I had run long-distance in high school track because I was never "fast." I ran off and on through college to keep from gaining the "freshman fifteen." I was a yo-yo runner. I didn't run consistently, but only when I felt I needed to get my weight back down or try to improve my health. Then the brownies and ice cream would come calling my name.
After my Dad passed away, I used running as an outlet. I ran 3 miles, 3 times a week in hopes of dropping some baby weight after my second pregnancy. I still ate tons of sweets and processed foods and never lost any weight. However, my endurance increased, so I changed my goals to longer distance, rather than weight loss. I ran my first half marathon in May 2013, 30lbs heavier than I am now.
So what changed?
I looked back at my pictures and I was disappointed. I knew I HAD to change the way I ate, or I would never truly change. Beginning in August 2013, I made one small substitution at a time towards clean eating. Sweet potatoes for white, wheat bread versus white, honey instead of sugar, etc. Very slowly, over time, I lost over 30lbs by Christmas and kept running. It was a very difficult journey, as I was making these changes alone. I had very little support and very few people understood why I wasn't eating the same and would make the remarks about being careful not to lose too much weight. I knew what I was doing was best for my body. Over time, I was able to maintain that weight loss and haven't looked back.
The biggest problem was that I did not have the tools to help other people do the same. No one seemed to have the patience to learn about clean eating on their own, though everyone around me wanted to know the "secret." Well, the secret is making those hard choices day after day. The hard decision to eat whole foods when everyone around you is not. It's not easy, but it is worth it.
So, marathon training...
In 2014, I felt called to run the Walt Disney World Marathon as a Show Hope Advocate to help raise money for a family to adopt their child. Our family had always wanted to adopt, but it wasn't our time, so I ran for someone else, someone I didn't even know, and raised over $3,800.00 through my training. I had never run a full marathon before and I honestly didn't know much about what I was doing.
I had learned to run half marathons with intervals, like the Jeff Galloway method. Since he is a huge partner with Disney races, I looked up his training plans and felt that it would ease me into the process and allow me to start and finish the 26.2 miles without killing my body in the process. The beginning plan is about six months long, with three runs per week. I began training in June 2014 for a January 2015 race.
As the training went on, I found myself pushing the plan. I ran more miles when I felt well, and I ended up having several 100+ mile months. When I wasn't running, I was hitting the gym and going on the elliptical or messing around with upper body strength machines. I thought I knew what I was doing and felt confident that the cross-training was beneficial.
After my 22-miler in November, I started having serious knee issues, eventually developing into tendonitis in BOTH knees. I was also experiencing some stomach issues with the Honey Stinger gels (seemed to be a "cleaner" version of fuel than GU). I ended up in physical therapy for the last six weeks of my marathon training. I ran the Walt Disney World Marathon injured from Mile 1. It was painful. It was hard. By Mile 18, my stomach gave out and I was taking baby steps to keep moving forward. I walked a lot. Because this race meant so much to me, I knew I was never giving up. If I had to walk the whole way, I would finish. By Mile 24, I was able to "speed walk" and that would be it. I finished in 6:36:40.
And THIS is where the story changes...
After feeling completely burned out and stressed out, I found something new to me: Beachbody. Go ahead, roll your eyes...because that's what I did, too! I knew nothing about this company except I had heard of Insanity and P90X from infomercials. I connected with a girl who was a coach and explained that I was already a runner, already a clean eater, and I wasn't sure how Beachbody was going to make me healthier than I already was.
This is what I learned: While my nutrition was better because I was eating whole foods, I was not eating the correct portion sizes or types of whole foods. I was still living with too many carbs and not enough veggies. I excused this behavior by claiming my runner status. Shakeology sounded like the protein shake I was already making, but the more I researched, the more I found that it was filling in those gaps in my nutrition and giving me the energy I was lacking. The programs that they offer can all be done from home, eliminating my need to leave my kids and go to the gym. I was a skeptic. I was unsure. BUT--I was burned out, tired, and needing something new.
After joining as a coach, I also participated in several challenge groups and then began hosting my own groups to share what I had learned. The groups provided daily accountability and camaraderie with others who were also just trying to live a healthier lifestyle. It was encouraging, supportive, and I felt like I was making friends with people who really understood the struggles of meal planning, getting kids to eat healthier snacks, and staying motivated every single day. We were in it together.
I started with 21-Day Fix and completed 3 rounds. I kept very strict to the program so that I could see the best results. Sticking with portions did not make me starve, in fact, I found that I was eating more than I anticipated and still lost a pant size! I kept running through this program, as well as getting stronger through the workouts. I ran less, about 1-2 days/week, but I ran for me...and I started to enjoy it again.
