I am running the Big Sur International Marathon Relay!

It’s been ages since I’ve last posted, and partly because I forgot my WordPress password. Just kidding, I have been very busy!

I split my time between three different jobs, and I hesitate calling them “jobs” because I love everything I do, and the way I do it. Providing education in schools, as an Educator for the Epilepsy Foundation, for teachers and students on seizure first aid and recognition is extremely gratifying work – regardless of the fact that I do not have any connection to epilepsy. As an educator, I have the ability and the responsibility to empower my audience and enable them to make life changing decisions if they are ever in a situation where a student is having a seizure. Second and third of all, I am a fitness coach for Orange Theory, and a personal trainer.  Two additional opportunities to empower people and help them improve their quality of life.  #Winning

But the purpose of this post was to tell you that I am running the Big Sur International Marathon Relay for Every Mother Counts. I love to do 1 crazy thing every year, and running a marathon relay from beautiful Big Sur to Carmel, CA. I’ll need your support to get there and together we can help reduce maternal mortality worldwide.  Every 2 minutes a woman dies in childbirth and would you believe that 98% of those deaths are PREVENTABLE! I’m talking about education, supplies and transportation. These are barriers that Every Mother Counts has identified and is working with organizations in over 7 countries (INCLUDING the United States) to do exactly what I love: empower people.

There is a motorcycle guy in Uganda who gives rides to women to the childbirth center so they can deliver safely. For the price of your latte, $5, you can pay for a woman to take that ride for free, earning her a voucher.  In the United States, a $50 donation will enable an uninsured woman to have a prenatal visit. The best part is that 100% of your donation will go to directly to this portfolio of programs around the world to help women get the maternal care they need.

If you made it this far in my post, then you’re awesome! Thank you! And if you are moved by what I wrote above, then I would love your support to get me to Big Sur!

everydollarcounts

Please (and thank you) donate here:

https://www.crowdrise.com/2016bigsurinternatio/fundraiser/ayeshaakhtar1

xoA

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Running for Pelvic Health

In my experience thus far as a personal trainer, I’ve met a variety of women at different stages of fitness. I enjoy the assessment process, asking relevant questions about health, fitness and eating habits, using that information to design a program to help my client become “Stronger Fitter Faster”, my tagline. However, after a recent conversation with Women’s Health Foundation (WHF) founder, Missy Lavender, I have come to realize there is a huge piece of my assessment that I have been missing especially in my female clients: pelvic health.

Yes, pelvic health. Continue reading Running for Pelvic Health

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Getting Back on Track in 5

We all fall off the fitness wagon. Don’t despair, just get back on.

Perhaps you just finished the blessed month of Ramadan, congratulations! Hopefully you had a great month of fasting and were able to reap all the spiritual and physical benefits of fasting for 30 days. Fasting can certainly be difficult on the body, and whether or not you kept active during the day, here is how you can get yourself back on track.

1. Start your day with apple cider vinegar – use organic, raw and unpasteurized! (Bragg’s)

bragg-apple-cider-vinegar1

  • Boosts your metabolism
  • Neutralizes the pH of your body
  • Improved digestion
  • Improved stamina & energy
  • Decreased restless leg syndrome symptoms with increased potassium
  • How to drink it: mix 1 tbsp with 6-8 oz of water or apple juice.

 

2. Ease back into exercise and strength training.

  • If you are getting back into running and are easily able to run, then great! Otherwise, consider a run walk strategy given that your endurance may have been compromised.
  • Move first thing in the morning. Whether its a quick yoga sequence, 10-15 minutes of jumping jacks, crunches and pushups, or a jog, get moving for 20-30 minutes every day.

3. Drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day. Add fruit slices or mint leaves to jazz it up if needed.

4. Craving carbs? Choose complex carbs. Add protein.

  • Hummus with veggies
  • Apple slices with a nut butter
  • Fruit smoothie with protein powder

5. Eat lean, clean and green! The days of eating late and ‘whatever you want’ are over, so get back into eating a well-balanced meal! I ate bits of superfood greens throughout Ramadan. Each single calorie tab is loaded with 64% protein!

Enter the code "RunAyesha" for 25% off
Enter the code “RunAyesha” for 25% off

If you are interested in purchasing a sample of Energy Bits, head over here.

 

 

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10 life lessons I’ve learned from running

What running has taught me about life.

