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.
 
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 She.is.beautiful’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.
 
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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The Ambassador Series: Crystalynn Greenman

The Ambassador Series is all about shining light on the rad group of ladies that represent She.is.beautiful 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 She.is.beautiful mission?

When it comes to the mission statement at She.Is.Beautiful, it really resonates with the person I strive to be. Being a strong, kind, positive and uplifting person is something that is really important to me.  Being able to help motivate and help others reach their goals and know their strength and beauty is truly what I fell in love with when I stumbled across the She.Is.Beautiful race series.​

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How do you define beauty?

It is really all about who you are at your core how you feel and the way in which you share yourself with the world.  My Mom taught me to ‘always assume positive intent‘ and with that, always have a positive, kind and empowering outlook and way of treating others.  My Mom is and will always be the most beautiful woman in my life in all aspects, and I thank her for teaching me to always look for the light, and beauty in others.​

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

​2018 will be full of some big changes for myself and my family.  I will be moving to Utah (from California) when my husband returns from being overseas serving our Country.  Joining a running group, (or starting one) and being active in helping my community is how I intend to be someone others can look to for support and positivity.​

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Running makes me feel ______.

Running makes me feel strong, beautiful, sane, happy, and invincible.  Honestly, running helped me beat postpartum anxiety.  Running helped me find peace in my mind when it was sometimes so dark.  Running makes me feel joyous and free.

Running has taught me…

​Running has taught me that I am enough, my body is perfect the way it is and one mile is one mile whether it takes someone 15 minutes to get there or 7, and NOTHING is impossible if you’re willing to work hard for it.  The running community is truly a remarkable group of people.  They cheer and support your dreams and desires in a way that makes you feel like you’ve already accomplished those crazy scary goals.  They’re there at the finish line to give you the best high five you’ve ever had, ask what your next goal is, and help you achieve it.  

I am beyond excited to be this person for others.  I look forward to many races in 2018, tracking my miles and helping others reach their mile and race goals throughout the year!

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Fun fact about Crystalynn: I enjoy cooking, baking and making up recipes. I really love to make treats for friends or cook up a colorful healthy new recipes! Pinterest is so much fun to peruse  looking for new ideas. {See below for her yummy Oat Muffins!}

(Gluten free and can be dairy & sugar free as well depending on dietary restrictions)

Recipe (makes 18) 

Preheat oven to 350

In mixing bowl mix: 

1/2c brown sugar (optional if you’re sugarfree)

1/4c oil (I use coconut) 

2 eggs

once mixed add:

1T vanilla extract

1T cinnamon

4oz applesauce 

1.5c milk of choice

Once combined mix in:

1t baking powder 

3c oats

Then add mix ins as desired: blueberries, cranberries, chocolate chips, nuts, chia seeds, coconut flakes, etc. (get creative!)

Bake for 30 min, cool on wire rack store in airtight container in the fridge.  Enjoy as a muffin cool or warmed or heated up with a splash of milk.

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Things We Love: Making 2018 The Best Year Yet!

How did we get here already? Several times this month I’ve heard people state, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Never before has this seemed so true, and while there’s still a lot of livin to do in 2017, it’s never too early to start preparing for 2018. This month’s post will highlight some of the gems just might make 2018 the best year yet!

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Run Loves:

For 2018, I have signed up for the She.Is.Beautiful Mileage Club.  In past years, I’ve started a journal and put forth a good effort until a day or two would pass, or there’d be a string of bad workouts that I wouldn’t want to write down.  Instead, I would just trust my trusty Garmin and let that be my record keeper.  This year will be different.  With the SIB Mileage Club, I’ve set the goal of not just running 1,500 miles, but I also have a goal of jotting a note about each run as well.  My coach has asked that I work on some positive self talk to decrease that whole “When the going gets tough, the tough… settle.”  Not in 2018.  NOT. IN. 2018.  There will be no settling.

 

As part of SIB Mileage Club, each runner receives the Believe Training Journal in the welcome packet.  Remember how I said I used to start journals and dump them?  I’ve had a few Believe journals in year’s past and these seem to be the ones that keep my attention the longest.  The journal, co-authored by the amazing Lauren Fleshman (#fangirlsohard), is an undated training log with room to not only track your running, but spell out goals, jot some training notes, and envision long term goals.  With Lauren’s running experience (along with co-author Roisin McGettigan-Dumas), the journal is jam packed with practical advice, secrets of the the run trade, and small tidbits to help crush goals all year long.  While my ultimate recommendation would be to join the Mileage Club since there’s power in numbers, if that’s not your jam, head on over to a bookstore before the year ends cause you need this journal in your runlife.

