Category: Health and Wellness

Make Running Fun

I think running is one of the greatest exercises you can do for your body. It has so many benefits for physical and mental health. It helps in losing weight, lowering blood pressure, lowering blood sugar, building muscle and keeping a positive mood. So many good things come from running. But not everybody thinks of running as fun. Some of you may be training for your first 5K or half marathon and may find the task of training for this daunting. Here are some simple ways to keep in mind to make running fun.

Find a purpose. Running is always more fun if you are running for something. If you are reading this column, they you have likely signed up to race which is a goal in itself. As you are training, decide what you want to achieve in this race. Is this your first 5K and your goal simply to finish? Do you want to beat your friend who is also racing? Do you want to run a personal best? Your goal should be reachable and attainable. Having a goal to focus on will make training easier as you try to attain that goal. Other people may decide to race for a loved one by raising money for a cause. Raising money for charity in races is a great way to motivate runners and keep it fun, because every time you lace up your shoes, you are doing it for a greater purpose which should give you great satisfaction as you go along with your training.

Don’t go it alone. A second way to make training fun is to buddy up. This can come in the form of training with your friend, neighbor, or family member. Training with someone else makes running a social activity. It allows us to bring others into our training and lives.  Many a great conversation has been had on training runs. The social nature of running decreases anxiety and makes it harder to skip a training run. You can also consider joining a local running club with like-minded runners that usually meet on certain days and times. Also, consider getting the family involved. Bring the kids on your run. Put the kids on their bikes so they can follow you while you run. Run to the park with them. Let them play. Take a stretching break and then run back. Now the whole family gets exercise and helps you out along the way.

Mix things up. Varying the intensity of your runs is another way to make running fun. Don’t just go out and always do the same distance run at the same pace. That will get very boring very quickly. The easiest way to vary your runs is to do a fartlek run.  Fartlek means “speed play” in Swedish. This is a simple form of interval training in which you vary the speed of your run for certain distances within the run. It can be as easy as seeing a mailbox in the distance and deciding to run a little faster until you get there and then slowing down again. Repeat this, many times, throughout the run, with various distances of increased speed and then return back to your base pace. Keep things interesting with a fartlek run once per week.

Go gadget free. So many of us are fixated on our Fitbits or Garmins that we feel like we can’t leave the house without them. We are constantly looking at the gadget, trying to get feedback on our pace or distance. In doing so, we are disconnecting ourselves, in a way, from our activity. Try running simply for the joy of running. Connect with your own body and settle into your run. Let yourself be free. Feel the wind in your hair, the sweat on your face, and the burn in your legs. This will really bring the joy back to running. Try running without your gadget at least once a week and see how good you feel.

Remember the fun of running isn’t over at the finish line. Continue the fun throughout the year. Make running a lifestyle choice. Happy trails!


Dr. Michael Hartmann
Race Medical Director, Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon & 5K
Emergency Room physician, Edward Hospital



Local Marathoner Adds Naperville Marathon to Growing List of Accomplishments


By Emily Zadny

2016 Media Coordinator

Naperville Marathon & Half Marathon

After being a high school dual-sport athlete, Katie Bryk was looking for a way to stay in shape when she went off to college. She found a niche in distance running, running 5k and 10k races and while student teaching her senior year of college, Bryk had one student that motivated her to go the extra distance, extending her mileage to 26.2.

“I had a first grader in my class that was suffering from Leukemia whose family had received support from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of America,” said Bryk. “I learned about LLS’s marathon training program – Team in Training – and decided if this little boy could battle Leukemia with a smile on his face, I could run a marathon and raise funds for a great cause at the same time.”

Now, nearly 20 years later, Bryk has become an avid marathoner.

So avid that she had completed forty marathons by her 40th birthday.

“About 5 years ago I was doing the math in my head and I figured out if I ran 3-5 marathons a year, I would be able to complete my 40th marathon before my 40th birthday. I had done 10 marathons from 1999-2004 before taking time off to have my two sons Payton (11) and Will (9). I returned to marathon running eleven months after Will was born when I ran at the Chicago Marathon in 2007. From October 2007 through April 2016, I ran thirty marathons.”

Her love for the sport and passion to help others enjoy it as much as she does has landed her at Fleet Feet Sports in Elmhurst as the head coach for the marathon and half marathon programs.

