Run Club!!

A little more than a year ago I was so excited to become an ambassador for lululemon athletica.  It has really been an amazing experience for me.  As a result of this part of my journey in running and life, I have met the MOST wonderful people who truly encourage and inspire me in a multitude of ways.

One of my responsibilities – and really privileges – as an ambassador for this incredible company is that I lead a run club every week.  Most lululemon run clubs meet at the local store, but the store I work with is in a giant shopping mall (i.e., not anywhere near a trail or safe place to run) so instead we meet at the Pilates studio I teach at (Reston Pilates – which also happens to be owned by my sister Jodi!).  It is really perfect because Pilates is such a fantastic thing for runners (and really, for anyone!) in that it promotes flexibility, corrects imbalances and builds strength – and it is gentle enough to do every day.  We meet on Sunday mornings at 8:30 and start every session with a quick 15-20 minute mat class before hopping on the W&OD trail (which happens to be my favorite trail and is basically right out the door of the studio) for a run.

run club – it’s always a good time

How much, how far or how fast we run really varies from week to week depending on who shows up and what they’re up for.  We usually have a really great mix of new runners, walkers, walk/runners, seasoned marathoners and everything in between.  No matter what, we always have a solid group of people who want to run at a comfortable, conversational pace and enjoy the fresh air and company while moving their bodies.  I am so lucky to be a part of this.

We are also getting together on Monday nights!  We meet at the studio around 6pm – decked out with headlamps and wearing layers because of the cooler weather – and usually run for about an hour at whatever pace people are up for.  I teach a one hour Pilates mat class every Monday night at 7:30pm so it is just the perfect warm up before the class.  I love it oh so much!!

me & amy after an evening run!

If you live in the area I would love for you to come join us any time!  You don’t need to RSVP, its completely free and you don’t even really need to be a runner!  It is tons of fun and just a great way to meet people and get some exercise.

Have you ever joined a group run like this?  Have you ever thought about starting a run club?  I encourage you do one or the other – it is tons of fun!

run club fun club

Sunday mornings are extremely awesome.

I wake up early and run long every Saturday morning (with the ever-so-wonderful =PR= Distance Training group) while marathon training.  Because of this, you might think I would take the chance on Sunday to sleep in and ease into the day rather than rising early and getting myself out the door for more running.  But you would be wrong.

As a mother of three kids who all *regularly* rise before the rooster crows, “sleeping in” is a distant memory for me and my husband.  Whether or not we want to, we are waking up and starting our day very early each and every morning thanks to our little ones.  It’s just the way it is around here.

So when Sunday morning rolls around and I have to get to Run Club by 8:30AM, it feels somewhat indulgent to me – like a big sweet treat to top off my week.  I look forward to it with a happy and very thankful heart.  I’m excited to go – to spend time with friends both new and old, to run together, to strengthen and stretch our bodies and to catch up.

We start out with about 20 minutes of Pilates mat exercises – waking up the connection to our bodies and the strength that resides within each one of us (physical, emotional and mental).  As we move through the exercises we are both humbled by the awareness of our imbalances and assured by our increasing strength.  Maybe we can do things we couldn’t do last week, maybe we are more flexible or stronger than we were a month ago.  Or maybe not.  Moving our bodies through Pilates will open our hearts and our minds to what is there and it will bring healing and restore our strength.

It is so so good.

After our Pilates session we put our shoes on and layer up, get out on the trail and continue the movement outside in the fresh air and sunshine.  Many of us run, several do a walk/run combo and still others walk briskly.  We are all moving at a pace that works for us, and that is what is important.

Run Club is a celebration of movement.  It is a celebration of healing, of friendships and of strength.  I look forward to it every week.  If you live in the area, please come join us sometime!  No RSVP or experience necessary – just come dressed and ready to move!

** We have a new Facebook Page too – which is a great way to stay in touch and keep up to date on what we’re up to each week. **

what a weekend!

