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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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Weight Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number | Shauna Harrison

Weight Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number | Shauna Harrison.

I stumbled upon this great post speaking to the need to dissociate from the numbers that often women (and men) are tethered to. Physical fitness allows us the opportunity to be stronger, more lean, more flexible, more aware, alert and mobile. Love the positive images of this girl – and she’s a public health girl, too!

Catch her on Instagram — she started the #sweataday revolution!

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.

An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding Public Health

Preventative care is what drew me into the field of public health. Instead of treating disease, why not take steps to take care of yourself before it’s too late. Prevent trips to the hospital, prevent disease, prevent illness. What are some measures you currently take to ensure you and your family live a healthy life?

As my graduate school professor used to say, there is a public health impact in everything. My town built a street designed to be a thoroughfare between two business districts, in lieu of the existing green space and walking path. It caused quite an uproar years ago and the village has since tried to redeem itself by creating additional pedestrian paths and such. Creating the street added traffic, and the parking meters and lots of course contributed to increasing revenue. Consider the public health implication of farmed vs wild caught fish.

Farmed fish is laden with chemicals, mercury and the fish are fatter as they don’t have the space to be free as opposed to wild caught fish which have more omegas, sometimes as much mercury and are 3-4 times more expensive. Check out this great article by Rodale for more information. Ultimately people have to be comfortable in the decision they make when determining what type of fish to consume. Making these decisions, however, implores one to be informed.

Once you develop the mindset that there is a public health implication in everything we do, you begin to think more consciously about your actions and are more mindful about your impact. The connection between public health and preventative care becomes is blatant, and you can begin to see if from whatever lens you are wearing, be it parent, teacher, chef or physician.

Uninformed people don’t change

Here’s a sampling of various disciplines and how you can appreciate public health and take part in your own preventative health from those lenses. This reminds me of the way I first learned about public health vis a vis the social justice theory which one of my grad school professors, Dr. Bernard Turnock, is very well known for discussing. It implies that everyone in society has a fair share of burdens and benefits and that everyone be educated about health and illness. This is why I believe in the interdisciplinary approach to public health as it involves all aspects of a society.

Appreciate public health…

As a scientist. You need to understand your genetic makeup. Do you have a predisposition to heart disease? Do you have a history of diabetes? Also, understand how artificial and synthetic products are created. Soy protein isolate, for example, sounds great, it’s ‘soy’, but it’s a synthetic by-product created from soy and has little resembles to its original, healthy form. If you aspire to eat lean, clean and green you can avoid most of the synthetic junk that finds its way into common foods. It may be an adjustment, but completely possible. Beyond genetics and food is epidemiology and the etiology of disease. Understanding how diseases are formed and spread are critical to staying healthy.

As an accountant / entrepreneur. Learn how to budget and live within your means. Retail therapy, excess spending, and falling into debt are tickets to financial hell. Many people complain that eating healthy is costly, yet have no problem purchasing the latest TVs or personal electronics. Eating organic can be expensive so maybe pick the top 3-5 food items your household consumes the most and purchase those products in organic. Excess spending and living outside of your means induces stress which brings unwanted health risks.

As a lawyer / activist / politician. As my mom always told me, “Be an advocate for yourself.” Understand consumer law, understand how the FDA and USDA work. Understand how food is regulated and how the corn industry is monopolized by a few companies. (Join the fight against Monsanto). Understand your insurance policy, your rights as an insurance consumer. Does your employer reward you for maintaining your health during the year?

As a consumer. Ultimately we are all consumers. You’re reading this, you are consuming information. We consume products, ideas, food, concepts, and words. What are we putting out there in response? We are all part of a system that relies upon the strength of one another (until we get some new version of healthcare). Insurance premiums vary based on the health of your group. Cancer rates are high and communicable diseases are spreading.

What are you going to do about your public health?