March Favorite Things – Let’s Hear it for the Women!

What a weekend!  When this post goes live, the Santa Cruz She.Is.Beautiful race will be a fond memory.   As usual, Melissa, Sara and the SIB Team created a space for women to move their bodies, write a new chapter to their story, and to connect with others that are showing up for life.  In regards to my race, I had the pleasure of cruising along the course with my BRF (best running friend), Rebecca. This was my first time running the 5k and what fun it was, but I’m a little sad that I missed half of the amazing signs along the course.  There’s always next year to return to the 10k.

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With SIB finishing and Women’s History Month both being highlights of March, I would be remiss to not include some of my current favorites that have women at the forefront.  It’s hard to whittle things down to just a few, but here we go…

Lifestyle Loves

Let’s start with skin care… as I edge closer to that mid-40s mark I am a big believer in doing all the things to keep my skin as healthy as possible.  Of course, there is some vanity to this, as I grew up in the days of iodine and baby oil and thinking a sunburn was a fantastic way to get a tan. Seriously, who ever thought that was a good idea?  Anyway, I’m hopeful the damage I did as my younger self can be limited by using good products now. For the last year, I have committed to getting a monthly facial and while doing so, I discovered Brandi and her line of skin care, Reflections Lab (side note… the company is transitioning from Capricious Skin Care to Reflections Lab as I write this).  Brandi once held a high-level corporate job and realized that the job was not bringing her joy. She went out on a limb and went back to school to become an esthetician. Using her corporate skills, she opened Capricious Spa in Los Gatos and got to work developing her own line of skin care.  The skin care line is now in need of her attention so the spa has been sold (I still go there BTW), and Reflections Lab is on the rise.  My favorites include the Vitamin C Serum and the Super Youth Eye Cream.  Skin care products can be expensive, but with Brandi’s Monthly Product Club, (Fill out the contact page and in comments say you want to join the product club & Brandi will hook you up.) you can get a full size product for $18.99 + tax.  The SPF is excluded from the product club, and that’s okay because the deal on the products that often break the bank are included in the club. If you sign up for the product club (it is a 6 month commitment) and then if you get a friend to sign up after your recommendation, you will earn a free month of your product.  Check it out. I’ve yet to be disappointed and look forward to receiving my favorites at a reduced cost, but also trying out new products.
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As an avid reader, I am a sucker for walking through Bookshop Santa Cruz and grabbing a variety of books.  In this month of women continuing to make history, it’s important to look at those that helped to pave the way.  One lady that has been there, done that… and is still doing is none other than Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She has led an incredible life in both her law career and personally.  When people talk about who they’d invite to a dinner party, she would certainly be at the top of my list. During one of my trips through the book shop I picked up Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg written by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik.  The stories of her personal life, the drawings, and the history of her trailblazing will keep you reading and reading.  This will lead to a major girl crush that you’ll need this tank because after reading about the dissent collars, you’ll want to sport those as well.  Grab the book and then challenge yourself to do as many push-ups as RBG.

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Running Loves

Spring is in the air and shorts and tanks are moving back into the rotation.  Right now, I’m obsessing over Oiselle’s new Distance Shorts and also Rabbit’s Bunny Hop Emoji tank.  Not only do these two items bring women front and center by design, let’s take a moment to look at the women behind the scenes of the companies.  Oiselle was founded by the one and only Sally Bergesen. After having babies she was on a mission to find a pair of shorts that fit her new body. Out of this quest, Oiselle was born.  This company has signed some of the most fierce names in women’s running (Hello Fleshman, Goucher, & Kieffer – BTW read the article linked for Allie Kieffer… good stuff!), stands up for what’s right, and has always been a cheerleader of women of all ages and abilities.  Okay… back to those shorts. This short has pockets to go the distance, a wide waistband that flatters, and leg room for days. The new cute print with women flying just ups the must have factor.

Moving on to that Rabbit tank.  Rabbit is just beginning to make their way into the running scene.  Hailing from Santa Barbara, this company was founded by Monica Devreese and Jill Deering.  Similar to Oiselle, these ladies were on the hunt for the perfect pair of running shorts.  Using their history as lifelong runners, Monica’s career in the running industry and Jill’s law career they ran with those talents and Rabbit was born.  The Bunny Hop Emoji tank is soft, has yet to chafe on any of my runs, and it just makes me happy when I wear it.  Check it out… it will likely make you smile too.
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Speaking of fierce names in women’s running, one cannot leave Deena Kastor out of the mix. Because I have a bit of a commute to work, podcasts have become an essential part of my day.  One of the podcasts that I listen to on the regular is I’ll Have Another from Lindsey Hein.  I’ve listened to this podcast from the beginning, and you can’t help but cheer for Lindsey as she creates a career that inspires her and allows her to stay at home with her 3 (soon to be 4) children.  She’s down to earth, asks all the right questions, and makes listeners feel like they are part of the conversation. Recently, she interviewed Deena Kastor and WOW! I knew that Kastor was a total bada$$, but after this podcast I just wanted to hug her for all the advice.  Two words in this podcast can take even the worst run to the next level… “Define yourself.” I’ve been thinking of this on some of my hard workouts and it’s so helpful. Those two words have a different meaning depending on the day, but when defining myself the words are only positive.  A little positive self-talk goes a long way. This podcast is sure to inspire and lucky for us… Deena has a memoir, Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking Myself to Victory,  to be released on April 10th.  

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Wrapping up, I want to give a big shout out to Melissa and Sara (and the whole SIB Team) for their part in picking women up one day at a time.  Lucky for me, I have the joy of logging miles with both of them and can call them friends. What you see from both ladies through the SIB vision, races, products, posts, etc. is the real deal.  They both practice what they preach… Sara always brings the sunshine with her warm smile and awesome hugs and Melissa never ceases to crack me up with her ‘fly by the seat of her pants’ attitude.  Her famous last words before a workout or a race (and everyday life), “I’m just going to go for it.” have become one of my mantras too. Try it out!


Big love!




Running Strong

Three Dominican Hospital employees share their running stories

Those who run will tell you, it’s about more than just fitness. For many, running is an emotional, sometimes spiritual, experience. It can bring perspective, catharsis, renewal, and joy. It can trigger powerful transformation, and awaken a strength you never knew you had. It’s like hitting your own personal reset button, creating space for endless possibilities. The best part? All of this is true whether you run alone or with others.

As the presenting sponsor of the Santa Cruz 5k and 10K race, Dignity Health Dominican Hospital is proud to support local women on their running journeys. This includes many of our own employees. Recently, Medical/Surgical Nurse Joy Rexford, Oncology Department Services Coordinator Kristen Rice, and Marketing Manager Ally Synstad shared their running stories with us.

Q: How did you get into running?

Joy Rexford: Well, I’m retired military. When I was in the service, it was a job requirement—three times a week, with a physical fitness test every six months.

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Kristen Rice: I got back into running after having major abdominal surgery in 2014. I got a Fitbit and kept track of my steps. I did a ton of walking and hiking, and one day decided to run again. It helped me lose the weight.

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Ally Synstad: I started running when I was in college at Virginia Tech. I was no longer participating in competitive sports and needed a way to stay in shape. The great thing about running is that you can do it almost anywhere and it costs little to nothing (which was perfect on a college budget). It wasn’t until April 2009 that I participated in my first group event that was timed. It was the “3.2 for 32” race to honor the victims of the April 16 shooting tragedy at the school. The goal of the event wasn’t speed, of course, but remembrance. Still, it was the first time I had been able to run over 3 miles without stopping. At that point I was hooked.


Q: What are the benefits to you—physically, but also emotionally and psychologically?

JR: The main benefit is it helps me to maintain my weight. I also like to run because it clears my head and makes me feel calm.

KR: Running literally saved my life. I was overweight and depressed after my surgery. When I started running again, I felt this huge weight lifted off my shoulders and felt like a new person. To me, running is 90 percent mental. I’m not going to let anything stop me.

AS: Whenever I am having a bad day, running usually helps me to clear my mind. If nothing else, for those few miles, my mind can only focus on my pace and reaching my goal.

Q: How has it changed your life?

JR: Running can be a solitary or social thing. You feel a kinship with the other runners out running when you are. Running give me strength and endurance.

KR: Running helps me feel balanced and healthy. I set new goals for myself—usually a race to train for. It helps me stay focused and motivated.

AS: I don’t know if running has so much changed my life, as much as enhanced it. I love a variety of different sports, but running offers me something I can take with me anywhere I go. Whether or not I go for a run at home or on vacation, it gives me a different perspective on many different and beautiful places.

Q: What’s your running ritual?

JR: I run two miles on the treadmill two to three times a week. On the weekend, I like to do a 5k, either Saturday or Sunday, or both.

KR: One of my favorite quotes is, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” I have to plan my runs at the beginning of the week and make sure I fit them in with whatever else is going on in my life.

Q: Where are your favorite local places to run?

JR: My favorite place to run is along East Cliff, through the trail by Moran Lake Park and up and around Pleasure Point.

KR: I love running where I live in Capitola Village to the harbor and back along East Cliff. Trail running at Wilder Ranch is another favorite place.

AS: I live over the hill, so I love running the Los Gatos Creek Trail and through all of the beautiful neighborhoods in downtown Los Gatos.

Q: Any advice for others wanting to take up running?

JR: Have good shoes and the necessary running gear. You don’t want to mess up your feet or knees by running in non-running shoes. And us ladies really need to support the things that need support while running! Just get out there and do it—start slow and move to more advanced distances at your own pace.

KR: Start where you are. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you are, just get out there and move. The hardest step is not just out the door, it’s what you tell yourself.

AS: Remember that it’s not about skill. I am very competitive by nature, but I am not a great runner. So instead of competing against my peers, I compete against myself. Every time I run, I try and beat my previous time for that distance, even if it’s only by a couple of seconds. This helps me prepare for actual races where I set separate goals. I remember running for the first time postpartum. I was only able to run two miles and it was tough. I felt like I was starting over. That first run gave me a benchmark for my one- and two-mile times, and from that point on running became easier. I was able to quickly return to my pre-pregnancy time for a 5K. So between now and March 17, I will be focusing on my 10K time while pushing a stroller (which will be a first 🙂 ).

Q: How long have you been participating in, and what does the event mean to you?

JR: This will be my second year doing the run. This run and the Wharf to Wharf are my favorites. They are fun to do, and I especially like the focus of the run—that every woman is beautiful and can be and do anything she wants. Just get out there, begin, and achieve whatever your greatness is.

KR: I walked the very first race with my sister-in-law, niece, and best friend. The good vibes, friendship, motivational signs along the route, cheering each other on, and PINK is what keeps me going back. This will be my fifth race. There’s nothing like the power of women coming together!

AS: This is my second time participating in Last year, I was 18 weeks pregnant, had not trained, and received one of my slowest 5K times, and yet I still LOVED experiencing the event. This year, I will be seven months postpartum and I am hoping to run in the stroller division with my little girl. I not only love an excuse to wear pink, but it is such a great opportunity to celebrate fellow women and their journey toward health and happiness. I look forward to making this race a yearly family tradition.

Things We Love: All Things Santa Cruz

Race day is coming in hot!!! By the time this post hits the world wide web we will be less than a month from the 2018 She. Is. Beautiful 5k & 10k.  There is so much more to Santa Cruz than the Boardwalk and beaches, and while both are pretty awesome, I wanted to add some more fun to your weekend.  Don’t worry… there are still beaches and The Boardwalk involved.

If you talk to a lifetime Santa Cruzan (which I am not), like many surf breaks, there are many names for different parts of town.  This post, however, will be merging some of the neighborhoods together to make things a little easier.  Whether you stay on the West Side or East Side or somewhere in between, I’ve picked out the necessities that happen to be my go-to spots.  Let’s start planning…

WEST SIDE –   For this post’s purposes, the West Side is going to cover most of Mission Street to the coast.

Place for Morning Coffee: Head to Companion Bakeshop for a pleasing cup of Cat & Cloud Coffee.  Be good to yourself and grab some of their delicious food as well.  Might I suggest the Buckwheat Blueberry Scone to go with that cup of coffee?  

