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!

things i would tell my younger self

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Not quite sure why, but I have been thinking about my life and past a lot lately and got on the topic of things I would tell my younger self (and these are things you think about when you have two hours to kill on the treadmill). I know we can’t change our past, only our future, but if I had the chance to give the naïve young Stephanie some advice/thoughts/words of wisdom, these are some of the things that would be included.

  • As much as you loved environmental science, I wish you wouldn’t have given up on going to dental school. I think it was more of the fear of failing or not getting into the program that scared you. You may not have gotten in or finished or liked it once you started, but at least you would have tried.
  • Getting married in your very early 20s was a stupid idea. I have no clue why you thought that once you left college you had to have this piece of your life planned. How well did that work out for you? (Note: I would NEVER wish away my kids.)
  • DON’T EVER TAN! It’s not fun going to the doctor have spots checked out and removed because they are potentially cancerous or pre-cancerous. Embrace the pale and dammit wear sunscreen, especially on your face. The crow’s feet and lines aren’t a good look.
  • Why did you ever agree/decide on some of those stupid haircuts that are still the brunt of family jokes over 20 years later? Rat tail??? Come the hell on!
  • Don’t hate on your body so much because when you look back at pictures, you will realize that you looked pretty good in a bathing suit back then. And, HELLO, cellulite-free thighs! Years of cheerleading made them big but strong and without a single dimple.
  • You shouldn’t have slacked off freshman year of college because knowing that you graduated with a 3.59 GPA and missed High Distinction by 0.01 still pisses you off.
  • Consider taking up running sooner. You are not super fast, but you are pretty good at it. And it helps you from becoming a total hot mess.
  • Your desire to be a people-pleaser and make others happy above your own happiness leaves you feeling crappy about yourself more often than I can tell you. If you can find a way to fix this when you’re younger, you will save yourself a lot of trouble. It’s unfortunate that your self-worth is tied to the opinions of others.
  • Being part of the Eastern cheer staff and getting paid to teach cheerleading would have been an awesome opportunity, but you were too afraid to do it. Take some chances.
  • Quit acting like a little bitch to your dad in high school. He loves you so much, and you regret that you lost that time because you were busy being a moody, know-it-all teenager. You will always feel as though you need to make that up to him.
  • You should have stayed in touch with your friends from college, especially Sarah and Kristin. You hopped on the family fast track and lost that connection when you were busy being a mom and wife. It wouldn’t have required a huge effort, but you missed out and you miss them.
  • Live by yourself for a period of time. No husband, no boyfriend, no roommate, no kids. Just you. I think you would have liked it a lot.
  • That being said, you hurried through motherhood, wanting to finish each day, and you didn’t stop to enjoy the moments when your kids were younger because you were “too busy.” That time has passed, and there’s no getting it back.
  • You can wear silver jewelry instead of gold with your skin tone, have long hair despite not having thickness, and wear a strapless dress with your triangle shoulders. The fact you had these made-up rules for things like these was just silly.
  • Chocolate and beer are amazing, and you should have indulged in them sooner before you had to worry about the calories. And remember when you used to make Stove Top Stuffing as an after-school snack? Those were the days.
  • You are enough :-)

What is a piece of advice you would tell your younger self?

how to cram a week’s worth of vacation in Seattle in three days

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The answer to that question is to go on a vacation to visit my brother. In the summer, my brother Steve and sister-in-law Tracy moved to Washington, where Tracy lived growing up. I promised him that when they moved and settled in their new house, I would come out and visit. Thankfully, Dan and I had the opportunity to take that trip to Snoqualmie about a week and a half ago and held the honor of being their first guests from “The Great State.” With our limited vacation time, we crammed an entire week’s worth of vacation into three amazing days. Here’s the highlights!

