Run-treprenuer: Jessica CEO/Founder, Wambas Sports Bras

Jessica found a gap in the industry when if came to sports bras– so she took matters into her own hands. Learn more about this runner gone entrepreneur below!

Hi! I’m Jessica! I’m a midwest girl at heart, born and raised in Wisconsin. I met my husband Kevin, a Los Angeles native, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I studied Portuguese Literature (because that’s really useful in the real world -_-). We have been together for over 10 years and married for 6. We have two incredible daughters, Liliana 7 and Luisa 2, and a pitbull whom we adopted this past year named Penny Pickle. My husband is officially very outnumbered by strong, beautiful girls. 😉

 

What do you tell yourself on the days you don’t want to run? How do you stay motivated or decide not to go?

I usually have a race I am training for, and I know that every run I don’t do will make the race that much harder. One of my biggest fears and worst feelings is showing up to a starting line unprepared, so the times I’m feeling really tired or lazy, I try think about how much worse it will feel come race day if I know I didn’t do everything I could have to be my best. It’s usually enough to motivate me to lace up. When I don’t have a race on the calendar, it’s definitely harder for me to stay motivated.

That being said, I try to be flexible and listen to my body- What are the reasons I don’t want to run? Is it a typical excuse or do I really need a break? This past year I had a few months where I was chronically unmotivated and struggling to get out the door. I realized I was physically and mentally burnt out from two marathon cycles that were just too close together. I decided to take an intentional break where I didn’t force any runs I didn’t want to do. Once I gave myself permission to skip runs rather than feeling guilty and terrible about the ones I skipped, I got my motivation back and am happy and excited to be training again.

It’s a fine line to be pushing yourself to be the best and not make excuses, but not push yourself too hard where you burn out or get injured. A balance I am still learning!

 

You have a little one! What did fitness look like and feel like for you while pregnant and postpartum?

I was fortunate to have very healthy pregnancies and no restrictions while pregnant and continued running up until the last month with the first and last day or so with the second.

With both pregnancies however, I had terrible SPD (Symphysis pubis dysfunction, or PGP- pelvic girdle pain) that started around 15 weeks and lasted until the end, which made walking and running incredibly painful. Like with every step it feels like a knife is jabbing you right, in, the vagina. I know… then why would you run?! My doctor assured me that I was not causing any structural damage nor harming the babies, and that if I wanted to deal with the pain and discomfort, I had the green light to do so. As many of you probably agree, few things are worse than not being able to run! When the post-run pain was really bad, I would take a day or two of rest before I ran again.

With my second pregnancy, I had already registered for the Chicago Marathon prior to getting pregnant, so I got the clearance from my doctor, and did a ton of my own research as well before deciding to still run it. I read Exercising Through Your Pregnancy by James F. Clapp which is full of actual science and studies on specific types of exercise during pregnancy. I can’t recommend enough for anyone active mama who wants to train through pregnancy!

My main concerns were keeping a steady blood sugar level with the extended long runs and keeping my internal temperature within a safe range. The book gives very specific information on what core temperatures are safe for the fetus, and I used that as my guide.

This may sound crazy, but on my first few long runs while pregnant, I carried a small glucometer my doctor had ordered me and a digital thermometer so I could test my blood sugar and temperature after every hour or so while running to make sure they were within safe ranges. I don’t have diabetes, but metabolism changes in funny ways during pregnancy and I didn’t want to take any chances. Monitoring these things gave me the peace of mind to continue training and racing. I never pushed myself and just ran “for fun” for once.

The highlight of running through pregnancy was when I did the second half of the LA Marathon at 8 months pregnant, and ran the last ½ mile of the race side by side with Dean Karnazes. I’ve seen him at several races, but it was pretty awesome to be able to finish with such a legend! (He of course ran the full marathon, but it was awesome nonetheless) 😉

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Postpartum, I hiked and walked a ton the first few weeks. Getting outside and moving, no matter what pace, kept keep my energy up and spirits high. It seemed to always calm down the girls as well. Win win! With both kids, I was running (slowly) by about 4 weeks postpartum. I didn’t rush it or push myself too hard, as I could tell my hips and body were just still a little out of whack.

It definitely took my body longer the second time to recover, even my abs were sore after my first few postpartum runs!

 

Looking back would you change any of your movement during that time?

I remember in my early postpartum days regretting how much muscle mass I had lost, and wishing I’d kept lifting throughout pregnancy, too. But honestly, I’m happy with the running I was able to keep up with. It’s what really soothed my soul and brought me the most happiness, and I think it was good to just focus on doing what made me happy in pregnancy rather than trying to force fitness. It’s good for baby to be active, but you don’t have to go crazy. It’s such a short period of time in the grand scheme of things.

 

You started “the best storage sports bra”. Tell us about it!!

I had a need for something that I could not find a good solution for elsewhere, so I finally decided to do something about it myself. I love a good DIY project, and this was kind of that, and just went way bigger than I ever could have foreseen!

I wanted a bra that would eliminate the need to wear extra gear to carry my stuff (e.g- an armband for my phone, they always chafe my arm to the point of bleeding and are a struggle to get my phone in and out of while running or a fuel/supply belt that always bounces and bruises my hips, and usually cause muffin top… even when I’m at my leanest!).

