Last year, I registered and began training for the New Orleans Rock-n-Roll Marathon, held in Feb ’17. To train, I started running with girls much faster than me, used their insight to finesse my training, shifted my mindset, and then went on to complete the marathon in 3:35:46…qualifying me to enter the Boston Marathon on April 16, 2018. This blogpost is about sharing my secret weapon that helped transform my running performance: a 60-minute strength training class offered at the Daphne YMCA called Body Pump. (Jan registration special & class schedule attached!) This class has transformed my body & athletic ability. Please don’t be mislead into thinking I was always an athlete and this achievement came easy because that’s far from the truth.
Growing up, I focused more on dance teams and color guard while in school and if you really want honesty- I was always referred to as the “thick” girl. “Not fat,” they’d say, “But thick. You know, in a good way.” Right. I was never a runner but envied the cross country girls & their ability to breeze through the 2-mile loop like gazelles. My dad was one of them- not a girl, but a runner:). So I figured as his daughter, the genetic gift must be hiding somewhere deep inside me. And after college ended & real life began, I eventually began digging deep to discover & develop those genes.
Which leads me to today’s post as I’ve jumped into the new year & allowed myself to balance more than one goal. (The first goal being to reach my sales goals on the Jason Will Real Estate Team.) The other goal being the 14-week challenge to train well despite a demanding schedule & then proudly represent the AL Eastern Shore in the 2018 Boston Marathon. Many have asked how I managed to qualify and what I’m doing to prepare. Because of my new schedule I have to attend the 5 AM Body Pump classes. Otherwise, the day’s training plan isn’t going to be accomplished. Some of you may think that 5 AM is impossible, and I can truthfully admit that was once me. In fact, it still is from time to time. But there are a 6 tricks I’ve adopted that I’ll share to help you overcome the early morning workout hurtle and adopt it as a habit.
1.) Automatic coffee maker!
This is my first secret weapon and obviously it’s not something I invented, just adopted. This IS my motivation to get up in the morning. I actually love coffee, but not enough to to complete the incredibly arduous task of MAKING it at 4 in the morning. It’s imperative that the aroma is already wafting into my room by 4:20am when my alarm sounds. Even better, it has an auto shut off, so if I don’t get up & hit snooze instead, I’ll wake up to cold coffee:( And that just doesn’t do the trick for me.
2.) Sleep in your workout clothes!
They’re designed to breathe well and provide comfort so why not? That’s one less thing you have to do when you get up early in the morning stumbling in the dark. And sleep is SO important if you expect to perform well at anything. I really prefer eight hours of sleep but I could get by with six if it’s good sleep. (Side note: I cut alcohol out of my diet a year ago and that was also a game changer. For a long time, I routinely had evening cocktails, and despite getting a full night’s sleep, I still lumbered in the morning due to the lingering effects of alcohol. So when I started this dream last year to qualify for Boston at the Feb ’17 New Orleans Marathon, I knew that I would have to make some big changes in my life for that dream to become a reality. And it worked! So I’m sticking with the teetotaler way of life for the time being while physical & career goals are at the forefront of my mind.)
3.) Get to know your early morning gym buddies!
This is really the key to accountability and maintaining your early-morning commitment. I tend to be social by nature, but at 5 AM, even I struggle to put words together. But there’s only a small margin of people that can commit to a 5 AM gym routine so you’ll quickly find that you’re seeing the same faces and exchanging smiles with familiar bodies. And honestly, the majority are anywhere from my thirty-something age up to retirees. And if you don’t have a relationship with many older people in your community, let me tell you that they are the most engaging and encouraging:) It doesn’t take much time to build these relationships. First, introduce yourself to the front desk people that check you in each morning like our girl, Karen. She is the tried-and-true early morning employee that always greets me with a smile. She really makes my day and I’m so grateful that she never calls in sick. She quickly learned my name and notices when I’m not there. That’s part of the accountability… it’s when you start to get out of your routine & you hear people say “ where you been?“ It’s nice to know that people notice when you’re missing. There’s also a group of men that are always drinking coffee when I get there and when I’m leaving. I think they actually do work out occasionally, but the early YMCA crew is their clique. And it’s not a closed clique! They’ll welcome anyone in that’ll extend a smile. Mike, AKA “Snap” and our other buddy, Charlie, are just a few of the colorful characters that fill the morning lobby with laughter and easy going conversation.
