Guest Post – More Life Less Running

The last few months have been rough, I’m not going to lie. I’ve battled my share of injuries and illness (the flu, major IT Band pain and a sprained shoulder), as well as two family deaths and a couple other issues. All of which derailed my running to the point that since May 27, I’ve had my running shoes on a total of 4 times – and 3 of those came in the last week when I finally felt well enough to run again.

While I’ve missed running, really missed my running buddies, and started to panic about some upcoming races I haven’t been training for, it’s also given me a chance to enjoy other activities and more time with my family – time that normally I’d be spending putting miles in. So instead of running, I’ve been focusing on other outdoor activities that I can do with my husband and stepdaughters (none of them are runners – unless perhaps they’re being chased by something!).

My husband and I have been camping almost every weekend – we own a small motorhome, so each week we draw a circle on the map, see where we can go within 2-3 hours of our house, and head out. From our home near Lansing, Michigan, we can get to locations in Indiana, Ohio and even Canada pretty quickly. We’ve discovered new parks, lakes, historical attractions, hiking trails, and off the beaten path places we wouldn’t have otherwise. We both love hiking and biking, so we try to find places where we can do one or both activities.

The whole family owns kayaks, so we’ve headed out to local lakes to enjoy some family time away from our electronics. If you’ve never kayaked, I highly recommend it – especially on lakes, marshes or streams with limited activity. When it’s quiet you get to see things like turtles, heron, muskrat, river otters, water snakes, birds, frogs and more. It’s amazing what goes on in the water when you can just sit and observe.

While this isn’t a family activity, I happen to work at a university with an outdoor 50m pool that staff have access to in the summer. As a former competitive swimmer, I still find myself more at home in the chlorine than in running shoes, so I’ve been putting in as many laps as I can a few days a week. Swimming bonus – I’ve developed an awesome swimsuit tan on my back as a result! 😉

What being injured these past couple months made me realize was that running had started to consume me – and while I don’t plan to give it up anytime soon (I still have a couple goals to conquer), it forced me to find a balance to do other things, especially things with my family.

Some might not agree with me, but life’s too short to be spending it all working out. Take a couple nights or weekends off, grab your kids, lace up your hiking shoes, rent a kayak and get outdoor and enjoy life’s treasures. You’ll be glad you did.

 

Who is Jessi? Jessi is a runner, triathlete, Jaycee, chocoholic, Disney fanatic, traveler, Broadway addict, boardgame enthusiast, and sock collector whose favorite mantra is Not All Who Wander Are Lost. You can find her supporting her two stepdaughters in their activities, camping with her husband, doting on her cat, and spending her free time with family and friends. Read more about Jessi’s adventures on her blog www.runningthroughlife.wordpress.com

Kyle is a Four Athletics Ambassador!

I don’t know about you, but if I could wear workout clothes every day, I would. I think I bring this up at least once a week at work, lamenting the fact that our dress code doesn’t include athleisure wear.

Consequently, I’m pretty sure I own more workout clothes than normal human clothes, primarily because my time spent away from work is either at the gym or doing something active outside. Also because I really just like wearing leggings and short shorts on the regular. They’re so much more comfortable than jeans or jorts. And they can look just as cute.

Unfortunately, my habit gets expensive – why does sweat-wicking spandex have to be so pricey?! It’s just unfair that Run Times shorts and Wunder Unders (yes, Lulu, I’m looking at you) have to cost more than a week’s groceries. (Side-eyeing so hard right now.)

I need to save myself from myself.

www.fourathletics.com

Wouldn’t you know that one of my favorite podcasts had a solution for me. The ladies at Girls Gone WOD Podcast, Joy and Claire, always talk about Four Athletics – one of their favorite apparel companies. I’ve been listening to these ladies for a while and not only are they super hilarious and smart, they also take their conversation beyond just working out… and when they endorse something, it’s because they use it, and genuinely believe in its quality.So, when they mentioned Four Athletics, I was immediately interested. Primarily because I love workout clothes, which we’ve established. When they added that Four Athletics had started an ambassador program, I was really interested. I said to myself, “self, get thee some of these clothes and figure out if you want to ambassador them.”

