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I have been meaning to write about running during pregnancy for a very long time, yet here I am – finally posting this at nearly 38 weeks pregnant!

Clearly a lot has happened since I ran the Big Sur Marathon last year. That was always the plan – run one last big race, and then attempt another far more challenging endurance event…PREGNANCY! We were fortunate enough to conceive right away, so I cruised from post-marathon recovery right into training for motherhood. We found out the good news shortly after an incredible trip to Hawaii, where we ran almost daily on the beach and had an epic trail running adventure down and around the Haleakala crater. I didn’t realize that I was 3 weeks pregnant at the time (if that even counts) and thoroughly enjoyed our 12 miles of running at altitude, hurling ourselves down the crater and across some of the most stunning and dramatic landscapes I have ever seen. It was my last blissfully ignorant running hurrah – before any of the now familiar pregnant running thoughts and concerns entered my mind. E captured the day quite well in his blog and I highly recommend hiking or running there if you find yourself in Maui – check it out!

Once I processed the initial shock and joy of discovering I was pregnant, one of my first thoughts was, “Wait – what about my running?!?!” I was averaging 30-40 miles per week pre-pregnancy, not training for anything in particular but trying to maintain my fitness after Big Sur for myself, and in case I wanted to squeeze in one last marathon or ultra over the summer. I couldn’t imagine not running. It is such an integral of my life – my “me time,” my release, a way I bond with my husband, and a large part of how I stay fit and healthy. I wanted to keep running as long as I could!

As a running coach, I knew the basics surrounding exercise during pregnancy, including:

  • Don’t start any new physical activities – unless it is something relatively gentle (i.e. if you weren’t active before, starting a walking routine is fine)
  • Limit or avoid sports that have a higher risk of injury/falling
  • Listen to your body and err on the side of caution if something doesn’t feel right – it’s just not worth the risk
  • Ensure adequate hydration/nutrition before, during and after exercise to maximize energy levels and recovery
  • Avoid exercising in heat or other potentially dangerous weather conditions (e.g. ice)
  • Most importantly, follow the advice that your doctor provides you that is specific to YOUR unique pregnancy!

Exercise, generally speaking, is without a doubt beneficial to mom and baby, assuming a healthy pregnancy. There is a great deal of research to support this, leading doctors to encourage most women to perform some type of physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day. But I was already very active – 30 min of walking doesn’t exactly cut it for me – and I couldn’t help but feel nervous, especially during the first trimester, so I wasn’t quite sure how to proceed. I knew that many women ran during pregnancy – some even finished marathons in their second and third trimesters – but there seemed to be conflicting information and opinions out there regarding distance and/or high intensity exercise. Could I continue with my previous mileage? What about long runs? What was safe for me and my baby? There wasn’t a whole lot of concrete information available on the topic.

I found myself doing a lot of googling and and blog reading about other women’s experiences. This of course did not substitute my need for individualized medical advice, and it’s important to note that every pregnancy is different, but it was reassuring and motivating to know that other runners were able to have healthy, successful pregnancies and stay in great shape without sacrificing their love of the sport. Did their running change and was it challenging at times to keep running? Of course! Was it worth it? Hell yeah! Did their successs mean that I would be able to run throughout my entire pregnancy? Definitely not. But I hoped I could and I am grateful my little one allowed me to run as long as I did, up until 36.5 weeks!

It also helped that I have a great OB who has been supportive of my running from day 1. With the thumbs up from her, I kept doing what I was doing, with some key adjustments that I have outlined below. My running obviously shifted as pregnancy progressed, but I pretty much followed these guidelines throughout, based on my experience as a coach and long-time runner, my own research on pregnant running, and my doctor’s advice specific to my exercise and medical history:

  • I approached training for childbirth as I would any important race. Preparing for birth (especially if you are planning for a natural one, as I am), is in many ways similar to training for a race. You have an overarching plan that includes all the physical and mental prep work to cross the finish line successfully, but have to take things day by day and adjust that plan as needed to get to that start line healthy.
  • I tried to stay flexible. If I felt particularly tired, queasy, or something didn’t feel right, I shortened my run, slowed down, took walk breaks, cross-trained, or took a rest day. As a side note, I didn’t wear a heart rate monitor  – keeping heart rate below a certain level for healthy pregnancies is old school advice – but simply paid attention to how I was feeling and adjusted my efforts accordingly.
  • Speed was no longer a priority – especially since pregnancy WILL slow you down eventually (for me, this happened later in my 2nd trimester). I cared more about CONSISTENT running. I still did some high intensity exercise to relieve stress and break up the monotony of easier efforts, but only when I felt strong and up until my third trimester, after which I kept things very low key.
  • I paid closer attention to the weather. I’m the type of runner who usually doesn’t get discouraged by a blizzard, downpour, or a hot summer day. That had to change! On extra hot days or if conditions were slippery, I adjusted the time of day that I went running, hit the treadmill, or did some indoor cross-training.
  • I was extremely careful about my running nutrition & hydration. I carried water if running for more than 4 miles, especially in warmer weather, and carried electrolytes/calories if running longer than 8 miles. I also made sure to have pre and post run snacks (always on my radar though, as a dietitian!).
  • I dedicated more time to strength training and lower impact cross-training, especially once my belly got bigger. Running became less comfortable for me around 34 weeks, at which point I started to run/walk and incorporate more spin classes and what I like to call, “Netflix & Elliptical.”
  • I bought a Road ID to wear in case something happened to me while I was running, especially for when I was alone. I also carried a credit card and if straying far from home, my phone (which I usually never carry), in case of emergencies.
  • I invested in a few key items of maternity exercise wear to stay comfortable as I got bigger. I was lucky in that I could keep wearing a lot of my normal gear until mid/late second trimester, as I already had some flowy and stretchy long tops, large running jackets, and some looser/stretchy shorts and pants. I did find a few things useful to buy, including a couple maternity tanks, a maternity long sleeve zip top, and a pair of maternity tights – all on sale from Old Navy and Gap. I splurged on my For Two Fitness “Running for Two” tank and long sleeve top, as they were too cute to resist!
  • I always ran within my comfort zone – and appreciate that this is different for everyone. For example, a half marathon during my second trimester seemed reasonable to me (I did the Staten Island Half at a slower but strong pace), as did running 12-15 miles with my husband on long slow run days during my 1st and 2nd trimesters, but I did not feel that longer distances were worth the risk. During my late second and early third trimesters, I was quite happy running 8-10M and 6-7M, respectively, as my “long” runs. Additionally, I felt solid running on technical trails up until my third trimester, as long as I ran with E and slowed down or walked particularly tricky sections. Our trail running adventures in Asheville, NC (check out E’s post here) at the start of my second trimester were particularly awesome!
  • I tried not to compare myself to other pregnant runners – what my body looked like, how much I was running, or anything else. Every pregnancy is different and the only important thing was to respect my own!
  • I always kept the “big picture” in mind – heathy mom and baby! Sure, I still had fitness goals – run/exercise consistently and as long as possible – but the ultimate goal always was to keep my baby safe. I’ll be honest, it was a bummer to miss a workout or cut things short because I wasn’t feeling well or my doctor wanted me to be extra cautious at times, but in pregnancy, it’s just not worth the risk.

