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.

Time
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.

Patience
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.

Effort
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.

Choices
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!

Sincerely,
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Conclusions

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.

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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.

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The Four Seasons…Of Running, Training & Workouts

“With each new season is the perfect opportunity to do something new, something bold, something beautiful”

After this weekend, August will be gone – which means a new month and a new season! I love fall. From the cooler temps to football to pumpkin everything, it’s a great time of year. In the running world, September also means races nearly every weekend.

This made me think how my training life is similar to the changing of seasons. Up until this week, most of my summer has been focused on triathlon training. Now, it’s back to speed work for racing season. Similar to summer, fall, winter and spring, I’ve identified my own four seasons: marathon, triathlon, racing and off.

An entire season of training for one race

An entire season of training for one race

Marathon Season
Mid-Winter to Late Spring – The longest of all the training seasons, marathon season tends to be the most intense. For the past six years, I’ve run one full marathon every year; the Fargo Marathon in May. This gives me early January and on to devote to marathon training – and devote do I! Running becomes the center of my world. The weekdays are all about mileage totals, speed work goals, trying to fit in strength training and reigning in a wicked appetite. Friday nights become full-on relaxation time, all in preparation for early Saturday morning long runs. Oddly, I take major comfort in all that structure, discipline and routine. Marathon Season is great!

Triathlon Season
Most of Summer – With my decision to venture into the Olympic-distance realm this year, triathlon season was extended a bit longer than previous years. In North Dakota, we only have about three months of summer, making it absolutely imperative to take advantage and do at least one outdoor triathlon. I’ve come to enjoy tris so much, I’m debating the idea of starting Triathlon Season even earlier to accommodate at least one more event next summer.

Race Season is time to rack up events - and maybe some awards!

Race Season is time to rack up events – & maybe awards!

Racing Season
Early Fall – I love the cooler temperatures that come in September and October, and I run my fastest in this type of weather. This, along with the abundance of shorter races in Fargo, makes early fall ideal for my focus on speed, and running races, not just for fun, but to place. I get ultra-competitive and – sometimes – can be too hard on myself if I don’t win or perform as well as I feel I should. Good thing Racing Season tends to be the shortest one of all!

Off Season
Late Fall to Early Winter – When I say Off Season I don’t mean I sit around and hibernate all winter. In the world of training, this is typically the time I don’t have something specific I’m working towards, other than health, maintenance, mood, and just life and being awesome in general. I tend to focus the Off Season on heavy lifting, as I know that’s the area that typically goes by the wayside when Marathon Season kicks into high gear – holy crap, it’s already almost Marathon Season again!

Does your workout regime follow a pattern like mine? Do you have different “seasons” to your training? Tell me about them; post a comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.

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My Spin On The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

“What you do makes a difference. You get to decide what difference you want to make.”

If you haven’t heard about the ALS #IceBucketChallenge – well, there’s no way you haven’t. You’re alive and reading this blog (so you have internet access), therefore, you’ve heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. With the way this has caught on, I knew it would only be a matter of time before it got around to me.

I’m going against the grain here and opting not to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. If they weren’t aware before, I’m certain everyone with a TV or computer is aware of ALS now that this challenge has gone viral, so at this point, me dumping a bucket of water over my head is going to have zero impact on the cause. That and no one wants to see me dumping a bucket of water over my head – I know I wouldn’t. And I can’t be the only one who’s getting sick of seeing these videos everywhere (unless it’s Dave Grohl or someone equally as entertaining).

My version of the Ice Bucket Challenge

My version of the Ice Bucket Challenge

I am, however, a big fan of donating to charities that mean something to me. I try to give on a regular basis, both big and small amounts – anywhere from the $250 I gave a few month’s ago to a friend’s cancer fight fund to the $2 I donated yesterday to Petco to help homeless pets. So I’m definitely taking this “challenge” as a great reason to donate to a charity – but I’m not donating to ALS.

Before everyone freaks out and the hate comments start pouring in, let me explain. ALS research is an incredibly worthy charity, worthy of my money and worthy of the $15.6 million and counting this social media phenomenon has raised. But there are hundreds of other equally worthy charities out there that could use our financial help – from big national ones like St. Jude’s, Wounded Warrior Project and any type of cancer research to local guys like United Way of Cass Clay and For Luv of Dog Rescue. Rather than donate $100 to ALS, simply because I feel I have to after being called out in this challenge, I’m donating $100 to a charity that’s very near and dear to me.

My donation to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals

My donation to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals

I’m personalizing the Ice Bucket Challenge and have donated $100 to my local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, Sanford Children’s Hospital. Why this charity? I’ve seen firsthand where the dollars go. I’ve toured local hospitals, gotten a glimpse of the state-of-the-art equipment they have and met some of the children CMN Hospitals has impacted. I’ve also been fortunate enough to meet several local directors across the country and hear them passionately speak about the CMN Hospitals mission. Plus, I have a major soft spot for kids.

In addition to personalizing the donation portion of this challenge, I’m doing something different for the nomination part. Rather than call out people to simply dump a bucket of water over their heads or feel socially pressured into donating money to a charity they may not feel strongly about (or even if they’d really like to contribute, maybe they just can’t afford to right now), I’m instead going to challenge everyone reading this to do something that will make a difference. Bring coffee for your co-worker who has a new baby. Pay a sincere compliment to a friend. Mow your elderly neighbor’s lawn. Treat your niece or nephew to an ice cream date (and mom and dad to a much-needed break!). Or, donate to a charity that you personally believe in. Big or small, do something that will make a difference.

That’s really what this Ice Bucket Challenge started as, right? A way to make a difference for the future of ALS research. And it definitely has; my decision to do what I’m doing isn’t meant to take anything away from the people who have dumped icy water over their heads in the name of raising awareness. Clearly, those acts have made a massive impact, and helped raise more than $15 million dollars for the charity. But I feel it has gotten to the point where the initial goal of raising awareness is fading and it’s time for something new. Consider this my kickstart to raising awareness for making a difference in any way you can – no matter how small it may seem!

Okay, I’ve said how I feel. Now it’s your turn. Post your comments or tweet me @runlikeagirl311. Or, better yet, tell me what you’re going to do to make a difference that means something to you!

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