Everyday Athletes, Olympics & the Power of a Bib

“Nothing is impossible. The word itself say’s ‘I’m Possible.’”

I’m sitting here on a Sunday morning, computer on my lap, coffee in hand, watching the men’s marathon. Pretty much a perfect morning with just one dark spot – it’s one of the final events in the Rio Olympics. Oh, how I love the Olympics! I’m sad to see it be over.

As I’ve been watching the Olympics and the most elite athletes in the world, I’ve been thinking about everything they do leading up to one competition. The hard work they put in, the sacrifices they make, the years they devote to be able to compete on this level. For the ones who compete in multiple events, the added mental work they must do to be able to prepare for each event; forgetting the success or failure of the event before, looking to the one ahead. For the ones who compete in one event, the overwhelming stress of putting it all on the table; all that work, for one moment.

Kind of gives me chills! Going after the biggest, most ultimate goal for most athletes. And I have to believe they’d all say it’s totally worth it.

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The powerful race bib

While I watched today’s marathon, I started thinking about everyday races. Not just a marathon, but a half marathon, a triathlon or 5k. The local events hundreds of average people take part in each week. Why do we do it?

There’s no gold medal up for grabs, no endorsement deals at stake and no visions of standing atop the podium, hearing your country’s national anthem playing. So why do we, average athletes, race? Why is it we train for weeks or months, get up early on the weekends for long runs, then pay money just to participate in races? What’s the power of that race bib?

On Saturday, I paced the 2:10 finish time in Fargo’s GoFar Woman half marathon. As I went through the miles and met several different women along the way, I had a thought. Maybe we race to capture the Olympic feeling for ourselves. Whether running for a top finisher’s spot or to show ourselves it’s possible – it’s that feeling of competition and achievement, knowing we put in the time and work to put it all out there on the course.

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Pacing. My new obsession.

I saw the determination of the women who passed my group, the gut-it-out looks of the ones who were digging deep to push through the last miles and the joy on their faces when they came across the finish line. We may not be Olympic athletes but there’s glory out there, all our own, that we have the ability to capture. I think that’s the power the bib holds.

Next weekend, I get to do it again as a pacer for the Women Rock half marathon in St. Paul. Even though the games will be nearly a week over by then, I’ll still have that Olympic spirit! And of course my longtime love of running and newfound love for pacing.

Why do you race? Do you love the feeling of competition? Is it more about having a goal to keep you motivated through workouts? Comment or tweet me @runlikegirl311 on Twitter.

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R&R – The Importance of Rest Day and Relaxation

“The only bad workout is the one that didn’t happen”

That quote above – you’ve heard it, right? One of those uplifting, motivational quotes that gets passed around Facebook or you workout-enthusiast friend shares a few times a year on Instagram.

There’s a similar quote in the running world that goes, “I really regret that run…said no one ever.”

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Not every run ends with a smile on my face…Burton’s pretty much always this happy tho.

If either of those quotes ring true to you, you’re either a liar or a freak of nature. Sometimes workouts suck. Whether my legs are heavy, my body feels fatigued or I feel weak in general, I’ve had plenty of runs, lifts and other workouts that are terrible. And let’s not forget my at least once-annual long run that’s so awful it makes me cry.

Rather than brush it off and tell myself it’s okay because at least I did something, I’ve used it as opportunities to reflect on why. And what I’ve come to realize is these are all typically results of overtraining and my body telling me a rest day is badly needed.

Like many workout enthusiasts, I often push myself too hard. I’m my own personal drill sergeant with speed intervals. I frequently tell myself, “one more rep,” when squatting. I’m incredibly strict with weekly mileage goals. And not much gets me more excited than reaching for dumbbells five pounds heavier than I’ve repped before.

If I could bottle and sell my motivation and drive, I’d be a millionaire by the end of next week. I love my discipline and the tenacity I have to achieve. But, and I know this sounds strange, it can have a downside. Lack of rest inevitably leads to injury, plateaus, burnout feelings and overall fatigue.

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Summer rest days are a little easier.

Especially in recent years, I’ve had to proactively start scheduling rest days into my week. This has a dual benefit. First, my body gets the day off it needs. Second, if I have a day that I feel like slacking, it’s a good reminder that I need to put in the work now and I’ll get rewarded with a day off soon.