I never sought to run a specific number of miles while pregnant, but when I realized that 1,000 was within my reach, it become the perfect goal to keep me motivated, especially whenever my running started to feel aimless. The last 50 miles were especially challenging, as I began to feel my increased weight and changes in my gait – a good chunk of those miles were walking – but I’m proud of myself for getting it done. As my doctor told me, my dedication to exercise helped maintain great blood flow to my baby and will likely lead to an easier labor! It also means that my return to running post-partum will not be *quite* so painful (although I know that it will still be pretty tough…).

My path to full-term pregnancy has not exactly been easy – without going into details, we have had many bumps in the road, and the process has been scary/overwhelming at times – but I am extremely grateful to have felt good for the most part and to have been able to stay so active. For the past week, I have only been walking because that is what feels best, but I walk every day for at least 30 minutes and at a good pace. I’m thinking of it as “tapering” for “race day” – I don’t get that same post-run high, but I still feel great afterwards. The finish line is within sight now and I cannot wait to meet my baby girl!

A quick note on training for natural birth – my husband and I enrolled in a birthing class that teaches the Bradley Method. It has been a huge time commitment (8 x 3hr sessions) but SO worthwhile. We knew very little about the birthing process pre-pregnancy and we feel so empowered and prepared now (as much as you can be, that is). E and I have always worked well as a team, often training side by side, exploring trails together, and pacing each other in marathons and ultras, so I knew that I wanted him to coach me through birth. The parallels between running a long race and birthing a baby naturally are actually quite astounding. I have been practicing various physical and mental exercises (e.g. kegels, squats, pelvic tilts, active labor positions, relaxation and visualization, breathing etc.) to help cope with labor pain, and also practicing E’s coaching techniques to make sure that they resonate with me. Kind of like strength training, structured running targeted at your race distance, mantras, and learning the art of pacing, right? Childbirth is not the same as running an ultra obviously, but having run for 12 hours and navigated the physical and mental highs and lows of that experience certainly gives me confidence that I can get through the many hours of labor and delivery!

If you’re interested in hearing more about my experience of running while pregnant, in addition to my coaching and nutrition advice for pregnant athletes, check out this podcast that I did with Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running! We had such a great conversation on pregnancy exercise and I would love your feedback.

I’ll close out with a photo diary of my running and other exercise adventures while pregnant – check out the captions to see how far along I was. It’s amazing how much my body has changed, even if I haven’t gained as much weight as I thought I would (and believe me, I have been trying hard to gain more, especially in recent weeks). Then again, I have always been a small person and can’t imagine my belly being much bigger! It will be a long road to get my body and my fitness back post-birth, but I know I’ll get there eventually.

First trimester:

Second trimester:

Third trimester:

Happy New Year! My race calendar is mostly empty for 2016, but after a packed Fall running schedule, that’s fine with me. Next up is the Big Sur Marathon in April – 16 weeks from today! Being from Santa Cruz, I’ve visited Big Sur regularly since I was little. It’s one of the most gorgeous places on earth, and this marathon has been on my bucket list for a long time. I can’t wait to soak up those coastal views while doing one of my favorite activities. I mean, doesn’t this photo almost look fake? Northern California never ceases to amaze me with its beauty.

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After the JFK50, I was really hurting, between a terrible cold/flu and my busted foot. My whole body felt broken yet I somehow managed to avoid serious injury and within a couple weeks, felt like my old self again. I wanted to give my foot plenty of time to heal so I took a month off running and other high-impact exercise, and it was exactly what I needed! I did a two-week free trial with ClassPass, which was perfect. I had the best time trying new activities around the city – spinning, strength training, pilates, barre, deep water running, you name it! Some of my favorites – Peloton, Flywheel and Swerve for spin, Uplift and Throwback Fitness for strength, RJ Valentin’s deep water running, and FlexPilates. There are so many other great studios on there (e.g. MHRC, boot camps etc).

It was fun to try so many new things, and the variety did wonders for body and mind. I lost some of my running fitness by mid December, but I felt stronger, mentally refreshed, and hungry to start running again. Now that I’m running regularly, it doesn’t make sense to pay $125 for the full membership, but the 5 classes for $75 per month option isn’t bad, considering what these studios charge otherwise per class!

I’m quickly regaining my running fitness, and am now extra committed to incorporating non-running activities into my exercise routine. My running goals for 2016 are simple. Forget time – all I want is to be consistent, feel strong, and remain injury free. The end of the year was filled with too many accidents and injuries. I don’t wish to repeat that!

Most of all, I want to keep my running and other physical activities fun. I recently accepted two new jobs in addition to working full time at the hospital – I start this week as a private practice dietitian at Nutrition Energy Tues/Thurs evenings (we accept insurance, so get in touch if you’d like to book a session!), and will continue coaching Team Lipstick once a week. I’m super excited for these opportunities, but it means even less time to myself. Exercise will have to be my “me time,” so I have to make it count!

I started 2016 on the right foot (pun intended!) in the fun running department! E and I did NYRR’s Midnight Run on New Year’s Eve – 4 miles of fireworks, crazy costumes, glowing shoe laces, and all around awesomeness. I haven’t had such a great NYE in years! We aren’t huge fans of NYE, but felt like we finally found our scene. No cover charges, no dressing up, no fuss – just lots of people drinking, dancing, running and enjoying themselves. Yes, please! We were lucky enough to score two entries on behalf of the Time Warner-HBO Fit Nation team, pictured above. I look like a marshmallow as I was literally wearing five layers to stay warm. I know this year was “warm” compared to usual, but I’m a wimp when it comes to cold!