Balancing the craziness of this time of year while kicking off a new marathon training cycle is not easy.  Last week was the first official week of my training and I struggled to get my miles in.  I felt overwhelmed with commitments – volunteering, working, parenting, training … it was all piling up.  To top it off I wasn’t getting very much sleep.  AT. ALL.  It seems all three of my kids forgot how to sleep through the night, for several days in a row.  And by the end of the week I was completely wiped out. 

I wanted to run 6 easy paced miles on Friday but decided to take the day off from running.  I was just too tired to run.  For a moment I cringed at the thought of skipping a planned run, but in my heart of hearts I knew it was the right decision.  I had a busy weekend ahead and wanted to feel ready for it. 

Saturday morning I had a scheduled long run of 12 miles.  It was cold and sunny out – a beautiful morning for a run.  Jodi and I decided to run together (for the first time in a long time) and it was just what the two of us needed.  We hit the trail by about 7:30AM.  It was so wonderful to be running with my sister like this again.  Our training group is meeting at 8:30AM every Saturday, but yesterday we had to get started a little earlier because we had a workshop we were going to that started at noon and if we wanted to get the run in and have time to go home and shower and eat lunch etc before going out again – we had to hit the trail earlier.  When I asked Jodi if she wanted to run with me, at first she was concerned because she didn’t want to slow me down (her words).  We both know how important it is to listen to our own bodies, especially when training for a race like this. But we LOVE running together and we were both in need of some sister time.  So, we decided we would try to hang around a 9:00 mile – a little faster than she normally runs her long runs at and a little slower than I normally do.  It was perfect.

shadows on the trail

We ran three miles east, then turned around and ran three miles west, back to our starting point…

Mile 1 – 8:59
Mile 2 – 8:43
Mile 3 – 8:46
Mile 4 – 8:57
Mile 5 – 9:03
Mile 6 – 9:00

When we arrived back at the start (halfway through our run) we each ate a gel and were psyched to catch a few of our favorite running buddies who were getting ready to start their runs.  It was especially awesome to see our good friend Paul and our sister Megan!  The four of us ran together for a mile or so and then we paired off to finish out our runs.  I loved sharing these miles with four of my favorite people ever!


Mile 7 – 9:15
Mile 8 – 9:00
Mile 9 – 8:51
Mile 10  – 8:41 

Around the 10th mile, our conversation slowed and we were running in silence.  I so love when this happens on a sister run.  So much is understood, yet unspoken.  We listened to the rhythm of our footsteps, the sound of our breathing and entered into a zone.  This is why I love running.  I love being in this moment.

I felt myself letting go of my stresses, my worries and my fears.  All that anxiety and muck that was building up inside of me all week – I shed all of it and left it out there on the trail.  I moved forward.  My sister actually said out loud “you go Jess, go do what you need to do.”  She knows me so well.

Mile 11  – 8:34
Mile 12 – 8:31

Does it get better than this?  Two sisters on a trail, supporting and encouraging one another, believing in one another.  Listening to ourselves and listening to one another.  Finishing strong.  Finishing HAPPY.

sisters on a mission

After our run we zipped back home.  I had to give my husband a break from taking care of three kids all morning because in a little over an hour I would be heading out again for another 4 hours.

I married a really really really really really wonderful man. 

From 12-4:00PM yesterday Jodi and I attended a Chi Running workshop.  It was awesome!  I’ve heard all of this before (and you probably have, too) – all the talk about proper form and landing on your midfoot and engaging your core, etc – I’ve read it and applied it and learned it.  But this workshop was really helpful!  I think it deserves a post all it’s own so I won’t go into it too much here, but suffice it to say that it was worth my while and I’m excited by all that I learned.

Yesterday was a GOOD day.

Today was equally as good!  Today was the second run club!  We met at the sudio at 8:30AM and I was seriously amazed that we had 16 people show up today!!!  I was (and actually as I write this, still am) giddy with excitement over it.

