By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jan 23, 2016 at 9:03 AM

New Year's celebrations are behind us, leaving only the resolutions to eat better and get fit. Don't worry, we're here to help. This week – Healthy Living Week, brought to you by The Milwaukee Y – we will focus on articles and information about exercise, eating right and staying healthy in a variety of ways.

When the PNC Milwaukee Running Festival debuted last fall, South Milwaukee native Lauren Kleppin, a professional runner who trains in Arizona, was on hand to cheer. We took that opportunity to ask Kleppin, who is a favorite to make the U.S. Olympics marathon team, for some advice for runners.

OnMilwaukee: What kind of things do you suggest new or returning runners think about when training for their first race or their first race back?

Lauren Kleppin: As far as training goes, I think the difference between the new and returning runners versus people that run regularly is the daily mindset. To regular runners training is just a normal part of the daily schedule, much like brushing one’s teeth. If we don’t do it, we feel gross, weird … maybe a little crazy.

I would suggest to new and returning runners to try and make running a daily habit. This doesn’t mean that each run has to be a knock out of the park, but adjusting your mind and body to the daily tying of the laces, even if it is just for a few minutes of running/walking will get the body and mind used to the practice.

Another suggestion I have is to recruit friends. Setting a goal to complete a marathon/half marathon, or 5K road race is huge. I believe the whole experience is much more enjoyable with company, whether it is to bond over the both the pains and rewards of training, to watch and observe progression, to inspire each other, to share the miles and talk the time away, or to celebrate together once the goal is complete and the race is over.

OnMilwaukee: How do you balance working hard on improving, say, distance or time, while staying healthy as a runner? What are the key things to focus on?

Kleppin: Luckily, in my case I have a coach and talented physio team to reign me in so I don’t get too carried away chasing improvements without considering the small things to stay healthy. It is easy enough to do.

My personal team keeps me free from chasing junk miles, diligent to completing the less exciting tasks of stretching and strength building, and also makes sure that good nutrition and rest are observed and practiced daily.

There are plenty of personal coaches and programs available online for hire and purchase if others feel the need for more structure and expertise in their training.

Aside from trusting the experts to do their job and direct me, I also think that "balance" is the key word to staying healthy. Monitoring and being in tune to your overall happiness is a good measurement on balance and overall health.

I know, personally, as an athlete that if I am not happy, I will not compete and perform at my best. The factors that affect overall happiness are of course unique and personal to each individual.

OnMilwaukee: In terms of injuries, listening to your body is key, isn't it?

Kleppin: Injuries suck. No doubt. You have to listen to your body. But many runners know how to deafen the sound. I am guilty as charged. With injuries, patience is key.

OnMilwaukee: How about some tips on improving, as we discussed before, your pace or your distance or both? What's the best way to accomplish that?

Kleppin: As I mentioned before, whether dealing with injuries, or dealing with goal setting and improvements, patience is key. The body is a fickle thing, and each person responds so uniquely to training. Avoid comparison.

OnMilwaukee: Tell me a bit about your Milwaukee connection, too, if you will.

Kleppin: I was born and raised in Milwaukee, for the first 18 years of my life. Although upon finally graduating from South Milwaukee High School, and moving on to chase adventures in the wild west of Colorado, Alaska, California, and now Arizona, Milwaukee is and always will be home. My family resides here, and I am happy to visit whenever I can. Go Packers!!

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.