A Runner, a mother, a wife and teacher all in One Day–Guest Post

Guest posting today is Jen from Miles and Blessings. Jen wears many hats and seems to juggle all her responsibilities with grace, while still chasing after some serious running goals (she’s a 3:19 marathoner!). She’s a mother runner I admire and today she’s chatting about how she manages her daily life as a runner, wife and homeschooling mom. 
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My name is Jen and I blog at Miles and Blessings. I am a runner, a mother, a wife and I home school. I have 2 daughters, Alyssa (13) and Courtney (11), that I have been homeschooling for 6 years. My husband works full time as the pastor of Calvary Bible Church in Maryland.

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Homeschooling our girls is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding things that I do. Just like anything in life, there are a lot of benefits and challenges. Being a mom is a hard job, and when you add the responsibility of teaching your children it can seem overwhelming. My advice is to take it one day at a time. It helps to have a support team. This can consist of your husband, family, other home school moms in your area or in your church, and even home school blogs.
When it comes to running, I feel like I can relate to runners of almost all levels.  I have been running for 18 years. When I started running, as a junior in high school, a mile was far. Through most of my 20’s I ran a few miles a day never really paying any attention to how fast. Back then five miles was a long run for me then. I ran through and after both of my pregnancies. Four years ago I decided I wanted to train for and run a marathon even though I had not run a race since high school (and those races were 3 miles long). In 2011 I ran the Wisconsin Marathon in 3:51. It is really hard to describe your feelings after your first marathon. It was so hard, but so amazing. I was hooked. For the last 4 years I have really enjoyed training and racing. I have worked hard and watched my marathon time go from 3:51 to 3:19. Right now I am running half marathons and looking forward to the Richmond Marathon in the fall. I usually run between 40-50 miles per week. I take it week by week and I coach myself. Once I am signed up for a race, I come up with a training plan. On this plan I will only plan my key workouts (my tempo, speed and long run). The other workouts I do based on what kind of time I have and how my body feels. It can get really interesting when my husband and I are both training for a marathon! What we have done in the past is one of us does their long run on Friday, the other on Saturday. Since our girls are older we have also been able to take them with us sometimes. They will ride their bikes and we run. Don’t be afraid to enlist of the help of family and friends.
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Running and teaching actually have a lot of similarities! Some days feel like a breeze, while some days feel impossible. At times the work seems daunting. I set goals for what I want to accomplish during the school year and in my running, but I also will re-evaluate those goals several times a year.The feeling when you accomplish a goal is beyond words! The community is filled with some amazing people who can help you along the way when you are having a hard time remember why you are doing what you are doing.
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I am sure there are plenty of people reading this who have these thoughts: I want to be a good mom, a good wife, good at my job and still have time to train and reach my running goals. How can I find the time?
I am super excited to share some tips with you on how I do it. It would probably be best if I start by telling you that I am no different than you. I have good days and bad days. I have days when I feel like I am getting a ton done and days where virtually nothing gets done. Honestly, I do the best that I can everyday and pray that God will fill in the gaps! There are three characteristics that I think you need to be successful:
Be Ambitious:  It is important to be ambitious. Set goals for yourself. Challenge yourself to be better. I not only set goals for running, but also for a lot of other things in my life. My girls use the ACE curriculum for school and they set goals every day for what they need to get finished. I think it is important for our kids to see us working towards something.
Be Flexible: This is SO important! In order to get the things that I want to get done in a day done I need to be flexible. This might mean that I need to move around when I run, where I run, or how far I run. It might mean that we start school earlier or later. It can also mean being flexible with my goals. I have had to change race goals during training because things were not going as I expected. It happens.
Be Forgiving: Forgive yourself! Sometimes we put our expectations up so high, which isn’t necessarily wrong, but if we don’t reach those expectations we give up or beat ourselves up. We are all going to have days when we feel like a flop, but that does not mean we give up!
jenJen Floyd is a mom to two great daughters and a wife to one amazing husband. She home schools her daughters and they live in a beautiful town in Maryland. She enjoys running and encouraging others in their running journey. She has run 6 marathons, 6 half marathons, and a handful of 5 and 10k’s. She loves getting to know other runners, and sharing her life and running experiences through her blog @milesandblessings.com.

Life Lately: The first weeks as a mom of three

Life lately…life lately is imperfectly perfect. It’s everything that I need it to be: slow, simple, close. No life is perfect, but in it’s imperfections it suits us perfectly.

