Women Lace Up and Hit the Trails in Search of Fitness and Camaraderie

Sometimes, we need a little help from our friends to go the extra mile.

“A few years ago, my friend in Buffalo did a 5K and said she runs with her girlfriends in the area. I thought to myself, ‘I wish I had something like that in Maple Grove.’ It’s not like you can be a creeper on a trail, meet someone running, and then ask if you can join them!”

That’s the way Neeka Mohs describes what went through her head in fall 2016. A busy mom with a full-time desk job, she found herself sneaking in squats and jumping jacks in the restroom on breaks—but wanted to find a support network to help her get serious about her health.

So like anyone in need of answers, she took to Facebook.

Enter Moms on the Run (MOTR), a women-only, learn-to-run 5K training program led by certified coaches. The company was founded in Forest Lake in 2008 and now has 46 franchise locations in six states—including one in Maple Grove with a Facebook community 800-strong. The model is simple: women of all ages and fitness levels gather in public places for interval and strength training sessions, stretching and education. And along the way, they build a network of hyper-local, like-minded women, who cheer one another on.

Jen Vendel became the Maple Grove franchise owner in 2011, and she loves the scalable model that allows women to choose how often—and how hard—they want to train. She’s the first to admit that women often wear a lot of hats, and half the battle is simply carving out time to invest in their own wellbeing. That’s where the accountability and fun atmosphere created by MOTR can be a huge asset. “Women who started in 2010 without running one block have since run 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons and even full marathons,” she says. Women simply choose a package of weekly sessions, get them on their calendars, and know there will be friendly faces waiting to encourage and challenge them when they show up to train.

“I didn’t know running could be a mental challenge. The great thing about MOTR is there are different levels with different coaches—so you find the level you think you can do and push yourself a little more with each interval change,” Mohs says. “You can’t go wrong with a group of ladies, who are in your same boat—huffing and puffing and sweating/sparkling along with you.”

Get with the Program

The 18-week signature MOTR program is designed for women who want to get serious about running for the first time—ever—or want to take their training up a notch, no matter their level. “We start with mostly walking and slowly introduce short running intervals that increase each week,” Vendel says. Sessions happen one to three times per week, with a 10-minute warm-up, 30 minutes of cardio intervals, 20 minutes of strength training and a brief cool-down with guided stretching. “By the end of 18 weeks, our participants are able to run an entire 5K without stopping,” she says.

There’s also a fitness walking version and one for more experienced runners, who want to improve their speed and endurance. Check out the condensed Fall into Fitness version—running September 5 through November 4—to get a dose of fall colors while you train.