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Fitness Spotlight - Kelly Fillnow

My initial aim was to introduce this in the same theme as other Regular People features, however it seems apparent that the days of calling Kelly Fillnow "regular" are long gone.  

Kelly Fillnow is a fellow Davidson alum with a very interesting path that brought her to present day.  There are quite a few recent pieces both print and online (all very well-written) that outline her unique road from college tennis star to cross-country team walk-on to Ironman triathlete, so I won't attempt to re-tell her story once again.

Anyone who competes at the level Kelly does cannot be called "regular" anymore, however as you will see, Kelly is still a normal person whose drive and dedication made such great achievements possible.

Fresh off of competing in her first Ford Ironman World Championship triathlon in Kona, Hawaii, Kelly was gracious enough to make time for an interview with me. 


1. First of all, how was your experience in Kona? 

No words can truly capture the experience of competing against the world's best endurance athletes.  It was an experience that I will remember for the rest of
my life. I had such a surplus of emotions circulating in my brain
moments before the cannon went off, as I had no idea how the rest of
the day might unfold.  But I kept telling myself that the work was
done, and my journey was almost complete.  All I needed to do was just
enjoy the day and the results would take care of themselves!

2. As a dual-sport athlete in college, was there ever a point where
you could feel your emotions shifting from Tennis towards Cross
Country, or was it always an equal balance?

Tennis was always my first love, but there was something that intrigued me about running
when the sport came so naturally to me.  I had no background in
running (besides running as a punishment in basketball, soccer,
softball, and tennis growing up.)  I had quick success in cross
country, while daily balancing three hours of tennis practice with my
run training.  My Davidson cross country coach inspired me to try and
get a scholarship to compete post-Davidson.  She encouraged me to see
where I could take the sport, without having to balance two sports

With her encouragement, I competed for Duke during my
5th year of NCAA eligibility.  It was a dream come true, practicing
with some of the best runners in the United States.  I have the same
struggle now, as I am attempting to balance both running and
triathlon.  But to truly be the best you can be, a decision has to be
made and a sport has to be chosen to pursue.  Excellence is hard to
reach while juggling multiple sports demanding such specific & diverse


3. As another former dual-sport Davidson College athlete, my
“nutrition” was 99% junk food. Did you have a more disciplined
approach to your nutrition back in college or did better eating habits
develop during the latter years?

During my high school years, my mom
took care of providing the most wholesome, delicious meals for my twin
brother, and me. 

*(editor's note: Kelly has a twin sister Meghan who was also a college tennis star at Davidson and is still an amazing athlete as well. More on her to come from Kelly below.)

We typically trained about 3-4 hours of tennis a
day, so our bodies needed proper fuel.  She would make well balanced
meals consisting of protein, vegetables, a starch, and then a loaf of
bread per person because we would always fight over the bread!!  When
I went to college, I had to make the decision myself to eat healthy.
I made wise decisions at the dining hall where I ate all my meals, and
began to get interested in nutrition in order to properly fuel my body
for optimal performance.  I wanted to be the best that I could be, and
in order to do that, I needed to be as metabolically healthy as
possible, and nutrition plays a huge part in that state.


4. What does a typical training day look like for you, including
meals, workout, post-workout nutrition, etc?

There really is no such thing as a typical training day, except for Mondays and Fridays when I
swim for an hour and do light lifting/core. The rest of the week is
very diverse.  Some days I will have an intense 90 minute computrainer
ride and an additional 60 minute swim.  A weekend day might be a 4
hour bike ride and a 30 minute run with intervals at race pace.  But
the training load changes throughout the year depending on if it is
triathlon season, and I have to be on my bike, or if it is winter
season and I am focused on just running and swimming.


Normally I eat about 6 times a day, at the very minimum every three hours.  I need
the constant fuel because of my rigourous training schedule.  Quality,
quantity, and timing of nutrients is very key to recover properly
between my workouts, as some days I will be having multiple workouts.
I like to eat about 20 minutes after I finish my workout to optimally
refuel my depleted glycogen stores so I can be ready for the next day
or the next workout.  I try to eliminate processed foods, and focus on
whole grains, lots of vegetables, fruit, and lean protein.