As fate would have it, I LOVED what I received. I grabbed a pair of running shorts (that are JUST like Lulus and even better in my opinion), and a tank. The shorts are exactly what I wanted – and significantly more affordable. The tank is soft and comfortable and good for all types of workouts and even when worn as a shirt to work. Ahem. Oops.

This tank is THE BEST. And these shorts are too. I wear them All.The.Time.

Four Athletics has an incredible brand statement that I am 100% behind:

We knew there had to be a better way. Premium active wear was becoming increasingly overpriced and the affordable options were not holding up to our rigorous lifestyles. To top it all off, we found almost no options that were made in the USA. We decided to do something about it.
Four uses crowdfunding to match up supply and demand, ensuring that costs the product is high quality while costs stay low. Economics was hard in high school, but this equation is one I actually get – and it’s cool!
We only make what is wanted, eliminate waste, cut out the middleman, and deliver a premium quality product at a fraction of the retail price. It’s more efficient, more responsible, and USA made. It’s a better way.
It should come as no surprise that I joined the ambassador program, so that I could reap the benefits of spreading the word about Four Athletics and get all my peeps on board, too.

I ordered these beauties and now I’m just waiting for them to get here. I can’t WAIT.

In addition to their core collection, they’ve just released printed and colored leggings. Dude. These are too fun and I need them in my life… and my gym. Stat. So do you! Go check out Four Athletics today, and feed your need for comfortable, affordable, stylish, American Made workout gear.
If you use my ambassador code: kpjennings15, you’ll receive 15% off your purchase.

#REALwomenmove

#REALwomenmove

Real women move.  Yes, they sure do.  But what does this mean to me?  It means that it doesn’t matter what your body shape, size or fitness level is.  It means that you are getting off the couch and doing something.

When you think of an athlete do images of super fit people in Runner’s World come to mind?  Do you think of someone with either huge muscles or no body fat?  That is what media wants us to think.  But to me, it is someone that is strong.  Someone that has the willpower to get out there and try to weather their storm.  Someone who will try  to run their first 5K or a marathon, it doesn’t matter as long as they are becoming a better version of themselves.

There is a giant tree near my home.  I run by it as much as possible.  It is America’s largest Bebb Oak on record.  Some call her Grandma Bebb Oak.  She has her own Facebook page.  To me, she is strong.  Her limbs are heavy and her bark is brittle, but she still stands.   She is said to be well over 200 years old. To me she is strong and she is real.

I used to be a slave to the scale.  If a certain number didn’t come up, I wasn’t happy.  If my pant size wasn’t the right number, I was disappointed.  Now I realize that my body is strong.  I might not have the perfect amount of body fat.  I might be slightly overweight at times.  I have never been accused of being skinny.  On the flip side, I have been labeled as determined, hard core, and relentless.  My legs are more like tree trunks, like that Bebb Oak tree.   But those tree trunks get me to the finish line of 100 mile races.  I think that if you can believe it you can achieve it.

So get out there and do the impossible.  Do what you think you cannot do.  Don’t let others establish your limits because they see you in a different light.  Redefine yourself. Accept yourself, love yourself.   Prove people wrong.  Be strong and prove that #REALwomenmove!

#REALwomenmove is a new campaign by my favorite clothing company, Skirt Sports.  It is based on REAL women, REAL bodies, REAL inspiration.  Skirt Sports believes we all can and should embrace fitness and health.  We should be strong, confident and not judge, but rather encourage other women.  You can read more about #REALwomen move and check out their great running skirts and other great clothing items at skirtsports.com/realwomenmove

***Disclaimer: I am a brand ambassador for Skirt Sports.  They provide me with discounts on their products.  Regardless of this, I would wear their products and sing their praises.  It’s a company I believe in and am I’m proud to be a part of their family.