We fumbled through our first week as a family of five. While Sophia took her second brother in stride, Jack struggled to figure out his new “place” in the family. He struggled with boundaries (no you can’t pry open Liam’s eyes) and mostly just seemed lost. And when you’re two and a half, “lost” gets communicated through hitting and crying and throwing and taking flying leaps off the couch onto your sister (or the corner of the end table). And we struggled as parents to keep our cool despite the crazy behavior and the lack of sleep. We weren’t always successful, but we did manage to turn things around towards the end of the week and life has settled a bit.

  
Liam seems to sail through it all unfazed. Of all three, he is the most relaxed newborn: a good eater, a good sleeper (four and even five hour stretches already…although that was only once). He’s the kind of baby that makes you think: Maybe four is doable? And then he has a night like last night where he’s up almost every hour and half and I think: No. I don’t want to do this again.

But at the same time I’m savoring every moment, even the sleepless ones. A friend of mine said, “By the time you have the third, you realize how quickly time goes.” I’m finding that true in every way. With Sophia I felt like I looked forward to when she’d grow up and reach new milestones. With Jack I wished away his first year, longing for the day when we would be done with the surgeries and the appointments and the hospital stays. But with Liam, I just want to be in every moment with him as he is. I know he will roll over and walk and talk and eventually swing from the monkey bars or launch himself off the couch onto his sister. I know all those things are coming…more quickly than I ever realized before.

And in those moments with Liam I’m finding myself re-processing everything we went through with Jack. It’s remarkable how similar the two of them look. Sometimes I dress Liam in the hand-me-downs from his brother and remember: Jack wore this the day of that appointment. And sometimes when I burp him, I rub his back and think about what Jack’s back felt like before his surgery. Jack’s nevus had a raised bump just to the left of his spine, close to his shoulder blade. I can pinpoint the exact spot on Liam’s back. It’s one of those tiny things that I’d forgotten until now, but holding little Liam is bringing back memories I’d pushed aside and forgotten. Mostly because they were sad and difficult and it was a time where I just had to push.through.the.hard.

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But I look at Jack now and he is so vibrant and rugged and rough and tumble, with the scars to prove it. And I look at the way he loves his brother Liam so much and I feel so grateful. I have two healthy boys.

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Somehow this gratefulness and the fact the life seems so “full” right now has me at ease. Just a few months ago I was very anxious about my ability to be a mom of three. I wondered what would change and how I would manage. All of the anxiety has seemed to melt away and the postpartum blues I was expecting have yet to materialize. I think it’s in part due to the fact that I feel rested, far more rested than I’ve ever felt after my previous two children. But mostly I think my ease comes from the fact that I’ve let go. I let go of some of the unreasonable expectations I had of myself: expectations for the order and cleanliness of our home, expectations for our homeschooling schedule, expectations I have of myself in regards to fitness and running. I’ve let go of a lot and embraced the “now.” Somehow holding little Liam for the first time was a catalyst for this.

He’s a game changer, for sure.

  

–Sarah

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5 Things I Learned from My Last Race-Guest Post from Miles To Go

Guest posting today is Kelly, from Miles to Go. Kelly is a dedicated runner, race director and running coach who is always looking to give back. I asked Kelly to share what she learned from her most recent race and here is what she had to say: 
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After 14 half marathons and 5 full marathons, I am still learning something new after every race.  Most recently, I ran the Shamrock Half Marathon in VA Beach.  This is a very flat course, ending on the boardwalk.  After my finish, I thought about five things I’ve learned from the past two hours.
1. Spectators mean more to me than I realized.
The middle miles of the race are through a military base, where no one is allowed to come and spectate.  I’m not going to lie, it was not fun at all.  Your motivation is down and the base is completely empty.  I love spectators and need them to keep my motivation going.
2. Dedicating a mile is amazingly inspirational.
My friend, who was a bad ass, passed away last year from cancer.  She was an amazing athlete and person.  During this race and many others, I dedicate at least a mile to her and others who have fought cancer.  It’s inspirational and gets your butt back in the game.
3. Race with what you train with.
I love experimented and trying new products.  On race day, I tried a new flavor of fuel that messed with my stomach.  I definitely learned my lesson: If you’re going to experiment, do it during training!
4. Fueling is key.
After 20+ races, I still need to find out the perfect amount of sports gels, food, and water for a race.  Really getting to know your body and how it reacts to certain fuels is key.  
5. I have a shopping addiction (especially with running clothes).
I love “eye-shopping” by looking at other runners!  This race was St. Patrick’s Day themed, so lots of green = MY FAVORITE COLOR.
IMG_0396Kelly Mitchell is a marathoner who is dedicated in making a difference.  She volunteers, fundraises for charities, and blogs about all of her experience at miles-to-go.org.  Kelly is a race director for local races, as well as a certified RRCA Running Coach.  She loves tough runs just as much as fun runs.  Her next challenge is ultra marathons and always getting in more miles.

