January 25, 2011

By Tina Haupert

I ran my first marathon about two weeks ago! It was a life-changing and unforgettable experience.

Less than a year ago, I didn't even think I would ever run a marathon. Even five months ago, when I first started training, I wasn’t sure if I could handle 26 miles. The more I thought about how I trained and completed that marathon, the more I realized how similar the experience was to achieving and maintaining my Feel Great Weight. Who knew they were so alike?

Consistency is important
As with losing weight, consistent training was important to achieving my goal. Before finding my Feel Great Weight, my calorie intake and exercise regimen were all over the place. One day, I'd splurge on high-calorie junk foods, like nachos and brownies, and then try to make up for it with much more restrictive eating the next day. Similarly, I'd fall off the workout wagon only to obsessively commit to a new exercise routine for about a week, before losing motivation once again.

Going back and forth between extremes didn't help me lose weight. Eventually, I learned that making small changes that worked for me would enable me to achieve consistency with my weight-loss efforts.

Plan, plan, plan
Completing a marathon was all about preparation. Losing weight and maintaining it is also about planning–from weekly meal plans to where to allow small splurges. Taking time to plan helps keep me on track with my goals.

Trust your body, not the training regimen
Of course, sometimes you do have to stray a little from the plan. Once I got up to 18 miles during my long runs, I found that I needed more time off from running to recover. At first, I didn't listen to my body, so I started to experience some minor injuries.

Thankfully, taking it easy helped heal them, but I knew that I needed to listen to my body if I wanted to complete the marathon in one piece. When losing weight too, I needed to listen to my body. In the past, I tried a number of traditional diet plans, but the end result was always the same. I'd lose a few pounds while following the plan, but then gain them back (and then some!) as soon as I fell off the wagon.

Eventually, I learned that I had to properly fuel my body, which meant choosing foods that gave me energy and satisfaction. Once I figured out what worked best for me, the pounds started to come off—and stay off!

 
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It gets easier
The first time I ran 12 miles, I was elated. But I was also exhausted for the rest of the day. In fact, it took a lot to get myself off the couch later in the day.

This feeling started to disappear as I got further along in my training. When I successfully tackled 18 miles and then 20, 12 seemed like cake! It's tough in the beginning, as it is with trying to lose pounds. You want to lose a certain amount of weight, and this often seems overwhelming. But making small changes—like how I added a mile or two each week to my long runs—helped me achieve my goal.

Initially, the changes I made in my diet were difficult too–turning down dessert or dragging myself away from a movie marathon. However, over time, it got easier. I knew they were good for my health, so I stuck with them. Now, many of these healthy habits are ingrained into my everyday life. Just like training for long-distance running, maintaining a healthy diet gets easier!

Don’t compare yourself
For me, running a marathon was an experience, not a race. I wasn't racing against other runners. I had nothing to prove to anyone else; I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I trained for 22 weeks straight to do my best. I read blogs of seasoned runners who finished marathons a whole hour faster than I could, but I didn't let their experiences get me down.

When I was trying to lose weight, I didn't focus on how other people lost their spare tires and love handles. I was losing weight for myself, so I figured out what worked best for me and stuck to it.

Have a reason to keep going
In the final four miles of the marathon, there were so many moments when I felt like quitting. It was hot, my legs felt like lead, and each mile seemed to take an eternity. But this was it: the marathon that I had spent five months training for. I thought about how much training I had put into it and how much I would regret not giving it my all. I kept focusing on how I would feel when I crossed the finish line. And once I did, I never felt so proud. I was smiling from ear to ear.

Completing a marathon is a great accomplishment–just like reaching my Feel Great Weight. It took me a solid year to lose those 20-plus pounds, but how I felt when I reached my goal was worth all the hard work. That feeling gets me through the tough times.

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