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Running for Mothers

Hello everyone!! I have been waiting for this moment for months and months.  I am extremely excited to announce that I will be part of the pilot Running Ambassador program for Every Mother Counts (EMC)!

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 9.02.12 AMFor those of you who know me, you’ll know this is a perfect marriage of two of my loves: running and public health. So what does this mean for us?

  • Me: Identify a local running event, a 5k or 10k, or even a half marathon, and ensure I can create a team of runners
  • You: Register for the race, join the team, tell your friends about it, thereby raising awareness, and hopefully, raise funds
  • Me: Lead group runs, provide training plans if needed
  • You: Be awesome and support Every Mother Counts!
  • Us: Create a running revolution and make a united impact as a team!

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10 life lessons I’ve learned from running

What running has taught me about life.

Disclaimer: I was inspired to write this post after reading some #runchat comments between a couple of bloggers, check them out here> http://www.happyfitmama.com/life-lessons-running/ and www.pavementrunner.com.

It’s definitely a list that I’ve thought of over the last several years, and resonates with me in daily life.

  1. “Be Somebody”.

    "Be Somebody"

    “Be Somebody”

    This is what ultramarathoner Scott Jurek signed in my copy of Eat & Run. I met him a couple years ago for a fun run. When you read the book, he talks about his running coaches and pals who have said this to him along his way. Really, are you going to go out there and simply pound the pavement, or can you really ‘be somebody’. Always leave a dent, make an impact, make yourself better every time.

  2. It’s okay to leave your gadgets at home. I ran my fastest 5k unplanned, no watch, ran on feel and surprised myself. Sure it’s great to run with a Garmin but trusting in technology takes away from being in touch with yourself. Lose the gadget, free yourself. Disconnect from technology every day; turn your phone off after a certain hour, don’t be used by tools.
  3. You reap what you sow. When you toe in at the starting line, there is nothing but your training (or lack thereof) that will make or break you. Much like life, what you put into your life comes back to reward you. Work smart, get rewarded.
  4. Always have a plan B. Start a run strong, cramp up, trip, slow down, bump into a friend, whatever it is that stops you from what you initially intended to run cannot be the ‘end all’. Always have a plan B and be okay with it. This has spilled into my life as an educator for the Epilepsy Foundation – the first training I did was in a special needs room with a sight dog barking and running around the room and the L training buzzing by every five minutes. It wasn’t my ideal situation, but I adapted to something just as perfect.
  5. Don’t give up when life presents you with a challenge, you are about to make a breakthrough. You know this when you are planking and are about to collapse – don’t! It is said our true character shows when we are facing hardship or difficulty – that is when we are making a breakthrough. Be your best self when it counts the most. No one regrets trying their hardest.
  6. Injured? Figure out what happened and prevent it next time. I can’t say this enough as a public health practitioner. There is a public health impact in everything, and I approach my life this way. My goals are to prevent disease, increase awareness and promote health education. My brother recently ran the Chicago Marathon and developed a meniscus tear at mile 25. Diagnosing his knee means understanding the mechanics and kinesiology of the knee, basically going deeper into the injury. Life lesson? We have to take that extra step to solve problems. I’ve written a lot on the negative impact of media on girls’ self esteem, which basically puts the onus of responsibility and accountability back on corporations, movies, and the music industry. Why are they interested in selling a concept of weak women and images of photoshopped girls and women? Who is their audience? There is always a cause and effect. I could go on…
  7. Start what you finish. This is so hard for me as an aquarian (yes I read those signs from time to time).
    Still don't know how we finished this trail run without snowshoes!

    Still don’t know how we finished this trail run without snowshoes!

    Can’t see the pavement because of yesterday’s blizzard? Well, just do your best and have fun with it. As someone who has multiple interests, it can be overwhelming to get it all done. But in general, we should always strive to finish what we start, hopefully at 100%, but sometimes it at less.

