Stephanie Rothstein Bruce is the epitome of someone who can “do it all.” She is a professional runner for Oiselle and HOKA One One, living in Flagstaff, Arizona, where she trains with the HOKA NAZ Elite Team. She is a mother of two with her husband Ben Bruce, who is also her partner for their professional coaching business, which includes an array of athletes from weekend warriors all the way up to Olympic hopefuls. This is in addition to being the co-founder of Picky Bars, an Oregon-based company that she started with fellow pro athletes, Lauren Fleshman and Jesse Thomas. Much of the Picky Bar dream came out of necessity for Steph after she was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2010 and needed a gluten-free energy bar to fuel her life as a professional runner.
Prior to discovering she had celiac, Steph struggled with years of injury and illness that were brought on by her then unknown dietary intolerances. Once she became aware that she’d been poisoning her body, she took appropriate action, thereby launching her pro career to a new level.
One of the first notable breakthroughs was when she ran 2:29:35 at the Houston Marathon in January 2011, immediately making her one of the top marathoners in the country. She added several other notable accolades to her resume over the next two years, including a 1:10:53 at the NYC Half Marathon in March 2013. That year, Steph became pregnant with her first child and gave birth to son Riley in June 2014. Just a few months later, Steph found out that baby #2 was on the way, which they admit was not part of the plan. With the second of back-to-back pregnancies culminating in September 2015 with the birth of their second son, Hudson, the original goal of running the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials in February was practically impossible. Considering the fact that she wasn’t even able to run her qualifier, being pregnant 18 of the previous 24 months.
She adapted to the situation as pro runners do, working through the challenges building strength, balance, and fitness into her post-pregnancy comeback, and gave herself an opportunity on the track. In April 2016, she ran an astounding 32:14 10,000m race, giving her the Olympic A-Standard in that event only 6 months postpartum.
Over the last year, Steph has quickly re-established herself as one of the top distance runners in the country, finishing the year with a 2:32 2nd place finish at the California International Marathon this past December. Less than 2 months later, she competed in the US XC Championships on a muddy course in Bend, Oregon, where she clenched one of the six spots that would go on to represent Team USA at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kampala, Uganda, on March 26. At 33 years old, this is her first World XC Championship team. Just last week, Steph added another victory to her resume with a 1st place finish at the Gasparilla Half Marathon, running 1:12:53.
Steph is an ElliptiGO-supported athlete and was one of the first pro athletes to start integrating the bike into her training. Through many of the obstacles that she has encountered since then, the ElliptiGO bike has been particularly useful for her. With the excitement of representing her country at the upcoming World Championships, we asked her for some perspective on her journey.
ElliptiGO: First of all, how important of a milestone is it for you to make your first World Cross Country Team?
SRB: Making my 1st World Cross team felt like a long time coming but also a very cool story. I had actually never raced US Cross Nationals as a professional. In my 10 years as a pro, the timing just never worked, I either had a marathon I had just run in December or January, or was getting ready for a spring race, or was busy having babies. 🙂 It was something I felt I had the capacity to do but just needed to be in the race.
ElliptiGO: You are seen by many as a veteran in this sport through your vast experience and knowledge. Was making this World team just a matter of timing? Or would you say your knowledge of both racing and training were a key piece to the puzzle as well?
SRB: I think being a veteran gave me the confidence to race from behind. I wasn’t very fit going into USXC because I raced CIM in December, then took a solid break. Having only a few weeks of workouts under my belt, I believed the best strategy was to let the leaders go and try to secure a spot on the team without much risk taking.
ElliptiGO: When did you first start incorporating ElliptiGO training? Before ElliptiGO, what had you been doing for cross-training, and how has ElliptiGO improved that area of your training?
SRB: I began ElliptiGOing in 2010 when Lauren Fleshman introduced me. We were living in Eugene at the time and had just founded Picky Bars. She took me on a ride up this monster hill and I was like, “Oh, I get it!” It was one of the hardest efforts I had felt outside of running. I was shocked and impressed. I felt there was always some cross-training tool missing for runners. Most of us are horrible swimmers and last like 7 minutes in the water, and biking can get wearing on your behind and your hip flexors not being used to that position. Now here was this tool that you could be in an upright position closest to your running form, yet with no impact, but you could get your heart rate just as high as when out running. I was hooked after about 3 rides.
ElliptiGO: Have you had any race or training results in your career that have been better than you expected following large blocks of heavy cross training?
SRB: I did quite a bit of cross-training following both of my pregnancies and births, especially using the ElliptiGO, and I saw some pretty immediate results that my cardio was way ahead of my musculoskeletal system. Following my pregnancy, my body wasn’t ready to handle the increase in miles quite yet. Being on the ElliptiGO allowed me to build my fitness without the pounding. Six months postpartum, I ran the Olympic A standard in the 10,000 …so hard to say whether that was related to the cross-training but I would have to argue it helped.
ElliptiGO: Over the last couple of years, what would you say your running mileage “sweet spot” has been? And how does cross-training fit into that formula at different development stages? Can you give any examples of effective ElliptiGO workouts and when you’ve added them into the schedule?
SRB: The last few years have been filled with having my kids, so my mileage hasn’t gotten as high as I would like, but I’ve found averaging in the 70s and bringing in some cross-training days every few weeks and taking days off has allowed me to train at a high level without the sudden increase in mileage. I’m hoping to bring that sweet spot higher. One of my favorite go-to ElliptiGO workouts is the “ElliptiGO Chaser,” where you go for a run, then immediately jump on the GO and your heart rate is still up from the run, so it stays elevated without much more effort on the GO.
ElliptiGO: What are some of the key achievements in the sport that you feel are still left to fulfill your career as an athlete? And what do you feel needs to happen to get you there?
SRB: My fulfillment as an athlete will come knowing I gave my best effort in all of my races. Whether that lands me a national title, winning a major marathon, or making an Olympic team will be up to the day. I want to have no regrets and fully enjoy the process of working my butt off over the next few years, building the sport up while doing so and connecting with the fans of our sport.
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UPDATE: On March 26, Steph Bruce represented the United States in the World Cross Country championships in Uganda. She placed 22nd overall and was the 2nd American across the line. Just five days later, she set a personal best in the 10K at the Stanford Invitational.
You can follow Steph on her website and on social media: