Solo mum is mind-tough to “shuffle” through Rotorua Marathon


By Rachel Grunwell

“I do not have the body of an athlete, but I have the determination,” says Karleen Whaanga.

The 42-year-old solo-mum from Cambridge, who works at Work and Income, won the Rotorua Marathon event ticket giveaway through an competition. Hers was an emotional and raw plea for the entry to inspire her to get fit again.

She wrote: “I gave up on me. Just getting back into training one step at a time… I may not have the figure of an athlete but I sure do have the drive and motivation to give it a go…”

Karleen had read an article on our website about granddad James Crosswell running the marathon event for the 40th time. She said the grandad inspired her to get fit again “bless him”.

Karleen’s request for the entry was overwhelmingly a winner. We love her can-do mind-set.

This will be Karleen’s second marathon. She walked this same 42km distance last year with legendary trainer Doug Healey’s group, which has a motto of “no one gets left behind”. Some stopped for a picnic half way through, others for fish ‘n’ chips and the team helped each other get their marathon medals.

Last year she says she ended up walking 49km in total because she finished and then went back to help some friends reach the finish-line.

“Just to finish with the team last year was phenomenal. It was the best feeling and I couldn’t stop crying. We couldn’t stop crying because we finished something. I know what that feeling is like. I love it,” she says.

Her goal this year is to “shuffle” through the marathon, rather than walk and to do it by herself “for myself and it’s about me being accountable for me.”

Karleen currently has a sore ankle from playing indoor netball, but she says this will be no barrier to her turning up at the event. She is doing strength training thrice weekly in the interim, until she can “shuffle” again shortly.

“I’m not a natural runner; I’m a shuffler. My endurance is great. The biggest muscle getting me through will be my mind,” she says.

She is not worried the marathon is not far away on May 6.

“I’m mentally prepared. My body just has to catch up,” she quips, adding “my mum finds this so funny” and tells her “oh well, can you please tell your body to hurry up and catch up with your mind then. Chuckle, chuckle”.

karleen in wetsuit

Here’s a pic of Karleen after doing the swim for a team event at IronMaori in December last year. She says back then she was “at my biggest”. Her dream is to one day do this whole event solo.

While, here’s a pic of this inspirational mum “now” below.

karleen now

Karleen says she learnt mental toughness while growing up on the East Coast – “I was constantly told that I wasn’t good enough. But I told myself that, actually, you can’t tell me I can’t do anything”.

She says doing Doug Healey’s run training programme a few years in Auckland also inspired her she can get fit and tackle anything she sets her mind to.

Back then she would drive from her home in Cambridge, to Auckland, for the training session every weekend. Hence, the reason why she has the nickname “Cambridge”.

Fellow runners just could not believe she drove all that way for the training sessions – “and I was often the first one there in the mornings”.

Karleen says she is used to “pushing past barriers”. One of the hardest barriers in life was being a solo mum, she says. She then found life tough when her daughter became independent and left home at age 18. She missed her daughter, and felt depression coming on, and so that was when she joined Doug Healey’s group to give her a goal and a focus. She has learnt in life that “there’s no one holding you back other than yourself”, she says.

Karleen says she is excited about the Rotorua Marathon and will have lots of friends and whanau cheering her on. She can’t wait to savour that finish-line feeling.

“Yes, I will probably cry at the finish,” she says.

Join Karleen and thousands of others walking or running the Rotorua Marathon event (there are four distance options) -click HERE.

  • Blog by Rachel Grunwell: Mum, marathoner (she has run 16), qualified yoga teacher (yoga-for-runners classes), wellness columnist for Good magazine and the director the lifestyle website Follow Inspired Health for health + fitness inspiration & giveaways via Facebook & Instagram. Go in the draw this week to WIN a Fitbit watch.

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Health + Happiness + Fitness things that rock right now!