“Running is a very unique sport,” she said. “You can run alone, with a friend or two, or a training group of a 100. For me, it gives me time to clear my mind and reset for the day. Running is my yoga.

“I’m very fortunate in that my favorite running buddy is also my husband,” she continued. “We have had some great trips together that were tailored around a marathon—Mardi Gras Marathon, Napa Valley Marathon. I’ve also had Girls’ Trips that revolved around marathons.”

Even though she has traveled across the country for the sport, Bryk has one marathon that is close to her heart and on her calendar every year: the Healthy Driven Naperville Marathon.

“As much as I love traveling for races, I’m a homebody,” said Bryk. “When I was in high school, my family moved to Naperville and I called Naperville home and I spent many high school nights at the Riverwalk!

“Running the Naperville Marathon its inaugural year was like a trip down memory lane for me. I ran by friends’ childhood homes and old hangouts and had such a positive experience my first year, that I have continued to come for each running of the Naperville Marathon.”

Bryk will be at the starting line again this year alongside thousands of runners on Oct. 23 in the marathon’s fourth year. With a new course design, race day gear options, and post race activities, it’s one that Bryk and runners alike do not want to miss.

Needless to say, after forty marathons, Bryk has a vault of advice for others who want to get involved in the sport, whether that is a mile down the road or 26.2 miles.

“Whether someone wants to run a 5k or a marathon, they need to recognize that running is 90% mental and 10% physical,” she said. “Once you release the demons that tell you – you can’t – you can do anything.

“I also recommend that new runners—and lifetime runners, too—consider training with a group. Running with someone makes the miles fly by; going into an 18 or 20 mile run with a group is a lot less daunting then going into it alone.”

While her goal of reaching 40 marathons before her milestone birthday may be complete, Bryk is nowhere near finished with her training and is looking to achieve new goals. This past year, she achieved another goal: running a qualifying time for the most prestigious race of them all.

“Last year I made the commitment to myself to train for a Boston qualifying time, and at last year’s Naperville Marathon, my training paid off and I ran a qualifying time,” she said.

Forty marathons under her belt? Check. Boston Marathon qualifying time? Check. What’s next on Bryk’s running bucket list? The next obvious step up: ultramarathons.

“I am a goal setter,” she said. “Once I finished my 40th marathon I knew it was time to start thinking about a new goal. A 50-miler seems like a perfect new goal for me.”



Got pain? Get it checked out.

Got pain? Get it checked out.


By Linnea Omholt and Luke Smith, Edward Rehabilitation Services and Sports Medicine


Let’s face it, the rigors of marathon training aren’t for the faint of heart. The daily runs, growing in length, take commitment and will, and for most, require the ability to handle a few aches and pains. But how do you know when to seek medical attention for pain related to running? The incidence of injury for those training for a marathon has been reported as high as 90 percent, so don’t ignore those persistent pains – seek help sooner rather than later.

Sudden pain while running. If you feel a jolt of pain that disappears, it probably isn’t something to be concerned with. But if a sudden pain persists or worsens, it’s time to visit the doctor. Sudden pain could be the sign of a tear or sprain.


Increasing pain while running. Runners are experts at pushing through pain, but pain that increases in intensity during a run could be an indicator of injury. Conditions like shin splints, runner’s knee or stress fractures can present with pain that worsens during a run and improves with rest. Seek attention if pain does not improve or continues to persist even with rest. Injuries such as plantar fasciitis (pain in bottom of the foot) may hurt at the beginning of the run, reduce during the run and then reoccur after rest.


Pain after running. Post-run pain is common and not necessarily a sign of injury, but if it’s outside your body’s normal response or persistent, it’s worth a quick assessment. Injuries with significant inflammatory processes can show up after running. Get it checked out if pain and/or inflammation does not subside.

If you are unable to bear weight or have uncontrolled bleeding, seek medical attention immediately. It is okay to take a few days to monitor your pain and rest before seeking medical attention if you are not in excruciating pain. If you feel better, great! With a few pain-free days under your belt, you can start training again at a low intensity, keeping a close eye out for reoccurrence. Add cross training to your program if you haven’t already to help keep running injuries at bay. But if pain continues even with rest, get an evaluation so you can recover and return to training, and reach your marathon goals.


