Runner Moms Podcast Episode #001

Discussing the Importance of Self-Care with Running Coach Carrie Zimmerman.

Running Coach Carrie Zimmerman joins Runner Moms Founder Shayla Ebsen on the podcast to discuss the importance of self-care and provide actionable tips for mom runners on prioritizing their fitness goals. 

Episode Highlights:

  • Carrie is a busy mom with an 18 month old son and has a full schedule coaching other runners, but she still finds time to prioritize her fitness goals and offers advice for other moms on how to make their needs a priority. 
  • She started running competitive cross country in middle school and continued running competitively into college. She discusses the self-induced pressure she felt when running competitively and why she ultimately transitioned from running competitively to recreational running. 
  • For many years, Carrie struggled with disordered eating. She discusses how running actually helped her with the struggle as well as how she recovered from the eating disorder. She also offers tips for others who may be struggling with disordered eating or who may have children that are currently struggling. 
  • Carrie recently left a corporate wellness job to launch her business, Vitality Running. She approaches her role as a coach with the goal of helping runners achieve their running goals through programs that are balanced with their busy lives. 
  • Finding a running coach is often a struggle for busy mom runners and Carrie provides advice on how to find the right coach for your needs. She also covers the benefits that a coach can bring in helping you achieve your running goals. 

Connect with Coach Carrie Zimmerman:

Support the Runner Moms Podcast: https://www.patreon.com/RunnerMoms

Episode Transcript:

Introduction:

Welcome to the Runner Moms Podcast where we help women embrace their inner strength, take time for themselves and lead healthier lives. So, settle in and soak up some inspiration. Then rise, lace up those running shoes and embrace your inner strength because, momma, you run this world. 

Shayla: 

Hey there Runner Moms, thanks so much for giving our show a listen. I’m Shayla, Founder of the Runner Moms community. In addition to this podcast, we have a ton of great content over at runnermoms.com including recipes, inspiring articles and so much more. Be sure to run on over to the website and check it out. 

Joining me on today’s show is Runner Mom Carrie Zimmerman. Carrie recently left a corporate wellness job to launch Vitality Running and is following her passion as a running coach. She’s a busy mom but has still been able to carve out time in her schedule to pursue some impressive running goals. I can’t wait to dive into the details about her transition to entrepreneurship as well as explore Carrie’s story as a runner. So, with that, welcome to the show, Carrie. Thanks so much for joining us. 

Carrie:

Thanks for having me!

Shayla:

Yeah, absolutely. I’m so excited to dive into your story and learn more about you. I think there’s a lot of information today that’s going to be really valuable for our listeners. So, I guess, to start us off and before we get specifically into your running story, could you tell us a bit about yourself such as where you live, how many kids you have, how old they are, all of that good stuff?

Carrie:

Yeah, absolutely. So, I am from Wisconsin. I am married to my husband and we just celebrated our 4-year wedding anniversary and we have an 18 month old son who keeps us very busy. He’s always on that move. 

Shayla:

I’ve found that the 18-month age is a really fun age but it’s also a really difficult age. They don’t really grasp the concept of self-preservation and don’t understand why you’re telling them no. At least that’s the way it was with my kids. Do you experience that at all?

Carrie:

Yes, all the time. He’s climbing on tables. Climbing on coaches. Yep, climbing on everything and doesn’t understand no. 

Shayla:

No, you can’t stick your hand in fire. No, you can’t walk off of that cliff. Yeah, it’s a hard age! Well, congratulations on your wedding anniversary. 

Carrie:

Thank you!

Shayla:

So, let’s transition for a bit into your history as a runner. Can you walk us through your journey such as when you started running and what your running journey looked like up until you became a mom?