Today we had Jodi teach the mat class while I assisted.  It rocked.

pilates before running = excellent

Then we split up into our three groups again – walkers, run/walkers and runners.  Everyone had someone to keep them company.  The energy was amazing.  We went to the trail and moved for 20 minutes east and then turned around for 20 minutes back.  At the end of the run everyone was all smiles and sweat!!  We did a little post-run stretching…

And then everyone was very sweet to agree to take a group photo for me!

i love run club!!
It was such a great group of people.  Thanks to everyone who came – I hope you will come back again!  I’m really looking forward to all the wonderful times we have ahead of us.  
I can’t believe I almost forgot to mention this! — when I picked up Jodi this morning to head to run club, she hopped in the car and we realized we were both wearing the same shirt with black pants.  Totally unplanned, but so like us to do something like this.  Before we headed home a new friend, who I feel like I have known forever, Jerrell (read her blog HERE, she is awesome!) snapped a photo of us in our matchy matchness:
yepp, that happens sometimes
I’m feeling thankful for so much right now.  For my amazing husband and children.  For my incredible sister who I know I am so blessed to have right down the street from me.  For the sport of running and the wonderful community of people who make it all the more enjoyable.  
Life is a journey and running is a huge part of that for me.  Sometimes we go our own pace, our own direction, but we are never ever, EVER, alone.
Here’s to the week ahead!

the start of something beautiful

Yesterday morning was the first day of the new lululemon Run Club I am starting. 

It was W O N D E R F U L.

I am so grateful to be doing this.  To be representing a company I believe in, to be teaching something that has literally changed my life.  To be sharing my story of how moving my body through running and Pilates has helped me to connect to my inner strength and has taught me to believe in myself and to live life more fully.  To be sharing my knowledge of running and Pilates with others in the hopes that it will inspire them to believe in themselves, to do things they maybe never dreamed they would or could.

It is a gift and I am so very thankful.

We had a great turnout for our first ever gathering.  There were 5 people (including my mom!) plus me and my sister Jodi, for a total of 7 of us.   7 is one of my favorite numbers, so this made me smile.

We started the session with about 20 minutes of Pilates mat exercises, focusing on core and abdominal muscle strength and flexibility.

This is me teaching the Hundred. An awesome exercise for abdominal strength and stability.

And then we hit the trail!  We split up into three groups: walkers, walk/runners and runners.  Three of us walked, two of us did a run/walk combo and two of us ran.  It was perfect – everyone had someone to move with, to chat with and to connect with.  We all headed East on the trail for 20 minutes and then turned around for a total of 40 minutes.  When we got back to the studio everyone was all smiles!  I loved hearing feedback from everybody.  It makes me so happy to hear people talking about setting goals for themselves and becoming aware of all the potential that resides within them.

I think that is really what this whole thing is about.  Bringing people together to move their bodies and to help guide them in finding the amazing strength that is already right inside of them, just waiting to be discovered.

Group photo after our first club gathering!  Jodi took this picture – I will have to get her in the next one!

I cannot wait for our next Run Club this coming Sunday.  I know I am going to look forward to it each and every week.  My heart feels like it is going to grow so big and burst right out of my chest, I am so thankful and excited.   There is just so much joy there.  So much potential!

If you are in the area, please come any time.  The more the merrier!!

my brain is all over the place

I have a growing list of things I want to write about, but it has been an insanely busy week and my “alone” time has been limited to late in the evenings or literally sitting in the car while the baby naps.  His sleep schedule is pretty messed up during the week.  With school drop-off and pick-up times for my two other children who go to different schools, he often naps in the car in the afternoons.  I’m looking forward to when he switches to one nap a day!

