Mental Health Run Streak Challenge

I’ve been inspired by the Runner’s World Summer 2019 Run Streak challenge (#RWRunStreak). Starting on Memorial Day (tomorrow) until July 4th I’ll be running at least 1-mile per day. I invite you to join me! I’m adding my own twist to the streak: tracking how the daily runs impact mental health.

Goal: Run at least one mile every day for 39 consecutive days and track the mental health impact.

Why: Daily runs promote sustained mood balance and is an active coping strategy for dealing with life’s ebbs and flows. Daily runs leave a person feeling accomplished, and will really solidify or kickstart a healthy wellness-based habit.

How: You can still follow any training plan you have going on (although the mileage might need to be adjusted a bit), however, on your rest days keep that daily run to a mile and really go slow. If you are just starting out, just do 1 mile every day, and use a walk/run combo.

Don’t do this if you are injured, are prone to running hard every run and don’t think you’ll treat some runs as easy-recovery-runs, OR for health reasons you are not recommended to do this sort of exercise by your doctor. *Before starting any exercise program you should always consult your doctor.

To track your runs and the emotional/mood impact, please use my free printable. If you are on social media you can also use the following tags: #RWRunStreak #RunStreakForMentalHealth and tag me! @kjersti_running_therapy on instagram.

I'm Featured by NAASFP as a Certified Marathon Coach

I was recently contacted by the program I received my Run Coach certification through (NAASFP, North American Academy for Sport Fitness Professionals) to be featured on their website. I’m honored to have been chosen and am so excited that my story is being shared with so many people.

Check out my feature!

Here’s a snapshot of what you’ll find:

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Run Talk Run California is in the news!

I’m very excited to say that the local newspaper, the Mountain View Voice, picked up a story about the peer-support run club I’ve been leading. Give it a read, and if you feel so inclined, come join us! Wednesdays 5pm at Cooper Park in Mountain View! Everyone welcome. Cheers!

New Moms Run Club Groups, Open Registration

I’m super excited to announce Registration is open for Moms Run Club. I’m aiming for 4-8 members per group. Tell your friends!

One group is specifically for Moms with babies or young children (under 3 years). If you have postpartum clearance to exercise from your OB, and you are learning or RElearning to run, this group is for you!

We’ll be working our way up from walking 2 miles to jogging 2 miles over a 6 week period. This group is non competitive, and meant to be an open non judgmental space to connect with other moms.

You are encouraged to bring your baby in a stroller. I’ll have my baby in mine too.

We’ll run, we’ll laugh, we’ll cry. This group aims to enhance your total well-being——mental, emotional, social, and physical health!

The group meets every Wednesday from 9:30am - 10:30am starting January 9th and ending February 13th (Make this group your New Year Resolution!) We’ll meet each week at Rancho San Antonio in the furthest down lot by the trail entrance.

Members will receive:

  • a welcome packet

  • a training schedule

  • weekly guided runs

  • weekly guided discussions with relevant group topics

  • coaching on relevant running topics

  • a training log

  • emotional & social support

The cost per individual is $60.


The classic Moms Run Club welcomes all sorts of moms! This group is best for women that can currently run up to 1 mile continuously. We’ll jog and chat together over a gentle 3 miles each meet up. I’ll provide weekly topics to discuss, but the group is also a place to talk about whatever is on your mind.

The group meets every Saturday from 8am - 9am at Lake Lagunita, Stanford, Ca. Starting on January 5th - February 9th.

Like in the New Moms group, this group will benefit your total well-being——your mental, emotional, social, and physical health.

Members will receive:

  • a welcome packet

  • a training schedule

  • weekly guided runs

  • weekly guided discussions with relevant group topics

  • coaching on relevant running topics

  • a training log

  • emotional & social support

The cost per individual is $60.

So what are you waiting for? Make this group your New Year Resolution! Register!

