On the blog today, Michelle San Antonio shares how her love of cooking has recently outpaced her love of racing.

I’ve written in this space recently about how racing and competing is no longer the driving force to my running, and how I’ve come to embrace—and enjoy—this more laid-back approach. My life is no longer ruled by training cycles, nor is my daily schedule dictated by long runs or workouts. I am happy to have that freedom when it comes to running. 

But I remain a deeply Type A personality who gravitates toward routines, schedules, and things with defined outcomes. Without consciously realizing it at first, that tendency led me to cooking, one of my favorite hobbies, as a replacement for the regularity and routine that training used to provide. 

I was fortunate to grow up in a family that always ate a home-cooked dinner together. My mom was not a gourmet cook, but she did something even more impressive: pulled together delicious meals on a tight budget every single night, while raising five kids (and in later years, also working full time). I learned cooking basics from her, and my culinary horizons expanded tenfold when I began working in restaurant kitchens. 

Four years toiling as a prep cook in a resort hotel on Block Island, Rhode Island, followed by 2 years at a wholesale bakery taught me almost everything I’d need to know about preparing a meal. (I can Julienne with the best of them.)

When my kids were younger, with more, ahem, limited palettes, it was hard to see cooking as anything other than a necessity. And on the worst days, it was a nuisance and a dreaded chore. Thankfully we are now well past that phase, and they truly appreciate the meals and desserts I create. And their more refined palates allow me to experiment with fun flavors and ingredients, and cooking is fun again! 


The joy of being able to fix a plate that isn’t mac ‘n cheese or chicken nuggets.

Most weeks, I plan out a meal schedule, and I sometimes find the kids scanning the menu to see what they have to look forward to. (We’re currently keeping these chicken cutlets on heavy rotation, and they come from one of my favorite cooking blogs.) And although I often enjoy improvising when I cook, I’ve come to appreciate the use of recipes. My Type A brain finds it very satisfying to work my way down a list of ingredients, measuring and pouring and mixing. And I think this is the crux of it: the act of methodically combining a list of carefully measured substances, to have it all come together in a delicious culinary creation almost feels magical sometimes. That said, it is actually deceivingly simple: follow the correct steps, get the desired outcome.

Sure, there are recipes gone awry, and mistakes aplenty. It’s all part of the process, and I’m sure even the great Martha Stewart burns things once in a while.

I fully recognize how fortunate I am to have the luxury of time to expend on this hobby, since my kids are older and I don’t work full time. And please don’t be fooled into thinking that I always have my act together, even in the absence of a frantic carpooling schedule; there are plenty of days, weeks, and sometimes even months, when there is no weekly menu and I’m digging through the freezer in the hopes of finding something to defrost—or reaching for the Annie’s Mac and Cheese. But when I have the time and the motivation, and I’m able to make some of that culinary magic, the sense of satisfaction is immense. 


My family has always been proud of my running, but they get really excited when I make them cookies.

Although I used to get sick of seeing people’s foodie Instagram posts, I now can’t help myself, and frequently share food photos. I’ve drawn inspiration for many meals by seeing other posts, and hopefully someone draws inspiration from mine – which is exactly how I think of all the running content I share. At this point in my life, taking the steps of planning, shopping for, and cooking meals is just as satisfactory as checking off workouts on a training plan but with far fewer aches and pains! In many ways, cooking has become my new running. 

But cooking is different in one important way: The act of creating a meal or even a simple batch of cookies brings comfort and happiness to not only me, but also to the people for whom it’s prepared. While my family has always been supportive of my running, my race medals definitely didn’t benefit them the way that a few dozen warm chocolate chip cookies does. In my new cooking race, we all win! 

Do you have a hobby you love as much (or more) than running? Tell us all about it.