Teaching versus Learning

Being a parent is serious stuff. I take this responsibility on with a smile some days and with white knuckles on others.  When I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to be the adult that could call all the shots. Now I realize that calling all the shots is exhausting and not at all the power trip that I was envisioning.  Part of being a parent, besides drinking out of the coffee mug that says “World’s best boss!” is teaching life lessons to our offspring.  My poor children have to withstand my attempts at taking advantage of every teachable moment that reveals itself throughout the day. This exhausts me so I can only imagine how tired the kids are of listening to me. My hand will be the first to shoot up in a room if asked, “Who here has tried and failed in a teachable moment?”  I have been guilty of taking the easy way out on occasion.  Some days I just don’t have it in me to explain to my daughter that life is not always fair or equal. Some days I just say “No, because I said so.”  I am thankful that sometimes I get that feather in my cap when a teacher or another parent reports that my child has behaved in spectacular fashion when in their presence. After a quick look over my shoulder to be sure that I am the intended recipient of the message, I break my imaginary arm patting myself on the back for a job well done raising our kiddos.  I also wonder to myself when I will get the chance to witness such behavior within the confines of Casa del Kuhel.

As my kids are growing up, I find that they are actually the ones who are teaching me. DO NOT – I repeat- DO NOT TELL MY KIDS THAT I ADMIT TO THIS!!!!  My 12 year old daughter is a budding model, fashion guru, social media aficionado and a new cross country runner.  My 15 year old twin boys are cross country runners, wrestlers and up and coming experts in the areas of all things involving airsoft guns, birds of prey and video games.  This eclectic group of souls has taught me so much over the years about navigating through life’s tough spots.  They have shown grace in times of social difficulty, perseverance in the face of self-doubt, compassion when seeing others in need, humility in times of victory and sportsmanship when handed defeat.    I write this blog post not to brag, but to remind myself that while there are teachable moments everywhere, some of them are for me to learn from and not to hand out.

The point- what is the point of this post and what the heck does it have to do with health and wellness?  There are times to teach and times to learn.  If we are lucky and smart, we recognize take every opportunity to learn. We recognize that although we might know a lot, we have much more to learn. Opening your eyes, ears and mind to new ideas and examples of how to improve ourselves is a vital key to moving forward.  So while it is true that I am a parent and a personal trainer whose job it is to teach, I am forever a student. I know enough to know that I don’t know enough.

I urge you to recognize this in yourself as well. Take in new information. Analyze it. Apply it to your life if it is a good fit. Something I find I have to say to my clients and my kids, “Get out of your own way!” I am in no way equating my clients to my kids.  The only correlation is that I’m trying to make is that I’m often teaching both groups something. Quit trying to tell yourself why suggestions can’t/won’t work.  Be open and you will be surprised at what can happen. The little things you learn and adopt will all add up to big lessons and big changes.  Watch and see what you teach others when you live your life as an example.  You won’t have to tell anyone anything.  Everyone is watching. They will see you changing your habits, your life and your body.  Who knew you could say so much without uttering a word?

I am so fortunate to be surrounded by so many excellent teachers in the form of my kids, friends, family and clients.  Who are your teachers and are you open to learning from them?

Until next time… Live Well!

Toni Kuhel



Do you measure up? Who cares?


It used to happen back in the day. Picture lining up in the neighborhood as team captains choose up teams for kickball, Red Rover, dodge ball, baseball, capture the flag or (insert your favorite team game here). If you are too young and haven’t had this experience, let me tell you, it was nerve-wracking. I was always the shortest and slightest person lining up. I can tell you I was never chosen first, and lots of times I was chosen last.

"I pick......you!"

Standing there amongst my neighbors and friends, I couldn’t help but compare myself. Who wouldn’t?  I mean, we were all standing in a loose knot, waiting for Bobby and Sally to choose the most promising athletes first. It was only obvious to everyone there that they were sizing all of us up. Who is the fastest? Who is the strongest? Who knows the game the best? OOOOOOOMG!!! It was enough to make you forget that you were supposed to be having fun.

The good news is that I no longer have to line up in front of Bobby and Sally. The bad news is that I sometimes pose as my own Bobby and Sally. Before you get the straight jacket, you should read a little more. I will work myself into a tizzy measuring myself up against others. I have all the same questions. It’s just a different era. When I start worrying about how much faster, stronger, smarter, thinner, wealthier, or luckier someone else might be than me, it is total disaster. Let’s face it. Someone is going to be ——-er than you…all the time.