4.) Pick a workout that you really love!
It didn’t take me long to start seeing the results of Body Pump which helped get me hooked. After just a few short months, I was eager to wear more sleeveless attire because I was constantly getting compliments for my new sleek, toned arms! And in response to each question about my newly toned physique, I gave the same concise reply, “Body Pump- Tues/Thurs @ 5am.” For me, it’s ideal because it’s an hour class and a full body workout focusing on strength training, not cardio. My cardio is covered by running, but again, it’s the strength training that’s really helped me improve my speed and endurance. The instructors on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Ashley and Paul, do an excellent job of being consistent, upbeat, and knowledgeable. And again, the accountability is there. They notice when I miss a class. Just the other day, I was late & stood in a different spot than normal and Ashley eventually said, “Something’s wrong here. Courtney is not in her usual spot!” It does feel good to be recognized 🙂 And again, I see the same faces at the 5 AM class typically every week. We’ve gotten to know each other. We encourage each other. We later see each other at the grocery store and around town and are gradually building deeper relationships beyond our YMCA workouts. This is how communities are formed and we transition from just being residents to conscientious & caring citizens.
5.) Do it scared!
A fellow realtor in our company, Hope, recently talked about the fears we all experience in the workforce. Real estate is tough. It is not for the faint of heart and thin skinned. Neither is starting a workout routine or pushing through the pain and fear of anything. But please just know that everyone goes through it. Especially me, someone that went from running an occasional 5K after college to eventually training and qualifying for the Boston Marathon…I never really thought I was capable or possessed that level of ability. But I started off doing it scared. A bad workout is better than no work out at all.
Today was a good example. I took a month-long sabbatical from my workout routine during the recent holidays, then did a Facebook live video on January 3rd to publicly commit to run Boston on April 16th. The travel & lodging fees make it a very expensive endeavor and that’s been the biggest setback for me in moving forward; but, I’ve had the courage to ask for help. I’m grateful my company, Jason Will Real Estate, and my friend and proprietor of Heroes & Royal Scam, have committed to sponsoring me and now the only obstacle is myself. Getting back into the daily training mindset is exhausting and not filled with a lot of immediate success. When I qualified, I ran a steady 8 minute pace for nearly the full duration of the marathon. That’s 26.2 miles! Right now it’s hard for me to run just one mile at an eight minute pace. And these early-morning workouts have me exhausted! My 3-yr old & I have similar bedtimes now. I collapse when I get in bed at eight and have to drag myself out of bed at 4:20. And my body and legs feel so heavy after enjoying holiday indulgences. But with all that said- I still got my Wednesday speed workout done on the treadmill. And I could hear my feet pounding and my breath laboring…but the last mile was easier than the first. And tomorrow‘s body pump class will be easier than Tuesday’s. I’m doing it. I’m doing it scared. It may not seem like it, but actually I’m terrified of the training road ahead and the demands it will put on my mind & emotions over this 14-week period. Because don’t forget, I’m also desperately working to prove myself as a full-time Realtor seven days a week. Sharing these fears, though, is a big step towards overcoming them.
6.) Recover & rebound!
Starting or getting back into a workout routine is physically challenging. Trust your body and listen to what it’s telling you. If you have real pain or soreness, address it. Soak in Epson salt, don’t do back to back workouts of the same style, take in lots of protein directly following your workout, and stretch! Push through doubt, but don’t push through pain. To clarify, pain and discomfort are two different things. When you challenge your body, expect discomfort. But acute pain is not anything to ignore. As a runner, yoga is also an incredible tool to mix in once a week to soothe your muscles and your mind. So if you need a break, take it and then be ready to rebound. Always get back on the horse if you fall off. Just because you miss a run or workout, doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Heed my advice & people like me will be ready to welcome you back and notice you’ve been gone:)