The race doesn’t start until midnight, but from 10pm there was a huge dance party and other fun things going on near the start. It felt like a huge outdoor party! I was surprised by how many non-runners hanging out and celebrating, and after the race started, cheering us along! I suppose it’s a nice free alternative to Times Square.

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The race itself was great. I was amazed by how awake and good I felt – I’m usually half asleep by midnight, and am not used to running after having a drink! We started the race with fireworks, which made it hard to run as I wanted to watch and couldn’t do both without falling on my face! This race obviously wasn’t one for time, so we stopped a few times to take it all in. We also enjoyed the DJ’d sparkling cider aid station – nice touch!

After we finished, we made our way to a bar on the UWS, where HBO had kindly sponsored our post-run party. We were the only runners in the place, so we got a few strange looks, but I think they were just jealous. It was awesome to drink and dance until the wee hours in our sweaty, crazy outfits and comfy shoes – who needs heels! We finished the night with a 4am pitstop at our local deli for ice cream – we had earned a treat after hours of running and dancing. All in all, a great evening and wonderful start to the new year.

I wasn’t able to run long this past weekend due to my work schedule, so I kicked off this training cycle with a long run this morning. It was freezing but sunny and clear on the river today. I reached 12.5 miles and felt strong. For that, I am grateful!

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, active and fun 2016.

If you have resolved to run a race, improve your diet, lose some weight, or achieve any other health/fitness resolution, get in touch! I’d love to help, with your nutrition and/or training goals. Check out www.eatforendurance.com for more information. 

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Tired? Sore? Trouble sleeping? Struggling to complete your workouts? Not meeting your race goals?

These are just a handful among many possible signs of overtraining, which can derail your progress towards achieving your athletic goals. Check out this article on the Under Armour blog with tips from me at the end to see if you could be overtraining, and if so, ways to escape the vicious cycle!

Happy Friday! Last weekend’s Ultra Trail du Hurricana 65km race was pretty epic, and I promise to give a full race report soon. For now, E and I are beyond pleased to have finished the race safely, under the cut off time (just barely!!), and in great spirits, crossing the finish line hand in hand in 10 hours and 51 minutes. Such a joyful moment!

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I’m also very pleased to report that I did not fracture my wrist – I have a sprain (i.e. ligament tear) and thankfully no major ligaments involved, which means no surgery or cast. I got a new custom splint that allows for much greater mobility and with a little rest and then some therapy, I should be healed within 1-2 months hopefully!

In the meantime, here are some great tips on running form on Livestrong.com, including several from yours truly! 🙂 I contributed to this article a few weeks ago and it went live last night. It has some good info on improving efficiency and avoiding injury before, during and after your runs. Check it out!

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Have a great weekend everyone! Happy running!

Training hasn’t gone perfectly for the Ultra Trail du Harricana 65km, but I made it through my peak week (kind of) and now it’s just 10 days of rest and recovery until I attempt my second ultra marathon. I definitely need some recovery after a few bumps in training recently. First, I got hit by a cab that ran a red light during my run home from Central Park a week and a half ago (thankfully just some bruising along my right side, but pretty scary), and then on Sunday, I tripped and fell TWICE during my long trail run, tearing up and bruising both legs and especially my left side. At least I’m symmetrically injured now! I should be okay after a few more days of rest – and I can actually not run at all for the next week or so and it would be fine – but it sure doesn’t help with the taper crazies!

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Aside from these frustrating setbacks, training has been going very well. Two weeks ago, I brought my weekly mileage up to 50 miles with a strong 20 miler in Central Park with the Gilda’s Club NYC marathon team followed by an awesome 11.5 mile trail run in Breakneck Ridge the following day (more on that in a minute). We had a small group of faster runners at our third coached run, which challenged me to ditch my slower ultra pace and get back to sub-9 min miles in the park! E and I capped off our run with a bagel stop in midtown at our favorite bagel shop, Ess-a-Bagel. We’ve been bagel deprived since they closed their Stuy town location, so when I realized I could strap a bunch to my ultra vest, we knew what we had to do!

After this run, E and I decided to officially sign up to run the NYC Marathon as part of the Gilda’s Club team. I’ve been coaching the Gilda’s marathon team since 2012, and it’s become a significant part of my running and coaching life. For anyone not familiar with Gilda’s, it’s a wonderful organization that provides free support to everyone living with cancer and their loved ones. E and I love to take on running challenges together, and this year we decided to join the team in memory of our friend Noirin, who passed away in June and whose tenacious, positive spirit continues to inspire us every day. We are running both our ultra marathon on September 19th as well as the NYC marathon on November 1st as part of this fundraiser, and appreciate your donation, no matter how small, to benefit a wonderful cause. I love the photo below as it captures such a happy moment after the NYC half marathon. We ran into Noirin at the finish line, all of us with big smiles after achieving PRs on a cold but beautiful day! Check out our Crowdrise page for more info, and thank you to everyone who has already contributed!

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The next day, E and I took the train back to Breakneck Ridge, but this time started on the Wilkinson Memorial Trail (right across from the train station) and did a 11.5M loop back to Cold Spring, where we enjoyed another well-deserved ice cream at Moo Moo’s creamery! The Wilkinson trail was far less crowded and more runnable – highly recommend it if you want a longer and more peaceful trail run. I felt really strong on this run – minimal soreness from the previous day’s 20 miler, and far more confident on the more technical parts of the trail. Gear and nutrition all worked out great too. Here are a few action shots.

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The following week was a much needed drop down week (that’s when I got hit by that cab). I continued to focus on PT, which has been going very well. My hamstring still gets a little angry towards the end of a long run, but it’s feeling much better and using the kinesio tape continues to help.