I’m in total favor of healthy competition. It can be what pushes us to be more than what we thought we could be. Beware of that little monster that creeps into your brain that says you don’t measure up.  I battle this monster all the time and some days I win and some days I don’t.  The best way for me to avoid this battle all together is to be the very best that I can be. Competing against myself is the only race that should concern me.  I might be slower runner than lots of people I know, but I strive to better my performance every time I train. I race myself. This is truly comparing apples to apples.

I encourage to you to give 100% effort in everything you do. Be confident in who you are, your abilities, your gifts, and your strengths. You are no longer waiting to be chosen for a team. Unhappiness stems from comparison, so leave that mess behind. This isn’t just relative to fitness. You know this applies to life.

Until next time…live well! – Toni Kuhel

I “ran” a race!

As the registration for the Chicago Marathon 2012 opened this week, it reminded me of the first time I looked at that registration page.  I wonder how many of you are nervously looking at that page or one for a different race.

If you care to look back in my blog you’ll find several posts that cover races of varying distances. When I thought about standing at the starting line for my first 5K, I was nervous. Ironically, this was going to be my first race in preparation for my ultimate goal of my first marathon to take place in Chicago on 10-10-10.   I trained and successfully completed the Turkey Trot by running the entire distance.  BTW, any race with the word “trot” or “turkey” for that matter should not freak anyone out. These are friendly races and a great way for newbies to catch the racing bug.

As I got further along in my marathon training, it became obvious to my almost 40 year old- new to running- post childbearing (twins and one more) body that this was going to be a challenge like no other. I was wondering out loud to a neighbor about this crazy thing I was attempting. She introduced me to a concept by Jeff Galloway. He promotes a walk/run method to training and racing. Check out his website http://www.jeffgalloway.com/ .  Training and racing injury free was my ultimate goal and was I ever excited to know that someone had developed a program for it.

I know there are purists out there that think it doesn’t “really” count unless you run the whole distance, whatever that may be. To those people I say, “Run your race!”   To other people who are on the fence, let me tell you this. I have never participated in a race where a race official  has yanked a racer off the course when they started to walk the course. There are time limits and pace requirements, but all of them allow for the average person to walk parts, if not all, of the race. BELIEVE ME, I walked lots and lots of parts of lots and lots of longer distances. I had the same medal placed around my neck as the very first person who crossed the finish line.

See...my marathon medal matches the Kenyans' medals too.

I am in awe of those of you who can run long distances without a walking break. I have a few clients that school me constantly with their blistering paces and long runs.  I wish I could be a runner that makes it look like it’s no big deal to knock out a long series of 8 minute miles. Full disclosure…I ran one 8 minute mile and it almost killed me (not really, but it was UGLY).  If it is your goal to be one of these runners, you should definitely go for it.  I’m a big believer in setting and making progress towards your goals.

If you are looking to give yourself a little motivation toward getting more activity into your life, maybe a local 5K is in your future. If you have already completed a 5K and are looking for a bigger challenge, dare to dream of completing an 8K, 10K, half marathon or full marathon. Don’t let someone else (unless it’s your doctor) tell you that you can’t do such a thing. You should get clearance from your physician before beginning any exercise/training plan. You know I had to throw that in, and you know you really should do that.

Some training plans that might suit your training style





Redefine “runner” and you may find you are one after all.

Until next time…Live well! – Toni Kuhel

Stepping Out!

Stepping out of your comfort zone can sometimes feel like jumping off a ledge.  Isn’t this why it’s called ” a leap of faith?” The idea can take your breath away, get your heart racing, and make your palms sweat.   What is all this drama all about? It’s the kind of reaction that keeps us from taking risks. It can keep us from being everything that we could be.

Change is good. Isn’t that what old people told us when were kids?  This was supposed to comfort us whenever something changed that was totally out of our control.  As grown ups, it is something we have to tell ourselves  to make it through  those uncomforable shoves out of our comfort zone.

The idea of voluntarily pushing past our boundaries is a kind of self torture. Why the heck does anyone want to venture past their known, cozy life. Why be uncomfortable? Why take the risk? What will happen if I do XYZ? Stepping out doesn’t have to be some huge undertaking. It can be deciding to go to a party where you don’t know so many people. You could try a DIY project that you previously would hire someone else to tackle. Would you dare forego a favorite dish at a restaurant to try a dish the waiter suggests?  The possibility that your life could be just that little bit better..well, that  makes the risk worth taking.

Now what would you risk to make your life a whole lot better???  I know this is a healthy living blog so I’ll have to say that increasing your level of activity and making better food choices is pushing past many people’s comfort zone. I think the risks to your health are far greater if you don’t choose to get out of that cocoon of comfort.

