These busy professionals keep their sanity — and their figures — by pounding the pavement.

In the same 16-year period that obesity rates in the United States doubled — from approximately 15 percent to more than 30 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — so did the number of road race finishers. That figure jumped from 7 million in 1995 to almost 14 million in 2011, according to Running USA, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization that promotes road racing across the country. Increasingly popular as a regular exercise, running’s appeal is apparent: It’s cheap, requires little physical coordination, can be done solo, with a partner or group and has numerous demonstrable physical and mental benefits.

RMay_121219_1163
Photo by Robin May

“Running clears my head,” says small business owner Jaime Fruge, with
husband Ben and daughters Taylor and Jacey.

“Running clears my head,” says Jaime Fruge, mother of three (ages 12 to 18) and co-owner of Absolute Home Remodel and Southern Spray Foam. “What keeps me going is feeling stronger, both emotionally and physically. Life is too busy and overwhelming not to take the time out of the day to do something for myself to release stress. It’s the way I love myself. The rest of the day, I put everyone else first.”

Crystal Hamilton, mother to 1-year-old Max and property manager at Plantation Apartments, feels a similarly powerful non-physical push to finish those multi-mile runs four days a week. “I think of Max and my [hopefully] future kiddos. I want them to experience a mom who works hard and accomplishes her own personal goals. Whatever they choose in life, I will support, but I want them to have goals. I also want them to have the knowledge and understanding of how through hard work they can accomplish them.”

And lest you think they enjoy some grand advantage over your hectic schedule, these women maintain firm, five- to six-days per week fitness routines while managing full-time professional careers and juggling children’s schedules.

A supportive family helps. Though Jaime’s kids are old enough to care for themselves now, Crystal’s partner, Philip, keeps Max while she hits the road or the gym at 5 a.m. five days a week; her mother-in-law keeps Max for her longer, but later, Saturday morning runs.
Partnerships also seem to be key. Jaime regularly runs with two or three people and Crystal with anywhere from one to seven partners per run. Besides the company, you have a free, built-in personal trainer. “If I show signs of slacking,” says Crystal, “Tiffany sends me text threats that she’s gonna come get me out of bed.”

A theme emerged listening to these two women explain the breaks and benefits of maintaining healthy bodies: increased personal discipline and pride. “I’m [now] aware that I work harder than most women I know. I don’t brag about it, but I have a lot pride because of it. I get teased sometimes — silly comments about me showing off how much I exercise via Facebook running apps. Showing off or not, who cares? I’m out there working hard and very proud to show it.”

Jaime agrees: “The discipline I have from exercising carries over into all aspects of my life, getting things done that need to be done even when I don’t feel like it, and following through and being true to my word.”

And this is all not to say that each run is not its own challenge. “For me, running is extremely emotional,” says Crystal. “I sometimes struggle with the ‘I have to stop, take a break’ thoughts and the only thing that keeps me going is the guilt I know I’ll feel if I do stop. I push myself by forcing thoughts of ‘You can do this. You’re stronger than you think you are right now.’ ‘Don’t stop.’ ‘Remember the end!’” she laughs. “All of this sounds pretty miserable, and for me, it is!”

The sell? “My favorite part,” she says, “is that moment when the feeling of wanting to stop goes away. And it does, every time. The strength and control I feel in those moments and when our run is over I have yet to duplicate.”

Celeste White is a 34-year-old mother of two who practices law in Lafayette and enjoys reading and running.

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