Coach Kenya is a supermom, wellness coach, and media mogul. Having been raised by parents who instilled the importance of self-belief in her and her siblings, this super coach took charge of her life very early. She is now practicing the same lessons with her own kids. Coach Kenya emphasizes the importance of moms taking time out for themselves to go for a run daily. She says that a mentally healthy mother is a happy mother, and a happy mother makes a happy home.
Tell us about yourself and what you do career-wise?
I work in media and communications, on the radio. I’ve been on the radio for 15 years, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. When I was a kid I wasn’t the best reader, so my father would say: “If you’re going to work in broadcasting, you’re going to have to read as you talk”. He would make me sit and read the weekly newspaper. My parents really sewed that seed of self-belief in me and my siblings very early in our lives.
How did you get into running?
I gained a lot of weight after I had my first child, I then started working out at the YMCA. One time a friend of mine’s daughter got into a bad car accident and she asked me to take her place in the marathon representing the Brain Injury Association of New York. I then had to start training, and I loved how running made me feel so much that I started running.
Coach Kenya on Motherhood
As a mother, how have you managed to balance your everyday life with staying fit and running?
Scheduling time for myself and just knowing that when I’m not well, or not in a good place then my family is also not in a good place. My family is the reason why I run, they motivate me so much and are very supportive of me. They never feel like my running takes anything away from them. They know that if I’m well, healthy, and sane, I can pass that onto them. I have a daughter, and I feel that it’s important for young women to see a healthy example of what womanhood looks like. Health and wellness are an important part of my home because I always want my family to be whole.
“Motherhood is a marathon, it’s continual. The finish line is seeing your kids grow, and get into a place where they’re whole and healthy”.– Coach Kenya
What challenges have you faced as a mother that running helped you overcome?
Running was not something I would have initially chosen for myself, in essence, I feel it has chosen me. It has been an unexpected gift of answered prayer that’s helped me recondition my mind, and transform emotionally through movement. Holistically, running has helped me manage anxiety and depression, while simultaneously building my endurance. It’s been an outlet that’s allowed me to connect to my inner strength and disconnect from limiting thoughts. There’s a sense of accomplishment that finishing a run gives me and that helps me in every area of my life.
Coach Kenya on Coaching & Running the NYC 50th Marathon
Health and Wellness are your mantras, is this what motivated you to start coaching?
People motivated me to go into coaching. I felt that I went through enough trials and tribulations to teach other people. Teaching and wellness came along with that. I’m big on the “practice what you preach” notion. I cannot adequately help someone else unless I’ve experienced that in which they need help. Struggling with my weight helped me to gain empathy for people in all lanes. I’m able to empathize with people who are struggling to lose weight, and people who aesthetically feel amazing but are struggling on the inside.
What adversities have you faced being a female coach?
I work with all demographics of people. When the older generation joins a class they always think “who’s this girl, she looks so young”, they don’t expect that I can deliver. I think, however, what equips me is my sense of empathy and discernment. They’re able to trust me when they discover that. Discernment is very important because I’m able to sense and assess right away where a person is mentally, physically, confidence-wise. I’m very careful about making sure that there’s an individualized approach. When people feel included, they thrive, and that’s the modification I’m able to create for people.
What are some misconceptions people have about runners?
That we’re all fast. Personally, I’m steady, I may be running fast at the beginning of the marathon but as I run longer, I ease down. I used to be so focused on time before, but now I take my time. The first marathon that I ran really crippled my body, so what I’ve learned is timing is important but you need to enjoy the race more. The 50th NYC Marathon that just happened took place after the city hasn’t been opened for 2 years, so I wanted to take it all in, enjoy the people.
During the NYC 50th Marathon, I passed a girl who was on the phone with her mom, telling her that she wants to quit. If I was running fast I would’ve missed the opportunity to encourage her to keep going. There was then a man who was wheelchair-bound in Harlem and he was just motivating me telling me that I can finish. That was such a heart-warming experience for me. So when you run too fast, you might miss everything happening around you and that’s what running is all about. I tell people that we’re all going to get the same medal at the end so just take your time to the finish line.
Running towards Mental Health
How has running improved your mental health during the Covid 19 pandemic?
Running has been key to my mental health and wellness. I feel there was a lot of depression going on, working from home for 18 months, not being around people was hard. I work in a communications company so that was hard. There’s something about running that uplifts your mentality and your spirit, I’m not sure what it is maybe it’s the endorphins but it’s just synonymous. Running helped me power through the pandemic.
What are some causes that you believe in that you have run towards?
The Brain Injury Association of New York. It was very important for me to choose this cause because the brain is one of the most important organs of the body and not being able to mentally function in full capacity affects your whole body. In my classes I do brain exercises because I want to keep people sharp, brain health is something I’m really passionate about.
What are some of your favorite running trails in New York?
I love running along the West Side Highway by Battery Park. The road is flat, the atmosphere, the water, the Statue of Liberty, and the towers. It’s all just so beautiful and well kept. Then you have the West Side Highway where the cars are just going, it gives you that adrenaline, and I can say that’s my favorite place because you see everything.
Coach Kenya’s advice for all mothers!
What advice can you give moms who want to start running, but are doubtful?
Just Move! I always tell people in my classes that all they have to do is move, and if that walk turns into a jog, and the jog turns into a run, and the run into a sprint, it’s okay! Schedule the time, 15 minutes every day, Three times a week is fine. After dropping the kids at school, don’t go back to the house. Go for a run, just do it! Also, you can join a running club, those are the people who will keep you motivated. Always remember wellness is not a sprint, take your time because running teaches you to embrace where you are!