I tried some other storage bras, but I didn’t like the location of the pockets (on back- too hard to access, on side- makes my boobs look funny when I have phone/stuff on just one side), and I always felt a little nervous sticking my phone in them since they would hold the phone right next to my breasts without protection from the phone’s RF waves. It just felt like something I probably shouldn’t do too often.

I started researching EMF blocking fabrics, and realized I could make myself a storage bra and line the pocket with this EMF blocking material, and my problem would be solved! I put the pocket in the front and center of the bra, both for aesthetics so that when the pocket is full, at least the look is symmetrical, and also because it is easiest to get in and out of the pocket in that location.

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^^^Wambas storage bra! ^^^

Our first run of bras is currently in production and we are so excited to be able to share them within the next two weeks!

My good friend Marissa has partnered with me, and though she is not a runner, she is an athlete, coach, and mom, and has her own pain points with sports bras. She represents the active woman who has been extra** blessed in the chest, and is currently working on the design for our second sports bra, which will include the EMF blocking pocket, but have an extra support feature for the large bra sizes. We cannot wait to share it with other women out there who really need it! You can follow us on @mywambas for updates.
As mother runner business owners, we know how incredibly tough and amazing this lifestyle is. How do you juggle work, running, and motherhood?

It’s hard! You ladies are amazing! I have a whole new level or respect, understanding, and admiration for all the boss ladies out there doing the same thing while trying to maintain training, a family, and relationship.

I’m most successful with this crazy balance when I have a plan and get in a routine, but as moms, we also have to be flexible. I get most of my work done early early in the morning before the kids are awake, again during naptime, whenever they are playing independently, and again in the evenings. The challenge is fighting the urge to nap or binge on Netflix when I have any quiet time. 😉

There are times I have no choice but to bring the kids with, and I’m super lucky in the sense that both of my girls are pretty easy going and have flexible personalities. They’ve joined me on countless runs downtown searching for the perfect fabrics, and to the factory while I work on the pattern and samples with my team. They make their own sketches and pretend they are working, too. We call these work trips “adventures” and they are almost always down for it.

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Picking up the first set of samples with my little interns!

The least fun and most challenging part of working from home and on my own business is all the time on the computer and phone, which is a lot. It’s such a struggle feeling like I don’t have 100% focus for the work and that I can’t be there for them completely either. Early on, I managed by becoming really lax with the amount of screen time I was allowing. I didn’t feel good about it but thought it was a necessary evil in order to keep them entertained and have the time to work.


We just spent nearly a week camping (with ZERO screen time), and that trip completely reset the kids and rekindled their imaginative spirits and free play skills. I’m happy to report that they don’t even ask to watch shows anymore!

With training, I’m fortunate to have a gym with an incredible childcare facility. The kids have a blast and I have 2 hours of uninterrupted workout time. We go basically every weekday at the same time, so it’s just part of the routine and I don’t have to think about it too much. I usually lift 2-3 times and run on the treadmill there the other days. I often do my interval workouts or tempo runs on the treadmill since those workouts are obviously less effective with a stroller. Occasionally for easy runs, I will put the kids in the running stroller and head to the beach or the park for a family fun day.

On the weekends, my husband watches the girls while I do my long run. I encourage him to golf or get out of the house so he can get his alone time, too. I feel less guilty being gone for 2-3 hours on a run every weekend when I know he will have his time, too.

We also try to be generally active as a family by walking or running to school, going on bike rides and hikes, and walking to dinner.

 

What does being brave feel like or look like to you?

The thing that has always scared me most is failure. Fear of failure has held me back from several important opportunities in the past and the source of some of my biggest regrets. Both with running and otherwise. So to me, being brave is overcoming that fear of failure and going after what excites you most.

I think having kids has made me more aware of time, and how precious it is. This awareness, as well as wanting to set a good example for them, has pushed me to get out of my comfort zone more and “be brave” in this way. It feels scary and liberating at the same time.

I know sometimes I’m going fail, but having learned from experience, it is much worse to not even try and be left wondering “what if?”

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Finally reaching my goal of breaking 3 hours in the marathon last December with a 2:55:51 at CIM. A long time goal that scared the crap out of me!

 

Writing from the heart:

I feel pressure to… make everyone happy.

I have a really hard time saying no to anyone, and like to please. I have found even with Wambas, I was really sad when I realized I wouldn’t have the initial run of bras ready by July 31st like I originally hoped. That was a stretch goal, but I had so many people who were personally messaging me telling me they “couldn’t wait to have a bra,” and of course these messages were purely to offer support and share excitement, not that they literally “could not wait,” but I feel like each passing day these ladies have to wait is a disappointment and a failure. I want to be able to give them what they want right NOW! My husband reminds me that all of these people will be just as excited whether they have to wait one extra week or not, but I put a lot of pressure on myself.

My husband is also helping me get better at saying “no” occasionally, and not spreading myself too thin. I’m a work in progress. 🙂

You can follow Jessica on “Instagram and Facebook @mywambas for updates and visit the site here.”

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Chasing waterfalls on a desert hike with my girls

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