About Alison Marie
I'm a Certified Personal Trainer & Running Coach, Pregnancy & Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist, lifetime running enthusiast turned strength training advocate and creator of the Women's Running Academy.
I help female runners train with purpose, respect, and understanding of their bodies through the continuum - pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond.
This mission is very personal to me because that woman endlessly searching for the perfect workout and the answers to ever growing list of questions about my changing body, getting overwhelmed and then defeated, just sinking down into the couch again to “start next week” was me not all that long ago.
The things that worked before, didn't seem to work anymore. The little aches and pains from my running past turned into bigger aches and pain, sidelining injuries, and the need to always where black shorts to events if you know what I mean (more on this later).
I spent $$ on courses, books, and programs. I spent years studying, testing and working closely with other experts in their respective areas of health and fitness. I've made it my life's work to cut through the BS and get down to the simplest form of what actually works AND in a way that I (you) can consistently do it.
I’m a scientist.
I provide programs and advice that are backed in science and logic….and what actually works!
I’m a teacher.
I teach you! So you truly understand your body and can sustain your progress long past your time with me.
Since finding my own way, I've used the same simplified and results driven methods that finally pulled me out of the endless cycle to help countless other busy moms crush the overwhelm, train with purpose and direction, and come back stronger than ever!
My other love, for science and solving puzzles, lead me first to pursue my doctorate in Chemical Engineering (for those of you that don’t know what ChemE is, think of it as a cross between chemistry, physics, math, economics and whatever you need to make it as efficient as possible).
During that time is where my love of running flourished (potentially into an obsession).
A group of friends and I decided to run our first half marathon together. "Sure, I’ll try a half, but I'll draw the line at a full.” Famous last words, right?
I ran the half, and then another, then another and before I knew it, I caught the bug. I needed to try a full. At that point it was only still a mild obsession.
After my first full and a few beers, pleasantly surprised by my performance, I asked my significant other at the time if he thought I could qualify for Boston. I “only” had to shave 20 minutes off my time, after all.
Well, long story short…
...I think THAT’s where my real obsession began because… that dude LAUGHED AT ME!
It. was. on. after that! I read every book on running science I could find; I hired a coach and less than 3 months later I got my first BQ!
It safe to say I became obsessed - even joked about quitting grad school to become a running coach right then, but I settled for being the running guru among my friends, writing dozens of programs (everything from just getting started, to running a marathon at a new PR, and going for that coveted BQ).
I LOVED it! I got to nerd out engineering style on something I’d loved for a lot longer than immunology and fluid mechanics.
Though my PhD isn’t directly related to physical fitness, that time of my life definitely fostered my love of data, my scientific approach to all things, and a propensity for all things efficient.
Now, I get to nerd out writing your programs to be the most efficient and effective possible. Win, win!
Fast forward a bit to 2 hours after defending my dissertation, I was sitting in a pre-planning session for my first year of teaching full time. My data driven methods paired with my love and passion for the science lead my students to unprecedented success.
I was still occasionally peeing with running, jumping and sneezing - and just living with it.
I had terrible back and hip pain if I wasn’t regularly seeing a chiropractor (which was really hard living in an RV and traveling for 2 years, but that’s another story for another time.) - the chiropractor helped the symptoms but didn't fix the underlying problem.
My shoulders and neck constantly hurt - massages barely helped.
Finally, I decided something needed to give (nearly 6 year postpartum with my first).
I had been getting back into racing more seriously. My husband and I were running a race competing on a team for his work. We had a goal of being the fastest male and female on his company team (spoiler alert, he hit his goal, I did not).
It was all going great until the downhills. I could not run downhill without completely peeing myself. And it wasn’t just a little drop, I’m talking soaked pants (good thing they were black - I’d made that mistake before). So there I was running the flats and the uphills (passing people left and right) and walking downhills only to get passed by all of them and then some.
It was so F-ing frustrating.
At the end of that race, after asking my husband if he could tell my black shorts were soaked in pee (thankfully no), I vowed to call a pelvic floor physical therapist on Monday. (Have I mentioned that I think EVERY postpartum woman should go see one at least once and preferably not 6 years later??)