So, without further adieu, here is the list of things on my brain.  Warning – it is quite random.  I plan to elaborate on several of these items and actually dedicate posts to them soon, but here is a snippet:

Persimmon ~ My mother in law is an amazing gardner, cook and foodie extraordinaire.  She buys as much as she can from local farms and markets – not just foods but other products as well.  And then she knows how to cook it in the most delicious way possible.  Last week when we were visiting them for Thanksgiving, I noticed a new fruit sitting on her counter.  At first glance I thought it was some kind of  tomato, but it was a persimmon.  This is a fruit I had never tried before.  It was grown right in Virginia and tasted like a tropical fruit!  I think people in California get this all the time locally, but this is not something I ever knew grew in my home state of Virginia!  It was beautiful and absolutely DELICIOUS.  If you have never had persimmon before, go buy some.  And if you can get it locally, even better.

Virginia Persimmons

Racing Day is Tomorrow!! ~ Tomorrow I am running a new-for-me race – the DC Will Run for Chocolate 15k.  I’ve never raced this distance before.  Gotta love that – an automatic PR!  I have not been preparing for this race in any special way, as my marathon training officially begins tomorrow.  I’m still toying with my race strategy.  It is going to be a very crowded race and a cold, frosty morning.  I may decide to run it for fun and just stay with my running buddies, or I may decide I want to push myself and run it as fast as I can.  Not sure yet – but no matter what I plan to have a great experience and will look forward to all the hot chocolate at the finish line!  Also, I just have to say that I really love the below logo.  The shoes as marshmallows make me smile…

Photo Shoot ~ Part of being an ambassador for lululemon involves an outdoor photo shoot with a professional photographer.  The pictures will be on display in the store and are GIGANTIC, larger than life photographs.  I cannot believe there will be a big ME running in the Tysons Corner store!  I am so excited!  My photo shoot is scheduled for next week, so yesterday I went to the store and did a little shopping.  I want to wear something new for my pictures, something I feel awesome in.  It was hard to make choices because I mean it when I say I love everything in that store.  And yesterday there was a LOT of new stuff in the running line.  Ohmygoodness, I wanted it all.  I bought a few things to potentially wear in the photo shoot and I also bought some more Cool Racer Back tanks because there were just so many amazing colors and I wear them all.the.time, all year round ….

I haven’t decided yet what I’ll go with for the photo shoot yet – depends on the weather, etc – but I do know it will involve something PINK.  The new hot pink color in that store is making me soooooo happy.  More on this later! 

New Shoes ~ It is time for this runner to get some new running shoes.  During my last training cycle I started to feel not so great in my Asics Nimbus.  I have been wearing these shoes for a loooong time, like 10 years long.  I just figured “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” so every time I needed a new pair I just bought the same ones over and over again.  I think me and my Asics are through though.  They are heavier than I need them to be, they have more cushion than I need them to.  So earlier this week I visited with Meghan Ridgley at the =PR= store in Reston.  I tried on tons of shoes.  She watched me run on the treadmill.  I do not overpronate and can wear a neutral shoe and can also start wearing a shoe that is more minimal for some of my workouts and shorter distance races.  My plan is to get 2 new pairs of shoes – one that is a neutral shoe with less cushioning than the Nimbus and one that is a more minimal shoe.  She ordered a bunch of shoes for me to try and some of them are in today!  The ones I’m considering for neutral/less cushion are the Brooks Ghost and the Asics Gel Cumulus.  The minimal shoes I’m considering are the Brooks Pure Cadence, the New Balance 1400 and the Saucony Kinvara.  I’m giddy with excitement!! 

My 6 Year Old ~ A few weeks after the start of First Grade, my little girl Abby confided in me that she is in love with a boy in her class who we will call David.  It was perhaps the sweetest conversation I have ever had with my daughter.  She was precious.  She told me all about him, how handsome he is, how funny he is.  She couldn’t take the smile off her face as she spoke of him.  It was so adorable.  The other day Abby’s teacher walked Abby out of school at the end of the day.  Abby was hanging her head, something was wrong.  Her teacher explained to me (while trying not to smile) that Abby kissed two boys in school that day.  It wasn’t a big deal – she wasn’t in trouble – but it is not appropriate to kiss people in school.  A few minutes later when Abby and I were alone walking together, she burst into tears.  She told me she that didn’t know it was wrong – when you love someone, you kiss them! And she also clarified that she did NOT kiss two boys.  She kissed one – David – two times.  She asked me if we could invite David over for a play date some time.  So, I emailed his mom and told her about the “crush” and said that if David likes the idea, we would love to have him over one day after school.  She thought it was sweet and is going to check with him.  I really hope David likes the idea — fingers crossed.