By Rachel Grunwell

These are some of my fave things right now that are fitness, health or happiness inspired:

  1. The new adidas ultraboostx womens-specific shoes built with ultra-cushioned comfort. These fit just like socks – so they literally hug my feet when I run. They are super light too. Man, they’re so fly! Now, I just wish I could lol…
  2. Weleda arnica sports shower gel. Free of synthetic preservatives, this is just so delicious on the skin.
  3. Dr Hauschka products. These are plant-based and so nourishing on my pimple-prone skin (yeah, still getting pimples at my age DARN). I love too that this brand is biodynamic. The makers care about everyone from the crop growers, farmers, about working well with the environment in the best way, to the consumers getting the best quality products. Keep a look out for the new make-up colours oooooh la la.
  4. Karen Murrell lipstick made from natural ingredients. This stuff feels bliss on the lips and it feels good to use this product because the makers care about how they make it.
  5. Asics new white hoodie. So stylish, fresh and super light-weight.
  6. Kelly Gibney’s new cookbook ‘Wholehearted’  – Inspiring Real Food for Every Day. The recipes in here look delicious and unique and I love Kelly’s approach that this food is all about tasting great! I love how it’s not a labelled book on any food trend, but rather guides readers to trust their intuition on taste and how the food makes them FEEL.

Blog penned by Rachel Grunwell: Wellness columnist for Good magazine, yoga teacher, recipe creator, marathoner and blogger at 

Follow InspiredHealth on Facebook & Instagram 



Grandad ready for 40th Rotorua Marathon

james crosswell side profile

Photo of James running the Rotorua Marathon event courtesy of Marathon-Photos.

By Rachel Grunwell

Grandad James Crosswell is about to run the Rotorua Marathon for the 40th time when the event is held on May 6, 2017.

He’ll be darn proud of this achievement and he reckons that finish-line feeling will be just as good as the first time he lapped the lake in 1973.

“Getting to that finish-line is the ultimate,” says the 67-year-old plumber from Opotiki.

“It’s amazing when I’m lining up at the start-line too and people are all nervous and ask ‘how many (Rotoura Marathon events) have you done?’ Well, people almost fall over when I tell them!”

james from the archives

Here’s a picture from the archives.

James says he aims to keep running this event until, well, he can’t run it anymore. He’s keen to catch up to the tally that his late mate Colin Smyth reached before he died aged 76 in 2015. Colin ran the event an inspirational 50 times and is a local legend for this achievement.

“God willing, if I’m able to – I’d like to beat his record,” says James.

Interestingly, Colin too was a plumber like James.

“Maybe this running business could be something to do with the trade perhaps,” quips James, who has been running since he was a teenager.

James says he runs for general health and fitness. He has lost track of the number of marathons all up he has run. It would be around the ”80” mark, he reckons. But these days he just concentrates on running the Rotorua Marathon each year.

“I love the Rotorua Marathon course because it has a bit of everything: Great terrain, some hills, water, good competitors and you only have to do one lap”.

His fastest ever marathon time was 2hr 49min in Hamilton – a course years ago which required numerous laps of one area in the Waikato.

By the way his fastest Rotorua Marathon time is 2hr 52min, but these days he is happy to do the event “around the four-hour mark” with a walk/run approach.

“I love this challenge,” he raves.

james crosswell front profile

Picture of James smiling at the finish-line. Pic is courtesy of Marathon-Photos

His wife Maureen and three daughters support his running. He is a grandad to four grandsons.

james and girls

Pictured from left to right: Sarah, James, Emma and Rebekah

James has long been a member of the Rotorua Marathon’s  ‘Survivors Club’ – a club you can enter if you have run the event 15 times, or more.

Pam Kenny, who helps run the Survivors Club, says the membership of this club currently stands at 531 (including 34 who are now deceased).

Enter the Rotorua Marathon (there are four distance options) by clicking HERE.

  • Rachel Grunwell is a marathoner (she has run 15), qualified yoga teacher (specialises in yoga-for-runners), columnist for Good magazine and the director of the lifestyle website Follow Inspired Health on Facebook & Instagram 

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Dealing with Injury – what you can do

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Dealing with Injury – what you can do

By Rachel Grunwell

Runners generally fear getting injured. The best approach is to adopt injury prevention strategies like yoga, using a foam roller, compression tights or self-massage to reduce the likelihood of injury (or see a professional masseuse if you run longer miles and can afford this).