Disclaimer: I was inspired to write this post after reading some #runchat comments between a couple of bloggers, check them out here> http://www.happyfitmama.com/life-lessons-running/ and www.pavementrunner.com.

It’s definitely a list that I’ve thought of over the last several years, and resonates with me in daily life.

  1. “Be Somebody”.

    "Be Somebody"
    “Be Somebody”

    This is what ultramarathoner Scott Jurek signed in my copy of Eat & Run. I met him a couple years ago for a fun run. When you read the book, he talks about his running coaches and pals who have said this to him along his way. Really, are you going to go out there and simply pound the pavement, or can you really ‘be somebody’. Always leave a dent, make an impact, make yourself better every time.

  2. It’s okay to leave your gadgets at home. I ran my fastest 5k unplanned, no watch, ran on feel and surprised myself. Sure it’s great to run with a Garmin but trusting in technology takes away from being in touch with yourself. Lose the gadget, free yourself. Disconnect from technology every day; turn your phone off after a certain hour, don’t be used by tools.
  3. You reap what you sow. When you toe in at the starting line, there is nothing but your training (or lack thereof) that will make or break you. Much like life, what you put into your life comes back to reward you. Work smart, get rewarded.
  4. Always have a plan B. Start a run strong, cramp up, trip, slow down, bump into a friend, whatever it is that stops you from what you initially intended to run cannot be the ‘end all’. Always have a plan B and be okay with it. This has spilled into my life as an educator for the Epilepsy Foundation – the first training I did was in a special needs room with a sight dog barking and running around the room and the L training buzzing by every five minutes. It wasn’t my ideal situation, but I adapted to something just as perfect.
  5. Don’t give up when life presents you with a challenge, you are about to make a breakthrough. You know this when you are planking and are about to collapse – don’t! It is said our true character shows when we are facing hardship or difficulty – that is when we are making a breakthrough. Be your best self when it counts the most. No one regrets trying their hardest.
  6. Injured? Figure out what happened and prevent it next time. I can’t say this enough as a public health practitioner. There is a public health impact in everything, and I approach my life this way. My goals are to prevent disease, increase awareness and promote health education. My brother recently ran the Chicago Marathon and developed a meniscus tear at mile 25. Diagnosing his knee means understanding the mechanics and kinesiology of the knee, basically going deeper into the injury. Life lesson? We have to take that extra step to solve problems. I’ve written a lot on the negative impact of media on girls’ self esteem, which basically puts the onus of responsibility and accountability back on corporations, movies, and the music industry. Why are they interested in selling a concept of weak women and images of photoshopped girls and women? Who is their audience? There is always a cause and effect. I could go on…
  7. Start what you finish. This is so hard for me as an aquarian (yes I read those signs from time to time).
    Still don't know how we finished this trail run without snowshoes!
    Still don’t know how we finished this trail run without snowshoes!

    Can’t see the pavement because of yesterday’s blizzard? Well, just do your best and have fun with it. As someone who has multiple interests, it can be overwhelming to get it all done. But in general, we should always strive to finish what we start, hopefully at 100%, but sometimes it at less.

  8. Be empowered. Embrace your strengths. Being a mid-distance runner has somehow elevated me among my acquaintances and friends to a different echelon of ‘fitness people’, hardcore, they say. I don’t know how it happened, I hit the perfunctory 5 mile mark one April day and knew I was in a new club.  From that day onward, I started going out for 10 mile runs no big deal. If you find yourself saying to someone, “I only ran 5 miles today”, then you know what I’m talking about. You’re a beast and you know it (at least now you do). Life lesson here (and verse from the Qur’an) is we are always capable of more than we think we can handle. Stop that negative self-talk and rise above it. (I love Runner’s World’s columnist Marc Parent’s article on getting to five miles).
  9. Running is for me, myself and I. I love to run alone on the pavement. But I do enjoy running with company, and do so 1-2x a week. We build our self efficacy when we are alone, and increase our self esteem when we join others. We feel good about ourselves when we do something good together.
    races are always more fun with friends
    races are always more fun with friends

    Consider volunteering, it is always more impactful to the community or organization in aggregate, and we get to hang out with family and friends. However the true benefit you get from making a difference is an individual experience. In the end, YOU have to feel good about yourself when giving YOUR time to a cause, not the time of your friends or family.

