5 of the Best Lessons I Learned from My Worst Race

As many of you know I set a goal of running a half marathon every month leading up to my 40th birthday.

Going into the process I said all that mattered was that I finished every race. I wasn’t going to be concerned with finish times, but rather enjoy the experience. But along the way I have battled my own competitiveness.

Last Sunday I ran #8 in Sandusky, OH. It turned out to be my worst race of the series. There are a number of factors that lead to my finish time, and in looking back this race taught me more than any of the others I have ran. So while it maybe was my worst finish time, it was my greatest victory so far.

Only 13.1 to go!

Only 13.1 to go!

I’d like to share with you some of my lessons learned from this race…some of them may seem like ‘no brainers’ but even as someone who lives and breathes fitness and healthy living, they are a good reminder.


In general, my family eats a healthy diet. Of course we enjoy pizza or a restaurant burger and fries from time to time, but our diet consists of lean proteins and veggies. After 10 days of travel and numerous meals out, my body was pleading for it’s normal food intake.

Surely I did my best to make the healthy choices when available, but between the numerous hours in the ‘Mothership’ (our family suburban), multiple meals out and a visit to an amusement park there’s only so much control one has on their food choices.

My eyes were opened to how lethargic the body becomes when fueled with ‘junk.’ Sure I ate salads, grilled fish and found a stand at Cedar Point that sold fruit cups, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the other meals. I lacked the energy I needed to sustain the 13.1 miles.

We have been home less than a week and now that I am back to my regular food intake I have more energy and feel stronger.

Lesson learned: a consistent healthy eating lifestyle is necessary to achieve physical gains. I don’t believe this is a change that can happen overnight, but with gradual changes and true commitment to it being a lifestyle and not a diet anyone can adopt healthier eating habits.


Because I teach numerous classes throughout the week (and do them with my classes) I don’t often have time to get in the long runs necessary to train for these races. I am fortunate enough that my cardio and interval classes give me the endurance to run for 2 hours at a time.

Over our 10 days of travel, 5 of those were spent in the Mothership. Each of those legs of travel (but one) was close to 500 miles. So as you can imagine, the 5 days spent ‘vacationing’ were focused on having the most fun as we could as a family. I didn’t want to take time away for myself.

We spent time in the ocean boogie boarding and swimming, we walked an entire day through downtown Nashville, we spent an entire day walking an amusement park – but none of this could replicate a true workout.

I do believe at times that my body needs rest. But as someone who doesn’t sit much throughout the day, 8+ hour car rides not only made me stir crazy but dramatically affected my strength and endurance.

Lesson learned: exercise has to be consistent and intentional. Even if you can just fit in 20 minutes – it’s worth it! You have to make it a priority and in retrospect, my family wouldn’t have ‘missed’ me for 20 minutes or a half hour. I could have taken advantage of the time they were showering or I could have let them know how important it was for me to take a break – they would have understood. Don’t cheat yourself out of a workout – ever.


I’m certainly not the best at a consistent bedtime. I preach about it often but my bedtime often varies which sometimes makes early mornings that much more difficult.

On vacation bedtime and waking times become unpredictable for our family. We stay up late enjoying activities and time with each other. We sleep in and enjoy not having the pressure of daily responsibilities. On the other hand, there are nights we crash early from exhaustion and get up at dawn to head out on our next adventure.

Between inconsistent sleeping patterns and rotating beds and pillows, it goes without saying our bodies were exhausted.

Between poor nutrition, lack of intentional exercise and inadequate rest – I had created a trifecta for reduced performance.

Lesson learned: our bodies need rest. Whether it’s a rest day from exercise to heal muscles, or mental downtime from the responsibilities of life, or actual sleep, we need to recognize the impact fatigue can have on our abilities. Improper rest from working out can lead to injury, improper rest from ‘life’ can lead to mental and emotional fatigue, and lack of sleep can lead to all of these things.

Reality Check

I started out the race really strong – too fast, in fact. But I felt good. I went into the race with little expectations because of all the things I mentioned above, but began to think, ‘What were you so worried about? You got this!’

