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Master your Stride with Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine

January 16, 2017

I received a complimentary Running Essential Package from Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience. 

It has been such an amazing experience the last few months training and learning at Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine to help improve my running. This summer, I was member of a great group of first-time marathon runners created in the form of an online group by Twin Cities in Motion. As a regular Twin Cities in Motion racer, daily Instagramer, and lover of all things running, I was lucky to be able to participate in a three-part running performance experience. I want to thank Twin Cities in Motion and Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine for choosing me to receive such helpful and informative sessions.

First, I talked with Jill, an EXOS dietitian, for a pre-marathon nutrition consultation. The session provided me with information to fuel my running goals, increase performance, speed up recovery, and improve my overall health.

Secondly, I trained with Adam, an EXOS Rally trainer, who provided me with an individualized 60-minute strength training plan. This meeting helped me understand how strength training, in addition to running, can help me achieve my performance goals, increase my energy level, improve my body composition, and really focus on areas that can be weak or problematic for runners.

Just before the holidays, I worked with Chris, a physical therapist, for a two-hour motion and strength evaluation called the Running Essentials Package. This included a musculoskeletal evaluation, footwear/orthotics recommendations, 2D video running analysis, and an individualized home program.

I continued to be astonished by the abundance of information provided about my body, what it can do, and why it does it.  When Chris and I met, we went through a question and answer series about me and also my running.  For example, the questions were as simple as, “When did you start running and why?” and “What do I need to know about you before I test you physically?” After about 20 minutes, I felt like Chris and I were already best friends. Ok, I’m exaggerating here, but he was very easy going and took my answers into consideration for the rest of the morning.

After the Q&A, he started to test my body during a musculoskeletal evaluation. These tests are generally categorized as stance, stride, balance, flexibility, motion, and strength. Some tests concluded with measurements, and others were based on time (i.e. how long I could hold a side plank). Each limb had it’s own test, and it was interesting to discover some sides of my body were stronger than others.

Following the evaluation, we moved on to the 2D video running analysis on the treadmill. After a warm-up, I was asked to settle into a pace for 10-minutes so that I would be recorded. Two videos were taken, one from the side and one from the back. After the recording was complete, Chris took a general look at my stride and took measurements on the computer to confirm and illustrate any potentially problematic areas. The cool thing is he didn’t need to identify a problem to teach me more about the way I run.  For example, Chris noted and took measurements of my initial contact, knee flexion angle, and foot-ground angle. He shared with me that each measurement should be withing a specific range for optimum running form. The back view was for taking measurements of my pelvic and joint center alignment. He also took note of my foot strike and if I had any foot crossover while running.

Chris patiently talked me through every one of my measurements and what they meant. He was very thorough and simplified concepts that I struggled to understand. After my analysis, we went through a great strength training and flexibility set I could add to my workouts to build up my running. He also printed all the exercises we went through so I could use them at home!

Overall, experiencing the Running Essential Package and learning more about my body has been a highlight of my post-marathon training this Winter. I received an exceptional amount of information about what my body does, can do, how to strengthen myself to become a better more efficient runner, and how to more properly fuel my day and workouts with foods that sustain my running lifestyle. I can’t say enough about how going to Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine has changed my perceptions of running for the better. I know more about the sport I enjoy, and it makes me want to do it more and at a higher level.

If you want to fuel your life, make your morning, and master your stride, trust the experts at Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine!

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Post-Holiday Reset with Oats Overnight

December 28, 2016

I received a sample of Oats Overnight for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience. Please enjoy 10% off at Oats Overnight with code THRIVE10.

If you are anything like me, you are trying to recover from the 3+ day food fest that is the holidays! I had so much fun last weekend: eating and drinking my heart out. While I still have plenty of holiday festivities planned into 2017, this week I am continuing my indoor triathlon training and attempting to reset and fuel my body right after quite a few indulgences last weekend.

