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How to Run Your Life at Any Size with Sandra Mikulic

joyful movement menopause midlife self-care women’s health

Sandra's story is about much more than running; it's a heartfelt journey of transformation and self-acceptance. In this special story session, Sandra, financial advisor and mother of four shares how she swapped her basement treadmill for the open outdoors and found her true self with each next step.


Initially, Sandra's running journey was about losing post-pregnancy weight. But it quickly evolved into something deeper—a way to clear her mind, ease her anxiety, and practice self-care. Running became her therapy when she realized it was a brilliant means to reshape her mental health along with her body.

But how do you go from being a non-runner to finding the guts to sign up for multiple marathons? Sandra unpacks the internal and external challenges she faced, and how she broke through barriers of doubt and stereotypes. Sandra embraced her identity as a runner, celebrating her body and capabilities when she discovered more diverse runner influences through social media.

Sandra's presence on social media grew as she shared her journey which became a strong source of accountability and connection. Her evolution from justifying her size and pace to proudly claiming her runner's identity is an incredible message of empowerment and self-love.

This episode also highlights what it means to discover joyful movement on a personal level, especially for those navigating midlife. Sandra's experience shows that exercise isn't just about weight management—it's about celebrating life, practicing self-care, and finding happiness and peace.

Tune in to hear Sandra's inspiring story. Her journey will remind you of the cathartic power of putting one foot in front of the other and encourage you to embrace your own path to self-discovery and empowerment. 

To continue getting inspiration from Sandra, you can find the Run Your Life Magazine on Sandra’s blog, which is available digitally or as a hard copy!


Jenn Salib Huber: 0:00

Hi and welcome to the Midlife Feast, the podcast for women who are hungry for more in this season of life. I'm your host, dr Jenn Salib-Huber. I'm an intuitive eating dietitian and naturopathic doctor and I help women manage menopause without dieting and food rules. Come to my table, listen and learn from me trusted guest experts in women's health and interviews with women just like you. Each episode brings to the table juicy conversations designed to help you feast on midlife. And if you're looking for more information about menopause, nutrition and intuitive eating, check out the midlife feast community, my monthly membership that combines my no nonsense approach that you all love to nutrition with community, so that you can learn from me and others who can relate to the cheers and challenges of midlife. Hi, sandra, welcome to the midlife feast.

Sandra Mikulic: 0:54

Thank you for having me. It is an honor to be here.

Jenn Salib Huber: 1:00

So this is a story session and, as regular listeners will know, I love the story sessions because I think that storytelling about our challenges, about our cheers, about the things that light us up, is contagious, and so I love, love, love hearing about you know kind of stories and whatever it's related to. I love hearing about it, but yours, I think, is a really interesting story, so I'm going to let you jump in and tell us a little bit about who you are and how you got to be this running body acceptance advocate and you know kind of cheerleader on social media.

How Sandra Became A Runner

Sandra Mikulic: 1:40

Thanks, jen. So my name is Sandra. I live in Kelowna, bc, canada, and at the ripe old age of 43, I was hiding in the basement of my home and only working out indoors on my treadmill. I started by walking and then increasing the speed of walking and then I started jogging on my treadmill and that was kind of through the winter and March 18th 2018 rolled around and I went outside for my first run in the neighborhood park kind of creek. There's a little creek there and it was out of sight of the public. There was a lot of bush, so it kind of hid me from you know passerbys and I went out and did like a seven kilometer run and I swear I came back and I felt like an Olympic athlete. I was like, yeah, yeah, there's a category for me in the Olympics.

Jenn Salib Huber: 2:59

I'm signing up.

Sandra Mikulic: 3:00

I felt fast as fuck. I don't know if I can swear on here, I wasn't fast. It was like a 12-minute mile or something, double what the Olympians run at. Actually no.

Sandra Mikulic: 3:16

They run at like a four or five-minute mile and I was like a 12. Anyways, to me it felt fast and I swear the physiology of my body changed that day Viscerally. It changed me. So when I got home that day I signed up for four local races. Yeah, that's how I do it I go big or I go home. There is no in between.

Jenn Salib Huber: 3:50

No better way to do it.