This is what I risk every single time I lace up my running shoes- it's totally worth it!

I’m in the midst of taking a large leap of faith.  I’m willing to risk all those visceral reactions and “oh well” moments for the possibility of doing more, being more, making as much positive change as I can.  It’s all very cryptic, but the details are not the point. This post is all about taking a risk to be a better you.  Are you so comfortable that there isn’t one thing you could better by risking being uncomfortable? Maybe there is something.


Until next time…Live well!

Toni Kuhel

Warning…Attitude Adjusment in Progress!

It’s a gorgeous day! I’m ready to take on this day and all
it has to offer. Let’s get some things done today!!!

Ugh! I hate my job. My legs feel like lead today. Probably
won’t get a run in.  Why the heck am I
doing any of this? What’s the point?

So….what side of the bed did you wake up on this morning?

Health goes beyond the way we look, our weight, our body
composition, our cardiovascular endurance and our clothing size.  Our mental health is definitely a factor in determining
our success in achieving our goals in all those other markers of health.  Let’s be clear. I’m not an expert in mental
health. You’ll have to go to your health care provider for anything beyond the less
than optimistic attitude.  I’m just here
to remind you that attitude is everything.

I know that the weather, your children’s behavior, work
drama, friend drama, spouse drama (life is full of drama) lack of sleep can all
be overwhelming.  I have been standing
there in your shoes or some version of your shoes.  Let’s face it. If we choose to do so, we can
go spiraling into the depths of despair pretty quickly if we lose our
grip.  How the heck do we hang on tight?

There is something to be said for gratitude.  I’m not saying that everyone has a fantastic
mansion, a perfect child, or a lucrative career for which to give thanks.  Being thankful for the little things in life
can color your day with optimism in a way that a doom and gloom attitude can
ruin it.   It is your choice to focus on what’s going
well versus wallowing (like a pig in slop) in misery.

We have all been there.
It’s the 17th day in a row of miserable weather, everyone in
the house is yelling or crying, there are 2 more pounds showing on the scale, there
is no coffee, the car’s fuel light is on, traffic is at a standstill, late for
an appointment and it is only 8:30 in the morning!  Now is the time. You are faced with a
choice.  Continue on with the attitude
that the day is on track for winning “Craptastic Day of the Century” or adjust.  Time to hang on to what’s important.   Is any of this life threatening or life
changing?  No-check.  Do I have shoes on?  Yes, phew! -check.  Will it always feel like this? No-check.

Don’t mistake my suggestion to choose another, more positive
attitude for putting my head in the sand.
We do need to face the things that make us miserable. We can’t ignore
the cat barf on the carpet.  I will say
that I have been guilty of lying on my bed wondering what I did to have everything
go so wrong. It would have been so easy to just continue lying there letting
the world go on around me.  I had to
choose to be the one to make things happen. I had to choose to make things
different and if I couldn’t make them different, I could choose a different
attitude about it.  I had to choose to
clean up the cat barf in my life.  It’s
not easy to believe you have that much control. It is true.

Did you know that stress makes you fat? Did I get your
attention?  The hormones released in our
ancestors to provide extra energy to out run a hungry animal are released in us
when we are aggravated with our boss. Our bodies don’t know that we are sitting
at our work desk and not running for our lives.
This extra energy that was meant to power our legs toward a safe cave is
instead getting stored as belly fat because we don’t need extra energy to be annoyed
in the office. Unless you are running for your life you are going to get/stay
fat around the middle.  So determine if
it is worth the belly fat to let negative thoughts continue to swirl around in
your head.

Do what you can. Accept the things you can’t control.
Control what you can. It’s not essential that every single day be bursting with
positivity. Who needs that kind of pressure? It is essential that you try to
make the most of every day.  A day viewed
through rose-colored glasses is much prettier than one viewed between blinders
that only see what is not going well.
What are you going to be wearing today?

