On a sunny summer afternoon, a group of women sporting running gear chat easily with each other, stretching and doing warm-ups before hitting the Plymouth regional trails for their workout. Whether walking, jogging or running, these women all have one thing in common: to get in shape, give their health a boost and have fun while doing it.
They’re a part of Plymouth Moms on the Run, a group focused on health, wellness and community that meets in several different locations throughout the Twin Cities. The original group was formed by Karissa Johnson of Forest Lake in 2008. As a new mom herself, the group’s creator was a fitness trainer and knew other moms and women who had a goal to get back into the fitness routine–specifically to run a 5K. Johnson’s efforts to spread the group has led to a number of Moms on the Run franchises across Minnesota.
Coaching the team of Plymouth runners and a franchise-owner is Jen Vendel, who lives in Champlin with her husband and 9-year-old son. “I am very outspoken about my love for running and fitness, so my name was given to [Johnson] as a lead for a head coach,” Vendel says. “When she contacted me, I immediately accepted.”
This spring marks the third year for Moms on the Run in Plymouth. The 18-week program is structured to train members by intervals. The program’s goal is to increase runners’ endurance levels to help them run a 5K race without stopping at the season’s end. The Plymouth class typically meets Sunday and Thursday evenings from April to August. Class times and locations are posted throughout the year on the Moms on the Run website.
The group runs outdoors in the spring, summer and fall. “What’s better than being outside on our trails in the Minnesota spring and summer? It just can’t be beat,” Vendel says. “So we use the surrounding parks and their trail system to conduct class every week. We’re outside with nature and it’s awesome.”
“We have programs for all fitness levels, so if you haven’t run a day in your life or you want to increase your pace and run faster we have coaching at all levels,” Vendel says. “So it’s not only myself, but I have a lot of volunteer coaches that are helping every group along the way.”
At each class, the women start with a five to 10 minute dynamic warm up and then break into groups. The group portion lasts about 30 minutes and then the women rejoin to engage in 20 minutes of strength training and five minutes of cool down for a total time of about 60 minutes.
“We have walking groups, we have “Learn to Run,” we also have recreational running, and then we have our intermediate runners who are looking to increase their speed, endurance and agility,” Vendel says. “All of this is done by interval training which is the most successful way to get our fitness routine, wherever we are at, to the next level.”
Although called Moms on the Run, Vendel notes that the group is for any woman looking to improve her health in a supportive setting. “Absolutely you do not have to be a mom at all,” Vendel says. “I have so many women in my group that are not moms. We as women are all on a journey to better our health and better our fitness so we welcome you with open arms.”
Lisa Stay was one of the first members to join the Plymouth group when it started two years ago.
“I had been thinking about becoming more active,” Stay says. “I had never been much of a runner at all, but I felt like it was something I should look into.”
The mother of three children, ranging from 9 to 15 years old, is busy throughout the year with activities from church, sporting events, and Girl and Boy Scout activities. “Moms on the Run just gave me a great opportunity to get out and do something for myself,” Stay says.
“My daughter who is 13 sometimes comes and runs along with us, and she can see that it’s a social thing as well. She’s gotten into running as a result of seeing me run,” Stay says. “It’s been good for me and good for them to see that you can fit exercise and taking care of yourself into a busy family life like we have.”
Now the Plymouth mom is training for her first Lake Minnetonka half marathon. “I never would have thought it was something I was capable of doing,” Stay says. “But now I know I can do it because Moms on the Run has taught me I can run and I can keep setting higher and higher goals for myself.”
Jenny Nordberg is another mom who runs with the Plymouth pack. Originally from Wisconsin, the group gave her a chance to meet other moms and kids in the area. “I started last spring. After having two kids, I wanted to make my health a priority, and I thought this would give that accountability,” Nordberg says. “People know if you’re not there, so it really makes you go and work out.”
“The thing I really love about Moms on the Run is that it’s a support group of women getting back into that healthy lifestyle,” Nordberg says. “There is no bias toward you [whether] you’re an excellent runner or just starting out; everybody’s just very supportive of each other.”
“As busy women, it’s hard to set aside the feeling of guilt and focus on our health,” Vendel says. “But I see the biggest change when [these women] have that realization that our program not only creates balance and confidence for the hour or two they are with me each week, but when they focus on their health, that confidence and balance actually carries over into all areas of their lives.”
Whether the Moms on the Run women have had a long-time passion for running or are newly cultivating a love for it, the group allows them to embrace running, health and fitness in their own personal way. “I call it my meditation,” Vendel says. “I get my best ideas when I’m running. I’m just focusing on myself and my problems seem to melt away. There’s no such thing as a bad day when you’re running.”
Events & Classes with Moms on the Run
June 7 is National Running Day.
The Plymouth Moms on the Run website lists upcoming events and the races that they are promoting throughout spring, summer and fall. They also partner with several other running events throughout the year which are also listed on the website.
Interested in trying Moms on the Run? Call or email Vendel to set up a free trial class.
Start slow at first.
Begin with a little bit of jogging, don’t overdo it. That’s a big factor: Listen to your body. You don’t want to be running through pain.
Set a personal goal for yourself.
Start with a 5K race to see where you are and gauge your progress with a 5K at the end of the season. Or perhaps you want to improve your 10K time, so work a little bit toward your goal to see how much you can improve each month.
Invest in a good pair of shoes.
The most important thing to do is to get fitted for shoes at a running store because they specialize in custom shoe fitting. We all run differently, our gaits are different. A specialist can find where you land and fit you in the proper shoe. This may help prevent injuries along the way.
Join a supportive community.
In our group, if somebody hasn’t shown up for awhile we will reach out because we care about each other and want to help others stay motivated. Link with our Facebook page for communication, tips, and nutrition advice, and to just keep people connected.