If you want to make it through 2018 injury free, might I suggest strength training?  Running is a cardiovascular activity so the heart gets stronger for sure, but what about all those other muscles?  Beginning runners may see some strength gains in the initial phases, but it doesn’t take long before those gains taper off and injuries can creep up.  Strength training will decrease injuries and improve performance.  This is great news and what’s even greater is that there are so many options for strength training.  Each week I teach two Bodypump classes, but now that I’ve been doing this for a while, my body is saying, “MIX IT UP.”  I’m listening and stumbled upon the Strong Workout Tracker Gym Log app.  This app has changed my life in the gym.  I used to go into the gym with a loose plan and would get sidetracked or miss exercises.  I would never show up at the track without a plan so why would the gym be any different? With Strong, you can add your own custom exercises, or choose from their lists of exercises to build a workout..  After building the workouts, simply follow along.  There are options to track weights and reps so it’s easy to see growth.  This app is free, but there is an option to subscribe to reep even more benefits of the app.  Oh… and it syncs right to an iWatch so you don’t have to carry your phone around the gym… unless you want to.

 

 

Lifestyle Loves:

 

I’m going to keep rolling with the journal theme here, but we’re going to one-up the journal and combine it with a planner.  Despite the fancy phones so readily available, there’s just something special about writing things down in a paper planner.  As we enter into 2018, let me introduce to you the Passion Planner.  Let this graphic break it all down for you:

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With this planner you will find a spot for all your thoughts, dreams, goals and appointments with just enough positive energy to keep you going among the chaos of life.  Oh… it’s also beautifully made and comes in two sizes to fit your style.  Really, this is one tool that will make 2018 not just the best year ever, but also the most organized year ever.

By this point, you have tips for crushing running goals with the Believe Journal, an app to help you get Strong and a Passion Planner to organize this beautiful life.  What could possibly be missing?  Oh… yeah… food!  I come from a long line of women that know their way around a kitchen, but I still wonder… how in the heck did they do it?  Life is hectic and it seems like cooking is one of the first things that gets tossed aside when carry-out is so accessible.  I find that there is much more success for healthy meals when I “batch cook” or meal prep on a Sunday.  I wanted to introduce you to a few of the websites that bring the joy back to cooking.  Check these out:

  1.  RealPlans – This is a meal planning site that seriously fits EVERY need.  There are plans for vegetarians, Paleo, Whole30, AIP diets, Keto… everything really.  Oh… are there allergies in your home?  Just check that you only want recipes that exclude the allergens.  Once you choose a plan, you choose how many meals you want to cook during the week, and then… poof… the system has a meal plan, grocery list and tips for what you can prepare in advance for the week.  Another bonus?  You can also choose your level of expertise from “I’m learning to boil water” to “Just give me the Michelin star already.”  This is a paid service, but there are always deals for a one month trial.  Just go to the site and there will be a pop-up for the current deal.
  2. Skinnytaste – This website has endless meal plans and recipes to fit many different tastes.  The meals are healthy and take real life into considerations.  If you choose a meal plan a shopping list will be generated. I have a tendency to choose a few recipes at a time, and my favorites happen to be the Instant Pot and one pan meals… cause… cooking means clean-up and that means time… which means I may defer to carryout… and I don’t want to do that.  I’m sure you are thinking this all sounds pretty great, but let’s make it even better cause Skinnytaste is FREE! **Free is always good, but if you want to eliminate the allergens, Real Plans adds this step for you.  On Skinnytaste, you need to do some of your own research.
  3. DIY Smoothie Packs – :  I’ve been ordering from Daily Harvest so that we have smoothies on hand, but I gotta admit… these can get expensive and when I really look at the contents I have to think… I can do this.  After some research this weekend, this is exactly what I’m going to do.  Seriously… check out these 11 frozen, healthy smoothies from Self Magazine.

 

Reflecting on 2017, it’s been a pretty good year.  At the start of each year, I try to make a list of what I’ll do more of versus making a New Year’s Resolution that goes out the window by month’s end.  Soon, I’ll list those intentions on my blog… I’m still prioritizing these, but more DIY Smoothies and sunscreen will definitely make the list.  My hope is that some of the above favorites help you find ways to do more of what you love with a little less sacrifice.  May your holidays be bright and may 2018 be full of everything you love and more.  xo

Don’t forget to follow Leslie’s blog: lapslungesandleather (you won’t regret it!)

