Tag Archives: family fitness

Comrades Update: Enjoying Rest

It’s been two-and-a-half weeks since my disappointing Comrades qualifier at the Dallas Marathon.  As was the plan I set out several months ago, I’ve been taking it easy on the running front.  This break from long workouts was perfectly timed, what with Christmas and three young kids out of school and a husband on a business trip and visiting parents and all.

After the marathon, I took off five full days from running.  I enjoyed a massage and some epsom salt baths.  I spent a little more time than normal doing yoga and stretching.  I tried to keep myself well hydrated and get extra sleep.  I didn’t really feel like my body needed much recovery from the marathon, but my mind sure did welcome the break.

On the Saturday after the race, I took my two younger kids to a nearby park.  While they played a game of pick-up soccer, I got in an easy 30 minute run with zero aches or complaints.  It felt great to have recovered so quickly.

In the ten days since, I’ve gone for a few more easy runs.  I’m running when I feel like it, as fast or slow as my body feels like going.  Right now, it’s just about enjoying the feeling of each step.

Perhaps my best Christmas gift this year was going out for a very hilly 4.5 mile (7K) run with my dad, my husband, and our two sons.  It wasn’t fast, but it was a great family effort.  To give my kids the same gift of running that my dad gave me is one of my great joys of motherhood.




Yoga Club: Where Small Bodies Learn to Take Big Breaths


I’ve bragged about my kids’ elementary school before, noting the creativity of the PE program and its focus on finding ways for every child to develop an interest in a life-long sport. New this year is a parent-led Yoga Club, which meets each Tuesday from 7-7.30am. The group is open to students, parents, and teachers….no yoga experience required!
I volunteered to teach one meeting per month, and I brought my fourth grader along to the first class. He’s my super physical kid, The Monkey, the one who has never done anything with his body that he hasn’t enjoyed. I wasn’t so sure yoga would be his thing, though.
My class plan included asana that mimic animals. I wanted kids to think about how the spines (or lack thereof!) of animals align with their movement patterns. We were able to move through the invertebrates—fish and cobra—to the small animals—rabbit and frog—to bigger creatures like camel and horse. We finished with the pranayama of the lion.
As it turns out, I was wrong about The Monkey. He didn’t say much after the class while I walked him to his classroom, but after school he told me that the yoga helped him wake up and feel ready for the day. I explained to him that breathing deeply and thinking about how he moved his body with intention was a great way to fire up the brain/body connection.
Fast forward to the next week, when I wasn’t going to be the Yoga Club leader: Monday night at dinner, The Monkey says, “Don’t forget, Mom. Yoga Club is in the morning.”

So, there we were again—this time with The Stowaway in tow. She wants to do anything her big brother does, and she’s the one I often find having stolen my aqua yoga class plans trying to mimic the postures.


The mom who lead this class had a deck of yoga cards and let each kid pick a card to determine the flow of the class. The kids got really excited about choosing each new posture. We finished the class with a game of “yoga freeze”—a variation of freeze tag in which the tagged person had to hold one of the yoga poses we’d done earlier in the class until they were tagged again by a free player. As you might imagine, this was a big hit with the kids.

kids yoga
If you’re interested in starting a Yoga Club at your local elementary school, I highly recommend it. It’s a great way for kids to be introduced to yoga in a familiar setting; furthermore, the inclusivity of yoga allows kids to practice alongside their parents and teachers. Kids love anything that makes them feel part of a group, and Yoga Club does that without any of the pressure or expectation of competition.

Find a New Path

find a new path

For most of the last eight years, I’ve had a child in preschool.  Fortunately for me, the fantastic preschool my children have attended is close enough to our home that I can run.  Granted, it’s not really a very interesting route, and it has a lot of bumpy curbcuts, uneven sidewalks, turning traffic to be aware of, and there’s some significant maneuvering required on garbage day.

But we get it done.

I freely admit that I’ve always been proud of this efficiency.   One of the hallmarks of my personal training philosophy is helping people find ways to insert exercise into their days when they feel so pressed for time that it’s easy to squeeze exercise out.  Modeling this healthy behavior through the running commute has always been a way I demonstrate that I walk-the-talk.

So, eight years I’ve been patting myself on the back for my boring but efficient run.  This is my final year of having a preschooler, and after the hundreds—thousands, likely—of trips with the BabyJogger to preschool, I made a realization.  If, after the first half-mile, I make a right turn and jog one block, I can run parallel to my old, unpleasant route for most of the way to preschool.  Doing this adds only about a half-mile to my overall distance, but it completely changes the experience.

But what do I get by veering off my well-trod route?

A wide open street with little traffic.


Homes that are seasonally decorated, giving The Stowaway fun scenes to observe and comment on.



The neighbors who are in their front yards or driveways  proffer a friendly “good morning.”  (This is much nicer than the cars who would honk at me when I would cross the side streets– despite pedestrians having the right of way.)

It’s really unbelievable how this little change has added so much happiness to our commute. 