Avoid Burnout with Meditative running

One way to avoid burnout with running and to enjoy it overall is to treat running as meditation time.  I don't do this on every run, but often when I'm running solo or trying to get into a groove and find my flow, I do.  I've highlighted two methods for tuning inward, mindfully and meditatively.

1.The breathing practice: rhythmic breathing is essential to fluid running experiences.  Rhythmic breathing tells your brain and heart that everything is under control.  Imagine, if you were sitting and your heart were beating as fast as it does when you run.  Or imagine how it would feel if you were being chased.  Your brain would interpret that fast heart beat as a moment for fight or flight.  However, when the breath is controlled, despite the fast beat, your brain interprets your experience as relaxed awareness.  *It is one way to train your brain to relax if you suffer from anxiety.  I like to breathe in for one short count, and breathe out for 2-3 long counts.  Find a rhythm that works for you, and at any point during your run return your focus to your breath, similar to how you might with a sitting meditation.

2. The second practice is about tuning into your "felt experience".  I keep hearing the term "sensory running" these days.  Felt experience and sensory running is essentially what this practice is.  While you are running you notice how each aspect of your experience is.  No judgement attached.  You feel each foot fall and connect to the ground; you notice that as you leap off the sidewalk you get a little thrill; you notice that sweat is dripping into your eyes; you smell fresh cut grass... you get the idea.  You just take it all in.  Running is the medium for the experience of your "felt sense".  To really tune in try running without music or apps blasting in your ears, maybe don't even pay attention to your watch.  

Hope this is helpful to you, or maybe a little interesting.  :D   

Happy running!

Up Hill Training

Running up hill is hard work. It is hard work that pays off quickly.  Up hill running is one of the quickest ways to improve cardio stamina and build strength.  Need a little know-how or tips?  Keep on reading... 

Why run UPHILL?!?

  • Running up hill gets your heart and muscles in shape FAST!  
  • Hill work is like doing a strength/resistance training workout, the potential muscles that will become more defined: calves, quads, butt, and arms!
  • It makes you faster on all types of surfaces.
  • Up hill running is a good way to avoid typical injuries like shin splints and tendonitis (just don't be speedy going back down the hill).
  • The potential for finding beautiful views is highly likely!
  • It's a good reason to do a short run.

So what would a hill workout look like?

Hill Sprints: Find a hill that you can run up at a consistent pace for approximately 60-90 seconds. Run to the location, if its an option, for a warm-up.    Run up hill at your 5k race pace (so pretty fast, but not an all-out sprint).  After 60-90 seconds walk or lightly jog back down to your starting point.  Repeat 3-4 times the first workout.  Do this workout once a week.  Increase your repeats each week (by one or two hills) until you can do 8-10 repeats.  

Consistent-Pace Hills:  Hopefully you encounter hills on some of your daily runs or long runs. Most people slow down when running up hill on a regular, everyday kind of run.  However, these can be a good opportunity to do an impromptu hill workout.  Here's what you do:  when approaching a hill maintain your "flat-surface" speed all the way to the top.  That's it!  It will feel like you are speeding up, but that's just gravity trying to pull you down :D

Long Hills:  Instead of focusing on how fast you are going up a hill, just run up (steady, slow pace) without stopping for as long as you can.  Running on trails and in mountainous areas can be a good place for this type of hill training.

***Any of these hill workouts can be simulated on a treadmill.


Biomechanics: When running up shorten your stride and keep your head erect, don't look down...your head is heavy and will slow you down if it is hovering out in front of you.  Lift your knees high, and push off on your toes.  


Pro Tip: I wouldn't recommend doing a hill workout the day before or after a long run, race, or speed workout.  If you did light runs on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with a long run on Saturday or Sunday, I would recommend you do a hill workout on Tuesday or Thursday (in-between regular days), or replace one of the regular days with the hill workout. 


Regulating mood disorders with running

A common assessment strategy therapists use when a client is reporting depressive symptoms is a simple tracking calendar.  For a week a person will be asked to record hour-by-hour activities.  As the therapist I'm looking for patterns in the person's routine that may indicate emotional dysregulation. 