Place to Party: Beer? Wine? Food?  It is all here at Swift Street Courtyard.  Many of the Santa Cruz Mountain vineyards have brought the tasting rooms to one place.  If wine isn’t your thing then there’s a great choice of local brews from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery, Humble Sea Brewery or West End Tap.  This is a super fun spot to hang outside and toast your racing success

Place for Lunch: I’m a total fan of food trucks and ocean views.  Both are offered at Steamer Lane Supply.  On Saturday and Sunday the food truck is serving up tacos, but if you happen to get there another day of the week, the Poke Bowl is a special treat.  Added bonus… the SIB Post Race Party happens to be right across the street.  Grab the grub and take a stroll for a bit of a course preview.

Place for Dinner: Runners are known for carb loading prior to a race and Ristorante Avanti can meet those needs.  Known for healthy, locally sourced ingredients, I encourage you to start with the Calamari and end with the Gnocchi.  They also have a daily special that has yet to disappoint.  For a more casual vibe, head down the street to the restaurant’s old space, Pizzeria Avanti, where you can find true Italian style pizzas.

Place to Shop: While you are at Swift Street, be sure to stop into Cameron Marks Boutique.  There are two shops to find all kinds of treasures.  My favorite thing in the store would be the Santa Cruz Market Bag.  It’s my go to gift for friends and family that have visited our home.  Maybe I need to stop in there and purchase one for myself…

The Tourist Thing to Do: If you do one thing on this trip please head out to Wilder Ranch State Park and walk around the Old Landing Cove Trail.  This loop is one of my very favorite places to run in all of Santa Cruz.  Just trust me… If you take Hwy 1 there is a dirt parking lot right before the official entrance to the park.  Here you can park for free, or save your legs for the race and pay the park entry fee so you can get right to those bluffs.

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MIDTOWN/DOWNTOWN – For this post’s purpose this area will cover from Pacific Avenue to the Santa Cruz Harbor.

Place for Morning Coffee: Whether you want to hang downtown or in midtown, you can find Verve Coffee in both places.  While it’s technically not coffee, the Bowl of Soul can’t be beat.  Actually it can… Mary’s Cookies from Verve are perfection.  You should get both.  If you really want coffee, this will be one of the best cups you’ll ever have.  

Place to Party: Santa Cruzans have a brand new place to party and we can’t keep it a secret.  The new Abbott Square is the place to be!  The bar, Front & Cooper, serves up local wine, beer, and high end cocktails.  The cocktail menu includes insanely fun drinks that taste great and look fancy.  All good parties need food and you can find wood-fired pizzas, poke bowls, oysters, vegan fair and popsicles from Milk and Wood (Nutella for the win).

Place for Lunch:  If you want lunch with a view, head to the Crow’s Nest at the harbor.  They have typical American fare, and the salads are always my go to meal.  If you happen to have a salad for lunch (or not), afterwards you should head right back down town and grab cookies from Pacific Cookie Company.  On the weekends chocolate dipped cookies are available.  I make my choices by the weather – Lemon Drop when it’s warm, Ginger Spice when it’s cool and Dark Chocolate Cranberry when it’s in the middle… and always dipped if available.

Place for Dinner: Be sure to make a reservation or be prepared to wait, but either way, this is one of the very best meals in town.  Lillian’s Italian Kitchen has never disappointed.  It’s tough to even make a recommendation for what to eat because it’s all good.  My only suggestion would be that, if you are a fan of polenta, swap polenta for noodles in a dish.  

Place to Shop: For this part of town, there’s a tie for where to go.  Stripe and Stripe Men are fun shops downtown with beautiful clothes, handmade leather bags, and fun accessories and gifts.  If you are more of a nature type, stop into Dig Gardens for everything plants.  Inspiration abounds in this little shop… you’ll definitely walk out with something… like air plants.

The Tourist Thing to DoThe. Giant. Dipper.  Who can resist a classic wooden roller coaster?  The Boardwalk is full of fun and all, but this is the one ride to feel make you like a kid again.  Hands down.

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EAST SIDE (+) – For this post’s purposes, the East Side+ will include Pleasure Point down to Capitola/Soquel.

Place for Coffee: Cat and Cloud recently popped up in the Pleasure Point area and it has quickly become a neighborhood favorite.  From the small batch roasted coffee to the avocado toast, this little coffee shop is a post-run dream.  Friends rave about the hot chocolate too.

Place to Party: Beer 30 is the place to be most days of the week.  True to its name, there are 30 beers on tap.  Food is available for purchase from Carpo’s, but this is a spot where carry in is never frowned upon.  It’s kid and dog friendly, but if these are the things you came to Santa Cruz without, there’s an adult only area filled with outdoor games.  The only downside of Beer 30 would be the number of restrooms… there’s one.  So… if you need to pee after that beer get in line before it becomes urgent.

Place for Lunch: Pleasure Point is one of the most laid back areas in Santa Cruz.  With this laid back style, burritos and pizza are top choices.  Burrito love can be found at the Chill Out Cafe… this is a cash only place so be sure to hit the ATM before you visit.  Pizza in Santa Cruz is pretty much dominated by Pleasure Pizza.  Pizza by the slice is available with many pies to choose from.  The Santa Barbara gets my thumb’s up!  Oh… and since both burritos and pizza are easily transported be sure to take a stroll along the coast while you chew.

Place for Dinner: If you are staying within 3 miles of Shadowbrook, give the restaurant a ring and they’ll send the old fashioned cab to pick you up.  Between the hillvator and gorgeous scenery, who cares about the food!  Just kidding… my favorite place to eat at Shadowbrook is in the Rock Room.  Here the food is more casual with the wood-fired pizza being a highlight.  There’s often live music and a chill vibe.  Shadowbrook can be a tourist trap in the summertime, but the early spring makes for a time to enjoy the scenery.  If you’ve been there, done that, try out Suda.  This is another spot that prides itself on local ingredients and they just dumped a ton of money on their outside dining area making it a prime spot for drinks and conversations.

