February 23, 2009

If She Can Do It, We Can Do It

Isn't that how women work? We constantly compare ourselves to other women. Sometimes this can be an unhealthy way of living your life. But I believe it can also be motivation for exercise and for helping stay focused on our goals.

I am your coach, Gracie Updyke. I am 31 years old and have a 22 month old daughter, Daylin Grace. I am also 5 months pregnant and have decided to train for the ZOOMA Austin half marathon. As president of gracie’s gear, I travel around the country every 2 weeks to various races and events. Daylin has been travelling with me since she was just 10 days old and I have the most supportive husband on earth. I find the time to exercise even when I'm pregnant but lately it has been tough. I have been battling colds, travel, weather, you name it and I have used these excuses to be inconsistent in my training.

I train new runners all the time. One of my clients is a 69-year-old woman who has had 2 major heart surgeries, the most recent in May of 2008. She joined a run/walk group I was leading, finished the program, and then asked if I would train her to run. Today she kicked my rear!! In just 8 weeks she has made a complete body and fitness transformation. We completed intervals together and ran/walked over 4 miles. Her interval pace was between 8:30-9min miles...she’s just incredible.

I finished the workout with her and could not stop thinking about how amazing she is. Less than a year ago she could barely walk up the stairs but she never gave up! Look in the mirror and be proud of your training and accomplishments! There will be weeks in your training that are off or you are not as motivated, but think of this woman. Look at where she is today and the courage she has everyday to get out there and run.

I'm inspired by her and will never forget our run today!


This is the first in a series written by Coach Gracie Updyke. An avid marathoner and trained exercise physiologist, Coach Gracie has put her experience to work developing realistic training programs and inventive products that encourage women of all ages and sizes to become active and stay active, including ZOOMA’s 12-week training program. The founder and president of gracie’s gear, Gracie is a mother of one and is currently expecting her second child.

January 23, 2009

A Living Invitation

As I sit down to write a blog post this morning, my mind is racing with thoughts of ZOOMA. This is an incredibly exciting time for us. Since January 1, ZOOMA has taken on a wonderful new staff member, re-launched zoomarun.com, staged a successful training kick-off for ZOOMA Austin, initiated planning for the inaugural ZOOMA Denver, and entered discussions about a future ZOOMA San Francisco. Indeed these are exciting times. Every day at work is fast-paced, with big decisions to be made and exciting news to share with friends and husbands at the end of the day.

As the founder of ZOOMA who has been working full-time on building these women’s events for almost two years, I feel lucky to have this job and grateful to all of you who have confirmed that ZOOMA is important to you, too. Every day I am motivated by my mission to create fun events for women that inspire and challenge, and that give the opportunity to have a healthy, fun, and proud day with your friends. We receive emails daily from women affirming that ZOOMA has meant that for them, and I am urged on by the idea that there are still women out there who are desperately seeking a little “ZOOMA” in their lives.

My friend Kristin Armstrong, who is a wonderful person and, lucky for us, willing to share her uncommon gift with words, said it well. At the ZOOMA Austin Training Kick-off, she spoke to us all about the importance of running in training us to endure, live our best, and be strong for ourselves and our family and friends when they need us most. This is something I believe ZOOMA has to offer women – the power to be who you most want to be. Kristin went on (and this is my favorite part)…

“I’m telling you this but guess what? – you’re already here, you already get it. What about the women who aren’t here? The ones who haven’t already opened the gift of running, who don’t already know the fun of fit friendships, who don’t even know enough to know that they need a release, a reset, or a refill? What about them? Let’s find them, seek them out, and invite them. I encourage each of us to think of five people who might need to replenish their source, who might just try something new because we tell them we believe they can. This is what’s called being a ‘living invitation’ – calling others to be more than they perceive themselves to be.”


What a wonderful concept – to be a LIVING INVITATION. We’ll keep working hard to make ZOOMA events more fun and more exciting, and I’d like to challenge all of you to use ZOOMA as an opportunity to invite beginning runner/walker friends to experience the joys of running, to be better than they thought they could be, and to deepen your own fit friendships.

