Friday, June 19, 2015

School may be out for summer but learning doesn't have the end!

With my oldest out of school now, it's going to be a challenge getting him to even look at a book, let alone read one throughout the summer. I'm sure I'm not the only parent that has a hard time getting their kids to think about school during the summer. And it's a known fact that kids that don't hit the books at all during the summer break have a hard time getting back into the swing of things come the new school year. But this new program from UnitedHealthcare is hoping to keep kids excited about reading everywhere they go this summer, including the doctor's office. In fact, UnitedHealthcare will be donating 40 reading stations and nearly 1,000 books as part of this summer reading initiative. And community leaders, UnitedHealthcare employees and mascot Dr. Health E. Hound will participate in reading events featuring the Oliver & Hope™ books series.

Photo courtesy of UnitedHealthcare
The kickoff to the initiative was yesterday at the Naval Medical Center San Diego where UnitedHealthcare employees joined community leaders, children and families, and UnitedHealthcare mascot Dr. Health E. Hound for a reading circle. UnitedHealthcare donated the first 10 reading stations to the YMCA located at the Naval Medical Center, which will coordinate the use of the reading stations and children’s books in patient waiting areas in the hospital. 

Throughout the summer, there will be more reading circle events with UnitedHealthcare employees and more reading stations will be delivered to various community-based organization and health care facilities in the region. These stations provide kids their own space to read or draw, making doctor’s visits more enjoyable. Each reading station will include a kid-sized table and chairs, and copies of the award-winning Oliver & Hope book series that delivers fun stories with engaging images that enable children to imagine how they might become a hero like the characters. The stories also teach subtle lessons about the power of friendship, resiliency and imagination. The worksheets, available in English and Spanish, include coloring pages and mazes, and give children more educational and fun activities. Any parent that's taken a child to the doctor will appreciate this!! 

Check out these kids reading to Dr. Health E. Hound from the event yesterday:

According to the press release, organizations receiving the reading stations and books include Family Health Centers of San Diego, San Ysidro Health Centers, Vista Community Clinics and North County Health Services. UnitedHealthcare will donate 500 books to Reach Out and Read San Diego, which prepares America's youngest children to succeed in school by partnering with doctors throughout San Diego to give out books and encourage families to read together. These books will enable participating pediatricians, family physicians and nurses to give every child a book to keep when they come for a well-check visit. “We are grateful for the opportunity to provide these reading corners and the Oliver & Hope series to health centers and physician offices in San Diego as an important health and learning resource for children,” said Brandon Cuevas, CEO, UnitedHealthcare of California.

According to the Children’s Reading Foundation, parents who read with their children 20 minutes a day from birth through elementary school help them become more proficient readers, and build strong minds and strong relationships. And I have to say, as a parent of kids with speech delays, reading to your kids at a young age will help them develop appropriate speech patterns. “These reading stations are a wonderful addition to our waiting rooms and will provide children and their parents valuable learning opportunities while in our offices receiving care,” said Capt. Acosta, commanding officer of the Naval Medical Center San Diego, which received 10 reading stations and 30 books. “We appreciate the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation, UnitedHealthcare and its employees for their generosity and commitment to our patients.” The donations raise awareness of the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation and its mission to provide medical grants to help children gain access to health-related services not covered, or not fully covered, by their parents’ commercial health insurance plan. 

Since 2007, UHCCF has awarded more than 9,000 grants valued at over $27 million to children and their families across the United States. Last year, UHCCF awarded medical grants worth an estimated $5.4 million to more than 2,000 children across the United States. UHCCF’s funding is provided by contributions from individuals, corporations and UnitedHealth Group employees.  UHCCF has created the award-winning Oliver & Hope series to raise funds for the foundation. All three books of the Oliver & Hope series are available through for $16.95 each. Proceeds from the books and plush toys from the series help fund the UHCCF child medical grant program. More information about the Oliver & Hope books, including free audio recordings of the books as well as fun activities and downloads, can be found at Oliver & Hope’s Clubhouse at

About UnitedHealthcare
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers, military service members, retirees and their families, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 850,000 physicians and care professionals, and 6,000 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company. For more information, visit UnitedHealthcare at or follow @myUHC on Twitter.

About UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation
The UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that provides medical grants to help children gain access to health-related services not covered, or not fully covered, by their parents’ commercial health insurance plan. Families can receive up to $5,000 annually per child ($10,000 lifetime maximum per child), and do not need to have insurance through UnitedHealthcare to be eligible. UHCCF was founded in 1999. Since 2007, UHCCF has awarded more than 9,000 grants valued at over $27 million to children and their families across the United States. UHCCF’s funding is provided by contributions from individuals, corporations and UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) employees. To apply for a grant, donate or learn more, please visit

(This is a sponsored post containing text provided by UnitedHealthcare. Thanks for reading!)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Running Alone vs. Running with a Group

One of the best things about running is that it's an individual sport. You are in control of how and when you run and can be as competitive as you'd like. You can race. You can not race. You are not bound by any schedule other than the one you choose for yourself. But one of the worst things about running is that it's an individual sport. It can get pretty lonely out there. All that lack of rules and set schedules can get boring and can zap your motivation. It's hard to motivate yourself without that added level of accountability of meeting someone to run. So today we're talking about running alone vs. running with a group.

Before we get started, this part is of the Tuesdays on the Run blog link up with My No-Guilt LifeMCM Mama Runs and Run the Great Wide Somewhere. When you're done reading here, be sure to check them out!

I think it's pretty obvious how I feel when it comes to running with a group. I LOVE running with a group. I coach groups for a living, so to say running with a group sucks would be a bad business model for me ;) But in all seriousness, there are so many great things about running with a group, I couldn't possibly get them all listed in one blog post. So, I'll just name a few.

The Friend Factor. Running with groups is how I've made many of my friendships. Now, I'm not saying that you are guaranteed to make friends. I know some people really don't like or feel comfortable joining groups of people they don't know. I get it. It can be a little scary to put yourself out there. But if you show up to a group run, and keep showing up, chances are you'll meet someone that not only runs the same pace you do, but also has similar interests outside of running and may even be worth hanging out with in a non-running situation. And keep in mind, not all groups have to be in-person. If you really are not the group-joining type, try an online group. There are tons of virtual groups through social media that still allow for camaraderie and support though your miles are usually run alone. In fact, I have "met" a lot of people I "run" with online. Most recently, a large group of us met at the Phoenix Marathon and formed the #WeRunSocial group, under the guidance of our fearless leader Brian (aka Pavement Runner). We strive for ALL runners, fast or slow, new or veteran, to feel part of a larger community group, where we all support one another's goals, big and small, running related or not. It's awesome.

The Fun Factor. Running with a group is kinda fun. When I first started running marathons in the DC area back in 2004, I trained with a charity group called AIDS Marathon. We raised funds for a clinic in DC. Anyway, we had a fairly large pace group and by the end of our training, we were all pretty much BFFs. I still keep in touch with several of them, the most notable my friends Lynne and Betsy who are two of my closest and dearest friends. You get pretty darn close to people when you run with them for hours on end. We would tell the most ridiculous stories, sing songs and just have awesome adventures together. I remember one run in particular where the trail was extremely muddy. We had some crazy rains the summer of 2004 and parts of our running route got washed out and pretty muddy. Even with avoiding the mud piles, we were losing shoes left and right. And the sounds our feet made in the mud left our abs sore from laughing instead of running. Good times. And since I've moved to San Diego, I've met some amazing people and had laugh-so-hard-your-abs-hurt fun times, both through the groups I've coached but also through groups I belong to such as the Dirt Devils and the San Diego chapter of Moms Run This Town (MRTT).

The Fight Factor. Running with a group gives you the fight you need to get through those hard miles. I have had some low miles during runs that I know I would not have been able to get through without the help from my running group. Much like a group of cyclists helps each other when riding together, a running group does the same. We will position someone in the front who can keep the pace at the right speed or put someone who's having some trouble in the middle so they're with someone at all times. There are a lot of different ways the dynamics of a group can work to help everyone get the miles they need in the best way possible. And the best part about helping one another is no one gets left behind.

