I’ve been admiring Allison Joseph and her workout logs for a while now. So consistent and totally hooked into all things physical, this dynamic dailymiler is an avid runner and cyclist who routinely logs 40-50 running miles a week, and tosses in boatloads more cycling miles, too. Filled with wisdom, funny asides and songs galore, after every stride or ride Allison returns to us here to bang out another lively post. What a treat to be able to share with you the belle of the ball who’s known for getting everyone fired up and raring to go!
Ilona M.: Have you always been such a committed athlete? If not, what motivated you to begin?
Allison J.I have never been an athlete of any kind. I worked out in the early 90’s with fitness tapes and TV shows, but did it for looks mostly. After getting tenure and my dad’s passing from diabetes, I got really sedentary. I gained weight (I’d actually been teased as a teen for being too skinny!). When I was hospitalized (for unrelated issues) my blood pressure was literally high enough to scare me. That switched things for me. After that, I bought a membership to our campus rec center (over $300), and told myself if I went 100 times, it would only be $3.00+ a visit. That appealed to the cheap side of my nature!
IM:Do you follow a formal training program or just wing it? Why or why not?
AJ:I don’t follow a set plan, but go by how I feel each week. Some weeks I run a lot: some weeks I’ll ride a stationary cycle at home or I’ll go to my campus’s Recreation Center and use the various cardio machines (had a serious love affair with the rowing machine at one point). I try to keep moving no matter what, though July’s heat is killing me!
IM:You started racing last year, beginning with 5Ks and working your way up to a smoking 2:09:58 finish at your first half marathon attempt in February. What was that like? Is there a marathon in your future?
AJ:My goal is to finish 13 half marathons–to run 13.1 thirteen times! Then I might think about a marathon. But I really love the half-distance. Two hours is my half dream goal. I got close in the YMCA Collinsville, Ill., half: 2:04 and change. It was my fastest finish, but I paid for it with a huge “Spaghetti Legs” bonk at mile 12. Had to sleep for 2 hours after that one! I have learned that every race is different, so there’s little use trying to compare them!
IM:Your new weekly ‘Plus and Minuses’ recap notes are wonderful, Allison. When and why did you start writing them? How have they helped you with your goals and training?
AJ:Do not remember when, but the why is to re-cap what I did right, and get advice on what I did wrong. I also look for silver linings (what did I learn that I can apply to the next week’s runs?).
IM:You’re a dynamic force when it comes to working out; but, you’re also a creative: a gifted writer and poet and, as Associate Professor/MFA Program Director at Southern Illinois University- Carbondale, you’re an academic. How has exercise improved your creativity and/or energy that you bring to the other important roles you have in life? Do the roles every conflict?
AJ:Yes, I’ve been a poet and writer for many years, sedentary and contemplative. I am working on bringing my running and writing together–there’s not much poetry on the subject. It’s become a huge part of my life and identity, so I want to do it justice. I have written some poems, and want to write nonfiction about it, essays beyond my race re-caps!
IM:What’s it like to juggle your love of physical activity with the more solitary pursuits of writing? Do lines of poetry ever come to you while training?
AJ:So far, no poems while running. But both activities involve a dense sort of concentration that engages me. Both are, by turns, frustrating and rewarding. Both have taken me places I never thought I’d go.
IM:You share your joy of another creative expression – music – with your dailymile friends. You even make mix tapes for yourself. How does music help you during your runs and/or cycles?
AJ:At first, I swore up and down that I would never run to music–that I love music, but I thought that it would destroy the “purity” of the run. But then I discovered the fabulous world of running music online. I use Podrunner, Motion Traxx, the Chubby Jones podcast by Mia, Indie Soup Runner, and any house/funky/retro/disco/new wave/old school mixes I can find. I will still run without music–I did the Madison half-marathon without any tunes because I wanted to soak in that environment–the runners, the scenery, the essential personality of that particular place. I recently got a gizmo that will convert cassette tapes to mp3, so I’ve been glorying in the wealth of music I have accumulated over the years. Right now, I’m in love with Indie Soup Runner–bands and performers that are under the radar, and the site itself has a great sense of humor.
IM:You’re such a giving dailymiler, always contributing lots of interesting comments and sharing items you think people will get something out of, too. What do you like best about being a dailymiler, and what does dailymile mean to you?
AJ:I love seeing all the various activities–races, rides, runs, weight training sessions, etc–that DMers do. It’s amazing! The depth of commitment displayed by DMers always makes me stay committed too!
IM:You recently posted a couple of amazing Arthur Ashe quotes. (“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” and “True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”) What other athletes or people inspire you with their physical prowess or mental attitude?
AJ:Ashe was an amazing athlete and person. Long before I became a runner (and I haven’t been a runner that long, less than two years), I admired the courage and determination of Wilma Rudolph (Clarksville, Tenn., her hometown, is not too far from me, so I hope to do a race there soon). I saw Jackie Joyner-Kersee in the St. Louis airport and got star struck. I love how she works so hard to help East St. Louis, her hometown.
IM:People who transform themselves as you have deserve a lot of kudos and support, but they don’t always get it. How do you deal with that?
AJ:Running, in particular, makes folks uncomfortable. I get those familiar comments (“I only run if someone’s chasing me,” “You’ll drop dead from running,” etc. I think that a lot of people hate running because someone forced them to do it as some point and made them feel like a failure at it. I came to running late, in my mid-40s, so I got to set the terms, not someone else. The comments people make may say more about them than about me. But I also get lots of support from people who realize what I’m running from–a family history of high blood pressure and diabetes.
IM:What would your best advice be to anyone wishing to improve their health/life?
AJ:The best exercise is the one you will stick with, but do allow yourself to try them all so you can figure out. I realized that the treadmill made me lose weight the fastest, so I started outdoor running. I’m not a big fan of weight lifting/core training, but I’ll do it if it will make a stronger or faster runner! Begin with five minutes, ten minutes–give yourself goals, but not deadlines. And have fun! Enjoy your body in motion!