This past week – what was supposed to be our peak week – we only got up to ~47 miles due to my falls, but it’s fine. I’ve already put in the hard work, and another 10-12M trail run (our original plan for Labor Day) wouldn’t have added much, especially since our 23 miler in Palisades Park was quite grueling. I had never been there before and was surprised by how nice it was to run there! Sure, the trail was really close to the cars in many sections, but there were many lovely lookouts onto the water, and for training purposes, it was perfect. The Long Trail was mostly deserted (at least at 8am on a Sunday morning), fairly close to the city (we took the A train to 175th street, ran across the GW bridge and went north from there), mostly shaded by trees (important on such a hot day), and offered technical trails with a decent amount of elevation gain (~1800 ft).

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I packed my vest as if it were race day and practiced my race nutrition strategy. I’m aiming to take in about 200 calories an hour from gels, so with our estimated time, that works out to 18 gels – 6 each of SIS go gel (orange), Vfuel (cool citrus), and Powergel (vanilla) + 400 calories worth of Tailwind endurance fuel (naked flavor – 1 scoop in each small bottle filled with ice water, and another 2 scoops of powder for later). It’s a lot of variety, but I can’t stomach the idea of one thing for 10+ hours! I carried 2L of water in my vest, which was not enough in the heat (ran out at mile 19), but during the race we’ll have 5 aid stations, so that won’t be a problem. I brought salt pills but only took one – likely will not take very many during the race. I plan to eat a little off the aid station tables – likely salty foods to take a break from all the sweet stuff. I also carried a light jacket, a space blanket, a whistle, and some first aid/other misc things. The vest was really bulk and bouncy at first with so much extra weight, but gradually got better as I consumed water and gels.

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Our run lasted 4 hours and 35 minutes. My marathons are always under 4 hours, so this run was the second longest amount of time I have spent running after the 50k. It was such a beautiful day and I was feeling great until I tripped on a root and face planted at mile 12. I really busted up my knees and the side of my leg hit a rock, swelling up immediately. It was my first time falling on a run (surprisingly, since I’m a total klutz) and it really caught me off guard. I’m glad I was able to pick myself up and keep moving forward, with E’s help. He was amazing with me when I fell – he remained calm while I had my (brief) tantrum, helped clean me up, made me laugh, and on we went. I managed to get back into a groove, but I guess fatigue and soreness from the first fall, combined with running out of water made me vulnerable to falling again. At mile 21, I was trying to maneuver around a huge rock and collapsed on my left side, banging my butt quite hard and slamming my left leg and knee again too. I was beyond frustrated and in pain – but again, I managed to get up and eventually start running again. I just wanted to finish the run as fast as possible and was surprised by how fast I was moving in those last miles. It reminded me that I can be tough when I need to be, which I will surely need on race day!

I learned a lot from our last long run. My Brooks Cascadia trail shoes were super comfy, as were my Injinji socks, so they made the cut for race day. While it was gross to eat 2 gels an hour, I needed the calories and my body handled it without a problem. The vest chaffed my back pretty badly in two spots, but now I know where to put some tape to protect my skin. Running with someone for more than 3.5 hours is challenging; it’s impossible to sync your highs and lows with a running partner, however E and I have been learning how to deal with each other during our low points and really make a great team. I can’t wait to take on this challenge together next weekend!

So the plan is to keep icing and resting my legs this week, with a little cross training thrown in when I am ready. Hopefully I can get back to running by the end of the week, but my main goal is to focus on feeling rested and recovered for race day! I’ll leave you with a couple weekday sunrise running shots from the East River and some pics of my latest kitchen creations. Check out my Instagram (@eatforendurance) for more!

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E and I both like to read something inspirational leading up to a big race. It doesn’t have to be about running, but any story that captures the journey of chasing a goal, overcoming a challenging situation and accomplishing something spectacular. As I train for my upcoming ultra, I’m enjoying a book called “The Ultra Mindset” by Travis Macy, a very accomplished endurance athlete. This book is all about changing your attitude, and is not just geared towards athletes. I’m only about halfway through, but I’m enjoying the various exercises that he has you do to rethink the obstacles you face, such as negative stories you tell yourself that can be reframed, all in the context of his own story about becoming the athlete he is today.

One tidbit that motivated me through some tough long run miles is something Macy wrote while narrating his solo race across Zion National park. He was pushing to the finish and said to himself, “You can do it. The harder it is, the stronger I get.” That last sentence resonated with me – a great new mantra – and it is also very true! The last two weeks have been my biggest mileage weeks in a long time – 45 and 41 miles, respectively. Granted, that’s nothing for most ultra runners, but for me recently and especially while rehabbing my hamstring, I’m pleased! It certainly hasn’t been easy, but I feel myself getting stronger. Strong enough to run 40 miles in the mountains? Not so sure about that yet, but I have a few more long runs and trail excursions to work that out.

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Over the last two weeks, I’ve been including a longer midweek run on the East River to boost my mileage. The run pictured above right is one such morning – it was gorgeous out and the miles flew by. The following Saturday, I ran 16 miles on Summer Streets NYC, which if you’re not familiar with, involves closing Park Avenue to traffic from 72nd street down to the Brooklyn Bridge for runners, cyclists and everyone else to enjoy. It gets a little too crowded for my liking but if you go early in the morning, it’s pretty cool. Part of this run was spent coaching the Gilda’s Club team, which is going well with two coached runs under our belt. We enjoyed many of the “rest stops,” including the coconut water station complete with a hammock (dangerous – I almost didn’t get back up).  I won’t lie – this was a tough run for me. My body was not feeling great after mile 12, but I managed to finish and thankfully recovered well for the next day’s adventure.

We are trying to do back to back runs each weekend to practice running on tired legs, with a long run Saturday and if able, a trail run/hike outside of the city on Sunday. Last weekend, E and I ventured back to the Appalachian Trail, but this time to Bear Mountain. We took Metro North to Manitou and ran along a quiet road (Manitou Station Rd –> Manitou Rd –> S Mountain Pass Rd) that intersects the AT after about 1.3M. We could have gone along the main road (9D) to the bridge like everyone else on our train, but we wanted to get away from the cars and people, while maximizing our trail time.

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Like in Vermont, this section of the AT was rocky and technical, but that was short lived. We soon hit a long stretch of road – 9D and the bridge (above) that takes you across the river to Bear Mountain and into the park along a paved path that hugs a lake and eventually leads to the trailhead. It was a gorgeous day, but we were still surprised by how many families were having huge loud BBQs by the lake. Everywhere smelled of smoke and kerosene. It looked fun but it’s a shame that they permit it in what could be such a peaceful place.