5. For early morning workouts are you a fan of breakfast
pre-run/workout or just coffee/empty stomach?

I actually don't drink coffee!  When I do a light morning workout, I do not have to eat
anything, but if it is anything over an hour, I definitely eat
breakfast pre-workout.  I have an iron stomach, so I can literally eat
and run out the door.  I do not recommend that to most people though!!


6. What’s your eating approach (ex: carb load, etc) in the final 24-48
hours before a big competition or race? What about in the hours
immediately after?

My eating approach is to eliminate fiber the last 48 hours before a big race.  Two days before the race I focus on lots of carbohydrates, lean protein, and lowering my fat intake.  I always have a few tablespoons of honey at breakfast 48 hours prior to the big day. 

The day prior to the race, I have a big breakfast, an energy bar like a Clif bar for a snack, then a big, carbohydrate friendly lunch. I eat dinner between 530-6 and prefer to have a sweet potato, grilled chicken, a low fiber vegetable, and bread. 

My favorite post-race splurge is a calzone from Mellow Mushroom and a large oreo cookie blizzard from Dairy Queen.


7. What’s the one food/desert that you still can’t give up, no matter

 I love my ice cream, low fat of course :). 


8. What’s your advice for someone who might be thinking of attempting
a new challenge like a half-marathon or sprint triathlon (or even a
simple fitness class) but hasn’t found the courage yet?

 I truly believe that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to
accomplishing.  I have witnessed countless clients who have not even
been able to run two minutes, compete half marathons!

This past weekend, I was truly inspired by my twin sister, who had a goal to PR
in her marathon (3:04).  She ended up getting sick to her stomach and

started vomiting at mile 19, ten times before she finished the race.
She had a goal, however, and her mind overcame her body's inability to
function properly, and she hit a new PR of (3:03), solely because of
her belief and desire to achieve her goal. You will be surprised what
your body can achieve when you stay positive with yourself and stay
patient in the process of development.

I think it is very important to set goals for yourself, and write them down.  Then, tell a friend or your husband or a coach so that they can help keep you accountable along the way.  The hardest part is taking that first step.  But once you take that first step, there is no limit to what you can
accomplish.  The most important thing is to enjoy the journey along
the way!


Fitness Spotlight - Regular People Volume IV

Time management is something almost all of us in the working world have to battle and manage.  It's very easy for people with plentiful free time to find a couple hours each day for workouts, however most of us struggle to fit training into our schedules.

My friend Laura Gainor has those common struggles, but has found creative ways to stay diligent in her pursuit of greater fitness. 

Laura began by taking a few cycling classes each week, but work enevitably kept impeding.  As one of the most creative people I know (take a look at her website), she found a unique way to implement guard rails into her schedule.  Laura joined a group boot camp at Axiom Health & Fitness in Milwaukee.

Not only are group boot camps a great way to meet new people, but the group atmosphere helps some people stay motivated and remain accountable.

I wanted to highlight Laura's endeavor, not because she's some workout fanatic like I am, but because she's regular.  She's a normal person with a busy life between work and family, but refused to accept the notion that it's acceptable to ignore personal health and fitness.

Keep up with Laura through her website or through Twitter - she's another example that your fitness can "fit" into a busy schedule if you want it to badly enough.


Week 2: AXIOM Health & Fitness Boot Camp from Laura Gainor on Vimeo.



Women's Fitness Spotlight - Lolo Jones

This Women's Fitness Spotlight is on one of my favorite individual sport pro athletes - U.S. Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones

Lolo won the World Indoor Championships in the 60m hurdles in 2008, but won even more fans (including myself) after her dignified behavior following the 2008 Bejing Olympics.  She entered the finals of the 100m hurdles as the favorite, but while leading the race towards the finish, clipped the second-to-last hurdle to finish 7th.  Instead of pitying herself or making excuses, she faced the public head-on and gave classy interviews, giving many of us an example for how to handle disappointment in a big spot.