Sandra Mikulic: 3:51

No better way to do it. So I signed up for these four races. One of them was a half marathon. They were all trail races and a couple of 10Ks three 10Ks and a half marathon. I did them all and that year, in 2018, I had ended up doing my first marathon in Seattle at the end of November, and this was March, so I had plenty of time. I mean, I didn't train properly, but in my mind, I had plenty of time. Was it a suffer fest? Yes, it was a suffer fest, because if you're not suffering just a little bit as a runner, you're like you know it's. Yeah, are you really running? So that was 2018, 2018, and literally my life changed that year.

Sandra Mikulic: 4:46

Um, the six or seven months I just want to preface the six or seven months prior to when I started running, I had immersed myself on that treadmill with everything about running. So I was watching YouTube videos, I was scrolling on my Instagram. I would spend anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes on that treadmill warming up for my real workout, which, you know, I would do a YouTube video. So it's not like I went kind of cold turkey on the treadmill and just started running on it. No, I had always done some sort of working out, like I had always either done weights or some sort of HIIT workout that I'd find on YouTube.

Sandra Mikulic: 5:31

Um, you know, I always did. I always had some sort of activity level. It was never running, it was, you know, treadmill, warm up and then like weights and cardio. So, because I had immersed myself on Instagram with this running community, this newfound running community, I actually did see a few runners that kind of looked like me, that kind of looked like me uh, mirna valerio latoya, shantae snell they're uh, pretty famous runners in the running community with diverse bodies and and a few others.

Jenn Salib Huber: 6:13

Um, I love the mirvanator I use. I use her all the time as an example of like talk about breaking down stereotypes right, absolutely, absolutely.

Sandra Mikulic: 6:23

Because how long?

Jenn Salib Huber: 6:24

ago. Was it that she was on the cover of a running magazine? That?

Sandra Mikulic: 6:27

was 2019.

Jenn Salib Huber: 6:30

Yeah, and.

Sandra Mikulic: 6:32

I remember.

Jenn Salib Huber: 6:33

Something from that article that really stood out to me was that she said that when she finished, you know when she would finish these ultra marathon races, and she does these like 50 mile races, right.

The Presence of Fat Phobia in the Running Community

Jenn Salib Huber: 6:44

If I'm correct about that. At the end of them, people would come up to her and say, wow, it's amazing that you could do that. I don't understand why you're still fat. And she was like, wait a minute, I just finished this 50 mile race that you couldn't do in your dreams and that's the only thing that stands out to you as being like incredible about this. You know, she was really the first person to call out the fat phobia and to just call out the ridiculous assumptions that we have about bodyous assumptions, really.

Sandra Mikulic: 7:28

And yeah, she would get random strangers going up to her and saying things and then, not to mention the comments that she would get on her videos and her reels and her Instagram. And that's what happened to me as well, because I went viral in 2021 with a video that I posted announcing my weight to the world. So I used a trending sound in 2021 and I said to people that I'm 250 pounds. And that's what happens People are shocked because their perception I don't think I look 250 pounds, I look, you know, maybe it doesn't even matter 200, whatever, I'm 5'11", so I carry quite like my weight is quite there's no one way to look at a certain size, right?

Jenn Salib Huber: 8:30

We're all individuals, right? Like we've all seen those mock-ups of you know 10 people, same weight and they all look different, like there isn't a look for a size right, yes, absolutely Sorry. I interrupted you. No, no no, absolutely.

Sandra Mikulic: 8:45

Um, and sorry I interrupted you no, no, no, no. So you're right.

Jenn Salib Huber: 8:48

You had found this online community. Go, let's go back. I want to go back Cause I feel like there's a lot of good story there.

The Power of Community for Encouragement and Accountability

Sandra Mikulic: 8:53

So so I had found this online community and and the timeline of my project, uh, progress kind of is in 2018, I started running and then I had. I had found this online community and I heard this word streak thrown around and I didn't like the traditional definition of a run streak, which was run one mile every day no matter what I was like. Well, what if I don't feel like running every day? What if I'm injured and I can't run? So I thought, well, I'll throw in a walk. So I decided to start in 2019, january 1st, a five kilometer daily streak of running or walking, five kilometers every day, and so I've kept that up.