A post-holiday reset for me starts with breakfast, and this week I tried something new from Oats Overnight! Every morning around 7:30, I brew a half a pot of coffee as I assemble the kid’s breakfast. Kid’s meals almost always include: a carbohydrate like a granola bar or banana bread, a fruit like strawberries or banana, and a dairy like yogurt. Once or twice a week I make scrambled eggs.

On a typical day, I often reach for 2 hard boiled eggs, or a light Greek yogurt with my morning coffee. I used to eat a protein bar every single morning, but I got so hungry and crabby by 10 AM, I stopped eating them. Since joining Life Time Fitness in October, most of my workouts are in the morning and I wanted my breakfast to last me all the way to lunch with my kids at 12:30.

This week, breakfast included Oats Overnight, truly a smarter way to start my day!

Oats Overnight can innovate and simplify anyone’s breakfast routine with a line of delicious, healthy and pre-measured overnight oats that’s portable and quick! Available in Green Apple Cinnamon, Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana and Strawberries & Cream, there’s a flavor (or three) for everyone.

Each evening, I poured 8 oz. of my favorite unsweetened vanilla almond milk into the Oats Overnight blender bottle. Then I added the prepackaged mix into the milk, replaced the cap, and gave it a little shake. I placed the product in my refrigerator and was done! You have probably seen all the beautiful overnight oats recipes on Pinterest. I have been interested in trying the recipes for months, but who has time for all that? I love to try new things and eat well, but I am just not that organized to pull off those recipes on my own.

Oats Overnight does all the planning, shopping, and ingredient measuring for you and has three awesome flavors for you to wake up to and enjoy: Strawberries & Cream, Green Apple Cinnamon, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana. There isn’t just oats in these convenient packages, there are all kinds of awesome ingredients like: chia seeds, flax seeds and maca root enriched protein.

As you all know by now, the first ingredient I read on any package before anything else, yes even more than calories, is: protein! Oats Overnight packages have 32-34 grams protein each! That is 3 times the protein of my morning eggs or Greek yogurt. In addition to my morning coffee, I enjoyed half of my Oats Overnight for breakfast and the other half when I made the kid’s lunch after our morning at the gym or running errands.

Oats Overnight is delicious, convenient, and affordable. You can order a starter pack, including any or all of the three great flavors, and a Oats Overnight blender bottle for $18. You can also use code THRIVE10 to get 10% off your order! Every order ships free. You can, of course, order larger amounts of Oats Overnight from their website, as well.

I can confidently say, Oats Overnight was a tasty change to my morning routine and it left me fueled for my morning workouts. I also didn’t get hungry and cranky by 10 AM like some other breakfast products have left me in the past. If you have always wanted to try overnight oats, but thought they were too complicated to put together, Oats Overnight makes your morning easy!

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Make Your Morning with the EXOS Rally Group

December 11, 2016

Once again, Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine in Minneapolis gave me a remarkable experience last month. On a cool November morning, I got up at 5:00 am to drive downtown and meet with Adam, an EXOS trainer, and his weekday morning EXOS Rally training group. I didn’t know what to expect going into the session, so I was relieved with a pleasant check-in and was walked into the women’s locker area to drop off my bag. I was then escorted to meet Adam in their on site training facility.

Photo Credit: Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Facebook Page.

Photo Credit: Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Facebook Page.

It was a little intimating stepping out onto the green indoor turf not knowing what the next hour would entail. After being introduced to Adam, he wasted no time instructing me to warm up on the bike like I’ve been coming in every morning for the last year. I hopped on the bike and warmed up as I got a good look at the place. It is large but not overwhelming. There is plenty of different kinds of equipment, but not so much I would get lost. There were 4 others training that morning and they were all focused on their workouts and friendly to me.

Photo Credit: Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Website

Photo Credit: Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Website

The EXOS Rally trainees do a tailored program to achieve specific goals Monday thru Friday. There is variation everyday to keep it interesting and work different muscle groups. Adam mentioned with the impending holidays, the group was focusing more on body composition. In addition to a rotating strength training circuit, the group also challenges their anaerobic thresholds with different cardio machines like, the vertical climber, the curve treadmill, and the spin bike.