The Famous Factor. Running with a group gives you the opportunity to see famous people!! Ok, this may be a stretch but if it weren't for meeting the girls in the MRTT group for an event this past Sunday, I never would have met one of my heroes, Meb Keflezighi. We were in Mission Bay going over speed drills with Mick from Movin Shoes, when none other than Meb came running by. We were just talking about him and Mick was using him as an example of running form and low and behold, there he was. It couldn't have worked out better timing wise, though Mick swears it wasn't planned ;) Anyway, we all started hooting and hollering for Meb and he stopped to come over and say hi. I mean, who can resist a group of women cheering for them? Anyway, he greeted each and every one of us individually, shaking our hands as he did so, and asked if we wanted to take a group photo (um, YES!). Then, after the photo, he shook the hands of the ladies he missed before the photo. He then said he had to take off and off he went. Super classy guy. I'm still beside myself that we just randomly saw him and he took time out of his workout to talk with us. Go Meb!

So those are my quick and dirty reasons for running with a group. Now, I do much of my running alone and do cherish that time. I have little time to myself and I don't take those solo runs for granted at all. I use the time to tune out, think about life, de-stress and so much more. I wouldn't trade the solo runs for anything. But that time I have with my groups, it's heaven. It's happy hour(s), therapy and fitness all rolled into one. I guess what I think works best for me isn't so much running alone vs. running with a group but running solo AND running with a group. It doesn't have to be one or the other. Having a good balance of running alone and running with a group I think is the best way to go. At least for me.

What are your thoughts? Do you prefer a group or running alone?

Monday, June 8, 2015

How to Deal with Warm Weather Running

Even though it may not technically be summer yet, you know it's on the way. In fact, here in San Diego it's warmed up 20 degrees over the past 2 days. If it's going to be this warm this soon, there's no better time to go over warm-weather running tips. Warm-weather running doesn't have to be your enemy as long as you take some steps to prepare for each run. Here are a few things to keep in mind when running in the warm weather.

Before we get started, this part is of the Tuesdays on the Run blog link up with My No-Guilt LifeMCM Mama Runs and Run the Great Wide Somewhere. When you're done reading here, be sure to check them out!

Give yourself eight to 14 days to acclimatize to hot weather. In that time, your body will learn to decrease heart rate, decrease core temperature, and increase sweat rate. What this means is that it's important to recognize that it will take up to two weeks of consistently running in warm weather before you feel like it isn't a struggle to get through your run. Until then, remind yourself that it's hot and don't be discouraged. You'll get through it.

Run slower than you would in cooler weather. Don't expect to run at the same pace as you do in cooler weather; it's not possible in the heat. There are plenty of theories as to what pace you should run depending on various temperatures and humidity levels, but just know that you should expect to run about 2-5 minutes slower when the temperature reaches 80*F and there is at least 60% humidity. Listen to your body, slow your pace and walk when necessary.

Hydrate appropriately before, during, and after your run. Remember, drink well all day, every day. Not just when you know you're going to run. An option is to wear a hydration belt rather than carry a water bottle. Your arms may get tired or stiff while carrying a water bottle, which can actually affect your running form. Try a belt that has a built-in holder for a water bottle and bring some water or sports drink with you. If you hate running with a hydration belt, think about a hydration vest or other system for your back.

Run at the coolest time of day, usually in the morning before or just after sunrise. Running along the coast will be cooler than running inland. Take it to the beach if possible! When the temps get too hot, take your workout indoors if you can.

Try to run in the shade to avoid the heat from the sun. This is pretty difficult in our area, but not completely impossible. Alter your route to maximize shade. Again, take it to the treadmill if you can't avoid the blazing sun.

Wear light fabrics and as little as possible to encourage evaporation of sweat. Don't forget: cotton is rotten and cotton clothing will absorb sweat and keep it next to your skin. This will feel horrible and prevent heat from leaving your skin, actually making you feel hotter! Remember, anything that touches your skin should be non-cotton, so that means shorts, undergarments and socks too!

Wear a vented, moisture-wicking hat or a visor while on the run. This keeps the sun off your head and face and the sun out of your eyes. Run-of-the-mill baseball caps are not moisture-wicking and will hold the heat in against your head, making you much hotter than necessary. Try a cool, ventilated hat or visor and you'll feel the difference immediately. If a hat is not your thing, at least wear sunglasses. Most sport sunglasses like Tifosi and Rudy Project are light as air, have slip-proof nose pieces so they don't slide around when you sweat and have lenses with UVA/UVB protection.