Until next time…Live well!
– Toni Kuhel

The Pursuit of Running Happy

November 2010 – I am an unhappy runner 😦                        

Soon after the Hot Chocolate 15K in November, the running mojo that carried me across the finish line of the Chicago Marathon 2010 got up and left me. I found it impossible to find motivation to run endlessly on the treadmill or to gear up and face the wintery streets of Naperville.  I could motivate others.  I fully believed my clients could achieve their goals and each and every one of them was making significant strides towards health and wellness.  But here I stood and doubted myself.  It was only in Florida this February where I was supporting my client Jessica in her first Run Disney event that the fog started to lift.  She was going for a personal best in a 5K distance after having to abandon her ½ marathon goal upon advice from her doctor.  It was at the “Happiest Place on Earth” that I found that elusive running mojo.  Until that light bulb moment, I ran only out of frustration. Needless to say that was not the best idea.  My state of mind affected my runs so much that I avoided them most days.   I don’t know if it was finally seeing the sun after months of gloomy winter days, spending uninterrupted time with a good friend and her family, the constant happy music that is part of the Disney experience, or the most awesome race expo ever, but I could feel myself believing I was a runner once more. I realized I hadn’t really set any fitness or running goals. It’s a bit like heading out on a road trip without a destination in mind. How could I plan my route without knowing where I wanted to finish. My goal the previous year was to cover the distances in all my races ending with the Chicago Marathon and to finish injury free.  Check and check!!!  Now what? 

February 2011 – I’m an inspired runner 🙂  

Time to set new goals -Feeling newly inspired I called my husband Alex in a frenzy and told him to sign me up for the Chicago Marathon 2011. I knew that the race would sell out soon and I had really put off the decision for a very long time.  He had witnessed my struggle to get moving with a purpose after the marathon blues took hold.  I think he thought I had lost my mind, but he also knew I was serious.  Knowing that running for the sake of running was not enough motivation, it was clear that filling up a race schedule was the only choice.  Dream Big! Think Big! Do big!

It wasn’t enough to just run the same distances/races again this year. I set another goal to set official PR’s (personal records) in all distances. This means adding speed work to my training.  Words like farklet,  800’s, 400’s, intervals, hill work, and tempo runs were all going to have to leak into my training vernacular.  This old dog is going to learn a lot of new tricks this year.

I still wanted to complete the racing season injury free so I decided to adopt a run/walk strategy for long distances.  I met Jeff Galloway at the Disney Race Expo and he shared lots of wisdom and motivation regarding distance training. 

Jeff Galloway and Jessica

 He is the father of the run/walk strategy and has trained thousands of runners for all distances.  Jeff Galloway took the time to talk to Jessica and me and sent us off with a can-do attitude.  I also decided that I would never run 2 days in a row.  My body responds best to a break from the pounding of running and it just makes it more enjoyable for me. That leads me to my last goal.

I want to run happy this year. I’m aware that it won’t always be a fun run, but I’m determined to find happiness somewhere in each run I do. My joy might come from the weather being ideal, the kids joining me, going farther, going faster, or it might be as basic as being thankful for just doing a run.  I’m going to soak up all the positive energy of race day. I’m going to enjoy the experience of race day including the pre-race excitement and post-race festivities when possible. I’ll try to shake off the pre-race nervousness or post-race disappointment I might have.

Having set these goals in February, you might be wondering how it’s been since the glow of Disney has worn off.  I have been adding speed work to my training and it has been brutal!!!!  It hasn’t killed me (yet), and I’m getting faster with each session.  I’ve remained injury free and have done a distance of 11 miles using the Galloway run/walk and it’s kept me from being sore.  I’ve been pretty happy for most of my training runs.

My first race for improving my time was a mixed bag of success.  My goal for the Shamrock Shuffle 8K was to just to improve 1 second faster than my 54:30 finish time last year. Last year it was snowing, windy and frigid.  This year it was 80 degrees, humid and sunny.  Bump #1 – I do much better in cooler weather and I hadn’t trained in any kind of heat yet. Bump #2 – I was nervous. I couldn’t help but feel the burden of my first time goal. Bump #3 – I missed my goal and finished in 55:22. CRAP! I fought feverishly to be positive despite that.   I know that you are supposed to slow your pace when temps are above 60 degrees. I know that if this was last year I would’ve finished with a time of about an hour.  These are the thoughts I tried to bring to the front of my mind after seeing the time on my Garmin. I did meet one goal. I had the best post-race experience EVER with my client/friend Renee. We drank our hard earned beers and stayed to enjoy the sun that we cursed during the race. We relaxed and danced like crazy people all day.  We laughed and ate and pretended it was summer.

Renee and I pre-Shuffle sporting striped socks to be a little wacky!


Post race reward


April 2011 – I’m a happy runner 🙂 🙂 🙂

So yet again I will look at this coming year as one full of learning.  While I’m busy living my life with my family, friends and work, I have things to work on.  I will eat right, sleep right, think right, and train right. Most importantly in terms of running… I will run happy.  How will you fill in this blank?

 I will __________ happy!

Until next time…Live Well!

