I'm also pretty excited to share today's Industry Fit Feature with you! It's from one of my very favorite bloggers, Stephanie of The Fete Blog! Stephanie is co-owner of Be Loved PR, a Virginia-based public relations firm specializing in styled shoots for area wedding vendors and she's a professional runner, sponsored by New Balance and Furman Elite!
When I first discovered The Fete Blog, I fell instantly in love! It's the only other wedding blog with a little fitness flair and I especially love the new Fete Collective, that offers up insight from every different type of woman: the Make-It-Happen Mid-Twenties Gal, the Bride, the Newlywed Girl, and the Mama!
As I continued to read The Fete Blog, I became more and more intrigued by Stephanie's dual career as a runner and wedding enthusiast, and so I was thrilled when she agreed to an Industry Fit interview!
image by Victah Sailer
What's your connection to the wedding world?
My first entrance into the wedding world was through journalism; I wrote for a local newsweekly which published a biannual wedding issue that no one wanted to write-- except me. In 2010, I took over the publication, turned it into a quarterly magazine and fell even more in love with weddings. I began working for a standout wedding planner and have since launched a wedding inspiration blog and boutique styling + pr studio.
How long have you been working in the wedding industry?
Since 2010-- in May, I took helm of Hook Weddings.
How long have you been blogging?
I launched my blog in October 2011-- so just over 2 years.
What is Fete blog about?
What isn't Fete about? It's definitely a work in progress, but currently, it is a wedding + lifestyle inspiration blog, with a big emphasis on fitness and self love. I envision it to be a space that inspires women to transform their relationships-- with their lovers, their community, and themselves-- into authentic, enthusiastic, simple connections. And plan an absolutely perfect wedding, of course.
What do you enjoy about it?
It feels like an extension of myself-- I like to think it contributes to building community and inspiring others, whether they are brides, girls looking to get into fitness, or anyone hoping to better connect with themselves and others. It truly is so much fun.
What do you see yourself doing in 5 years, wedding-wise?
In five years, I'd love to have a full-time wedding styling studio and continue my work helping promote boutique wedding professionals.
What's your full-time profession?
My full time profession is "professional athlete". Crazy, I know.
What's it mean to be a professional athlete?
It basically means that I am sponsored by a shoe company to run. My days are made up of training, outreach (volunteering, promoting my sponsors), and more training. There are some pro runners that make a ton of money-- but I'm not one of them. I'm just lucky that I'm allowed and encouraged to do the thing I'm most passionate about right now.
Can you tell me a little about Furman Elite & New Balance?
So New Balance is an American shoe company, based in Boston. They are classic running, their shoes are superb, and they are an incredibly supportive and innovative company.
Furman Elite is a training group based at Furman University. Through the support of the University, 11 post-collegiate athletes are living and training together with hopes of making the 2016 Olympic team in our various events.
Every sponsor has different commitments-- what New Balance asks of its athletes are different than what Nike or Brooks might ask. The "other" things I do, besides run and race, are participate in photoshoots for the brand or other events that New Balance is a part of.
How did you land this job?
Most sponsored athletes become pros the way I did-- excelling at the collegiate level and getting noticed by companies. As soon as you are done with college competing, you get an agent and then, hopefully, a contract with a sponsor.
Have you always been a runner?
Yes-- I started "running" as a little kid when my mom would take us to a local track to play. I ran a bit in middle school, then joined the cross-country and track teams in high school.
Did you ever imagine you'd be a professional runner?
Every leap I've made as a runner has come as a surprise. In high school, I dreamed of running in college; in college, I began having a suspicion that maybe I could get running after. I set up some goals for myself my senior year and said, "If you can do these things, you can run after college." Landing my contract with New Balance was such a blessing-- not all "professional runners" have sponsors like I do, but instead pay their own way.
What's the hardest part of the job?
The hardest part is, of course, the actual running. We are just bodies and sometimes our bodies fail despite our best efforts. I've had a few rough years, with injury and with mental blocks, which make it so hard to meet my goals and the goals my coach and sponsors have for me.
Are the physical demands challenging? How do you deal with those?
Running professionally definitely takes a toll on your body, but it's all about prevention and preparation. Doing everything I can to keep my body feeling great-- massages, icing, stretching, rolling out, eating right-- is key to staying injury-free.
Read about Stephanie's January and February training here.
How often do you run? Do you run in races? What's been a favorite race?
I run every day, and often twice a day. I race approximately six months of the year, indoor and outdoor track. I love racing abroad-- there's such an appreciation for track in other countries that really isn't present in America. Some recent favorites: racing in Puerto Rico, Shanghai, France, England.
Again, it's all about being prepared. I'm good at sleeping on the go, so I can often rest on planes and in cars. I wear compression socks as much as possible to keep the blood flowing in my legs. I try to hydrate as much as possible-- traveling dehydrates you! And, of course, being packed early and NOT scrambling to the airport is smart… but I rarely get that part right.
Do you have any tips for staying in good physical shape on the go?
Use what you've got and don't stress the small stuff. You won't always have the best place to run, but if you can get in a jog in small slots of time, do it! Do body-weight work: squats, pushups, planks, different versions of crunches and core exercises. Stay as relaxed and stress-free as possible and that will help your overall well-being so much!
