striking a balance

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I’ve been contemplating this post for a long time and haven’t sat down to write it because I am not sure I can do it in a way where I won’t offend someone. I try to keep posts pretty uncontroversial, but I’ve seen a lot on social medial in the past few weeks that prompted me to just sit and write it. Keeping that in mind, I suppose I will just preface this by saying these thoughts are my own and in no way intended to shame anyone. This post centers on moms and their desire to take time out of their family routine to work out. This is one of those subjects where you are either damned if you do or damned if you don’t. If you don’t work out, you are deemed lazy and setting a bad example for your kids. If you do work out, you are narcissistic and choosing yourself over your kids. Seriously, we just can’t win! I mean, it’s unfortunate that fat shaming and slut shaming are becoming commonplace, and I feel that mom shaming falls into the same category. And I think that the worst shamers of moms are OTHER moms!

I fall into the moms-who-work-out category and have taken some heat for it. “Real moms put their kids before themselves.” is the gist of it. I’ve heard comments made about me being selfish for taking time away from my family to run or train for a race. And I guess at the very core of it, it is true. I am, at those moments, choosing myself over the kids and their activities, and that can be viewed as selfish. Why would anyone who calls herself a good mom put herself before her kids? Because, in my opinion, every now and then we need to for our own health and sanity. I believe that a healthy mom is a happy mom, and a happy mom makes for a happy family. I don’t mean healthy in the sense that we all look like Barbie dolls. What I mean is we are healthy enough where we are able to play with our children in the park without having to sit down from being too tired. Healthy enough where the stresses of work, bills, family circumstances, etc. don’t negatively affect our parenting. Healthy enough where are can be the best version of ourselves for our children. In order for me to be the best mom I can be, I need that time to myself to run and work out. That is what makes me healthy and grounds me.

While I feel the need to run and take that time for myself, I understand that there is a balance. Some weeks I am better at balancing than others. Some weeks I fail miserably. To help keep a better balance, I try to combine a park outing for the kids with my training. We are fortunate enough to have a park near our house, so while they are playing on the playground or ball fields, I am running around the path. I have also gotten the kids to embrace running, and it is something we can do as a family. I feel more accomplished when I finish a run with them than I do when I crush a training run. Although we utilize the childcare at the gym, I try to not do it more than once a week, and that is a lot easier now with the weather getting warmer. I kind of bribe them, too. On Saturdays, my gym holds a kids’ fitness class, and they love it! My bribe is if they let me get a run in, I will do the fitness class with them. It’s a win-win, and we are all having fun.

It’s my hope that in the upcoming years, my kids will look back and see that I am trying to set a good example for them with respect to fitness and physical activity. Instead of thinking that time was taken away from them, I want them to remember the times we played together at the park, the silly dances at the fitness classes, the 5Ks we ran as a family, and how mom tried to instill the importance of remaining active. I feel I am leading by example and practicing what I preach. How hypocritical would it be for me to tell my kids to be active and play outside or participate in individual and team sports if I turn around and sit on the couch watching a Real Housewives of New York marathon? It’s so much easier for them to grow up with healthy habits than to change them in the future. And as for running, I fully intend to continue as long as my body lets me. I would love to complete a long distance race with one of my children or accompany my grandchildren on their first 5K. The possibilities are exciting and help drive me.

So I will leave you with this. It’s one of my favorites that I’ve seen floating around the internet.

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cleveland marathon giveaway – win a free entry!

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I’ve been an official blogger/race ambassador for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon for the past three years, and this is the post that I look forward to each year. The marathon generously provides us with a free entry to give away to our readers, and now it’s time for me to share that with you! One lucky reader will snag a free entry to the race of his/her choice (marathon, half marathon, 10K, or 5K).

Before I get to the giveaway, I wanted to pass along some info on the races. The CLE marathon is always looking to improve, and based on participant feedback, there are some great changes you can expect this year. Here are some of them.

