The Race Ambassador for Women’s Running Race Series Cardiff, Kerllen Maciel – aka instagram star Healthy Fit Mum – wants to inspire all women to become active. A lifelong devotee of working out, she faced an uphill battle to regain her fitness and self-confidence following the birth of her daughter. Kerllen, who is originally from Brazil, had moved to London to do her degree in 2001, then to Mexico for two years; at 25 weeks pregnant, she and her husband moved back to the UK. But her family was in Switzerland and, as a first-time mum with a husband out at work, she felt isolated and depressed. Taking her daughter out for a walk in the pram one day was the push she needed to take control of her fitness again.
Kerllen will be running at WRRS Cardiff on 21 May, while her daughters will be taking part in the Family Mile event. You can still enter the race online until midday, Friday 19 May, and you can also enter on the day.
Tell us about your fitness background – you were active before you had kids?
Having a busy routine wasn’t an excuse to not work out. Before becoming a mum, I used to go to the gym at least four times a week for two hours. When I lived in Brazil, I used to wake up at 5am to go to the gym before starting work.
When I moved to London in 2001 to do my degree in marketing, I became member from the gym at the university then I moved to Mexico where I kept myself active. I have never made excuses to not work out. I have done it since I was child, even when my mum couldn’t take me to the ballet classes or to my swimming lessons, I walked on my own so I wouldn’t miss any classes. It’s part of my life and of my determination.
Things changed when you had your first baby. How did you feel at the time when you moved to the UK and became a mother for the first time?
It was stressful in ways I hadn’t imagined. When my first daughter was born, I found myself stuck and lonely. I just had my husband, my family was in Switzerland, where they live, and my friends were in different places. I had to restart all my life again. I lost a bit of my confidence. It was a tough time.
It must have been hard to be away from your family and going through these changes. How did you cope at the time?
When my first child was born, I felt completely lonely. I was in a different country, in a different culture, I didn’t have any friends around, my family was far away from me, and I had a baby in my arms.
Soon I realised that I could have the baby blues. My weight dropped off and I cried more than I should. I tried to be optimistic, I knew that it was just a moment that I was living through.
What made you decide to get the buggy out one day and run?
I didn’t know how I could go to the gym to relieve my tension. I didn’t have anyone to help me with the baby and the daycare was too expensive.
Soon, I realised that I had to be realistic: if I would like to exercise, I had to take my daughter with me. I put my daughter into the pram for a long walk. I came back home feeling happier than ever.
After that, I started running around the village. Nowadays everyone from the village knows me as the mum who runs pushing a buggy. It’s funny.
How did your training build up from there?
The workout is part of my schedule. I don’t think about working out, I just go. I take it very seriously. It’s the time that I have for myself. Everyone should have your own time to do something nice for you.
How did running help you at this time, mentally and physically?
Running is everything for me. When I run I plan my day, I think of my life, of my family, of my projects; every time that I get home after running I have new ideas, it’s just like a brainstorm.
Running helps you to burn calories, get fit. It’s a stress relief, it’s wonderful for your heart, for your brain, for your health. Running helps me in every single way. Even with my family .
How were things different when you had your second daughter? Did you feel more prepared this time around?
Everything was much easier. I kept myself walking and running around the village till the day before I gave birth.
When my second child was one month old, I started all over again, dropping off my oldest child to get the school bus and running around the village pushing a buggy. The weather never was an excuse for me. Even to go to the mothers and toddlers group, 5K away from my home, I didn’t use the car, I ran to the group.
What inspired you to start your Healthy Fit Mum blog and social media?
My sister asked me to share my lifestyle with others through Instagram. It took at least six months for her to convince me. I started sharing with friends and family. My page was private. Soon I realised that I could be a healthy influencer for others. People think that if you’re a mum, a wife, a worker… it’s hard to find time for yourself to live a healthy lifestyle.
It wasn’t easy, because takes up so much time in my day. But I did it. And today I am happy to be a real woman-next-door who can help people around the world to live better and feel happier.
Today I have many nice friends that I have made from my social media pages. I will never feel lonely again.
What advice would you give to women who are home alone with young children, and lacking confidence to train?
Use your mind to make things happen. Think positively and visualise that you can do something for you. You can shape your life with your thoughts. You deserve this time, it’s your time. Training will make you feel better, happier and it will improve your self-esteem. When you have a good self-esteem everything around you will get better.
What are your top tips for women running our 10K or 5K in Cardiff?
Keep calm, believe that you can do it, don’t be afraid, hydrate yourself, follow your pace and stick to your goal. Run the first 10 per cent of the race slower than you normally would, with the idea that you’ll finish strong. Don’t try to go out faster than your goal pace. If you do that, you risk burning out early. Try to keep an even pace throughout the race, and save your extra energy for the final push to the finish.
Kerllen will be speaking on stage at 9:05am before the Women’s Running Race Series Cardiff event on 21 May.