Whenever you're in the middle of your Group Fitness class or on the final leg of your cardio run, do you ever wonder who you're building a healthier body for outside of yourself?
For military veteran, husband, and father of three children Josh Thompson always keeps his family at the forefront of his thoughts and the legacy he wants to create by encouraging his children to strive to live healthy, well-balanced lives.
On Sunday, October 27th, Josh participated in his first marathon event by running, and completing, the annual Marine Core Marathon. Our Social Media Director sat down with him the day after to talk about his training leading up to the event, what completing the marathon meant to him in terms of setting the example for his family, and what's next for Josh in the future; below is the interview transcribed, we hope it inspires you as much as it inspired us!
So this is your first time not only running the MCM, but running a marathon in general. What gave you the motivation to run a marathon?
A lot of it is family driven, trying to set an example for the kids and get them involved with fitness as well.
Have they had any prior passions in fitness?
I’ve had two of my kids get involved in obstacle course races in the past, we’ve done a couple of 5k’s together, and I’ve even had my daughter out on a few of the 9-11 Freedom Runs.
Wow that’s phenomenal! I definitely want to get into your family dynamics around fitness, so we’ll circle back to that, but for now, tell me about your training leading up to the MCM. Were there any significant changes to your training or diet that you had to make in preparation?
The main thing I did with my diet was following a lot more of a cleaner eating plan. I tried to stay away from the fried foods and be more conscious of my eating habits. I didn’t fully restrict myself, if my family and I were out having ice cream I’d indulge with them once a week, but generally speaking I tried to eat clean with a fair amount of chicken, steak, porkchops, lots of eggs in the morning, veggies and a few protein shakes here and there.
Did you notice that the healthier foods had any effect on your mental and physical well-being compared to how you were eating before you started training for the race?
I would say in the last two months I did much more of the food prep, so that every day at work I’d be bringing healthier options and would have more control over what I put in my body. It seemed like in the last two months, when I was much stricter with my eating, my endurance would go up during running and I would be able to continue my runs for a much longer period of time.
A marathon is quite a stretch; how did you work yourself up to do a 26 mile run?
Well, I already had a base line of endurance from the Body Pump, HIT, and Spin Classes I was taking during the week at Onelife. So, starting off I would run 2-3 miles three times a week and slowly I started adding more distance. A lot of my training initially started on the treadmill and I'd push myself hard for two or three minutes interval style.
As the weather got nicer I transitioned my running to the outdoors and would build myself up to four runs a week doing an hour long run one day, a recovery one the next, take a HIT class the day after followed by a long run, take Friday off and run 5-8 miles on a Saturday followed by another HIT class on Sunday.
Then I got to the point where I would do my long runs on Thursdays out on the trails in Chesapeake and I could run a 16-mile run, 8 miles down and back and that’s how I was able to transition up and add more distance. Originally working myself up to a half marathon was very difficult, but once I broke through 20 miles I felt very confident about completing the MCM.
I’m still fascinated that you ran 6-7 miles and turned around the very next day and ran 16 miles. You didn’t feel any fatigue or joint pain the next morning?
(laughing) I think you’re always going to feel a little pain, but usually when I run 6 or 7 miles, I’m usually good to go the next day. Sometimes I would run six miles at the gym and then turn around, change my shirt and take the Beach Body P90X class. That preparation seemed to make a world of difference in terms of being able to endure the time it’s going to take to run the marathon.
And you’re 46 years old?!? I think there’s going to be a lot of younger people who read this interview and feel like they've got a lot more work to do!
You mentioned twice that you were using our Group Fitness classes in preparation for your training, would you say that they were pretty paramount to building up your endurance?
Definitely do, because training itself is hard as it is but being a class atmosphere makes things much more enjoyable for me. And with a class like Body Pump I’m getting my cardio and strength training in at the same time, but I’d say every class I took played a part in building the endurance to run the marathon.
Agreed, fitness can be both a solo and team sport, but there’s nothing like being surrounded by a group of like-minded people that help you push yourself towards achieving your goals. So, you finished the race Sunday, tell me about the day of the race, you wake up and what’s the first thing on your mind?