Then the wind hit, followed by hip and knee pain, then bring on the shin splints. Before long I was physically beat. I am used to ‘hitting the wall’ halfway through the race. It happens every time. But this was different. I wanted to quit.

I was disappointed in myself and my performance. But I’m not a quitter.

So I walked. Ugh, I was w.a.l.k.i.n.g. But as I looked around I saw other people walking too. Maybe they were feeling as broken as I was, or maybe they were feeling strong. Either way each of us was doing the very best we could. And one way or another the finish line was going to be in the same place whether I was running or walking.

I decided this would be the perfect time to do some interval work. If I can’t continue to run into the wind with the physical pain, it was time to set some goals. Push through a song with a steady pace. Then slow it down, catch my breath and regroup for another push. That lasted for a while until about mile 10 or so.

I knew I had a day ahead with my family at the amusement park. Was I going to risk ruining my day of fun with them just to run more of the race? I knew if I walked more than ran at this point I would be able to keep up and enjoy the day. So I walked.

Lesson learned: Don’t quit. A setback is just that. It’s not the end. Find a way to push yourself, and do the best you can. Don’t ruin an experience just because you are meeting the expectations you had set. Evaluate those expectations and adjust them if necessary. Keep moving towards the finish and know that this experience is going to make you stronger for the next time.


I continued to walk. Pushing myself into the wind, knowing every step was closer to the finish, closer to my family fun day at the amusement park.

My family has played such a major role in my races. They get up early to watch me start, then they bounce around the course to meet me and cheer me on at various checkpoints, always making it back to the finish to congratulate me.

This course was different. I saw them at the start, I saw them about mile 4 and I wasn’t supposed to see them until the end.

About mile 7 or so I called Don. I told him I was struggling. We talked he encouraged me, then put me on speakerphone and the Schindlings cheered me on. That’s about the time I put on my ‘girls’ playlist and started running intervals.

Just after mile 10 I stopped running. My head was hanging. I knew I was doing my best but I was still disappointed. Just after mile 11 I looked up and saw Don and Ella just ahead of me.

They carried me to the end.

They carried me to the end.

Maybe I’m getting sappy as I age, because again I cried. They knew I was having a tough day and even though they weren’t dressed to run, they were going to get me through my last mile and half to the finish. We ran some, we walked some, we did it together.

At the finish line we met up with the other two Schindlings – in a big group hug they all told me how proud they were of me and what a great job I did.

Lesson learned: even though this is a personal goal, I need the support of others. Achieving a goal means absolutely nothing if you don’t have people to share it with. Never underestimate the strength that comes from loving and being loved.

So while you may not be a runner, I hope the lessons I learned while running will help enrich your life.

I know that going into race #9 I will have a much better perspective on what it means to successfully reach the finish line.

Things I Learned From My Children

It’s the end of the school year and I’m feeling a little sentimental. If you know me, you know I’m not a touchy-feely person. I HATE crying. In fact, I pretty much refuse to watch any movie if I think it might make me cry. Sidenote: this is my new rule in life after my husband bought me the movie The Notebook.

I think it’s partly because I see how quickly my Schindlings are growing. Later this year my oldest will be able to learn to drive. My middle daughter is starting to make social plans on her own and my son is leaving elementary school. I see the years flashing before my eyes and I understand my parents better now than ever.

And while I wish a little bit I could just stop time, I think I’m more emotionally charged by what the future holds for the Schindlings. They are examples of what it means to really live life.

My Bubba, Miss Mae and Little Miss Sunshine

My Bubba, Miss Mae and Little Miss Sunshine

My sweet Miss Mae auditions for every play that her high school has. More often than not she doesn’t get ‘the part.’ My heart breaks for her. But her spirit is never broken. She just looks forward to the next opportunity. I admire her courage. I admire her drive. I admire her talent.

My Elle the Belle was nicknamed Sunshine as a baby. She had a smile for everyone. And despite some mean girl middle school stuff she’s had to deal with she still sees the best in people. I admire her kind heart. I admire her grace. I admire her faith that people are good.

