Photo Courtesy of Michele Gonzalez
It’s no surprise that Michele Gonzalez, also known as NYC Running Mama, has amassed nearly 65,000 followers on her Instagram account. The working mom of two and Iraq War veteran began distance running during her time in the Army, and since then she’s become a marathoner and living proof that if you want to make progress, you can make the time to do it. We caught up with Gonzalez at the NYC Oakley Flagship Store to find out more about her training, motivation, and tips for runners at all skill levels.
M&F Hers: How long have you been running and what made you start?
M. G.: In the beginning, I always ran to stay in shape for other sports, so running was always secondary. Before I graduated from West Point, I wanted to be in the best shape that I could before joining the Army after graduation. From there, I progressed to long-distance running.
And how long did it take for you to go from a novice runner to training to competition?
Before my first marathon, I didn’t train properly or do any long runs over 14-16 miles. Before my second, which was years later, I was part of a running team on the base where I was stationed and we’d run daily. It was the first time I was ever given guidance on training and speed work, so when I ran the New York Marathon, my time dropped significantly. After that, I took a break and had my two sons. Then, I didn’t see progress until about two years ago. Now, I’m slowly chipping away and taking a few minutes off my time each marathon
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How do you balance training with raising kids and working full-time?
I’ve always been an early riser, and I still get up early. Most days I get up at 4 a.m., and so does my husband. By 6:45 or 7 a.m., I’m out of the house. So for me, early mornings give me time to train.
What is your weekly training like?
My weekly mileage varies from the 30s to mid-60s, depending on what part of the cycle I’m in. Immediately after a marathon, my weekly mileage is in the 30s. Once I start building up to a goal race, my weekly mileage begins to build as well. I run about 5-6 days in a typical week, including one long run between 10 and 22 miles, depending on where I’m at in the training cycle. I also do one or two speed workouts between 6 and 12 miles, then the rest are “easy” or “recovery” days.
How do you stay on track nutrition-wise with such a busy schedule?
As far as nutrition, I don’t necessarily restrict anything, but I try to prep my meals. If I get hungry at work and didn’t bring anything to eat, it’s either go hungry or hit the vending machine, so I try to bring my lunch and snacks to work every day.
Check out the next page to find out more about Gonzalez’s gear, injury prevention, and tips for runners at any level.
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For a long time, I viewed pain during a race as a sign of weakness. That it meant I wasn’t fit for the pace I was running. Once the real pain of racing set in, I would panic and mentally give up. Pain meant the race was over. It’s different these days. Now I view pain as a sign that I’m working my hardest…that I am truly racing. Pain doesn’t scare me anymore. It doesn’t mean I’m weak. Not at all. It means I’m hurting and tired and STILL running and fighting. That means I’m strong AF. And it doesn’t mean the race is over. No, no. It actually means the race is just starting. And now it’s time to fight. #mile12 #somuchpain #paintrain #UnitedNYCHalf #bostonmarathon #boston2017 #findyourstrong #beatyesterday #mckirdytrained #readytogo
Gear is a huge part of training. What do you wear when you run?
Of course, the shoes you wear are extremely important. I also wear my Garmin, which I hardly take off whether I’m running or not. I also love my Oakley sunglasses, especially their new Reverie because they make it easy to go from a run to daily life. I don’t always want to look like I’m running, so it’s great that they look like lifestyle sunglasses but wear like performance sunglasses. I’m always coming in to the store to check out new models.
If a novice runner had to invest in one thing, what should it be?
When you’re starting out, getting the right shoes is important because it will help prevent injuries. So many ankle, knee, and back issues can be related to improper shoes, not enough support, or too many miles on the shoes. Going to an actual running store and getting fitted for shoes is the best way to start. As you get more serious with running, things like a Garmin or better gear overall are worth it because if you’re running for hours, you don’t want to feel the gear that you’re wearing. I have a few key stores that I go to check out new gear and try things on.
What do you do to prevent training-related injuries?
I’m naturally a cautious person, so if I feel anything, I won’t run that day. I’ll give it a mile or two, but if I’m 15 minutes into a run and something feels off, I’ll just walk home. For me, it’s not worth it to push it on a training run where it could become an injury, especially when I’m training for a race and one practice run won’t make it or break it. Taking that step back before it gets worse is my way of preventing any serious injuries. I’m also realistic about my fitness level and know that my body can’t handle back-to-back hard runs or really long mileage, so I don’t try to push it to that level. Even if you really don’t feel up to a run, it could be your body’s way of saying it needs a rest.
What are your goals for the Boston Marathon?
The weather in Boston can definitely be hit or miss. When I ran it two years ago, it was freezing cold, rainy, and there was a headwind the whole race. Last year, it was exceptionally warm. My personal record from the tougher New York Marathon course is 3:07, so I’d love to beat that. If the weather is good, my goal is to break 3:05.
Do you have any tips for runners of any level?
I think the most important thing is to have patience both with your mileage and your pace. In this day and age, everyone wants immediate results, and that goes for things like running as well. If you go into it thinking that you’ll start to see progress after a few weeks, it probably won’t happen. You can’t go from not running to getting in 40 miles a week, and even if you can keep it up for a few weeks, your body will start to get fatigued or get injured. If running a marathon is your end goal, make a year- or two-year plan and start slowly. Along the way, set smaller goals so that you always have something to work for. Whether the goal is a 5k, a 10k, or a marathon, achieving goals at smaller intervals is just as rewarding.
Follow Gonzalez on Instagram at @nycrunningmama.
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