The Ambassador Series: Sarah Gruber

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

Hi! My name is Sarah and I am the Operations Manager and the leader of the Sass Squad for She.is.beautiful. I graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in Public Health (a huge passion of mine). I recently moved back to my hometown of Santa Cruz, CA to be closer to my family. While my closet is mostly filled with black clothes, I’m happy to make an exception and rock pink for the She.is.beautiful community.  

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What do you connect with the most about the She.is.beautiful mission?

While I am a true believer in the entire SIB mission, two parts really speak to me.

“…to take the lessons learned on the road and trail into the rest of their lives.”

Spreading kindness to those around me has always been something I make a point to do. Running has taught me to spread that same kindness to myself. Sometimes the roads (and life) are unforgiving, don’t let a bad run (or a bad day) make you treat yourself or others unkindly. The pain is temporary.  

“We believe that beauty is more of a feeling than a physical attribute.”

Growing up as a “millennial” in the age of Instagram, Facebook and every other form of social media imaginable, makes it easier to stay in touch with people from around the world. There is not doubt there are many positives to social media. But I believe that social media makes loving yourself an extremely hard feat. Constantly comparing your looks, hobbies, jobs, amount of money, LIFE IN GENERAL to others is enough to crush anyone’s spirit. In my adult life I have been able to separate my definition of beauty from the social media standard. I think beauty is a feeling that is your message to the world. So instead of looking at someone’s hair color, what clothes they wear or the shape of their body – start evaluating people by their kindness, thoughtfulness and grace. 

How do you define beauty?

I spoke to the definition of beauty briefly in regards to the SIB mission. To put it more briefly – I define beauty as something that cannot be seen on a person but something that is shown in a person’s behaviors and the way they treat others.

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

I believe the best way to spread beauty is to start in a small, everyday way. In a world that often overlooks small acts, it’s nice to offer words of genuine gratitude and kindness- you never know when you may improve someone’s day. Whether it is a simple “I appreciate you” to your friend, or helping someone to their car at the grocery store.

Running makes me feel ______.

Free, strong, and grateful.

Running has taught me….

Running has taught me to be kind to myself. Some days each mile feels like I’m running in knee-deep sand. Other days I feel like I could run forever. On the hard days, I listen to my body when it says it has had enough. Instead of kicking myself for feeling like crap, I remind myself that being able to run is a privilege that not every human has the right to.

Another big thing I have learned from running is that endorphins make me a better person. While some days my run is dedicated to training – other days are dedicated to my sanity. Running helps me gain perspective and clarity. Those are the runs that I value the most. I come out of the forest (my FAVORITE place to run) drenched in sweat and ready to take on the rest of my day with kindness and gratitude.

Looking forward….

As 2018 approaches, I have decided to mix things up from past years. Instead of choosing a New Year’s Resolution that will likely only last until February, I have set a few very specific goals. For starters, I am participating in the 2018 Mileage Club with a goal of completing 1,000 miles for the year. This is big for me as I have never tracked my mileage OR set a goal that lasts longer than a month. My other goal is to complete three races, one of which is a half marathon. I am looking forward to crushing my goals alongside this awesome community of women and making 2018 epic.

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My Running Truth: Running shows me almost daily that tides will change, that hard can turn easy, easy can become hard, that what I need to do is focus on persevering.

I can mostly be defined by three major decisions I’ve made in my life (so far). The first was when I was six-years old, I came home from the barn, sat my parents down and informed them that I was never eating animals again. It wasn’t quite that simple, as my parents had no idea how to feed a vegetarian and my diet was mostly Oreos and french fries. In those days Oreos were made with lard, so really it was a slow start. But, it began to paint the picture of an animal lover, who one day might master vegetarianism. The next two decisions, more self-explanatory, really defined the things that keep my fire burning bright through thick and thin. They bring the highest highs and lowest lows, becoming a mom and becoming a runner.

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When did you start running and what inspired you to start?

Well, running was never really my thing. I had every excuse in the book ready for PE on running days. As an adult, I had started walking and hiking on a daily basis. After my first son was born, I would leave him with my husband for a walk or hike, come back an hour or so later and all was well. However, after the birth of my second son, the look of terror in his eye when I left him with a newborn and a toddler for a hike made me rethink my plans. I had a neighbor (that I will FOREVER be grateful to) that proposed meeting at 6 AM on our corner and “running” 3 miles. I was 29, a mom of two, and I had NEVER been in so much pain as those first 3 miles. The side aches I remembered from childhood came rushing back, my knees, hips everything  hurt and to add insult to injury, when I stopped my legs turned bright red and itched like I had been attacked by fleas. 
So, I guess it wasn’t love at first lap. As a matter of fact it wasn’t love for a long, long time. But, we stuck with it. She stuck with me and I kept trying. I’d say it took at least 3-months of daily running before I felt like my body knew what was happening.   