Carrie:

Yeah, so, I started running back in middle school. I like to kind of tease my mom. She highly encouraged me to start running. I was always a pretty active kid and just always played outside a lot. I loved sports but, really, I just loved to play and run around. Then, just to keep in touch with some of my friends as we transitioned into middle school, she, again, highly encouraged me to sign up for cross country with my friends. I’m not the most coordinated and never have been so volleyball and basketball were never really my sports. So, I joined cross country in 7th grade. I didn’t like to sweat so, after my races, I would say, ‘I didn’t like to sweat’. I never put my full effort into it, but I loved it and I loved spending the time with my friends. Just kind of getting to hang out with them and goof off when we were running. 

Then, 8th grade was pretty much the same but got a little more serious about it. Then I transitioned into high school where I was thrown on the varsity team and I had no idea what that meant. I just kind of followed along with what the other girls were doing. Then, I started to see success. Transitioning into my sophomore year of high school and my junior year I was the top girl on the team. So, I found a lot of success there and realized that I was actually pretty good at it but then I started to get into my head a little bit in knowing that I had a little bit of pressure mostly that I put on myself. My coach and my parents were not putting the pressure on me to perform at a certain level, I was putting it on myself knowing that I was the top girl on the team and wanting to maintain that. So, then I ran ok my junior and senior year of high school. I ran one year of collegiate cross country, decided that wasn’t for me, and then decided to go on and train for marathons and half marathons and just the road race kind of thing as a recreational runner. 

Shayla:

So, how many races have you run recreationally since making that transition?

Carrie:

So, I’ve run probably 4, 5, 6 marathons. Roughly 15 halves and then a handful of 5ks, 10ks, that kind of thing. 

Shayla:

Wow, nice. So, you’ve been running for a long time and it’s obviously become a big part of your identity. Kind of looking back through your history, were there any major struggles that you faced through your history as a runner?

Carrie:

I would say that, in high school, when I really started to put pressure on myself, that’s when I really went through the struggles. Like, deciding, do I really like to run or am I pressuring myself to do it because I’m good at it? I just kept going through that. I would run through it and I would take some breaks off from running. I know I had one point where I was like, ‘do I really want to be a runner?’ but I just pressed on and kind of came out the other side. I can for sure tell you now that I absolutely love to run. It’s a huge part of who I am. But, back in high school, I struggled with it a bit knowing that I had talent there but not knowing how to put that when going through ups and downs with running.  

Shayla:

And, I know one other struggle that you mentioned when we were talking offline a bit was a bit of a history with disordered eating. Is there a link there with running or, what’s the history there?

Carrie:

So, kind of aligned with my running and probably in 8th grade, started to develop somewhat of an eating disorder, disordered eating. I honestly don’t know where it stemmed from and I don’t think that running caused it—I think it actually really helped. You can’t keep running if you don’t maintain a certain weight and I never got too low where I wasn’t able to run. So, I was kind of able to cope with it through running. There was definitely some kind of running addiction that I definitely went through. But, over the years, it has kind of flushed out and I can say I’m fully recovered now. I think life transitions helped a lot. Transitioning to college—just kind of where my eating disorder flourished in middle and high school—helped. Then, when I met my husband, I think that really helped too. Just to have someone close to you who doesn’t have those issues and you’re eating meals with them and spending a lot of time with them. I think that really helped. So, I think running was parallel, but it definitely wasn’t a cause. I think it helped me through it, if anything.

Shayla:

Looking back at that history, were there any triggers along the way that made it worse that you can remember?

Carrie:

I think when I started to put the pressure on myself, I was also trying to gain weight. So, that was kind of a trigger. Then my performance started to decline because I was putting on weight that I needed to put on but, because it was coming so fast, I also kind of went through that young girl growth spurt where you slow down for a little bit before you’re going to get faster. 

So, I think that part was hard and whether that was all really eating related or if it truly was just a growth spurt, or a mix of the two, that was I think a little bit triggering in how that all came about. 

Shayla:

Fast forwarding to today, what does your relationship with food look like now?