And my dear sweet boy Isaiah. This kid doesn’t just only walk to the beat of his own drum, he creates a new drum with a different sound. He’s wicked creative and I admire that. He’s self-motivated and I admire that. He’s comfortable in his own skin and I admire that.

So I’m emotional, I’m teary eyed, I’m excited about the future but I wish I didn’t feel like we were heading into it in fast-forward mode. But if I’m along for this ride then I’m going to take note and learn from the Schindlings…

It’s time for me to be MORE:

  • Courageous
  • Driven
  • True to my talents
  • Kind
  • Graceful
  • Faithful
  • Creative
  • Self-motivated
  • Comfortable in my skin

What life lessons are your ‘Schindlings’ teaching you?

My whole world.

My whole world.

50 Workout Videos for FREE – my free gift to you was a priceless one to me

Over the past three months I have recorded a number of exercise videos. It was a step my husband had been encouraging for a while and I fought him on it.

I couldn’t see the value in giving away my workouts. The only way I can make a living doing what I love is to get people into my classes or work with them one-on-one in personal training sessions.

FREE workouts don’t pay the bills.

Not to mention how self-conscious I felt about being on camera. It’s one thing to teach a class and see yourself do something awkward in a mirror, it’s a blip in time. But on video…it’s for everyone to see.

FREE workouts open me up to criticism from people everywhere, people who don’t even know me.

But in the end, I trust him and his knowledge about business. And really what did I have to lose? If it didn’t work I could just say, ‘I told you so!’

Have the videos brought me some new business? A little. But that’s not what’s important.


From studios to hotel rooms to parks, you can exercise anywhere!

You see as I started the process the only thing I was worried about was the conversion to clients. I didn’t see the true value in reaching those ‘out of my network.’

But as the days and weeks passed I realized that even though some the people watching and liking my videos may not ever hire me as a trainer or come to one of my classes they were benefiting from my efforts. So why did I care so much about the return on investment in monetary terms?

I got involved in fitness because I wanted to inspire others. I had gone on a journey myself to a healthier lifestyle and felt like I could have a true connection with they everyday woman. Recording and posting videos allows me to do just that.

Maybe you don’t live close enough to attend my classes. Maybe you simply don’t have the money or maybe the time you have available is during the hours that classes aren’t offered.

Whatever keeps you from my classes or from hiring me as a trainer is no longer an excuse to not exercise.

I recognize that not everyone has a BOSU or a barbell with adjustable weights so I generally use minimal to no equipment in my videos. I’ve filmed workouts in parks and indoors as proof you can exercise anywhere.

I vary the moves in the workouts. Some are more complicated, some are easier. I recognize fitness isn’t a one-size-fits-all. With over 50 workouts now available you are sure to find one that meets your needs – one that is easy enough for you to complete but also challenging enough to push you to the next level.

So in the coming weeks, I’ll continue to post videos Monday – Thursday. On Fridays I’ll be posting a blog about something that has inspired me during the week. It’s my hope that the videos, combined with the blog will encourage you to either start or continue on your journey to a healthier you.

If proximity and time aren’t preventing you from taking a class, then I encourage you to join me for one…the first one is always FREE so you don’t have anything to lose…other than some sweat, of course. Contact me at personaltrainingbyjenn at gmail.com for more details.


How To Deal with Rejection

A few months ago I was teaching and training at 3 different gyms. I was constantly on the go and eager at the chance to pick up another class.

I put everything I had into each of those gyms. I connected with the members and structured each class to best meet their needs. When an opportunity to sub or pick up a new class presented itself, I responded immediately, hoping that I was first on the list.

One of those opportunities was to run a small group training class at a big box gym. I couldn’t wait to interview for the position. I felt like the job was ‘made’ for me. I had proven myself to the members at the gym. My classes were challenging, I was able to keep them motivated through the toughest part of the workouts, and I heard time and time again ‘Great class!’

I walked into that interview with great confidence. I was going to ‘own’ this interview and help them grow this new program. Everything was going great until he said, ‘I just don’t think this is going to work because you teach and train at other locations.’