Place to Shop:  If you’ve seen the handmade candles that SIB offers up then you’ll be delighted to know that there’s a whole store of goodness at Hip and Chick.  Here you can find more sweet candles, but also small batch, organic bath and body products.  

The Tourist Thing to Do:  Capitola. Seriously… there are a ton of cute shops (check out Jade Allen Boutique), a beach and food to meet everyone’s needs.  Please… take a bicycle or walk there because it is a traffic nightmare by car.

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There you have it!  These are the places that I often find myself sharing with out-of-town family and friends.  There are so many hidden gems in this town to make your stay full of great fun that I couldn’t possibly hit them all.  Please share some of yours too!

Wishing you fast feet, big smiles, and all the ab-busting laughter you can handle throughout race weekend.  Until next time…


Big love!


Improve How You Move: Stroller Running Form

Calling all stroller runners and walkers who want to avoid injuries and get stronger!  Sara, our Assistant Race Director is also a Doctor of Physical Therapy with some really great knowledge that she would like to share with you about staying healthy while running with a stroller.  We are proud to offer one of the only stroller division races in the country, with our Bumbleride Baby Mama Division and can’t wait to see you out there running with your kids.

Running while pushing little ones is different for every person.  Many of us had idyllic visions of cruising effortlessly through beautiful scenery while our child cheered us on. We were soon hit with the hard reality that a stroller and the weight of that beautiful child was harder than it looks!  Beyond that, while the cheers of “Go Mama or Dada” can be heard occasionally, keeping said child entertained with endless rounds of “Itsy, Bitsy, Spider” and a constant commentary of all the vehicles you see driving by raised your heart rate to new levels, while your pace still slowed.  Finally, many people who are picking up stroller running are new moms who have just put their bodies through the rigors of pregnancy and birth.  They might have additional areas of weakness caused by these things AND are likely still under the control of hormones that make their tissues more flexible and possibly more prone to injury (these hormones have been shown to remain active in the body until 3-6 months AFTER you stop breastfeeding).  

With that said, for many parents, a stroller run is the only way for them to get a run in or a time they truly enjoy spending with their child.  

Today, we would like to bring you some tips to improve your stroller running form, both to prevent injuries AND improve efficiency.

Body Alignment:  Many people running with strollers are losing power and increasing the load placed on their bodies by poor alignment of their head and trunk.  For post partum mamas, they commonly have retained the poor posture common in the late stages of pregnancy:  pelvis driven forward, chest positioned behind their body and likely up, knees hyperextended and weight in their heels.  They then have since taken up feeding their baby, and whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding, they have likely been slumping their head to look at that adorable new human.


Unfortunately, when they go to push a stroller from this position, it will place extra load on the body.  This can lead to injuries ranging from back pain, to calf pain to knee pain to pelvic floor issues.  It also causes them to not be able to produce as much power as they could, leading to running becoming harder and them running slower.


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Let’s make a change!  Stand in front of your shoulder with soft knees.  Look down at your feet like you are looking over a cliff.  While maintaining this position of your ribcage stacked right over your pelvis, equalize the weight on your feet between your heels and the balls of your feet.  While maintaining this position, think of the top of your head being pulled up and forward with a light chin tuck WITHOUT your chestbone coming up. You should feel like you are in a slight forward lean from your ankles, as if you were leaning into the wind.

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Shoulder Position:  Another factor in stroller running that drives poor overall body alignment is the position your hold your hands, arms and shoulders.  It is common to let elbows “chicken wing” out to the sides of you.  This leads to shoulder blades slumping forward, the spine rounding and shifting your body weight back.  Assuming such form can lead to excessive forces placed on the neck and back, because the shoulder blades are not in a good position to take on the load of the stroller.

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Let’s make a change!  Simply keep your elbows by your sides, moving alongside your ribcage!  A hand position that encourages this is holding onto the sides of the handlebar (see picture below).  If you are pushing with one hand, grip the middle of the handlebar, but keep your elbow tucked in by your side.  Regardless of what hand position you are taking, picture the fronts of your shoulders spreading apart from each other as you run.

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Power generation: A lot of runners, especially those pushing strollers, fall into the pattern of lifting their feet off the ground by kicking up towards their butt and then having to thrust the lower leg forward, usually with a pointed toe.  This leads to their foot being far out in front of them, essentially acting like a brake when hitting the ground.  This slows you down of course, but more damaging, puts unnecessary load on the plantar fascia, achilles, calf, knee, pelvic floor and spine.  

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Let’s make a change! A better way of bringing the leg forward to allow it to meet the ground in a healthier fashion is to focus on bringing the leg forward by lifting both the knee and toes up in front of you (see picture below).  This motion can feel particularly “weird” in post partum women, as they have had to maneuver their legs around a big belly for months, which usually causes them to use hip flexors to a lesser degree.  It is helpful to even simply practice the motion of bringing your knee and toes up (see picture below) and then alternating legs as a warm up exercise.  When running, think of simply avoiding kicking your butt and instead, bringing your knee and toes up in front of you. You can then picture your foot landing right under your body.

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Cadence (aka: how long are you spending on the ground with each step): When pushing a stroller with the weight of a little one in it, it is easy to get tired!  One common mistake I see in stroller runners is how long they are spending on the ground with each step.  This can lead to injury, as we mainly get hurt when we are on the ground with gravity bearing down on us.  

Let’s make a change! By bringing our feet off the ground faster, we are reducing the forces that compress our joints and put strain on our tendons and ligaments.  Think of how fast you pick your foot up when you step on one of your child’s legos on the floor! That is what you should be thinking about when you run.  Simply, get your foot off the ground as fast as possible.  

Bringing it all together:

Running with your kids can be exhausting, awesome and necessary when you want to get some sweating in!  By thinking a little bit more about your body’s alignment, what your legs are doing and how fast you are getting off the ground, you will set yourself up for healthier and faster running.  Another huge part of the equation is running with a great stroller.  In the same way that running in your favorite shoes (shout out to our Hoka Tracer 2.) is better than running in heels, a lightweight running stroller decreases forces on your body and makes the process more fun.  We highly recommend BumbleRide Speed, as it is super lightweight, rides extremely smooth, handles bumpy roads with ease and turns on a dime.  