Carrie:

Now, my relationship with food is pretty good. I mean, there is always some of that in the back of my head, but I would say I’m fully recovered. I eat what I want to eat. This morning I had a bagel with cream cheese. A lot of times I do drink shakes just because I like them, but not feeling like I need to. I definitely feel like I do try to eat well, but there’s room for sweets. I have a huge sweet tooth. Peanut butter is one of my main food groups. So, I definitely think I have turned completely around in terms of my relationship with food and a lot of that, I think, is credit to my husband in just helping me see food as a normal part of your life that you need to survive.  

Shayla:

Well, I’m glad to hear that you’ve turned it around and that you have support around you in that realm. As someone who’s made it to the other side of a history with disordered eating, do you have any advice for others listening who may personally be struggling with disordered eating or who even may have children who are dealing with disordered eating?

Carrie:

I think the biggest thing is that you have to recognize it yourself or, if the child is dealing with it, they have to recognize it themselves. That’s really hard. I know it was super hard for my parents to watch me go through it, but I had to realize it and want to fix it because, the more that people press, the more you want to pull back. I don’t know, I don’t have the magic solution on how to kind of find that balance but, if you’re dealing with it, reach out for support, confide in people and know that you can get through it. It might take some time and some effort, but you absolutely can get through it. Personally, I never went to therapy for it. I did go to a dietician once, but I think a therapist would be a great resource to help. Otherwise, just talking to family and friends in knowing that you can get through it. 

Shayla:

Thank you again for sharing your history there. I just think that the more we talk about these things, the more it will help women who are struggling to seek help and, hopefully, that we’ll all become a little more equipped to help the generation coming up to avoid these struggles because I know it’s very widespread. 

Let’s transition into talking for a bit about the inflection point of becoming a mom. You’re 18 months into it. How has your journey, or even identity, as a runner changed since entering motherhood?

Carrie:

When I was pregnant, I ran up to 34 or 35 weeks. I really wanted to be that one who ran on their due date, but it just got uncomfortable, so I transitioned to walking and biking. After that, I was, of course, anxious to get back but I did take 6 weeks off and then I pushed it a little bit and ended up with some Achilles thing and had to back off a little bit and then came back slower. So, definitely make sure you’re coming back slow postpartum. Don’t rush into it. 

Now, I prioritize running. I make sure I get my miles in that I want to get in but it’s less than before I was a mom just because my priorities have shifted. I don’t need to be running 50 miles a week when I’m not training for anything right now. Running is definitely a form of self-care for me, so I take that time for myself and I get my run in. I know it makes me a better mom. I also have a little more balance and flexibility where, if I need to take the stroller out, if my run gets cut in half, or take two runs a day, I’m flexible to get my miles in. I’m definitely more flexible with it because I value that time with my family. 

Shayla:

Can you give us an overview of what your weekly schedule as far as running looks like?

Carrie:

I typically run in the mornings before my son gets up. Right now, with our schedule, my husband is able to get my son up and then I’ll get back from my run shortly after. He gets up around 7, I’ll get back around 7:20 or 7:30. My husband is a principal so going into the school year I’ll probably have to get up a little bit earlier and get home so that he can get to work. I typically run Monday-Saturday and I take Sunday off. Then I try to sprinkle in a few strength training sessions or yoga throughout the week as well. 

Shayla:

With your son, a busy 18-month-old, and your husband also transitioning back into the school year, do you have any tips for mom runners on how you squeeze that many miles in each week?

Carrie:

I think, just making it a priority. I know, if I don’t get my run in, I’m not going to be as happy. I’m not going to be as good of a mom or as patient. So, it’s a huge priority for me. We’re lucky that we have a treadmill so, on those early, dark, cold mornings in Wisconsin, I can use my treadmill. It’s just a huge priority for me and I make it happen one way or another. If I don’t get it done in the morning, I’ll do it at night. I’ll take the stroller out or do what I have to do. Even if it’s just a walk or a strength training day instead. If I need to flex around, I can, but I make sure to prioritize it and I’m going to get it in. 