  • NEW START LINE! Due to the race’s expanding partnership with the Cleveland Cavaliers, this year’s race will start at The Q (Quicken Loans Arena)! And there will be every runner’s dream – some indoor bathrooms available! Also new this year is a 7:00AM start for the marathon, half marathon, and 10K, so no staggered starting.
  • Mobile gear check – this year, you can drop your gear off at the start, and it will be transported to the finish, which makes life oh so much easier.
  • New additions to the course – participants will have a chance to run through Playhouse Square and Gordon Square Arts District. Fan favorites, like Tremont and Ohio City, will also be ready to welcome runners. And let’s not forget about the west side areas of Lakewood and Rocky River, which were added new to last year’s course and provided lots of support for runners.
  • Finisher medals for 5K participants – my kids will be beaming from ear to ear when they get that medal around their necks on Saturday. If you’re looking to tackle your first 5K, I highly recommend the Cleveland Marathon 5K held on Saturday, May 16.
  • Expo in Downtown Cleveland – the Expo will be held at the Cleveland Convention Center in Hall A, which means all of the weekend’s festivities (races, expo, annual pre-race pasta dinner, race after-party) are right in the heart of Cleveland. This makes me smile.

Okay, now that I gave some updates, on to the giveaway! The giveaway will run Monday, April 13 through Sunday, April 19. The winner will be announced on Monday, April 20. There are lots of ways to win, so read the info below and start entering! NOTE: If you are currently signed up to run a race, you cannot win the giveaway and receive your race entry fee back. This giveaway is for new participants only. However, if you are running on Sunday and want to run the 5K on Saturday, enter away!

WAYS TO ENTER!

  1. Leave a comment letting me know which race you would like to run if you won.
  2. Like the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon on Facebook and leave a comment.
  3. Follow the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon on Twitter (@clevemarathon) and leave a comment.
  4. Follow the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon on Instagram (@clevemarathon) and leave a comment.
  5. Follow me on Twitter (@stephplusfour) and leave a comment.
  6. Follow me on Instagram (@stephplusfour) and leave a comment.
  7. Tweet about the giveaway, tagging the CLE marathon and me, and let me know in the comments (you can tweet and leave a comment about it once each day, so that’s 7 entries!). If you need a little help, use something like this – I want to #runCLE with @stephplusfour & the @clevemarathon (and insert the blog link).

GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY RUNNING!

train as a family

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It’s official; spring has finally come to Northeast Ohio!!! Warmer weather means runs move from the treadmill to the road, and I couldn’t be happier. The break in the weather also means the kiddles have started training for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon 5K, which is held the day before the marathon on Saturday, May 16. All four of them will lace up their shoes and take to the streets of Cleveland, so that means it’s training time!

Our first outdoor training run was on April 1. We are fortunate enough to live right around the corner from a local park that has a paved .4 mile track around it, which is perfect for runs with the kids. As much as I would love them to run around the neighborhood with me, four kids + no sidewalks = not a fabulous idea. We got to the park, stretched, and started off. I told them the goal was to run at least two laps without walking. After that, they could decide to run more with me or play on the playground. We weren’t even a quarter of the way around the track when my darling Annie started complaining that her side hurt and her legs hurt. Keep in mind she is a very athletic kid and nothing would make be believe she was feeling any pain at this time, especially with the pace we were keeping. She also proceeded to tell me she changed her mind and didn’t want to run this race. What did I do? I made her keep going and told her she was going to run that race. I’m not trying to sound like a horrible parent and definitely don’t want to use physical activity as a punishment, but I am teaching her a lesson. That lesson is when you sign up for something and make a commitment, you finish it. She wanted to run the race before, and I hesitated signing her up because I was worried she wasn’t serious. After telling me multiple times she wanted to run, I bit the bullet and registered her. She will be at that starting line in May.