Sandra Mikulic: 9:39

I just passed five years. It's changed my life. Literally it's changed my life. It's changed the visceral composition of my body. It has helped me release a lot of trauma. As you know, viscerally, we carry in our nervous system a lot of emotions and trauma and events, and we're composed of these events in our body that hold memories that then prevent us from possibly doing things because of what association they have with a previous feeling. Anyways, I won't get into that, but you know, the nervous system is really interesting. Neuroplasticity is super interesting, but that's what happened to me.

I started this streak and I started changing draft, like changing substantially. And the first year was the hardest year because my body kept saying no, why are you doing this? This is so stupid, you're gonna quit anyways. You don't finish anything. But year one I finished, and then year two, my body was like oh God, here she goes again. Why are you doing this? You're not that special. And I finished year two and then in year three my body was like okay, okay, okay, fine, fine, just.

Jenn Salib Huber: 11:02

Jane, we'll do it.

Habits Connect to Our Capacity in Midlife

Sandra Mikulic: 11:03

We'll do it, okay, okay. And literally that's then the voices no longer come into my head. They're gone. There's, this is just. I put on my new underwear, I do my 5k, I brush my teeth, I do my 5k. Fresh pair of underwear. Check, that's, it's automated, right, it's automated. And it's not even a question anymore of is this something that I need to do today? It's like when is it going to get done? Today? Right, that's what it's become. Which is really important when you try any new habit, to understand the processes that you will go through to get to that habit being automated.

And I hate the people out on Instagram who are like it takes 30 days to form a habit. No, it doesn't, susan, no, no, it doesn't, no, no, it takes like two years. If you really want to do something and have it embedded into your life takes a long time, I must. You have to at least have 365 days all seasons, absolutely.

Jenn Salib Huber: 12:14

And really I mean, I talk to people about this all the time too, with, like, changing habits and creating new habits. It's a similar process. Sometimes they can happen in parallel, but sometimes you have to do one before the other, and all of it comes down to how much capacity you have in your life for that Right.

Jenn Salib Huber: 12:32

And sometimes we can't control the capacity. Sometimes we can, and that's where we can choose. You know things, but sometimes life is just lifey and you know we can't do things as quickly as we want to or as big as we want to. And that, lowering the bar, which is kind of one of my catchphrases, is really just how we lower the bar so we can actually get to where we're going, even if it takes us longer.

Sandra Mikulic: 12:57

That's right.

Jenn Salib Huber: 12:58

Right, so I want to hear more about so. Okay, so 2018, you start running in your basement. So two questions why running and why your basement?

How Sandra's Running Habit Started in the Basement

Sandra Mikulic: 13:08

Well, that's where the treadmill was located. Okay, uh, the, the treadmill was the. So originally I bought the treadmill as a warmup for my workouts my real workouts because you have to warm up your body before you do any weights and lunges and things like that, and so that's what I had bought it for. And then I started spending more and more time on it because I was watching these videos and I was like, oh, I like this better than actually lifting any weights

Even though I like I love lifting weights and also because I wanted to lose weight at that time, because I had always come back to wanting to lose weight because I had four children. I have four children and every time I would have a child I would gain 80 pounds. So working out always became this, this thing I did to try to go back to a normal size and um, and also for my mental health, like working out, um, sweating, it just calmed the demons down, calmed the demons down and so I never was a runner, like I had not run outside since grade 10.

Sandra Mikulic: 14:49

That was a long time ago, 30 years ago, ish, 20, 29, 28. So that was the furthest from my mind of becoming a runner. And then, even then, it took me a year to really um, identify as a runner and be like, yeah, I'm a runner, and not have those voices in my head, uh, try and overshadow and say, no, you're not really a runner, you don't look like those nike running commercial runner. Right, you're not a real runner, that's right. Yeah, because there's one.

More Than One Body Type Can Run

Jenn Salib Huber: 15:19

There's only one body type that can run right. That's the narrative we've had.

Sandra Mikulic: 15:22

That's the narrative, that's the propaganda that they sell you. So, but it's not true.