Emotional dysregulation---the cause of the depressive symptoms--- is often a result of an imbalance in the brain chemistry or hormonal makeup of a person.  The factors that contribute most to a person's sense of emotional regulation, sometimes referred to as a sense of well being, are things like sleep, diet, and exercise.  

It should be noted that some people require medication to improve any imbalance in this chemistry/hormonal makeup.  This will be true for chronic mood disorders like bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder.  However, all mood imbalances can be improved by treating any of those regulatory factors: sleep, diet, and exercise.  Some mood symptoms are entirely eradicated by making lifestyle adjustment that improve sleep, diet, and/or exercise.  Some symptoms only improve with a combination treatment.  

If a person is sleeping poorly and mostly sedentary it would not be uncommon to see that person suffering from lack of motivation, feelings of low satisfaction, self worth, and well being.  They would seem depressed.  That is because the sleep and sedentary behavior lowers dopamine levels in the brain responsible for motivation, it lowers norepinephrine which softens the ability to focus, and the combination reduces serotonin responsible for feelings of satisfaction and happiness.  And voila, the recipe for a depressed mood.  This article won't get into it, but these things are also impacted by negative self-talk, past trauma's, and stress/anxiety.  

Running, and other forms of cardio exercise are a wonderful treatment option for a person that falls into these sorts of depressive patterns because running increases dopamine, increases norepinephrine, and serotonin.  It is these brain chemicals that contribute to the "runner's high" that is commonly experienced by routine runners.  In addition, people who run consistently report sleeping better, and tend to be conscientious about what they are putting into their bodies.  In short, running helps to regulate a person's neurological chemistry and directly impacts depressive mood symptoms.  

Some runners report that when they run they get into a state of "flow".  Flow is defined by the brain associating hard word with motivation and focus leading to feelings of fulfillment and enjoyment.  What neuroscience tells us is that flow is caused by an increase in dopamine and norepinephrine which is the byproduct of the physical effort behind running.  

I hope this is helpful information for anyone seeking to improve their life through lifestyle changes like regular running.    

14 Day Anxiety Challenge for Runners

Anxiety is when a person worries excessively, feels apprehensive, is restless, irritable, tense, stressed, or easily fatigued.  Everyone experiences anxiety.  However, if it starts to interfere with your daily life making some lifestyle changes and/or seeking therapy may be something to consider.  

In the spirit of self-care I've created the first of many "challenges".  You've maybe seen similar challenges floating around on pinterest, instagram, and the like.  I thought I'd try my hand at it and create a challenge for people interested in reducing/managing their anxiety that already have an established running routine.  Exercise has been shown to be an effective tool for managing stress and anxiety.  Other effective tools are meditation, deep breathing, and relaxation trainings.     

If you don't run this can easily be adjusted for walkers.  Walking produces many of the same stress relieving effects as running.  

I'd recommend runs/walks reflect your current practices, or build your endurance gradually.  


Homage to Coach and Adding to My Professional Credentials

Last December I was giving out some unsolicited running advice to a friend.  He said, "how do you know so much about running?"  I responded quickly, "I had a really great coach."  Then a couple months ago I was invited to a Facebook group to honor my long distance running coach from high school.  He is retiring.  I have very fond memories of him, my team, and our adventures.  

Both moments really got me reflecting on the importance of a good coach.  I've had a few coaches, and they were all good, but the first one, Coach Young, was by far the best and most influential.  He didn't just design workouts and hold us accountable.  He fostered a sense of community, he taught us the fundamentals of running technique, performance, and injury prevention/care.  He took us to beautiful places, even took us camping once a year; he made running a lifestyle.  He pushed us further than we thought we could go, and was supportive through all the ups and downs.  I came away from it all not just knowing how to run, but how to live well.      

For years I've been contemplating getting the credentials to be a running coach.  Now I'm actually doing it!  I have some lofty ideas and goals, but my number one hope is to be just a smidgen as good of a coach as Coach Young.  If I can do that, then I'll call it success.