Do you stretch a lot? What are your favorite stretches? Best stretches for runners?
I do dynamic stretching more than just sit-or-stand and stretch. Lunges work wonders and loosen up your hips. Other walking stretches (knee up to your chest, quad stretch, side steps, karaoke) are great for loosening your entire body up and getting you warmed up to work out!
What other kind of training and workouts do you do?
Cross-training is so good for runners, since running is really rough on your body. I love swimming, yoga, and lifting (yes, having strong arms helps your running!). I do a lot of core work as well, because a strong core is the key to everything.
What are your favorite non-running exercises?
Swimming, yoga, and lifting! I haven't tried Crossfit yet, but I think it's something I'd love.
Who provides your training routine? What's it look like? Does it change?
I have a coach that writes up all of my training, day in and day out-- thankfully, because I wouldn't know where to start! It does change based on the time of year-- we go through a ton of different training phases. Briefly, it looks something like this: recovery in the early fall, base training for 4-8 weeks, harder threshold-building training for 4 weeks, 4-6 weeks of intense working out, racing, recovery, repeat.
I run a workout 2-3 times a week. I try to get a lift in 2 times a week as well!
Are there days you don't want to be doing this, or do you love the work?
Running is a mentally exhausting sport-- there are definitely days when I'm not quite sure why I'm doing it. Getting yourself out the door multiple times a day, day in and day out can be tough! But I do love it and having great training partners is a game-changer. I trained alone for a few years after college and it was really hard to stay motivated. Now, I have two amazing girls I train with and they make all the difference.
What's the best part of the job? (I read that you get to do cool fitness photoshoots!! That's gotta be cool!)
The best part of the job is the opportunity to travel and race. I get to visit multiple countries a year, just to race! And yes-- doing photoshoots and pretending to be a model is really exciting and a huge honor!
Do you get free gear, too?
Part of my sponsorship deal includes gear-- so when I'm in need of anything, New Balance sends it my way!
I assume your favorite running shoe is from New Balance? What styles do your recommend to others?
Yes-- I'm obsessed with New Balance! They have excellent shoes for any kind of runner. Looking for neutral, basic shoes? Try the NB 890. Need support (like me!)? The 860 or 1260 is for you. Wild about the minimal trend? The Minimus is great. Bonus! All of these shoes come in such pretty colors!
What does training for the Olympics entail?
Without making it sound too scary, training for the Olympics entails: 2-4 years of hard work and daily commitment to training (there are definitely people who can make a team after only training for the season leading up to the Games, but it's hard! Going up against people who have been training for years and have a ton of racing experience is a challenge); mental focus (you can't go crazy, but you have to be excited and passionate when it counts!); and lots of love. Everything I'm doing right now (Dec 2013) is going to affect my chances to make the team in June 2016! It's all about building a foundation.
Why do you want to go?
Who hasn't had an Olympic dream at some point in their life? I am so fortunate that I have the opportunity to try this dream out-- and it's definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. It's hard to make a team when you are 35! I've made the commitment to do it now, at 25, while I have the best chance to do it.
What kind of food do you like to eat?
It's good to have a healthy, well-balanced diet, but this is definitely my weakest spot! I love eating and I love sweets, so striking a balance between a healthy diet and allowing room for cravings is a challenge. I'm learning to love to cook healthy meals-- avocados, eggs, and ground beef are some foods that are always part of my weekly meals.
There's aren't restrictions-- but if you only eat fast food and sweets and go up against a girl who has lived off of healthy food and balanced meals, there's a big chance that she could run faster.
What are your favorite healthy foods?
Avocados-- if I only lived off one food for the rest of my life, it would be avos! Brown rice. Eggs. Spinach. Beets. Berries.
Favorite healthy foods on the go?
Almonds, a bag of berries, bananas, pb+j sandwiches
Favorite splurge (unhealthy) food?
I have a massive sweet tooth-- keep cupcakes, anything with frosting, homemade cookies, ice cream, chocolate, and pie away from me! (Did I miss any sweet category?)
Love this advice from Stephanie:
Don’t feel pressure to make this the year you drop 15 pounds, run a marathon, accomplish some ridiculous athletic feat. Instead, use 2014 as your building year– create some habits and routines that you can actually weave into your everyday life and then live them out all year long. If you can build a base of healthy living now, it will be so much easier to set lofty goals and accomplish them in the years to come!
How do you balance your love for weddings with such a busy running career?
It has been a challenge balancing running with my wedding career. The biggest challenge is finding time. During peak wedding season, I'm traveling and racing and can't spend my weekends on my feet at photoshoots or real weddings. But through my blog, magazine work, and styling shoots in my off-time, I stay in the game. I've had to make peace with the fact that this running career is going to end sooner rather than later and that that will be the time when I can plunge full-force into weddings. For now, having a wonderful creative outlet is invaluable and I'm slowly working my way to a post-running career that will be so fulfilling!
Stephanie, thank you so much for taking the time to answer all my questions! It's been so fun getting to know you and I wish you all the best of luck in your fitness and wedding endeavors!
I can't wait to meet in person and hopefully collaborate on some projects in the future!
Do you know any professional runners?
Do you have a split career like Stephanie?