Well, because it was going to storm the first thing on my mind was that I hadn’t prepared myself to run in these sort of weather conditions. I thought about how I was probably going to have to run in wet shoes, but part of what I had to do was clear my mind and go back to why I was running the race in the first place-I thought about my family and decided that I was going to get it done and make it happen.
Must do, can do, will do.
I love that. Do you feel like there was any part of your military background that helped you develop that mental toughness to succeed by any means?
When I got to mile 21 my ankle was hurting quite a bit and at that point what I concentrated on was my family and my military brethren who are fighting the fight now. For me, it’s hard to explain, but that’s what really pushed me through for the last five miles. Just having those thoughts in the back of mind. I had my cell phone with me, so I was getting messages while I was running like, “Go daddy, go!” and hearing those messages while you’re out on the run really give you that extra boost.
I've talked to other athletes and performers like yourself and often the thought of the family and the other people that they’re representing is what gets them through the tough parts-that’s really impactful. You sayid at mile 20 you were starting to feel that hurt, leading up to that point what was your mental and physical state like?
Leading up to mile 20 I felt fine physically because I knew I had put in the work to get it done. Mentally…I normally run with my headphones in and though I had my iPod with me I chose to listen to the people around, the crowd, the high school bands and music playing, and all of that played to the mental state and keeping me strong.
There were points where even though the rain was coming down as much and as hard as it was, I still heard volunteers and people cheering and that helped. I mean, the weather did get into my head a bit, but it was one of those things where I had to think, “Okay, it’s here (the weather) but it is what it is and it’s going to pass at some point”.
And then you finally cross the finish line. What are your thoughts? Are you just thankful that you finished, are you thinking about how you did in comparison to the other runners, or are you starving and thinking about what you’re going to scarf down to replenish yourself?
Thankfulness that I completed the run and made all of the cut points…making it across the line brought a large feeling of thankfulness, but eating was definitely a priority after running for 12 hours! Also getting that medal was high on that list of next things to do (laughing) and then getting back to my family and celebrating with them as well.
When you finally did get back to your family what were you feeling knowing you were able to come up to them as an official marathon runner?
Well, they had a lot of pride in me getting it done and it’s a hard one to explain, but I do get a bit on the emotional side during those times. Getting a tear in the eye and enjoying that moment with them. I mean…it’s hard to go much past that, it’s savoring and enjoying that moment with them.
Most definitely. When we first started talking you said it was important to set an example to your family as a father. Do you feel like you’ve set that example now?
Absolutely. I see it in my daughter especially, because she’s always looking for a race to run or a challenge to overcome. My youngest was the most excited for the race because he’s always looking for the next race to run now. He didn’t really care if we ran in the past, but now to see him a little more excited I know that it’s resonating in all of their minds; to make healthier choices at the dinner table and exercising even if its just walking or whatever they’ve got to start at.
Are there any lessons you learned leading up to or during the race that you feel you’ll carry with you?
In preparation and training I’d say the biggest lesson learned is continuing to push myself with the runs and be consistent but allow myself rest time. I always took one day off a week at minimum and if I felt like I needed to take an extra break I would. I also learned the importance of creating a plan and sticking to it.
You know what they say, those who fail to plan plan to fail!
So, you’ve accomplished the large feat, you showed up and showed out and set the example for your family that seems as if it’s going to have some long-term resonance with them and yourself.
What’s next for you Josh?
(laughing) I’ve lost about 25 pounds in my process so far and my goal is to drop another 25 and get down to a healthier weight. And again, set a better example for my kids even if it’s just watching how much we eat, because we can eat as healthy as we want but if I’m packing two steaks down at meal time I’m still consuming excess calories. This was a first step in a long journey, I’ve went to the gym consistently in the past, but the fried foods and sugary drinks have all contributed to weight gain so 25 pounds more to lose is my goal for me.
What do you think it will take for you to hit your weight loss goal?
I think continuing to run and take the Group Fitness classes that I’m taking and possibly another marathon in March.
Josh, I’ve got to say just talking to you and hearing your story is certainly an inspiration that I know is going to have a lasting effect on me and our members. Thank you for your time, your service to our country and congratulations again.
Josh Thompson is a shining example of what we all can achieve when we have the right mindset and strong reason for execution. As you read the interview what were you thinking in relation to your own fitness goals? Who crossed your mind when you thought about your journey being an example or an inspiration to others?
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