As I was running home a few days ago, I got to thinking: what other things do I do out of habit that I could change ever so slightly and increase the gentleness and pleasure in my day?  In what ways am I stuck in patterns that, while necessary to get the stuff of life accomplished, aren’t adding joy?  Can I tweak them a bit?

My mind is racing with ideas. 

Most people think running is about strong legs and a solid cardiovascular system.  But this revelation demonstrates what I’ve always loved about running: it’s so much more than what’s happening in your body.  Whether you’re able to see an old idea in a new way or you have a wildly productive brainstorming session on the run, running stimulates creative juices in a way that nothing else does for me.

Hop off the well-trod path.  Hang a right and see what new—and improved!—path is waiting for you right around the corner.

Good health and great happiness to you!

A Child’s Wellness Wisdom


“Mama,” she said,  “my body is telling me it needs to be outside in nature.”

My four year old daughter said that to me when I picked her up from preschool recently.  I was so struck by the clarity of her expression of her needs and by the wisdom they represented.  How many adults do I know (myself included) who can articulate what their body needs at any given moment?  Not many.


And so we headed off to “The Peacock Park” (officially Mayfield Park), a 21-acre nature preserve very near our home, to spend some time outside.  I had been meaning to get to a local hiking trail all week, but busy-ness and stuff kept getting in my way.  It took a four year old to get me to do what my body had been telling me it needed for days.

“Mama,” she said, “let’s go into the woods where we can walk, walk, walk and breathe, breathe, breathe.”


Whether through intuition or experience, The Stowaway knew that walking in the woods helps her breathe deeply.  My kids hear a lot of talking about the importance of breathing deeply, but to hear my child make the explicit connection between walking in the woods and expansive breathing made my heart leap….and not because I need a parenting pat on the back, but because she is wise all on her own.

“Mama,” she said, “when my feet are on the earth my insides calm down.”


Obviously, flip flops do not good hiking shoes make.  But this child of mine prefers to be barefoot in almost any situation.  Her ability to relate this feeling of literal groundedness and the peace it brings made me gasp.

“Mama,” she said, “I’m feeling a little tired.  I’m going to rest on this bench.”


Rest?  You mean, like do nothing?  By admitting she was tired– and having no shame attached to that state of being– and devising a plan to let her energy stores rise again, The Stowaway displayed the wisdom of rest.  For all of the time and effort people put into good nutrition and vigorous exercise, we forget about the importance of restorative rest.  You owe it to yourself  to slow down when your body needs you to do so.


There they were: in the span of an hour, four giant Truth Bombs Of Wellness were dropped on me my by a four year old.  Maybe if we adults stop overthinking everything and tune in to the wisdom of our mind-body connection, we’ll all be better for it.

Good health and great happiness to you!



GIVEAWAY: Go Cheer on the Austin Aztex!

Austin Aztex (Photo credit: Carlos Barron)

Austin Aztex (Photo credit: Carlos Barron)

It’s no secret that the OnBalance family is a soccer family.  My experience playing soccer is limited to one year as a Honey Bear– a team which scored only one (own) goal all season, but we sure were cute.

That's me in the back row on the far left. You're digging my yarn-bowed pigtails, right?!

That’s me in the back row on the far left. You’re digging my yarn-bowed pigtails, right?!

My husband’s soccer experience is even less than mine.  But that hasn’t stopped him from coaching The Monkey’s team for the last three years.

Our kids have been the reason we’ve become fans of The Beautiful Game, and it’s been one of the great surprises of my adult life:  Being soccer parents is actually fun!  Having kids involved in the sport has also given us the chance to host coaches from Brazil and England.  All of this while the kids get some exercise, learn teamwork, and enjoy one of the most world’s most social sports.

While the popularity of professional soccer lags in the US as compared to other parts of the world, we are lucky to live in Austin, the home of the Austin Aztex.  The Aztex play in the USL now, which means we have the opportunity to watch quality soccer, close to home, at family-friendly prices.  Our kids have learned so much about the sport by watching live games.

Want to catch a game?


I’m giving away two tickets plus a parking pass to the Saturday, August 22nd Austin Aztex match!

All you need to do to enter is leave a comment below.

To receive bonus entries, you can also follow the Austin Aztex on their social media channels:

Twitter: @AustinAztex
Leave a note in your comment for each follow.

Even if you don’t win the giveaway, you’re invited to come Pack The House and watch the Aztex take on Orange County Blues FC at Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex! Gates open at 6:00 p.m. First 100 fans that go to the Aztex Team Store receive a collectible poster. Enjoy the pregame festivities and get ready to cheer on your Aztex.

Hope to see you there!

Entries close at 5pm Central Time Thursday, August 20.  I will notify the winner immediately thereafter, so please use an email address you check regularly!  Thanks to the Austin Aztex for donating the tickets for this giveaway.

Coach is in the House

The Monkey (now age NINE!) has gone to British Soccer Camp for the past four summers.  He enjoys the drills, the skill-building games, and the team-based “World Cup” competition that goes on throughout the week.  As a parent, I have been pleased with the balance of learning and fun.