She came back in 2010 to defend her 60m Indoor hurdles title with a winning time of 7.72 (a new American record).  She also picked up a win in the 100m hurdles earlier in September at the IAAF World Challenge meet.

Lolo Jones is another athlete that also seems to "get it" in-terms of social media, online presence, and fan interaction.  In addition to her main site, you can follow her on Twitter as well. 

If you like those abs ladies, she gave a few tips and exercises to Runner's World in a feature last year.

She's also got a pretty robust YouTube presence, here are a few sample videos:

*Lolo Jones walks us through an athlete's nutrition (try to tune out the German voice-over).

*Clap Pushup Challenge (Ladies take note!)


Return of the Six-Pack: Getting Back Into Shape For New Moms

A month ago, a friend from work gave birth to her first child.  She's a former college athlete, so with a few weeks left in her pregnancy she was already lining up her game plan for getting back into shape.

"I've gotta get my six-pack back again!" she said one day.  Well I like fitness challenges, so I was quickly motivated as well. 

Losing the pounds that accumulate on a woman's body during pregnancy is obviously tough.  Adding to the challenge is the fact I'm a man and almost nothing about the complexities of the female anatomy post-pregnancy, however I've never had a problem consulting with people smarter than me to learn something new.

I assembled a "Dream Team" of the fittest moms I know and elicited their wisdom, feedback, and collective experiences after they gave birth to help my friend put a long term plan in-place that will help get her back to her "old self". 

Comprising my Fit Mom Roundtable: a former Division I college field hockey player, a former college soccer player in the ACC, and two fitness instructors/triathletes.  Clearly they know their stuff, but their shared experiences mean even more since they are "regular people".  What I hope to do below, is aggregate what I've learned from them (as well as some other sources) in the hopes that in-addition to my friend, some other new moms can help collect the tools to either reclaim their lost six-pack - or find the one they never knew they had!

 Doctor's Clearance

Also known as "Step One".  The Most Important.  Without this step, forget about reading the rest of the article until you've consulted a physician.  Hopefully it goes without saying, but there's no such thing as a plan to get back into shape post-pregnancy until you've been cleared by your doctor.


This was an interesting finding for me, since if you've spent any time on my site you know that I place a premium on nutrition strategy for athletic performance, body composition/fat loss, and overall health.  I was unaware that a new mom's diet had such a major affect on their baby due to breast-feeding.  Odds are if you're a new mom reading this, there's nothing I can teach you about breast-feeding vs the foods you're eating, so I'll try to stay in my lane.

Once your focus shifts to your own nutrition for your plan to get back into shape, many of the same dietary strategies that would help keep you lean under normal circumstances.  You'll want to do many of the same tactics like cutting back (or eliminating) those white starches like pasta, breads, pastries, and a few heavy dairy sources.  A shift (or continued focus) towards lean proteins, healthy fats, and moderate-to-low carb sources is the way to go.  Good news that there is no need to "re-invent the wheel" when it comes to dieting to lose pregnancy pounds.

As you have probably already learned the hard way, meal time becomes much less structured with a new little one controlling your schedule 24 hours-a-day.  As my friend Jessica (former Div. I college field hockey player) pointed out, "grazing" (snacking on healthier foods throughout the day) is one way to keep your diet pointed in a positive direction even while the baby's appetite takes precedence over your own.

"I became a grazer and would grab a protein and/or dairy source as a snack whenever possible (nuts, yogurt, cottage cheese, slice of meat, etc.). I kept berries and spinach on hand and would grab a handful here and there throughout the day."

Jessica makes a great point that gets overlooked too often, if you keep good snacks handy, that makes it much less likely that you'll gravitate towards the "wrong" type of snack while you're trying to get back in-shape.


I'm a big fan of setting goals for fitness, both short-term and long-term.  In this situation, the short-term goals need to be moderate, and the long-term goals need to be LONG-term.