I took a lot of notes after my session detailing what Adam worked through with me as a recreational marathoner, including different exercises to improve and strengthen areas that can be problematic for runners. To highlight some of my experience for you I can break it down to: the warm up and the runner’s problem areas. Following those focuses we worked on arms, legs, and core strength. Lastly, I did cardio sprints. Again, as an anaerobic high-intensity workout.

I hope my readers want to visit Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine to train and learn, and not learn it from me. Post-marathon recovery is different for every individual and I am confident my strict training plan kept me injury free and able to continue to run post-race, starting only a few days after the rigorous event. Continuing the EXOS rally sessions would improve my running form and strengthen me as a female recreational athlete.

After warm-up, Adam described some typical runner problem areas including: the gluteal muscle, hips, and hamstrings. For example, we began some of my workout with a deep quad stretch, some squats, and inchworm. Adam also had me walk with a mini band around my knees to create some resistance training.

Video Credit: EXOS Website

For body work, I performed kettlebell dead lifts, across body rope pull, overhead press, and reverse lunges. I also had to use these little devil slides on the turf to work my core. I assumed forearm plank position and put my toes onto the polished slides. I then hiked my hips an inch or two and released. I just started laughing it was so hard. Like, seriously Adam, just a plank alone is challenge enough. I had fun trying though, and that’s what it’s all about!

Video Credit: EXOS Website

A new experience for me was using the TRX suspension trainers. Adam had me work pull-ups, plank to pike, and leg curls by positioning straps to suspend my body for the ultimate strength training experience. These exercises were challenge and refreshing because I’ve never done any training like it before.

Video Credit: EXOS Website

Something I have learned about myself over the last few years of my fitness journey is: I thrive under routine, accountability, and results. Having a trainer, like Adam, to keep me focused and accountable, would no doubt make me a better runner. Many runners are coming into the end of the year holidays and are in the “off-season”. Especially while we are off a training plan, using the EXOS rally group would be a great way to stay in absolute shape! Also to mention, the program continues to evolve and challenge you, and would increase your fitness in areas that are weak from concentrating solely on running.

Nearing the end of our one-hour session, Adam guided me through some cardio work to get my heart rate up and my body sweating! First, I did the vertical climber (see an example of this machine: here). I have never used this machine before and I tell you, it is a beast! I worked the vertical climber for 45 seconds and rested for 45 seconds. Seriously, by the second set I was ready to be done. It shot my heart rate up like no sprint I have ever done.

Next, was the Curve treadmill. Adam warned me the Rally group liked to stay away from the machine. The Curve treadmill has a display but it isn’t propelled by an automated moving belt, but by the runner. Once I started running, the Curve treadmill ran with me. The self-powered treadmill allowed me to run at 9 MPH (6:40 min/mile) in a matter of seconds. You just can’t do that right from the start on a regular treadmill.

It is important to mention the EXOS rally experience is not just for the runner. Adam mentioned he works with the recreational marathoner like myself, as well as, elite athletes, students, and athletes recovering from injury or orthopedic surgery. EXOS helps you achieve your goals. Maybe you want to lose weight, get stronger, or run a race. For me, I want to become a stronger woman to support some goals for 2017: a faster marathon, a potential triathlon, to remain a healthy weight, to keep a positive body image, and to remain injury free.

Photo Credit: Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Website

Photo Credit: Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Website

Meeting with Adam for the EXOS rally session was truly an awesome experience. I learned so much more than I could tell you today. Also to mention, I had a lot of fun and I was very impressed with the facilities and all Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Minneapolis has to offer for all athletes and athletic abilities.

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Time to Fall in Love with JORD

November 30, 2016

As November comes to a close, the end of the year holidays and gift giving season is upon us! Just last night my husband was asking me what I want for Christmas. This year I exclaim, “Nothing! Please, nothing!” I mean it, really I do. How do we chose the right gift for the people we love when we feel we have everything, already? How do you choose what to gift those who give you everything by just being there for you?