Jenn Salib Huber: 15:30

So you 2018, you go outside, switch gets flipped, life changed. Start running races. When did it become, you know, part of your story of wanting to inspire and encourage others? Did that happen kind of organically along the way, or was there another kind of event so?

Sandra Mikulic: 15:49

definitely, like you know, in 2018, my Instagram was like I would get like two likes. You know, I didn't even. You know, you start off with zero followers and my first follower, this lady named, who goes by Twiggy. She still follows me and she's this lovely lady from Texas. She was my first follower, aside, I think, from one of my kids who had an Instagram or I don't know somebody else. But you start actually doing it for yourself.

Sandra Mikulic: 16:23

The Instagram that I created was originally for myself to feel accountable. So I don't know, it was just natural. I'm like, oh, I'm going to post a picture because I saw other people posting pictures, so I thought, why can't I do that? That looks fun, they look like they're having a great time. And then I did the same thing. But my first Instagram account was actually not called Big Fit I Run. It was called Elegantly Filled, because my cousin in Croatia used to call me Elegantly Filled.

He would say, hey, elegantly F filled, cousin, how are you? Every time I saw him, it was like the most passive, aggressive nickname I have ever heard of. And then, originally, my Instagram was kind of like I was going to have this page that was private and post the most unflattering photos of myself, of me like with my rolls bending down, so you can see like one, two, three let's count how many rolls show up today. Um, and then I quickly was like dude.

The Evolution of Sandra's Brand and Social Media Presence

Sandra Mikulic: 17:35

So then my real Instagram name was bigfitmama4 underscore mom of four, underscore runs. Because, yeah, big fit, I'm big and fit, I guess. Mom because I had to use an excuse as to why I'm so big of four. Well, she's had four kids. This was all in my head, right, I'm like I'm, what's that called? What am I doing? I'm, I'm justifying my size, even though it's just me justifying my size and the meaning behind what I look like, which nobody gave a shit about.

So that was the original name, and then I cut out of four, probably three years ago, because I'm like nobody cares. So it became Big Fit, I Run, and even now I'm thinking about changing that because I've been hiding behind big and fit instead of just being me. That's another story, that's another evolution that you go through Hiding behind my size because I thought I need to. Yeah, anyways, just a whole other thing.

Jenn Salib Huber: 18:48

But yes, I don't know what your original question was, but our family went on a family vacation to Croatia last year and it's like one of my favorite places on earth now, and so I think now the algorithm knows that I love anything and everything about Croatia, so I just get seen things all the time, shown things all the time. But I think what I love about your account is that you are unapologetically you. That comes across loud and clear, but you are also welcoming and you normalize all bodies running if you want to be a runner, and I love just how, like your passion for running and also body acceptance is just ever present in every post that you make, and I think that it's really unique and it's why you have almost 100,000 followers. You know like people really resonate with the message because you are inspiring, like there's no question about that, and I just think that breaking down stigma and barriers and stereotypes, especially in midlife, for people in bigger bodies and for women, is something that we just need to shout from the rooftops.

Don't Wait to Start Your Movement Habit

Sandra Mikulic: 20:12

We do. You're right and, honestly, joking aside, it's a serious issue, and what the serious issue is that there are so many women in this world who think they need to delay them starting a movement habit ritual, a movement ritual, until they're smaller. This is a big issue and in the last year or so, I've realized that that's what a lot of women are doing, based on what I'm seeing and based on the feedback that I'm getting in my inboxes. Yeah, yeah, this is like if I had waited until I was a proper size or a smaller version of myself to start running, a proper size or a smaller version of myself to start running, can you imagine all the things that I would have not gotten to do? That I have gotten to do and that's what I'm trying to communicate is not that you should go and run a marathon.

Sandra Mikulic: 21:25

What I'm trying to communicate is that you should go and move your body because it has physiological and visceral positive side effects to you being a human being. Literally, it helps you be a better human being. That's it. That's why you should move your body every day, every day. You should walk, every day. You should do a movement ritual every day, every day. You should walk every day. You should do a movement ritual every day, it doesn't matter what it is. Walk around your block every day and it will change your mood.

Sandra Mikulic: 22:00

Do it twice and it'll make it even better Three times, four times. I don't know how big your block is, but you know really that. You know old silly thing about getting in 10,000 steps. We really should like. The average American doesn't get in more than 3000 steps a day.