Snoqualmie Falls

Cirque de Soleil – Kurios (lack of pics due to no photography during show but still amazing & a bucket list item for me)

Hiking Tiger Mountain

Tulalip Casino for Dinner and Outlet Mall Shopping

Pike Place Market

The Space Needle

Breweries…lots of them (Snoqualmie Falls Brewing Company, Redhook Ale Brewery, Pike Brewing Company, and Pyramid Brewery)

Lots of amazing other pics to cram in this post

Thanks again, Stevie and Tracy! I love you and miss you…and when can I plan my next vacation?

life happens

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Okay, readers, I have a confession. Until this weekend, it had been two weeks since I ran, and three weeks since I completed a long run. Whew, I feel better about admitting that, but it also makes me feel a bit guilty. Why the running hiatus? Life happens. Plain and simple. Between an illness that stopped me from running (and basically being able to function) altogether to a much-needed and well-deserved vacation in Washington to getting back in the swing of work and home life, running took a back seat for a while.

Ideally, that’s not what I wanted to have happen in the middle of marathon training. Up until this point, I was on schedule to be around 15-16 miles for my long runs. While I am not too far behind, I don’t have the wiggle room that I did before in case I bomb a long run, which happens at least once, or get hit with something unexpected. With the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon about 10 weeks away, I need to regain focus, stay healthy, and continue to train with a PR mindset. I still haven’t given up hope that a great race is in store for me, and I know that I am not the only one who has had a setback or two during the course of training. This is where we pick up the pieces, take a deep breath, and start again with more fervor than before.

Although my marathon training isn’t going as planned, I’m happy to say that the kids started their training for the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon 5K, which is held the day before the big race on Saturday, May 16. This will be the first time that all four kids have run a 5K with me, and I couldn’t be more excited! Yes, even my Adrianna who has said that she doesn’t like running is going to participate. Yesterday, we attend the Lorain County Fitness Walk at Splash Zone in Oberlin. The field house track is open to the public free of charge every Monday at 5:30 PM as part of a collaboration with the Lorain County General Health District (my employer), Lorain County Metro Parks, Mercy Hospital, and WOBL/WDLW. This is a great opportunity because it gives us a place to train when the weather is lousy, allows the kids to burn off some energy, and supports the local community. All four kids put in at least 1.5 miles yesterday, so I am anxious to see how well they will do come race day. Good luck, kiddles!

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research study – runners wanted!

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About a week ago, the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon had a post on their Facebook page about a research study on running-related injuries. The Cleveland Clinic was conducting the study and looking for participants. Being the science-minded person that I am, I was all, “Sign me up!” I have encountered two injuries since I began running in 2009 – IT band syndrome and impinged fat pads in my knee – and I thought if I could learn a little something from the study and help others, it would be worth it.

In the study description, Cleveland Clinic stated they were looking for healthy runners who were heel to midfoot strikers, and the time commitment was one hour or less. Check and check. After a few back-and-forth emails with Darrell Allen, the study coordinator, my appointment was all set. They even generously allowed me to bring the kids along.

We set out for the Cleveland Clinic Sports Health building in Garfield Heights on February 14. Yes, we spent Valentine’s Day morning doing a running research study :-) The weather was great until we hit the airport, which resulted in us being a few minutes late (I know, story of my life). Darrell greeted us at the door and escorted us to the physical therapy gym. I was happy when I saw there was a small area with a ball and net, and Darrell and crew allowed the kids to play while I took part in the study. I was worried about how they would behave during it, but having the opportunity for them to play alleviated a huge ton of stress!

After reading and signing the obligatory waivers and having some tape marks placed on my shoe and leg, it was time to hop on the treadmill and begin. Without giving away the gist of the study, I had to alternate between periods of walking and running while a camera captured my movements. I was able to chat a bit about the study, but I can’t give away that information in case others who want to participate are reading. But I can tell you it was a fun experience and exciting to know that I am helping with research on running-related injuries. I also came away with a few tips to help reduce injury while running, so all-in-all, it was helpful.

The Cleveland Clinic needs more participants, so I encourage you to help out! How often do you have the opportunity to be part of a research study and garner some tips to become a more efficient runner?! Contact Darrell Allen at 330-888-4512 or allend4@ccf.org for more info.