“There’s nothing you can do to train yourself for how you’re going to feel at mile 23. You have to want it” – Jen Wagner
You may have seen Jen on my Instagram before… she was my very first customer (that I did not know!). It was beyond exciting to see her name pop up in my orders! I totally searched on Facebook to see if she could be a friend of a friend... Any other online business owners do the same haha?! I’ve learned a lot about Jen since her first order in July 2017 and am particularly inspired by her because even on her busiest and toughest days, she smiles through all of it and reminds herself of the bigger picture, instead of letting the little things get her down. When she’s not teaching English to high school students, she’s running marathons and half marathons. She started taking running seriously about 4 years ago when she decided she wanted to run the 2015 Philadelphia marathon.
In this interview, she tells us how she went from running casually to running marathons all while being a full-time mom, teacher, and wife and tells us what her favorite post-run snack is :) spoiler alert – it’s not a nosh bar (that’s her pre-workout snack!). Cheer Jen on as she continues to run in races at @Jeda103.
When did you start running?
I’ve been a runner since high school, but didn’t take it seriously back then. Then I became a hobby jogger, and then once I had my two daughters it was just something I did on the side. About 4 years ago, with encouragement from a friend, I started to take it more seriously, started pushing myself, and realized I had the potential to run a race. Taking it seriously helped me set goals for myself, goals that I really wanted to meet. With my run time, I realized that I could win a race in my age group and so I decided to work with a running coach to help me reach those goals.
Besides setting a goal for yourself, what do you enjoy most about running?
I LOVE AND CRAVE the time to myself that running gives to me. I have a friend who is always telling me I need to find a group to train with, and while it might make me faster/push me more, I just love that time to myself. I love being out in nature, seeing things that I wouldn’t notice if I wasn’t out there running. I enjoy photography and often take my phone to capture pictures while I’m running easy runs, and I find that my mind is kind of constantly taking pictures. There is also nothing like the feeling of crushing a speed workout---you ARE INVINCIBLE after that! :) The running community is also a nice group to be a part of.
What’s a typical week look like for you in running?
I usually run 30-35 miles over 4-5 days a week to be in my happy place. This fall I’ve been running more like 45-50 miles per week while marathon training. My coach, Michael Crouch, has helped me to see that I can up my mileage safely by taking easy days truly EASY.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to overcome in your running career? What did you do to push through the difficult times?
The hardest thing I’ve had to overcome in my running career was when I was working with a previous coach that wasn’t the greatest fit for me and when I had a stress fracture in my femur and couldn’t run. My only option was to pool run and I did NOT like it, but I had to push through it, mentally. The way I got through it was to remind myself that I would recover from the injury. Having had this injury, it gives me perspective I didn’t have before and the experience to know when I’m pushing myself too hard and am at risk for injury. I can listen to my body better for signs of injury. I want to be able to run long term. Part of my stress fracture was nutrition too. I was running too hard, too much, with not enough sleep or proper eating. Now, I try to find healthy whole food products that can fit into an athletes’ schedule and nutritional needs. Eat healthy and eat enough and look at nutrition labels if you’re eating prepackaged food, but most of the food I eat is not prepackaged.
What is your running food of choice and what else do you do to help avoid injury?
I eat different things depending on what my run is that day. I’ll eat nosh bars as part of my pre-run routine for good solid fuel. I find that other things aren’t as fresh and there is literally nothing that gives me as good of fuel. I love the fresh ingredients in your bars and the flavor varieties (although figstachio is my favorite) and the versatilities. Sometimes I’ll spread peanut butter on the peanut or the chocolate. Or I’ll eat an apple with peanut butter before a run. For a long run, 9+ miles, I’ll use Huma (chia seed gel). After a workout, I ALWAYS have chocolate milk! I buy it from a local dairy. To also help avoid injury, I supplement my running with strength once a week and either bikram or vinyasa yoga 3 times a week.
How much has yoga helped with your running? Is it a tangible difference?
Yoga has been a GAME CHANGER for me both physically and mentally. I’d always dabbled in yoga, but I started practicing regular hot yoga just over a year ago when I was experiencing some lower back pain. I do a mixture of Vinyasa and Bikram classes. Bikram is SO HARD for me—I say that it’s tougher than running a 10 miler—but it honestly makes my body feel whole again when I’m finished. The FOCUS in that class (and Vinyasa) has helped my mental game with running so much, too. I need yoga, and if I have weeks where it’s tough to get to the studio, I get antsy! My massage therapist (who’s worked on my legs for about 3 years now) told me she can feel a difference in my muscles since I started doing the regular hot yoga. I found that to be pretty cool!!!!
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day is up at 5:30am, teaching from 7:30am-3:00pm, running after school anywhere from 4-9 miles on weekdays, dinner, core/stretching/foam rolling/hang out with my kids/prepare for the next day, bed way too late usually around 11:00pm —this is my big weakness!!!!
What age do you teach? What do you teach?
I teach high school English, mainly 9th grade, which is my very favorite age group!!!
What is the most valuable lesson you've learned from your students?
Probably to have a sense of humor and that it’s okay to let them see that you’re not “perfect.” When I started teaching, I thought I had to know all of the answers. Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s okay for them to see me as a real human being, and I love letting them know that it’s cool for all of us to LEARN FROM EACH OTHER!
What do you want other people to know about kids that age?
Aaaaaaah, that they are so sensitive and really do have so many passionate deep thoughts. This is the age where they are so impressionable. Kids need to be listened to and to be made to feel VALUABLE!
How do you juggle being a mom, a teacher, and making time for your training?
To be honest, I couldn’t do this without my husband. He does 98% of the chauffeuring our two daughters to after-school activities, and he does this with no complaints. We take turns cooking meals every other week, which helps, too. He is not a runner, and I’m kind of glad because then I’m not sure how we’d get anything done! Haha! Sometimes life can still be overwhelming, but one of my favorite sayings is to “Eat the elephant one bite at a time”---take life one day at a time! Then it’s a little less overwhelming.
What do you hope your girls learn from you?
Ah, wow---to pursue their dreams and to work hard for it. I want them to learn to take care of themselves and not to let ANYONE make them feel inferior. I want them to see, as my students taught me, that it’s okay not to be “perfect.” We’re all perfectly IMPERFECT in our own ways.
What are your goals this year for running?
Ah, I’d love to PR in the half-marathon, and while I do have a time goal for my 2nd full marathon (hopefully Richmond VA next fall), first it’s to train and get to the starting line healthy.
I admire how happy you seem. Do you have a certain outlook that helps you stay happy and positive?
Ah, thank you! I honestly think I’m just usually trying to see the beauty in life. I’m always trying to plan some kind of day trip/vacation/something fun to look forward to in life. A saying that is used pretty often in my yoga classes is, “Let go of what does not serve you”---I’ve really learned to do that with negative thoughts/people/etc. Life is just too short.
Do you have a favorite part of the day? Is there something you particularly look forward to?
This is a great question. I love the run/yoga/strength class part of my day. I love sitting down to dinner with my family (which we do together most nights!), and I always exhale a big happy sigh when I finally lie down in my bed at the end of the night! That always feels so good!
Do you have a mantra or quote or just any statement that you can share with the rest of the nosh bar fam?
My very favorite quote is, “Pressure is a privilege” from Billie Jean King. After going through some injuries, whenever I have a tough workout to do or maybe just a day where I feel extra tired, I do remind myself that it’s a privilege and an honor to be able to push myself. Not everyone has that option, and I need to make the most of the chances that I do have!
Jen runs outside and does yoga! She eats figstachio nosh bars. Use code 'jen4nosh' anytime today to get 10% off your order!