  8. Be empowered. Embrace your strengths. Being a mid-distance runner has somehow elevated me among my acquaintances and friends to a different echelon of ‘fitness people’, hardcore, they say. I don’t know how it happened, I hit the perfunctory 5 mile mark one April day and knew I was in a new club.  From that day onward, I started going out for 10 mile runs no big deal. If you find yourself saying to someone, “I only ran 5 miles today”, then you know what I’m talking about. You’re a beast and you know it (at least now you do). Life lesson here (and verse from the Qur’an) is we are always capable of more than we think we can handle. Stop that negative self-talk and rise above it. (I love Runner’s World’s columnist Marc Parent’s article on getting to five miles).
  9. Running is for me, myself and I. I love to run alone on the pavement. But I do enjoy running with company, and do so 1-2x a week. We build our self efficacy when we are alone, and increase our self esteem when we join others. We feel good about ourselves when we do something good together.
    races are always more fun with friends

    races are always more fun with friends

    Consider volunteering, it is always more impactful to the community or organization in aggregate, and we get to hang out with family and friends. However the true benefit you get from making a difference is an individual experience. In the end, YOU have to feel good about yourself when giving YOUR time to a cause, not the time of your friends or family.

  10. Have a sense of humor. Seriously, if you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re fooling yourself. Yes you are important but there are bigger things to worry about around the world.  Life is too short and unpredictable, make the best of every day, count your blessings, and be good to others.

    It's totally okay to hang out on the lakefront path and take silly running photos.

    It’s totally okay to hang out on the lakefront path and take silly running photos.

Peace out.

Ayesha and the Zooma Race

Originally appeared: http://www.everymothercounts.org/blog/201308/ayesha-and-chicago-zooma-race

“Of course ‘every mother counts’,” was the first comment my mom had when I told her the purpose for my early morning need to leave my boys with her as I headed out to the lakefront for the Zooma Chicago race. Unfortunately, as obvious as it may be that all mothers are important, there is still so much work that needs to be done in the arena of maternal health. Narrowing the public health gaps (access, cost & quality) for women seeking prenatal and antenatal care as well as safe delivery care are issues very dear to me. I took a course in graduate school on maternal health and was shocked to learn how poorly the United States ranks in preventing maternal mortality, and even more appalling when compared to other industrial, strong nations.
I spent some of my post-graduate years working with young girls and helping them develop self-esteem, strong minds and bodies, yet yearned for the maternal audience. It all starts at home, I kept thinking, with mothers. I found Every Mother Counts (EMC) and immediately fell in love with the mission and even more so when I read Christy’s story of how EMC was founded. I too had a story! I had two complicated births, despite all my attempts at hiring a doula, a midwife, taking natural childbirth classes, and wanting to refuse medication. Yet I found myself in front of an obstetrician both times. I thought, how could this be happening? I thought I knew everything! How lucky I am to be in a country, state and city that allowed me the freedom to seamlessly be transferred between midwife and MD. I never took it for granted, and was even more grateful when I had to visit my firstborn in the neonatal unit where he spent his first four days of life. I know I am lucky because for every case like mine there are ten women who didn’t survive childbirth.

Volunteering at the Every Mother Counts info booth at the Chicago Zooma race

This is why I left my kids at home and asked EMC if I could volunteer at their table at the Zooma race on a Saturday morning. I want everyone to know that it is entirely possible to die from pregnancy complications or during childbirth, in 2013, nonetheless. I’ve espoused EMC’s mission, and I’m thrilled to help!

In this country we have a choice on everything. Information is thrown at us from every direction, when we want it and when we don’t. We choose to make changes in our lives based on these little nuances. During both of my pregnancies I was enrolled at the University of Illinois School of Public Health and strongly believe that the education I received at that time was life-changing, not only for me and my family, but everyone in my ‘circle’. I believe it is my responsibility as a mother and as a public health educator to empower women with medically-accurate information. Educating and enabling women to use their experiences can also help reduce maternal mortality across the world.