January 12, 2009

ZOOMA Austin Training Kick-Off

We all had a lot of fun at the ZOOMA Austin Training Kick-Off on Thursday, January 8th at Rogue Equipment in east Austin. Kristin Armstrong inspired us all with great advice about the new year, and Susan McDowell of LifeWorks encouraged us to fundraise for their awesome programs. A big group of women ran en masse to the Capital, laughing and chatting all the way. Thanks to everyone for coming! See you in April...

Runners received freebies from ZOOMA sponsors like New Balance Love/Hate socks, a Women's Running magazine, and LUNA bars.

We all piled in to hear Kristin Armstrong's advice on the new year and Susan McDowell's inspiring words about LifeWorks, the ZOOMA Austin Official Charity Partner.

Thanks to Rogue Equipment and Rogue Training Systems for hosting, and for all of you who came out. It was great meeting many of you, and we'll see you in April!

*Email us at info@zoomarun.com with any questions about the training kick-off.

January 6, 2009

Weight Loss & Love

Yesterday, Oprah aired a show about her weight gain over the past year. Working in the fitness-and-motivation industry, I eagerly anticipated the heavily advertised confession. After seeing it last night (I DVR The Oprah Show), I realized that Oprah’s words and expressions felt very familiar. Oprah’s expression told me she felt awkward and slightly embarrassed telling the world about her failures and inadequacies.

I know how she feels. After all, who hasn’t felt pain and embarrassment about her inadequacies at some point in her life? Don’t we all wish we were better at something – more disciplined, thoughtful, patient, etc? Haven’t we all reached a point where we’ve nearly or completely fallen off the cliff to the point that drastic readjustments are required? I’m sure Oprah’s revealing words will resonate with many women as they did with me.

But to me, the most interesting part of Oprah’s show was her conclusion that it’s all about LOVE. She asks herself– What am I hungry for in life? It’s not food. Oprah is hungry for balance and love. Self-love.

I came to the conclusion years ago that no one can be happy, or make anyone else happy for that matter, if she doesn’t have unconditional love for herself. For some, that can be a controversial outlook… Women in particular are often expected to put lots of people and things above themselves, but I am a firm believer that I will never truly succeed with any relationship or job if I don’t truly love myself. That means prioritizing myself from time to time to the exclusion of others. This can come off sounding selfish, but I don't think it is. It's very easy to put everyone else's success and happiness above your own, but to me, it is not always the right answer.

There are plenty of ways to love yourself. But for me, being healthy is the ultimate way. Making fitness goals and having the discipline to stick with my workout plan. Setting aside time to buy fresh food at the grocery store and to prepare healthy meals. Scheduling a mani/pedi if I need to relax and feel pampered, and cutting out of work in time to make yoga class. Spending money to sign up for a race and working hard for months so that I can experience the high of race day. These things can very easily fall off the schedule in the face of household, work and family obligations, but I try to make "loving myself" a priority, too.

My sincere hope is that ZOOMA serves as an opportunity for women to “love” themselves. By taking the time to train for races and enjoy workouts with friends, we can prioritize our health and ultimately our happiness. I am convinced that this is the best way to lose weight, be healthy and be the best we can be – to love ourselves.

Click here if you want to watch Oprah’s confession: http://www.oprah.com/slideshow/oprahshow/20081030_tows_bobgreene

December 22, 2008

Why It's Great to be a Woman

This is a lovely essay written and read by Kelly Corrigan, an author. To me, its a great reminder of why it's great to be a woman and how blessed we all are. Happy holidays!

December 5, 2008

The Best Holiday Gift Ever

Where did Thanksgiving go, and why are there twinkle lights in my neighbor’s bushes and inflatable snowmen in her front yard? With all my focus on ZOOMA Atlanta over the past couple months, the holidays have crept up on me like never before. Which causes me to stress out a little.

My sister and I have been trying to coordinate Christmas Eve and Christmas day family visits. We have about 48 hours to squeeze in visits with three different family branches, between the two of us. Not to mention sleep, travel time, and a break to breathe. Then there are the presents! There are, admittedly, some amazing recession-sales out there, but still it’s a difficult task to find the perfect gift for eight family members. And the holiday cards. And the holiday parties. Oh… the holidays!