The consistent response from my Fit Mom Dream Team was that their recovery time spanned from 6 weeks to 2-3 months, and even then, the first few workouts should be kept to some brisk walks of 20-30 minutes. Another good strategy (that solves two tasks at once) is to invest in a solid baby stroller that allows you to burn a few calories while getting the new baby outside the house for a little while.

Once you get past that introductory stage and can truly begin focusing on your legitimate fitness goals, scale weight is OK however it's only one factor in the grand scheme of returning to your old self (or even an improved version).  You'll know once certain clothes begin to fit again, so those things will take care of themselves.  But with regard to fitness goals, once you are able to get out and jog for 15-20 minutes, perhaps it's time to target a 5K run in the next 1-2 months.  No worries about what the stop watch says, just focus on finishing and being involved in the competition aspect.  Once you get moderately close to your old self, maybe you set a much longer term goal like a half-marathon or sprint-triathlon in the next calendar year.

Stephanie, a personal trainer/triathlete (and mom of two) here in Charlotte had the following advice for new moms:

"The cross training that triathlon offers is fantastic, and I would recommend it to everyone.  Having goals is a huge motivator and really keeps you on track with your training.  Every workout has a purpose, so it eliminates repetitiveness and boredom that so often occurs when people 'just lift weights'."

 The Power of Routine

One of the biggest consistencies I found from the new moms was that their own workouts and bodies are now a distant second to the needs and care for their new little baby.  That's obviously a good thing, however there does come a point where Mom needs to avoid neglecting her own health and fitness too.  Still, workouts need to fit into the overall family schedule, so time flexibility is paramount.  Rather than fall back on the sometimes valid-yet-insufficient reason of "I don't have enough time", you must MAKE time somehow.

  • Gather with other new moms you know and pick a time to meet and push the kids in the stroller together. 


  • If you've got a gym membership, print a group fitness class schedule and pick 4-5 classes per week that you'll attend like clockwork.  See if the gym or YMCA has a child watch facility where you can drop the baby for an hour and jump into a cycle class or total strength/organized cardio class.  Odds are you'll become attached to the group setting and probably meet a few new people along the way. 

Mary Dare is another of the great fitness instructors (also newbie triathlete and mom of 3) at the Charlotte YMCA and she said the organization of the group exercise schedules plus child care was a huge pillar of her post-baby fitness plan:

"It takes time getting used to new schedules, and I think routine is important. Everyday, we went to the Y at 9:30 for an hour. This was my hour to myself, and fortunately, the YMCAs have great childcare. I scheduled all appointments around that time. Obviously things come up sometimes, but 4 out of 5 days we were there. Once my children were in Child Watch, I could focus on my hour to work out."


  • If your husband also likes to work out, do like my friend Jessica and set a "your turn/my turn" rotation with Dad.  If you watch the baby on Monday while he works out, on Tuesday it's your turn.


The point is, MAKE time and make getting your workouts a part of your regular schedule somehow.  Even if you can't go for a long jog or swim like you used to, a brief but intense session can still get the job done.

 Celebrity Mom Perspective

While there are some celebrity new moms who spend 3-4 hours in the gym with their personal trainers, there are still quite a few that incorporated the same workout and nutritional philosophies that will give a "regular" mom the success she's looking for.  One online article I found illustrated that several big names found success by using similar dietary tactics that I outlined above:

Jennifer Garner, Kate Hudson, Elizabeth Hurley and Catherine Zeta-Jones all lost their post-baby bodies by following a diet that is low in carbohydrate-based foods (breads, pastas) and high in protein (fish, chicken, lean beef).

Jennifer Garner, mom to one-year-old Violet, tells People magazine, "It took me a long, long time. I just wasn't that motivated. I wanted to play with her. Then I got on the treadmill, stopped stuffing my face and lost the weight. I cut out croissants, bagels and muffins -- all the good stuff. And went back to having a salad once a day and protein."  David Kirsch, supermodel Heidi Klum's trainer, tells Access Hollywood that the best way to lose the bloat is to cut down on "starchy carbs" like dairy and fruit for two weeks.