 

What has been the biggest lesson running has taught you?

Running shows me almost daily that tides will change, that hard can turn easy, easy can become hard, that what I need to do is focus on persevering. It’s given me faith in my ability to get through the toughest stuff, and how to be present and appreciate those painless magical free-flying miles.  

 

How do you stay motivated to keep running on days you don’t want to get out the door?

I joke that I’m a ‘co-dependent’ runner, but I’m not sure it’s really a joke! I organize friends, set-up group texts, anything to make sure I have someone to meet for a run. One of the best things I’ve done is joined a group track work-out, making that dreaded day one of my favorites.

 

What has been the biggest challenge for you when it comes to running?

Finding the balance between the much needed training/me time, and my family. As much as I love running and it brings me so much joy, sometimes I have to remind myself that it’s okay to miss a day or week, to experience life. I wish I could suppress that, “Ashlee didn’t run today, so she’s grumpy.” 

 

Who has been your biggest inspiration to  get you going?

Inspiration is alive and well in the running community. Running is a ‘suffer sport’ and anytime I see someone out there trying to make it happen, I’m inspired. New, young, old, elite or weekend warriors, it doesn’t matter, I’m impressed. 
The last two years I’ve taken on new challenges in running. Inspired by my kids and the way they jump into sports despite the fact that they aren’ t naturally talented. I watch them work, I see their resiliency and it makes me want to knock down the walls I’ve put up for myself. I was told I was too tall to excel in trail running, so that was my first goal. I ran my first 50K a year ago, and this summer when I completed my third big trail race, the Cortina Trail 48K, I was, for the first time, really proud of myself for the work I put in, for believing in myself when I knew others had their doubts, and facing a lot of my fears on those super technical trails. Coming into the finish was one of my happiest moments, that moment when you’ve defied even what you thought possible. My second challenge was to try cross-country this fall. I’ve always thought, “Hmmm, cross-country, what a nice sport!” Now, I can just laugh at that sweet naive image I had. Cross-Country is raw, it is fast, fierce, unbelievably hard, and unforgiving. But, surviving a cross-country race? Fabulous. There’s nothing quite like it. Having completed my first season of cross-country I have so much admiration for the kids that race XC. One more place to find inspiration, in those sweet, smart, XC kids, that go out and race their hearts out, for their themselves, their teams and their schools. 

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What are your favorite shoes to run in?

I have a shoe problem. There, I said it. Buuuut, since you asked, I’ll tell you about it. I rotate 3-4 pairs of shoes, depending on what I’m working on. My workhorse shoe, tried and true, is the Brook’s Launch. It runs a hair small and you might need to size up if you’re thinking about trying it. It’s a light, neutral shoe that I use for marathon training, all my long runs, and any race over 13.1. For my faster workouts, I love the New Balance 1400’s, I use them for track, tempo and racing the 13.1! I like to keep a steady diet of trails in my mix, so my third shoe is a trail shoe. I use the Saucony Peregrine for almost all my trail miles and they are awesome!! I’ve used them in conditions from water crossings (they drain quickly), to sand in the desert, to the most technical trails in the Dolomites, I can’t say enough good things about them. The fourth pair of shoes depends on what race I’m getting ready for, I have the Brook’s Mach 18 in my closet (a spike-less spike for XC), the Brook’s Ghost for a softer road recovery shoe (during Marathon training), but currently my fourth shoe is a lighter, faster trail shoe from Hoka that I’m super excited about.

 

What does healthy mean to you?

Moderation. Moderation in everything. And, I say that, not being the most moderate person myself, but I try. When I strip it down, I know what feels healthy for me, and that’s good food, daily exercise and a full heart. But, the truth is, all three of those things are great luxuries in today’s world. I picture the three as buckets and I try to keep them in balance, when they’re out of balance, I think about what I need to do to bring it back. I don’t use hard deadlines or diets, I try and implement small steps to get back to where I want to be. Sometimes, it also means asking for help. A friend to watch the kids, so you can get a short run. When my heart bucket is low, sometimes all I need to do is help someone else and spreading a little love usually brings it back too. Healthy is not just a solo pursuit, I think it’s important to fill your life with healthy people. It’s okay to move away from relationships you find toxic. Healthy is a constant, evolving element in my life. I try to make decisions based on what is healthy for me, while balancing what it means to those I love and how it is healthy for them too. And, laughter. I love to laugh; bring on the smiles, bad jokes and cute animals, I’m pretty sure all those things help me stay healthy.