Sandy is an Ultra runner who’s on state 35 of her 50 state quest! She loves to push herself and encourage others to dare more than they dream. Sandy shares her running adventures on her blog, TheUltraFreak 

Race Recap: Vacation Races Yellowstone Half

Last weekend, amazing races took place all over the country. Maybe you even participated in one. (If so tell me allllll about it in the comments!) I was lucky enough to be one of those people, and I can’t wait to show you all the pictures from  the Vacation Race Yellowstone 5k and Half Marathon. I had dreamed of doing the Caldera Triple this year, but other obligations (tickets to see Roger Waters) kept me from the mother of all medals. Next year, it’s on!

Disclaimer: while I am a Vacation Races Ambassador, I did pay for my registration for this race and I didn’t receive any compensation for this race review.

I live about ten hours from Yellowstone. Honestly, when the scenery is as beautiful as it was and you’re driving your Mustang, ten hours feels like five.We drove up last Thursday and got into Yellowstone at around seven o’clock in the evening. Along the way, we stopped at an overlook to take in the most beautiful mountain range I’ve ever seen, and keep in mind, Rocky Mountain National Park is my backyard. If you’ve never been to the Grand Tetons, you need to add it to your bucket list.

Jackson Lake and Grand Teton

We came from the south which meant we had to drive through Grand Teton National Park to get to Yellowstone. We decided to buy an annual park pass since we’ll soon be living so close to a national park ourselves. Eighty bucks to support our national treasures was money well spent in our book.

I had signed up for the Bison Double, which meant I was running the 5k Friday night and the half marathon on Saturday morning. My husband and I decided to get up before dawn on Friday to see some of Yellowstone while the light was still good for photography. It was the right choice!

He was the only other guy on the road at 5:30 am. Also, he wasn’t moving for us.

Sadly, the Grand Prismatic Spring was too steamy to see.

Kepler Cascade

Yellowstone Lake and Thermal Vents

A real life postcard.

After a morning of exploring the park, we headed back to the hotel to take a nap and prep for the 5k. The weather forecast at race time was less than dry. I was volunteering at the race expo before the start, so I headed over a little early and met up with the rest of my team at the start. My husband, sisters-in-law, and their husbands all ran the 5k, and exactly none of us were looking forward to running in rainy drizzle and 42 degrees.

There’s some first timers in this pic!

The course was beautiful despite it being wet. I don’t have many pics of this race because the conditions made it hard to snap shots. We started on paved town roads for the first mile then transitioned to gravel trail riddled with puddles and mud for the rest of the race. We had to watch where we stepped so we didn’t slip in the mud. I’m glad I’d packed so much gear, options are so important when the weather is unpredictable. Plus I’d bought an emergency poncho for which I was so grateful! I was slow because of the conditions and I wanted to be sure I was okay to do the half the next morning. My husband and I crossed the finish, then waited for the rest of our team. We were disappointed to learn that the 5k medals had been lost in shipping, but we were assured that they’d be mailed to us once they were located.

The next morning, I woke up to a weather forecast calling for hail and more rain before the half marathon. Yes, hail. Well, tiny little pellets, but still, when they hit your cold cheeks, it hurts! I shook out my disposable poncho and layered up. With some fleece lined leggings, a Lioness skirt from Skirt Sports, and three layers on top, I was as ready as I could be for my first wet, cold trail half.

I knew this race was going to be my hardest one yet going into it. I knew the elevation gain was no joke, and that it was mostly on a trail. I also knew I wasn’t able to train for this race like I wanted to. Since February, I’ve had to focus on selling my house, moving, and finding a new place to live.  Doing all those home improvement projects did get me into better shape than I was in after the holidays, but I was no where near where I wanted to be for this race. Getting a PR wasn’t my goal, not getting hurt was. My strategy was to do walk a brisk pace with some splashes of running until the big hill. Then, I’d walk as briskly as I could up that bish.

