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Next Up For Tara: How To Be A Runner & Keep Your Muscle

By Tara Ballard

I feel like such a hypocrite!

As a recovering Cardio Queen, and someone who has struggled with exercise addiction, I have spent the last 5 years priding myself on how little cardio I do compared to the old days when I worked out 3 and 4 hours a day. I get my “highs” now from short, fast sprints and intense lifts. The thought of going back to my old lifestyle makes me nauseous. I honestly don’t know how I functioned back then.

So, a couple months ago, I was visiting one of my good friends and old running buddies. She was talking about how she and another friend of ours are planning to run the Maine Marathon in October. A little spark started to ignite in the back of my mind. I let it flicker overnight, and when I woke up, it was still there. While I don’t think I’ll ever do another marathon, I thought…what the hell…I’ll do the half! It’s been awhile since I’ve had a fitness goal to work toward, and this just felt right. I’ve never been to Maine, and the thought of a girl’s weekend there made me smile as well.

Before: Runnin’ my muscle away in 2006. After: Leaner with more muscle in 2012.

So here I am telling my clients that long, slow cardio can hinder their fat loss results, and I have signed up for a half marathon. Yep…feeling a bit hypocritical for sure. BUT, before I registered for the race, I took a thorough mental inventory, and thought about how training and mindset will be different now, as opposed to when I used to train for long distances.

Here are some insights about how I will train for an endurance event without sacrificing my muscle and without damaging my metabolism:

  • First and foremost, I realize that I do not have to (literally) run my butt off to train for the race. Before, if I didn’t hit a certain number of miles per week, I would completely stress out about it, and try to make up the miles the next week. Now, I plan to run the absolute minimum I have to! :) I am following a slightly modified version of Jill’s half-marathon training plan, and so far it is going great.
  • I realize that on long run days, my hunger will increase and I will need to fuel a little differently than usual by adding more clean carb. Before, I was not in-tune with my body (and let’s face it, used my mileage as justification to eat whatever I wanted), and I pretty much had a continuous meal of sugar on long run days. Gummy bears, soft pretzels, bagels, cereal, etc. This only made me hungrier and more tired.  Now it’s all about protein, clean carbs and veggies. I am already starting to experience a bit of increased hunger on certain days, but now feel empowered to feed my body what it needs, not what my mind says it wants.
  • I know now that rest days are crucial to heal the body, and to enable it to push harder. Before, rest days very seldom happened.
  • Given the fact that I am a muscle burner, I understand that there is a possibility I will lose a bit of muscle along the way. I am going to do what it takes to prevent that. I plan to keep lifting heavy with Jill; and between good nutrition, proper training and supplementing with BCAAs, I’m sure I’ll be able to keep this to a minimum. Jill has told me she will let me know if I’m getting too “skinny”. :)
  • I have a better understanding of the type of body I want to work for. It’s no longer about trying to be as thin as possible. In fact, over the last 6 years, I have actually gained a handful pounds because of adding muscle to my frame, while my body fat % has decreased dramatically. I want to be strong, fit, functional and I’ll admit it, I like the look of muscle. And I don’t want that to go away.
  • Finally, and I think this is most important, I actually get now that it’s all about balance. I think that’s why I decided to embark on this adventure…because I AM much more in balance than in my Cardio Queen days. I know that if I start to feel the balance start to shift, then it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate.

As far as goals go, I have two for this race. First, to finish and have FUN!. Second, to finish FASTER than my last half in 2006, when I ran all the time. Finish faster with less training? Yes, please! We’ll see how it goes! I’ll keep you posted.

Xoxo, Tara

The best way to do your cardio is interval-style! It helps you maintain muscle, burn more fat after the workout is over, and best of all, it’s not the most boring thing on earth. Lol :) Check out the brand new Cardio Acceleration Workout Workbook, with 50 interval HIIT workouts–all different lengths and fitness levels. Ox, Jill


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