The trail to the top of Bear Mountain is essentially a stone staircase that turns into a trail and crosses a road 3 or 4 times. The trail and the top of bear mountain were PACKED – all in all this excursion was not the escape to nature that we had envisioned but the view was nice and we certainly had a great workout!

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Trains are infrequent from Manitou and when we realized that we would just barely be able to make our train with the next one several hours later, we booked it down the mountain. Nothing like racing 5M on a hot day after a big mileage week! Flying down those steps was SO fun – and great practice. I’m working on gaining confidence on steep downhill running and we were MOVING.

We had 3M and less than 30 minutes left on rolling hilly road when we both really started to feel it. At one point E said “I don’t think I can make it,” to which I responded, “we WILL make that cutoff.” He perked up and that suddenly became our motto – make the cutoff! It sounds silly but we are running the 65km race together and being able to motivate one another and work as a team is really important. Also, cutoffs really are a concern if you are a slower runner (as we will be in this race given all the hiking we’ll be doing), so it was a good motivator! We made the train with two minutes to spare – ending the run at 11M, tired but feeling very strong. After eating the healthy lunch I packed for us on the train, we beelined to Davey’s Ice Cream in the East Village (one of my fav spots) for a well-deserved summer treat. Dietitians need dessert too and this stuff is seriously worth the calories!

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Gear update: I’ve been using Saucony’s Omni Progrid as my road show for years and have been on the hunt for a good trail shoe as my feet were not happy after I ran the 50k in my Omni’s! I tested out the cliftons by HokaOneOne. Those are road shoes too but E swears by them protecting the legs over long distances. They were super comfy at first but they had to be returned as they were too narrow for my feet, causing a gigantic blister to form after just an hour. Ouch. On Sunday, I tested out the Brooks Cascadia 10 pictured above. This is a popular trail shoe with much more structure than I am used to, which means more protection from rocks. They held up well during our part trail part road run. Much better traction on rocks for sure, although still trying to decide if they are comfy enough with the structures upper. A longer run will surely tell! I’m grateful for the awesome return policies that these two companies have, as it’s impossible to tell if a shoe will work until you’ve done a long run in them, and shoes are really expensive!

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As for this past week, I threw in some cross training to mix things up. On Monday, I participated in a super fun Ironstrength group workout with Dr. Jordan Metzl aboard the Intrepid with 1000 other people! I’ve done one other Ironstrength class before in Central Park and love that it’s free (usually), open to anyone, and takes place all over the city. It was a gorgeous night, and although E and were sore from our big weekend, we had a great time working up a sweat in such a unique location. On Wednesday, a co-worker and I tried out a spin class at the Peloton Cycle studio in Chelsea with Robin Arzon, a fellow ultra runner (E and I saw her at Endurance Challenge DC) and all around bad-ass and inspirational athlete. She is gorgeous and her energy is infectious! The studio and the bikes are amazing too. Obviously I’m a huge fan of Peloton and will be back! I did a short shakeout run after the class and ran into E on the river – I wish I could run commute home from work!

This weekend, E and I ran 18 miles yesterday, partly on Summer Streets. We managed to run at least 6 miles on trails, between the bridal path and north woods in Central Park, and a dirt trail that ran all along Riverside Park! Pretty cool. This run was tough but overall I felt better than last week, and the tape on my hamstring still seems to be helping, as I didn’t feel any pain throughout. Our experiment of the day was testing a new nutrition strategy, as we are still trying to nail down our plan for race day. We used Tailwind Nutrition endurance fuel naked flavor in our 16oz handhelds. We ran for ~3hrs and used 1.5 scoops per bottle x 3 (450 cal). It tasted great – not too sweet, especially with all the ice we used in that first bottle – but after 2-3 hours and with warmer water I found myself craving plain cold water, even though I had been drinking a lot (we were filling our bottles at fountains along the way). Also, I’m not sure how I would use it during the ultra, given we’ll be running for 10+ hours with only 5 aid stations. I could put it in my hydration vest bladder, but it’s much harder to gauge how many calories you are drinking this way compared to a handheld. Overall it’s a great product that I would like to experiment with more, and I wonder if in colder weather I would have had a different reaction. It could be useful in conjunction with food and/or gels, although I realize that their motto is “all you need, all day, really.”

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Today, we opted to stay in the city and hit some “hills” on the Williamsburg bridge for 8M rather than do another trail excursion out of the city. It was hot, but overall I felt quite strong, which gave me a confidence boost.

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On the cooking front, I’ve been making all kinds of good stuff lately that you can check out on my Instagram page. I’ve included a few photos here too.

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I’m in the process of setting up my new Eat for Endurance nutrition counseling website (finally!!!) so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to get in touch (thefightandflightresponse@gmail.com) if you wish to work with me, either for nutrition counseling or run coaching, in person or online. Have a wonderful week!

This post is very belated, but I am still very excited to report that I graduated from NYU with my Master’s in Clinical Nutrition a few weeks ago! Passing the RD exam in September was an amazing feeling, but finishing my graduate degree and celebrating with my family, friends and classmates was even better. Graduation was held in Madison Square Garden and was very entertaining, with dancing, singing, and a hashtag screen for #Steinhardt2015.

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I often forget that my decision to become a Registered Dietitian stemmed from the creation of this blog nearly five years ago. It has been such a long, challenging road, and I am having trouble believing that it is finally over. I recently perused some of my old blog posts and it amazes me just how much has happened in my personal, professional and athletic life throughout this time. I am forever grateful for the support of my family, friends, and most of all my husband for helping me succeed in my professional journey. Going back to school in your 30s is a very daunting task!

I’m still adjusting to the idea of no longer being a student. I keep thinking that this is just a break and summer classes are right around the corner. I can’t even express how relieved I am to finally be done. I am still working full time as a clinical dietitian at Montefiore, but I am cherishing my new “free time” on week nights and weekends. I think I will need at least a month or two to catch up on sleep and recover from 3.5 years of craziness. I am also looking forward to my first true vacation in ages – a week of R&R in Maui, starting tomorrow, followed by a long weekend in a log cabin (literally) without TV or phone service in the Catskills! E and I are celebrating our 2nd wedding anniversary, and I can’t think of a better way to do so than some quality time out in nature, completely unplugged from the rest of the world.

