By: Ashley Hicks (@amhicks01)
When I started running I was twenty-two, single, and had just started working my first job in tv. With no real responsibilities, creating a routine and sticking with it was easy. I spent a lot of my "free" time reading about running, preparing and cooking health meals, and working out. I realize that is not the case for most, and I am always really
inspired by the moms and busy professionals who commit to their workout routines.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Brooks ID member, Cara Easu. Not only is she a mom, wife, and running coach, but she is also a competitive runner (Boston '08,#3 woman in '09 Columbia River Gorge 1/2 marathon (1:33), #1 woman in'09 Death Valley Marathon (3:24)). What is even more incredible is that she didn't start running until she was 34! Read more for my Q & A with Cara.
1. How long have you been running and when did you get started?
I started running when I was 34. Before then, I had always hated running because it felt quite painful to me. I think that because I had lost a significant amount of weight and had become strong in my legs and core, suddenly running wasn't just painless; it was actually fun!
2. Many of our readers are moms and faced with the challenge of taking the time to take care of themselves and their families. How do you balance everything - running, coaching, and family?
During the years when my four children were very little, before they were school-aged, I would wake up at 4:30 AM so that I could find time to run and lift weights while they were still sleeping. Eventually, I got into a habit of rising early, and when I decided to become a personal trainer, this was ideal! I'm one of the only trainers who is willing to get up at 4:30 AM for those early birds! Now I can work out later in the morning if I have an early client. However, I still prefer 5 AM runs, whenever my schedule allows
them. I have seen that early risers are much more likely to be successful in keeping to their goals than those who put off their workouts till the end of the day. So, I advise clients to get their workouts in first thing in the morning, and to do their best to get to bed early as well.
3. You lost 45 pounds after having your children. That is a huge accomplishment! What were they keys to your weigh loss success?
Diet and exercise were equally important in the weight loss success. In terms of diet, I chose to cut out extra sugar and fats while I was actively working off those pounds. So, I dropped the extras like sugar, honey, syrup, butter, sour cream, cheese, and desserts. When we clean up our diet so that we are eating plenty of healthy food, we can eat enough to stay satisfied all day and still keep our caloric intake perfectly low; those extras that we certainly don't need add so many calories and don't really satisfy.
Also, portion control is huge! I would often visualize the size of my stomach when I looked at a plate of food, and I reminded myself
that my stomach really needs little to fill it. In terms of exercise, we all know that we can run or do some form of cardio to burn the calories that we consume. However, so many women miss out on the miracle of weight lifting! For every 10 pounds of lean muscle mass on our bodies, we burn about 500 more calories a day! When our bodies have plenty of muscle, we become calorie-burning machines even at rest. I urge women to run and to lift weights! Furthermore, weight lifting can correct the muscle
imbalances that we develop from repetitive motions such as running.
4. On your website you've listed your half-marathon PR at 1:33. That is really fast!! What are your best tips for seasoned runners who
are looking to increase their speed?
Thank you! That was such a wonderful race. Seasoned runners should never neglect speed workouts, tempo workouts, long runs, strength training, and recovery. I found that my speed greatly improved when I began incorporating interval workouts on the track and on the road. Tempo runs made those faster race paces much easier to tolerate and sustain. Of course, no good distance runner will neglect her long runs, so I need not add anything to that note, I'm sure. As for strength training, runners should focus on gluteal strength in particular, and then also developing a solid, strong core. Some classic exercises for runners would be the plank, squats, lunges, the bridge, and some single-leg exercises such as the single leg dead lift. There are countless variations in those exercises that I have listed, and runners are wise to explore them all!
5. What is your favorite running gear?
As far as shoes go, I have tried them all, and I continually return to the Brooks Launch. For me, Launch is the perfect shoe! They are neutral and light weight, yet still make my feet feel stable for long training runs. I also love my Garmin, as it has eliminated all those hours of planning out my routes on maps. Additionally, it provides excellent information such as heart rate and paces. I'm not very high tech, but the Garmin is a tremendously useful gadget.
6. What are your current running goals?
I'm working on my form now. I know that seems odd that after years of running competitively and coaching, I do go back to the basics and fine tune my form, but I think it's important to reassess ourselves, as we all tend to fall into sloppy habits, particularly if we keep focusing on speed only. As for my next races, I hope to do Big Sur and the Catalina Island Marathon within the next two years.
7. When it comes to running, my most proud moment was finishing the NYC Marathon in 2010. Prior to that I was really unsure about running a marathon, and I still cherish the memory of crossing the finish line. What is the running accomplishment that you are most proud of?
Each race has been so rewarding--and even vindicating, since I had been such a non-athlete prior to my 3rd decade of life! But if there is one accomplishment I always feel tempted to brag about, it would be coming in as the first woman in the Death Valley Marathon. The second woman wasn't even close to catching me; I think she was
something like 15 minutes behind me--and way younger than I am, I might add! That was an amazing experience, and a stunningly beautiful course.