Finally, ending your stroller run with a “reward” for your little one, from getting to watch bulldozers at a construction site to a treat at a coffee shop, can be that extra incentive they need to let you get some happy miles in.


Sara Tanza PT, DPT, CFMT  is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and the Assistant Race Director 5k & 10k.


The Ambassador Series: Lea Crawford

The Ambassador Series is all about shining light on the rad group of ladies that represent in their communities. Throughout 2018 we will be featuring each of our Ambassadors as they share their stories.

What do you connect with the most about the mission?

Women supporting, inspiring, encouraging other women is something we should all be doing and showing others by our actions. & of course I LOOOOOVE Pink and like to think I’ve got a bit of sassiness in me!!


How do you define beauty?

I believe that beauty is definitely more than someone’s physical appearance, to me it’s often seeing how someone carries themselves, how they treat others, how they treat themselves…this can show so much more beauty than how they actually look.

How do you plan to spread beauty to your local community and the world in 2018?

I’ve always said that life is too short to not smile and not be positive.  I plan to continue to be my overly positive self and find the positive in just about every situation thrown my way….and to instill it in those around me the best I can. Just smiling at someone, opening the door or saying g’morning can spread so much beauty and love and hopefully those I touch will in turn touch another.


Running makes me feel ______.

Running, well for me walking, makes me feel strong, beautiful and free.  It clears my head, provides me with a form of therapy/sanity to keep on keeping on!  Last year after being diagnosed walking truly became my escape and strength to get me through each and every day.

Running/Walking has taught me…

Walking has taught me that by simply lacing up my shoes and taking that first step I’m giving myself so much self love and by adding mile after mile, in the same day, week or month I’m only bettering myself and hopefully inspiring others to do the same, walking has also taught me that it’s okay that I choose to log my miles by walking….that I Am Enough!


Finding Her Strength: Strong is Beautiful

The Finding Her Strength blog series explores the importance of diversifying your fitness game for three main reasons: to stay injury free, to prevent burnout, and to have fun!

As a running and fitness coach, I recommend adding in some type of cross training activity at least 1-2 times a week.  In the last installment, I explored the benefits of Spinning (indoor cycling).  I hope you gave it a try! Maybe you loved it, maybe you didn’t.  That’s the great thing about fitness – there are SO MANY different ways to move. Keep trying new things, and you will certainly find the right type of movement for you.  Find your fitness. In this installment, I’ll cover the awesome benefits of Strength Training (resistance-based workouts using weights or body weight).

Strength training has helped me develop a deeper sense of self confidence, better posture, and keeps my body strong, durable and injury free for many miles on the roads and trails.  It makes me a more resilient and more efficient runner.  And I feel that when we get stronger physically, we also get stronger mentally and emotionally.  Happy lifting ladies!

What are the benefits of Strength Training? (Won’t I bulk up or gain weight?)

I talk with women all the time that shy away from strength training because they are worried they will gain weight, get bulky, or lose their feminine shape.  Or they feel intimidated about going into a weight room which is a traditionally male dominated space.  Maybe they feel self-conscious or unsure how to properly lift weights.

The essence of the mission focuses on how movement makes you FEEL, not necessarily how movement makes you LOOK.  Focusing on how strength training makes you FEEL really resonates with me. It makes me FEEL strong, confident, capable, and healthy.

Let’s talk about the misperception of how lifting weights changes the female body.  Many of us have been conditioned from an early age to think that:

1.) being thin/losing weight should be the end goal

2.) in order to lose weight, we need to do loads and loads of cardio, and

3.) lifting weights will result in weight gain and our bodies getting ‘bigger’ which is ‘bad’.

FALSE! In reality:

1.) being healthy, strong, and happy should be the end goal

2.) lifting weights changes the composition of our body by replacing fat with lean muscle mass (which cardio doesn’t do), and

3.) muscle mass burns more calories at rest so in turn we burn more total fat while getting strong.

More Muscle > More Daily Caloric Burn > Less Fat > Stronger Body

Remember that the number on a scale does not represent who you are nor the composition of your body.  Muscle weighs more than fat, so while you may not lose numbers on a scale when you begin a strength training routine, you are certainly changing the look, feel and function of the body for the better. (Side Note: Body Fat Percentage is a better indicator of fitness than scale weight!) I encourage all women to move past the obsession with thin or a certain number on the scale, and embrace the reality that we can all be strong! I think you’ll also find lifting weights to be an empowering experience, an “I am woman, hear me roar!” kind of thing.

Strength training has many other important benefits to our health and well-being.  Lifting weights develops functional ‘real-world’ strength in the legs, core, upper body and back.  To get the most bang for your buck, opt for integrated movements (using multiple muscle groups at once, i.e. see Squat Press movement below) rather than isolated movements (using only a single muscle group, i.e. a Bicep Curl).  Strength training builds the muscles that provide support to your joints for long term injury prevention.  This is very important for runners and walkers – we want to protect our valued hips, knees and ankles by surrounding them with strong muscles, tendons and bones.  Strength training also helps to offset the aging process by decreasing the loss of bone density and the loss of muscle mass, as well as lowering the risk of osteoporosis.  Plus, lifting weights improves posture which keeps you upright and strong when running and in daily life.

And come on, it’s also nice to be able to open that jar of peanut butter on your own! 🙂

What will I need? (What if I don’t own equipment or have a gym membership?)

Good news! In our current technologically rich world, there are LOTS of online, at-home workouts options available with little to no equipment needed.  I’m personally a big fan of Jillian Michaels.  A simple investment in a few sets of dumbbells, resistance bands or simply your body weight is enough to get started.  Just be sure if you are opting for at-home workouts, that you already have a fundamental understanding of proper form and technique for basic strength training movements.  If you have not been taught by a fitness professional how to move correctly, I would recommend meeting with a personal trainer for a few sessions, or to drop into a class at your local gym to learn basic mechanics.

What are your favorite Strength Training workouts? (Won’t I get bored?)

