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Couch to Half Marathon during a Pandemic

This morning I was reminiscing on why I didn’t run at all for 20 + years… I have exercise induced asthma….. And I’m also now a half marathon runner!

I am training for awesomeness. I mean I am training for a half marathon. Same thing, really. -someecards

I let the excuse that I developed exercise induced asthma in high school hold me back for years. Every time I would try jogging or a fast dance class or even the jump rope, after any sign that I was getting out of breath I gave up and told myself that it wasn’t meant to be.

Until July 2019….I attended a women’s motivational conference where we were asked to set some audacious goals. I had stumbled into running short distances on a treadmill at the gym a few months before when I was late to a Pilates class and didn’t want to head straight home. I surprised myself that I could actually do some interval running (run a little, walk a little) and not get completely out of breath. Still not even slightly interested in running outdoors despite my husband’s prodding to have a partner, I shocked myself when one of my 10 dreams identified at this conference was to run a 5k. The seed was planted.

Want to know how I ended up running a half marathon just over 14 months later? One step at a time.

I signed up for a Halloween themed 5k fun run with my husband (who is a regular runner) for mid-October. Nothing like a deadline and a financial commitment to seal the deal! Then I started running on a treadmill 2-3 times a week largely because I needed their childcare and lets face it, Texas summers are HOOOOTTT.  I also feel like turning on my favorite Netflix binge on the treadmill’s personal TV helps pass the time quickly so I’m not dwelling on how much farther I have to run.  I slowly added miles to my routine until I had hit the 3.1 mile mark (5k).

Treadmill vs. Outdoor Running

As the race approached, I decided I should try my feet outdoors in preparation for the race. My husband pushed our toddler in a jogging stroller and I trailed behind them. What a disappointment….it was so much harder and I didn’t even make it close to 3 miles.  Those in the know will of course recommend you try using a 0.5% or 1% incline to better mimic the conditions of outdoor running but I hadn’t incorporated this at the time.

Luckily I didn’t quit that day. I just added some outdoor runs to my schedule, even if it meant pushing my little one in the jogging stroller (which is tough pushing that added weight!). I celebrated every accomplishment and shared it on social media for the extra encouragement from my friends and family. 

“Farthest I’ve ever run outside! Ever! Getting closer! #48daystil5k (2.42miles, 11.31 pace)”

The morning of the 5k I was nervous. The temperatures were in the 50s…not great for my exercise-induced asthma. I took my inhaler 30 minutes before the race began and tried to pump myself up by taking in all the energy from the other runners and their costumes.  (By the way, I pieced together our Mario & Luigi costumes myself but I loved browsing sites for other running costumes like goneforarun.com.

Monster Dash 5k was a success! Thank you everyone for your encouragement as I checked this off my goals list! My wish today was to run the whole thing and beat my best time of 33 minutes. I came in at 30:50.6!

While it may not seem a big deal to some, it was an achievement for me. I’ve never considered myself a runner. Fast forward 3 months from setting a goal and I crossed this one off and moved onto the next goal! At 36, I started claiming the label “I am a runner” and encouraging others that you are never too old to start something new. We can all be dream catchers!

Dressed as mario and luigi for the Monster Dash 5k
My first 5K: Monster Dash 5k 10/26/19

What’s Next?

I took a little break over the winter holidays and didn’t get much running in. In February, at Happy Hour my friend, Corrie, threw out the idea of running a half marathon together in December.  I actually laughed out loud at the idea. Even though I left it open, I had no intention of actually doing it when I left that evening. But after thinking on it for a week or so, decided that maybe with 40-plus weeks to train I could do it. I set a weekly training plan starting March 1st with a goal of finishing the 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 20 minutes. Yep, talk about audacious! But once you get that high from achieving  a dream you didn’t think was possible, the sky is the limit, so capitalize on it.

Shortly after, the Covid pandemic struck and we came back from a Spring Break camping trip to lockdown. The gym closed. Races were cancelled. My running journey could have stopped there.  But with all the media talk about underlying health conditions having such a huge impact on Covid outcomes, it sparked something strong in me – I was going to be as healthy as I could be if my family was exposed to this virus, especially my lungs. I started running outdoors regularly. It became my me-time (after being stuck in my home with my now-remote husband and my virtually-schooling kiddos), my stress relief, something I could actually control, and my exercise routine.

I started educating myself on how to push myself farther: allergy pills in Spring (lol!), path choice, breathing patterns, stretches, posture, audiobooks, music –and I share some of my top tips my blog post “My Top Tips for Beginning Runners.”