I have the opportunity to work with the watch company, JORD Wood Watches, and I am pretty excited to share them with you. Can you imagine the best part of receiving a beautiful men’s watch to love and share? The best part about sharing our love for JORD is that my husband loves JORD! All those years when Pete replied, “I want nothing for Christmas.”, he was still pretty excited about receiving this watch from JORD.


I have to admit, I am totally obsessed with my Garmin vívoactive watch. Before my Garmin, I happily wore the Pebble watch. My activity watches inspire me to be more active than I already am. There is something about getting to the next tier of daily steps or being confident that 4.25 loop around my neighborhood is really 4.25… not 4.2 or 4.3 – because when you love the running numbers as much a running, the watch is another fun part of the runner’s life.

However, my Garmin doesn’t really match my cocktail dress for a wedding. I don’t really need to count my steps on date night. I think it’s OK for everyone to have a little vanity, and honestly, it bothers me sometimes when my fitness watch distracts from my outfit. Also to mention, I have the worst tan line ever from Summer marathon training. A nice watch, like the Conway series – Dark Sandalwood and Burgundy Pete picked out from JORD, is perfect for an active watch wearer on a rest day.


Over the last few years I’ve tried to pressure Pete into his own watch but he never really bit the bullet on trying one. I have to say, when our (I say “our” like it’s “mine” but that is marriage for you, folks!) watch arrived, I had to remind my husband not to shred the box upon opening! He was pretty pumped to try a new watch, especially one that would fit so easily into his daily life.

The JORD company prides itself on creating hand-crafted wood time pieces that tell a story. Well, here is ours:


The first time I remember meeting Pete, he was in the hallway of our dingy, college, off-campus apartment. If you told me 13 years later we’d have our four kids and a happy, domestic life I would have laughed in your face. Even so, having a husband to love and having a family together is something I always knew I wanted, since I ever learned to want anything. There has always been something calming, intellectual and bohemian about my husband. He may not have the long hair, Led Zeppelin posters in the bedroom, or Phish on repeat, like he used to – but trust me, that beautiful man is still there. He just had to make room to be a parent, like I did, too.


The best thing about receiving a JORD Wood Watch for Pete, is the watch is so calming, intellectual and bohemian, just like my sweet husband. It fits his aesthetic, style, personality, and his mood. He can wear it to work, out to a football game with the kids, and on a date night with me. The JORD watch is effortless and cool, like the 20 year old I met while I had my dad move my desk into my tiny college bedroom. I wouldn’t have agreed to share JORD with you if their style didn’t already fit into our life.


If you are considering a watch as gift for someone, or for yourself, JORD is offering a $25 e gift code towards any watch of your choice now through March (if not Christmas, you can save your discount for Valentine’s Day!) Here is more information about the Conway series – Dark Sandalwood and Burgundy watch Pete chose, as well!

Also, be sure to visit my Instagram page to enter a giveaway for a $50 gift card towards any watch! These gift cards would make a great stocking stuffers, too!

This post was sponsored by JORD Wood Watches. Pete and I’s meeting is completely unique to us.

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Too Tough to Kill: My First Marathon

November 15, 2016

Finish Pose TCM 2016

I proudly completed my first marathon on October 9, 2016 at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon in Minnesota. I can simply start this post by stating: running my first marathon was not just the longest run of my life, my first marathon was an experience. Until race day, I boasted my four month long training was probably the hardest part about running a marathon, and that the race would just be the “after party”.

I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.

My pre-race training goal was, what I thought, a 4:15:00 finish, approximately 9:45 minutes per mile. This pace “plan” was met with some great long runs in the ballpark pace without feeling like I was pushing myself too much. I could go about my regular life after my long runs without being too broken down. I set to run the marathon around 9:50-10 minutes per mile (watching my pace on my Garmin) for the first 16-18 miles and then hopefully be able to push my body to it’s limits in the final stretch.