Another thing about Abby is that this past week she lost her second top tooth.  She will be singing “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth” this year!  I love it.  It is amazing to me how different she looks without those teeth.  She is growing up so quickly before my eyes.  It is a beautiful thing to watch, and it scares me at the same time.  My little girl, oh how I love you…

Running Form ~ Before Thanksgiving vacation I went to a clinic hosted by =PR= all about proper running form.  It was excellent.  I took notes and pictures and plan to post about it here to share everything I learned.  I’m also going to a Chi Running workshop next weekend.  I have read the book and really believe that running tall and relaxed and with good posture is so important.  My hope is that I will learn more about how to apply this to my own running as well as to help others who I am coaching and teaching in the studio. 

Run Club! ~  On that note, the very first Run Club is this Sunday at 8:30AM!  I am so excited I can’t stand it.  We are meeting at the Reston Pilates studio and I will begin the session by teaching a modified beginner mat Pilates class.  Then we will hit the W&OD trail for a 40 minute out-and-back run.  All paces and experience levels are welcome and encouraged to bring friends!  If you are local, I would love to see you there!!  We will meet every Sunday so if this weekend doesn’t work for you, come again another week.  I am planning to run an easy pace and treat it as a recovery run this winter/spring as I will be doing my marathon training long runs on Saturdays this season. 

PICKY BARS are AMAZING ~ Ok, there will for sure be a separate post dedicated to this topic.  Very soon.  For now, I have to tell you though – I love Picky Bars because I think they taste amazing and also because they are made from the best ingredients.  I also love them because I am a picky eater and gluten and dairy upset my stomach.  Also my son has severe food allergies.  Among his most dangerous allergies are milk, peanuts and tree nuts.  Picky Bars makes a flavor called “Nutless Wonder” – it is free of all the things my son is allergic to.  A few weeks ago I sent an email to the company asking them about cross contamination.  Lauren Fleshman herself actually sent me a personal email with the most thoughtful, honest and thorough response.  I was floored.  Then, I placed another order of the bars and PayPal messed up my order – I never got it.  Lauren Fleshman emailed me again and gave me her cell phone number and asked me if I could call her.  Ummmm …. ok!?!  Before dialing her number I looked at my husband and grinned – oh my gosh I am about to call Lauren Fleshman. Yes, I know Picky Bars is a small company and she happens to be one of the two people who run it, but she is also an athlete and person who I truly admire in soooo many ways.  The fact that I was calling her – and then spoke with her on the phone for several minutes – was one of the most incredible things for me EVER.  Just thinking about it now makes me smile all geeky-like.  Can’t help it!

A new blog feature ~ I’ve been thinking about adding a new feature on my site.  The idea will be to show you guys different Pilates exercises and tell you how to do them and which muscles they strengthen and stretch.  I’m working on getting this together and have taken several photos of me and my sister and another teacher at our studio.  I’m wondering if videos might be more helpful though … what do you think?

me doing a half roll down

Okay … so for now that is it for the thoughts swirling around in my brain.  I will just leave you with a photo of where Oscar is hiding today.  It took Abby and Will a little longer to find him today.  They weren’t expecting him to be in the kitchen!  Here he is hanging on a spice rack…

Abby and Will came downstairs before I did and when I arrived they wanted me to try to find him.  We played “hot and cold” as I looked around for him, pretending I had no idea where he was.  They giggled uncontrollably as I looked in all the wrong places.  It was serious fun!

If you made it through this entire post – thanks for reading my randomness.  How are you this frosty Friday morning?  Any random thoughts swashling around in your brain?  I would love to hear about it!  Have a great weekend!!