I hope you can join me on this journey. 

The Yin and Yang of Parenting

Sorry I've been MIA for a while.  As my clients know, I went off and had a baby!  I'm starting to get back into the swing of things, literally!  Today my husband and I went to the park with our two kiddos.  I was side lined with the new baby which allowed me the perfect opportunity to go into observation and reflection mode.  

I'll start with this: my husband and I are aligned parenting wise on the important stuff, but we still are quite different in our parenting styles.  Our differences really show while at the playground.  

Just yesterday I took my 3 year old daughter to the local playground, without my husband.  The local playground is designed for children 5-12 years old.  There are lots of big tall things to climb, fast slides, "big-kid" swings, balance beams, and the works.  It is important to me that my daughter learn caution and safety (while still having fun).  So when I'm with her I'm physically right there helping her find her footing, reminding her to be careful as she climbs outside of my comfort zone.  I tell her she'll be able to climb higher, jump further, and slide faster as she gets bigger and stronger.  She behaves accordingly.  She's reserved.  She wants my help doing everything.  She'll refuse to try things I know she's capable of, but you know what... she's careful!  

Back to today, while I was in observation mode, I see my husband and daughter playing, and I am amazed.  I see my daughter moving BY HERSELF from one wiggly, dangling pod to another and another and another.  This is a play structure that just yesterday I had lifted her onto one by one.  My husband is right there, always one step ahead, providing enough presence to communicate safety, but enough distance to push my daughter to try new, harder things.  When she's made it across all the pods I hear her say big and loud "I DID IT!"  Then she moves on to the next big thing.  A windy, tall ladder.  She declares "I can do it by my own!" and then she does.  "Come on daddy, " she says, "be careful!" and he is and she is, and they did it over and over again.  

This is one of those times that my parenting yin and his parenting yang worked out well.  Our daughter has developed a sense of caution but also a sense of confidence and true strength.  

I have met many parents seeking help to become more aligned with their child's other parent (or the other way around), and in some circumstances it does matter that parents be aligned.  However, often times our parenting differences provide a sense of balance in how our kids approach and conquer the big wide world around them.      

Class Review

I've been reflecting on the material I presented in the Toddler (Preschooler) Parenting Class I offered in the month of August.  The class was arranged so that I would present on a topic relevant to parenting a 3-4 year old child, and then provide some fun play/art activities to demonstrate how, as a parent, we can help our children hone important developmental and social skills.  One week we (me and the parents) discussed delayed gratification, learning to wait,  and related skills while the children got to frost cookies (and had to wait to eat them!), make cheerio bracelets (concentration skills), and played a matching game (taking turns/waiting).    

The last week I presented on Positive Discipline.  The play/art activities were not quite as clear as to how they matched the topic of discipline.  We colored "feeling faces" and talked about providing a rich vocabulary and acceptance of feelings of all kinds.  We also made pictures of our hands and talked about the good things we can use our hands for vs. what they aren't used for ("hands are not for hitting").  We didn't get around to it, but we could have played more games like Simon Says, Red Light Greg Light which teach skills like listening and concentration, and group skills.  Free play would have been great too, as children tend to practice social skills, negotiate, and overcome conflict the most in this type of context.  

After the class on discipline I found myself reflecting quite a bit as to how these play and art (and reading... we read lots of relevant preschool age books) activities really are so great for parents who want to practice positive discipline.  Here is why: when children have a rich vocabulary and acceptance for their feelings they are more prone to cope than to act out.  Especially if they have been taught that "negative" emotions are healthy to have.  Everyone gets angry, for example, our anger is informative to us.  It tells us that we have been wronged, or that we are disappointed.  It can tell us that we need a break from a certain situation or person(s).  These are just a couple of examples.  A child that has been taught that they shouldn't express anger tends to either act in (self harm) or act out (hurt others), but a child that knows anger is ok, as long as it is expressed in a healthy way gets through it.  That child will be able to verbalize "when _____ happened, it hurt my feelings" and resolve the problem with the other person.  That child will know that it's ok to step back, take a break, and seek support rather than hit, bite, yell, or do damage.  And that's just the example of anger.  