TCM Mile 23

Unfortunately, even though I had a great Summer of training to complete my pace goal, my body just did not show up for race day in the way I had hoped. Don’t get me wrong, my body was there but it was hurting more than it should have. I remember starting to panic around my already fatiguing body at mile 8, knowing I would have to be happy with finishing my first marathon at whatever pace was meant for the day. I think was too cold, I think I should have ate more that morning, and I think I just thought too much.

My first marathon was an experience like no other in my life. No long run or training plan interval run could hold a candle to actually running those 26.2 miles. One thing I have absolute confidence in about my training plan is that without it, I would not have finished the race. I am so proud of my marathon finish because I did the best I could with the day that was given to me, and trust me, I did not give up.

TCM Finish

Something was missing on race day. All Summer long I ran in “beast mode”. Beast mode is fun, beast mode is wake-up and take on the day, like life just pulled you from the forest and told you to get living. I wasn’t in beast mode on marathon day. Sure, I pushed hard and had some great moments. However, I can’t look back and see the raw joy I expected to feel.

The best thing about running my first marathon was experiencing the race with my husband. On the other side of this blog post is a woman who got extremely lucky when she was 20 years old. I met Pete, fell in love, and we truly have been number one to each other, ever since. He has seen me through my best and my worst. I like to think running the marathon together was him getting to see me at both! Without Pete, running wouldn’t be as joyful because I wouldn’t have him to share it with. Running makes us  better individuals, a better couple, and better parents.


I had some pretty awesome runs this Summer with Pete. We were blessed to have help from our parents on long runs and did 16, 18, and 20 (Pete, my brother, and I ran the Bear Water Run 20-miler) miles together. I also got to run with my kids by pushing the double jogger. Some of the most fun I had training was running with David as he followed along on his bike. One time, I told him I needed to run seven miles, so I’d run two loops and he could bike with me for one. He ended up biking all seven with me without complaint. Every time I asked him if he was ready to go home, he asked if he could bike more. Surely, he has a little of his mama in him!

In addition to my husband and kids, seeing our family and friends out supporting us brought me to tears at some miles! In addition to Pete and I, my brother, two sister-in-laws, and cousin all crossed the marathon finish line that morning. I couldn’t be more proud of all their finishes. Following their training made my own training so much better. On Saturday mornings, I’d finish my long run and over the course of the day would hear as my family also finished their runs. The support and praise for each other was continuous. Everyone was a champion.


Even the cheering I received from absolute strangers pushed me harder than I ever imagined. At mile 24, I saw a young man sitting in a chair holding up a sign. I was struggling, mentally and physically, and this man looked and pointed right at me. He didn’t cheer, smile, or move. He just pointed and stared like he was telling me, “I see you. You got this.” It was exactly what I needed two miles out. I needed to be calm, stay focused and remember that even though I could barely run, I could finish. I’ll never see that man again, but I will remember him forever.

This Summer would not have been what it was without the constant support of my family. My husband and kids, my parents, siblings, in-laws, cousins, and extended family who brought me up when I was down. They checked on me when I was hurting. They watched my kids so I could run for hours. They made it easier to be a wife and mom, and also be able to run. Plenty of times I was stressed, on edge, late, moody, difficult, tired, hard to get a hold of, distant, and self-absorbed. Ultimately, I am incredibly loved, supported, and happy. I can’t say I always recognized the necessity to let those in who love you, before I became a runner.

Finish Line TCM 2016

My 4:44:47 finish time was backed by four intense months of training and I do not regret a single step last Summer. Running has absolutely changed me for the better. The fact that I stuck with my training plan, raised four kids, and am happily married is proof that I can do anything I put my mind to.

“At mile 20 I thought I was dead.
At mile 22 I wished I was dead.
At mile 24 I knew I was dead.
At mile 26.2 I realized I had become too tough to kill.”

Even though running the marathon was the hardest thing I have ever done, I can’t wait to do it again – better. Will I run another marathon? Hell, yes. Did I think I would at mile 23? No way. Five days after the race, I ran again. Then again, and again, and again because I love to run! Hopefully, the next few months post-marathon can be a celebration of what my body did and an exploration of the other things it can do. In addition to continuing to run this Fall, I signed up for my first indoor triathlon in January. I’ve started to swim and indoor bike and I hope to cross another amazing experience off of my bucket list.

