Health

How I Got This Body: Quitting Lifetime Movies and Going From 186 to 145 Pounds by Running 16 Marathons in Four Years

Photos courtesy of Colene Kraemer.

Who: Colene Kraemer, 38, a personal trainer at Old Town Sport&Health Club
Lives: Alexandria
Start Weight: 186 lbs
End Weight: 145 lbs

Background: “I was laid off from my job in hospitality management in 2009. My days were spent on the couch with boxes of cookies watching Lifetime movies. I had no motivation, no goals or aspirations, no plan of what I wanted to do or how I wanted to live with this turn my life had taken.

“I was viciously unhappy with the woman I faced every day. I joined a gym but lacked the self-motivation to go and felt terrified about being in a place with ‘fit’ people, which I allowed to influence me into taking no action despite wanting to make a change so desperately.”

Turning point: “In 2012 one of my sisters ran her first ultra-marathon. I remember running alongside her on the course—she was about 45 miles into the race and I was uncomfortable and breathless after just a few minutes of moving. The realization I came to that day, of just how much I had neglected my health, was the defining moment for me. I registered for my first half marathon, which I completed later that same year in September, on my 33rd birthday.

“The feeling I had crossing that finish line, after what felt like the most challenging physical experience, was life changing. I returned to the gym and signed up with a trainer at Sport&Health for three months, and committed to running my first marathon a year later.”

How she did it: “I started running, and when I signed on with a trainer, we did a lot of compound movements and interval training. I ran 16 marathons and five ultra-marathons between 2013 and 2017. My current routine aligns with my running goals now, as I recently completed my first 100k race and am training for my first 100-mile race. I generally focus on lower body strength: deadlifts, squats, lunges, with functional exercises and plyometrics included. I try to incorporate compound movements that target multiple muscles groups as much as possible.

“I didn’t know where to start with diet but as I felt the changes happen in the gym, the nutrition aspect fell into place. I started being more mindful of portions, cut down on alcohol, and didn’t buy sweets and treats because if they are around, I will eat them. I would enjoy treats on weekends or if I went to a function or restaurant.

“Essentially I stopped eating in private and binging on junk when no one was watching, and started tasting and enjoying food. I was more mindful of getting in nutrient-dense meals and drinking more water.

“I am a little less ‘strict’ these days. I don’t count calories, but enjoy eating healthy food, as well as a glass of wine. Ice cream remains a food group for me, and I love pizza before races and burgers after!”

How she feels now:I’ve lost 11% body fat. My body has changed and sometimes I don’t see the changes, but I feel the difference. I move better. I lift weights I never imagined possible.

“I don’t want to imply that it’s all about aesthetics and appearance. There was so much more to my self-loathing than just my appearance. When I was able to finally stick with a plan and power through the discomfort and the tough days, I felt strength—that I could achieve anything I put my mind to. It was empowering and liberating and translated to other aspects of my life. When I became a trainer in 2014, because of the conviction I felt in the ability to help change the course of someone else’s life, this is what it truly came down to for me: doing something every day that I believe in, that matters—having a purpose bigger than myself.

Workout wisdom: “Remember your why. Don’t let your excuses become the reason you give up or avoid even trying. Know that every little change you make will add up to overall change BUT consistency and patience are your allies in this process, and you need to accept that for you to really see sustainable results over time. Start with small realistic goals and be kind to yourself, always. You and your body are all you have and need, and deeming yourself worthy is where true confidence is born.”

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Want to share your transformation story? Email kolsen@washingtonian.com.

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Kim Olsen
Associate Editor

Kim Olsen joined Washingtonian in 2016 after moving to DC from Pittsburgh, where she earned an MFA in nonfiction writing at the University of Pittsburgh. She lives in Alexandria.