When I was a little girl, I watched my parents cross the finish line of the Disney Marathon with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training in my uncle’s memory. The cause was meaningful to my family, and the athleticism I observed that weekend inspired me to follow in my parents’ footsteps someday. I never found the time to train for a marathon while I was in school, but immediately after I graduated from the University of Maryland, I signed up for my first full marathon.
Making a Schedule and Sticking to It
After graduation, I began a position in business development at IQ Solutions, a company as dedicated to health and wellness as I am. Adapting to a new job is extremely time-consuming and stressful at times. Despite the challenge of a new position, I managed to balance my marathon training plan with my new job by keeping a schedule and making it a habit to stick to my plan. My Team in Training coach created a training schedule for me, and I have used Hal Higdon’s training plans in the past as well. I’ve found that creating a plan that fits within your individual lifestyle is key. For example, because I’m in the office at least 8 hours a day, I typically lift weights on a day I don’t have to run, complete short runs after work, and save my long runs for the weekends. This also means having the discipline to go to sleep early Friday night for an early Saturday morning long run!
Throughout my training program, I plan each meal of the day. I cook and measure healthy meals in the proper portions to pack for work. I include healthy snacks to eat throughout the day to prevent myself from getting too hungry or binging on junk food. I’ve found that my dedication to healthy eating has greatly impacted my performance out on the trail.
Benefits Beyond Appearance
Many of my peers are driven to exercise to improve or change appearance. Although exercise helps with weight loss and muscle tone, the benefits go far beyond outward appearance. Many IQ Solutions clients have conducted research that shows the value of regular exercise. For example, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute promotes regular exercise to strengthen the heart, improve lung function, reduce coronary heart disease risk factors, and reduce the risk of heart attacks. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has found that exercise also can prevent osteoporosis while improving overall bone health, muscle strength, coordination, and balance. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, regular exercise reaches beyond the physical benefits to boost mood and reduce stress.
In his YouTube video, writer and strength coach Mike Vacanti says, “One of the top reasons why a person checks into assisted living is because they can’t get off the toilet—because they can’t do a half rep of a body weight squat to get off the toilet—and so they have to have someone taking care of them.” His video exemplifies the importance of fitness throughout life, especially as we age.
I have noticed that many young adults lose motivation for fitness. With increasing pressures from work, family, and life milestones, fitness is often pushed to the wayside. Many people tell me they “could never run a marathon.” However, I am a true believer that any fitness goal is possible through motivation and prioritization. I use a few tricks to make sure I keep my gym time a priority. Some of my tricks include the following:
- Pack your gym bag the night before, put it in your car when you go to work, and go straight to the gym after work. The gym bag sitting in your back seat immediately reminds you of your goals and forces you to make a decision to drive home or to the gym.
- If you prefer morning workouts, set your gym clothes out the night before, and put them on immediately after getting out of bed. Also, when you hear that alarm, remind yourself of how good it will feel to be done with your workout before your day even begins!
- Train for a cause. I ran my first marathon with Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in memory of my uncle. The good cause was a great motivation to get out there and train early in the morning. I also enjoyed running with people who were training for the same cause.
- Make short-term and long-term goals. Long-term goals are great, but it’s hard to stay motivated if you don’t see results within a few days. Making short-term, performance-based goals (e.g., run 1 more mile today than yesterday) will help keep you motivated.
- Make it a group activity. You’re more likely to stick to your workout plan if you have a friend depending on you to join him or her.
Whether you like to run, walk, bike, lift weights, or take group fitness classes, exercise is vital to a long and healthy life. Choosing an activity and weekly plan helps make exercise a priority and goals achievable in a busy lifestyle.