A Mental Health Transformation with Running

Sandra Mikulic: 22:18

That's, that's not good right, and I'm not talking about. It has nothing to do with being in a smaller body and it has everything to do with mood regulation. And it has everything to do with mood regulation and it has everything to do with your dopamine levels and serotonin and all of those wonderful hormony things. That's why you should move your body and that's why you shouldn't wait to be in a smaller body to start moving your body. So that's why I'm happy. So that's why I'm happy and that's why you see me happy in my videos, because the miracle and I call it a miracle of me starting to run it has changed my life, because I can now regulate my mood.

Sandra Mikulic: 23:19

I suffered from debilitating anxiety after I had my first child, and even the second one was even worse. I was diagnosed with obsessive, compulsive anxiety and just really, really, really bad anxiety, creating thoughts in my head that didn't exist, and finally decided to agree to take medication and it changed. That changed my life too. So I've been on Sertraline for I don't know eight years, nine years completely different person. Know eight years, nine years yeah, completely different person. Um, and I work full-time as a financial advisor at one of the largest banks in canada. So my mood has to be regulated. I have to be able to stay calm and talk to people and have intelligent conversations with them, and I have to be able to stay calm most of the time as a mom, yeah, and not go off.

Moving Beyond Calories In Calories Out

Jenn Salib Huber: 24:19

I'm laughing because, also, as a mom, I have three kids. Staying calm is, you know, one of those things I'm always, always working towards. But you know, I think what you bring up is such an important part of the conversation that we need to change about movement. Movement in our generation, for many generations. But I really feel like our generation was hit hard with this message that movement is something you do to control the calorie in, calorie out equation. That's right, that's it Right Now.

Jenn Salib Huber: 24:52

Many of us have discovered on our own that it is so much more than that. But for people who never liked exercise, maybe never had a good time doing it it was always work. They thought that it only counted if they did it a certain way for a certain amount of time. It's really hard to undiet that mindset and actually start to think of it as something that you want to do because you enjoy it, but also because of how it helps you live in your body in a more present, mindful, just, compassionate way.

Jenn Salib Huber: 25:29

It is one of the tools, but it is not something that I use as punishment, you know, but I also don't use it as reward. It just, it just is part of my rhythm and routine of life, right, and I think that the biggest gift that anybody can give themselves is to lower the bar, redefine their relationship with movement. Anybody can give themselves is to lower the bar, redefine the relationship with movement. Focus on what you like, which could be discovering running at any age or size, or it could be discovering yoga, like. It's anything that allows you to move your body in ways that you enjoy as often as you can, which is the definition of joyful movement, right, and I think that you embody that so beautifully, sandra, thanks really yeah tell us what you're doing with it.

Jenn Salib Huber: 26:17

So you have this, you know great platform and you share this message all the time and you're inspiring runners of all sizes. Um, what else has this kind of inspired for you in life?

Sandra Mikulic: 26:33

Well, you know, it's so funny when people ask me that, because how do you then say, well, I decided to start a magazine because I wasn't busy enough, like I don't know, I mean like what you said earlier, go big or go home, yeah, all or nothing, right? So I, I did have some experience. I used to work at a magazine magazine publishing company when I was 20 in Vancouver. So I worked on the production end of the magazine and I knew how to put together a dummy which is what the magazine is called when it's bare bones, before it becomes a magazine. And I, you know, knew how to put where should the editorial go, where should the ads go.

So I created my own dummy and, um, I hated, hated the existing running magazines on the market. Yeah, I still hate them today because, um, they put the maybe one off average runner looking person in their diverse body and then they call it a day and that just doesn't that token didn't. Yeah, token 100. That just didn't sit well with me.

Publishing a Running Magazine Was the Next Best Step

Sandra Mikulic: 28:00

And it actually happened really organically. Um, there is a, a woman who was making yoga tights in Vancouver from recycled plastic. Her name was Nadine and she had be wild her. She's since, unfortunately, shut the company down just because of everything that was happening with inflation and it was just becoming impossible to produce the yoga, becoming impossible to produce the yoga, the running leggings, at a decent price. But she sent me this cover that she had made of one of my photos on a fake magazine and I was like, and I was like, oh my gosh, and that was it. It was a mock-up. She just did this mock-up because she knows how to use design programs and I'm like, oh my running, it's not only just changed my life in a very small way, it's changed it in a big way.