As much as we all want to make time for workouts and push ourselves, the value of a rest day can’t be overstated. Monday, August 15 is National Relaxation Day. I can’t think of a better time to remind myself – and all you, my fellow fitness freaks – about the importance of rest.

Do you notice when your body is screaming for a rest day? Do you schedule a weekly rest day, or how do you stay in tune with your body and balance hard workouts with rest? Comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

As always, if you like this post, please share it on Facebook or Twitter.

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Achieving Goals – Not A Solo Sport

“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals”

Last month I shared an interview with a guy named Jake. A guy with a wife, two little boys, a job, friends, hobbies and a gym habit. A seemingly ordinary guy but one doing something extraordinary.

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Months of training, a moment of glory – and so much more

This evening, after just under 12 hours of swimming, biking and running – not to mention countless hours of training – Jake became an Ironman. Congratulations, Jake! For those of you who missed his interview, here it is.

Not only did I find Jake’s achievement to be a great example of setting goals and setting them high, I thought it was a perfect time to remind that sometimes, it’s not only the athlete who achieves his or her goal. Whether a goal to make it to the gym three times a week, commit to CrossFit for six months or complete an Ironman, achieving a goal is rarely done alone. It often takes the love and support of those close to us.

In that spirit, two more fitting entries below.

Health, Fitness & Family – Have It All

The Other Half of a Runner – Marathon Support from Spouses

What’s your biggest accomplishment and did support from others help you get there? Comment or tweet me @runlikegirl311 on Twitter.

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Sports Commentator, Mom and Olympian – Carrie Tollefson

“Get after it”

I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about a blog entry as I am right now about this one. Maybe one of my handful of Boston Marathon-related blogs…but still, this one is so exciting.

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Meet Olympian Carrie Tollefson!

This month’s interview (I know, it’s technically a day early) of awesome fit people is about as awesome and fit as it gets. In honor of the kickoff to the Rio Olympics – and just because she’s one of the funnest, coolest, realest people I’ve ever met – I finally get to share this one with you all. Blog pals, I’m pleased to introduce you to: Carrie Tollefson!

L: Most of the best athletes start their sport really young so I assume you’ve always been into fitness and running?

C: My dad was a college football player and he liked to run so we went to races all the time as a family. I was the youngest of three girls so I wanted to try keep up with my very athletic older sisters. My mom was always there as well but she likes to call herself the bag lady. She was like the team manager and always encouraging and supporting us on the sidelines even though she was probably the most competitive one in the group;-)! We had fun as a family working out and being together.

L: When did you start racing?

C: I ran my first race at age five (the police escort helped me the last mile ;-)). I ran another at 10, then when I was 12 I made the varsity team and fell in love with my sport.

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The greatest honor in sports & she was there.

L: We have to talk about the Olympics! What are your top three memories from that experience?

C: I would say walking in the opening ceremonies. I’ll never forget all of the American flags waving and Lebron James walking right behind me with tears coming down his face.

The cafeteria too. Seeing every size and shape of the world’s best athletes was so much fun!

And having my family there. We all devoted a lot to my career and I wouldn’t be the
athlete or person I am today without all of them.

L: What’s the best part about being an Olympian?

C: I think the best part is knowing that all of my hard work paid off. It was amazing representing my country, state, family, team, sponsors, etc. but knowing how tough we can be as individuals is amazing! I will never forget how hard I had to run at the trials and it will forever be a moment I reflect on to remind myself to keep getting after life!

L: Who do you have your eye on at this summer’s games?

C: In the men’s and women’s steeple, I think Evan Jäger and Emma Coborn will be the standouts. I also think Molly Huddle will be great in the 10k, and all of the women in the 1500.

As for medals for Team USA, I like our chances in both the men and women’s 800s.

L: There are so many great Olympic running events – but you’ve gotta have one non-running that you love to watch, right?

C: Yes, I like to watch swimming a lot!

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New episodes of CTolleRun every Wednesday.

L: Now let’s talk about what you’re doing now. How much do you enjoy doing your weekly show, C Tolle Run?

C: Ever since it took off, my team and I have loved every minute of it. Bringing workouts, race highlights, nutrition, feel good stories, interviews – whatever it may be – we have loved encouraging others to Get After It!!!!

L: You’re always funny on-camera but there have to be plenty of funny moments that never make it in the show – any really good ones that come to mind?