Toni Kuhel

Trotting a year later


What a difference a year makes. Last year, the Naperville Turkey Trot 5K was the first time I ran under a “START” banner. I was nervous and unsure I could run the whole distance. It was the first of many official runs this year which included the Shamrock Shuffle 8K, the Race to Wrigley 5K, the North Shore Half Marathon, peaked at the completion of the Chicago Marathon in October, struggled through the Hot Chocolate 15K with post marathon blues/fatigue and now…. Here I am again at the Naperville Turkey Trot 5K.

I was standing there again for another first. This was the first time my 10 year old daughter Renee and my 13 year old twin boys Evan and Jared were participating in an official race. My boys have been participating in cross country with their middle school so Alex and I divided our duties. Alex and the boys lined up in the 8- 9 minute mile pace area and Renee and I headed near the back of the line of 7,000 runners. Before we parted ways, we agreed on a meeting spot post-race and kissed and hugged each other.
Renee and I struggled to keep warm waiting for the start. We found my client Jessica and her family. This was their first 5K. I was especially proud of Jessica for putting on a brave face and coming out to participate. She was planning on run/walking the 5K but had just gotten the news that running is not something she will be doing any longer. Manifesting the heart of a champion, Jessica adjusted her goal and decided to walk the distance. She wasn’t going to let that news keep her on the sidelines. Yet another lesson taught to me by one of my amazing clients. The student becomes the teacher.


At last, the crowd started to move closer to the starting line. Renee clutched my hand and looked up at me with nervousness showing on her beautiful face. Renee had run this distance once before during a very dramatic family training run. We all stayed together and completed the training run in about an hour with Renee stating, “This is my marathon!” So here we were again and she was reliving that run in her mind.
We said good-bye to Jessica and started trotting slowly. Renee was wearing my Hot Chocolate 15K hoodie and I started spotting others wearing the same. I suggested that we count all of the iconic hoodies during the race to pass the time. Renee vehemently said “NO!” with a very serious expression on her face. .. the eye of the tiger. We strategized to slow jog and to stay to the right. She was starting to struggle and suggested that we walk as we approached certain signs on the street. I tried to distract her by pointing out silly hats, other kids her age and by telling her that water would be close to the 2 mile marker. After mile 1, Renee became another kind of runner. It seemed as though she was trying to kill her mother. All of a sudden, our slow jog became a full out sprint. No warning. No gradual increase in speed. Her little arms and legs started pumping and she was off! Not in a straight line of course. I had been holding back to stay with her and now I was sprinting to try to keep her in my line of sight. After about 1 minute of dashing through the streets like we were participating in the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, she slowed to a walk. Thank God! She was beaming with pride knowing she left me in the dust. We walked together until the mood struck and we were off to the races again. She ran effortlessly and ran with joy as only children can. I overheard another runner say enviously, “Wouldn’t you love to run like that little girl?” as he pointed to Renee running ahead of him. I silently agreed proudly. We passed signs that promised water ahead and heard cheering from volunteers. Renee was super excited about the water station. She had watched me grab water from a similar water station during the marathon and was eager to do the same. We talked about pinching the cup so the water wouldn’t end up everywhere as we were walking and drinking. I saw it first. My heart sank as we approached and the water tables were empty. Renee’s face fell as she received a high-five from a volunteer instead of a cup of water. This was bad. Her lower lip jutted out, her eyes and nose crinkled and the tears started to flow. “All I want is water!” she wailed. Her sprints became slower and shorter. She tried to be strong and wipe her eyes dry. I told her that it was just one more mile and we’ll have water. She reminded me that I had said that before. One woman jogged near us and encouraged Renee by saying that it was her first 5k and that if she could do it, so could Renee. Renee was proud to tell her it was her first too. She whined most of the rest of the way resisting any comfort I offered her. As we made the last turn, another woman yelled over that she just had a baby 6 weeks ago and if she could do it so could Renee. As we made the run to the finish, my princess was not looking so happy. I told her we could not cross the finish line with a sad face because we had to run across with our hands up. Finally, it was upon us and I grabbed her hand as we stepped across the finish line and of course, we raised our hands up. We finished! I hugged her and told her I was so proud of her. She was having none of it. She wanted water and that’s it. God help me. They ran out of water at the finish as well. We found the Alex, Evan and Jared and got some much needed hugs. Renee dissolved into tears again asking for water. I was happy to see the boys gather her up in their arms comforting her and telling her how proud they were of their little sister and her first race. They headed to the car to get water and I headed back out onto the course.
It wasn’t too long before I spotted Jessica in her bright pink hoodie walking with her mom. Her dad had found a friend and was chatting with him somewhere. We were walking at a good pace and I walked them almost to the finish line. I wanted to get a picture of her finishing. I know this isn’t how she pictured this Turkey Trot. Despite that, she finished with a gorgeous smile and fantastic attitude.

