Lisa Applebaum is more than just a mom who runs. She is a woman who has a passion, a woman who has overcome many obstacles in her life, and a woman with enough drive to motivate so many other women. I was honored to ask Lisa a few questions about her running career and being a mom. Read and be inspired:
When and how did you first get into running?
Just following college is when I first started running; mainly because my body started to change and running seemed the best way to burn calories. I was always very lean and prior to my senior year in college, I could consume anything; my weight always remained the same. Though I felt differently at the time, that “body change” was the best thing to ever happen to me. It is that which drove me to run.
I can’t say I enjoyed running then as I do now, but something kept it as a mainstay in my workout endeavors for the 10 years that followed. Those 10 years also included bouts of what was then known as “power yoga”; a series of personal trainers which focused on Pilates, weight training & plyometrics; and dreaded cardio machines. It wasn’t until I had my daughter in 2003 (at age 31) that my 1st true passion for running came about. Her birth brought about a series of life changes & challenges for me. Not only did I make the decision to give up my career and become a “stay at home mom”, but I was coming off a pregnancy that I had spent 6 of the 9 months on “bed rest”. While I didn’t gain much weight during the pregnancy (I came home from the hospital weighing 15lbs over my ideal weight), I was overwhelmingly out of shape.
At the time, my husband was commuting to work (he now works from home, which just means he is now always working), so he would leave at 6am and rarely come home before 7pm. So there I found myself, a successful, ambitious, competitive person, at home & mostly alone, with this baby. Lets just say, by the time my daughter was 3-months, I became an amazing cook (I never cooked prior), and was running a minimum of 6 miles/day, with a lot of hills and pushing my daughter in the jog stroller. I certainly became a bit OCD — it was a bad day if I didn’t run and an amazing day when I did.
Running and cooking were the 2 things that helped me regain the lost feeling of self worth. I continued this run routine (with longer solo runs on the weekend) for 2 years, until the repetitive steep inclines finally got the better of me. I suffered for months with plantar fasciitis. Throughout the day it was so painful, especially by night, but once I was running I had no pain. So I kept on running (knowing that it wasn’t going to heal on its own and at some point I’d have to do something about it). It wasn’t until one morning when I was running up the hill to my house and I nearly collapsed with unbearable pain in right Achilles’ tendon. I somehow made it home and was having X-rays in the orthopedic that afternoon. Thankfully there was no tear, but I found myself in physical therapy 3x/week for 6-weeks. During that time I started spinning and once I healed I swore I’d never run again (at least not to the same extent). I would still do one or two 6-8 mile runs/week.
Then I got pregnant with my son. Everyone wanted to get me a new jog stroller, but I held my ground “no way am I ever running with a jog stroller again!” Well I guess everyone else knows me better than I do. I think I made it 6-weeks before I was out running again. I did however make changes. First I found a new, safer area to run. Still challenging inclines, but nowhere near the steepness of what I had run with my daughter.
The greatest change was that I found a group of other moms with babies the same age that were also interested in running. For the next 2 years we met fairly consistently 3-4x/week. I was running 5-6 times per week. One of the moms was an amazing athlete – much stronger and faster than me, but it wasn’t until I started running with her that I realized how much I was capable of. Not only did my running jump to the next level, but that realization was life changing.
Everyone has these “epiphanies”, mine just happened to be linked to running, which help make running that much more important to me (I have since had several more epiphanies). It was also during this time that I started getting more competitive and began running 10ks & half marathons, but continued to hold my ground that I would “never” run a marathon. I loved running too much and didn’t see the point of risking injury.
What was it like finishing your first marathon?
Amazing! But bittersweet… Exactly 3 weeks before my 1st marathon, I got a phone call from one of my best friends (Erica). She asked me (as she had for many years prior) to run the 2010 LA Marathon with her. She wasn’t really a runner; however I had to run just to keep up with her walk pace. I of course told her “no way” I’m running the marathon, especially since it was in 3 weeks. Little did I know, that phone conversation would be our last. Two days later she was killed in a tragic snowboarding accident in mammoth. I had to run that marathon but was so scared and nervous.Two friends I had been consistently running with at the time offered to run it with me. Both had run marathons in the past and both had one condition for me – that was I had to let them set the pace.
We had all just run a 1/2 marathon Super Bowl Sunday and that was our longest run. The LA Marathon was St Patty’s day weekend and we had no time to get any longer runs in. To make a long story short, I finished 1st of the 3 of us in 4:05. But the best part was how quickly I recovered. I felt so exhilarated within minutes of finishing (though I was brutally sore). And I knew then I wanted to continue running and do more marathons.
The word “never” is no longer part of my vocabulary. I continue to say “only Erica (even when no longer around) can get me to do something I absolutely did not want to do, and then I end up loving it!” This marked another epiphany and life changing moment – again from running.
What has been your motivator to continue running? Or do you have a running inspiration whom you look up to?
I think I’m my biggest motivator – constantly wanting to improve. Another huge motivator is my “last run”. I never want to run. On my run days, I almost dread it, but I remember how good and how empowered I feel afterwards; that gets me back out there again. To this day, I don’t kick into my groove until mile 2 or sometimes 3. I’m usually breathless and struggling the first few miles, and then all of a sudden I’m talking my running partner’s ear off. I feel very fortunate that I also enjoy running by myself – its extremely cathartic for me and is often my only time to think. I always say, I never turn down an opportunity to run with someone, but I love running solo.
What does your weekly training schedule look like?
Hard to say right now. As often as I can, rarely on consecutive days. During the winter my daughter is on a snowboard team in Mammoth (which is a 6+ hour drive up and back), so it’s hard to really have a schedule. In May I’ll settle back into 3-4 days per week depending on my mileage. I also try to incorporate spin, and I’m trying to swim but am such a bad swimmer and my time to workout is so limited, I’d rather do something I’m good/efficient at.
What is your favorite race that you’ve ran in?
I can’t really pick a favorite. They have all left me with distinct memories, so I’m happy to have all of them.
How do you balance having a family, a career and training for marathons?
My career is my family (which is so much more work than I ever imagined) and I am fortunate that I don’t have to work a “9-5″ job. Beyond that its about prioritizing. My family always comes first. If that means waking up 4:30am in order to get a 20 mile run in, then that’s what I do.
Being an avid and motivated runner, what’s one thing you hope your kids take away from your running career.
Theres so much its hard to pick just one.
Nothing comes easy. While hard work doesn’t always get you what you want; you can and should feel good about yourself or what you’ve done knowing that you “gave it your all”. Don’t take on more than you can handle so you can be passionate about all you do take on. And NEVER succumb to complacency!
Embrace change – it’s always scary, but you almost always walk away ahead.
What would your top three tips be for a mom who wants to start running?
1. You are stronger and more capable than you think
2. Push beyond your comfort zone
3. Go to a running store and get properly fitting running shoes
Future running goals for yourself?
Qualify/run the Boston Marathon; run a 3:30 marathon