I started signing up for virtual races…

I celebrated every new personal best…

New personal record by over a mile! 5.5! Whoo hoo! #10kbound #virtualrace

March 28, 2020

Completed my 10k virtual race in exactly my goal time 1:05!! And 3 weeks earlier than I was originally planning on doing a live race. This goal has kept me motivated to keep running and strength training during all the current life changes going on and has been great therapy! I’ve logged 56.5 miles in the last 6 weeks! #virtualrace #10krun #goalgetter #strongerthanyouthink

April 10, 2020
Completed my 10k Bunny Hop virtual race

My 5 mile run today put me over another milestone…101.7 miles since March 1st when I made my training plan for a half marathon. I’ve pushed myself farther and faster than I ever thought was possible! Just because you’re a certain age or stage or have 0 experience doesn’t mean you can’t set audacious goals! #iamarunner #100mileclub #mondaymotivation #monslay

May 11, 2020

Well my virtual race medal is running late but I still knocked out my 15k today! #feelingstrong #rainydayrun #gotwet #9point3miles

May 16, 2020
showing off my muscles, dripping with rain after completing a 15k
Feeling strong after finishing my 15k Hot Chocolate Run

By early Fall, I felt pumped. I moved my Fitbit cardio fitness score based on VO2max in the “very good” range and lowered my resting heart rate to 59bpm from the mid-60s.

I added extra runs in just for fun like a virtual 5k supporting literacy for Dyslexia Awareness Month.

Success!

Then on October 3rd, 2020 just over 14 months from my initial 5k dream, at 37, I completed a half-marathon. Yes, my feet ran all 13.1 miles. Alone. No mass of runners to feed off their energy. No side-line cheerleaders. No big finish line balloons and party. Me, myself, and I completed my virtual race (confirmed by my fitness tracker – so no cheating!) I beat my goal and finished in 1 hour and 55 minutes….8 weeks early from the original 40 week plan.

I’m continuing running, but at a slower pace, and have already completed an in-person 5k in 2021 and about to run in a quarter marathon. I’m enjoying running alongside friends at in-person races again and feeling the energy of a crowd. Do I have plans to go for a full marathon? No, not for now. For now, I’m enjoying the confidence, strength and energy I gained from it all.

So I hope that my running journey inspires you to try something bold, something that makes you laugh out loud today, and helps motivate you to push yourself far beyond anything you thought you could do. Just because we may be getting older or in a certain life stage, doesn’t mean we can’t still be learning, growing, and pushing our physical limits!

Here is how I display my medals. #ad
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Family Fitness: Workout with your Kids

One of the biggest roadblocks I hear from moms of littles is that they don’t have time to workout or don’t have childcare to workout alone. If joining a gym with childcare isn’t in your budget or your community, it can be hard to know what step to take next. It’s taken me trial and error to figure out what works for my family and overcoming my own expectations of what I think a workout looks like. And sure enough, just like parenting, as soon as you figure out that age or stage, it will change again – so be flexible! Ha!

If you can, I highly recommend working out alone or with a friend for support. It’s a great mental refresh as well as a physical workout. But it also can be doable to include your kids. It has the added bonus that they see what taking care of yourself and your health looks like, setting them up for their own healthier future.

Here are a few ways that I’ve found to include your kids and still hit your fitness goals:

Indoors:

  • Get kid size equipment. While I’m doing some arm reps with my 15-20 lb. dumbbells, my 4 year old mimics me with some 3 lb. weights. My 8 year old got an inflatable punching bag for Christmas – we both have a set of boxing gloves to kickbox together. #ad
  • YouTube exercise videos targeting kids. Search “mommy & me” or “kids fitness.” One of our favorites is Cosmic Kids Yoga – she tailors each episode to tie into a popular kids franchise like Trolls movies or Pokemon and tells the story as each move progresses. It’s a great attention grabber and by the end I’m sweating too!
  • GoNoodle is a series of web-based videos, games, and activities focused on introducing short bursts of physical exercise for ages 5-12. It was introduced to us because it was used in my son’s public school classroom for “brain breaks.” We were super excited when we discovered they also have an app on Roku and we can dance along in front of our TV!

Outdoors:

  • Join a program that allows you to bring your kids along. In our area, there are great programs like Fit for Mom where everyone brings their infants in strollers. Some even plan activities to keep your preschoolers busy while you work out. Other programs like Camp Gladiator will also allow you to bring your stroller depending on the instructor/format.
  • Use your backyard! Kids are contained. Grab your jump rope while they run around or setup family obstacle courses to get your heart rate up.
  • Hiking has become a new family favorite of ours. Start out with a good infant carrier or backpack and then tailor hike length and difficulty to the age of your kids. Sometimes we just go to a local city park that’s a little more on the wilderness vibe and we plan them into many of our travels. Our kids were slow going and the little one needed some shoulder rides but we hiked about 3 miles to see the Grand Canyon! Start them young with the hope they’ll develop a love for hiking as individuals as they grow.
hiking as a family at Craters of the Moon, Idaho
Family hike at Craters of the Moon, Idaho
  • Jogging/Walking: Think you can’t get out and run? That’s what jogging strollers are for. Check online marketplace sites for great deals on resale strollers as well. When they are too big for the jogging stroller, get creative. I’ve let my kids play on the neighborhood playground while I run laps around the perimeter keeping an eye out. It didn’t take me as long to hit 2 miles as I thought!

Lastly, don’t underestimate your kiddos! Include them in your passions, help them set goals, and push themselves to the limits. One of my proudest moments was during the 2020 lockdowns. I started entering and completing virtual races completed with mailed participation medal. My kids were so excited for me so I signed them each up for a 1 mile virtual race, theme specifically selected for their interests. I ran along side them, handing them water often, but they both knocked it out of the park and were so proud of themselves. We have their medals on display and still talk about their accomplishment.