I plan to focus on next steps professionally once I’m back. I will begin coaching the Gilda’s Club NYC marathon team for the 4th consecutive year, and will continue to coach private run clients and counsel private nutrition clients through Physical Equilibrium (get in touch if you’re interested). I also plan to build the website for my new nutrition business, “Eat for Endurance: Nutrition counseling for longevity in life and in sport.” In the meantime, follow me on Twitter and Instagram @eatforendurance for nutrition and fitness tips!

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E and I have been enjoying some down time on the running front since the Brooklyn Half Marathon a few weeks ago. And we are so thankful that the weather finally turned – how gorgeous were those Spring blossoms?! My hamstring has been bothering me recently, but I hope I can start training properly again later this month with the NYC triathlon relay approaching! After having such a blast at our April TNF ultra, E and I are on the hunt for an exciting a Fall race. We haven’t picked one yet but did come across a 65km trail race outside of Quebec in September that sounds intriguing! I am slightly concerned, however, about the bell that is on the “recommended” (not required) list of gear to ward of bears…hmmm.

I hope you are all enjoying the beautiful warm weather! Happy running!

Back in December, I received a random email asking me to be one of the “expert” coaches for the April edition of “Ask the Experts” in Runner’s World. I was very excited, as I had only been published online in RW and a few other publications until now. The question was as follows:

“What should my weekly mileage reach before I can start spring speedwork?”

My original submission was a long paragraph, and there was much back and forth with the editor until we agreed upon the final submission below:

Gradually increase your mileage for at least two months until you are logging 15 to 20 weekly miles in three to four easy runs. This mileage base, ideally accompanied by twice-weekly strength training, will allow you to begin speed-work with minimal injury risk. Even still, ease into faster running with a few weeks of fartlek (unstructured pace pickups) before tackling tempo runs and repeats. Also, never do speed-work more than twice per week, always separated by recovery days, and refuel within an hour of your efforts to maximize speed-work rewards. 

–Claire Shorenstein, R.D., is a dietitian at Montefiore and an RRCA-certified coach (thefightandflightresponse.com) at Manhattan’s Physical Equilibrium (www.physeq.com).

As you can see, what ended up in the actual magazine was much shorter than above, and did not include the sentence on nutrition, but I am still VERY pleased to see my name in print!

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Have other training questions or looking for a NYC-based running coach or registered dietitian? Shoot me an email at thefightandflightresponse@gmail.com to find out about the various services I offer. 

Happy holidays everyone! It’s been a very busy year in running, school and work, and I am quite happy 2014 is coming to an end. I’ve adjusted to my new job at Montefiore as a clinical dietitian, all my big races are behind me, and I can FINALLY see the light at the end of my never-ending grad school tunnel (i.e. May 2015). E and I are heading to Europe over the holidays for a MUCH needed break – our first real chunk of time off in a year. It will be a cold, wet and not exactly relaxing big city tour, but we’re excited to see E’s family in Amsterdam and visit some of our favorite spots in London and Paris.

My 2015 race calendar is pretty much empty, which is a strange yet refreshing feeling coming off of Spring and Fall marathon training as well as E’s late November ultra (during which I ran an impromptu almost marathon). I’m a firm believer in enjoying some unstructured no pressure runs after a training cycle – for me, that has translated into 4 mostly easy paced runs per week, including one longish run to maintain endurance. It’s still hard to get out of bed for those 6am pre-work East River runs, especially on dreary wet days like today, but with the right music and warm, reflective gear, it’s not so bad.

That said, without any big races to motivate me, I’m starting to feel a running rut come on, and that means it’s time to mix up my fitness routine. Usually I opt for cross training classes (spin, boot camp, pilates, etc), but this past week, I signed up for Ironstrength, a combined running/strength training workout led by Sports doctor Jordan Metzl that I’ve been meaning to try for ages, and “The Distance” class at Mile High Run Club (MHRC), the so-called “Soul Cycle of running” that recently opened in NYC and piqued my curiosity. Note to self – DO NOT try these classes on consecutive days. I honestly did not realize that Ironstrength involved so much running, and that the “distance” class was mostly hill repeats and intervals. Oops. I could hardly move yesterday.

Let’s start with Ironstrength. It’s a fun, usually FREE group workout that incorporates running and strength training in various outdoor and indoor locations around NYC. All you have to do is join Dr. Metzl’s email list on his Ironstrength page and you will receive information regarding upcoming classes, which occur on a fairly regular basis. As stated on Metzl’s website, Ironstrength “teaches athletes of all ages how to build strength and reduce the aches and pains of every life in the process.” Or perhaps the pain you’ll feel during and after the workout will make the rest of your life feel less painful by comparison… 🙂

My understanding/assumption is that the specific workout changes based on location (outdoor parks, indoor studios etc) and that day’s focus (i.e. yoga for runners vs the type of class that I did). I like that variety is built into the class in both location, time/day and workout, though I suppose that makes it more difficult to go regularly. For some reason, I thought our class would be mostly strength training based, even though E said he had read otherwise. Having skipped our planned Saturday long run, I convinced him that we should run the 5M from our apartment up to Central Park to squeeze in some cardio.

We met up with a large group at the Delacorte Theater, along with many regulars and other newbies like us. Dr. Metzl arrived with a gigantic Santa-like bag of Thorlo socks, which he promised we would receive if we completed the workout. Bribery with awesome free socks for finishing a grueling but awesome free class – right up my alley!

We quickly discovered that the first half of the 1hr+ workout would involve hill repeats. E gave me his best “not impressed” with me face. Oops. At least we were very warmed up! The running segment was about 30min/3M, as follows: Skip up the hill (harder than it sounds on uneven, sandy terrain), jog down; sprint up, 10 push-ups at top, jog down; skip up/jog down, sprint up/jog down x 2 with another set of push-ups; skip up/jog down, sprint up/jog down x 3 with another set of push-ups; then skip up/jog down, jog up and over to the strength training area a few minutes away. Given how cold it was, I was glad we ran beforehand – though I think 1-2M would have sufficed!