Last year, I suffered my first running injury due to overloading. It was eye-watering painful.

I saw physiotherapist Vaughan Craddock, a director at Sports Lab who works with elite athletes and weekend warriors. Incredibly, he helped me go from hobbling (for weeks!) to running pain-free (and able to do the Chicago Marathon just a few months later). He diagnosed my problem quickly and told me what I should do to avoid aggravating the injury.

Then he gave me clear instructions on what I could do fitness-wise to maintain my base fitness. It was reassuring to have a firm plan to help me return to running. Vaughan says seeking specialist advice is ‘empowering’. I’d agree!

To avoid ever being in my (run) shoes, here are Vaughan’s tips to avoiding injury below:


Pic of Vaughan on his mountain-bike.

  • Firstly, he recommends that you listen to your body. If you’re tired, then rest. If you miss a workout, do not rush to make it up. “This is a common mistake that people make,” he says. It can be a fast-track to injury…
  • If a niggle does not clear in 2-3 days, see a specialist. Ignoring an on-going niggle can see things escalate.
  • Vaughan recommends runners reduce any ‘stresses’ in life, hydrate and eat well, get good sleep, and make sure you get enough relaxation to recharge.
  • Stretch too, says Vaughan, “because if you feel tight, then how can you expect your body to move well”.
  • Lastly, he says: “Be positive”. This can have a ‘dramatic effect’ on healing timeframes.

This column was published by Fairfax newspapers.

Column by Rachel Grunwell, Cigna Health and Wellbeing Ambassador – a mum, experienced runner, qualified yoga teacher and director of lifestyle website Follow her personal journey to get race-ready with her family on Facebook & Instagram

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Yoga Tips for Runners


Blog by Rachel Grunwell: Marathoner. Yoga teacher. Good magazine’s wellness columnist. Director of InspiredHealth. Follow Rachel via Inspired Health’s Facebook, Instagram & Twitter for inspo, recipes & giveaways. ps there’s a marathon entry giveaway coming up on the Facebook page soon!

Yoga Tips For Runners

Runners can be reluctant yogis. We think our time is better spent continually pounding the pavements.

It’s usually an injury that will force us into finally doing a stretch routine. But if you’re smart, then incorporate stretching (and strength work) into your training programme now.

Here are some yoga tips for runners:

Gently ease into stretching. You would never run a half-marathon overnight without training well or run too fast, too soon. So, have the same approach to stretching. Do a little bit and, slowly over time, you will improve.

Use yoga exercises to strengthen your core. The slouchy-look is uncool – and a sleepy middle limits your power.

Yoga can help to re-balance your body. If you’ve got a niggle, then you can end up compensating in another area and then injury is inevitable.

Avoid burn-out with the de-stress elements of yoga. Forget the body benefits for a moment; this stuff comes up trumps for the mind.

Yoga incorporates some great breathing exercises so you can better learn how to harness your breath. Maintaining steady, calm breathing in those last miles can give you an edge. While, shallow breathing will leave you breathless, steal energy and slow you down.

Sharpen your focus through yoga by using a mantra. Yoga can help you to silence distractions and truly focus on race day. In those final miles of an event, lots of runners want to give up. This is when your mind drives your legs.

Yoga will improve your range of mobility. This will help you move well and run well.

Your posture and alignment can be improved through yoga. So, you’ll look better, and run better too.

Lastly, make sure you stretch “smart”. See a yoga teacher or personal trainer so they can check your alignment and technique is correct.

Meanwhile, here’s another blog with 7 easy stretches for runners – Click HERE.



Inspirational blind runner signs up for Cigna Round the Bays


Achieving your goal – no matter what!

By Rachel Grunwell

Can you imagine being legally blind and running fast? Well, Maree Carson does this. The 32-year-old Wellington travel agent refuses to let her disability stop her from running.


Maree’s next event is Cigna Round the Bays on 19 February, 2017. Her goal is to step up her speed so she can beat her time of 1hr 46mins from the same event earlier this year.

“I’m quite competitive and so I’m looking forward to doing it again and trying to do it better,” she says.


