Get a running start to your day

Summer on the Run is a 12-week blog and video series that follows former Olympic swimmer and avid runner Summer Sanders on her journey to train for Disney's Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 24. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, she will share training tips, and a little inspiration, as she gears up for the main event. Use hashtag #GoRun on Twitter to follow Summer and be part of the ongoing conversation.

On a typical day, my alarm goes off at 6:45 a.m., and I hit snooze. My daughter, Skye, is usually in bed with us, so I get one eight-minute snooze cycle before I wake up and put on my running clothes as quickly as I can; that's the difference between fitting in a run and not. I must be wearing my running clothes from the start of the day. If you haven't tried it, you should.

My kids know it. They'll see my outfit and say, "You're going for a run today, mom."

Courtesy of Summer Sanders

Summer Sanders says she tries to make staying active a family affair.

I wake up Skye first, and then I have breakfast with both kiddos. Skye catches the 7:45 a.m. bus, and then I go home to get Spider ready. After I drop him off at school, I am free to go for a trail run, a road run, or head to the gym. My secret is to do it first thing. I purposely schedule work calls a little later, say 11 a.m., so I have a window for a workout.

There are definitely days when I'm so busy that I end up doing other activities all morning while wearing my running clothes. But I know that if I keep them on, there are little windows of opportunity to run. When the kids are at gymnastics, I can run around town. I've even been known to run down the aisles at the grocery store, combining shopping for dinner and my version of a workout. If you add up all the small runs throughout the day, it can equal a 30-minute workout, which is sometimes all I get.

My husband, Erik, has gotten into running a bit more. He used to be averse to it, as if it was an allergy. He started on his own, without me pushing him. Occasionally, we'll run together.

Sometimes my kids are bummed to see me go for a run, so we've learned to take advantage of family runs. We get creative! If I take my kids out for a half-mile run around the block, especially Skye, she feels good about it. We'll do it six times.

All the runs in my neighborhood start on the uphill and end on the downhill, so I'm used to that. Spider is really into biking, so he'll come, and I'll do lunges or knee-ups when he's scaling up the hill. But on the way home, when he's flying, I have to sprint to keep up.

It's the same thing for a pet owner. When you take someone or something on your run, you have to know that those runs won't go according to plan. But it's worth it for time together. In fact, sometimes Eric will sit in a lawn chair, and he and the kids will cheer me on as I repeat my loop.

I was always a 30 minutes out-and-back type of runner. I never really had an idea of how long and how fast I was training. At first I was apprehensive about racing. I also wasn't sure I could do it for fun without becoming too competitive. I was inspired to race by my college girlfriends. They made it a social activity. Even after a late night, we'd get up early to do our run. I've always associated it with my friends and spending time together.

I used the term racing loosely for a long time. I didn't start entering races until I lived in New York and discovered NYRR [New York Road Runners]. I was sort of envious of people doing those races in the park with those cute little bibs. It took me some time to trust myself. I had to learn to become Summer, the runner -- not Summer, the champion swimmer. We all have to come to terms with who we are now and then.

Being around other people who enjoy competing in an activity can be infectious, and then it's no longer intimidating. It doesn't have to be a running race. I've felt it in a triathlon, too. I realize I'm never going to be as great as I was [in swimming]; greatness is not about being No. 1, it's about challenging myself and doing what makes me feel good. And those are lessons I want to teach my kids.

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