In the fall, I started training again for the Marshall University Half Marathon, with my sights set on a personal record, and going for a sub-2-hour half. (My previous Half PR was 2:05). I ran about 2 days a week and completed the 8-week PiYo program and stuck to my clean eating and Shakeology. No more stomach problems. No injuries. My body felt better than ever and I set a PR at 2:02. I realized that THIS STUFF WORKS! I was loving my routine and loving running for ME.
When registration opened for the Pittsburgh Full Marathon, I decided to sign up. Pittsburgh is my hometown, and since I had done the half twice, I wanted to complete the full at least once as a bucket list item. I had about 6 months to train, but I decided to hold off. I didn't want to over-train like I had for Disney.
After the Marshall University Half in November 2015, I set a personal record in my 5K race as well. My previous 5K was 25:34, and after my training with PiYo and the half marathon, I was able to finish with a 24:54. I was convinced that less running, proper cross-training, and great nutrition were the key to my success.
I spent the next two months training with The Master's Hammer & Chisel program right from my home. I modified and did not have a weight bench or pull-up bar, but I used what I had and resistance bands and door attachment. My strength was increasing daily and I LOVED this program. I had never done so many squats in my life. It was like having a personal strength trainer right in my living room! Because this program was more intense than some of the others, I ran 1-2 days a week, and kept a 10-mile base run on the weekends. I wanted to keep that endurance up through the "off season."
In January, I started training again for the full. As our adoption process moved forward, I realized that the Pittsburgh full would likely fall at the same time that we would be out of the country. So, I made some adjustments, and switched my Xenia, Ohio Half Marathon registration to the Full Marathon so that I could use my training for something. At that point, I had already trained to about 18 miles.
Along with the clean eating, portion control, and Shakeology, I started to use the Beachbody Performance Line products with my long runs and harder workouts. I had used the Energize and Recover, but I have to admit, Recover is my favorite. It is like drinking chocolate milk, but has the nutrients to help your muscles recover better than anything else. I started experiencing leg cramps around Mile 7-9 of every training run. I had no idea why, but within 5 minutes of drinking Recover, the tightness was completely eliminated, which is something that used to take an Epsom salt bath to cure. After realizing the effectiveness of that formula, I kept it with me for every long run so I could drink it immediately after a run and keep my muscles feeling good.
As race day approached, I knew that my training runs were proving that I could get around my 4:45 goal time. I had only been able to train up to 20 miles, and knowing my previous marathon experience, I was a bit nervous about my stomach holding out or my legs giving me trouble after 18 miles. But--I KNEW this training season was different. Less miles, less training time, better nutrition, more strength, and zero burn out.
While the weather was cold, windy, and a bit challenging, the Xenia course is fairly flat and honestly felt like a training run. And mentally, that is what I told myself it was. Just a training run. The water stops and volunteers were great, but it was certainly a no-frills race. Just a training run, right? In my head, I challenged myself to see how close I could get to 4:30 (just because I always want to push), but the later miles were passing more slowly than I had hoped. I KNEW 4:45 would be beat, so I just gave it my all and decided to go for it and be happy with my result. My body was tired and sore, like any body is when it is torn down for 26.2 miles, but it was NOTHING like Disney. I was not crawling at Mile 18. I wasn't crying at Mile 20, and I was still running at Mile 26.
I crossed the finish line and saw 4:35. I did it. I beat my first marathon by OVER 2 HOURS! Who does that? My official time was 4:35:24 and I am very pleased with that. I would like to say that it was hard work that paid off, but honestly, I feel like I worked SMARTER this time around, not harder.
Here is the thing. We runners are a weird bunch. We run, we justify eating poorly, and we burn a ton of calories. Runners will run because they don't have time or don't want to cross-train. Runners believe that hitting the road is good enough. Runners don't think about portions or food groups, but indulge in carbo-loading and celebrating with friends. I know this because I am a runner.
But, take a lesson from me. Nutrition matters. Cross-training matters. Portions matter. And eating the right food groups matters. Running can be adjusted. You don't HAVE to run 5-7 days a week to see improvement.
I learned all this through Challenge Groups. And now, I am a coach who teaches these things on a daily basis. It keeps ME accountable. It keeps ME on the right track. This fall will mark my 3-year anniversary of eating clean, and I have maintained my 30lb+ weight loss and never felt better.
Contact me today about getting on the right track. I want to help you achieve those goals that you have set for yourself. I will help you get set up with the right program for YOU and nutrition to stay on track. Be stubborn about your goals. Be flexible about your methods. Start where you are.
Wife. Mother. Runner. Coach. Adoption Advocate. I strive to share HOPE through my journey and help others reach their goals.