To achieve her goal she will join the Wellington Harrier Athletic Club to help with her training. Maree also runs with Achilles New Zealand, who support her by teaming her up with a guide to help her along new and unknown courses.


Next year’s event will be Maree’s fifth half-marathon following her completion of the New York Marathon last month with the help of Achilles guide Josh Thomas, from Wellington. He will also volunteer at Cigna Round the Bays, an event he is a big fan of.


“It’s an easy and flat course, the water views are beautiful and there are good vibes,” he says.


Maree loves the event too and has always run. “I love it. I feel quite free and it gives me a clear head. It makes me feel better. It makes me so happy,” she says.


Maree started losing her sight aged 16 through a degenerative eye condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa. She has less than 5 percent vision including no depth of vision or peripheral vision. She cannot see in the dark, in shadows, and sometimes “floaters” affect her central vision.


Her commitment to running is an incredible inspiration.

Achilles is the official charity partner of Cigna Round the Bays. Want to help? If you would like to guide an athlete, or have a disability and would like help to take part in Cigna Round the Bays, contact Achilles at Or fundraise for this worthy cause. You can set up a fundraising page as part of your registration.



Register for the event at and join to be in to win a prize worth $2500.

Column by Rachel Grunwell, an award-winning writer, magazine wellness columnist, Cigna Health and Wellbeing Ambassador, runner, qualified yoga teacher and director of Follow Rachel on Inspired Health’s  Facebook & Instagram pages.

ps go into the draw to WIN a health and fitness book on facebook at the moment by fitness phenomenon Kayla Itsines!



7 Stretches for Runners

Blog by Rachel Grunwell: Marathoner, qualified yoga teacher, wellness columnist for Good magazine & director of . Follow Inspired Health for inspo, recipes & giveaway on Facebook & Instagram 

7 Stretches For Runners

Love running? Well, make sure you stretch.

This element of training is as important as the long runs, short runs, hill runs, speed work, strength work & the rest days.

Running tightens up your muscles and so stretching helps to counteract that.

Before you run, spend a few minutes doing ‘moving, dynamic stretches’ (ie leg swings or smooth and controlled ‘walking lunges’). This prepares the body for moving well – and so you feel less tight.

After your run, take a few minutes to stretch out too. It helps to bring length back to the muscles – and to avoid walking like a ‘lego-man’.

I teach ‘yoga-for-runners’ classes in Auckland. But if you can’t access a run-specific yoga class like this then try ‘yin yoga’, tai-chi, Pilates, stretch or Les Mills ‘body balance’ classes. Remember this restorative element of training is as important as the hard miles.

Stretches for Runners:


Lunges – hits the hip-flexors & hamstrings. Releases tension around the hips nicely.


Forward fold – hello hamstrings!


A magic quad stretch. Remember to stand tall.



Stretch under the feet. Ditch the shoes ideally. Gently ease in & out of this.


Squat. Stretches your thighs, hamstrings & calves. Relieves tension in your back too.


Hello hips & glutes stretch!


Legs-up-the-wall. Finish any workout with this restorative yoga pose. It’s bliss!



Training tips to get run-ready for Cigna Round the Bays

 Cigna waterfront runners pic

 By Rachel Grunwell

Now is the time to step it up for training for the annual Wellington event – Cigna Round the Bays.

The family-friendly event is 14 weeks away – on 19 February 2017 – so there is plenty of time to train well and make the most of this health journey.

This way, you’ll reach your health goal with ease and be proud of your efforts at the finish line. If you haven’t registered, then do so now so you can get the maximum health benefits from becoming a stronger runner.

There’s a distance for everyone – whether you want to walk with your baby in a buggy, do the fun run, tackle 10km, or go the distance with the mighty challenge of the Cigna Achilles Half Marathon (21km).

To help kick-start your training, I’ve listed some tips below which helped me on my run journey. They are tried and tested and I know they work.

Only a few years ago I’d puff while merely walking and pushing my youngest son in a pram, but I slowly built up my fitness with a gentle walk/run routine to now being able to run longer distances with ease. So if this mum can, you can!


Start with an easy walk/run around your neighbourhood for 10-20-minutes in these early weeks. Walk for two power poles, run the next two, then repeat. Over time, you will run more and walk less. Do this two or three times weekly. Keep it fun.