And I’m sure many of you are struggling with even more distractions than I am. So, I’m proposing a new strategy. I’m going to give myself the best holiday gift ever.

The holidays are supposed to be about enjoying friends and family. They are about reflecting on the good things in our lives, and giving gifts to others because we love them and want them to feel happy and appreciated. I think that we all have one major problem when it comes to the holidays – we try to do too much. The holidays can really only be enjoyed if we are relaxed, de-stressed, and feel prepared and organized. How can we enjoy our friends and family members if we are stressed out with trying to see them all and with buying the perfect gifts?

The best gift we can give ourselves is to know our limits, and work within our own parameters. I refuse to sacrifice myself for the sake of a “perfect holiday.” Instead, I’m going to drastically take control of my holiday this year. I might schedule a massage for myself. Make time for yoga and running with friends. Focus on the small things. Scale back on the gifts if the effort is stretching me thin. Give myself permission to decline a holiday party invitation if I’d rather stay home and watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Pace myself. This holiday season, I'm going to treat myself.

I'm taking back this holiday... and creating a happy, relaxing, joyful and soulful few weeks. And, from the bottom of my heart, I wish you all the same!


December 2, 2008

ZOOMA Austin Training Kick-Off!

Thursday, January 8 at 6:00 pm
Rogue Equipment, 500 San Marcos St, Austin, TX
  • Meet Kristin Armstrong, Runners' World contributor, and ZOOMA Women's Race Series founder Brae Blackley
  • Learn about LifeWorks' single mothers' shelter and how you can help by running ZOOMA, from Susan McDowell, LifeWorks' CEO and runner
  • Enjoy wine, bra fittings, product demos and free giveways from ZOOMA sponsors
  • Kick your ZOOMA training off with a short run with Kristin, Brae, Susan and other ZOOMA runners!

Participation is free! Reserve your spot by RSVPing at www.zoomarun.com/news.html

Training Kick-Off is limited to 50 participants, so reserve your spot today!

November 18, 2008

ZOOMA Atlanta 2008

THANKS to all the ZOOMA Atlanta runners and walkers who braved 35 degree weather to challenge themselves with a 5K or half marathon. Nearly 1,700 women signed up for the inaugural race. Thanks for welcoming ZOOMA to Atlanta! We'll definitely be back next year.

And thanks to those of you who shared your good experiences with me. Here are a few of the sweet emails I have received over the past couple of days:

I just wanted to thank you for making my first 1/2 marathon such a wonderful experience! I had so much fun. The race was very well organized and the course was great! I can't wait for the next one.

Thanks again,
T. Proctor

I just wanted to thank you for putting on an incredible race. No doubt the course was difficult, but a blast. For it being an inaugural event in Atlanta, it seemed to go off without a hitch. Kudos to your water/Gatorade cheering crew - they definitely kept us motivated. This was my first half-marathon and it definitely won't be my last! Looking forward to next year!

E. Zwigart

GREAT race! Everything was so smooth and the event was a delight. It was my first half marathon and I loved it. See you next year and God bless your work.


(P.S. Women liked this race especially because it gave them a chance to do a Fall half marathon before Thanksgiving. Women do the Atlanta Thanksgiving half, but it makes it hard for them to host company for the holiday. I heard one women commenting that Zooma will be her new November tradition and then she can relax and enjoy her Thanksgiving.)


I participated in the Atlanta event yesterday, it was fantastic. Thank you for the wonderful race experience. The food was good, the vibe was great and the necklaces are too cute. I just wanted to say thanks, we had a great time…keep up the good work! See you next year!

C. Genter


One of the BEST races I've been to!!!!! I WILL be there next year!! Good job!

K. Johnson


Thanks to all of you for continuing to motivate me in my own running. I saw many women running across the finish line holding up their hands in victory with a huge smile on their faces, and there is nothing more inspiring. Congratulations to ZOOMA Atlanta finishers! Keep up the great work!