Around mile five, it started to get steep. The course was still thick with mud, and I tried to stay on the edge of the trail to keep from getting bogged down. Mile six is where it started to get nasty. Hence my face in the photo below. It was yucky, but at least the sun had come out and the rain/hail stopped! Once I got over that hill, I found one of my Skirt Sports sisters on the course, and I couldn’t have been happier! Kim is the best. We’d run the Skirt Sports 13er together last year and running with her is always so much fun.

After I’d made it over the hill and found a friend, the race took on a new feel. The course turned technical with large rocks as we began to descend in elevation. I took my time through the rocks but still stumbled a few times. The views were completely worth it, though, as the course took us beside the river and through pristine forest.

As I was out there feeling better than I expected to be at mile nine, I took a moment to appreciate my body. I have ridiculous expectations of it. I ask it to do amazing feats of endurance without ever putting in the 100% training I should. As I climbed that hill and listened to those around me struggling to breathe due to the altitude, I sent my body some messages of gratitude and I promised to not ask it to do this again without the proper preparation.

We counted down the miles together, stopped for orange slices at the mile 11 aid station, and were fueled by the thought of our medals waiting for us. Unfortunately, the Bison Double medals and the Caldera Triple medals were lost in shipping along with the 5k medals. But we did get our half marathon medals, so it was great to have that waiting for us at the end along with the always yummy post race fuel box and bananas.

It hurt so much but we did it!

Kim and I hugged goodbye before I took a few family photos with our race team. I think some of them may have caught the race bug! I’m already planning to come back for the Caldera Triple next year, maybe we’ll make it a tradition!

It was a fabulous race in one of the prettiest places I’ve ever been. Aside from the medals being lost, everything went smoothly and we all had a blast. This race may not be an annual one for me due to traveling, but it’s certainly one I’d like to do every few years. Vacation Races didn’t disappoint, they really now how to pick their locations! It was so gorgeous everywhere you looked that I wanted to share a few last photos with you of your Yellowstone National Park.  Enjoy!

Elk buck

At the Grand Prismatic Spring

Bison herd

You could literally reach out your car window and touch them. But DON’T.

Half medal with Old Faithful erupting in the background

 

As a safety reminder, I ask that when you read my recaps of high altitude races to not underestimate the affects of altitude. I’ve lived at over 5000 feet elevation all my life, and soon I’m moving to 8500 feet. My lungs and muscles are acclimated to the elevation despite having asthma. If you do a race at altitude and you aren’t already acclimated, be sure to train appropriately, take precautions against altitude sickness, and be kind to yourself on the course if you don’t hit your pace goals.Save

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Why a 60 Minute Yoga Class?

Recently, I made some folks angry on Facebook which isn’t hard to do these days. It started when, silly me, I commented on this story from the Atlantic where the author laments that anything more than thirty minutes of yoga class is just too hard to fit into her busy schedule. My comment on Facebook was something to the effect of, “if you’re complaining about the class being too long, I suggest you’re missing the point. Yoga is a spiritual practice, not a newly invented fitness crazy to get you a six-pack in 8 weeks”. Because really, if that’s all you’re getting out of it, then there’s a plethora of other fitness classes you can take in thirty minutes. Seriously. SO. MANY. CHOICES.

Holy wow, did I strike a chord with folks. Many people were offended that I was telling them how to be spiritual and/or how to be fit, when I wasn’t doing any such thing. I was simply trying to point out that the original purpose of Yoga isn’t about fitness. Increased flexibly and strength are aspects of yoga that enable you to find focus, concentration, meditation, and liberation (to name a few benefits). It’s all connected. Yoga helps you join your body and mind into a harmonious unison through focus, breath and movement. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Of course you don’t have to subscribe to the ancient traditions of yoga in order to enjoy or receive benefits from yoga. Of course I don’t think everyone who walks into a western yoga studio needs to have read the Yoga Sutras or the Bhagavad Gita. I don’t expect everyone to set intentions for their practice that include opening the Chakras and/or rooting oneself to the Earth’s energies. These aspects of yoga are not for everyone, I get that.