9 Tips for Running with a Stroller from Run For Your Sole-Guest Post

I had the chance to meet Heather of Run for Your Sole earlier this spring and she is a passionate mother and runner. She uses her running to make a difference for others and is doing some amazing things with I Run 4 and the Massachusetts Chapter for MyTeam Triumph.  She’s here today to share a few tips  on running with a stroller. 

Running with a stroller for the first time is awkward.  Let’s not sugar coat it.  When I was pregnant with my son, I received the BOB single jogging stroller.  I was beyond excited to have gotten this so that I could take him out with me and get myself back into fighting shape.  I envisioned myself running like the wind, pushing my new baby, and smiling the whole way.  How hard could it really be to run while pushing a tiny human in a stroller?  About 8 weeks after he was born, we hit the road for our first run.  Let’s just say I’m pretty sure I was barely moving forward.  While I definitely laughed at myself a few times, I wasn’t smiling the entire way.  Pushing that tiny human felt like pushing a pile of bricks.

My son is now two years old and I have a daughter that is one.  This means I’ve upgraded from the single BOB jogger to the double.  Lucky me!   More importantly, I’ve had lots of practice running with the stroller.  I promise you, you do get used to it, you do get faster and stronger, and even though your kids get heavier, it does get easier…or maybe you just get used to it.  The best news is you’re burning some serious calories and building up some major arm muscles.  Not to mention how badass you feel when you pass other runners!

Me and my littles after a local race
Me and my littles after a local race
Winter run with the weather shield!
Winter run with the weather shield!

Here are nine tips that I hope will make your experience a little less awkward and a little more fun.  These tips are a compilation of things I have learned along with tips and tricks I picked up from my fellow mother runners in our running group, Greater Manchester, NH Moms Run This Town (GMMRTT).

1.  Music can be your best friend.  Whether you rock some Disney toddler tunes or your own favorite play list, music is a helpful distraction while running with a stroller.  I’ve blared everything from Guns N’ Roses, to keep myself moving, to the soothing sounds of the Rockabye Baby station on Pandora to keep the kids asleep.  The things us Moms do!

2.  Snacks, snacks, and more snacks!  Along with bringing your own water and fuel for the run, make sure to bring a variety of options for your little one.  Whether it’s a bottle, sippy cup, snacks, or finger foods, you’ll thank yourself when you’ve got two miles to go and a screaming child.

3.  Rattles, toys, and books, oh my!  While any of these options will do, remember that at some point your little one will start to throw things out of the stroller.  That’s when your run can really get interesting.  Run…and squat to pick up rattle.  Run a little more…and squat to pick up toy.  Run one more inch… and don’t you know, here comes that book!  The bottom line is, sometimes you need a little distraction for your child, so try to find toys that will clip onto the stroller or snack tray.  If you bring a blanket, tie a small corner onto the stroller so that it doesn’t fall out and end up wrapping itself around your stroller tire causing you to come to an abrupt stop, like me.  Let’s just say I’m glad nobody was watching that morning!

4.  Make it an enjoyable experience for everyone.  If you’re pushing your new baby, let the sounds of nature soothe them to sleep and enjoy the peace and quiet.  If you’re running with a little one who is just learning words, talk to them about all of the things you are seeing as you run past.  If you’re with a toddler, play a game like I-Spy.  My fellow Greater Manchester Mom’s Run This Town member, Miriam,  said it best when she said, “When a kid is in the stroller, you are a team.  They should be having fun too.  You want them to remember the fun Mommy had running with them in the stroller.  Not that they were stuck in there being bored.”

5.  An out and back route may not be your best option.  Make sure you find a stroller-friendly route (think back roads, sidewalks, and minimal traffic) with an option to make an easy exit if need be.  The last thing you want is to be miles into your out and back and find yourself with an inconsolable child and no way out.  Plan ahead for success!

6.  Use the safety strap.  I know!  I know!  This seems so obvious.  However, I felt it was my responsibility to share this PSA with you all after having forgotten to use said strap once.  Notice, it only happened once because my children nearly ended up rolling into a ditch.  Not funny.  True story.  So embarrassing!  I had the double jogger, myself, and the dog.  I only have two hands!  The neighbors were walking their dog and so of course my dog went nuts trying to play.  In the heat of the moment, I got tangled up in the leash, removed the safety strap from my wrist, and turned my back.  Oh dear!  In seconds, I turned back and the stroller was on the move and I was chasing it!  Not a good look!