With 8M under my belt and months of being a delinquent in the strength training arena, the next part was very challenging, but Dr. Metzl made it fun. He blasted some great music, including holiday favorites while we warmed up and Baby Got Back for the jump squat sequence, which amused many passers-by. Then there were scissor lunges, planks, two variations of burpees, core exercises, and other things I must have mentally blocked out. We got very dirty as we were doing all of this on the ground – thankfully my gloves protected my hands and I wore dark clothing.

When we finished, Metzl dumped the socks into a pile on the ground and it was like dozens of brides at a sample sale swarmed in to find their size. People really wanted those socks! I don’t blame them – they’re great and quite pricey. I snagged a neon green pair in my size. In return for hooking us up with free gear, we had to take a photo with the Thorlo logo at the end showing off what we got (I’m all the way on the right). Good deal if you ask me.

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The verdict: E and I will definitely be back for another Ironstrength class, though next time after a shorter warm up so we can push ourselves harder and get more out of the class. Good vibe, adjustable to most levels, and often free (if not, it’s for charity).

Now let’s turn to the Mile High Run Club (MHRC), which is on the other end of the class spectrum. It’s indoor, high end, smaller group (up to 30 runners per class) and definitely not free. Well, to be fair, I had a promo code that made my first class free, but they run $34 a pop or less if you get a 5/10 pack.

MHRC has two types of classes – “dash 28,” which includes 2-3M of running plus strength training, and “the distance,” which includes at least 5M of running. I chose the latter thinking it would involve fewer intervals/hill repeats, but I was very wrong. That was pretty much the entire class, which makes sense. No one would pay that much for an easy treadmill workout.

As a mostly outdoor runner, I was really curious about this studio when I heard about it. I once again convinced E to come with me. I’ve never tried Soul Cycle, but I often do speed-work on the treadmill and enjoy spin classes, so I understand the appeal of challenging group indoor workouts, particularly when the weather turns cold and nasty. The concept of a treadmill club is pretty brilliant, given the success of spinning studios and the lack of a running counterpart until now. Just like with spinning, you have control over how hard you push yourself on the treadmill in the context of whatever your instructor is telling you to do, thus allowing for some flexibility. I do feel, however, that there is a higher risk of injury with running classes, especially in a group (potentially competitive) setting, making it important that the coach help runners find that balance between challenging themselves and going too far.

The facilities are very new and pretty – a welcome area out front selling running books, accessories, clothes, drinks etc, small but lovely changing rooms with showers and lockers (great toiletries, towels, hair dryer etc provided), more lockers outside near the studio, a foam rolling area (which I didn’t get a chance to see) and the studio itself, with mirrors and special lighting lining the walls, a soft type of material on the ground, and 30 Woodway 4Front treadmills, which I’ve been told are the best machines out there.

I expected the studio to be packed based on when I signed up online (you can choose your treadmill and they were mostly booked), but only about 10 people showed up. The studio was dimly lit, and the music was loud. I really did feel like I was in a spin class – except I was running on a somewhat intimidating treadmill. Michael (a Lululemon ambassador and head coach of Team Lipstick in NYC) was our coach and before class started, he introduced himself to each runner, asked if it was our first time, and reviewed various effort levels/speeds (they have “jogger” and “racer” categories for levels 1-4, with each level specifying a speed range), which I thought was nice.

As a group, he started us off with about 9min of warm up, during which he explained the workout ahead, essentially hill repeats and “follow throughs” (running at high incline and then lowering slightly while speeding up), intervals at various effort levels (mostly 1-2min), and at the end, a mini “race” that simulated a 4 miler in Central park and the various ups and downs along with it. All the while, music blasted and the dim lighting shifted to the beat, but not so much that it was distracting. I really liked that Michael picked a race to tie into the workout – for me, it was a reminder that the whole purpose of treadmill running is to help me prepare for outdoor running/racing, even if that’s not true for everyone. It was a tough session in my opinion – but again, you make it as easy or as hard as you want. E took it fairly easy, I pushed myself a little but definitely not as much as I would in a true speed/hill session on fresh legs.

Our main issue with the entire experience involved the treadmills. I expected a really smooth ride based on everyone raving about them, but instead these machines bounced furiously with each step. I felt so unstable at times that I held back for fear I’d fly off (my towel and shirt kept doing so), and the added movement made my stomach uneasy. E said it hurt his feet. I was especially worried given how dark it was. E was more turned off by the treadmills than I was, but I agreed that I would not want to run on those machines again with that much bounce.

Michael and I chatted after class and he informed me that they’re replacing the soft flooring (which is causing the bounce) with a harder surface in the next few days, which will hopefully resolve the issue. I’d add to this the recommendation that they place glow tape along the edges of the treadmill to make it a bit safer. Michael and I also talked about the variation between classes, and he explained that every coach does something different, so I’m curious to go back and try someone else’s class, once the ground is fixed.

I thought Michael did a great job – good energy, good music, and he circled about the room the entire time to dole out encouragement and running tips. I’ve never taught a group class like this one, but I think I would have fun doing it – something to consider for the new year, as they said they’re still looking for coaches.

The verdict: Cool modern space and great concept that just needs a few tweaks, as you might expect from a new business. It’s pricey, but they have promotions and offer student discounts. Personally, I would probably only go on occasion, but that’s mainly because I prefer outdoor running and sometimes would rather do speed-work alone. I would love to try another class once the treadmills become less bouncy, and I may even submit my resume to become a coach at some point.

Interestingly, Metzl taught an Ironstrength class at MHRC not long ago, and I was told he would be teaching once a month next year. So perhaps that means the best of both? I’ll certainly sign up and report back!

Happy Holidays!

Yesterday I found out that I got into the 2014 Boston Marathon. By FOUR seconds.

