Fitness, fun & friendship: Women's running program spreads through south Washington CountyMoms on the Run, a running program geared toward the novice and intermediate runner, teaches women how to run their first 5K and also works with more seasoned runners to improve their speed and endurance.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, Woodbury Bulletin
After giving birth to three children in four years, Karissa Johnson began holding group fitness classes for moms. She called it Moms on the Run and based it out of her hometown of Forest Lake.
Now in its fifth year, the Moms on the Run program serves over 500 runners in 14 Twin Cities locations, and is spreading through south Washington County.
Moms on the Run, a running program geared toward the novice and intermediate runner, teaches women how to run their first 5K and also works with more seasoned runners to improve their speed and endurance.
In 2007, Johnson – a certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management consultant and nutrition specialist – was teaching a “mom and baby” fitness class at a local park, when she realized many of the women involved wanted to train for a 5K.
“I always wanted to have a running group, but didn’t know how to structure it,” Johnson said. “So, I tried creating a 5K running program for the very beginning runner to help them go from walking to running a 5K over 18 weeks.”
Johnson had 26 women take part in Moms on the Run in Forest Lake the first year and 54 the next year.
“That’s when I realized this concept of women wanting to reach an athletic goal like training for a 5K was much bigger than I thought,” Johnson said. “A lot of people had running a 5K on their radar. It just kind of took off.”
Johnson, a mother of three kids – Kailyn, 8, Kavan, 7, and Kai, 5 – said the program is based around “fitness, fun and friendship.”
“For whatever reason the gym doesn’t work for everyone,” Johnson said. “This provides something different – a social support system and accountability. It’s a lot of fun, too. Women are discovering they need those things in their lives. We’re trying to offer one place where they can get those needs met in just an hour twice a week.”
Johnson said she has witnessed a lot of camaraderie between the women who are training and has seen numerous friendships blossom.
“It’s great to be able to connect with someone else that has the same goals and priorities in life,” Johnson said. “We’re seeing great friendships form and that’s helping build a real loyalty to the program, too.”
Moms on the Run has operated in Woodbury for the past two years. A site in Hastings is opening this April. Also, Johnson believed a site may open in Cottage Grove in the next year with enough interest.
Women interested in Moms on the Run can sign up for a 2-day-a-week or 3-day-a-week program. The runners meet at a park in town for one-hour sessions that combine stretching, interval running and core training for the most part. Runners can also go to a neighboring site if they miss a session for whatever reason.
Kristina Ticknor is the Woodbury site head instructor. A nationally certified personal trainer and mother of four, Ticknor said she fell in love with Moms on the Run the first time she tried it.
“It’s just a great concept to mix working out with getting healthy, not just physically, but mentally, where we can talk about all the great things and not so great things about being a mom,” she said. “Everyone has the same passion and have the same stresses – they’re moms, they’re busy – everyone is different, of course, but you can find similarities and bonds with everyone. That’s unique.”
Ticknor has four kids under the age of 4 – Bode, 4, Mason, 3, and twins Max and Lily, 1.
She said running the Woodbury Moms on the Run site has been rewarding.
“Having four kids under 4, you don’t hear a lot of thank yous,” Ticknor said. “Last year one woman had an injury and I helped her get through it and she ran her first 5K. She was so proud of herself. Being a mom, you give, give, give to your kids and your job. When you finally give to yourself and reach a goal it’s huge.”
Johnson said the goal of Moms on the Run is to reach women who haven’t found their “fitness fit” yet.
“For a lot of women this is their times away from the kids. But, women are more than welcome to bring their kids to work out if they need to – in a jogging stroller or even had kids on bikes before,” Johnson said. “But, we also have women take part who aren’t moms, too.”
Tracy Yoder is bringing a second Moms on the Run site to south Washington County this spring.
Yoder participated in the program last year in Apple Valley, when she decided Hastings needed to be have a Moms on the Run location as well.
“We’re a small community and we don’t really have a lot of fitness opportunities other than the gyms in town,” she said. “There just weren’t any running clubs in town. I did my research and there wasn’t anything to get involved in. It’s generating a lot of excitement.”
Yoder said she wasn’t a runner until after she gave birth to her son Chase two years ago.
“After I had him I wanted to work out and get in shape, but I didn’t have many opportunities available to me, because I needed child care,” Yoder said. “Running was one thing I found I could do with a baby. If I had a stroller, I could get in my workout. As I improved I decided I wanted to join a running club.”
Yoder said she signed up with Moms on the Run despite very little running experience, but the program helped train her for her first 10K and improved her times on her 5K runs, too.
“I think a lot of women are scared to join a running group,” Yoder said. But, I think Moms on the Run is so accepting of anyone, with various levels of fitness goals. Moms on the Run really hit the nail on the head for me. I’m a mom, I’m a runner and no matter how good of a runner I am, it helped me realize I can do this and achieve those goals.”
Johnson said what inspires her most are stories she hears about women changing their lifestyle for the better.
“It’s not just about running for me, it’s about women coming into this and totally changing their lifestyle habits,” she said. “These women are changing the way they eat and the way their families eat. We hear that husbands have taken up running and kids have taken up running. These women are really becoming role models for the family. We’re teaching women it’s important to take time out for themselves so they can be an example.”
Johnson is not only helping empower women to get in shape, she’s also helping them become entrepreneurs.
Johnson said she is in the process of creating a franchise system, so individuals can own their location’s Moms on the Run site.
Currently, the largest Moms on the Run location is in Blaine, where more than 70 women participate. However, Johnson said half the sites have 50 or more runners taking part.
“This has been crazy. I never imagined it,” Johnson said. “It’s been really exciting to watch it grow. We’ve had women contact us all around the country now. We hope to be able to help more and more women bring this to where they live, too.
“It’s kind of a dream job to be able to be able to invest in something you believe in so much. It’s been a huge investment, but to see it change lives has been so rewarding.”
For more information on Moms on the Run visit www.momsontherun.com, call (651) 560-MOMS or email email@example.com.