Wear sunscreen. It's interesting that while we would never head to the beach or pool without sunscreen, most of us forget to put sunscreen on before a run. But because we're outside for an extended period of time, it's important to apply sunscreen to decrease our chances of developing skin cancer. There are tons of water- and sweat-proof sunscreens available now, even some you can apply when you're already sweaty. Take the extra 30 seconds to lather up before you head out!

What are your favorite ways to deal with warm weather running? 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Rock n Roll San Diego Half Marathon Race Recap

This past weekend was the goal race for my spring program: the Rock n Roll San Diego Half Marathon.

This race is special to me for a number of reasons. It was the first marathon I did here after moving to San Diego and it was the first marathon I did after having my twin girls. Last year I ran the half with some good friends and we had a blast. So, I figured this year let's make it even more fun by training a group for it! And fun it was! Besides, the San Diego race was the very first in the Rock n Roll series. There are a ton of great stories associated with it, such as local hero Meb Keflezighi always running it (and setting records) and the now-world-record-holder Harriette Thompson making history here.

Before I get started, this post is part of my friends #TriumphThursday blog link up. Check out friends SmithaCarlee and Linzie and see all the Triumphs going around the world today!

Back to training! The training program started back in March and we met every Sunday at Moonlight Beach for our long runs. It was a great group of people running and training for all different races. Some were running the Rock n Roll, some were running other half marathons and others were training for longer distances in the future. But regardless of the reason, we all came together and became a family! Meeting every week for 12 weeks will do that for a group of people :) And honestly, the training is the hard part. Getting up early, getting in all your miles around life obligations, dealing with injuries, vacations, work, etc. It's hard and compared to all that, the race is easy. It's the victory lap you take after all your hard work.

This will always make me smile...look at Cindy's palm tree hair!
After 12 weeks of training, finally race week came! It was time to take our victory lap! We decided that those of us coming from North County would take the Coaster down on race morning instead of trying to drive. Either way would require an early wake up call (3:00am!) so this was the poison we chose. But first, it was time to go to the expo. A few of us went Friday. We didn't stay too long because I had my girls with me and one of them, as it turned out, wasn't feeling well. But we did take a moment to snap a few photos!

Cindy and Maria getting excited for race day! 
This year's race shirt!

The North County girls met at 3:45am. Maria had a snag getting to our meeting place due to an accident, so we had to alter our meeting spot. Not an easy task at 3:45 in the morning. Finally, everyone was in the same car and on we went to the Coaster. We got to the Encinitas station and right on time, the train arrived. So we settled in and relaxed, ate our breakfast and chatted for the duration of the ride. We arrived at the Old Town station and took a shuttle to the start in Balboa Park. We met up with Chris, another member of the group, and Dan, a private client of mine. We weren't able to find a couple of other runners but knew they were there somewhere!
The Coaster Crew
Arriving before the sun!
We did run into Carlee at the start! 
Got our game faces on! 
After some final trips to the restrooms, we got into the corrals. The hordes of people were a little overwhelming. I am not a huge crowd person, so the tightness of the start corrals kind of get to me a bit. But the one good thing is that it warmed us up until it was time to start!

Let's do this thing!
Overall, it was a good race. The sun was no where to be seen, which is always a good thing. But it was humid! It may not have been humid by east coast standards, but it was humid for us west coast wimps. I am a heavy sweater to begin with but I looked like I jumped into a pool by mile 1. Good thing there aren't any photos.... Oh wait.

I normally don't run the target races for my groups. I like to be along the course to cheer everyone on and at the finish line in order to see everyone finish. To capture that moment of triumph! But with a race this size, I didn't think I'd be able to see anyone finish, so I decided at the last minute to actually run it with some of the group. I'm really glad I did. Launa and I ran the whole thing together and I was able to see everyone after the finish. You can see in the pics below just how proud they all are of themselves. They clearly kicked the ass out of their victory laps. This course isn't exactly easy. There's a pretty significant downhill section that lasts for a while. If you're not used to it, it could really do a number on your quads and knees. Add in the humidity and there were a lot of cramps and unhappy people out there. But my runners did AMAZING! They all finished strong and wore their medals with pride! There were even a few PRs among them! So honored to be a part of all of their goals and dreams. It means the world to me and I'll never take it for granted!