One of my favorite ways to lift weights is by taking part in a Body Pump class.  Body Pump is a trademarked Les Mills group fitness program.  The 60-minute class works all of your major muscle groups through a high repetition/low weight workout structure using a barbell, plate weights and body weight.   The workout is set to powerful music, and is guided by an instructor. You will master primary movements such as squats, lunges and deadlifts while also learning exercises for your chest, back, triceps, biceps, shoulders and abs.

If I’m in a time crunch or can’t make it to a class, I like to use apps such as a Tabata timer to create a high intensity interval training (HIIT) workout. You choose the strength training exercise, and perform it for a prescribed interval of time (typically 20-30 sec) followed by a period of rest (10-15 sec) for a set number of rounds (6-8 rounds).  This is a fun and fast way to get a strength workout in anywhere – no equipment required.  Check out the exercise suggestions and a 20 Minute Workout below!

My 5 Must Do Strength Moves:

  1. Squat Press: This exercise integrates your lower body (glutes, hamstrings and quads) and upper body (shoulders), and develops power.
    A. Start by lowering your body into a squat position. Push your hips back and sit your butt down so that your knees track in line with your toes and your weight is concentrated in the heels of your feet. Hold a weighted ball or a dumbbell in your hands.
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    B. From a lowered squat position, drive up through your heels into a standing position and press the weighted ball or dumbbell over your head.

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    C. Optional Advancement – Add intensity to the movement by pushing up from the squat into a jump while driving the weight over your head.
  2. Pushups: Pushups are superb for arm, chest and core strength.
    A. Start in a plank position on your toes (or knees) with your arms wide outside of your shoulders. Brace your core, keep your neck long, and your eyes forward of your hands.
    B. Lower your body in a straight line, keeping your core braced and stopping your chest at elbow height. Push back up to plank position driving through the heels of your hands and activating your chest and shoulders.

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    C. Optional Modification: Complete the movement on your knees.
  3. Plyometric Lunges: Jump lunges develop explosive power for running. I suggest you start with backward stepping lunges and build to jumping slowly over the course of 4 -6 weeks.
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    A. Stand with your feet hip width distance apart. Step a long step back with one leg. Lower the legs down until your front thigh and back shin are parallel to the ground.
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    B. From a 90-degree lowered position, drive back up to standing by pushing through the front foot to engage the glutes. Keep your back straight, your chest upright and your core braced.

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    C. Optional Advancement – Add intensity to the movement by jumping to switch legs.
  4. CoreRussian Twists: This exercise targets the oblique muscles of the core.
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    A. From a seated position, lift your feet with bent knees off the ground and brace your core. Rotate your core from side to side while holding a weighted ball or dumbbell in your hands.
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    B. Twist from side to side while keeping the abs braced to protect the lower back.

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    C. Optional Modification – Place your feet on the ground for more support.
  5. Single-Leg Agility Moves – Ice Skaters and Single Leg Hops: These exercises develop single leg strength, balance, coordination and agility. Think fast feet on your next trail run!
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    A. Ice Skaters – Lower the body into a loaded ‘speed skater’ position. Jump or step laterally from side to side landing in a ‘speed skater’ position. Be sure that the knee tracks in line with the toe.

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B. Single Leg Hops – Lower the body into a loaded single leg squat position. Jump or step laterally from side to side landing in a single leg squat position. Be sure that the knee tracks in line with the toe.

Sample 20 Minute Workout:

  • Begin with 5 minutes of easy warmup dynamic movements (i.e. march or jog in place, jumping jacks, arm swings).
  • Interval 1: Perform 20 seconds of Squat Presses at a hard/very hard effort level. Rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times.
  • Interval 2: Perform 20 seconds of Pushups at a hard/very hard effort level. Rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times.
  • Interval 3: Perform 20 seconds of Lunges (Backward Stepping or Jumping) at a hard/very hard effort level. Rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times.
  • Interval 4: Perform 20 seconds of Russian Twists at a hard/very hard effort level. Rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times.
  • Interval 5: Perform 20 seconds of Ice Skaters or Single Leg Hops at a hard/very hard effort level. Rest for 10 seconds. Repeat 8 times.
  • Finish with 5 minutes of easy cooldown movements (i.e. march in place, spinal twists, shoulder rolls).


My 5 Strength Training Must Haves:

  1. A set of 10-12 pound dumbbells
  2. Tabata timer app on my phone
  3. 2-3 Body Pump classes weekly
  4. More Love muscle tank
  5. A great lifting playlist with plentiful gangster rap


Here’s your call to action – try mixing things up once a week for the next 30 days!  Pick a non-running activity and commit to it at least once a week for a month.  I suggest you give Strength Training a try.  But stay tuned … in my next installment of Finding Her Strength, I’ll explore the lovely world of Yoga.  Until next time, find your strong. Strong is beautiful.



By: Katie Gott, Group Fitness Instructor and Running Coach, Community Coordinator for






What I Know About Community 5k and 10k started eight years ago with 500 women the first year. Eight years later, the Santa Cruz event sells out to 6,000 women and girls and the Santa Barbara race sells out to 2,000 women and girls. SIB is more than just a race, it’s a community, it’s a lifestyle. It’s full of love, gratitude, and human connection. While they have professional runners lining up on the start line race for prize money, there are many women and girls of all ages, all backgrounds, all levels- some of them there for their first race experience ever. The event’s founder and director shares with you the secret sauce to what she believes has made this event so special and she calls it the “heart ping”.

Have you ever listened to a song that speaks so strongly to you? It’s a feeling, a ping of the heart. Maybe it’s the sound of the artist’s voice, maybe it’s the actual words that are being sung. Often times, it’s when the artist makes a statement of their truth that you relate to. This is what I believe community should feel like.

Sometimes community looks like someone helping you out at the grocery store when you’re struggling to carry all your bags or if a stranger pays for your coffee. Sometimes community looks like someone sharing with you that they had a really bad day and you reminding them that it happens to all of us. Sometimes community is smiling at the person on your morning run knowing they are probably tired too. Sometimes community is high-fiving, hugging, or smiling, in real life or emoji form.