 

How has running effected other aspects of your life?

Running brings clarity to rest of my life. After a run, I can step back and see multiple sides of situations and come to solutions in a much more balanced and methodical way (especially if my run buddies help me). It helps me to keep up with my kids, take on challenges, believe in myself. Taking on running challenges has showed me that walls can become doors. And, best of all, running makes food taste even better!!

 

What advice do you have for new runners?

Moderation. Make goals for yourself that start simple. Runners, also walk. Remember that getting out the door and running any part of your journey is a success. Don’t be hard on yourself, focus on your victories, no matter how big or small, do not spend time on negatives or presumed failures, there is no failure in trying. It took me months to get to a full 3-mile run, months of walk/running, walk/running/sitting on the curb, months of hurting and showing my body it could do something it thought impossible. You can do it, take your time.

 

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Showing up for the miles, showing up for your life.

Find the things that bring you joy and strength in this life, and do them often. I love this, I believe this, I’ve held onto to this strongly this year when things felt overwhelming. Running for me is so much more than a movement. Like many, it’s where I find clarity, peace, strength, love, and my favorite place to reflect and be inspired.

I am a believer in chasing big scary goals. But the truth is, some years the goal isn’t out of the ordinary. Sometimes the goal is just to show up as best you can each day. This year, my participation in the She.is.beautiful Mileage Club was far less about the mileage goal itself, but a fun way track my progress in a year in supportive/non competitive community. Today I’ll hit 1,000 miles- my mileage goal for 2017. Each of those miles mean days I said, “Let’s do this.”

Running this year was never convenient but always worth it.

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About a week old newborn and newly 2 year old…and me wondering if I will always dress my new daughter in head-to-toe adorable while I’m in PJ’s and messy bun all day.

I didn’t start running until mid February of 2017 as I was recovering from a c-section in December. There isn’t really one right way to come back to running after having a child because each experience is different (that’s a whole other blog). I ran 4 weeks after my first baby, and I know some ladies that run 1 week after birth and others that don’t run for 6 months. Everyone is different!

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Here’s me forgetting how small yet how much newborns eat, and how active 2 year olds are. TIRED!

The meaning behind my miles today is not about the glory of hitting the 1,000 miles but the obstacles and journey it took to get there. This year adding our second baby has been magically fuzzy- mentally, emotionally, and physically. Between the honor and responsibilities of running a business and running a household with 2-year-old and new baby, I had little room to make for myself and running. I learned that 6am would be my best time to run and have the least amount of impact on my family –  I could be home by 7am when everyone was rocking and rolling in my home. (Shout out to my partner for holding down the home-front all those early mornings!)

I often set multiple alarms for 5am, 5:10am, 5:15am, 5:20am to prevent myself from snoozing too many times. I’m a big believer in coffee and peace before a morning run and I learned to love the quiet of the morning and looked forward to the warmth of my coffee. Some days were harder than others to get out of bed (and some mornings I didn’t), but as I laid in bed debating whether to go back to sleep I would remind myself of how much better my days seem to go when I start them with a run.

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Monterey Bay Half Marathon in November

Running has been my greatest support, centering me each time I move my body in this way. I owe so much of my sanity this year to this movement that brings me so much clarity. For me, my running this year has not been about race times and striving for personal bests (ironically I ran my best half marathon time to date). Running this year has been a place I’ve held tightly for myself to just breathe without pressure, commitment, or responsibility. It’s a space I’ve come to remember who I am and what I am made of.  It has inspired me to look at spaces in my life to bring more presence and peace too.

Find the things that bring you joy and strength in this life, and do them often. Running has allowed me to practice showing up for myself- even on the hard days. I’m planning on celebrating my mileage goal with my favorite croissant and a coffee with my son- before I drop him off at preschool and head into work. When we reach goals- big or small- life often doesn’t stop, but it’s good to pause and take a look back at how far you’ve come in a year. Because if we don’t stop and celebrate the moments in our journey, life leaves us asking the elusive, are we there yet?

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Did you have any goals for 2017 that brought you joy? Share with us in the comments below- we love to hear from you!

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1000 miles later: a 1 year old, a 3 year old, and an 8 year marriage all playing the game of life. We do our best to show up in the present- sometimes often it’s messy, sometimes there’s tantrums, but it’s real and full of love.