Congrats, Dan, on your PR! 

Loved seeing private client Jennifer!
Hanging with Jamye Jams! 
My girl, Smitha!

The Finishers (Part 1)

The Finishers (Part 2)
Congrats to all of the RnR runners! And to my runners, thank you for letting me in on your goals! Can't wait to run with all of you again!

Monday, June 1, 2015

I Heart Trail Running (and why you will too)!

I am so freaking excited to announce that my next programs will be TRAIL RUNNING programs! That's right, my friends, we're hitting the sticks this August! While I haven't ironed out all the details, the general information is set and is at the end of this post. You can always go to my website for all the information about upcoming group programs, as well as all the other fun stuff I get to do with all of you.

Before I get started, just wanted to mention that it's Tuesdays on the Run! The Tuesdays on the Run link up is hosted by My No-Guilt Life, MCM Mama Runs and Run the Great Wide Somewhere. Check them out!

So, why a trail running program? Well...why not? In all seriousness, trail running can be a great compliment to any runner's training. Not all of us get to run on trails very often, so when we do, it's a real treat. Aside from it being pretty awesome to be playing in the dirt, trail running benefits your running in many ways.

One of the best reasons to add some trails to your training is that they are really good for your body. Most runners pound the pavement, asphalt or concrete on every run. These hard surfaces are hard on the body and you can feel in in your knees, your hips, your back and maybe even your neck. The softness of trails provides less impact forces on the body, which can lead to less injuries. Another reason trails are good for your body is that they slow you down. I'm not saying they make you slow, but depending on how technical the trail is, you will most likely run slower than you do when out on the roads, which is less stress on the body. I'm not saying running trails are easy, but from a biomechanical standpoint, they are easier on your body.

Speaking of biomechanics, trails are a great way to work on running form. Due to rocks, roots, hills, and other variations in terrain, you need to adjust your form to keep yourself upright. You'll naturally shorten your stride, take smaller, faster steps and increase your cadence (your foot turnover). Making these changes is actually increasing your efficiency because it requires less energy to run this way as opposed to taking longer strides. Shorter strides make you feel a little more stable on the trail, especially in rocky conditions where sure footing is essential. If your trails have hills, you can work on your hill-running form as well. For example, making sure your feet stay under your body, rather than hitting the ground too far in front of you, will help you on the downhills.

All of the terrain variations of trails have another benefit: making your legs strong. The uneven surfaces will help build strength in the small muscles of the lower leg, which help stabilize the leg as you take a step. This added strength can help improve balance and coordination as well as prevent many running-related injuries. And if your trails have a lot of hills, you'll be building strength in your hips, glutes, quads and hamstrings. Do use caution though: if you have ankle or balance issues you may want to work on your balance and stabilization before you hit the trails.

With stronger legs from trail running, you may notice you're faster on the roads. It's not a guarantee that trail running will make you faster, but it's highly likely, especially on a flat course. Road races that may have seemed difficult pre-trail running may seem like a piece of cake after hitting the dirt for a while.

Last, but certainly not least, is the fun factor. Running trails is freaking fun. As adults, we may have forgotten how much fun it was to run through the woods. Instead of smelling car exhaust, you breathe in clean trail air. Get out of the urban and suburban jungles and run through the trees for a bit. It's good for your body and mind! And let's not forget getting dirty. Man, that's one of the best parts. In fact, I often wait to take my shoes off until I see my son just to show him how filthy I get while out on the run. I don't know about you, but it feels good to get dusty and dirty every now and then.

Have I convinced you enough to join our new trail running programs? Here are the details:

2016 Lake Hodges 15K Trail Running Program 

​What: 10 Week 15K Trail Running Program
When: August 14 through October 22, 2016
Where: Rancho Bernardo Community Center
Time: Every Sunday at 7:00am (we will not meet Sunday 10/2)
Price: $100 (race registration is not included but we have a code for you!)

​Program Logistics: We will meet Sunday mornings at 7:00am at the Rancho Bernardo Community Center and run the trails around Lake Hodges. We have the opportunity to run the race course every week, ensuring your success come race day! We will be training for the Lake Hodges 15K on October 22, 2016. Please note that dates, times and locations are subject to change. Stay tuned for more information!

Registration for all programs will open soon. I hope to see you on the trails!!