Despite the whining, the two laps went well, especially for the other kids who made it seem easy. Cole, Lexi, and Annie decided to take a breather, but Cael told he wanted to keep running with me. Truth be told, he is my little running buddy and has no problem keeping up with me. Cael and I completed another lap, and while we were coming around the last turn, we saw Annie take off on her own. This made me very proud. We yelled words of encouragement, and she kept going…and going…and going. When it was said and done, that little girl who complained about two laps completed enough to run 2.4 miles! 2.4 freaking miles! For a kid who has never run a 5K (unlike her siblings), I was floored. The best part is she did most of it on her own in her fiercely independent style, earning her the Hustle Award for the day. Afterward, we were talking about it, and she said she was looking forward to the next run. What started off negatively ended on a positive note for her.

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Cael definitely snagged the Rockstar Award. That little guy hung in there for 4 miles! Keep in mind he has never run that far, AND he hasn’t run any significant distance since last August when he ran his first 5K. To top it off, he is fast. When we were running with everyone else, we were keeping pace in the 10:00-11:00 minute range, but once it was just him and me, we were easily in the 9:00-9:30 minute range. Then he sped up and was cruising in the 8:30-8:45s! I already ran 4 miles on the treadmill that morning, and I honestly had trouble keeping up with him! I told him that he and I will do a race together this spring or summer where it is just him and me because I am curious to see just how fast my little dude can fly.

And what about Lexi and Cole? They both completed their 2 laps, which made me happy. Poor Cole needed a bathroom break and spent most of the time in there (hey, we’ve all been there, right?), and Lex joined in for another lap after taking a small break. All in all, it was a successful training day! Great job, kiddles, and I’m looking forward to more runs with you!

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these are a few of my favorite (running) things

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Forget raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens! My favorite things (besides family, of course) come in two major categories – food and running gear. With the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon right around the corner (50 freaking days!), I figured I would show a little love to my favorite running things that help power me through training and race day. Keep in mind, I am no gear expert or claim to write fabulous reviews. This is just my two cents about some products I love.

Sparkly Soul, Inc. Headbands
I am not ashamed to admit that I am completely in love with a headband. Sparkly Soul, Inc. knows a thing or two about keeping hair in place and looking good while doing it. Their headbands are 100% sparkly (or satiny, if you prefer) elastic without that piece of black elastic in the back, and they don’t move AT ALL. I can’t even begin to count the number of training runs and races I have run in these headbands, and they have always stayed in place without squeezing my head. The best part is they look good enough to wear outside of workout. I wear these everywhere – workouts, the office, out to dinner, to jazz up a bad hair day, etc. My daughters, ages 10 and 8, are also big fans and have their own little Sparkly Soul collections. If you are worried about the price (they range from $15 for thin bands to $17 for wide bands), don’t be! They are worth every single cent, and if you think about all of those other headbands you purchase and then never wear, this is a good investment. You can sign up for emails to receive updates on new products and sales. Just do me a favor and buy one already!

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Oiselle Mac Roga shorts
My daughter Annie comes by her love of short shorts honestly, and for me, Oiselle Mac Rogas are perfection. I am very finicky when it comes to my running shorts. They can’t be long, but my cheeks can’t be hanging out. They can’t be loose, but there is no way I am wearing what I refer to as sausage casing (compression shorts). They need a wide waistband that doesn’t cut into the muffin top for the dreaded overhand, but they can’t be high-waisted. I was introduced to Oiselle last year, and now, I hate to even wear another company’s shorts. They feel great when I am running, make my booty look phenomenal, wash and wear well, and have a handy-dandy zippered rear pocket to hold things like a gel or keys. These are also great shorts for wearing around in the summer because they have a board short look to them. Super cute and super comfy.