But I ask you, as a member of our shared human culture, to please respect the ancient origin and traditions of yoga as a spiritual practice first and foremost. Know that there are some folks in your class who may be there to connect with their bodies in a way that is very spiritual for them. For people like me, going to yoga class is more akin to going to church than going to the gym. Those of us who are there for these benefits ask that those of you who aren’t be respectful of the history, the religion, the quiet, the peace, and most of all, the sacred savasana.  (Hint, stop talking during savasana.)

With a little digging, you’ll soon see that yoga has been misappropriated by western culture. You don’t have to look far to see what I mean, after all, baby goat yoga is all the rage. I saw bunny yoga classes on my morning news today, complete with cute bunnies hopping around leaving little round brown presents for all the yogis in class. Gross. I honestly can’t imagine any physical benefit to allowing baby goats to climb on your vertebrae while you’re in child’s pose. I really cannot.

I want to state here and now that I’m not a Yoga teacher (#futuregoals), nor am I a spiritual authority, guide, teacher, prophet, or anything at all. I’m still learning about the history of yoga and all its forms, so in no way am I an expert. But if you’re going to yoga and don’t like that the classes are an hour or more, please consider why they are this length. Do some research. Understand the meaning behind what you’re participating in. If all that new age sounding stuff isn’t for you, that’s totally okay. Just be aware and be respectful. Namaste!

Vacation Races, Here I Come!

Sometimes, begging actually works. I don’t recommend you use the tactic often, but I’m not above begging for something I really want, even if that something doesn’t exist. Believe it or not, begging can be a very effective tool. Case in point, after running the 2016 VR Rocky Mountain Half Marathon, a.k.a, my favorite race, I basically begged the Vacation Races race series to let me be an ambassador even though they didn’t have an ambassador program.

Pro Tip: When begging, bargain by making promises to spend money on their races. 😉

When I heard from the Race Director a few days later, I was ECSTATIC.  After applying and hoping, it’s official, I’m a VR Ambassador!! I can’t wait to represent the series at this year’s Yellowstone Half and the Rocky Mountain Half. Maybe (hopefully) a few more!

 

I wanted to be an ambassador for Vacation Races because I think they put on the best races in the country. The courses are spectacular, the race organization is top-notch, the medals are absolutely THE BEST, the aid stations are the best I’ve ever seen (water, energy drink, bananas and oranges), and I feel that you really get your money’s worth with a fantastic overall race experience. Honestly, I’d take a VR race over one at Disney any time. I can’t say enough good things about VR, and I can’t wait to share more stuff from my favorite race series with you. Details about the program are still coming out, so I’ll share any codes I get in a future post.

 

Have you ever done a VR race? How did it go for you?  Is one of their races on your bucket list? 

A Walk in Her Shoes Feeds a Village

We love doing good, don’t you? We knew you’d say yes! We knew that because our readers are the kindest and sweetest. It’s true. Pat yourself on the back.

We know you like to give back, especially when it’s super easy to give. And we especially love when our training miles count for something. That’s where this fantastic charity event comes in. It’s called the Walk in Her Shoes Challenge, and its goal is to bring awareness to the struggle women and girls face in some of the world’s poorest communities. The Challenge’s goal is to bring equal opportunity and human dignity to women and girls in developing countries. Here’s a quick video to learn more.

One of my Skirt Sport Sisters started a team called the Sole Sisters, and we’d love to have you join us. It’s free, and you don’t have to donate or raise funds if you don’t want to, but your walking and running miles are valuable and count toward the Challenge. You can join our team here. We have already raised enough to build a well for clean drinking water! What I love about this Challenge is that it helps women and girls get access to necessities like clean water, good hygiene and basic medical care so that they can spend more time in school and earning a living than gathering food and water. It’s an empowering program that helps enrich communities around the world.  If you’re so inspired, you can donate to our team by clicking on the graphic below.

I hope to call you teammate soon! Do good, feel good, always, Scooters.

What are your favorite charity events? Have you ever participated in a virtual fundraising event before? Tell me all about it!