Shayla: 

Let’s talk about your running goals. Do you have a specific goal that you’re working towards currently?

Carrie:

Not right now. I wrote up a 4-week training plan for myself just to build in a little bit of speed work. I’ve been doing a lot of base miles. Before COVID hit, I was really relaxed training for a marathon. Not doing a lot of speed work with that, but a little bit. So, I’m trying to get back into a little bit of the speed work just to feel better on the run. I’ve just kind of been feeling sluggish when I’ve been running so many base miles. I would like to run under a 3:30 for a full marathon. My PR is 3:30:50-something so I’d really like to break that 3:30 barrier. I’d like to go back to Boston someday but that’s all in the future in the next 5 years, probably. Right now, I’m just running to stay in shape and to keep me mentally sane. 

Shayla:

So, you said you have run Boston previously? What year did you run it?

Carrie:

Yeah, so I ran Boston in 2018. The year of all of the rain. That was my first and only time running it and it was definitely an experience. My mom and my dad and my husband all traveled down there with me so that was really fun. I’d like to go back when it’s a little more enjoyable weather-wise.

Shayla:

Going back to the marathon that you were training for before COVID hit. When the race got cancelled, did it have any impact on your mindset? Because, you know, you’d been putting in the training miles for it, and then it got cancelled and we don’t know when races are going to happen again. What happened with your mindset and where has it gone since then?

Carrie:

I was putting in the miles in terms of the long runs and I like to do long runs. So, that wasn’t a huge issue. I didn’t get up too high. I think 14 or 16 was my highest. Once that happened, I backed off. I figured, if I’m not going to run a marathon, there’s no reason that I should spend 3 hours running on a Saturday morning and taking that time away from my family. I wasn’t deep in the woods with the speed work. I guess I wasn’t training super seriously for it so, when it got cancelled, it wasn’t a huge hurt to me. I wanted to run a good race, but I wasn’t really eyeing Boston for this race. It was going to be my first post-partum marathon. I just kind of wanted to see where I was at. It did transition to a virtual race, but I ended up switching to the half marathon just because I couldn’t wrap my head around running 26 miles by myself. 

Shayla:

Need that adrenaline rush!

Carrie: 

Yeah, exactly! 

Shayla:

What would you say is your current biggest struggle with running?

Carrie:

I think just finding a reason to run fast without races and stuff. I’ve just been running my 9:30 pace for all of my runs and, after a while, it just gets kind of boring. But, it’s hard to find a reason to want to work hard. So, that’s why I made my training plan and I’m hoping I’ll stick to it. I built in some 400s, 800s and then some tempo runs. I practiced it last week and it’s fun to run a little bit faster in that 7:45 to 8 minute pace for me right now. That’s actually pretty hard where I can’t believe I ran that for 26 miles so I’m just excited to build and get back there. 

Shayla:

Yeah, absolutely. I can totally relate with just kind of being in the comfort zone. I’ve been there for a while now and I need to start pushing myself. Maybe a plan would help me as well. 

Let’s pivot a little bit and turn to talking about your business, Vitality Running. I think you mentioned that you worked in the corporate wellness space prior to starting your business. Is that correct?

Carrie:

Yep! So, I worked for a health system and I had been there for about 4 years doing employee wellness, corporate wellness type of work. With COVID, that was one of the reasons I decided to stay home and start my business. We didn’t have daycare at the time, and we were really struggling to work two full-time jobs and be full-time parents. So, we decided that I would stay home and then I would be able to start my business. So, that has been a silver lining and blessing of COVID that it kind of made us take the leap. Made me take the leap with my husband’s encouragement to do this and chase my dreams. 

Shayla:

I think, obviously as much struggle has surrounded COVID and bad things and what-have-you, I think it’s also going to be really inspiring to see the new business that come out of this time. People taking the motivation and pursuing their dreams. I think it will be really cool to see. 

