Creating your own “endurance lifestyle” is about a lot more than just being fit. It’s about being what I like to call “honest fit” — really living the ups/downs, highs/lows that can come with pursuing your passion. It’s not easier by any means, but it’s certainly a great deal more real and powerful. I discuss this concept in my forthcoming book Train to Live, Live to Train: The Insider’s Guide to Building the Ultimate Fitness Lifestyle, as I think an important part of our fitness journey is finding a connection to “something” bigger than just endorphins.
Enter Jason “Fitz” Fitzgerald of StrengthRunning.com. Jason and I connected online around my MarathonNation.us running community and I quickly saw that this was a guy who was totally fired up about the sport of running and the power of living a fit life. Here are the excerpts from an email interview I did with Jason last month. Enjoy and definitely check him out!
What was your fitness background as a child / young adult?
Growing up, I played in a basketball league that met on the weekends and regularly took swim lessons until about 4th or 5th grade. I also spent every summer at the beach almost every day. Besides that, I didn’t do any formal sports until middle school when I played basketball. I was always very active in my neighborhood when I was little though – playing basketball, stickball, climbing trees, and just running around my neighborhood being a kid. I think having an active lifestyle as a child is a vital component of athletic success later in life. It helped me build coordination, aerobic capacity, and fine motor skills all while having fun. I didn’t start running until my freshman year in high school and I haven’t looked back since!
What is your primary sport of choice right now?
I devote nearly all of my time to distance running right now. I ran a few steeplechase races in college and I’ve done a few sprint triathlons in the past few years, but I stick to road and track races now. I’m also considering ramping up my road bike fitness (I love cycling) to compete in a few duathlons within the next year. I don’t really like swimming, probably because i sink like a rock.
What’s the one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you started this new lifestyle/fitness journey?
Wow, where to begin? First, success in running and any endurance sport comes from consistent application of the basics. Rome wasn’t built in a day and I can’t get ready for a marathon in a few weeks. Having patience and a long-term plan is something I’ve struggled with that I’m now finally applying in my training. Second, I wish I knew more about injury prevention when I started. It’s a complex subject but runners need to do more than run: strength exercises, dynamic drills, hill sprints, and core work must be regular parts of a distance runners program or else they will get hurt. It’s really that simple.
What led you to pick your focus on “strength” running?
I ran the 2008 NY Marathon in 2:44, then sat on the couch for six months with a debilitating ITB injury. It was hard to not be able to run for so long, but I vowed to never let it happen again. After visiting four physical therapists, a massage therapist, four personal trainers, and doing countless hours of research, I finally knew what it was going to take to make me healthy.
A combination of strength and core exercises, flexibility drills, and training adjustments has allowed me to get healthy and start racing again. I’ve been injury-free since April, 2009 and I’ve done the most training ever this year. I’m excited to see what I’ll be able to do in the next few months of racing!
What larger change do you hope to effect with this focus?
Strength Running is a concept that ties into my belief that getting faster isn’t about getting on the track for grueling interval workouts. Too many runners make that mistake and suffer injuries that sideline them for weeks. Strength Running is about doing the extras – the core work, strength exercises, and training variations that allow distance runners to train uninterrupted.
Consistent training that comes with injury prevention is what I hope to improve for as many people as possible. Too many runners are constantly battling tendinitis, runner’s knee, ITB problems, or shin splints. It doesn’t have to be that way.
What has been the hardest part of your transition to this new professional focus?
It seems like finding time is always the hardest part about keeping Strength Running going. In addition to coaching at Strength Running and writing, I also work a full-time job as a government consultant, run 70+ miles per week, and spend time with my beautiful fiancee. I also like to get my 8 hours of sleep! Time-management is a necessity.
How have you structured your day to make fitness both possible and a priority?
Running every day is absolutely one of my top priorities. It’s rare that I take an unscheduled day off, so I normally remove all barriers to getting out the door. I prefer to run before work because I’m more of a morning person. If it’s after work, I head straight for my running clothes. Checking email “just for a second” is a recipe for disaster. After running for over 12 years, it’s become quite routine to run every day so it’s not that difficult. You just have to remember that consistency is key.
How do you balance your passion for fitness with other elements of your life?
I’m really adamant about writing a very short to-do list every day. I usually put 3-4 high-value priorities on my list, like writing a blog post, running a workout, and working with one of my athletes. I know that if I get only those few tasks accomplished then I will have had a productive day.
There have been a few times in the last few months where fitness has taken a back seat to other priorities, typically travel and spending time with family and friends. Running isn’t everything and it’s important not to squeeze in a run if you’re too tired from everything else you’re doing or will compromise family time.
What are your top three tips for other folks who might be considering following in your footsteps?
- Make running a priority and make it easy to do. Whatever works for your situation, then do that. Running during your lunch hour, before work, or straight from your office after business hours are all options. Once you’ve made it a habit, it will be harder to not run.
- Have fun. I find joy in running a lot. It’s not for everyone, but if you like heading out the door every day then you’re lucky to find one of your passions. Don’t get too obsessed with all of the details makes this so much easier.
- Finally, take care of your body. Making stupid decisions like not doing any strength exercises or running too much, too soon will only result in injuries. Consistent training will lead to long-term running success.
What’s the “next big thing” you are up to?
On the personal side, my long-term goal is to run the Chicago Marathon in 2011 and qualify for the 2012 Boston Marathon.. I hope to run Chicago in around 2:37, so I have a lot of work to do in the next year. I’d like to run personal bests in events from 5k to the half-marathon.
Strength Running is growing and I want to continue spreading my message of long-term running success, injury prevention, and consistent training. Look for more content that will help you realize your potential, interviews with leaders in the running and fitness world, and my own product in the coming months that will take your running to the next level.
How can others follow you / find you online to support your efforts?
Runners and other athletes can find more information on getting stronger and staying healthy at www.strengthrunning.com. You can also follow me on Twitter at @JasonFitz1.