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Garmin Forerunner 220
I am a big Garmin fan, having used the Forerunner 2010 since 2012, but when I was graciously upgraded last year (thanks, Dan!), I didn’t know what I was missing with my other watch. The Garmin Forerunner 220 locks into satellites much more quickly than the other, offers more data about the run, and has a pretty color display. It’s also lighter on my wrist than my previous watch. Another great feature – it paused and resumes the timer based on speed, so it eliminates the “Oh-crap-did-I-stop-my-watch” worry after a race. Though it is not necessarily cheap (around $250), it is perfect for my running needs.

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Honey Stinger Organic Waffles
I told you I love food and running stuff, so this combines both in one. Having been a runner for six years, I have tried many types of pre-run and during the run fuel, and I have come to the conclusion I am just not a gel fan. I needed something that was tasty and more like real food. Enter Honey Stinger Organic Waffles. These things are like a dessert, and I have found that they provide me with energy and satisfy my food craving. Another selling point for people who watch what they eat – they are USDA organic, dairy free, and nut free. While I love them, there are two things to keep in mind. Since they are a round waffle, they are not easy to take along on a run unless you have a running belt or can meet up with someone who can hand one off to you, and you have to be careful that you don’t choke on a little piece of it while eating and running. Those things aside, they are great, and I plan on having at least one on hand in Cleveland in May.

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Road ID
This is one item that I love and hope never needs used. Road ID is a quick an easy way for me to wear my emergency contact information/health and allergy information on my wrist in the event something were to happen to me on a run or during a race. Road IDs are completely personalized, so you add the information that you feel is important. There are 8 different styles, and you can chose from an original format or interactive format. My personal favorite is the Wrist ID Slim, which is more like one of those silicone bracelets. It’s lightweight, doesn’t get in the way of my watch or other wrist items, and I can pop the metal info part off and slip it on another band. At approximately $20, it’s a small price to pay for piece of mind.

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What are your favorite running items? Give them a shout-out in the comments. 

guest post – why i work out at planet fitness

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CHECK IT OUT! You are used to reading post from me about my family, my running, my fundraising, etc., etc., etc. Now’s a chance to read a post from my boyfriend, Dan, who wanted to put in his two cents about working out, finding a place that fits, and rekindling or finding motivation. Enjoy!

For all my life I have been an athlete (we can use that term loosely). All the way up through high school, there wasn’t a season where I wasn’t a part of a team. After high school, I was talented and fortunate enough to accept a Division 1 baseball scholarship. After four grueling years sandwiched between several surgeries, I was lucky enough to expand that to several mediocre seasons of professional baseball. That’s 25 years of, again using the term loosely, being an athlete. After “retirement” and a few years of hibernation, I got talked into running a half marathon and since then have been exposed to the sport I hope will last me the rest of my life. Yet during all those years with the dozens of gyms and workout facilities I had at my disposal I always seemingly felt out of place most times I would workout. That is until a few years ago.

One of the guys I played against in college informed me of a new gym he would be heading up that was very close to where I was living and told me to come in and sign up and see what I thought. That gym was Planet Fitness. I had never heard of this place except for the show The Biggest Loser and even that was something I had never paid any attention to.

At first I was taken back. The gym is literally all purple, has almost no free weights, and seemed to use a selling point of free tanning more than getting in shape, but I gave it a shot. The more I went the more I realized that this gym wasn’t like almost every other gym I have been to. We all know the gyms I am talking about. The kind where if you aren’t powerlifting, benching, grunting, or at least posing in the mirror for 20 minutes, then you didn’t belong. You didn’t belong and you sure as shit wouldn’t dare try and snag one of the “juiceheads” benches. And if you’re a runner, forget about it; that’s something non-athletes do to pass the time (their words, not mine).

