16 weeks ago, Nike NYC asked Fhitting Room to embark on a journey together to help prepare over 100 athletes training for fall marathons as part of Nike’s Project Moonshot. With the New York City Marathon just days away, we caught up with 7 Project Moonshot athletes (including our own Flatiron Location Leader, Bryan DiGiovanni), to learn what the process has been like for them and the role getting their FHIX played in their training. Keep reading to learn more about these FHITspirations and be sure to cheer on those hitting the pavement this Sunday.
Cara Enright: Pharmaceutical Executive Recruiter from North Carolina who likes fitness, friends and photography.
Casey Harrington: Marathon running, wine & food aficionado with a fierce love of fitness and fun.
Andrew Leibowitz: Former couch potato turned runner and frequent FHIXer; he’s lost 100lbs and is celebrating his weight loss accomplishment by running the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon.
Dan Diaz: Life-long runner!
Jordon Holtzman: Life-long middle-distance runner who loves new challenges and feels extremely fortunate to have Project Moonshot to help guide him to crossing his first marathon finish-line and knocking off the task at the top of his bucket list.
Joanna Kadieva: Philanthropy Associate for the United States at ClientEarth, a global climate change litigation NGO working in fundraising and operations to launch the organization in the US!
Bryan DiGiovanni: Location Leader of Fhitting Room Flatiron. You’ve probably seen him working behind the desk or doing burpees next to you in class! Now he is running his first marathon.
1) How did you get into running? When did you decide you wanted to run a marathon and how many have you run since then?
Cara Enright: I got into running in 9th grade. I considered trying out for my high school’s cheerleading team but wasn’t good enough. A ton of friends were on the track team, so I decided I’d join them to be social. By the time I was a senior, I realized I was decent at middle-distance. I ran the 400 hurdles in college and really started liking distance running after moving to NYC. It was free fitness and I was lacking funds. In 2014, I was on the road to complete the 9+1 with New York Road Runners (9 races plus one volunteer opportunity in one year, which earns you a spot in the NYC Marathon) and my cousin convinced me that running the NYC marathon would be a “fun” thing to do together. I ran NYC in 2015. It was incredible. My second marathon was the Chicago Marathon in 2017, for which I have been training with Nike’s Project Moonshot.
Casey Harrington: I started running about 6 years ago as a way to clear my head after a long day of staring at excel spreadsheets. I had been living on the Upper East Side and would find refuge in Central Park, doing laps around the reservoir. I didn’t know anything about training or pacing, I simply wanted to escape reality for a little while and enjoy the peacefulness of the park at night. Once I built up my endurance, I had the courage to sign up for a few races. I learned about NYRR’s 9+1 program and decided to give it a go! I ran my first marathon on November 8, 2015, and it was everything I could’ve imagined and more. I once heard a quote, “I dare you to train for a marathon and not have it change your life,” and it couldn’t be more fitting. I have 5 marathons under my belt and I’m taking recommendations for #6!
Dan Diaz: I grew up playing basketball; my dad is a big reason why I pursued athletics in the first place. But ,I really couldn’t find my stride, and at 13,.my dad took me on my first run on a cold fall night back home in Chicago.. It was a major struggle; I can still feel the cold air in my lungs, yet I wanted to do it again. When I got to high school, I joined the cross-country team and the rest is history. Fast forward to my senior year of college in Boston, I was coming off a great season and seeking a new challenge. I was also interning for a local nonprofit which had charity numbers for the Boston Marathon. As luck would have it, I was able to fundraise for the nonprofit and receive guaranteed entry into the race. I was making the famous turn onto Hereford Street with the finish line in sight when the events unfolded. This was the 2013 Boston Marathon. I was invited back the following year to do the race again, and ever since then marathoning has become my vocation.
Andrew Leibowitz: My journey truly started six years ago, about three and a half years before I found myself outside of Chelsea Piers ‘losing my cookies’ in the bushes while attempting my first run outside, which was spawned by a frustrating situation in my gym where every treadmill was occupied. .