Fabulous Finish!

The Kuhel family had a fantastic first whole family official race. There are 5 more racing bibs dangling on the refrigerator. Alex went all out and had a PR besting last year by 45 seconds. Evan and Jared stayed together choosing to take it easy finishing in 28 minutes. I would give my eye teeth for that finish time. Renee and I finished in 42 minutes which was a marked improvement over our training run. Jess and her mom finished in a little over an hour. Winners – Every single one of us!

My gorgeous trotters!

I learned something about myself during all my training runs and official races. I met heroes all along the way. I felt like a hero some days. Other days I watched people become heroes. On this day after Thanksgiving I’m ever so grateful. Yesterday was just what I needed to find my running mojo that I was sure had left me after the marathon. I watched my children become runners and heroes to one another. Jessica became a champion in my eyes. It’s been amazing to have this running “thing” come full circle. I now start shifting my goals. I’ve completed a year of being happy to finish races injury free. Now I’ll shoot for personal records for each distance, injury free as well of course. I wonder what will happen in the time between now and the next time I find myself waiting for the beginning of yet another Turkey Trot. I can’t wait to find out.

Until next time…Live Well, Toni Kuhel

Team 40/10 finishes the 2010 Chicago Marathon!!!

Mission accomplished!!!!  After almost a full year of preparing for the marathon, 10-10-10 arrived and Team 40/10 completed our goal.  Ever since Team captain Julie emailed her suggestion that we should complete the Chicago Marathon to mark our 40th birthdays, we’ve been dreading… I mean looking forward to this day.  I’ve been neglecting my blogging duties for a number of reasons, the best one being that I’ve been distracted by training for this event.  So this is the post I’ve been waiting to write since announcing the goal last year.

I’ll spare you all the details of pre-race prep.  Suffice it to say that we were all a bundle of nerves. As we stood in the open corral with 45,000 of our closest comrades I was astounded by how warm I already was just waiting.  A 65 degree morning in October means it’s only going to get hotter. I did my best to take in the whole experience, but it was tough.  I was in awe by the sea of humanity all around me.  I started reading all the shirts and had to stop as I began tearing up reading all the tributes to family and friends.  Facial expressions ranged from super happy, prayerful, scared, deer in the headlights and everything in between.  My expression was a combination of all these things.  Julie, Colleen and I made small talk waiting for the crowd to start creeping toward the starting line.  We hugged one another and wished each other luck. I had a sudden slight panic attack as I thought of family and friends tracking me via text, but calmed myself and focused on just finishing.  It was a bit of déjà vu when we stepped under the starting banner because we had done this same thing at the Shamrock Shuffle in March, but this was clearly a much bigger deal. 

As predicted, Colleen took flight soon after the first block despite battling varying ailments for a full week prior all the way up until last night.  A true warrior, she is.  Julie stuck by me for a mile and then she too was off to the races.  I resisted the urge to try to keep her pace because I knew I would feel like poop later in the race and there was a whole lotta pavement ahead.  So I was alone but surrounded by positive energy all the same.  The choice to wear my running tank with my name emblazoned on the front was one genius decision.  I’ve never heard my name yelled so many times, by so many people in one day! I felt like I had millions of supporters lining the streets.  Many friends had told me where they were going to be and what side of the street.  I tried so hard to remember, but “one foot in front of the other” was what I was focusing on at times.  Remarkably I saw my family at mile 12.5 and they were a sight for sore eyes.   All of a sudden I saw more friends just  a ½ block further and still more friends in the few miles ahead.  I had a couple of friends hop on to the course to run a block or so to check on me, hold my hand, and encourage me.  The first 13.1 miles was great. I walked only through the aid stations to drink or have a GU packet.  Soon after that, stopping to hug and greet my family and friends started cramps in my legs and feet.  Laurie (my nutrition angel) said less water more Gatorade.  I listened to her and it saved me I’m sure. 

My beautiful cheer squad!

The next 10 miles were full of more of the same. Great signs “run like Pheobe”, “toenails are overrated”, “run, people are watching”, “I’m missing da Bears game for this”, “You are all crazy”, “Run happy”, “Poop if you have to”, “Mommy, enjoy your ‘me’ time” “smile, smiling is your favorite”.  There were so many more and each one funnier and more inspiring than the last.  There was great music and dancing in some of the neighborhoods. I even heard my name yelled over the loudspeaker in a couple of spots.  Totally felt like a rock star. A bedraggled rock star, but a rock star all the same.  I took the opportunity to run through every hose I could.  The red alert flags were up and I wasn’t about to ignore that.  I had Gatorade and dumped water on my head at every station. 