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Linnea Omholt, PT, DPT
Edward Rehabilitation Services and Sports Medicine

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Luke Smith PT, DPT, CSCS
Edward Rehabilitation Services and Sports Medicine

Back to Basics is Key to Mindful Eating


Back to Basics is Key to Mindful Eating

By: Angela Dennison

Healthy Eating Specialist at Whole Foods Market Naperville

Good health requires a combination of good habits and we should never underestimate the power of healthy eating. Exercise although very important, seems to reign supreme in the mentality of good health. But did you know that healthy eating is more than half of the battle? The food we consume plays a much larger role than we think and maintaining a healthy diet is crucial.

Focusing on these principles are a great foundation and contributing factor to a healthy lifestyle no matter your dietary path.

Eat close to nature

Eat foods that are closest to their natural form and decrease your processed food intake. Processed foods add a significant amount of processed sugars, processed grains and salt into your diet and are typically void of important nutrients.

Eat your greens first

When sitting down to a meal, eat your vegetables first. This will ensure you are packing in the nutrition at every meal. If you always save your vegetables until last, you might be too full to squeeze them in!

Make your grains whole

Whole grains are loaded with fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins. When they are processed, they are stripped of their naturally occurring nutrients and are sometimes chemically added back in.

Focus on nourishment

If we focus on foods that are truly health promoting, we will naturally have a very healthy diet. When you sit down to a meal or snack, ask yourself: How is this nourishing my body? Focus on fiber, protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

By focusing on these four principles, you will be on the right path to good health. Dieting and healthy eating are not the same thing; be careful not to confuse those terms. Healthy eating is a lifestyle and it centers on healthy habits. Diets are temporary and focus on calorie restriction and deprivation. After we see results, we end the diet and go back to our old habits and that is not true progress. True progress takes real change and a new outlook on food.

We live in a society where we take new information to heart without further researching it ourselves and sometimes fall into the gimmicks and fads. Know that healthy eating is basic and simple and can be successfully done by anyone. It’s hard to give up the foods we love. Food is not just fuel for us; it’s comfort, tradition and has a strong emotional tie to us all. You can still enjoy the foods that tickle your taste buds but mindful eating is key. That’s why it is important to follow these four principles in order to maintain a daily focus on healthy eating.



Why running boosts emotional health

By Ross Sweeney, Linden Oaks Behavioral Health


Congratulations, you’ve committed to running a half or full marathon this fall! The Healthy Driven Naperville Half Marathon & Marathon are just six short months away and I’m sure your training is well underway. But while you busy yourself making plans, setting goals and doing all the hard physical work that comes with training, don’t let the impressive emotional benefits long distance running offers go unnoticed.


As the chronic care coordinator at Linden Oaks, I’ve seen firsthand how consistent exercise, like running, can positively affect people’s lives and emotional health. As a therapist and dad, running has been invaluable to my own personal health and stress management. I’m happy to share that I’m training right along with you as I prepare to run my sixth Chicago Marathon this fall.


Most people know the many cardiovascular benefits of running for our bodies, but have you considered the emotional benefits running offers? Here are a few you can expect:


A better mood. Running assists the body in producing neurotransmitters in the brain that literally boost one’s mood. Increased dopamine and serotonin simply help improve outlook and mood and, in some cases, can offer critical relief to those dealing with symptoms of anxiety or depression. Many runners also experience a rush of endorphins, chemicals that help the body deal with pain and stress, during a challenging run. For many, the good feelings running produces can lead to a healthy routine and a naturally therapeutic way of counteracting life’s obstacles.


Increased self-esteem. An ongoing physical fitness plan of any kind leaves participants feeling more fit, which on its own raises self-confidence. Running allows tangible results and successes to be realized quickly, which can be especially motivating for new runners. Setting and achieving goals feels pretty great and offers an even greater lift in self-esteem.


Improved mental focus. Studies show the oxygen-rich blood the act of running pumps to the brain may result in long-term improvement in mental processes. In addition, it also helps focus attention on the here and now. Being present—or living in the moment—is necessary during longer runs and helps runners set aside past regrets and future worries.  In essence, quieting the chatter in our minds and ceasing rumination over things beyond our control gives much needed time away from concerns and decreases overall stress. Who doesn’t need that?


Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or lacing up your first pair of running shoes, congratulations again. The road ahead will be challenging, but the numerous rewards are well worth your effort and commitment. See you on the trails!


Ross Sweeney, LCSW

Marathoner and Chronic Care Clinic Coordinator

Linden Oaks Behavioral Health