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Now in its sixth year, Moms on the Run - a running program geared toward the novice and intermediate runner - teaches women how to run their first 5K and also works with more seasoned runners to improve their speed and endurance. Moms on the Run has operated in Woodbury for the past three years. However, a new site in Cottage Grove is opening this spring as well.

Springing into action: New coaches leading Cottage Grove, Woodbury Moms on the Run programs

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As soon as the snow melts, moms in Cottage Grove and Woodbury will have an opportunity to spring into action.

Now in its sixth year, Moms on the Run - a running program geared toward the novice and intermediate runner - teaches women how to run their first 5K and also works with more seasoned runners to improve their speed and endurance.

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After giving birth to three children in four years, Karissa Johnson began holding group fitness classes for moms. She called it Moms on the Run and based it out of her hometown of Forest Lake.

Now, the Moms on the Run program serves hundreds of women in through its 26 locations.

Johnson, a mother of three kids has based the program around "fitness, fun and friendship."

Moms on the Run has operated in Woodbury for the past three years. However, a new site in Cottage Grove is opening this spring as well.

Jenny Wilcox, a Hastings native who now lives in Cottage Grove, is the Cottage Grove program's first head coach.

A mother of two, Wilcox has competed in four Ironman competitions and participated in numerous marathons and triathlons. She has coached high school sports in the past and used to own a fitness center. Currently, she works for the SilverSneakers senior program in Woodbury and is the Race Director for the Nick Clare Memorial Run which is held in Hastings each May. Wilcox is the sister of Nick Clare (a former Hastings High School student-athlete) who was tragically killed in a car accident back in 2001.

She said her brother inspired her to get off the couch and get moving when she was in high school.

"Nick got me motivated," Wilcox said. "He was always my inspiration for getting going. I was a couch potato. I didn't do much. He kept telling me I needed to do something. One day it clicked."

In high school, Wilcox joined the cross country skiing team with her brother. The two also ran together to stay in shape for the ski season. She then went on to ski at Montana State University.

"I met some really amazing people that I'm still friends with. Life and everything just kind of got better," Wilcox said. "I was hooked. I've always run since he motivated me to start moving. He was my inspiration."

Through Moms on the Run, Wilcox wants to now inspire others, like she was inspired by her brother.

"I just feel like I owe this," she said. "I've been given this and I want to share it with others. I feel like this is an opportunity. I think it's what Nick would've wanted too - for me to keep moving and to help others get motivated."

Wilcox says she believes exercise not only helps physically, but also mentally and provides balance.

"The majority of people that I've worked with have found that connection - they feel good for doing it," Wilcox said. "It provides a goal and a challenge, but also gives them the equilibrium to do other things well too. It makes you feel good to do things you haven't achieved before and have that sense of accomplishment. It improves self-confidence, self-esteem and general well-being. I just want to help others as much as I can while I'm here."

Women interested in Moms on the Run can sign up for a 2-day-a-week or 3-day-a-week program. The runners meet at a park in town for one-hour sessions that combine stretching, interval running and core training for the most part. Runners can also go to a neighboring site if they miss a session for whatever reason.

Registration is now open for the 18-week Moms on the Run spring season, which starts at the end of April and runs through August.

Kristina Ticknor is the head coach and owner of the Woodbury site. A Nationally Certified Personal Trainer and mother of four, Ticknor said she fell in love with Moms on the Run the first time she tried it.

"It encompasses everything," Ticknor said. "I love it that while we're getting a great workout, we're also getting together as moms and talking about things and opening up and getting ideas to take home to the family. I love it, because the women are just wonderful and it lets me do what I love to do."

A gymnast for 19 years, through college, Ticknor graduated with a Kinesiology degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

"Health and fitness has always been a big part of my life," she said. "To be able to share that with other women so they feel better and can do everything they need to do at work and at home is important to me. The whole concept of this is just great."

A Hill-Murray graduate, Ticknor competed for Crowley's Gymnastics Center in Oakdale and then in college.

"When I was done with gymnastics, it was bittersweet," Ticknor said. "It was nice to be done with school and have that accomplishment, but I also knew I'd miss that family. To now have Moms on the Run, it kind of fills that void. I never thought I'd like running. But, I've learned to love it."

Like gymnastics, training with Moms on the Run is individually-based, but also team oriented.

"Having a group there at the end of a race makes it that much more special," Ticknor said. "It's that much more of an accomplishment when people are cheering you on. It's a great team feel."

Ticknor operated her Moms on the Run program year-round for the first time this year. She had 35 women in the last group and is hoping for 50 to join the spring session, which will be based at Edgewater Park running around Colby Lake.

In Cottage Grove, the new site will be based at Pine Tree Valley Park on Indian Boulevard.

"The goal is to unite women that maybe don't know each other - to build friendships and to let them experience running and what it can do for them mentally and physically," Wilcox said. "It just does so much for your body, mind and spirit. Once you start doing it, your outlook on life becomes very different."

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