I hit my wall at mile 23. The last 3.2 miles felt longer than the first 23.  It was at this point that I started seeing runners collapsed along the route, ambulances screaming by, lots of people dropping out at the aid stations.  My pace went from slow jogging with a little walking to walking with a little (very little) very slow jogging.  I kept visualizing my little 3 mile runs in the neighborhood, but I couldn’t fool my body into running again. Then I saw the “1 mile to go” sign and willed myself to run.  It is absolutely mean that there is that hill at the end and I remember this finish from the Shamrock Shuffle as well.  I was determined to run the rest of the way in.  I felt myself choking up a little as I rounded the last corner and caught my first glimpse of the finish line.  It was the most beautiful sight!  I threw my hands up and stepped across.  Done, finished, caput! Despite feeling like I had run pretty well, my 6:01 finish was less than ideal.  I had predicted a 5:45 with dreams of maybe a 5:30 but it wasn’t meant to be. 

As I sit here with legs that yell at me with the slightest movement, I don’t know that I’ll try this again.  Today is not the day to ask that question.  I will say that I will have to do some speed work because I have to get faster.  Never again do I want to do something like that for that long! I did it and I’m proud to say I am a marathoner.  Having never run more than 2 miles in a row just over a yeear ago, I just ran 26.2 and lived to blog about it.

Thank you to Julie and Colleen for being my concience throughout this process. It is because of you that I logged all those miles.  It is because of you that I could do this.  Thanks for helping me realize a dream I didn’t know I had.

Team 40/10  – official 2010 Chicago Marathon Finishers!!!

Team Captain – Julie  5:09:04
Team Watermark – Colleen  5:11:01
Team Rookie -Toni  6:01:37

Until next time…Live well! – Toni Kuhel

Getting through a summer of indulgences

It was bound to happen.  A missed workout…or 3 – a few too many food festivals – a couple more beers than I should’ve had.  One of these lapses in judgment is expected once in a while, but all together? I do believe I have really started slipping a bit. Don’t call the health and wellness police! We’ve all hit a hump, bump or a lump in the road to a healthier lifestyle. Now what???

Let’s get real.  We are people and by definition we are NOT perfect so let’s not beat ourselves up for being human.  I didn’t set out to miss my workouts. I had a series of girls’ weekends that just happened to end up in a clump due to my work schedule. I didn’t PLAN on going to all the festivals, but our friends asked us to go and I love my friends.  I didn’t expect to have too much to drink, but it was hot and the beer was cold. Does any of this sound familiar to anyone?  It is true that having lots of moments of weakness is surely a bad idea.  The goal of course is to try to get strong again- in a hurry!  Get over it and get going!! I had a very good time during my moments of weakness and I didn’t feel one bit guilty.  It would sure be hard to have fun while feeling guilty the whole time.  I do not need that kind of conflict in my life.

In a past life, and maybe this sounds like your life now, I would’ve just tormented myself over my decisions.  Guess what – It doesn’t do me any good to spend time feeling bad.  Now it’s just about getting back to making better choices.  I’ll take it one choice at a time.

  • Time to schedule workouts/activity,
  • Make vegetables and fruits the bulk of my meals or snacks
  • Drink water every chance I get. 

Fortunately for me I made the best, bad choices I could make. WHAT? I can hear you asking.  I was a bit surprised at how I could have fun while not wreaking total havoc on my health and wellness. Here’s how I did it and how you are going to do it too.



  • I bought or brought water everywhere I went. 
  • Ate breakfast as early as I could every day. Don’t skip it.
  • I kept healthful snacks in my purse (bring a big purse or get comfortable with carrying a man bag).
  • I made sure not to go more than 2 or 3 hours without eating. Waiting ‘til you’re starving is a very bad idea- it leads to terrible choices.
  • I walked everywhere I could.  I chose some “active” activities.
  • I THOROUGHLY enjoyed my indulgences. Don’t indulge if you aren’t going to love it. It’s sooo not worth it.



  • I brought lots of water.
  • I ate before I went. It kept me from eating too much because I was starving.
  • I got what I craved – a pulled pork sandwich. It kept me from eating a salad, chicken, vegetable tempura, and buttered corn, pretending like I wasn’t going to have my pulled pork sandwich which I was most definitely going to have anyway.
  • I had a bite of my kids’ deserts. I really only wanted a taste so why eat the whole thing.
  • I ate healthfully before and after the festival.  I enjoyed myself because the way I eat at the festivals is an exception and not the rule.


