How Running Changed Me – Alexandra Santos –

How Running Changed Me – Alexandra Santos

Courtesy Alexandra Santos

Name: Alexandra Santos
Age: 34
Hometown: Jackson Heights, New York
Occupation: Physical Therapist Assistant and Holistic Health & Wellness Coach
Start Weight: 179 pounds
End Weight: 109 pounds
Time Running: 1 year and 4 months

I had struggled with my weight since high school—I was constantly trying new diets, losing the same 10 to 15 pounds, and then gaining it back. I was very lethargic all the time and would get winded going up stairs. Long walks were taxing, and I would make up a ton of excuses to avoid physical activity that I was worried I couldn’t do. My blood pressure was high and my self esteem was low.

I’ve also dealt with infertility issues. My husband and I wanted a family, and shortly before getting married, we decided to do fertility testing. I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and was was told I was infertile. We were told that in vitro fertilization (IVF) would be our best shot at having kids. So in 2019, we went through IVF twice. I got pregnant twice, and I suffered miscarriages both times. I hit rock bottom and depression kicked in.

For my mental and emotional health, we decided to take a step back from fertility treatments and focus on travel for 2020, but the pandemic had other plans. I hit my highest weight of 179 pounds after months of being cooped up in the house. In July 2020—I was 32 years old—I decided that something good had to come out of 2020. I wanted to be the healthiest version of myself for when we resumed fertility treatments. Not just for me, but for our future babies as well.

I found , a running and resistance training program. Its purpose was to guide you through strength training and guided runs with the goal of running a 5K on day 30. I hated running (or so I thought), but my friend convinced me to try it. I did my first run on October 5, 2020, and I haven’t stopped since. I fell in love with it within the first week of the program.

After completing the program, I continued to incorporate running into my fitness routine and ran three days a week. My mileage varied from nine to 15 miles weekly. I used for a half marathon, and I am currently using . During the pandemic, I participated in several virtual 5Ks. My first in person race was at Walt Disney World, and I ran the 5K, 10K, and half marathon (my first race of that distance) during three consecutive days.

Alexandra’s Must-Have Gear

: No breaking in required! I used a new pair of these shoes for my first in-person 5K and 10K (back to back) and my feet felt amazing afterward. I even ran a half marathon on the following day without any issues. (Editor’s note: Runner’s World typically recommends not racing in brand new gear.)

: This running belt is super comfortable and holds all the essentials without the bouncing that I’ve experienced with other belts. It also fits specially designed water bottles for hydration during long runs.

: These headphones aren’t designed to be in your ears, so I can still hear traffic and be aware of my surroundings while running and stay safe.

: Honey Stinger utilizes nature’s sweetener in their products. It provides sustained energy for my runs. I use the waffles before the run, gels during my run, and the cracker bars for after my run.

I also changed my eating habits, and follow an 80/20 rule when it comes to nutrition: I eat 80 percent whole foods and 20 percent processed foods. I eat mainly vegetables and make sure to have protein at every meal. I also incorporate fiber-filled carbohydrates. Pizza and pasta are my go-to for carb loading before races and long runs. Sometime this year, I would like to experiment with going vegetarian for six months to see how that will affect my training and my progress as a runner.

On my current training plan and schedule, I run four times a week. I am training for what will be my first marathon on January 30, 2022. My future running goals include running an ultramarathon, running the New York City Marathon, and completing the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World in 2023 (which is four consecutive days of running: 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon).

These three tips helped make my running journey a success.

1. Loop the right people into your goals

    Accountability is such an amazing gift. When I told my closest friends about my goals, they made sure to cheer me on. On days that I lack the motivation, they remind me of my goals and how proud I will be when I accomplish them.

    2. Make long runs productive

    I am a big fan of personal development, so I listen to audiobooks on my long runs. Search for the good things that can come out of a long run instead of focusing on other things you could be doing.

    3. Run for yourself

    It can be easy to be caught up with validation from others. Remember why you started running and why you love it. When you run for yourself, you won’t lose the joy of running.

    I have lost 70 pounds, and it took approximately 9 months.

    My weight loss journey has been life changing! I feel better in my 30s than I ever have in my life. I no longer have hypertension, and my monthly cycles are normal for the first time without medication. I feel energized with each day and feel blessed that I have the opportunity to share my health journey and my running journey with others.

    We want to hear how running changed you! Send your story and submit your photos to us via this form. We’ll pick one each week to highlight on the site.

    Emily Shiffer is a freelance health and wellness writer living in Pennsylvania. 

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