When started 8 years ago, it was built on feelings and experiences that we all share but in our own unique way. Real. Life. Stories. Sweat. Challenges. Insecurities. Breakdown. Breakthrough. Changes. Love. Heartbreak. Courage. Empowerment. Togetherness. Embracing. See, heart ping. All the feels.


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We believe community should be a space where you can show up and feel valued. Where you can feel like you are enough, just as you are. Where you can push yourself or try new things knowing you will be supported regardless of the outcome. Where you can share your story and you can see others acknowledging your truths like, “Yes, I get you!”

When starting this community, I couldn’t put into words how it would be created, I just started doing, making, and showing up. There was no business plan. No end goal. It was just what we wanted in the moment. This is still the way we roll. If we didn’t have our hearts fully in this game, we wouldn’t be here.

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A web of women from all walks of life. We want your story on our start line. Because your story matters and is more inspiring than you may realize.

Your story. What you have overcome. What you dream about. What you want your life to feel like. What makes your life challenging. What scares you. Where you want to do better. In our community, we want you to show up just as you are. Leave your professional or “I’m together” aura at the door, because we want your truth (I know, sometimes that’s scary… it’s so much easier to show up with your sh@t seemingly together).


Here’s the thing about moving our bodies. It’s taught us that our truth is what makes us special. Our truth is enough. Our truth is messy and beautiful. As the sweat drips from our forehead, love, challenges, strength, and weaknesses are revealed. We become undone and then come back together. Moving our bodies shows us how to be vulnerable, how to be strong, how to keep going.


I show up to our community as I am. Like many of you, over the last eight years I’ve grown, learned, cried, celebrated, struggled, fought, high-fived, and boy, have I run. I have worked hard and continue to not apologize for this person I continue to grow into.

Hi, I’m Melissa. I love to run and move my body because every other aspect of my life feels better when I make time for myself in this way.  I’m a daughter, mother, wife, sister, and friend. I have a hard time letting new people into my life because of the hard loving I’m doing on the people who have already been in it. I’m working on that while also balancing the energy to hold within myself that I need to be able to feel whole. I work hard at my job and am proud of that. I didn’t get into the colleges of my dreams the first time around, and I think that was a wake up call that I would have to work really hard in the real world to create the life I wanted.  Sometimes I feel inadequate because I’d rather be outside than cook a good meal or make my hair look good (good thing messy buns are trending). I care deeply about our communities and worry everyone is online too much. 18622371_1555658851119064_1970546904730378917_n I love my family, ice cream, and couldn’t live without running—it makes me more patient and kinder. I get nervous showing up to events where I don’t know anyone, but I’m trying to do more of this because it’s still awkward for me. Sometimes I move too fast in my day, misspelling things or missing out on tiny details, but it’s because there’s so much I want to do. Sometimes I forget to pause. I try to always see the best in people.  I have learned that not everyone will like you and that’s ok (I still have a hard time with this one!).  I love my body for all of the places it has taken me, but there were times in my life I was insecure with it although I was always grateful for its strength. I have wrinkles and don’t plan on using Botox– but I feel pressure to sometimes. I love a warm cup of coffee and sweatpants. I like to surround myself with positive people who want to make the world better.

Where am I going with these fun facts? Maybe you see some of yourself in me, maybe you don’t. Most of the time we can find a way to connect with most people in some way or another. I think finding connection with as many people as possible is a good thing. Because the more love in this world the better. In fact, sometimes when we learn more about people, we are surprised how much we have in common with them.

Maybe you don’t want to share things about you, but you want to hear about others. You want to smile, laugh, or cry because their story is similar to yours. We are here to live our stories. To share them in all their mess and all their glory. Start lines and finish lines, in running and in life.


At the end of the day, community is energy that connects us in spaces we feel safe. Often times, this space inspires us to be more of who we truly are, inspires us to keep going, to grow into the people we want to become. Community feels just like our favorite songs.



Things We Love: The Work Life, Home Life, Fun Life Balance

Hello, 2018!  I absolutely love the start to a new year or the start to my birthday month. Both of these occasions give me a chance to look at where I’ve been, where I’m currently at and where I’d like to go.  Instead of resolving to stop doing a million things, I just think of what are the things that might be holding me back, what are the things/strategies that will make my life a bit happier, and how can I be a better wife, friend, teacher, runner…you name it.  While this strategy may not be for everyone, my hope is that as this blog rolls out through the year that I can play a small role in making your life a tad bit more awesome.  With that… Happy New Year & let’s get started!


Lifestyle Obsessions:

Remember how I mentioned strategies that will make my life a little bit happier?  My work life, home life, and fun life are a delicate balance right now.  When one of these life parts gets out of balance the Type A in me gets quite nervous… and I don’t like it one bit.  Several years ago, I read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Gretchen had this little gem of advice, and let me tell you – It’s. Freaking. Life. Changing.  Ready?  Follow the One Minute Rule.

“The one-minute rule says that anything I can do in less than a minute, I should do without delay. So I don’t postpone hanging up my coat, printing out a document and filing it, glancing over a letter and throwing it away. What this does is it gets rid of that scum on the surface of life.” – Gretchen Rubin

For real… try it.  Since implementing this rule this year, my house is way more picked up than ever before (My husband says if leaving glasses of water or shoes about was an Olympic event I’d be a gold medalist, but NOT ANY MORE!), there is less trying to remember what person I forgot to email back, and it’s even helped me remember to jot down a note in my Believe journal each day.  Gretchen has some other tips for “getting happier” which you can check out here.  If you are a podcast person, you might even enjoy her podcast.

Some of you may say that Pinterest is a bit old school, but when one is in the midst of a home remodel or is looking for how to style a new article of clothing, Pinterest is a game changer.  And let’s get this straight… I don’t have many Pinterest fails because when it comes to making all the fun things… I don’t.  I head over to Etsy, or Wayfair, or Joss and Main, or Target and buy said item.  Remember… work, home, and fun balance.  One other advantage of Pinterest is that part of the data collected makes it easy to determine the trends for the new year.  Because I like fashion, I was pretty excited to find Refinery29’s “Top 2018 Fashion Trends According to Pinterest.” On the list I have to admit that I’m most excited about the berets (French fashion is so classy… love it!), logos (#guccibelt), slit details on clothing (The puffy sleeve and I did not get along.) and embellished shoes (I may already have purchased a pair.)  What trends are you looking forward to rocking in 2018?