Since many of you reading this today have shared in my marathon journey, I want to personally THANK YOU, thank all of you for inspiring me to be best person I can be. Thank you for supporting me during this incredible experience!

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Fuel Your Life with Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine

October 3, 2016

I am excited to share a recent opportunity I had with Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine to learn more about food as fuel to help me more easily attain my running goals. It can be overwhelming, with all the information out there, for me to know what I should be eating, how much I should eat, and how to eat to be a successful runner. Sure, anyone can run without following an eating plan, but I made some big running goals this year. The two biggest ones being successfully continue to breastfeed our now ten month old baby, and simultaneously train for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon on October 9th. I had about six months to recover from pregnancy and birth and run with the postpartum body, just to be in good enough shape to begin a four month marathon training plan.

Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine

I mention that because I needed to try my best to fuel my body to help make these two big goals work together: breastfeeding and marathon training! Thankfully, both of these goals burn a lot of calories. One thing I really haven’t had to worry about too much over the last few months is how many calories I consume. However, the quality of food is a factor I am constantly reminding myself to pay attention to. When I eat well, I feel good. I need to eat smart to help fuel my running goals and also eat to support my child.

In training and preparation for the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, I met with Jill Merkel at Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center in Minneapolis. Jill is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) specializing in sports and performance nutrition. My 60 minute session provided me with information to fuel running goals, increase performance, speed recovery, and improve my overall health as I continue to train.

Jill at Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine

We have seen a shift in the food pyramid as of late, stressing the importance of eating the rainbow, lean meats, healthy fats, and eating grains and starches in moderation. I was happy to meet with Jill and learn more about how to fuel my body with these foods. My one-on-one nutrition coaching session created a plan that supports my unique needs, goals, and lifestyle. Jill gave me a lot of information about eating clean, what to eat pre-workout to fuel me, how to eat post-workout to rebuild, and the importance of hydration.

Jill worked with my specific goal: running the Twin Cities Marathon. She created a daily game plan which broke down my daily caloric needs, a 6 meal day-to-day plan, and also the types of food to eat. These foods include fruits and vegetables to prevent injury, protein to build muscle, grains and starches for fuel, and fats for protection. Jill also taught me more about serving sizes, what a serving size looks like for common foods, and what types of foods you can eat more of in contrast to what foods we should eat less of. A key part of meeting with Jill was discussing available food options. For example, I can rebuild post-work out with protein of my choice like: lean meat, eggs, yogurt, or a great vegetable protein like, tofu.

This is where I go back to what we eat being so important. I am not at my best physically or mentally when I fill up my body all day long with foods that don’t fuel me. I love a big donut on Tuesdays with my family or pizza Friday with my kids, so I don’t have to cook. It’s all about balance. On Sunday and Monday I am meal prepping eggs, chicken and salad and trying to not drink an entire bottle of creamer in one day. I try not to eat late at night, so on that Tuesday morning when my dad gives me half of his Boston creme, I eat it without worry.

Jill gave me a lot of resources and paperwork to help remind me what types of foods help sustain my active lifestyle. This included a diagram of an “athlete’s plate” to make it easy to see what my meals should look like. She also gave examples of foods in the different groups I can find at the grocery store and keep at home. Jill is a big fan of smoothies, a food I have been trying to get in my weekly if not daily routine, so we talked about how to make that happen.

Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Entry

I had a pleasant and informative meeting with Jill to help attain my running goals and I recommend meeting with her, or another registered dietitian, if you are looking for ways to fuel your life! The session is also affordable, they can schedule around your busy life, and there is convenient underground parking at their Minneapolis location.

Want to learn more? Follow these links for more information:

Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center –  Minneapolis, Rochester

Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center – EXOS Performance & Nutrition Services

Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon – Twin Cities in Motion Website