I started with with my pelvic floor physical therapy the very next week. Of course, I LOVED nerding out with her on it and was inspired to learn more. More moms needed to know this stuff! So I dropped everything in my coaching business and studied to become a Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist.
It took working with my pelvic floor physical therapist and applying all the knowledge in my postpartum corrective exercise specialist to truly and honestly get into the best shape of my life WITHOUT the peeing and pain!
I wish I would have known sooner, but the good news is that it’s never too late!
This experience completely changed the way I coach moms and was my main motivation in creating my Postpartum Run Ready Foundations Course.
Having the knowledge isn't the be all end all though. I often wonder, if I could go back and give myself the advice I give my clients now, would I have listened?
My message of don't just jump back into running early postpartum, focus on intentional strength training, learn to listen to the signs your body is giving you is NOT one runners want to hear.
..we runners just want to run... I GET IT!
So I'm going to continue to be that annoying voice that keeps reminding you. Not a quiet one either because we runners are good at tuning that shit out.
Returning to running postpartum requires a strategy! It requires taking a step back, intentionally rebuilding your strength, and learning how to tune into your body.
I know you'd rather just ignore this...but instead, let's do the damn thing!
Hindsight is 20-20
Looking back on it, pregnancy revealed the invisible ink.
Younger, pre-childbirth me, could run as much as I wanted with very little aches and pains. What little aches and pains I did have seemed to be well taken care of by yoga, my lame attempts at strength training (clamshells and standing on one foot doing bicep curls in the name of stability). NSAIDs and ice baths took to the edge off when needed.
As it turns out, I had some significant deficits in strength and some pretty extreme imbalances in my hip range of motion/strength. Everyone has imbalances to one degree or another. Some are predisposed due to body shape and genetics, others from repetitive motions of daily life.
Oftentimes they are written in invisible ink.
They don’t cause problems/symptoms/pain until there is a stress on your system. That stress could be an increased volume or intensity in training. Sometimes it’s simply getting older.
For me that stress was pregnancy!
Sure pregnancy itself creates some of the muscle imbalances on its own with the changes to your posture, core, and load down on the pelvic floor, but it also often uncovers the existing imbalances.
This is part of why I look at pregnancy and early postpartum as an OPPORTUNITY to become a better runner. It reveals all the little things that maybe weren’t a problem but likely had been preventing you from performing at your fullest potential.
Pregnancy reveals the invisible ink and Postpartum gives you the opportunity to slow down and work the foundations so that you can become a better athlete overall.
Here’s the thing, you don’t have to wait until symptoms to work the foundations and purposefully strength train!
…and purposeful strength training for running is more than clamshells and standing on one leg in the name of stability.
Second, it helped to a point (because before that I was doing next to nothing) but quickly plateaued in progress.
It didn’t matter much then because I was young and resilient. The little niggles were easy to ignore.
>>Strength IS stabilty<<
Now, two kids and almost two decades later, strength training has transformed my running experience. I look at that twenty something runner I was and know I could smoke her!
My strength training now includes:
Heavy weights with a focus on training movements instead of muscles. For example, training to be able to organize your center of mass over your stance leg (load).
Come join me on the other side!
THE "OFFICIAL" BIO
AKA the one with out all the talk about peeing my pants.
Alison Marie Helms, Ph.D. is a Women's Strength and Running Coach and creator of the Women's Running Academy.
After struggling with her own return to running postpartum, Alison made it her mission to empower and educate herself and others to train with purpose, respect, and understanding of their bodies through the continuum - pregnancy, postpartum, and beyond.
Alison is a Certified Personal Trainer & Running Coach and a Pregnancy/Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist. In addition to her fitness expertise and experience, Alison Marie holds a Doctorate in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Tech. She has taught everything from sixth grade science through collegiate level engineering courses. Her efficient scientific approach and passion for education help her to break complex ideas down into the simplest form of what actually works and in a way that you are actually going to do it.
Alison has been featured in a variety of media outlets including Runners World, Not Your Typical Mom Podcast, the LIFE BOSS Podcast, Runner Moms Podcast, and SHAPE magazine.