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Had I stopped at one more water station or gotten caught behind a few more people at the start, I wouldn’t have made the BQ – 1:38 cut! I wasn’t counting on getting in – I knew it was going be a very close call, with about 8,000 runners vying for 5,000 spots – and that I could easily be on the 4 seconds too short side. But by some miracle I wasn’t, and I am very excited. Once again –  like with my recent DI acceptance – I managed to just barely squeeze in (well, without being rejected first – ha!). But I’m in and that’s all that matters to me. The best part is that I used my 2012 Chicago time of 3:33:18 (since they accept qualifiers from Sept 22nd onwards) – the same BQ I used to get into the 2013 Boston Marathon one week before registration closed. That’s what I call a VERY lucky and extremely great value BQ!! Two of the hardest Bostons to get into with one BQ effort – *almost* makes up for not making the cut in 2011 with my NYC BQ! 🙂

It’s funny because I  didn’t think I cared  about getting into this race, perhaps mostly because I didn’t think I would. Also, I already ticked Boston off my bucket list. My first Boston didn’t end the way I had imagined, as I wrote about in RW, but I made it through the “four steps of the Boston Marathon” – I qualified, I registered, I was accepted, and I ran the race – and finally fulfilled these goals I had chased for so many years.

I registered on Sept 16th and forgot about it for the rest of the week, knowing that we wouldn’t find out until Wednesday (yesterday). It was easy to put the marathon out of my mind given how my Dietetic Internship (specifically my Medical Nutrition Therapy class) has pretty much taken over my life. Also with my recent idiotic knee injury (I fell off my bike, smack on my left knee), I haven’t been able to run for two weeks anyway. Huge bummer, btw, but I’m on the mend…slowly.

But then Wednesday morning  rolled around and I woke up with a knot in my stomach. That could’ve also been due to the fact that I’ve slept about three hours a night lately – but I’m pretty sure it was about Boston. I just wanted to know. And then I realized, I really really wanted to get in. Perhaps because I don’t think I’m necessarily going to push to qualify again – maybe I will (I do still want to get sub-3:30 at some point…) but I have a feeling that this will be my last opportunity to run it, so I wanted it to happen. I also wanted a happier ending to last year’s race. So like thousands of other “squeakers” I obsessively refreshed my email, the entry list and my credit card’s pending charges. Finally they announced the -1:38 cutoff around 2pm. It was a good feeling.

Aside from coaching and (until recently) my own occasional runs to maintain fitness, I’ve been pretty off the radar lately in terms of racing and clearly, blogging too. The NYC triathlon was my last race and I decided I just wanted to take a break, dial back the running to allow my hamstring to FINALLY heal (that was a big issue in my Boston race). I also needed a mental break – two hard training cycles back to back, combined with a tough semester and planning a wedding – it was a lot. Of course, I say that was a lot and now I’m in the DI which feels ten times worse – but oh well. So I’m enjoying the unstructured running and just being a coach to Gilda’s this season without worrying about my own training. I also hardly have time to fit workouts in so it’s a really good thing I decided to not run a fall race!

So I’m really feeling the worth of every second more than ever these days, not just with Boston but all aspects of my life right now, because I  just don’t have enough seconds to do everything that needs to be done. As I type I’m doing laundry and that has become one of my “luxury,” even “fun” activities. I’m only in week four of my DI and I’m really struggling with the workload. You know when you say you are going into something with your eyes wide open, and you know exactly what to expect and brace yourself for it, but then you’re actually in it and all the bracing and preparing you did really just didn’t matter? Yeah.

The program is great and I’m learning a lot, but it’s extremely tough to stay on top of my work and have time for anything else, like sleeping and seeing my husband (we pretty much have opposite schedules, with my night classes), you know those little things. It’s not fun feeling behind in everything, and overwhelmed and fried pretty much 24/7. I’ll give  E a hug after not seeing him for over a day and think to myself – oh yeah I just got married! There’s my husband! But I’m slowly adjusting and hopefully will get the hang of things soon. Or I won’t. In either case, the good news is that it’s all over by December 20th! Then off to California and Mexico, and back to NYC for the hospital portion of the DI (which I feel like has to be easier than this…but who knows).

So that’s the update! Basically just trying to survive and make every second count. And with a race on the horizon – the very distant horizon but still – I feel a renewed sense of motivation in my running life. I have no doubt that April 21st, 2014 will be an incredible day in Boston!

Welcome to FFR

Hi, I'm Claire! I’m a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (MS, RD, CDN) and a Road Runners Club of America certified coach. This is where I share my latest adventures in running, racing, food & travel! If you'd like to work with me, please visit my professional website, Eat for Endurance.

My PRs

Marathon (Chicago): 3:33:18
Boston Marathon: 3:36:14
Half-Marathon: 1:37:21
10M: 1:14:52
10k: 44:52

My latest photos

Let the baby food making begin! Gotta say, I'm really excited. Got the @beaba_usa food maker and it is SO easy to use - as in you push a button to steam, then turn the button to puree - kind of feel like I'm cheating 😂 Started with puréed butternut squash (using mostly organic produce for her but this one wasn't), froze most of it in 2oz containers, and left a few out for A to try! I expected her to spit it out but she liked it! And because it's literally just puréed veg, I eat whatever she doesn't. 😜 Now that Arielle is nearly 6 months old (this week!), we finally took our new @thule running stroller out for a spin on @summerstreets. Running with this thing is not easy - esp pushing uphill (E and I took turns pushing) - but it was so fun to be active together as a family. Bonus - A slept almost the whole time! 👍🏻 How are you making exercise fun this weekend? Friday night pizza night! Can't remember the last time we made pizza - so much fun and so tasty! Got the whole wheat dough from TJs, cut it in half (otherwise dough is too thick), and made one large pizza to share and two personal pizzas to enjoy tomorrow (okay, we split one of them as seconds because it was so yummy). Topped with shredded cheese, portabello mushrooms, spinach, sundried tomato, olives and ricotta. 👌🏻 Pictured - the small pizzas before popping in the oven! Thanks for the samples, @barillaus! Excited to try these products, especially as I start to train for my first post baby races (a trail half marathon and possibly a marathon later in the year). #eatforendurance Tried out another bean based pasta tonight - @traderjoeslist black bean rotini with pesto sauce, tomatoes, artichokes and parmesan. I prefer normal wheat based pasta, but it was pretty tasty, super filling, and packed with protein and fiber! Good morning!! I love to bake healthy (and not so healthy) treats and realized I hadn't done any baking since the week before the baby was born (nearly 6 months ago!), so I whipped up a batch of my fav Superhero muffins from the #runfasteatslow cookbook to enjoy throughout the week. Made a few modifications this time (added flaxseeds and coconut flakes, as well as some chopped pecans instead of walnuts) and they are soooo delicious! Have a fantastic Monday!

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