Six years ago, I was living a completely sedentary, unhealthy life and weighed more than 250 pounds. I was out of shape, I felt ashamed of how I looked and felt ashamed of my lifestyle. Today, I weigh about 100 pounds less than I did when my journey began.
Weight loss came in waves as I changed my lifestyle. I started to eat healthier and less. I made strict rules that I broke often enough to keep me sane, but grinded through every day. Soon the scale said 230. I began to cook more to better control the ingredients I was consuming. This in itself was a miracle; six years ago easy-mac was a challenge. Soon I saw 215 on my scale.
It wasn’t long until I stood on a scale in the bathroom of my gym and saw 178. It was the first time I weighed below 180 in longer than I could ever remember. Truth be told, I sat in the changing area of the gym that day and cried.
Shortly after the 180 benchmark came the overcrowded spring day I referenced above. The gym was crowded, but it was beautiful outside; I figured why not. I downloaded the Nike Run Club app on my phone and I was off. My run ended soon and with pain, but I felt accomplished.
When I added running into my regular routine, I became hooked, but I was in need of a good complement to my dedicated training. My fiancé introduced me to Fhitting Room. The classes were difficult at first but I loved the challenge of each and every FHIX. Before I knew it, I was down over ONE HUNDRED pounds from where I started.
It changed my life.
At the same time of I was on this journey, I had three friends who were planning on running the 2015 New York City Marathon. They asked me to join them in the 2015 Rock ‘n Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon. I was nervous and scared, but I signed up anyway. Mind you, at this time I didn’t even know that a Half Marathon was 13.1 miles; I just knew it was A LOT.
I immediately wanted to find 26.2 miles. The 2017 TCS New York City Marathon screamed out at me. Not only is it my home city, but the race falls on my birthday. I knew I needed to 9+1 my way onto the Verrazano Bridge.
More than six years, 3,600+ miles and 100+ pounds later, I will line up with 49,999 other ambitious, tough, and crazy souls to push our bodies past our limits to prove that when the heart, mind, and body all work together anything Is possible.
This Sunday will be my first marathon. But it will be more than just 26.2 miles. It will be a challenge, a celebration, and the culmination of a six-year journey from where I was to where I am now, and maybe it’ll inspire a few people to do the same.
Jordon Holtzman: I’ve been running competitively since middle school and continued through college (but more middle-distance, think 800 meters), and I’ve been running a few road races a year since then. Running a marathon has always been in the back of my mind, more of a bucket list item. I knew that if I ever committed to running one, it would have to be the NYC marathon. In February I got in via the lottery, and in July when I got into Project Moonshot, I decided I would commit to a goal, more than just finishing the race.
Joanna Kadieva: I have always wanted to do distance running. I started my journey when I was in ninth grade and attempted the high school cross country team. Unfortunately, I was unable to undertake the mental and physical challenges at that point in my life and faltered on the team. I then tried track, but suffered injuries. For a while, I did not do any running, but just worked out in the gym, eventually starting to experiment with boutique fitness classes when I was in college. I went to college at the University of Chicago, which is one mile away from the most scenic running path in the country, at least in my opinion. After driving along the path so many times, I decided I wanted to appreciate its beauty as a runner, and I began running along the path on weekends, dashing by all my friends who were eating brunch as I was working on my physical fitness. As the distances I ran got longer, I decided I wanted to run a marathon down the line. Of course, I could not be more excited that my first marathon will be in New York City, my hometown!
Bryan DiGiovanni: I started running when I was in college, living on the UWS, running in Central Park + Riverside Park. It really got me interested in fitness, which eventually led me to boutique fitness studios around the city. After finding Fhitting Room, it quickly became my favorite place to work out. After I started working here, all of my coworkers encouraged me to set goals for myself physically and mentally. I decided I would run the 2017 NYC Marathon after I turned 26. #26in26
2) What is your Moonshot goal?
CE: My moonshot goal had two parts. Part one was to run 3:35 which would be Boston Qualifying. That would have been a 20 minute PR from my NYC Marathon time. This was my stretch goal. Something that I’d want to do eventually. Part two was a more realistic goal for this year; to run a 3:45 marathon, which would be putting me at 8:35 minute splits.