 

 

Nourish Yourself: Part 3 with SuperFoodRunner (Crowded Kitchen)

Plant-based desserts

Since drastically changing our diets about 6 years ago (cutting out processed foods, dairy and gluten), our tastes have completely evolved. Though we’ve always eaten relatively healthy (home-prepared meals, lots of fruits and veggies, etc.), we most definitely used to consume much larger quantities of processed snacks, like chips, cookies, and sugar-laden energy bars. Once we made the switch and cut most of these things out completely, we actually stopped craving them! The first time I ate a Reese’s PB Cup about 2 years after cutting out processed sweets, I could barely finish it. Of course, it tastes delicious, but the sugar was just a bit too much compared to what I was used to. Don’t get me wrong – we’re far from sugar free (I have a HUGE sweet tooth) – but healthy, homemade, plant-based treats far outweigh Tollhouse cookies any day in our house.

Aside from the fact that homemade treats aren’t processed, they also allow you to incorporate nutritious ingredients that you may not typically associate with dessert, like beets, bananas, dates, maca powder, nut butters & more. We’re huge proponents of the idea that sweets, when done right, should be a healthy part of any diet. Even if you follow a very limited diet (think paleo or raw vegan), there are endless recipe options out there!

Banana ‘nice cream’, specifically, is a go-to in our house. It’s filling and absolutely delicious, but doesn’t leave you with that heavy feeling typically associated with processed foods. It’s also incredibly easy to customize – simply blend a few frozen bananas and add-in ingredients like cacao powder, peanut butter, vanilla, cinnamon, or other berries. Pro tip: If you have a food processor, use that instead of a blender. Although we love our blender, it can be a pain to make a thick smoothie bowl or nice cream. Here’s one of our favorite recipes:

Chocolate Banana Nice Cream

(Serves two)

4 frozen bananas, thawed for 15 minutes

2 tbsp cacao powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

1-5 tbsp almond milk

Pinch of sea salt

In a food processor, pulse frozen bananas until they resemble a crumb-like texture. Add cacao powder, vanilla, sea salt and 1 tbsp of milk. Pulse for 30 seconds. Add more liquid if necessary to reach a smooth, creamy consistency.

Enjoy immediately as soft serve, or transfer to small loaf pan and freeze for 2-4 hours for ice cream.

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Vegan Cheesecake

Vegan cheesecakes are another favorite in our house. If you’re suspicious of “vegan” and “cheesecake” in the same sentence, don’t abandon ship quite yet. Cashews make a perfectly creamy filling, and a small squeeze of lemon juice gives it that tangy component that’s quintessential for cheesecake. Here’s one of our favorite recipes!

Ingredients:

  • Crust Ingredients:
  • 1 cup raw pecans or cashews
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 5 dates, soaked 10 mins in water
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 1/2 tsp melted coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • Filling Ingredients:
  • 4 cups soaked raw cashews (soak for 2 hours)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 7 tbsp maple syrup or agave
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • Nut milk (almond, coconut, etc) for consistency
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 2 drops lavender essential oil
  • 2 tsp acai powder
  • 1tbsp vanilla extract
  • Seeds of one vanilla bean
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • Chocolate Ganache Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup cacao powder
  • 7 tbsp maple syrup or agave
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1 tsp acai powder
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of sea salt

Instructions

  1. For Crust:
  2. In a food processor, pulse pecans/cashews, almonds, coconut flakes, and salt until a crumbly mixture forms.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and pulse until dough is well-blended and sticks together when pressed with fingers.
  4. Line 9×9 or 8×8 pan with parchment paper and firmly press filling in.
  5. Chill in freezer while preparing filling.
  6. For Filling:
  7. Blend cashews, lemon juice, maple syrup, vanilla, vanilla bean, and sea salt in blender until well combined. Do not worry if the mix looks lumpy, it will smooth out when you add the coconut oil and milk.
  8. Slowly add in coconut oil and blend, adding nut milk until the consistency is thick, smooth and without lumps.
  9. Divide batter in half.
  10. In one half, add acai powder, blueberries, and lavender extract, and blend until well incorporated.
  11. Pour vanilla layer (the original half of your batter) on top of chilled crust, smooth out with a spatula, and let chill for 1-3 hours, or until firm.
  12. Once firm, pour the blueberry lavender layer, smooth with spatula, and let chill for additional 1-3 hours.
  13. For Chocolate Ganache:
  14. Whisk all ingredients until smooth. If mixture hardens and becomes too thick to pour, reheat in microwave for 15 second intervals until melted.
  15. Pour on top of cheesecake layers and let harden for 2-4 hours, or overnight.
  16. Slice into bars and store in freezer (or eat them all right away!).