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Even my mother-in-law is into the 2018 trends!

Fitness Faves:

For the last year or so I’ve had a subscription to Jasyoga and I don’t think I could EVER let it go. Jasyoga is yoga by athletes, for athletes.  Their mission is to help athletes (especially runners) achieve their goals.  Even better would be that the subscription costs $9.99 a month – less than the cost of a single yoga class – and it’s kind of like those pick your own adventure books.  There is literally a video for whatever your body is craving.  My personal favorites include 5-minute Hip Reset and Sunday Reset.  There are some videos that you can try for free on the site, but once you take a look around you will likely be sold on the spot.

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Let’s get real now… sometimes…okay… often – runners smell.  I’ve been on a mission to find a deodorant that doesn’t leave marks, smells fresh and well… works.  I thought I was pretty content with Lavilin due to it’s 72 hour staying power, all natural ingredients and fresh scent, but at $15 for a roll-on I wasn’t totally sold.  Insert new ads for Dove Invisible Dry Spray and an Allure Best Beauty award and I was intrigued.  I scooped up a bottle of the Sheer Fresh scent and put my Lavilin on the shelf for a bit.  I’m sold!  This stuff held up through a day of work, a run and a Bodypump class, even followed by a grocery store run.  While it isn’t all natural like the Lavilin, it had 100% of the other qualities… and it was way cheaper and didn’t leave a mark on a single piece of clothing.  And… at $5.49 there’s extra cash for more items to appear in the Target cart… at least that’s the way I see it.

Here’s to continuing to slay all the days in 2018!  The Santa Cruz She. Is. Beautiful 5k and 10k is coming right up on March 17th and I know many of you will start making plans for this amazing race and the adventures that surround it.  For February, my intention is to make a list of some of my favorites in and around Santa Cruz.  If you have a particular question, shout it out and I’ll find an answer.


Until next month…




Behind the Scenes: Walnut Avenue Family and Women’s Center

I’m a Santa Cruz resident since 2010, but originally from Pittsburgh, PA. I’m the Executive Director of Walnut Avenue Family & Women’s Center, and also a licensed clinical psychologist. I enjoy baking, reading, yoga, all things outdoor, and finding new ways to entertain and educate my twin 2 1/2 year old identical twin boys.
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When did you begin working with WAFWC and what drew you to this organization?
I was hired at Walnut Avenue in August of 2015. I had been working in the nonprofit world since 2008 but commuting to San Mateo from Santa Cruz those last 2 years. I was thrilled when the job posting came out while I was on maternity leave and I was committed to working closer to my babies. Walnut Avenue offered everything I was looking for in a job- the opportunity to become more a part of the Santa Cruz Community, working with a gifted group of passionate helping professionals, and supporting women and families to overcome life challenges and achieve their goals. I was able to use both my passion for nonprofit management and my clinical expertise in one setting!  And the ten minute commute is just the icing on the cake!
Aside from the yearly monetary donation, what are you most excited about the connection between’s connection to WAFWC?
There is nothing quite like the energy of the SIB race day! Sara and Melissa are amazing and inspirational and they help create a spirit of resilience, empowerment and love of self that I have not experienced in any other event. It is one day, but it changes your outlook on your entire life (and forces you to get out there and train!!). I am most excited about creating a similar spirit of joy for life and feminine empowerment attitude throughout Walnut Avenue. In the day-to-day grind of making a nonprofit run, it is important to remember why we do it- so that women and families have opportunities to not just live, but to thrive! And sometimes we need a little help reviving that spark back into the work. For myself- just to be running with that massive group of like-minded yet tremendously diverse women, reading the inspirational signs and contributing to the love and energy of the day is a reminder of why I do the work. Women are naturally such care givers and healers, but they need events like this in their lives so they take back a little love and strength for themselves and by being that little bit selfish, they become even more strong and capable and available to be there for others.
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You are a mom of twins- AMAZING! Did you run, walk, or jog, before or during your pregnancy?
I have always prioritized exercise in my life and before I got pregnant, I had been jogging three times a week for many years in parallel with a yoga practice. My husband and I tried for many years to be pregnant and I am an older mama, so when we finally got the good news, and I was declared a “high risk pregnancy”, (both because of age and because we were expecting twins), I was extremely careful and chose to stop jogging throughout my pregnancy. Then when Asher and Sawyer came along, I was simply too exhausted and overwhelmed to find time for myself (every available moment alone was a time to catch up on sleep)! This year’s SIB race is special because it marks the year I finally figured out how to carve that me-time back into my life (after 3 years of being primarily a mommy). 
We look forward to having you participate in the race this year and we love that you have started to train for the event. How do you believe running again, after having twins, what do you feel this movement will bring to your life?
It is wonderful to be running again. I am reminded of the beauty of the Santa Cruz neighborhood where I live. I get to run to the Lighthouse and greet the ocean. I get to be reminded that I am not just Julie-ED of Walnut Avenue, and Julie-mom of twins, but that also I am a woman with my own needs and my own goals and dreams. I am reminded that in order to be the best mom, partner, and ED I can be, I must fill my own cup up with love and joy and not burn myself out. This movement reminds me that I am not alone, that I am a part of a tribe of amazing women doing amazing work, but remembering to nurture themselves along the way.
What is one professional and one personal goal you have for yourself in 2018?

Professionally, for the past 2.5 years, I have been really focused inwardly on the organization. Over the next year I intend to spend more time focused outwardly; seeing how Walnut Avenue can be an active force in the community, not just helping one individual or family at a time, but also helping to shape the laws and culture as it applies to much needed social services for families. Personally, I want to keep up the jogging routine and get to the point where I feel strong enough to push the boys along with me (that’s an extra 60 lbs.!!). And of course I want to be the best mom I can be without burning the candle from both ends! I feel great privilege and obligation to raise boys who will respect and honor themselves and their bodies and likewise the selves and bodies of all others.

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