See the thing is, I have never had and probably will never have the perfect body. My entire life has been based around a little something I like to call “performance”. Throwing 90 mph, with good movement, was always more important than the size of my biceps. Even now, it doesn’t matter what I look like with my shirt off if I could just cut 30 seconds a mile off my marathon. That’s the thing that most gyms miss that Planet Fitness has a ton of; whatever your reason is for being there, use that to fuel your own fire. And I absolutely love that. Try struggling in your third hour of a 20 mile treadmill run and then seeing a 60+ year old guy about 50 feet from you who needs a cane to walk around on the elliptical trying to get in shape. Find something more motivating than that. Planet Fitness may not have all the personal trainers. Planet Fitness may not have all the free weights. Hell, they serve you pizza for crying out loud. But they give EVERYONE one thing the other gyms don’t – a place to feed your own fire where, just like those corny advertisements say, it’s judgement free. You’ll see the most jacked dude in there helping a woman who has never even been in a gym before.

I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t also mention the fact that they have, BY FAR, the best treadmills I have used in a gym. Between Stephanie and myself, we have ran on many a treadmill, and these are easily above the rest. To counteract the three-hour bore fest that entails running next to me for three hours, right above the treadmills are roughly two dozen flat screen TVs for your viewing pleasure. Side note: anyone who knows me knows I run very angry, so if my Stephanie can do it with no music; then trust me the TVs and treadmills work.

To be fair, if you are a bodybuilder or a cross fitter (what I call hipsters of the workout world) or a power-lifter, yes, this gym would suck and you wouldn’t go. That’s fine and I understand, but for basically 95% of the rest of the population, this place gives them a chance to try and better their situation without feeling out of place. Enough with bashing a place that allows in one day, my parents, my sister, my cousin Troy, Stephanie, and myself all to be there together so we can get whatever our own version of a perfect or healthy body may be.

Several years ago I was a has-been. I was a former baseball player who let himself become really fat. I was embarrassed. My pant sizes were going up as my choice in women was going down (but check out this hottie I snagged now….(Stephanie’s edit…haha I had to sneak that one in there)). I was a very “unhot” mess. But thanks to a Barney looking gym, I was able to drop more weight than I care to admit and completed my 1st ever marathon last spring. I didn’t need coaching or personal training or steroids, just the will to want more for myself, which is all you need. So if you don’t have a gym, or feel out of place where you are a member, look for the goofy purple gym who gives you pizza the first Monday of each month. From there it’s up to you.

a change of course

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Truth be told, I like to plan, probably a little too much. I’ve very comfortable with creating a schedule and following it (even to the detriment of other things), so when life deviates from my schedule, it makes for an unhappy and frustrated Stephanie. A big change in relation to running and training happened this week. I will not be running the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon on May 17; I will be running the half marathon instead.

I have been wrestling with the decision for a while, and I had to make a choice between training and personal life. In the end, personal life won. Without going into a ton of details, there are things going on with my family that require more time from me. Marathon training is huge commitment and one that I proudly stated I was able to make as a single mom, but now, 26.2 miles has to take a backseat.

I’m going to be honest; I was really upset with myself when the decision was first made. There may have even been a few tears shed (I know, crying over running is silly, but it happens). Even though I know it is the right one, I felt like I was letting myself down and disappointing my readers, the Marathon staff (especially Jack and Joan), and others who commended me for doing it all. At this point, I just can’t do it all. And that doesn’t make me a failure; it makes me human.

Monday was the day I decided the marathon would have to wait, and the half would be the best choice for me. I took a few hours off from work that afternoon and did what I always do when I am upset or need to find clarity – I ran. And I ran far. And for me, I ran fast. It was my first outside long run since I ran the Santa Hustle in December. The weather was perfect (tank top, shorts, arm sleeves, and my fabulous new Mizuno Wave Inspire 11s), and I was motivated. It took me a good four miles to adjust from treadmill to the road, and although the run wasn’t easy, it was just what I needed. Fifteen miles and 2 hours and 16 minutes later, I felt better and completely at peace with my decision. I needed to push myself and prove that even though I may not be running the full marathon, I am more than capable of longer distances. I was starting to doubt myself.