Don’t run too fast to avoid getting injured.

Run with good posture. A trick

is to imagine a string above your head pulling you upright.

Try to keep your arms by your

side. Flapping them wastes energy – and looks a bit uncool!

Look both ways before crossing any roads and don’t have your music up too loud. Safety is

important – and be particularly watchful if you have little ones with you.

Drink water, not sugary drinks.

Column (week 2) published in newspapers throughout Wellington.

Enter by registering HERE & join to be in to win a prize worth $2500. 

Column by Rachel Grunwell, Cigna Health and Wellbeing Ambassador – a magazine wellness columnist, runner, qualified yoga teacher and director of the InspiredHealth website. Follow Rachel via Inspired Health on Facebook and Instagram.

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6 Stretches for Runners

  pigeonVince yoga for runner (pigeon)

Blog by Rachel Grunwell: Marathoner, yogi & writer for Run4YourLife magazine & Good magazine. Follow her via Inspired Health’s Facebook & Instagram for lifestyle inspo, recipes & giveaways.

Pictured above: Yoga teachers Rachel Grunwell (left) and Vincent Bolletta (right) demonstrate the pigeon yoga pose. Rachel is in the beginner version of the pose, while Vincent shows a more advanced version.


Stretching helps you to “move well” and “run well” – whether you are an elite athlete, or at the back-of-the-pack.

 You don’t have to be super flexible to do this. It’s not about contorting your body into a pretzel…

Rather, it’s all about finding the point in a stretch that best benefits your body and ability. So ease into stretches. Don’t over-do it.

Stretching has an important place in your run training programme. It’s as important as hill runs, the longer runs, short runs, strength work and interval training.

Stretch before running  – ideally doing moving, dynamic stretches for roughly a few minutes in order to prepare the body for moving well.

Meanwhile, stretching after a run is important to help bring length back to the muscles. It increases blood flow to the joints and working muscles.

Just one piece of guidance before you start. You should feel a stretch in each pose (and perhaps mild discomfort) in the muscles that I mention to target, but stop if you feel any pain. Better still, see a qualified yoga teacher or Personal Trainer for a session to get you started (and to check that you have the correct technique and alignment). Then you can do these stretches with peace of mind.

Reasons to stretch/try yoga:

1 Injury prevention. Keep on top of niggles, tight spots and imbalances.

2 Increase your range of mobility for speed. Do you need another reason?

3 Balance-style stretches and strengthening exercises can help with proprioception –ie knowing where your limbs are in space. This is crucial for trail running ie one slightly misplaced foot landing and your event can be all over sunshine.

4. Improve your posture. This helps you stand well, but also run well.

5. Improve your breath awareness  i.e. using belly breathing. This can increase your use of oxygen and help you to run better for longer.

5. Improve switching on muscles /fire them properly which can help with injury prevention. 

6. Learn how to focus the mind. Running a marathon comes down to the power of the mind to keep moving in those final stages of a race when your legs are screaming “stop”.

Try these 6 stretches.

Vince (squat for beginners)


1. This is a great inner thigh, heels and hips stretch. It also works the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and leg muscles. It strengthens the lower back, ankles and is good for the core too. It’s great for increasing your range of mobility. If you are trying this for the first time and can’t get your heels on the ground then you can prop them up with a rolled mat (like Vince has done pictured above). For a wide squat, you can press your elbows into your inner thighs so your legs don’t collapse inwards. Or you can hug your knees together for another version of the pose. Just keep your knees and toes facing forwards.

butterfly stretch

2. Butterfly pose

This is great for the groin, hips and inner thighs. If you are doing it for the first time then you could support the outer thighs with rolled-up mats or towels. Otherwise, start in a seated position (sit upright with good posture) and bring the soles of your feet together close to the groin area. You can next fold your chest down towards the ground . You can clasp your hands around your feet if you’re just starting out. Or if you’re a bit more advanced, rest your hands on the floor out in front of you and stretch your arms out forwards.

