A few months ago I decided that I would run the New York City Marathon to benefit Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation. I consider myself an athletic person, but by no means a runner. I played basketball and club ball at JFK High School and Smith College, but I don't regularly exercise at all. I prefer team sports over the grueling torture of exercising alone. But for reasons greater than myself, I decided to dedicate my time to train for the NYC marathon and drastically altered my lifestyle to accomplish this immense personal feat. With the support of my wife and my two beautiful sons, I thought to myself, "There is no better time then now to challenge myself and do this."
I knew better than thinking I could train alone. I reached out to one of the most amazing trainers to help me, Natasha Kufa. Training began with a boom. Working as a creative producer in the film, music, tech, television and transmedia production world, I really had to stretch out my day and make time for exercise. I started getting up at 4 A.M. to run with Natasha. I worked my way up from 1 mile to 2 miles to 3 to 4, and am now running about 4-8 miles 6 days a week with my longest run being 16 miles. I am adding 10% to that at the end of the week. This alone has been a small victory in the greater journey to 26 miles.
After my morning run, I take my kids to school and start my day. The production life is a 24/7 job commitment so I often work late hours until 1 or 2 A.M., leaving me only 2-3 hours of sleep before my next run. In the beginning, most mornings were rough. Some still are. There are some days where I am literally crying up the hill. My mind freaks and I pray that a coyote will come out and eat me. Or sometimes I imagine jumping in front of a car.
These crazy thoughts are fleeting but show you how intense and rigorous training for this marathon has been. Sometimes after my training, I am completely exhausted and can't believe I have to go to work or make breakfast for the boys. But I continually do it and get out of bed before the sun rises and lace my sneaks up because I am committed to the cause and the challenge.
Since I've started training for the marathon, I've also completely altered my diet. I've cut out coffee, sugar, gluten and dairy and have replaced my habits with meals Natasha has helped me design. I have a huge sweet tooth and am an avid cheese lover, so this has been particularly difficult. I love, love, love coffee and mint ice cream, warm cookies, pies of all kinds and anything with peanut butter and chocolate. Now, instead of cupcakes, I'll have kale -- or instead of steak, I'll have salmon. Quinoa and vegetable juice have also become favorites of mine.
Everyday is a struggle to discipline my mind and keep on track. I often have meetings at restaurants, and am constantly tempted by bread, pizza, desserts -- you name it. I have found that now I do not eat out as often, barely at all. It's a good thing that my kids love eating healthy. They've been a positive force in helping me continue my training.
The challenges have been real, but I am committed to anything that I say I'm committed to. There are some days where I will still binge eat and break my diet. And other days where I just can't run as hard or beat my time from the previous day. I can't deny that I am human and I won't get too hard on myself because I know that I am doing the best that I can.
Even if running is probably one of my least favorite things about training, I really enjoy being in nature and being healthy. Natasha has been an amazing force who keeps me going when I think I can't. I love seeing her every morning with a smile on her face, encouraging me and telling me that I can do it. Her attitude is inspiring, and I would not be where I am now if not for her (and my music playlists). One person can always make a difference.
There are five great tips that Natasha has offered me when it comes to training for a marathon:
1. Stretching is a must. In addition to running, a marathon trainer needs to focus on body work. Especially for a first time marathon runner like myself, lots of tendons tend to tighten up. It's very important to incorporate a stretching combination into my daily training. Natasha also suggests to incorporate physical therapy if it's a possibility. It aids recovery and that's how most professional athletes will train.
2. Be conscious of your fueling and nutrition. There is no such thing as a low carb diet when training for a marathon. Very high quality carbohydrates are a must and act as efficient fuel for your body. Quinoa and Forbidden Rice are filled with a lot of protein and nutrients that are good for training. I've started only eating one animal product a day (chicken or fish) and my other meal for the day will be water plant based. Breakfast and lunch tend to be more carb heavy as they provide fuel for my next run.
3. In addition to running, you need to strength train. When training for a marathon, I need to also build up my overall core muscles for endurance. I've begun interval training once or twice a week, hitting the long bar and weights to build up my back, bicep and shoulder muscles. I also do about a million squats to build my leg muscles, combat training with a safe heavy rope, and variations of sit ups, pushups and plank poses. Natasha really emphasizes a flow to working out versus doing each exercise rigidly and independently from one another. Her husband, Sabastian, is also an amazing trainer and usually comes on these days to offer me his expertise. When the two trainers come together, I am in double trouble, but those are some of my fondest times.
4. Stay positive mentally. Once someone gets running 16 - 17 miles a day, they are physically able to complete a marathon. Most of the time it's the mental part of training that will lead someone to hit the wall. There have been a few times during my runs where I want to give up. At that point Natasha stops me and explains to me what my body is going through and that it's a mind game at this point. She really helps me focus and get out of it. As my mind gets stronger, I am capable of seeing how much strength I've built. Training for a marathon costs a lot mentally, but it's a series of small accomplishments that will lead to the big one.
5. Run with someone better than you. Definitely find someone to run with that is better than you who can motivate you. Running with someone better than you will raise your skill levels, as it demands that you step up to his or her level. A lot of the times trained runners are really friendly and want to help and have a good idea of where to go physically. It's better to train with someone like this versus a girlfriend or boyfriend who runs at the same pace as you.
I urge everyone to challenge themselves to do something they thought they could never do. If I can do it, you can do it, really. I am a normal, loving mother and human being and have taken on this challenge to stand up and support a community and subject I believe in. I am still training, still struggling to eventually hit the 26 mile mark and know that I will break a thousand sweats before I get there. I am ready.
Donate now and RUN WITH ME.