November 5, 2008

Race Preparation: Gracie's Do's and Don't's

We are just days away from our race in Atlanta. I am so excited for all of you to achieve the goals you have set for this event. Whether it is to finish, run and walk, run the whole time, or run a personal best...You CAN and WILL be successful!

The best prepartion for ZOOMA has already been accomplished: your training. If you have trained consistently, the rest will fall into place and your best race is in front of you.

I always share some Do's and Don'ts before race day: Please leave a comment below and let us all know what has been successful for you or your worst nightmare so we don't make the same mistakes :-)


1-Make sure you are hydrated all week. Drink water until you meet the pee test: If your pee is clear, then you are ready to rock!

2-Make sure you rest a few days before the race. Stay off your feet as much as possible the day before.

3-Stay positive. Start now visualizing the entire race, mile by mile...how great you feel..what pace you are going, the people cheering you on and of course the finish line. Spend the time to visualize the entire race...


1-Don't eat anything that you don't normally eat the night before or day of the race.

2-Don't do any extra activities that you don't normally do the week of the race. We don't want you to get hurt, pull a muscle and not be able to race.

3-Don't wear brand new shoes for the race. Make sure your shoes are broken in.

4-Don't let any negative energy or doubt go through your mind. You have worked hard for this and you are going to enjoy it!

You have done the training and now is the time to mentally focus on being and staying positive.
Please send me questions, any questions, you have concerning your training, the race, prep...anything! I am here for all of you.

I will be at the race and expo selling my gear! If you don't already have a gracie' s gear top, shorts, or capris, go visit the Big Peach or Phiddipides. Our new colors and line have just arrived and they are amazing!

Coach Gracie

October 28, 2008

Refuel Before You're Empty

Although gas prices do seem blissfully low, this blog post is not about pulling over to fill up anytime you see gas advertised for below $2.80 a gallon (although it is tempting!) It may be totally “square” but I admit that I am reading The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, the granddaddy of self-help authors. The book was originally published in the 50s and definitely has a Christian undercurrent, but its advice rinks true today for a broad audience.

Here are some of the topics covered: A Peaceful Mind Generates Power, How to Have Constant Energy and How to Break the Worry Habit. Maybe it would disappoint Dr. Peale to know this… but these are all very relevant problems for most people—60 years after he first published his book!

The basic message is that we create our own happiness, our own energy, our own sense of inner peace. This isn’t big news. The most interesting parts are how to actually find the happiness, energy and peace.

One piece of advice that stuck in my head is Dr. Peale’s suggestion that we take 15 minutes every day to empty our minds. Just think about… well, nothing. No multi-tasking. No reading, watching TV, answering emails, watching kids, etc. Just… empty.

When I first read this I thought it was a very, very cool idea. Then, my skeptical self kicked in and I wondered how I could actually sit still for 15 minutes and not do ANYTHING. Maybe this idea was outdated. After all, they didn’t have internet and blackberries in the 50s. People were surely much less productive. Finally, I thought – why not? Shavasana (a.k.a. corpse pose, or final relaxation when you just lay on your mat with your eyes closed) is my favorite part of yoga class. Shavasana is really little more than emptying my mind after working out. And yoga is decidedly not 50s-ish. Maybe there was something to this think-nothing-for-15-minutes idea.

I realize that 15 minutes may be a huge chunk of time for some people, and many of us may not have the luxury of 15 free minutes alone every day. But don’t we owe it to ourselves to refuel before the tank is empty? Being quiet and truly still does bring peace and energy. Peace and energy makes me happy, and probably makes you happy, too. Without energy and inspiration, I wouldn’t get much done and I wouldn’t be much use to the people around me.

For me, running serves as a peaceful time. It’s a time to pay close attention to the things around me, the sights and the smells. It’s a time to feel every twinge and strength in my body, and to sweat away all the stress and worry of the day. Not thinking – just noticing. In a way, running is a way to refuel.

We often focus on things like self-help books when we find ourselves in a bad place. (Totally out of gas and AAA is on its way.) Doesn’t it make more sense to refuel before we’re empty?

Have a great week –