CH: My moonshot goal was to hold myself accountable to a training plan. I had only followed a structured training plan once before, so I wanted to see what I was capable of if I stuck with a program.
AL: My first big goal is to complete the race. This is my first marathon, and 26.2 miles is A LOT; it will be challenging. My secondary moonshot goal is to run under 3:05:00. That would be a Boston Marathon Qualification (BQ) time.
DD: My Moonshot goal is to run a marathon in under 3 hours. Period.
JH: 2:59:59. sub 3 is my reach goal, but my more realistic goal is 3:05, or get a Boston Marathon qualifying time.
JK: Before I got an injury, my Moonshot goal was to run 3:30, qualifying for the Boston Marathon (the qualifying time for my age group is 3:35, but because there are so many excellent, speedy runners, one must typically run at least 2.5-3 minutes faster to get a qualifying spot). Now that I am dealing with an injury and some body mechanic limitations, my goal is to enjoy my first marathon, especially the energy of the crowd. I am looking forward to seeing many friends and family members along the race course.
BD: I am trying my hardest not to give myself a time goal for the marathon. It’s my first marathon ever, so I would like to complete the race with a smile on my face and beat my time next year when I run the marathon again.
3) What has been the best part of training with Nike + Project Moonshot?
CE: The best part of training with Nike + Project Moonshot has been the sense of community and the leadership from the coaches and pacers. I feel like I’m part of a team. When I’m out on a run, or come across someone online and I see they’re with Moonshot I instantly feel connected with them. I see these people more often than I see most of my friends. When you do 20 mile long runs you really get to know the people you’re running alongside.
CH: Seeing the hard work pay off. I remember the first few workouts being very humbling, but once September hit and we had some tough longer speed sessions, I found myself stronger and faster than I ever expected. I also really enjoyed meeting people I otherwise wouldn’t have met if not for this program. It was great to have the “team” atmosphere and know I wasn’t going through this alone.
DD: The best part about training with Project Moonshot has been the coaching provided by Nike. For the previous 5 marathons cycles I’ve done, I never had professional expertise in my training. I improved every marathon, but I never really knew if the quality of my workouts were optimal. All the planning is done for me, which allows me more time to hone in on how my body is feeling and how I am responding to the training.
BD: The best part of training with Project Moonshot is the group training program and the resources of Nike and Finish Line Physical Therapy
4) What has been the biggest challenge of marathon training?
CE: The biggest challenge of marathon training has been trying to find balance. When I started off I was trying to run, plus do strength, plus be social, plus work an 8 to 6 job while still sleeping 8+ hours. Marathon training is a full time job, so figuring out how to balance everything took a while.
CH: The biggest challenge for me has been staying invested during a bad run or crappy weather. It’s really easy to let something like weather dictate your attitude on the run, but by accepting it’s out of your control, it helps you put things in perspective and strengthen the mental muscle you need for race day.
AL: Telling myself that not everyday is a cheat day. That it’s not okay to eat a doughnut, ice cream, two oreos, and 16 m&m’s only because I won’t even break even on my calories in vs out today. There is the “anything will burn if the furnace is hot enough” mentality that is so difficult to fight. It is okay to cheat and I do definitely indulge, but keeping those indulgences at a minimum can be incredibly difficult.
DD: The biggest challenge of marathon training is sacrificing. Whether it be sacrificing time with loved ones or sacrificing your favorite snack. A lot of outsiders don’t see it as a full-time commitment, but it must be. This is a lifestyle, a conscious commitment that people make to achieve something incredible. In Moonshot, we’ve trained like elite athletes for 16 weeks while most of us are carrying full time jobs. Free time is few and far between.
JH: While the workouts have been extremely challenging, the other challenge has been making sacrifices socially. When you have a 14-22 mile run on a Sunday, it’s not the best idea to go out late or have drinks on a Saturday night. The cut down on drinking throughout the week wasn’t as hard as I thought, but it’s still no fun to have to say no to plans.
