Training for a marathon is much more than running miles forever. To lean and tone your body and prevent injuries, you should crosstrain as well.

If you want to run the Boston Marathon one day, read this interview I did with my friend Janet. She finished the 2009 Boston Marathon! Way to go Janet! Here’s part of her story:

How long have you been a committed exerciser and how did you get started?

I started running after playing a soccer game in 1998. My neighbor invited me to join an “Over 30” women’s league and I thought it would be fun. I’d never played soccer but enjoyed being asked to play. About midway through that first game I realized that I’d better start running or I’d never be able to play soccer (or walk again). My quads ached for days after that game!

How does exercise improve your quality of life?

I’m an RN working in Health Promotion and Wellness research at a large university. I KNOW the benefits of living a healthy life and HATE health care providers who do not practice what they preach to their clients. I was healthy but I wasn’t doing a good job of eating well nor exercising enough. I’ve been running more each passing year and eating a much more healthy diet.

The benefits are HUGE! I’m consistently finishing races in the top 10 of my age group, I’ve consistently been complemented by total strangers at the gym. The most recent was while I was at a hotel gym in Atlanta last week by the guy working on the gym equipment. His exact words were, “Impressive! You certainly know what you’re doing.” As a 52 year old woman…that’s the epitome of Quality of Life! I also get compliments from my husband of 28 years and my daughters (ages 24 and 18).

FYI, I was the fat kid growing up. My kids call me Bob (bag of bones) now. Life sure can be funny! I will never forget the comment made by an old family friend (the gal was my mom’s friend from 3rd grade). She saw me after I’d started running and screamed, “What?!?!? A skinny Janet!!!” Of course that comment still pisses me off!

What was the first race you ran and did you finish?

My first race was a 5K about 10 years ago. I did finish and I did notice how FAST the leaders were!

What was your first marathon or half marathon race and did you finish?

My first marathon was the Motorola Marathon in Austin Texas in 2002. I finished in 4:45:09. I’ve done 12 marathons and 2 Ultra races (50K) since then. My best time was last fall in San Antonio, 3:38:52. So far, my training has outpaced my aging! I’ve finished all but one race I’ve ever entered.

The DNF (did not finish) race was the 2007 LaSalle Chicago Marathon. It was in the high 80’s at the start and the race was aborted at 3 hours 45 minutes by the race director. I stopped at the half and opted to run the Dallas White Rock Marathon in December. My goal was to qualify to run again in Boston and I did!

What type of training do you do for a marathon?

I train with a running coach and the most out of this world group of friends. My coach determines the schedule I run and the time or distance. We run 6 days a week. Two days are “quality” runs at the track, running hard intervals, or hill repeats. One day is the long run…we start out at 1 hour 30 minute runs and progress up to 23 miles which takes me about 3 hours 15 minutes. I cross train twice a week by taking a spin class and I lift weights twice a week.

My friends are what keeps me eager to run. We are of both sexes and from a wide variety of backgrounds and ages. I would have never had the opportunity to meet these folks outside of running as that is our common bond. Their friendship is the essence of my contentment in life and is what adds immeasurable quality to my life

How long does it take to prepare for a marathon?

A good training schedule takes 20 weeks. I run year round and limit myself to 2 marathons a year. I run a number of half marathons during my training. My favorite is the 3M Half Marathon in Austin. This past year I placed 3rd in my age group!! What a THRILL!!!

How does your eating habits change during marathon training?

I need to take in more protein and I eat like a Gerbil! No kidding. I need to eat every 2 hours the last 8 weeks of training and I usually drop 5 pounds (which come right back after the race). I have a small carton of low-fat chocolate milk within 30 minutes of finishing a workout. Yes chocolate milk!

Research has shown that it has the perfect mix of protein and carbohydrates. You can get the small cartons of organic low-fat chocolate milk at the grocery or Costco. They do not have to be refrigerated and they last forever on the shelf. I keep them in my back-up refrigerator and throw one in my gym bag as I head out the door. If you are lactose intolerant…they make a soy milk product.

I have two vices: a Vente Latte from Starbucks (I count the 18 ounces of 2% milk towards my calcium intake) and red wine…6 ounces daily. Oh, I also hit Taco Deli in Austin twice a week for their exquisite “El Popeye” breakfast tacos. I order them with egg whites only on whole wheat tortillas and extra spinach! Yum!!! They add about .5 ounce of queso fresco.

How do you avoid injuries during marathon training?

1. Deep tissue massage! Injuries start out as pain. If you treat the pain with massage an injury will be averted.

2. Active Release…by a chiropractor

3. A second massage therapist. What the first therapist misses, the second finds.

4. Core exercises…abs and back exercises are key! I do them about 4 times a week.

How do you train and eat for the 2 weeks prior to a marathon?

We do our most intense week of training 3 weeks prior to the race. I eat as much as I need and take in high quality foods: lots of green veggies and protein…almond butter, non-fat greek yogurt. I also eat a BIG bowl of multi-grain hot cereal with added ground flax seed and wheat germ daily. It’s the only thing that will stick to your ribs for more than 2 hours. It’ll last a whole 2 hours and 15 minutes!!

What’s your best time in the half marathon? Marathon?

My PR was last fall at age 51. I ran a 3:38:52

How long does it take to recover from a marathon?

Interestingly the more marathons I run, the faster I recover! I ran Boston this past April and that race is very hard on your quads because the first half is downhill. I didn’t run for a week after the race but I walked a lot and lifted. I also got a massage a few days after the race to work out the knots.

What advice would you give anyone considering a half marathon or marathon race?

Do it! Join a training group like USA fit or Team in Training. They have the support and programs defined to get you to the start and to the finish! The best place to find out what’s in your community is at your local running store. Give them a call and ask questions. Not all running stores are created equal. If you don’t feel like you’re getting quality answers…go to the next store!

I’ve been able to find running groups, tracks open to runners, and running routes by calling running stores all over the united states. I don’t think it’s wise or safe for a woman to run alone so I’ve used this method frequently. I travel quite a bit for work. I’ve met the most AMAZING people this way. Another “Quality of Life” benefit of running!

Thanks for the advice Janet! Keep us posted on your next marathon run!

There you go gang! Wanna run a marathon now?! Janet says “do it!”

Be sure and download your Free Dumbbell and Medicine Ball Metabolic Fat Burner Workouts and start shaping your body faster!

Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
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Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist
Certified Nutrition Coach and Nutrition for Metabolic Health Specialist. Since 2006, I have helped thousands of clients and readers make lifestyle habit changes that helps you to achieve better long-term health, which includes body transformation and ideal body weight.
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