Sandra Mikulic: 29:17

So I decided to publish a magazine. It's called Run your Life and we just printed issue four just came out literally two weeks before I left for Croatia. And then last year my high school bestie was in Dubrovnik and we're on a Zoom call together and she's like dude, there is a race here, there are people running in the street and I said what? Because I hadn't been to Croatia in 15 years, I hadn't been back. And that got our brains and ideas going and we're like let's hold a retreat there. And that's what we did. So we started planning last year in October and there was 10 of us in total and it was phenomenal. So we had, you know, a bit of like seminary kind of stuff, a little bit of learning, and we had the race component and then we had, you know, private yoga, yoga professional photographer take photos of us dinners.

Jenn Salib Huber: 30:32

It was just incredible it was incredible, it was just so. How do I get on the agenda to be a speaker at like the next uh retreat in croatia?

Sandra Mikulic: 30:42

uh, you read my mind. You've read my mind. I would love that anyway, that's a side conversation, but I think we need a part two because we haven't even talked about nutrition.

Jenn Salib Huber: 30:54

We haven't even talked about what our bodies need, yeah, so I think we definitely will need to have a part two yeah oh my god, oh my goodness um sandra this has just been amazing, and I I can already like hear the smiles coming from listeners as they listen to just your story, your passion, everything, um, and then. So I love asking my guests what they think is the missing ingredient in midlife oh, in midlife.

Sandra Mikulic: 31:26

Well, I don't know if I can say more of something else.

Jenn Salib Huber: 31:30

You can say whatever you want.

The Missing Ingredient in Midlife According to Sandra

Sandra Mikulic: 31:32

I think you have to do things that bring you a big fucking smile on your face, like, yes, a big, big, big, big smile on your face and it's not selfish. I can't tell you how happy I felt when I was in Croatia with those women. I'm not advocating alcohol or anything. I don't drink alcohol, I hardly drink alcohol at all, hardly drink alcohol at all. But when I was in Croatia and we're having Aperol Spritz like, can I have an Aperol Spritz please? You don't even have to have an Aperol Spritz, you can have like a sparkling water with lemon.

Sandra Mikulic: 32:23

But just sitting there and looking at the Adriatic coast and you're dressed beautifully and you're living your best life because you've spent all these other years. First of all, you were trying to grow like, you're trying to make it out alive out of the teenage years. And then you're in your 20s and you're like what the fuck is this? And then you're in your twenties and you're like what the fuck is this? And then you're in your thirties and you're like are you kidding me? And then you hit the forties and you're like okay, okay, I can feel my feet on the ground.

Sandra Mikulic: 32:59

I, okay, I, I, I'm, I, I got my footing. Yep, okay, I got my footing. I'm at the bottom of the mountain and I can see the top. I'm at the bottom of the mountain and I can see the top, and that's kind of like what midlife feels for me. And, honestly, I'm going to turn 50 next year and I know that my 50s are going to be the best decade yet. My 40s were pretty awesome, but the 50s, oh, we need to have more joy. That's what we need more of in midlife More joy, more protein and more movement and I don't know if I can say, sex, but Whatever you want.

Jenn Salib Huber: 33:41

I don't think that you'll hear anyone argue with any of those. So thank you so much. We're going to include links to your Instagram, your magazine and anything else that you have going on, but thank you so so much, and I'm sure that we will have a part two. I'm just really happy that we've connected.

Sandra Mikulic: 34:00

Thank you, Jen. It was a thank you so much. It was an honor being on your podcast and sharing your space with you, and I look forward to another awesome chat.

Jenn Salib Huber: 34:09

Yes, thanks. Thanks for tuning in to this week's episode of the Midlife Feast For more non diet, health, hormone and general midlife support. Click the link in the show notes to learn how you can work and learn from me. And if you enjoyed this episode and found it helpful, please consider leaving a review or subscribing, because it helps other women just like you find us and feel supported in midlife.

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