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How This Winner of Wings for Life Balances Being a Mom

Jeannie Rutherford never expected to win Red Bull's Wings for Life--but she credits her success with these stay-fit tricks for moms.

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When Jeannie Rutherford first learned of the Red Bull Wings for Life World Run in 2014, she thought it was a mistake. The race displayed a start time in the middle of the night near her home. Rutherford explains, “I was like—what the heck happens at 3 a.m. in Santa Clarita?” Still she was intrigued.

After going home and reading up on the race, she discovered that the “3” was no typo. The Wings for Life World Run, which raises money and awareness for spinal chord injuries, starts at the same moment: 11 a.m. UTC in 34 locations around the world. The other twist? There is no finish line. Runners continue to pound out the miles for as long as they can until a pace car catches them.

Rutherford woke up in the middle of the night, expecting to go out for a training run of maybe 10 to 13 miles. But when she found herself in the lead, she knew she had to keep going until the car caught her. That morning, Rutherford surprised herself, running a whopping 24 miles on a whim and coming in first in California for women. As a reward, she was able to run any of the locations in 2015. She and her family chose Belgium. Aside from running historic districts and meeting long lost relatives, Rutherford says her favorite part was having her daughter, 12, participate in the kids race. “It was pouring rain and I was running through cobbled streets, but part of what inspired me was knowing that she was running too.”

As a mom of two with a full-time job in experimental marketing, training is a challenge for Rutherford as she goes into this year’s event next Saturday. She shared her tips for balancing it all while setting big race goals.

1. Get your workout in early. Whenever possible, Rutherford likes to run when her children are still asleep. “You never know what the day will bring,” she says.

2. Have a plan B. Even if you plan your day to the letter, something is bound to come up. Rutherford says it can be as simple as, “Someone wants to make a left turn, and then you’re at the stoplight for 5 minutes!” Figure out what you’re going to do if the day doesn’t go your way. If you have to skip your workout, know you’ll get back at it tomorrow.

3. Try not to feel guilty. Rutherford says this is one area she has difficultly with personally. “I really struggle as a working mom with fitting it all in.” However, by remembering that if she finds the time for herself and her fitness, she will be a role model for her kids. “Okay, I didn’t sit on the couch watching ‘Sponge Bob’ that time, but I’m going to be a better mom if I do this.”

4. Start small. If training for a race like Wings for Life feels overwhelming, pick off little pieces one by one. “Concentrate on the time not the distance,” she recommends. “If you have only 20 minutes, go for it.”

5. Incorporate the kids. Rutherford describes her family as “active,” which makes working out a group activity. When her kids are at soccer practice, Rutherford will run around the field. Instead of watching a movie, they’ll go to the park. By encouraging her kids to play, Rutherford gets a workout in too—everybody wins!

Read More:
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