“WHAT? ARE YOU SERIOUS? You are denying me because I work other places?”

I just couldn’t wrap my head around this rejection. It would be one thing if I wasn’t qualified but I was being rejected because I worked other places.

Sometimes rejection is exactly what you need.

Sometimes rejection is exactly what you need.

Side note: You might think that membership rates or personal training fees are high, but believe me, those of us in the fitness industry do what we do because we have a passion for helping people discover a healthier lifestyle – not because of the money.

I was angry, I was hurt, I was disappointed and then I was just done. I gave my notice. If they weren’t going to give me the opportunity to help more people achieve a healthier lifestyle it was time to walk away.

But I walked away bitter. I walked away angry, hurt and disappointed and sad that I wasn’t going to see my front row diva again, or my tall blond who complained but still worked her tail off, or my dear friend who scheduled her workouts just to come to my classes.

Fast forward to now. That rejection was probably the best thing for me. I now realize that I was relying too heavily on established class schedules and not doing enough to personally make connections with those who currently don’t exercise.

My passion for fitness isn’t about making a profit – it’s about being an inspiration to women just like me. I love working out, but I have days that I just want to sleep in. I love the way my body feels when I eat ‘clean’, but I have days that I want a slice of double pepperoni pizza! I have days that I look in the mirror and feel like a rock star, and other days all I see is dark circles under my eyes and a sluggish form.

So I’ve put myself out there. I started recording daily workouts that people can do from home. I don’t love every shot – at times my face looks sour, my midsection looks bloated, my triceps look a little flabby…but it’s me. It’s the real me. The rejected me.

I realize the rejected me is the one that is okay with all of that.

Yes, I have a sour face – working out is hard and I don’t have to smile all the time, I’m putting in effort!

Yes, my midsection isn’t perfect – I’ve had three children. They are far more important than having a defined ‘six pack.’

Yes, my triceps droop – I continue to work on them, but just like my abs, it’s not about perfection in looks – it’s about strength.

So the next time you feel rejected, be empowered and dig deeper into the real you.

Stop Dreading Swimsuit Shopping – Don’t Let Your Mind Bully Your Body

Headed to warmer weather tomorrow for a couple days and can’t wait to sit in the pool and relax.

So of course, I wait until the day before we leave to go shop for a swimsuit. As I tried to prep myself for shopping I was battling those awful thoughts…

‘Ugh, after a long winter, your pale skin is going to look terrible no matter what you try on. Actually, who are you kidding, it’s not the pale skin. Swimsuits reveal every flaw you see in yourself. Are you really prepared for this?’

Then, I stopped myself. I was reminded of a recent blog post I wrote about shopping. How could I offer up advice on enjoying shopping and not even follow it myself.

So I thought about why I was going shopping for a swimsuit. I’m headed to hang out with some great friends and relax poolside. There’s nothing I dislike about any of that. So why am I letting what I wear ruin my day?

With a new attitude I headed to the mall.

First stop…nothing. With spring break having passed for most schools in our area the selection was limited.

Second stop…picked up a few options and headed to the dressing room. First the top was too small, then the bottoms weren’t a flattering cut. But I didn’t get frustrated or upset. These suits weren’t right for me but I would find one.

On to the third stop. Again some options and then I saw it. Could I pull it off? It was worth a try. And I’m glad I did. Granted, it was a little more expensive than what I would normally spend, but it was definitely a YES!

I’m constantly challenging my comfort zone level to share my personal struggles with you. I share them because I want you to know that I understand the challenges of healthy living, overcoming negative self-talk, and finding the time to take care of yourself all while juggling countless other duties.

So today I’ll take it one step further out of my comfort zone and share a picture of me in my new swimsuit. Is my body perfect? No, I’m not striving for perfection. I’m a work in progress and I’m striving for progress each and every day. I work hard to be a good wife, mom and friend. I give it my everything during my own workouts and work just as hard to help my clients achieve better health.

I’m not perfect and the truth is, perfection is a figment of human imagination.