7.  Don’t lean on the stroller.  This can be challenging and hard to avoid if you are new to running with a stroller, if you are tiring on a run, or if you are pushing up hill.  Sometimes, you just want to lean in, which causes your lower body to get further and further away from the stroller leaving you hunched over and in awful running form.  It will happen.  When it does, recognize it, correct your form, and remember to use your core (yes, you still have core muscles!)  to pull yourself upright, use your legs for power, and then keep moving forward.  You WILL make it up that hill!  YOU CAN DO IT!

8.  Push with one arm or two?  That is the question!  I’ve decided this one is personal preference.  When I first started pushing the stroller, I tried pushing with both hands on the wheel.  My gait was off, my stride was blown, and it was just plain awkward.  Therefore, I always push with one arm and use the other to “pump” as I run.  If you do this, it is suggested to alternate arms every so often.  I suppose that is so you don’t tire too easily and that you build even muscles in each arm (because clearly that is what we are going for here right?!?!).   I personally don’t alternate.  It’s just a habit I have developed that works for me.  My suggestion on this one is to find what works for you and stick to it.

9.  Automatically double you mileage.  Yes, you heard me right!  This one comes straight from “Train Like A Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line – and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity”, by none other than Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea, THE mother runners!     “Any mother runner (or female friend of said runner) who pushes a stroller while running can count her mileage as double…If the cargo includes four legs and four arms, she can quadruple her mileage.”  Enough said.

So to all you stroller warriors out there gather those snacks and toys, pack up that stroller, lace up those sneakers, and head out on the town!  In the beginning, it’s all about figuring out what works best for you and your little one(s).  With every step forward, every push of that stroller, and every drop of sweat that falls, remember you are getting stronger and setting a great example for your children.  When you see their smile as the wind flies through their hair on their special runs with Mommy, you’ll know it’s all worth it!

Do you run with a stroller? What’s your best advice?

image-2Heather Sweeney resides in Southern New Hampshire and is a Mom to Jack, two years old, and Anna, one year old.  She is a Registered Nurse, but her passion is running.  She is the face behind “Run For Your Sole: Inspiring Others One Step At A Time.”  Heather has completed 2 full marathons, 7 half marathons, and countless 10K’s and 5K’s.  Currently, she is training for her third marathon this May.  She is a Sweat Pink Ambassador, member of the Greater Manchester, NH Moms Run This Town Chapter, a buddy for the I RUN 4 organization, and an Angel with the Massachusetts Chapter for MyTeam Triumph.  

Tommee Tippee Review and Giveaway

A big thanks to  Tommee Tippee and Stonyfield for sponsoring this post. All opinions expressed are my own.

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This week my husband is back to work and I’m navigating life as mom of three. I’m learning to be OK with the messes and the un-done laundry and toys everywhere. There are a few things that are making that a little easier though: the Tommee Tippee Tumblers and no slip Easi-Mat which are making the messes a little less messy. And of course the Tommee Tippee Pacifiers to sooth Liam amidst the craziness that is Jack&Sophia.

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Stonyfield and Tommee Tippee recently sent me a sampling of their new Explora products to try and they couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Even though Jack drinks easily from a cup, sometimes a covered cup is the way to go especially in the car or if we are “picnicking” in the living room.

And the Easi-Mat and coordinating bowls are genius! The mat has a grippy, no-slip surface on the bottom and a suction cup on the top to which the bowls easily adhere. Preventing any inadvertent toddler elbows from flinging the bowl and it contents across the kitchen floor. I’m all for less mess. Especially while functioning on less sleep.

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The bowls are built to travel too, with a coordinating lid into which a spoon easily snaps. Or conveniently house leftovers like the Stonyfield YoToddler that Jack didn’t eat.

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The new products from Tommee Tippee are intuitive, easy to grib and rugged. They’ve been on our floor, outside, in the car and through the dishwasher several times and are still going strong.

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And now you can get a set of your own! I’m giving away the same exact set of NEW Tommee Tippee Explora products. Just enter the giveaway below.

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Open to US residents only. Must be 18 years or older. Void where prohibited. Contest ends 5/26. Winner announced via blog post.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What is your favorite Tommee Tippee product? And what Stonyfield YoToddler flavor would your toddler love most?

–Sarah

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