This month is all about the Boston Marathon for all of us at Fit University HQ and beyond! In honor of the incredible people making the trip to run all 26.2 miles, we invited Jonathan Levitt, Boston Marathon alum, taco aficionado, and human behind @restydaybrags, to share his experience training, eating, and living the marathoner lifestyle.
Before we jump in, a quick note from the interviewer, me! I’m Emily Marr and I’m a Fit University® ambassador from Grand Valley State University in Michigan. I’ll be working with the team at Fit Universty® HQ to share inspiring, insightful, and all-around enjoyable stories from people in the fitness and health industry. This is my first, I hope you enjoy it!
Ok, let’s get to it.
Emily Marr: Why and when did you decide to start running?
Jonathan Levitt: I started seriously running shortly after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. After watching all these people of different shapes and sizes running this crazy distance, I thought, well, if they can do it, then I can too. So, I decided to train for a marathon with the thought of, I’ll do one and be done…. well, I’m a few days out from my fifth! There is this atmosphere around the Boston Marathon, which even increased after the bombing with people rallying around running and being in Boston; it is just so motivating.
Before this realization, I was only running about once per week. Around the same time of the Boston Marathon bombing, I also started reading a book called “Born to Run” (by Christopher McDougall), which says that humans are meant to run and to run long distances. So I started and fell into the running community through groups in Boston and have grown more serious about it ever since.
EM: Were you into fitness and health while in college? What did your lifestyle look like then compared to now?
JL: Not exactly, I had the typical state school experience; work hard play harder. I went to the gym three to four times per week just for fitness reasons and played intramural hockey and baseball, but had no real fitness focus. Then, one of my friends junior year got into the Paleo diet, and I decided to as well. I realized that I started feeling better and continued eating this way for about a year (while also drinking tons of beer…balance I guess 😉). This caused me to start being more mindful on how I was eating, and what made me truly feel better. I did have a pretty bad dairy intolerance, so that was a necessary cut for sure. I’m now really mindful of what I am eating and why as a result of that restriction. I no longer eat Paleo, I just eat mindfully!
I’m also big supporter of personalizing nutrition and fitness, as seen by my job at InsideTracker.
EM: What are some tips you have for people who want to start running? If they are new to exercise in general or just want to incorporate more running.
JM: Pick a tangible goal and put it on your calendar! Something like signing up for a race. It’s the consistency and goal orientation that gets people out of bed in the morning.
I’m also a part of and recommend joining The November Project. It’s a free, open-to-the-public exercise group founded in Boston and now in multiple cities around the world, which is a super cool way to hold yourself accountable, like the buddy system. They call it a “Verbal,” and if you Verbal you better show up. It helps people avoid the snooze button and get their exercise in. The community atmosphere is great because there’s always someone training for something, so it can be aspirational, but there is also always someone your speed. So whether it be through The November Project or something else the community aspect is huge for beginners and those continuing to advance.
EM: I heard you love tacos… Build your perfect taco for me and tell me what your favorite taco place is?
JM: Hummm, my favorite taco would probably start with a soft corn tortilla, then add in some pulled pork and grilled pineapple; or any fish with salsa, and always add a generous serving of guacamole!
My favorite taco place would have to be Dorado. It’s a quarter mile from where I live, which makes it a danger to me. I also like this place called Felipe’s, they have a roof deck too! And of course, I am a big fan of chipotle but who isn’t?
EM: What is your go-to pre- and post-run fuel?
JL: The night before I usually have some type of fish, my favorite is salmon, with sweet potato, and a veggie. I skip the veggie on nights before a big run like a marathon. A few hours before a run I usually have oatmeal with peanut or almond butter, and then will have a GU Energy chocolate waffle right before I go out. After a run, if I go home and cook, I’ll make myself a breakfast sandwich with eggs, or I’ll head over to Chipotle. (I’m sensing a trend here!)
EM: How do you feel about rest days? How often do you take them and what do you do?
JL: People don’t rest enough. They think that by training harder and more they’ll get better results but that can cause injuries by not allowing the muscles and body to recover enough. My buddies would give me slack for this, but I only rests one full day every other week. I run 5 or 6 days a week with 1-2 days of easy recovery swims built in around the harder run days, which have replaced an extra run or two that I was doing previously. On those rest days though I literally do nothing, it’s like a competition on how few steps I can take; I also won’t let myself bike or run to work on rest days like I usually would.
Fun fact: Jonathan is one of the faces behind @restdaybrags on Twitter, which he started with an Olympian and a pro runner to “de-stigmatize the rest part of training”. All three of them have endured major injuries from not resting so they decided to start this account together.
EM: What about stretching? What’s your regimen?
JL: I never stretch before a workout, I do more of a dynamic warm-up. There’s a lot of research on stretching not having a positive impact pre-run, but instead post run; and no I don’t do that enough either.
EM: Outside of running, what are some of your other passions?
JL: Umm.. (he laughs), I do a lot of running. I always struggle with this question. I like spending time with friends and family. Oh and cooking or making food…sometimes. My favorite thing to cook is fish, it’s getting into copper river salmon time! No I don’t go out and fish myself but I’ve got a good relationship with Paul the fish guy, I get the fresh cut.
EM: How and why do you use social media and what is your opinion of it?
JL: I use it all the time, it’s a necessary evil but more good than evil. I work for a company that has grown through influencers, through people saying good things about the company such as bloggers, writers, people who have a lot of followers, and people listen to them because they respect them. I spend a lot of my time talking to these people through social media. I mean people are even meeting their significant others through social media these days. I use it with an aspirational intent. Like, here is what hard work looks like, anything is possible, keep doing your thing, compare yourself to yourself. It’s not “look at me I’m awesome”, its “look at you, you can be awesome too”. It seems to be working!
EM: You’re getting ready for your 2nd Boston Marathon. What does your training schedule and regimen look like?
JL: Less miles. I’m now in the taper, running 25-50% less in the last 2 weeks. More focus on sleep, getting to bed earlier, sleeping in a little more. Using the time I would have been running an extra 30 minutes, to sleep a bit longer instead. I also don’t eat raw veggies within five days of a marathon. And then obviously, the whole carbo-loading which is fun. Just eating more. But the thing is, you don’t necessarily have to eat more if your training less, but it can’t hurt if you do it right.
EM: Where do you see yourself in the future as it pertains to running and fitness?
JM: I what to run a sub 3 marathon (running a marathon under 3 hours). I want to do that this year. Beyond that, I want to run farther distances and see what I’m capable of. I think beyond the marathon it becomes way more mental than physical, and I kind of want to see where my limit it and then push it. It just fascinates me what the human body is capable of…. Faster and longer!