Katie McGrath: Blogging to a Better Body

Katie McGrath is the author of the blog “Run For The Bikini.” Her blog is focused on getting in the best possible shape for herself while also helping others reach their fitness potential.  As a mother, McGrath has been through the struggle of getting her body and her self-confidence back after childbirth.

Up until age 13, she spent a majority of her childhood being overweight but then finally decided to make a change. McGrath started walking everyday and changed her eating habits, gradually, the weight came off.   She went from 170lbs (5’2”) down to 120lbs and discovered that she was a decent runner (while running the mile in gym and beating all the “athletic” girls that she used to idolize.)  McGrath joined the track team improving from an average distance runner to one of the top cross-country runners in the county. Her chubby 13-yr old self would have never imagined this was possible.

McGrath ran throughout High school and college. Even after she had her son half-way through her undergrad degree, McGrath returned to competing on the cross-country team a year later.  She has continued running since graduating and has just caught the racing bug again. Now, she is looking forward to competing (and kicking ass) in a triathlon at the end of August.

When did you decide to get into shape?
The significance of my early weight loss sank in even more once I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome [PCOS ].  Some of the symptoms include excess weight (obesity), insulin resistance (developing into diabetes), amenorrhea, and infertility.  The best way to regulate your hormones and reduce symptoms is by eating right, working out and maintaining a health weight.  I have found that my body is much more “regular,” (i.e. no amenorrhea) when I follow a consistent exercise routine including high-intensity workouts and limit my sugar intake.   I currently have very few PCOS symptoms and I contribute it to my healthy lifestyle, I am determined to keep it this way. I have gained and re-lost some of the weight over years, (freshmen 15, 50 lbs of pregnancy weight) but for the most part I have remained at a healthy weight.  Recently though, I have decided that I can improve my fitness level more and that is what I am chronicling in “Run For The Bikini!”   I’m working on getting faster, stronger and fitter, for my health, my self-esteem and my sanity!

Why chronicle it in a blog?

For the past 5 years or so I’ve thought about completing a triathlon, but I never got around to training for one.  I’ve also told myself every year that I would work to be in the best possible shape I could by summer.  While I’ve never been “out of shape” for my summer lifeguard job, I don’t feel like I’ve reached my potential and that I’ve been a bit lazy in pushing myself to improve.  Starting this blog, and having people read and comment on my posts, has really helped keep me accountable to my goals.   Everyone who comments is so encouraging and I have found some amazing and motivational blogs throughout the fitness community.  I hadn’t entered a race in over a year before I started writing “Run For the Bikini.”   Now, in two months of blogging, I am going for race number three on Thanksgiving morning.

Is it hard to manage staying in shape and being a mom?
You definitely have less time than before, but obviously that is a given.  The best thing I have discovered since having my son is that, shorter more intense workouts beat out longer slower workouts in getting results.  For example: Instead of running (or walking) at a slow pace for an hour, you could get the same or better results by running (or walking) stairs for 20-30 minutes.  Either one is great and will help you get back in shape, but if you are short on time you can still get a killer workout in.  I also utilize my nightly TV time for resistance training, on most nights I perform a mix of push-ups, planks, squats, lunges etc.
I also like to get my son involved in staying active, when he was younger I pushed him in the jogging stroller.   Now that he is five, he has been participating in children’s fun runs that they hold at most of my races.

Do you have plans of pursuing a career in fitness?
Absolutely!  I have been thinking a lot lately about what I want to do for the rest of my life and my immediate thought is always fitness and training, possibly some coaching as well.  It has played such a crucial part in my life that I want to share my passion with others.  I currently hold a degree in primary education and would love to work with children on getting healthy and active.  My childhood experience was life changing and I would not be the person I am today if I had not adopted a healthier lifestyle.  Recently, I’ve begun looking into different training certifications and which ones would be the most beneficial for me.  Besides working with children, I would also love to work with teens, mothers and fellow PCOS’ers on achieving their fitness goals.

These are all moves that you can complete at home, all you need is a door hanging pull-up bar, resistance band and kettlebell.

1) Assisted pull-up: Pull-ups are a great body weight exercise that most women struggle with; I have never been able to perform even one decent pull-up.  Using resistance bands for assistance is helping me towards my goal of achieving at least one good form pull-up.

2) Plank Push-ups: I am a huge fan of planks on their own, they are my hands down top ab/core exercise and I try to do a few minutes of planks each day.  The plank push-up increases the intensity and brings the arms into the movement so you are accomplishing more in less time (crucial for busy mothers).

3) Jumping Lunges: These are great because they get your heart rate up while working your whole lower body.  I have been known to break out into jumping lunges randomly throughout the day.  It is a great 1 minute exercise that gets serious results for your lower body, especially the booty!  Incorporate them into a circuit to get your heart going even more.

4) Kettlebell Swings: I am new to the kettlebell, but I already love it.  The kettlebell swing is another move that will help burn fat while working your entire body.  This move works your whole lower body, your core and you arms.  The lower body gets the most benefit, as the kettlebell is moved more with your hip snap than with you arms.

Combine these moves together in a circuit and you’ll get your heart rate up, burn fat, improve strength and tone, and work your entire body, all in one workout.

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