Gloria Safar has been an athlete as long as she can remember. Growing up in Argentina, Safar said she began playing tennis with her father long before she was tall enough to see over the net.
In high school and college, Safar, who moved to Westfield 14 years ago, said she enjoyed playing team sports but after graduating found it difficult to find organized team sports for women.
After taking several exercise classes, she went on to become an instructor. Craving a challenge while wanting to stay fit and active, Safar recruited two friends to participate in a triathlon in her native Argentina in the late 1980s.
"We were the only three women among all these men and we had a blast," Safar recalled.
Since that time, the trainer and motivational coach has participated in countless marathons and triathlons. She is currently in training for a half Ironman at the end of July and will run her third New York City marathon this fall.
After completing a masters' degree in exercise science, Safar combined her love for the outdoors and athletics with another passion—research—when she authored her first book "Triathlon For Girls Like Us!" in 2010, which was recently featured in Weight Watchers Magazine. This June she followed it up with "Running For Girls Likes Us!"
Don't let the titles fool you, Safar's books are geared toward athletes of all ages. The author said she chose the word "Girls" because it is in keeping with the friendly, casual tone of the books.
Safar's message is that athletics, whether it be biking, swimming, running, weight training or anything else, shouldn't be intimidating. With her easygoing philosophy, Safar invites all women to dispell the myths that running is dull or difficult and discusses how to go from just getting started to training for marathons.
"I want people to loosen up and try it," said Safar, who added that running has helped her feel better both physically and mentally.
The book also offers information on how to avoid injuries as well as practical advice on how to train for everything from a 5K all the way up to a marathon. More than just a guide, Safar shares stories from real women who discuss how they balanced raising families, working and training. Nutrition is also covered, with Safar offering some tips and recipes for dishes such as soups, Shiitake Mushroom Risotto, and a Quinoa and Veggie Salad.
"Your meals don't have to be flavorless to constitute a healthy diet," Safar writes.
The mother of three said she wants women of all ages and all abilities—from those we've never run a mile to others who are Ironman competitors—to benefit from her insight and enthusiasm.
"I love the outdoors and how running makes you feel," Safar said. "I want everyone to experience that."
More than just a career and a hobby, exercise is a way of life for Safar, who added that her family's recent vacations have revolved around their mutual love of athletics and the outdoors. The trainer and her husband completed a marathon in Prague in May.
"I've found that running adds so much to any trip: you end up seeing way more than you could ever absorb from walking or driving alone," Safar writes in her Introduction.
Last year, the couple biked 650 miles through Northern Italy. "You don't have to worry about (gaining) any pounds or anything," laughed Safar, who averaged between five and six hours of cycling per day.
While Safar's first book, "Triathlons For Girls Like Us," which has been translated into Spanish, is available at the Town Book Store, both her guides are available through Amazon.com, where she said they are routinely "up there with the big guys" in terms of ranking.
"My idea is to spread the word to people who don't run or who are thinking about it but don't know how to get started," she explained. "Or maybe they want to increase their distance or decrease their time. It is all in there and more."
In her acknowledgements, Safar thanks Ellen Seuffer, R.N., F.N.P., from Westfield Family Practice and Jessie and David from The Westfield Running Company, where her books can also be found, for their time and expertise.
The author and athlete is currently planning her third book "Strength Training For Girls Like Us."
For more information, visit Safar's website.