What has the change looked like so far for you?

Carrie:

It has been good. So, I stay at home with my son. I work during his naps and I work at night. I have a handful of clients and I’ve only been up for a month and a half so far, so I’m pretty happy with that. I don’t know where it’s going to go in the next few months, but I hope I continue to grow and get a few more clients. Then I’ll probably be at my max with what I can handle with the 18-month old! 

Shayla:

Tell us a bit about your approach to coaching.

Carrie:

With my approach to coaching, I really just want people to find balance. I want people to enjoy running or whatever activity they choose. I don’t want people to feel forced into running. There are as many types of exercise as there are people. So, if you don’t enjoy running, don’t do it. Find something different. Go hiking. Go kayaking. Do Zumba. If people want to coach with me, I really want them to enjoy their activities. And, another thing, I want people to find balance in their life. I don’t want it to be all running, all strength training. I want them to find balance with their family, with their lifestyle. So, what kind of program fits you? Is it two days a week? Is it five days a week? Really tailoring it towards them. 

Shayla:

What value would you say that coaching can bring in helping moms develop as runners?

Carrie:

I think coaching for moms is great. It helps them realize that they are worth it. I think moms often fall into just being a mom and they kind of forget about themselves. With coaching, I really like to prioritize their health. I don’t want them to take away from their family, but I want them to prioritize themselves. Prioritize their exercise and their health and wellness goals and their racing goals. When they’re fired up about that kind of stuff and when they’re accomplishing their goals, they’re going to be a better mom and a better partner. They’re going to be more patient with their kids. I just want to help flourish them and help them achieve their goals. 

Shayla:

One hundred percent. Totally agree with all of that. Yeah, I’ve found personally that, as you said earlier, when I’m able to make running a priority among the other household priorities, I’m happier when I come back. I’m a better mom and I hear so many other moms saying that as well. That’s great advice. 

Do you have any tips for mom runners out there who may be looking for a coach for the first time but aren’t sure how to go about the process? What to look for in a coach, all of that stuff?

Carrie:

If you’re looking for a coach, definitely Google coaches in your area. I think the biggest thing is to probably not sit down in person right now but have a chat with the prospective coach. So, I like to do a zoom call or a FaceTime call with my prospective clients just to get to know them. Am I going to be a good fit for them? Are they going to be a good fit for me? You don’t want to invest in a coach who you don’t align with. You want your values to align. You want to be able to talk to them easily and share what you’re going through because a coach is really someone who you can share everything with. We want running to fit into your life. So, if you’re having a stressful week, stress is stress. Your body doesn’t differentiate between running stress and life stress. You want to be comfortable sharing your life stress with your coach so that they can adjust your training if it’s not going well due to the life stress. Really just finding someone that you’re comfortable with. Word of mouth is great. Facebook groups are great to ask around about coaches.

Shayla:

Those are great tips for mom runners. Well, thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Carrie. And also, again, in your openness for talking about the struggles that you’ve overcome. I know that the Runner Moms community is going to get a lot of value out of this episode. If other mom runners want to learn more about Vitality Running or connect with you, where should they go?

Carrie:

I’m on Instagram and Facebook @VitalityRunning for my business. Personally, I’m @ZimmermanCaro on Instagram. I’m much more active on the Vitality Running page just because it’s hard to manage two accounts. Or, my website is vitalityrunningllc.com. 

Shayla:

We will be sure to link to all of those in the show notes. Thanks again for being here today, Carrie. I really appreciate it. 

Carrie:

Yeah, thank you!

Shayla:

If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to subscribe to the podcast so you’ll get first notice when new episodes are released. I’d also greatly appreciate if you’d leave a review for the podcast when you have a chance because it will help other runner moms discover our content. 

That’s all for this episode! Thanks again for tuning in. Happy running and happy momming. I’ll catch ya next time!

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