C: Oh my, as you know I am an open book sort of a person so nothing is really off limits. I really don’t hold much back. I think the best moments are when I say things that I am not quite sure are actual words or phrases?

We have some laughs about that every now and then. I have been in a pregnancy or new mommy fog for way too long and I have that excuse once again. I have a three young children so most people can understand that being quick on-air can equal lots of bloopers! Ha! Not quite sure I have a favorite! We usually air them all!!

L: Speaking of on-camera, you’ve done commentary for some major events – do you have a favorite?

C: I really enjoy doing all running events and my favorite thing to do is chat with the athletes before and after the event. The New York City marathon is one of my favorites along with the Footlocker National Cross Country Championships. Being able to commentate on the world’s best pros is amazing but then watching our nation’s best high school athletes at Footlocker is equally as fun.

L: Supercool news, you ran your first marathon not too long ago – congrats! And what inspired you to do that?

C: I have always felt that I needed to run one to really know what people go through during 26.2 miles. My marathon had some factors but it was a great learning experience. My second child turned 4 months the week of the marathon so I had a really short buildup after childbirth and I was nursing so I had to try and deal that in top of being a newcomer to the distance and going out way too fast! Needless to say I didn’t meet my goal but had a blast doing it!!

L: What’s your all-time favorite distance to race and why?

C: Two-part answer here: The 3k is my favorite distance and cross country is my favorite discipline!!!

I love the 3k because you have to be really fast and strong to run it really well.
Cross-country is sort of the same but I could run so focused on the courses! I loved getting lost in my thoughts while running in trails or on grass!

L: Now for my most important question: As an elite runner, what’s the most important food for you? And, what’s your favorite food?

C: I think for me, as a distance runner, greens were always important to keep my iron levels up. I also needed my carbs and protein so lots of pasta and chicken in our house.

As for favorites, my nightly milkshake was a must. It was my reward and also have me a little of everything I needed. I just had one actually!

L: I love your personal slogan, “Get After It!” How/when did that start?

C: I used to say it all the time while racing and working out when I was competing professionally. It has just stuck with me throughout all aspects of life.

L: Lastly, the part of the interview I’m calling “Anything but the Obvious” – what’s something totally unrelated to fitness and running and all the obvious stuff, that you’d want people to know about you?

C: I minored in criminology so I always say I could go back to school to be a police officer or private investigator!

I eat PB&J straight out of the jar.

I am scared of failure and letting people down but also try really hard to not let people get in the way of getting after my dreams!
If there was ever any doubt, I think you can now understand why Carrie’s my favorite athlete! She’s such a great role model for young athletes, an example to adults still chasing goals, and just a supercool person you could hang with and bust a gut from laughing so much. I’m so lucky our paths crossed so we could become friends!

Keep up with Carrie on Twitter @CTolleRun. And watch her weekly show, C Tolle Run, full of great tips, workouts, recipes and fun.

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Our Own Worst Enemies – Well, Us And Playboy Bitches

“Be brave. Even if you’re not, pretend to be. No one can tell the difference.”

On this weekend’s long run I did something that, in my 10+ years of running, I never had done before. I ran without a shirt.

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Ironically, this was the tank I started out wearing.

In semi-related news, there’s a chance a photo of me coupled with a nasty, bitchface comment is out there on Snapchat – yes I’m passive-aggressively pointing out your awful behavior, Dani Mathers. Or perhaps a passerby or two pointed and laughed at me, then talked smack about me for their own enjoyment – my friend, Ann, saw this happen last weekend in Minneapolis and shared her disgust of it on Facebook.

Hopefully neither of those two things happened but if they did, whatever. Nice waste of your time, people. My reason for running shirtless wasn’t some kind of non-skinny-girls-unite protest to Mathers and her despicable behavior nor was it in response to what Ann saw and posted on Facebook.

Quite simply, the temp was in the 70s with about 90 percent humidity by 5 a.m. when I went running. I was screaming hot, just dripping in sweat. So, in the dim light of the wee morning hours, I peeled off my tank. I instantly felt cooler. Plus removing my tank after mile 2 made for a handy sweat towel.

Maybe this doesn’t seem like big deal but, for me, it kinda was. I’ve always been self-conscious about running in public without my shirt, to the point I’d never done it.

It’s not that I’m embarrassed about how I look. I wear a bikini at the lake. Now, that’s around my family and friends, and in a setting where it’s expected one will be in a bathing suit, but still. It’s not in the middle of the busy intersections of south Fargo where I live and run. My stomach isn’t flat and it for sure jiggles when I run – not like, Santa-Claus-jolly-level jiggling but enough that it’s noticeable.

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Yep. This happened.

That being said, I can’t imagine anyone else would care enough to notice me running with my shirt off or make any effort to think, say or post anything nasty about me. People have better things to do. Yes, I’m again passively-aggressively talking to you, Dani Mathers.

Clearly it’s more in my head. I, like many women, can be my own worst enemy. As happy as I am with my body, fitness level and mental outlook of it all, I’m not immune to feeling insecure and judging myself. I have fat days and bloated days and I’m always my own worst critic.

So, yeah, maybe hearing the Mathers and Minneapolis stories hit a little nerve. But there was also something else that happened recently, another story that I thought about when planning to rise before 5 a.m. to try to beat the heat and humidity.

Over Fourth of July weekend, my friend and fellow runner, Kristin and I went for our annual holiday weekend run at the lake. By 8 a.m. it was already superhot but I figured a light tank and shorts would have to do. Kristin, on the other hand, had a different plan. A couple minutes into our run, she said screw it, and ditched her shirt.

I told her I would too but that’s one thing I’ve never been able to do. I just can’t do it.

She went on to tell me how, two kids and almost a decade after her college running years, she looks back on photos of herself, admires her six-pack abs, and thinks about how she should have owned it more back then. And now, thinks to herself, “When I’m in my 60s, I’m sure I’ll look back at photos of me in my 30s and think ‘Damn, I looked good!’”

As she said this, I couldn’t help but notice her tiny stomach and general athletic-ness – then it hit me: What if not everyone is looking at you, and being a stupid, judgmental hag? Yes, again, I’m passively-aggressively calling you out specifically, Dani Mathers.

What if everyone’s looking at someone else, thinking they look great? Not seeing the “flaws” we all see in ourselves, but instead seeing the good things? I mean, I’m sure no one was checking out my jiggly belly while I was running and thinking, “Daaaammmmnnnn!” But maybe they were admiring my bravery – or at least my good sense to run sans-shirt in such sweltering weather. Maybe I could give myself a little break and not be my own worst critic. And my stomach’s.

Do you find yourself to be your toughest critic? What’s a small – yet significant – moment of bravery like this you’ve experienced? Share it in the comments or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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5 Of My Best Blog Posts

“Playing favorites”

People have told me they’ve gone back weeks or even months to read my old blog posts that they may have missed or re-read ones that stood out to them. I love when that happens.

In that spirit, I thought it would be fun to share a few of my most popular blog posts from the past few months – and one that’s nearly a year old but continues to show up in my analytics (so I guess I did something right if people are still reading it!).

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These are all you need.

June – 5 Reasons to Run Without Headphones
From deep thoughts to simple safety, these 5 are just a few of the great reasons to ditch your iPod and run outside, sans-headphones.

 
May – 5 Tips for Your First Half Marathon
Fall race season is coming fast so if you’re on the fence about running your first half marathon, this post may help. And anyone in the Fargo, Detroit Lakes or Minneapolis area, I’m pacing four half marathons in August, September and October, finish-time paces between 1:50 up to 2:15 – so if you’re still a little nervous, know you can run with me or one of my supercool Twin Cities Pacer peeps!

Boston

Earned. Every step of the way.

April – Runner Banned from Boston Marathon Deserves Her Punishment
I worked so hard and took so much pride in how I got to the Boston Marathon, it really pissed me off to read about a woman who tried to cheat her way in, then went looking for sympathy when she got caught. Not cool.

 
March – Marathon Training and Taper Time
For someone who hates the taper phase of race training, no one was more surprised than I was to read this entry.

August 2015 – Why Your Body Type Matters – Endomorph, Ectomorph, Mesomorph

One of the hardest things I’ve encountered in my health and fitness journey is my natural body type. I used to hate it, try to fight it – now I embrace it and am proud of it. Find out which of these three is your natural body type and how to love it.

 
If you like any of these throwback posts, please share them on Facebook or Twitter. And – as always – if you have questions or something to say, I encourage and love comments on the blog. I also enjoy connecting on Twitter so please find me there, @runlikeagirl311.

 

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Healthy Foods to Always Have in Your Kitchen

Eating is a necessity, cooking is an art

A few weeks ago, I was discussing food (one of my favorite topics) with my sister-in-law and discovered something shocking: she told me she eats out at least 75% of her meals.

I was floored. As someone who considers one Jimmy John’s lunch per week a splurge, this first hit the overly frugal side of me. Then I started thinking about how hard it was to stay on track when I used to travel because it’s tough to make the best choices when eating out.

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I’m not much of a cook – I get spoiled by my husband who’s a really good cook.

She further explained, as much as she really wants to cut down on eating out, she’s never been much of a cook (I can totally relate). Furthermore, going to the grocery store overwhelms her; she’s just not sure where to start (oh, can’t relate on that one – I feel right at home at the supermarket!).

I tell this story, not to pick on her or shame her habits but to use her as an example that not everyone knows how to meal prep or come up with new dinner recipes; how to pack a lunch or make time for breakfast every morning. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s not out of anyone’s reach to learn all those things.

In the spirit of helping her find a starting point, I offered to put together a simple list of must-have foods. The basics that should always be in the kitchen in order to have options for breakfast, a packed lunch, satisfying dinner and, of course, plenty of snacks.

Below is a list of 25 foods to always have in the kitchen. A great starting point for your first grocery shopping list, allowing for some wiggle room to adjust for your own personal choices, including vegetarians (like me!) and vegans.

Protein

Tons of meat for him, prepped pasta meals for me.

Proteins
1. Chicken, fish/tuna, or hamburger (always have one staple)
-Lean, plain versions (not breaded, packed in oil, etc.)

Note: one serving of meat is the size of a deck of cards

2. Eggs or Egg Beaters

Note: if you like hardboiled eggs, they last awhile, are easy to make and can be used in sandwiches, salads or as a snack

3. Greek Yogurt
-Low-calorie/high-protein like Chobani 100 or Light & Fit

Note: if you like sour cream, plain Greek yogurt tastes exactly the same and is a much better choice

4. Cheese
-Shredded and/or thin sliced

Note: lighter-colored cheese is generally the better choice but full-fat cheeses are fine too, just use less

5. Beans
-Black, kidney, chickpeas, etc.

Note: use for Mexican dishes, sandwiches, wraps, or mixed with some veggies for a simple salad

Starches
6. Potatoes
-Sweet or regular (reds, whites, mixes)

7. Brown rice
-White is okay to use too

8. Oats/Oatmeal

9. Wraps, tortillas or light wheat bread (or all, depending on what you like)

10. Wheat pasta

Note: mix a ½ cup of pasta with a whole zucchini, sliced into ribbons/noodles, for a lower calorie, lower carb pasta dish

Veggies
11. Frozen
-Bagged or single-serve; plain or mixes

Note: Variety is good; try to have a few different kinds

12. Bagged spinach and/or head of lettuce

13. Zucchini
-See above, for use with pasta

14. Tomatoes, Cucumber, Peppers, etc.
-Whatever you like; what you’d use on sandwiches, in salads, pastas, etc.

Fruit
15. Berries
-Black, Blue, Rasp and Straw – all are great

16. Apples

17. Bananas
-If you like them on toast or in oatmeal, a half banana is great for breakfast

18. Cherries, oranges and pineapple
-Rotate in, when in season

Fats
19. Peanut Butter
-Go with the natural varieties or a full-fat vs. reduced fat version

20. Avocado

21. Olive Oil

22. Light butter/margarine

Extras and Snacks
23. Soup
-Cans of light and low-sodium versions of your favorite soups
-Mixes (you can make a batch in the crock pot and add extra veggies/protein to it)

24. Rice Cakes
-Flavored ones to snack on instead of chips
-Apple or chocolate flavored for sweet snack (add peanut butter)

Bars

Always have plenty of these in my pantry – and at the office – and whenever I go anywhere.

25. Protein Bars
-Pure Protein or Quest, ideally

Note: be very cautious when choosing protein bars; many don’t have much protein and they’re closer to a candy bar

Finally, add and adjust so you get some of your own personal favorites. For example, Chris and I love cereal, both as a snack or sometimes for dinner, so we always have at least one box (simple options like Honey Nut Cheerios, Corn Flakes or Special K) and milk.

What foods are your must-haves? Any advice you’d give to my sister-in-law or others who aren’t pros in the kitchen? Comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.

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