  10. Have a sense of humor. Seriously, if you can’t laugh at yourself, you’re fooling yourself. Yes you are important but there are bigger things to worry about around the world.  Life is too short and unpredictable, make the best of every day, count your blessings, and be good to others.

    It's totally okay to hang out on the lakefront path and take silly running photos.
    It’s totally okay to hang out on the lakefront path and take silly running photos.

Peace out.

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The Secret Race

Okay, last weekend I did the unimaginable: my first time. I am embarrassed to admit this (and I don’t know how many of you have ever done this). I ran a race bandit! I had every intention to wake up early (the woman wouldn’t accept my registration the day before), register and run a 5k with friends. However, the chain of events that day went more like: I woke up late, texted that I would not be coming, eventually got up because I couldn’t go back to sleep, conveniently put on my running clothes, grabbed some coffee, and headed down the street to the race where I was now going to be cheering my friends for a change. It took one friend to nudge me slightly and I was putting down my coffee and jumping in the starting line. It was only a 5k so not much thought required, she said. Ehh, I know the route – I run it every week!

A lot of people get upset about people running races bandit (unregistered), and normally I would too. Here’s Peter Sagal’s admission to running a REALLY BIG RACE, aka, the Chicago Marathon, bandit.  However, this was a very small race (3.1 miles with 100 people), and I knew I wasn’t going to take any water or gatorade that I didn’t pay for, so really what would be the harm done?  I definitely wouldn’t run anything bigger than a 5k unregistered…Thoughts?

Crossing the finish line amazed at my 5k PR, annoyed I didn't register ahead of time.
Crossing the finish line amazed at my 5k PR, annoyed I didn’t register ahead of time.

26:06 turned out to be my best 5k time thus far and the secret race helped me get over my demise from the Oak Brook half marathon.

I couldn’t help but exclaim, ‘But no one will ever know my time!’. To which she replied, ‘you will, and that’s all that matters’. So, cheers to ME for running my best race that I wasn’t signed up for. At least I got a photo finish and a huge boost to my self-esteem. 😉

Next race?

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Ayesha and the Zooma Race

Originally appeared: http://www.everymothercounts.org/blog/201308/ayesha-and-chicago-zooma-race

“Of course ‘every mother counts’,” was the first comment my mom had when I told her the purpose for my early morning need to leave my boys with her as I headed out to the lakefront for the Zooma Chicago race. Unfortunately, as obvious as it may be that all mothers are important, there is still so much work that needs to be done in the arena of maternal health. Narrowing the public health gaps (access, cost & quality) for women seeking prenatal and antenatal care as well as safe delivery care are issues very dear to me. I took a course in graduate school on maternal health and was shocked to learn how poorly the United States ranks in preventing maternal mortality, and even more appalling when compared to other industrial, strong nations.
I spent some of my post-graduate years working with young girls and helping them develop self-esteem, strong minds and bodies, yet yearned for the maternal audience. It all starts at home, I kept thinking, with mothers. I found Every Mother Counts (EMC) and immediately fell in love with the mission and even more so when I read Christy’s story of how EMC was founded. I too had a story! I had two complicated births, despite all my attempts at hiring a doula, a midwife, taking natural childbirth classes, and wanting to refuse medication. Yet I found myself in front of an obstetrician both times. I thought, how could this be happening? I thought I knew everything! How lucky I am to be in a country, state and city that allowed me the freedom to seamlessly be transferred between midwife and MD. I never took it for granted, and was even more grateful when I had to visit my firstborn in the neonatal unit where he spent his first four days of life. I know I am lucky because for every case like mine there are ten women who didn’t survive childbirth.

Volunteering at the Every Mother Counts info booth at the Chicago Zooma race

This is why I left my kids at home and asked EMC if I could volunteer at their table at the Zooma race on a Saturday morning. I want everyone to know that it is entirely possible to die from pregnancy complications or during childbirth, in 2013, nonetheless. I’ve espoused EMC’s mission, and I’m thrilled to help!

In this country we have a choice on everything. Information is thrown at us from every direction, when we want it and when we don’t. We choose to make changes in our lives based on these little nuances. During both of my pregnancies I was enrolled at the University of Illinois School of Public Health and strongly believe that the education I received at that time was life-changing, not only for me and my family, but everyone in my ‘circle’. I believe it is my responsibility as a mother and as a public health educator to empower women with medically-accurate information. Educating and enabling women to use their experiences can also help reduce maternal mortality across the world.

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