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So where do I go from here? As was my original goal of setting another PR in the marathon, the goal for my race in May is to set a half marathon PR, which I set back in October 2013 when I went on a crazy half marathon rampage and ran four in less than a month. I know I can already run 13.1 miles and have done it at few times already during the course of training, so the plan is to get faster and more efficient by adding more speed training. Now that I am not focused on adding miles, I can focus on speed, something I haven’t done in a while. Ideally, I would love to run the race without the use of my hydration belt, so that is something I need to incorporate into my training. I love the thing for the marathon, but it can be a nuisance when it moves around my waist, especially when I go faster.

One thing I promise as I move forward with training is I will not say, “I am ONLY running a half.” There is no only. A half marathon is a great achievement, and I commend anyone who has taken on that distance. Like a marathon, it requires months of training and dedication, and it is what you make of it. If your goal is to cross the finish line, that is great. If your goal is to run the whole thing without walking, great, too. If your goal is to run it in less than 1:30, fabulous. We all have goals we are working toward. My goal happens to be a PR, and I know I will achieve it.

Thanks again, everyone, for your support; it is greatly appreciated! I look forward to sharing this new training journey with you.

Side note: Some things are serendipitous. After I finished writing this post, I saw a fabulous post from my favorite blogger, Rachel from Finding Joy. You can read it here: http://findingjoy.net/no-more-how-do-you-it-all/. It addresses the dreaded mom question, “How do you do it all?” Fantastic read and just what I needed. Thank you, Rachel.

i’m a solemate!

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Each year, I like to run a race where there is a little more behind it than just me chasing a PR. For the past two years, I have run the Columbus Marathon as a Children’s Champion and raised over $1500. I loved the Columbus experience but decided to forgo the race this fall and run some local races instead. That left me looking for something where I could give back. The perfect opportunity arose when I had the chance to represent the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon on Sunday at the Southeast Runners’ Club banquet.

At the banquet I met Rachel Nypaver, Volunteer Coordinate with Girls on the Run of Greater Summit. She was there promoting the program the same as I was promoting the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, and as she talked about it, I got more and more excited and thought that it was a perfect program for me to support. What’s Girls on the Run? It’s a program that was established in 1996 in Charlotte, NC that provides pre-adolescent girls with the necessary tools to embrace their individual strengths and navigate life experiences. The mission states, “We inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.” It is a 10-week program that combines running as a way to show the girls they are capable of great accomplishments, with a 5K as the culmination. Our local chapter is located in Summit County and serves Cuyahoga, Lorain, Medina, Portage, and Summit Counties.

I was completely sold on the idea of assisting with Girls on the Run in some way, and when Rachel noted that Girls on the Run was recently added as a charity partner for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, I knew I had to get involved by running the race not only as a race ambassador but as a Girls on the Run SoleMate! SoleMates raise money for Girls on the Run, which is used to provide scholarships for girls to take part in the program. My goal is to raise at least $600, which will provide a scholarship to one girl and three of her friends. Anything over my goal would be fabulous!

Our young girls are growing up in tough times. Even at a young age they are constantly bombarded with images and ideals of what a girl and woman should be. All one has to do it look through social media or magazine covers or television programs to see what some consider the image of ideal beauty and/or female perfection, and that leaves many of them feeling poorly about their self-image. Girls on the Run is there to help them think outside the “Girl Box,” which is the place many girls go to in middle school when they morph into what they think they should be instead of who they really are. I only wish there was something like this around when I was younger, but now I can help make a difference in the lives of young girls in an effort to help them grow into strong, independent women.

This is where I need your help. Please consider making a donation to Girls on the Run through my SoleMate fundraising page. Any and all help is greatly appreciated! Here’s the link:

https://www.raceplanner.com/donate/Stephanie-s-SoleMate-Commitment

Thanks in advance, and this makes me even more motivated for Cleveland in May! #girlpower #runlikeagirl

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Check out Girls on the Run of Greater Summit on Facebook!