Today’s interview is with Tricia Minnick, a 27-year old runner, mother and author of Endurance Isn’t Only Physical. In her quest to run her first marathon this Sunday in San Antonio, she has lost 150 pounds and started living a healthy life. Her experience – from start to finish – will be featured in my book, Knocking Down Walls.
Here’s a sneak peak at how her weight loss and running journey began.
Q. Tricia, you have had an amazing weight loss journey. How did it start?
A. Two and a half years ago when I delivered my son, I went into the hospital weighing 300 pounds. By the time he turned one, I had only dropped down to 278 pounds. I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t simply carrying around a little extra baby weight, I was morbidly obese. This is when I decided to take that first step.
It all started with a promise to myself. I would eat right and work out for 21 days straight. I was hoping to form a few new healthy habits, but what happened in that short time changed my life. I started out simply walking, I would be gasping after only a block, but I was determined. A mile turned into two and within the first 3 weeks I was walking 4-6 miles every day. Those walks, coupled with a healthy diet, helped me lose 20 pounds in the first 3 weeks. I had succeeded beyond my expectations and had found a new passion. I no longer just wanted to lose weight, I wanted to get healthy.
Q. So when did running come into the picture?
A. I’ve always envied runners. I would notice them, running along, in their own world. Growing up, I had always hated running, probably because it had been used a form of punishment in school. But those runners had to know something I didn’t, and I wanted to find out their secret. Why did they run? And could I?
I decided to sign up for a 5K. Whether I ended up loving or hating running (and my money was on “hating”), I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. And I did.
By the time I crossed my first finish line I realized that I no longer dreaded the idea of running, instead I was already thinking about new distances. The miles started adding up, and the pounds kept coming up. At my 1 year mark I had lost 118 pounds, within the next 2 months I would lose 10 more bringing down to 150 pounds. In those 14 months I had lost 128 pounds and found a passion for running.
Q. Why/how did you decide to run a marathon?
A. A marathon has always been something that has inspired awe and more than a little fear in me. Throughout the past two years I have learned the most about myself when I face my fears. Marathon training has been a journey of self-discovery for me. I have learned something new about myself during each run. As the miles increased, the emotions became stronger. The only way I can describe it is: the long runs tear me down, and then build me back up. I come out of each run a stronger person.
Q. How has running influenced your meals/eating patterns, if at all? Has running changed your relationship with food?
A. I don’t think I necessarily eat “better” now that I run long distances, but I certainly eat “different.” While losing weight, I focused a lot on correct portion size and eating mainly veggies and fruits and lean sources of protein. Whole grain carbs were a part of my eating, but on a smaller scale.
As I increased my miles, I started looked at what I ate as “fuel.” For me, this meant increasing the carbs and calories in proportion to what I was burning. Unfortunately, it has also given me an excuse to indulge more than I should. It is hard not to fall into the trap of “oh, I ran 15 miles, so I can have that extra breakfast taco.” I try to stay honest with myself and recommit to healthy eating when needed.
Q. Sounds like you have had lots of training runs in HOT, HUMID weather? How did you handle this?
A. The first half of my training was in the middle of summer in South Florida and the remaining has been in central Texas. In Florida, the majority of our runs were at night. It was often still in the 90s with high humidity, but it gave us a break from the beating sun. We often ran after 9 pm, seeking as much coolness as we could find. We quickly learned that water was our best friend on runs.
Midway through training we moved to Texas to be closer to family. While the humidity is lower in Texas, the temperatures were higher. We often started our long runs before 6 am. On a few occasions, we had to do our long runs inside, on a treadmill. Let me tell you, 15 or 18 miles on a treadmill almost takes all the fun out of running. I looked at those days as good “mental” training. If I could handle the monotony of a treadmill, I could handle a race course any day!
Q. Do you ever run with others?
A. My husband has been a HUGE part of my marathon training. He is my running partner. He has been with me each step of the way, and he will be crossing the finish line with me come November 14th. Having him support me in reaching my goals has been a huge blessing.
As busy parents to a toddler, it is often hard to find time to simply talk to your spouse. Running has been great for our relationship, and it has offered us extra time together. Of course, there are times when each of us is alone with our thoughts as well. I can put on my music and zone out, but he is always at my side.
Q. So how did you handle your little guy on those runs?
A. When we lived in Florida and had no family nearby, he came along with me and my husband in the jogging stroller. We got very creative at making the runs fun for him as well. If the runs were during the day, then we brought along books for him to read. At night, we would attach a running headlamp to his head and let him use his “spotlight” to look for animals. We have speakers on our jogging stroller, so we would often play music for him. He soon looked forward to our runs. At the end of each run, when we would walk to cool down, he got out of the stroller and went on a “run” of his own. Involving him made it a fun family event.
Now that we’re near family in Texas, we can now leave my son behind when we run.
Q. Tell me about your training schedule. Do you cross-train?
A. I’ve struggled with injuries this year so I picked a training plan that emphasizes the importance of cross-training. The FIRST training plan has us running only 3 days a week, but those sessions are quality runs. We have one speed workout, one tempo, and one long run each week. Outside of running, the plan demands tough cross-training sessions 2-3 times a week. Most of my cross- training has been in the pool or on a bike. It gives my joints a much needed break while still challenging my body. I strongly feel that cross-training is very important, because it helps me stay fit in a more rounded way.
Q. Sounds like you experienced ITBS and even knee issues. Can you describe?
A. This year has been tough. I have experienced several injuries. In the spring, I was out with a stress fracture in my ankle, through the summer and fall I’ve been dealing with an impinged nerve in my heel and most recently I have had to call a few runs short due to knee pain, specifically my ITB. Your IT band is a band of fibrous tissue that stretches from your hip to your knee. It helps stabilize you during running. Mine has been inflamed distally (at the knee). I’ve been combating the inflammation by resting, icing, taking anti-inflammatories and foam rolling.
Q. The San Antonio Rock N Roll Marathon is a few days away. What are you most excited about? Most nervous about?
A. Mentally I feel great, I am confident in myself. I know I’ve put in the hard work and now it’s time to celebrate. The thing I’m most nervous about is my knee. It’s the only thing I can imagine holding me back.
THANKS TRICIA AND GOOD LUCK ON SUNDAY!!