This month’s client feature is all about Annabel, a 28-year-old tech professional in Chicago who I want to congratulate for running the Berlin Marathon last week! This post is mostly in Annabel’s words, but I wanted to give her a quick introduction.

The most amazing thing is that this race did not come in the autumn of a quiet year – instead, Annabel has spent most of 2023 planning her wedding, getting married, job-seeking, and starting a new job. In other words, she’s had a little bit on her plate! I’m so impressed not only by her accomplishment, but also by her organization, commitment, and stress management.

Annabel, like quite a few of my clients, balances a love of strength training with endurance running, and we have worked together on themes like:

  • Balancing strength and cardio training
  • Tweaking nutrition to fuel correctly and support her body
  • Overall healthy living and whole-person wellness

Again, I am so happy for her that she completed the Berlin Marathon injury-free and feeling strong! Annabel’s going to take it from here…

On shifting into a healthier lifestyle…

“I’ve been that person who has always enjoyed being active but somehow I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted in the mirror or on the scale. What really clicked for me and has led to me staying consistent is making fitness and healthy eating a pillar of my day/week/life. I’m learning this is something I can’t put on the back burner or move away from – it simply makes me feel better when I’m taking care of my body. Through this process I’ve learned to prioritize my own choices, avoid substances that don’t make me feel great (mainly alcohol), and avoid negative self-talk when enjoying a treat or ‘unhealthy’ food choice.”

“It simply makes me feel better when I’m taking care of my body.”

Annabel, on staying consistent

On running inspiration…

“What initially made me interested in marathons was seeing people around me take on this goal – from friends, family to my husband and seeing their sense of accomplishment after completing the race. I was initially curious but not yet ready to take on this challenge for myself. Fast forward a few years from the curiosity stage, and I’ve now completed my second marathon. I really enjoy the sense of accomplishment/challenge from completing a training cycle and learning how I can improve my time for next time. It’s also very rewarding to have an accomplishment that is mostly within my control versus things like a job promotion, etc.”

On balancing strength training and running…

“I’m learning you don’t have to choose between different fitness modalities – it’s all about timing, intensity, and incorporating the right amount of rest. Rachel has been an awesome resource in coaching me through combining weight training and a running routine to get ready for my fall marathon. I love making progress in the gym but super strenuous lifting workouts don’t necessarily jive with a high mileage running week. Rachel assisted me in suggesting gym workouts as my mileage increased, so I still could keep my gym routine and switch from things like heavy lower body to core and stretching at the gym.”

Rachel’s note: I relate to Annabel so much with this one. Anytime I’m preparing for a race, I find it so difficult to decrease my strength training. Counterintuitively, it takes mental strength to trust the process, and Annabel was fantastic at this.

“You don’t have to choose between different fitness modalities – it’s all about timing, intensity, and incorporating the right amount of rest.”

Annabel

On changing nutrition habits…

“I’ve struggled hard with nutrition. I’ve always been active and started out my fitness journey doing tons of cardio, eating a lot of carbs + fats, and somehow hoping this combination would yield the results I wanted. Rachel has been key in explaining the basics of nutrition, such as incorporating protein at every meal, making sure I’m eating enough calories during the day, and sharing her meal choices as inspiration. I feel so much better and perform better at the gym or on my runs.

“It sounds kind of crazy (Rachel’s note: it doesn’t), but my body tends to crave carbs as I was moving into higher mileage training weeks and tapering for the marathon. Rachel explained early on, when we first started working together, sometimes it’s the combination of carbs and what you’d choose to eat with them that can lead to weight gain (pasta + creamy sauce, lots of butter, too much cheese, etc.). I would focus on eating super simple carbs such as a bagel with cream cheese, plain bagel, piece of toast with a small amount of butter, toast with PB&J, cereal (ideally not too high in sugar), or potatoes with dinner.”

Rachel’s note: Carbohydrate needs can be quite high during a race prep season, especially for a longer race like a marathon. Carbohydrate intake (and calorie consumption overall) usually needs to increase. But to optimize workouts, it’s smart to prioritize lower-fat carbohydrates in terms of where the increase is coming from. A creamy pasta isn’t a “bad” food, but the calories that it contributes don’t correlate evenly with the carbohydrates. Like Annabel said, for running purposes, I like to see clients eating more potatoes, bread/toast, cereal, etc.

On maintaining energy during the marathon…

“I practiced my fueling on all of the long run days so my body would be used to the fuel come race day. I would usually fill my handheld water bottle with a packet of LMNT mixed with water. Every 45 minutes of running, I would take one Huma gel. As an addition to these two products, I would usually pack a few Salt Stick tablets to help with cramping.”

“I think the key here was telling myself my running schedule was non-negotiable.”

Annabel

On squeezing in runs…

“I think the key here was telling myself my running schedule was non-negotiable. I built the runs into my routine and they just became something I did each week. For me, doing a morning run before work really helps and makes the rest of the day feel lighter because my non-negotiable work was done. Long runs are always on either Saturday or Sunday. It helps to have a routine the night before a long run – early, simple dinner and relaxing evening. This didn’t happen every single time but it happened for most of my long runs. Having success for the long runs is mainly about nailing the prep the day and night before.”

On the experience of running the Berlin marathon…

“It was awesome seeing all the German supporters and flags from all over, fans that literally traveled the world to cheer on their runner. My parents were able to watch as well as my husband and I loved seeing them on course, cheering me on. There’s a novelty as well, running in an unfamiliar city. Every couple of miles you’re seeing a different part of the city and it kept me interested and distracted me from the running effort itself. Running through the Brandenburg Gate at the end is a moment I will never forget! Be warned, the finish is actually 100 or 200m after the gate.”

On dealing with jet lag with a destination race…

“This was a tough one because it’s hard for me to sleep on planes but I truly ‘rested’ on the plane ride over. Even just closing your eyes, listening to an audiobook, is better than nothing and worked for me to get some rest in before landing. Once we got there in the morning, we immediately got on European time and avoided sleeping during the day.”

Advice for aspiring long-distance runners…

“Find a local running community/run club! Meeting other runners in my community has been one of the best parts of marathon training. People always have advice to share and are extremely helpful to the new runners – from marathon training tips, shoe recommendations, etc. The weekend long runs can be done solo but it truly is so much better to do these with a group. Specifically, finding a marathon training program has helped in holding me accountable on the long runs and just having companionship when you’re spending part of your weekend running for 3 or 4 hours.”

“Meeting other runners in my community has been one of the best parts of marathon training.”

Annabel

“Another tip is having properly fitting shoes and comfortable clothing. Running is hard but you should be comfortable. If you’re constantly getting blisters or your clothing is causing chafing, there are plenty of solutions for these issues and local running stores are more than willing to help!”

Again, congratulations Annabel on this impressive accomplishment! And thank you for taking the time to share your experience!

If you are a runner who wants to tune up your strength training in the off-season, schedule a free consult and we can chat!

Rachel Trotta

I am a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Physique and Bodybuilding Specialist, and Women's Fitness Specialist. I live in New Jersey in the NYC metro area, and I coach clients online all over the world. As a trainer and health writer, my mission is to make healthy living sustainable for the average person. I’m also a wife, mom, nature lover, runner, avid cook, weightlifting aficionado, history nerd, travel addict, and obsessive podcast listener. Get in touch!

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