This all matters in the context of free play as well.  The child with a rich understanding and acceptance of emotions will have an easier time negotiating, sharing, and overcoming conflict.  Of course, this type of coping comes with practice, time, and maturity, but it also happens on a spectrum, and the child who has good understanding of their own emotions is just better at regulating them.  And that matters when it comes to discipline.  Generally speaking, positive discipline is about helping a child learn to regulate themselves emotionally, physically, and socially.  Before I ran the class I was a very firm believer that teaching emotional vocabulary and emotional acceptance from an early age is one of the best things a parent can do to prepare a child to be a social being.  After teaching the class I came away with an even firmer conviction that this is the case.    

New Class: Understanding Your Toddler's Social and Emotional World

Just a quick update to let you know I have a class starting up through the San Bruno Parks and Rec Department.  For anyone interested in signing up go HERE, or you can sign up in person at the Veteran's Memorial Recreation Center at 251 City Park Way, San Bruno, CA 94066, or call 650-616-7180.

This class is for children age 3-4 and their parents.  This class covers 4 parenting topics important to your child's development paired with fun play and/or art activities for your kiddo. It should be an all around good time, and a good way to connect with other parents in the Bay Area.  

The class meets 4 times on Saturdays, August 8th - 29th from 10am-11am at the Veteran's Memorial Recreation Center in San Bruno, in the "Tiny Tots Room".

The topics covered are: brain development, delayed gratification, the importance of imagination and play, and positive discipline strategies.

Trying To Get It Right

Over the weekend I had some friends from out of town visit.  We got together for lunch one day with many of our mutual friends that live in the area.  My two and half year old, who is usually a charmer in small groups, was very nervous with so many adults around with whom she isn't familiar.  She whined, and cried a little.  She was clingy, and didn't want to leave my side.  She didn't want to play with the toys we had brought to distract her, and the only thing that seemed to help was watching her favorite show on the iPhone.  

I was thinking about her behavior later.  I was at first frustrated, but as I followed my thoughts I came away with more respect and empathy for my daughter, and some thoughts about maintaining a little grace with her when situations like this arise.  

I realized that in that moment she was feeling shy, nervous, embarrassed, and unsure of herself.  Being so young she didn't have the skills to maneuver this complex social situation without my help and understanding.  Clinging to me was really her best coping skill and defense.  Of course, over time I'd like for her to be better at self soothing and distraction, but that isn't going to happen over night.  

I was surprised (in the moment) that her toys (a doll and book) weren't more comforting and distracting to her.  However, in hindsight, I see that children only play when they are free of distress.  Play is the luxury of a relaxed mind.  

Watching her favorite show on the iPhone, although not something I want her to rely on always, was one of the few things at my disposal that carried a strong enough motivation to allow her mind to be distracted.

So with these new epiphanies in mind and empathy for my daughters experience here is what I wish I had done:

--I wish I had not been blinded by my wish for her to be on her best behavior for my sake (my reputation).

--I wish I had allowed her a few minutes of comfort from me where I validated her fears in the situation and offered her assurance that everything was going to be ok.

--I wish I'd have been more patient.

--I wish that I had been able to help her soothe in a way that allowed her mind to relax.  

--I wish that I had come into the situation with more age appropriate (and individualized) expectations. 

Being a parent is hard.  I think  reflection may be my very best "tool" if I am to get it right next time.  

New Office

Over the weekend my office-mates and I moved our office to a new location!  Now I'm located on 327 N. San Mateo Dr. #9, San Mateo Ca 94401.  It's a bigger office space and has on-site parking!  The actual office, at the moment, is still a bit of a work-in-progress, but as it starts to come together I'll post some pictures!  After a week out, I am back in business as of today!