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Chocolate Mousse

If you’re looking for a super easy, decadent, single serving dessert, look no further than this vegan chocolate mousse. Don’t be turned off by the fact that the recipe uses avocado – we PROMISE it tastes good! In fact, we made our entire family (& a few friends) do a blind taste test before telling them what’s in it, and there was only positive feedback!

Serves One

Ingredients

1/2 ripe avocado

2 tbsp cacao powder

2 tbsp maple syrup or agave syrup

2 tbsp full fat coconut milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of sea salt

Fresh berries for topping

Directions

Blend all ingredients in food processor until smooth and creamy.

Be sure to use a very ripe avocado (and don’t worry, you won’t be able to taste it!)

Serve in a small jar or ramekin and top with strawberries. Enjoy immediately!

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For more plant-based dessert inspiration, check out these recipes on our blog!

Things We Love: Gratitude & Life Hacks

‘Tis the season to Eat, Drink and be Thankful… so says the chalkboard art above my fireplace mantle.  It’s true though… of all the holidays I believe Thanksgiving is my favorite.  If you think about it, it is a pretty simple holiday.  There’s food (Hello stuffing!), drinks (Howdy, Pinot Noir!), friends and family (Hey there Mom & Dad… sorry we won’t be home this year.  Love you!), and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (AKA another chunk of time with my beloved Matt Lauer).  All of the above make for a grateful heart.  This leads me to this month’s post – all of these items and ideas make my heart grateful, and they are also simple life hacks.  With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I’ll take all the life hacks I can get.

 

Running Faves/Life Hacks –

When life gets busy, good nutrition happens to be one of the first things out the door.  As athletes, caretakers, friends, mothers, sisters, cooks, organizers and all the other important roles that we play good nutrition is important.  What’s a girl to do when life is crazy?  Grab a Picky Bar!  These little bars of deliciousness were the brainchild of professional runners Lauren Fleshman and Stephanie Bruce.  They are the perfect carb to protein ratio, full of real food and void of gluten and dairy.  There are many flavors, but the Chai and Catch Me is the only one you need right now.  Pumpkin Spice was so last month… it is time to move on ladies.  With the perfect mix of cardamom, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon this bar has holiday spice written all over it!  Grab a few for your glove box, purse, gym bag, desk, etc.  They are a perfect pre-run, post-run, anytime of day indulgence.  Not only will they save you from a hunger meltdown, you can grab a few and pass them along to friends.  Trust me… their lil hearts will be grateful! (P.S. Picky Bars are 30% off right now! No code needed.)

Moving on… let’s talk about the most important item in a runner’s arsenal – SOCKS.  I’m pretty certain that I have tried nearly every brand of socks out there (except for those Injinji socks… those little toes freak me out), and for the last couple of years Stance socks have come out on top.  They not only have a wide variety of socks for running, but their lifestyle socks are super cute as well.  My favorites for trail would be the taller Weekend Crew and for all other runs the Hystory Tab or the Uncommon Solid Tab fill my drawers.  I must add that they have a Star Wars line as well.  The Darth Vader socks drew my husband in, but after his first few wears he is now a solid Stance fan (Side note… he is a picky dude so when he gives something a gold star I pay attention).

Now… you might be wondering how socks lead to a life hack, but here’s the gravy on the turkey.  As runners, we often pair our running socks with Body Glide (if you aren’t using this you’re missing out – get some!).  With the holiday season, those dancing shoes and heels should find their way out of your closet and onto those beaten up runner’s feet.  Body Glide isn’t just meant for running, put it on any hot spots in those fancy shoes and you will be cutting a rug all night long.  Bonus… grab a travel size Body Glide and a pair of socks, tie a ribbon around them and VOILA!!!! You just found another gift that will have a friend with happy feet and a grateful heart.  That’s another gift crossed off the list!

Lifestyle Favorites/Life Hacks

With the holidays comes holiday travel.  However it is that you get to your destination, there’s always a chance some things may not make the trip.  One of the things that simply breaks my heart would be that moment that I’ve arrived at our destination, unpacked, took a minute to chill and then head off to the mirror to get ready for a fun evening out only to open my makeup bag and find pieces of makeup everywhere.  It’s a mess, but let’s focus on the cost of makeup these days… ouch!  Here’s a life hack that will keep your makeup intact and a smile on your face.  Simply take a cotton pad – round for round items and square for square items – and insert it into the compact.  This tiny little cotton pad acts as a cushion and your makeup will arrive to your destination intact.  You’re welcome.

