Jill Conyers, today’s Fit Mama Friday, is amazing. She’s a full-time psychologist, an ultra-runner mama (literally) and on top of all that, writes the insightful and popular blog, Jill Conyers | Fitness, Health and Happiness. Jill and her husband Chad have two children, Alec, 17, and Alyssa, 15. Jill is relatively new to running – she ran her first race seven years ago – but now she tackles ultras, all while balancing life as a wife, mama, psychologist and blogger.
Jill, can you give me a little back story on your running? What made you start racing?
My only regret with running is that I didn’t start sooner. My very first race was a half marathon in 2007. My husband ran his first race the year before. Then, I read Ultramarathon Man by Dean Karnazes and had the opportunity to meet the author at an expo for a race my husband was running. It was those two men who inspired me to run my first race. I had no plans or expectations beyond that one half marathon. Little did I know, seven years later I’ve run more races than I can count, including ultras distances.
Were you always fit and active though, prior to starting to run?
Throughout college I worked out, but not consistently and I didn’t put any emphasis on nutrition. Sadly, it never occurred to me that one had anything to do with the other. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my first child that I started working out consistently.
What did you do to workout during pregnancy?
I wasn’t a runner (yet) but I walked. Rarely did I miss getting up in the morning and walking during both pregnancies. I remember distinctly when I was pregnant with my daughter I woke up, packed a baggie with triangle toast for my son and he happily rode along in the jogging stroller. We lived on a military air station at the time so there was plenty to chat about and keep him entertained for our hour walk.
And is running your main form of working out now? Obviously as an ultra runner there’s a lot of training involved, but what other exercise do you incorporate?
Running is always my preference and if given the choice (and time) I prefer to run on trails. Several years ago I started doing yoga and strength training as a benefit to running, but they have both since become favorites that I incorporate into training several times a week because I love it.
I remember reading about you accomplishing the Crow pose! So what’s the biggest motivation behind you running and working out? Health? Aesthetics? How it makes you feel? Achieving goals?
All of the above! I mean who doesn’t want to be healthy, look good and feel great? Working out does all that and more, but if I had to pick one reason it would be how it makes me feel. There is just something about pushing your pace or running long that feels amazing! An awesome yoga session feels just as amazing but in a different way. Fitness and feeling strong make me feel empowered and like there isn’t anything I can’t do.
I workout 6 days a week with one glorious rest day. A combination of running, strength training and/or yoga with DVDs in my home gym. Some weeks, depending on my training goal, there are days when I workout twice in one day – being very careful not to overtrain.
Do you feel like the hours necessary for runners to train are particularly difficult for an ultra- runner-mama? Have there ever been times you considered skipping a race, or dialing back your training because of the time issue?
Training is time consuming and I think time is an issue in one way or another for all runners. Being a mama-runner is no exception only different. My kids are my priority and always will be. That’s not to say I don’t realize the benefit of making time for myself but their needs come first. I go to great lengths to be both a runner and a mom and, honestly, I couldn’t do it without the support of my husband. I’ve never had to skip a race or dial back training, but I have had to learn how to be flexible with my plan. Get it done when I can is better than not getting it done at all. The majority of my training happens before 5:00 a.m. so there is very little chance that something will come up that will interfere.
What challenges do you face to keep up with your fitness routine?
Most often the challenge is time. We’re a very busy family of four and it can be a juggling act (or a tag team) to get everything done and everyone where they need to be (we just bought my son a car so that should change!). Another challenge is finding that elusive balance and just when you think you’ve found it something changes. The balance tilts and one of those balls we’re juggling drops.
You’re primarily a plant-based eater – what made you switch to a plant-based diet? How has it affected your fitness and health?
After watching Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead several years ago I challenged myself to juice for one week. In just one week I noticed such a difference in how I felt that I decided to challenge myself with 30 days of clean eating. I eliminated processed foods from my diet 100%. The benefit? I have not had a migraine since! Keep in mind that I had a history of migraines that were so painful I ended up in the emergency room. Fast forward to a vegetarian challenge.
Long story short, I have since moved away from labeling my diet. Instead I have learned to listen to my body and make nutritional decisions based on what my body tells me I need instead of a label. I primarily eat a plant based gluten free diet now and that is what makes me feel and perform my best. Depending on what my body needs that may change and if it does my diet will change too.
Has your healthy lifestyle rubbed off on your family?
My ultra-running husband? Yes. The biggest difference with him is his diet, by default. I plan and cook a plant-based menu so that is what he eats and he’s fine with that. I think part of that is because most of his ultrarunning idols are vegans so I have a little credibility behind my menus. My kids? Yes, a little. Right now health and fitness are in the back of their minds and it’s my hope that one day it will become a priority. I will give them credit, they’re the most avid label reading children that I know. Usually they’re reading the labels for my benefit but at least they’re reading them, right?
Doing it for your benefit definitely counts! 🙂 How does being fit benefit you most as a mama?
Living a healthy and active lifestyle is the best way I can teach my kids how important health and fitness are. I can talk about it until I’m blue in the face and hope they actually hear maybe 20% of what I said or I can show them by making it a priority in my life. Which do you think will get more of their attention?
I love it! Being a fit mama is such an important example. Thank you so much for being on Fit Mama Friday today, Jill – your running career inspires me!
Connect with Jill:
Facebook: Fitness, Health and Happiness
Pinterest: Jill Conyers
Fit Mama Friday – Fit Dad FridayEvery Friday on Fine Fit Day I feature a Fit Mama or a Fit Dad story of how and why a fit and healthy mama or dad ensures fitness is a priority in her or his life. You’ll read about all kinds of parents and their fitness stories. Some are stay-at-home parents, some are single parents, some juggle more than one job on top of parenthood, but they are all committed to a fit and healthy lifestyle. As you’re getting ready for your weekend, I hope you’re inspired to be active after reading about these kick-ass mamas and dads on Fit Mama Friday – Fit Dad Friday! Do you want to be featured on Fit Mama Friday? Or do you know someone you’d like to see featured? Please contact me for details!