Drinks with friends

  • I order water with every drink and drink it first.
  • I drink light beer or red wine.
  • If I have a mixed drink or a “girly” drink, I try to keep it to just one.

I really enjoy my life and sometimes it can get the better of me. Choose to enjoy your life the best way possible.  Have a great time.  Forgive less than stellar choices by noticing how much better you feel when you get back to your healthier choices.  Realize that fun and healthy are words that can work together. It’s all about living well.

‘Til next time…live well!

Toni Kuhel




Is This a Trip or a Vacation?


My gosh! How did it get to be the end of the school year already???  This seems like the perfect time to address traveling with your posse. The idea of days on end with kids suddenly without the structure of a school day makes one feel like leaving home.  Learning to live well is tough enough when you can control your environment.  When you’re at home you control what is in your cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer.  If you’ve made the commitment (if you’re not there you are on your way) then you have “real food” everywhere.  If you are normal then you also have a couple (just a couple) of items that you should have only once in a great while. Confession time…  my 2 things are fresh buffalo mozzarella and butter.  Activity-wise, you also have a routine.  You’ve scheduled your work-outs, found your three 10 minute “chunks”, and have your favorite walking routes around the neighborhood.  But what happens when you are NOT in control of your environment?  Now there are plenty of times when I feel I have no control of my environment, but that mostly pertains to my 3 little angels and 1 big one.  The actuality is that you can always control your choices and thusly it doesn’t matter what environment you are entering.  You don’t ever have to take a vacation from the healthy lifestyle you’ve created, even when you are on vacation.  Stop rolling your eyes long enough to see how painless it can be.

The Kuhel family travels each year and when the kids come (just about always) it is then a trip and not a vacation due to the amount of work that inherently comes with taking the whole circus on the road.  To be quite honest, making our lifestyle changes at home came a lot easier than making those same changes in other situations.  I really had to sit and brainstorm about how we could possibly do these things out in the real world.  Let’s face it.  The real world is loaded with choices that can lead us down an ugly path.  That’s why our nation is in the shape (round is a shape) it is in.  Here are a few ways we navigate our way through the dangerous sea called the vacation/trip.

  • Plan ahead:  Chances are you are not walking to your destination.  At least not the whole way, I hope.  That means you are either driving, flying or boating.  If you are traveling another way (rocket ship, hot air balloon etc.) planning ahead will serve you well too.  Most of these modes of transportation don’t lend themselves to having healthy snacks as part of the deal.  You are going to have to bring some “real food” or pay an unreasonable amount of money for a few acceptable choices.  The Kuhel family’s money tree in the front yard died so we watch our dollars as much as we can.  If your money tree is thriving, then go ahead and take your chances but sometimes it doesn’t matter how much money you have.  That gas station in the middle of nowhere isn’t going to give you fresh blueberries for a fistful of dollars.  You are going to get a questionable mystery meat sandwich, a 2 year old Twinkie, and purple liquid in a dusty odd shaped bottle. Mmmm mmmm good. 


Pack your snacks. If you are traveling a fair distance by car, be smart about it.  For long trips I suggest packing 2 coolers and a snack bag.  One larger cooler in the trunk or in the back of the minivan you said you’d never get.  Use one smaller cooler for the front of the car.  The larger cooler should be your replenishment cooler.  This one should have lots of bottled water, 100% fruit juice boxes, string cheese, re-sealable bags filled with single servings of grapes, carrots, sugar snap peas, small dark chocolate bars (gotta have treats) and anything else your family likes cold.  The smaller cooler should have smaller quantities of the same thing.  No one wants to travel with a giant cooler inside the car and there is no way a little cooler is going to get you past the state line. The snack bag should be contain re-sealable bags filled with single servings of walnuts, almonds, whole grain cereal, home-made trail mix, whole grain crackers,  pbj sandwiches, apples, bananas and containers of applesauce (don’t forget spoons). On our recent road trip, Renee was “snack manager” and she handed out snacks when anyone asked and monitored our inventory so we knew when we had to get supplies from the large cooler.  She is a control freak so this was a sweet deal for her. Also, no one else wanted the job. Traveling by air has restrictions on liquids so you are just going to have to buy water after the security check.  Your snack bag is obviously going to be smaller, but be sure to bring it.  Somehow I can’t justify $7 + (or something like that) for a box with $2 (or something like that) worth of marginal snacks.

That’s about all for part 1.  Part 2 to follow soon.

          Till next time…live well! Toni Kuhel