TOTALLY out of my comfort zone sharing this photo! It's about progress, because there's no such thing as perfection.

TOTALLY out of my comfort zone sharing this photo! It’s about progress, because there’s no such thing as perfection.

How to Take the First Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

Just over a week ago I wrote about stepping out of my comfort zone and filming exercise videos. I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t like seeing myself on camera and I didn’t think they would be very effective.

Heading into the end of the second week of posting videos I’m not as hesitant. I still don’t love myself on camera but at least I don’t feel like throwing up at the thought of recording them. But more importantly I’m discovering that by posting them I’m opening dialog with others about exercise.

I’ve had the chance to encourage others in trying things they didn’t think was possible. Here’s one example that just made my night…

We're all capable of surprising ourselves.

We’re all capable of surprising ourselves.

I’m a personal trainer and group fitness instructor because I want to inspire and empower others. To do that I’m going to have to step outside my comfort zone because for many people, walking into a gym or even trying an at home workout is forcing them out of their comfort zone.

I encourage you to take that first step. The next step might still be uncomfortable but it’s worth it because I’m finding with each step it’s getting easier and bringing me a step closer to becoming a better me.

How to go from a Size 8 to a Size 2 the Right Way

How many of those absurd tag lines have you heard for the fad diets out there? The master cleanse, raw diet, the five bite diet, the cabbage soup diet, the list could go on and on.

But I’m not addressing the whole diet industry today. I’ll save that for another day but before moving on I want to make it clear – weight loss and maintenance requires an eating lifestyle, not a ‘diet.’

What I want to address today is the discrepancy in sizing of clothing, especially for women.

Picture this…you enter the fitting room with clothing only to find that you can’t get the jeans over your hips or the top you chose looks like you could fit two of you in it.

You double check the sizes and everything seems like it should fit. So you ask an associate to help you adjust the sizing, but still nothing fits right.

All the while you are critically staring at yourself in the mirror and creating a list of everything that’s wrong with your body.

So rather than returning home with some fun new items, you are discouraged more than ever.

It’s happened to me countless of times. In fact, I did go from a size 8 to a size 2 in one day…but it was all by shopping in my own closet.

How can two of my favorite pair of jeans be two different sizes?

How can two of my favorite pair of jeans be two different sizes?

I could rant on about the fashion industry and what they do to us by having such inconsistent sizing but that’s not going to do anyone any good.

With the season change upon us, many will be going shopping for some new things. So here are my tips for the next time you go shopping:

Recognize that size isn’t what matters, rather how it makes you feel.

I’ve talked about getting rid of my scale because I became entirely too attached to the number instead of how I felt about myself. The number went up and I beat myself up, the number went down and I was on top of the world. But the problem was prior to stepping on the scale I felt confident and happy with what I had done that week. So why did the number matter?

The same thing applies to clothes. Who cares what the size is? Does it look good on you? Does it make you feel confident? Does it make you want to make plans with friends so you can show it off? Those are the things that matter, not the size.

Accept that some styles will better suit your body than others.

The fact is we are all of different shapes and sizes and not every style will look good on you. It’s okay to take a risk and try it, but if it doesn’t compliment your figure you shouldn’t criticize yourself. Acknowledge that the style isn’t right for you because the same styles that ARE good for you, aren’t for others.

Shop with a friend.

We are always more critical of ourselves than we should be. Take a good friend shopping with you. First, it’s a lot more fun to shop with a friend than alone. But more importantly, your friend can offer you the honestly you need about what you are trying on. If you’re being too critical, they will be able to point that out, and conversely, if you need a reality check for what you’ve selected they will tell you that too!

Shop for the ‘YES’!

How many times have you walked in a store and just went straight for the clearance rack? I do it ALL the time. Over time what I’ve found is I have things in my closet that are ‘okay,’ but I don’t necessarily love them. So I’ve changed the way that I shop. Yes, I spend a little more, but now my closet isn’t cluttered with a bunch of so-so things.

So next time you go shopping, have fun with it. And if you need a shopping pal, let me know!