believe in flukes and “good days” so I’ll need to run with bits a couple more times to draw a full conclusion. I still have a couple servings left of my Energy Bits sample, and I’m planning to run another race in mid-October – so watch for a follow up to this blog on my next experience with Energy Bits.

Have you ever tried something new on race day? How did it work out for you? Comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.

Posted in All About Running | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Unexpected Finish at the Dick Beardsley Half Marathon Relay

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”

I haven’t blogged for more than a week – that’s my longest streak in awhile. As of yesterday, I also hadn’t run for four days. Four.Whole.Days. Too long for both! It feels great to be back.

Always a sucker for the swag

Always a sucker for the swag

Yesterday, I raced a half marathon relay in Detroit Lakes, MN. The 19th Annual Dick Beardsley Fall Classic is one of the bigger half marathons in the area and has quickly become one of my favorite races – mostly because of the swag but the course is great too. Last year, a former colleague and I placed third in the co-ed relay so we thought, why not go for it again? Maybe we’d get a better time or even place higher. But there was one big difference from last year to this…neither of us had trained much.

I only had a few speed work runs under my belt, with most of my summer focused on an Olympic Triathlon (coincidentally, also in Detroit Lakes) and not many runs period with Labor Day weekend and stating a new job. Luckily, Cameron assured me he had only run a few times all summer so no pressure to run fast. Well, we managed to crush our time from the previous year and place again. How? A few factors came into play.

How The Race Went Down

The weather was perfect. Cool, not humid and very little wind. I took the first 6.6-mile-leg, hoping to maintain an 8-min/mile pace most of the way. I mean, I hadn’t been training so why would I expect to be fast? After a sub-7:30 mile 1, I thought, hey, this feels pretty good. As I passed miles 2, 3 and 4, my pace stayed under the 7:30 mark. I felt great. Mile 5 only dropped to 7:31 and mile 6 – which was the hilliest of all, most of the last half mile a steady incline – only dropped to 7:41. For the last .6 miles, I pushed as hard as I could. I was feeling great and ready to hand off the baton (so to speak) to my teammate. I crossed the mat and fist-bumped Cam in a time of 49:29 (according to my Garmin) and off he went. I ran my leg nearly a minute faster than last year (50:19) so I was on cloud nine.

I relaxed, stretched and chatted with several friends who were waiting for their partners to make it to the exchange, then we hopped a shuttle bus back to the finish line to wait for our teammates. Last year, our time was 1:38:50 so I was expecting Cam to cross around that mark. He must of had a great day too because he completely surprised me and came flying down the finisher’s chute in 1:35 and change – meaning we shaved more than three minutes off our time from last year!

After comparing notes of who Cam saw finish ahead of me, who he passed and who I saw finish ahead of him, we determined we placed second. The team we thought won it was the second-place team from last year; both very strong runners, fast and competitive. As time passed, the 5k and half marathon results were posted, yet no results were posted for the relay. Nothing online either. We waited around until the awards ceremony, hoping to find out our time by then, even if we didn’t place. We were announced as third place (sweet!), and the team we thought won was announced as second. Apparently they thought they won too and were furious, demanding to see results, repeating over and over to the race director that they won, no one finished ahead of either of them. Yikes!

Best teammate ever - we had a great race.

Best teammate ever – we had a great race.

No times were announced and none posted after the awards either. As of this morning, the results were posted and our hunch was confirmed – we actually took second! Our time of 1:35:15 was good enough for our team PR, second in the co-ed division and second in the entire relay team race. And for me, personally, I’m so happy to have finished my leg faster than last year and that I didn’t let down my teammate. PR, awards or not, this race reminded me why I run and why I love running. Not only is it good for my body and weight management, it just feels good. In the end, that’s all that matters.


I’m not sure how I did better than last year, I certainly didn’t do the same speed and conditioning work. But I guess, sometimes a positive attitude and simple experience trumps training. I know my body and how it can perform over 6 miles. I know when I can push myself and when I need to scale it back. And, for me, good weather can make all the difference!