Workout philosophies varied among celebs (as they do among the rest of us) - Jennifer Garner and Gwen Stefani were big fans of higher intensity running, whereas Gwenneth Paltrow was more into moderate activity like yoga.  Jada Pinkett Smithwas a bigger fan of higher intensities like interval circuits and resistance training to work off her baby pounds (which is what trainer/triathlete Stephanie recommends by the way). Pro Volleyball player and Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walshlost 36 pounds by consulting with other athletic moms like Mia Hamm and Gabrielle Reece for advice.


I saved the final key finding for last, since it seems to be the most important.  You can't rush back into your fitness plan 100% without allowing for a few set-backs and injuries along the way.  All of these aspects are important in their own way, but starting slow builds a solid base for more advanced training.

My friend Amy (half-marathonner and mom of two) was an ACC soccer player who went head-to-head with future Olympians at practice every day, but even she had to set moderate goals when first starting out.

"When I started walking I would take the baby out in the stroller just to get fresh air for the both of us.  And then depending on how I was feeling/healing I would either increase the length of time or if I was feeling too sore afterwards, then I would take off  a day or so, and then next time slow down.  It really is trial and error."

Kerri Walsh acknowledged the difficulties of remaining patient in her interview:

"They're like: 'It's possible.  Just give yourself time and be patient,' " Walsh said to the Times. "Which is truly the hardest part, being patient.  I want to be fit yesterday."

Trainer/triathlete (mom of two) Stephanie also echoed the importance of resisting the urge to do too much, too soon:

"I went back to work 6 weeks after giving birth and I think that's when I started working out again.  Lifting weights and light sessions of aerobic training.  I was determined to compete again in triathlons for the next year. I wanted to start running again and get a really good foundation of winter training on my bike (I rode on my trainer indoors).

  I probably did too much high intensity training too soon and paid the price with a  lot of injuries.  I was forced to scale back on my training and go about it in a smarter way.  I hadn't giving my body enough time to recover from the pregnancy and child birth, and it was retaliating!"

The odds are that your body will let you know what it can and cannot handle once you begin activity again.  The key is to listen and slow down when your body is asking for recovery time.  Set realistic short term goals, and keep the longer-term goals far enough in the future that you allow for a few minor setbacks along the way.

If my Fitness Mom Dream Team can illustrate anything, it's that with realistic planning, flexible scheduling, smart nutrition, and perseverance, that six-pack that you've been missing will return again one day.

Just be smart and persistent, and it might be sooner than you think.


Fitness Spotlight: Regular People (vol. 2)

I thought I would take a break from supplying Fitness Spotlights on the "stars" of the sports/fitness industry and highlight some regular every-day people who have done inspiring things.  Technically, this is volume 2 highlighting regular people since KathEats is considered as the first installment.

My friend Carrie started her weight loss journey on New Years' Day 2010.  She did the right thing by taking a two-pronged approach to weight loss, not only did she aspire to become a more fit person through sweat equity (ie: workouts) but she enlisted the help of Medi-Weigh Loss Clinics to discuss a better approach to eating and nutrition.

To climb on the soap box for a brief moment, it is almost heart-breaking to see so many people each week who clearly want to change their bodies but think they can continue eating poorly and "sweat it off".  Carrie's results just reinforce the proven axiom that diet amplifies positive weight loss results from exercise.

In addition to Carrie's new disciplined approach to nutrition, she became a regular at our group fitness classes at the Dowd YMCA in Charlotte.  I was proud to see her hesitantly step into one of my classes (fearing she wouldn't be able to cut it) and then power through the whole thing after a couple sessions.

I won't spoil all the details of Carrie's story, which is detailed here on her great blog, but in less than six months, she's lost over 30 pounds and dropped 10% body fat as well. 

I met Carrie through her boyfriend, who is an old high school football teammate, friend, and general all around great guy (he's also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert).  We're all tremendously proud of her progress and success, and hopefully her story can serve as motivation and example for countless others with the same goals.