recline pigeon


3.Reclining pigeon: This is a great  hip-opener and to target the glutes. Lay on your back with knees bent, thighs parallel and hip distance apart. Then put your left ankle on the right thigh. Flex this foot. Then reach your hands around your right leg and bring it towards you – just until you feel the stretch and then hold this. Remember to breathe and relax your shoulders in this pose. Remember to do the other side.

couch stretch

4. Couch stretch: This is a great hip-opener and quad stretch, to name some benefits. Back up to a wall, or couch (or I used a box in the picture), and make sure you have a rolled up mat underneath your knee for support. Slide your right knee up close to the wall and put the front of this leg against the wall, engage the glutes. Step out with your left leg, keep the shin vertical and make sure the toes are tracking in line with this knee. Remember to do the other side.

Forward fold with ragdoll arms

5. Forward Fold. Great for the outer hips and hamstrings. Keep your feet close together, toes facing forwards, tilt from the pelvis and then rest your hands on your shins – or your feet if you can reach. Don’t worry about where you can reach to. I then put my arms in rag-doll position (like pictured). Remember to relax your neck in this pose and enjoy the feeling of having your head below your heart. I find inversions rejuvenating and help to clear the cobwebs from your mind too. I love running for that sensation too…

Vince yoga for runner (pigeon)

6. Pigeon pose

This is a great hip opener. It lengthens the hip flexors incredibly well. Just ease into the pose slowly; don’t rush or force it, particularly if you have knee issues. Start on all fours, then slide your left knee towards your left wrist. Keep your left heel near your right hip to start – but if this is too easy then bring this heel closer to your right hand and keep it flexed (your knee should be in line with your heel in the advanced stage of the pose if you are an experienced yogi). As you become more advanced you can put your right shin parallel with the front of the mat (but this takes time and should not be rushed into – Vince is showing this pose in the advanced form). Remember to do the other side. ps if you find this pose too challenging as a beginner, just do the reclining pigeon stretch for a period instead and then re-try pigeon pose later on.


ps here’s a bonus yoga stretch for the more advanced… it’s a more difficult version of pigeon pose with an added quad stretch – so it’s like combing the pigeon with the couch stretch! This one is extra juicy on the quad and hip areas. So it’s a double whammy.  Breathe through this pose. Remember to do both the left and right sides 🙂



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Cigna Wellington Round the Bays – enter the family!


By Rachel Grunwell

Registrations are now open for a favourite annual Wellington event – Cigna Round the Bays.

But don’t just enter yourself for race day on February 19.

Step it up by entering with friends, work colleagues and family.

Together you can support each other’s training and get fitter and healthier.

Having a specific and achievable health goal on a set date like this event can help with keeping you all motivated on your health journey.

There’s a distance for every age and level: the Mitre 10 Mega buggy walk, the 6.5km fun run or walk, Bluebridge 10km, and the Cigna/Achilles half marathon (21km).

I’m stepping it up by getting my family involved, including husband Damien, and our kids Zach, 11, Lachie, 9, and Finn, 5.

Zach is especially excited about tackling his first 10km distance alongside me.

Actually, his speedy, young legs may leave me in his dust! The rest of my whanau will do the fun run.
Damien will likely be piggy-

backing little Finn near the end. The focus for our family,

training-wise, is to keep fitness fun and at the kids’ pace.

I’ll sneak in building a base fitness with my younger kids by doing things like scooter or bike rides, family walks, light jog at the weekend and walking to school sometimes.

Zach and I are doing run training, which we will build up slowly.

Meanwhile, tell your kids they are helping you to train for the event too.

Give your kids the title of chief coach. Remember to foster a can- do mind-set, with fitness and health in general around kids and be a positive role-model on this journey.

Inspiring your kids to be fit, healthy and happy is the ultimate gift, I reckon.
Lastly, visualise the red-faced, smiling, excited faces of your loved-ones at the finish-line and a shared feeling of success.

❚ Enter by registering HERE

❚ Column published in newspapers throughout Wellington.

Column by Rachel Grunwell, Cigna Health and Wellbeing Ambassador – a runner, qualified yoga teacher and director of the InspiredHealth website. Follow more of her personal journey to get her family ready for the event on Facebook and Instagram.

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