Have you ever performed crazy-good when you weren’t expecting to? Comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.

Posted in All About Running | Tagged | 2 Comments

How To Get Started Running, Improve Speed or Run A New Personal Best

“While every goal may be unique, each has one thing in common – there’s a way to achieve it”

I’ve blogged about running plenty of times. The basics of running, motivational tips, how to prevent chafing, good stuff like that. But I think it’s time for some real advice you can take to the gym or the pavement!

Whether you’re looking to go for your first run, get faster or set a new PR in your next race, there’s a strategy that will work best for each. In my experience, the following are some great workouts you can try that will help you achieve your running goal.

My first big race - Fargo Marathon 2009

My first big race – Fargo Marathon 2009

Goal: Get Started Running
Workout: Lower Leg and Jogging Circuit

Not only is it important to get comfortable with running itself and build endurance, it’s crucial to get used to being on your legs an extended amount of time. Lower body and core strength provide the final ingredient to building a solid starting base.

Walk 4 minutes, jog 1

Single Lunges (5 on each side)
15 Standard Crunches
Single Lunges (5 on each side)
15 Standard Crunches

Walk 4 minutes, jog 1

Standard Squats (5)
Medicine Ball Twist (10)
*With a partner, stand back-to-back and pass the medicine ball to each other
*Without a partner, sit on a mat, lean back and plant feet with knees bent. Hold a medicine ball at your waist, then twist side to side
Standard Squats (5)
Medicine Ball Twist (10)

Walk 4 minutes, jog 1

Standard Deadlifts (5)
Punch Sit-Ups (10)
*With a partner, face each other. Toss a medicine ball back and forth; when the ball is caught, lay back into a crunch, then sit up and toss it back.
*Without a partner, lie down in crunch position, legs slightly apart. When you come up to do a sit-up, do a 1-2 punch with both arms, between knees.
Standard Deadlifts (5)
Punch Sit-Ups (10)

Walk 4 minutes, jog 1

When I started working on speed, I won my first award

When I started working on speed, I won my first award

Goal: Improve Running Speed
Workout: Interval Run

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – intervals are the absolute best way to start getting faster. Begin with basic intervals, gradually increasing both your comfort speed, as well as interval speed and length. You can also try what I call “stair interval” runs (let me know if you’d like to learn more about those, or I’ll write an upcoming blog that includes an explanation and sample workout).

Warm Up
1 mile at comfort pace

1 minute at speed .5 MPH faster
2 minutes back to comfort pace
Repeat for at least 1 mile

Wind Down
2 minutes – 1 mile at comfort pace

Cool Down
3-5 minutes of walking

I worked hard to run my first sub 4-hour marathon 3 years ago

I worked hard to run my first sub 4-hour marathon 2 years ago – and I’m clearly happy about it

Goal: PR In Your Next Race
Workout: Tempo Run

Practice, practice, practice. If you want to run a sub-45 minute 10k, you’ve gotta practice doing it. The best way to get the feel for maintaining a faster pace over the long haul is to practice with tempo runs.

A tempo run is aiming for one that’s done at a pace slightly above your “comfort” pace, yet not too hard. Depending on your goal time, your tempo run should put you in the ballpark of the pace you’d need to achieve that goal. On race day, that hard training combined with adrenaline will get you to the goal. To get started, try a tempo run that’s about half the mileage of your race. Gradually increase your mileage until you’re right at or close to your race mileage.
If one of these goals is applicable to you, give the workout a try for a couple weeks. Let me know how it goes! Keep in mind, these workouts are the basic starting point and you’ll need to push and progress based on your abilities and fitness level. For example:

First timers: Add weights to your lunges, squats and deadlifts, and add minutes to your jogs until you work up to a mile and beyond.
Speed demons: As your intervals get faster and longer, be sure your “comfort” pace gets slightly faster too. You can also try adding a tempo run each week.
Racers: Keep extending the length of your tempo runs, then push your pace. Also, work in some interval runs to really amp up things.

If you have other suggestions or tips for achieving running goals, please comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.

Posted in All About Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments