Monthly Archives: August 2011

Inspiration in the Perspiration

Kara, Karissa and Laurie (in that order) after a wonderful evening celebrating with Moms on the Run.

As keynote speakers at the Moms on the Run banquet last Friday night, Kara and I hoped to inspire and connect with other moms working to balance motherhood and fitness. We didn’t anticipate they’d do the same for us, but that’s exactly what happened. Amidst a room of almost 200 mama runners, we saw the group’s motto realized: Fitness, Fun and Friendship.

Looking out across the group, seeing heads nod in agreement as we talked about the struggles mom face keeping their fitness and mama duties in check, we realized the true power of fitness. Exercise has an adhesive quality when it comes to relationships: working up a sweat together helps us tear down the walls we construct between ourselves and everyone else. It helps us be more open and accepting of ourselves and of others.

Sitting in front of us were hundreds of women with hundreds of individual stories. We’re all different, yet when we sweat together we find a common bond. We realize we are not alone. That shared sweat opens us up to deeper friendships as well as lighthearted fun. We become each others’ motivation.

Fitness, Fun and Friendship… I’m guessing that Moms on the Run founder, Karissa Johnson, was thinking about this very thing when she started the program.

Thanks for letting us participate in your program, Karissa. And to our Sweaty Sisters, thank you for inspiring us! Keep moving and keep supporting one another. You are an amazing example for your kids and other mamas!




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Goal Post

I (Kara) have had fitness goals on the brain lately: how best to set them, how often, how many, etc. I think they’re an integral part of a fit lifestyle, even if you’re motivated to workout without them. Goals are important because:

1) A goal keeps you striving, growing, improving.
2) A goal can be a workout partner; good company as you pursue new territory.
3) A goal can provide structure or a point B to your point A.

Earlier this spring I happened to be at a Cross Fit class where everyone was required to write a goal on the whiteboard. I still feel like every Cross Fit class is an accomplishment (just getting there with four kids can be the victory). I’m almost always doing something there I never have before, so it didn’t occur to me that I needed a goal. But I was swayed by the group dynamic (peer pressure!) and posted my goal:

5 Pull Ups by September 30.

I chose pull ups because I wasn’t very good at them. In fact, if I could avoid them, I would. At the time I could do one. Now I can do three. I’m also drawn to the pull up bar to see what I can do. Being able to get to five in another six weeks will be a challenge for me, but I like that goal dangling out front. It’s measurable and attainable, as goals are supposed to be.

For busy moms who are typically pleased to get any kind of workout in, setting goals might actually add a whole new layer of frustration. When time is of the essence, goals not only need to be measurable and attainable, they need to be relevant and meaningful.

I discovered that this summer when I set out to finish three triathlons. I was in a groove with getting workouts in most days of the week. I had all kinds of options and could implement plan Bs as necessary, i.e., if my husband was traveling and I couldn’t get out for an early morning run, I’d do a workout in the yard with the kids. It didn’t matter what I did, as long as I did something.

But this goal required specific training. I couldn’t just get any workout in and be working toward my goal. I needed to run, bike or swim.

One near meltdown early in the summer had me questioning my goal. It was measurable. It was attainable. But was it worth it?

In Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom, the first secret focuses on the mental training necessary to make room for fitness and family. It’s important to spend our time in ways that line up with our priorities and set priorities according to our values. I’d say this section also applies to goal setting, too. If our goals don’t relate back to priorities and our underlying values, then those goals might not be meaningful enough to see them through.

Kara racing her way to her pre-baby identity at the Lake Front Days Triathlon earlier this month.

I met my goal. I finished those triathlons and did well in them. I carried on pursuing my goal because I needed to involve myself in activity that I closely identified with for so long before children. Some women just want to get their “pre-baby body” back. I wanted my “pre-baby identity” back.

In addition, triathlon training was a family goal this summer. My husband had a big race and my twin daughters finished their first triathlon. We were all involved. How would that look if mom said: “I just don’t have time to do this. You go on ahead without me.” No way.

And ultimately, the point was to challenge myself. I’m at a place with my fitness where I know I can get a good workout in 4-6 days a week. What else could I do with that fitness base? I needed to stretch myself and I was at a good place in my life to do it: Kids were sleeping through the night (mostly) and we didn’t have any other big stressors (like a move). The time was right.

Now, of course, I’m thinking: what next?

I just did some metabolic testing at Life Time Fitness to learn more about how my body performs; where I’m at with my resting metabolic rate, my anaerobic threshold and VO2 max. I’ve been barraged by a bunch of numbers and now I’m trying to make sense of them to use as a tool for goal setting or see if a goal arises from the analysis. I’ve never been one to care much about these numbers, but I’m wondering if now is the time for a more scientific approach to fitness.

In addition to thinking through how I want to go about formulating new goals, I also know what I don’t want to do:

  • Set if/then goals, “If I can do ____, then I will do ____.” (Similar to the person who will start going to the gym only after losing a certain amount of weight first.)
  • Set goals that are too big, for the sake of being big.
  • Set too many goals in too short a time period.

As I go about this goal-setting process, do you have any advice for me or others looking to set a goal? Do you always have a goal to keep your fitness progressing or use them sparingly?

Leave a comment

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Clothes for your girlie girl or tomboy girl–Giveaway!

We have a hunch: Could it be having more “girlie” attire for athletics is helping more women–the girlie girls among us–see themselves as athletes? Can a skirt do all that? The idea of being a princess gets crammed down most little girls psyches by the time they’re three, so if that princess can throw down a wicked curve ball, get aggressive for the rebound, blaze by the boys in a 5k, and still show her girly side, well, let’s embrace that option.

Thank goodness for Skirt Sports Girls Collection. When Skirt Sports gifted our daughters with their very own Skirt Sports attire, we knew it might be difficult to get our girls out of these clothes to give them a wash every now and then. Here’s what our testers had to say:

They twirl. The standard for any skirt worth wearing in Kara’s house is it’s twirlability. They’re long enough for proper coverage, yet not too long to hinder climbing or riding. Because, we are, after all, tough girls. They’re cool and comfortable in the summer heat. Plus, you want to stand out in the crowd. This is helpful for mom who can easily find her little girl on the field; her pink dress underneath her red team t-shirt.

Laurie’s girls, on the other hand, are not interested in pink dresses. In fact, they make it a point to remind her that they do NOT like pink. These are the same girls who generally have no interest in dresses and skirts. Unless they can be completely carefree.

Enter the skort.

Cady and Maggie always seem to end up inverted. Whether they are doing back bends off the edge of the couch or hanging upside down out of a tree, skirts might otherwise be off limits since they always seem to give a glimpse of what’s underneath. A five year old doesn’t care, but the nine year old pictured here (who has just begun changing with the door shut) most assuredly does.

What girl wants to miss out of all the fun at the playground just to be “lady like.” Finally, a sporty skirt these tomboy girls can get rowdy in!
If there’s one path we want for our daughters it’s to be who they are. We’ve come to understand that being an athlete doesn’t exclude being feminine and being feminine doesn’t make you weak.
Would you and your favorite little girl like to own (and when we say own, we mean become part of your personal wardrobe and sweat in them like you invented fitness) the Wonder Girl Dress for mom and Wonder Kid Dress for child pictured here?

Moms of boys, we won’t exclude you if you want this dress for your son (or favorite niece). You would? Well here’s how you enter to win:

First, go to the Hot (Sweaty) Mama page on Facebook and like it, if you haven’t already.

Second, post a photo of you and your wee one, preferably sharing fitness time together so we can all be motivated and inspired by other like-minded mamas.

Third, cross your fingers real tight. We’ll give everyone until August 26 and then announce the winner on our Facebook page.

Good Luck!

Oh, and one more thing! When you order an item from the Skirt Sports Girls Collection they’ll send you a free sling bag!


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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 last weekend 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.



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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 lots of fun playing, but they knew that race day was all 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.

Coming into and aid station, excited to see my hubby and the girls.

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.

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 the girls (who wouldn't hug me because I was way too sweaty!).


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