For the second year in a row, we offered to host a Challenger Sports coach for a week.  Last year, we hosted Thiago from Brazil, who was in Austin coaching the older kids’ Tetra Brazil camp.  This year, we hosted Shannon from Portsmouth, England, who was a coach at the British Soccer Camp my boys attended.

When I told the boys we would be hosting Shannon, they were immediately excited to meet her and hear about her soccer experience (she plays for Portsmouth Ladies FC) and her “regular life” (she’s a university student studying sports coaching and management) and things she likes (films, especially musicals, and most certainly “Frozen”…much to a certain four year old’s delight.)

I was thrilled to have a female role model for my boys, who learned quickly that they could learn a lot from Shannon, on and off the pitch.


In addition to backyard games of footy, we took Shannon out and about.  We had to contend with our very rainy Austin summer, but at least we were able to sneak in a round of mini golf.  The Stowaway  remembered we had done this with Thiago last year, and she was insistent on taking Coach Shannon as well.


It turned out there was a bit of a housing shortage in Austin, so we volunteered to host Shannon a second week.  That meant we had a full weekend in between work weeks to go to the movies, do some shopping, eat Tex-Mex, and play in the pool.


We even found time to go for a run over to and up Mt. Bonnell.  (Race final: England 1 – USA 0)


During Shannon’s second week, she coached camps in the morning and in the evening, so we didn’t see her as much.  She was a considerate houseguest, and it was really no trouble at all to have her in our home.

Before she left, the kids wanted to take Coach Shannon bowling.  (And knowing that she likes films, I had to let her know our local bowling alley was the one used in the Oscar-winning “Boyhood.”)  After much protestation about not being good at bowling, Shannon managed to get four (or was it five?) strikes in the game.  But thankfully my husband came through in the end to give the win to the USA.


One of the most fun things about hosting a coach is letting the kids come up with ideas for what to do to show the coach around town.  It’s fun to see what your kids think is a big part of your city or your family’s culture.  The boys taught her how to play Ticket to Ride and other favorite board games.  The Stowaway loved having a “big sister” around.  For our family, a trip to Kerbey Lane Cafe on our final morning together was a must-do, as it is our weekend breakfast spot.


If you’re looking for a low-commit way to introduce your child(ren) to another culture, I highly recommend hosting a Challenger coach.  We’ll certainly be doing it again next year.  Three times makes it a family tradition, right?!

I did not receive any special compensation for this post.  The opinions expressed here are mine. 

A Year in Preview

It’s good to have a goal.  The goal in front of me right now is one I first learned about way back in the eighties (yes, the 1980s) when my father spoke about the races he hoped to run “someday”.  Ranging from an indoor mile at an invitational track meet to the 100 mile Western States Endurance Run through the Sierra Nevadas, my dad was able to compete in most of his “must-run” events.  Except for one:  The Comrades Marathon.

First of all, the name is misleading….the marathon, by standards and definition, is 26.2 miles (roughly 42 kilometers).  The Comrades Marathon, however, is technically an ultramarathon, as its distance is longer than a marathon.  The distance of Comrades varies from year to year, but it is always around 90K.  Let me do the math for you: it’s basically two marathons back-to-back, with another 5K tacked on just for fun.  For simplicity’s sake, let’s call it 56 miles.

Still with me?

As if 56 miles isn’t hard enough, check out the race course elevation profile:


The above profile is for the Comrades run in even-numbered years and is known as the “Down Run.”  Yesterday’s 2015 Comrades was run in the opposite direction– an “Up Run.”   My dad thinks that the “Down Run” will be easier, though all accounts on the internet indicated that it is the biggest beat up your body will (hopefully) ever undergo.

Billed as “The Ultimate Human Race”, Comrades isn’t for weenies.  If you’re crazy enough to undertake such a challenging course, you do so knowing that you have to complete it in a very strict 12-hour time limit.  Fail to do so, and you don’t even get billed as a DNF (“Did Not Finish”), your name simply doesn’t appear as an official competitor.  Ouch!

So, why now?  Why Comrades 2016?

The Comrades Marathon is in South Africa.  When my dad was in the prime of his running career– a prime that lasted far longer than anyone has any right to!– it wasn’t advisable for an American to travel to South Africa.  Under the National Party and its rule of apartheid, an American who went to SA for leisure (if you can call running Comrades “leisure”) would be seen as endorsing the policy.  Despite my father’s desire to take part in this legendary race– one that is ironically founded and still run nine decades later as a testimony to comradeship– he did not want to align himself with the tolerance of an unjust society.

“Someday” has arrived.  Now nearing 70 and having faced several years of physical challenges that have affected his ability to run long distances, my dad wants to train hard so he can line up at the start in Pietermaritzberg, tackle the five big downhills (and lots of other fairly significant uphills), and find himself in Durban less than 12-hours later.  And I would like to do it with him.

There are two things (other than my dark brown eyes) I got from my dad: a love for running, and a love for travel. To line up at Comrades with him on May 29, 2016 would be a terrific blessing.

As they say at Comrades: “Bamba Iqhaza!”  Be a part of it!

I’ll be writing more about our journey to Comrades over the next year.