Client Spotlight: Sallie B.

Meet Sallie, a student at Wheelock College who is wrapping up her studies this spring. Sallie ran on the Wheelock cross-country team for a few seasons and had begun to experience some discomfort that is all too common with high-volume running. She came to The TR looking to incorporate strength training into her routine to get stronger, improve her running mechanics and, in her own words, “make the most of my body.”


One of the best things about training Sallie is that she always shows up to her sessions with a big smile and a fantastic attitude. (In fact, she has been known to smile in the middle of a Turkish Get-up.) We put together a training program that would fit into her busy schedule and address areas that have caused her problems in the past. Last fall, a stronger, leaner, and more badass Sallie completed her first two half-marathons six weeks apart, injury-free.


Here is Sallie’s story, in her own words:


What were your times in your two fall half-marathons?


I ran my first (ever) half-marathon on October 12th 2014, and my time was 1:53:09. I ran my second half on November 23rd in 1:44:35. [Editor’s note: That’s almost a 40 second-per-mile improvement. Over 13.1 miles, that’s no small feat.]


You ran cross-country in college, which features much shorter distances than 13.1 miles. Why did you want to take on the half-marathon distance?


I couldn’t run cross-country this fall because of an internship, but I wanted to keep running. I always really enjoyed our long runs of eight to ten miles during cross-country practices. So, to keep myself motivated, I signed up for a half marathon, a challenging but achievable goal for myself.


What were your goals and expectations as you began your half-marathon training program?


I expected to run a whole lot more than I did. I imagined that I would need to run five, maybe six days a week to train like I did for cross-country. I asked Chris to design a training program for me, and was surprised that the program included only two short runs and one long run a week. The program proved to be so sane and easy to incorporate into my schedule. And I never got injured!


At first, my only goal was to finish the half. Then, as the race got closer, I figured that I would be happy to run under ten-minute miles on race day. I didn’t use a watch while I was training, so I didn’t know what my pace was over long distances until I ran my first half. I was excited to see my time!


How was your half-marathon experience different with strength training versus without?


Oh my gosh, so different. I actually went to the athletic trainer at my college during my last cross-country season in 2013 because of the tension and discomfort that would develop in my back and shoulders on our long runs. They told me that my symptoms were the result of muscle weakness. Their diagnosis inspired me to sign up for my first session with Chris at The Training Room shortly after my season ended. This past fall was the first time I ran regularly while doing strength training, and I noticed a huge difference in my form. My core now feels solid when I run and my shoulders and arms are relaxed. Running feels so much more efficient and natural— so much more enjoyable. I feel like I could run forever. And, remember, while I was training, I was actually running less than I was during cross-country season. Strength training made the difference.


What have you learned about yourself during training?


I’m currently in college, and throughout my academic career, long-term assignments have been a challenge for me. I have a hard time breaking assignments down into smaller tasks, making a plan for accomplishing those tasks, and, finally, following through with that plan. Signing up for a half-marathon was like committing to a long-term project. I certainly had some doubt in myself. I was only like 80% sure that I was going to follow the training program Chris made for me and be in good enough shape to run the 13.1 miles by race time. Well, I did follow through. I never missed a run, rain or shine. Through this training experience, I realized my own power to hold myself accountable, and the satisfaction that comes with seizing the moment and following through, even when I don’t want to. I also realized how beneficial it is for me to engage in physical challenges. The work behind so many of my every day accomplishments is intangible. The physical work of a long run is satisfying in what is, for me, a very different and important way. So is the accomplishment of running however many miles. It feels so different than the accomplishment of writing 5 emails or reading a chapter of a textbook. Running also changed my perspective on tasks, especially schoolwork. I’d be like, “I just ran 12 miles; sitting down and writing two pages of a paper is no problem.”


For 2015, Sallie is planning on completing a Tough Mudder and half-marathon in the spring, as well as 2 more half-marathons in the fall. In the weight room, she is working toward a 24kg Turkish Get-up and is right around the corner from body-weight chin-ups. (Oh, and she’ll be smiling along the way.)


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