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Moms on the Run

Melissa Engelsen is on a mission to help women exercise in a supportive environment

After giving birth to her fourth daughter six years ago, Melissa Engelsen was raring to get back in shape. She decided to start running, which is a fine sport: All you need to begin is a pair of sneakers, and your gym is the size of the planet. Also, when you have a little baby girl like Melissa used to, you can just load her into a stroller and cart her around like you’re pushing a babbling lawnmower.

But when Melissa’s youngest grew large enough to attract the attention of the public school system, she sought out a group of ladies that would turn her exercise into a social occasion. She found precisely that in the Eden Prairie chapter of Moms on the Run, of which she is now owner and head coach.

“With Moms on the Run, it’s not just about the gains you get from physical activity,” said Melissa. “You’re there with a group of women who all share the same goal. That social connection makes exercise a lot more fun, and supports you while you’re trying to develop good health habits.

“We have a wide range of members of different ages and social backgrounds. Our group recently celebrated Diwali with one of our members, who cooked delicious Indian food for everyone. Many of our members aren’t mothers, either! The only thing we have in common is that we are women and we love exercising together.

“Our fitness programs are created by Olympic runner Carrie Tollefson, and they accommodate ladies of every ability level. If you can’t run for one minute straight, our beginner’s program can build you up until you’re able to finish a 5K. Once you get a little more used to running, our intermediate program will provide the greater challenge you need to keep progressing. You can enroll with us for one, two, or three days a week -- whatever your busy life allows you to commit to.

“We meet at Bryant Lake Regional Park in the spring and summer. A typical day’s session begins with 20 to 30 minutes of interval training, a combination of running and recovery periods that foster endurance. Then we roll out our yoga mats for strength training, which mostly utilizes body weight. Each session is designed to make you a little bit stronger, so you will notice an improvement after the 18 week program has concluded.

“Joining Moms on the Run means you’ll have running friends! When you see a race or 5K you would like to participate in, you can let the whole group know and then count on us to join you and cheer you on. Moms on the Run is bigger than just the Eden Prairie chapter, too. We’re a huge community with groups all over the Twin Cities, and at the end of our 18 week training program we all come together to celebrate our hard work.

“We are such an open and accepting group of women. There’s never any judgement -- just come as you are and you will get fit, make lifelong friends, and escape from whatever responsibilities you might have for the moment!”

As a man, I am truly envious of women who get to join Moms on the Run. The last time I gave my name to a group that values exercise was when I registered for the draft. If you would like to join Melissa and her pleasant group of fitness ladies, then you need only visit momsontherun.com/edenprairie.

Moms on the Run was founded in 2008 in Forest Lake, Minnesota. They now have 50 member groups in nine states. They donate at least ten percent of their profits to charity, and their members frequently participate in charitable races and walks.

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