Hi there! My name is Jen and I like to run. Concrete and Coffee was born a few years ago as a simple blog to chronicle my endeavors in running and fitness, prior to, during, and following the birth of my child.

I didn't always like to run. At first, I ran out of necessity, because I wanted to be on a team doing something, having a group of people I felt like I "belonged" to in high school.

That's me on the left, next to my then-boyfriend, now-husband.

While I certainly felt like I had found my group, when I became an exchanged student in the 11th grade, I quickly gave up running for smoking and drinking. Hey, it's legal in Germany.

What started as typical teenage rebellion developed into a full-blown nicotine and alcohol habit that added 30 pounds to my tiny, 5'2" frame, and made me feel sick and tired all the time. Even as I graduated high school and started college for early childhood education, I knew I shouldn't be smoking half a pack to a pack a day, eating Snickers and drinking Pepsi for lunch, or downing 5-6 beers every time I went out. But that's just what I did. I'm not proud of it, but I want to put it all out there to say that I get it: We get trapped by bad habits disguised as social norms and emotional releases.

It took six years, but when I finally started to realize I felt like crap all the time for a reason, I wised up, quit smoking and joined a gym. And I have to say, it didn't take too long for me to get back in bad-ass shape. When I present myself with a challenge or have anyone try to tell me "You can't do that." or "You'll never get your high school body back." I go into hyper-competitive mode. I dove head-first into exercise first to prove those voices wrong, and second, to prove to myself that I COULD get back in shape... or even better.

I may or may not be giving the SU-FI to the camera while flexing. I can't remember
Initially, it was a challenge for me to find a love for running, as it wasn't my favorite thing to begin with. So I did the elliptical, hiked, cardio kick-boxed, did yoga, and learned to rock climb. In fact, of all those things, I'd say rock climbing was the one activity I can fully credit for my fitness revival. The experience of tackling a giant rock wall, completely dwarfed by your surroundings, is both awe-inspiring and humbling. You HAVE to make it to the top to take it all in and truly appreciate conquering such a physical and fear-inducing activity.

Rock climbing became very symbolic of my life and the struggles I had making the right choices for myself and conquering my own proverbial mountains. My tattoo doesn't represent me as a phenomenal climber, but it stands as a reminder of how the sport makes me feel, and that I would never go back to my lazy, apathetic attitude toward my body and health. After discovering just how strong I could feel, I knew I was ready to tackle my old nemesis: Running.

I started off slow, aiming to maintain moderate paces for equally moderate distances. I ran a few 5K's to get the adrenaline going again and decided that it just wasn't enough. I had to go big or go home. Rather than following the typical course of progression: 5K, 10K, half, then full marathon, I skipped right to the end. I signed up for and (barely) trained for my first marathon in 2007. I finished in four hours and limped for at least five days afterwards, but I did it and I was hungry for more.

Even as I became a first-time mother, fitness remained a huge aspect of my life. I had recently returned to school for fitness and personal training when we learned we were expecting. This did not stop me from maintaining a fitness routine, finishing the program, and even training clients. We joked that our goal was for them to get smaller as I grew larger.

Now, I want to share this passion with everyone else. But this isn't your typical running blog. I don't live with my eyes glued to a Garmin, run a million races a month, or train for an Olympic-qualifying time in any distance. I live, I parent, I work, I run, and often draw the lines between all aspects of my life looking for the common threads that pull everything together.

Today, I am a AAAI-ISMA-certified Personal Trainer and Keiser-certified indoor cycling instructor. Indoor cycling is something I fell in love with while training for my first marathon and I think it is a great way for runners to cross-train. I have a daughter who has also recently caught the running bug, and I wish to influence her and inspire her to be active and strong.

That's her, running barefoot, naturally.
Thanks for reading!

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