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Let’s next talk about the beauty of a scarf.  This wonderful accessory not only keeps us warm during the chilly seasons, but it can jazz up even the most basic of outfits.  The book The Art of the Scarf  not only shows tons of ways to tie a scarf, but it gives a brief history of scarf icons… Jackie O, Brigette Bardot, Audrey Hepburn and the list goes on.  Scarves are always a life hack, but here’s another way to cross a gift off your list… grab this book, grab a scarf, put a ribbon on it and VOILA!!! You have yet another grateful gift recipient.

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The cooler temps and traveling always wreck havoc on my lips.  Recently, I went to NYC to meet up with my crush, Matt Lauer (I know… strange crush, but he’s smart, handsome, well dressed, and smiles a lot… kind of like my very own husband). mat.png Okay… the truth is that I went for a work trip, and Matt was just a bonus.  Anyway, my lips were the driest they had ever been so I was on a mission to find the best lip balm in the city.  In my quest of searching for lip balms, I was reminded of how important a lip scrub is for helping to keep those lips pucker ready.  I found Sugar Lip Caramel Hydrating Balm and it’s partner Sugar Lip Polish from Fresh.  I’m now obsessed!  Using a lip scrub a couple times a week will make your lips none other than… grateful!  The $20+ price of the Fresh scrub is a splurge, but you can go to your pantry right this minute and find all the ingredients to make your very own lip scrub.  Check out this site for 30 make at home lip scrubs… I’m feeling the gingersnap recipe.  So here you go… another little shortcut to having some smooch ready lips and another wonderful homemade gift to share with others.

Until next time… May your Turkey Trots be joyous, may your turkey be delish, may your drink be filled to the rim, may your family all get along, and may your heart be grateful!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Meaning Behind My Miles

What’s the meaning behind your miles? What inspires you to keep going?

 

On November 5th Shalane Flanagan became the first American woman to win the New York City Marathon in 40 years!  You Go Girl! There are many things about Shalane’s performance that inspired us (GRL PWR!), but one in particular that really got us thinking.  The New York City Marathon took place just days after a terrorist attack in Lower Manhattan.  Shalane said she felt a greater stake in this year’s New York City Marathon because of this attack. It reminded her of the inspiring performance by her friend Meb Keflezighi, the American male winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon, the first Boston Marathon after the 2013 Boston bombings. “I was thinking of Meb and how I wanted to make him proud today.” She also said, “I have to put a smile on New Yorkers’ faces today. I have to do this.” It’s interesting that the two recent World Marathon Majors wins by Americans were both in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, of a tragedy.  It’s interesting that both athletes talk about how there was a deeper motivation to win, to win for the communities of Boston and New York, to create something positive out of pain.  This reminded us that focusing on something bigger than just ourselves can bring deeper meaning to our miles and renewed energy to our goals, and that’s powerful. 

 

When you see a woman running down the street, do you ever wonder what got her up and out the door today? Many of us agree on the freedom, perspective, and stress relief that this movement provides, but have you ever thought about or dedicated your miles to a cause, goal, or larger motivator? Often times putting meaning behind a goal (and writing that meaning down) is helpful especially when you don’t see immediate success. Attaching meaning to the goal can keep you motivated and inspired, even when things get really tough.

 

As we enter the holiday season, we invite you to join us for a journey which we’re calling ‘meaning behind my miles.’ We encourage you for the month of December to take a deeper look at the miles in your life, and for a moment before, during or after a run to attach meaning to your movement.  Maybe it’s gratitude, maybe it’s sweating your way through a loss or a challenge, maybe it’s joy or community.  Maybe it’s working toward a goal, or maybe it’s simply to be a role model for your loved ones. 

 

What’s the meaning behind your miles this month?  Tag us with your photos and dedications on social media with #MeaningBehindMyMiles starting December 1st– December 15th.

  1. To get the “MeaningBehindmymiles” filter, click here: facebook.com/fbcameraeffects/tryit/708655886011601/
  2. Take a photo of yourself (oh heeyyy selfie!) or your squad
  3. Post on Facebook and tag us- share with us the Meaning Behind Your Miles and use hashtag #MeaningBehindMyMiles

OR

Save the photo and Post on your Instagram Story and tag us (@runsheisbeautiful) and share the Meaning Behind Your Miles #MeaningBehindMyMiles.

 

We look forward to sharing these photos with our community to build motivation and inspiration heading into the New Year!

Happy Holidays from the SIB Sass Squad!

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Sweat, smiles, and miles,

Katie

Community Manager and Coach

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