Follow-Up Friday: Preparing For a Marathon after Losing 215 Pounds

By Drew Munhausen

A challenge to eat 18 hot dogs in one sitting at a Houston Astros game eventually led Amer Ismail to completely change his lifestyle. Healthy eating and a more active exercise routine led Ismail to lose more than 215 pounds.

Ismail always dreamed of living an active lifestyle. According to Ismail, he grew up as a kid who was too overweight to do most things, and running wasn’t high on his list of priorities.

After his extreme weight loss, Ismail now finds himself getting up early in the morning to exercise before work. He has a new goal to complete the Chevron Houston Marathon in January. As a stepping stone on his marathon journey, he will be participating in the Houston Half Marathon at the end of this month.

“Two years ago, I had never run a complete mile in my life,” Ismail said. “At most, I was able to run for two minutes and then I would have to start walking. That first mile was huge. It has taken me about four to five months of consistent training to build up to 10 miles from nothing, but it feels amazing. I am starting to develop a good base, so adding more mileage is becoming easier. I notice progress the most when I go back and run miles in locations where I struggled through before. I had trouble running my first 5K and now running three miles is a casual stroll.”

During his weight loss journey, Ismail started working with Jaime Aparicio, a board-certified sports clinical specialist and strength and conditioning specialist with Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute, who has helped Ismail along the way.

“Amer has been a goal-oriented person since the moment I met him,” Aparicio said. “Amer started checking off bucket list items, including running his first 5K, hiking, scuba diving and skiing. Now he’s on a journey to complete a full marathon, so I’ve been able to help him understand the ins and outs of his new training routine and encourage him as he builds up mileage towards his goal race in January. As with everything else he’s achieved, he’s been putting in the hard work to successfully get there and I have no doubt he’ll get to the finish line.”

Experts at The Institute have plenty of tips for runners who are interested in getting into marathon shape, as well as tips for running in the cold. For those looking to do their first half or full marathon in the future, Aparicio has some insight.

“Consistency is key,” Aparicio said. “Twelve weeks is plenty of time to build an endurance base and successfully see adaptations with a proper training program. A majority of the volume should be easy runs at a conversational pace to build endurance, and mix in some faster paces as you progress into the program to increase efficiency and promote good form. Seek advice from others who have been there before; Houston has a very welcoming running community that can be a tremendous asset to a runner new to the sport.”

Ismail summed up his feelings about his weight loss in one word: Amazing.

“I am currently at 22 to23 percent body fat, which is a perfectly healthy range,” Ismail said. “The running has been leaning me out a lot more and I just feel a lot healthier and happier. All of this training has been forcing me to choose a healthy diet, as eating bad foods only hurts my performance at this point. It’s a great motivator to keep staying healthy.”

For more marathon training tips, visit http://ironman.memorialhermann.org/performance-improvement/sports-science/runners/

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