JK: The mental aspect of marathon training has been the most challenging for me. As a very competitive person, I have to see improvement in my times right away. However, when I am running over 300 miles in a training cycle, on tired legs, the speedy times are not coming as easily. My challenge has been accepting that I will run a slower pace per mile than I have for my half-marathon and 10K races and trusting the training process. My goal before the race is to get out of my head and focus on calm and meditation in the two weeks leading up to the race.
BD: The most difficult part of training has been adjusting my schedule to allow for evening workouts after I’ve been up since 4am opening the studio during the week. But I always feel better after a workout, no matter how tired I felt before!
5) How has cross training at Fhitting Room helped prepare you for the marathon?
CE: Cross training at Fhitting Room has always been a staple in my routine. Since I started coming to Fhitting Room in early 2016 I’ve noticed a big difference in my body and in my running. You need strength as a base to be good runner. I noticed especially how important it is when I’m running hills. You need strong legs and glutes to get you up to the top. You also need to have strong arms to pump and drive your body.
CH: Fhitting Room has been instrumental in helping me stay healthy and strong during each training cycle. A lot of the moves in class complement running in various ways – such as ladder drills for foot turnover (quicker cadence) or resistance bands for strengthening weak hip/glutes from the single plane of motion that happens when you run.
AL: Cross training is vital in training for a marathon. Ultimately, running is a repetitive motion and the daily training runs can only work so many muscles. But cross training with Fhitting Room helps keep me loose, fresh, and healthy. It strengthens other muscles that help with running. Also – Fhitting Room helps me look a little better when wearing a singlet. And if you know anything about how bad you can look in a race photo you get this sentiment; at least my arms and shoulders will look good come 11/5
DD: Fhitting Room is an excellent resource for runners! I discovered Fhitting Room last winter. I was dealing with an overuse injury at the time which (like many runners) was due to lack of strength in my hips, glutes, and abs. Strength work is one of the most important components of training for every runner at every level. I’ve even replaced designated run days this training cycle with strength training. The workout maintains a high-level heart rate throughout which translates well for endurance athletes. I’ve learned how to engage my core and strengthen my legs. As Daury and Dennys would say, it’s all about a “strong biscuit.” Just because you run a ton of miles, doesn’t mean you have strong legs. I’ve shattered my time goals and corrected my form, and I attribute it a lot of this success to strength training at Fhitting Room.
JK: Fhitting Room classes have helped my conditioning long term. When I first started coming to the Fhitting Room in 2014, I could barely do 15 burpees in one minute. Now, I can do up to 24. This anaerobic exercise has definitely increased my aerobic capacity, which is necessary for these much longer runs. Additionally, the functional movements we do in class have strengthened muscle groups that I need to recruit in order to run more efficiently.
BD: Cross training at Fhitting Room has been just as important as my training runs with Nike. It’s important for me to do functional training to avoid injury and maintain my strength to power me through all these long runs.
6) What are your favorite strength moves you learned at Fhitting Room?
CE: My favorite moves at Fhitting Room include anything with the kettlebell. I love dead lifts, lunges with an overhead press, and kettlebell swings. These were so hard for me when I started and it’s cool to see yourself go up in weight the more you go!
CH: Snatches and pretty much anything with a kettlebell.
AL: NOT BURPEES. Literally anything but burpees. The thought of burpees in the next morning’s Fhitting Room class keeps me awake at night, infiltrates my nightmares, and crushes my hopes. Burpees are the devil. In all seriousness my two favorite strength moves have to be hamstring curls with the suspension trainers and kettlebell figure 8s. Hamstring curls are an exercise I would never have figured out without the help of the FHITpros. In fact, I watch the curls and don’t understand WHY they work. But holy hell they absolutely destroy my legs. For days on end.
DD: I was a kettlebell virgin when I stepped into my first Fhitting Room class; that quickly changed! For that reason, some of my favorite moves now involve kettlebells: figure eights, squat press, swings. I also really enjoy using the different machines, it’s impossible to hop on an assault bike at Fhitting Room and not feel like you’re getting a great workout in! Much like Moonshot, the instruction at Fhitting Room is next level. The form corrections and the coaching is so valuable because much of strength training initially requires education. Shout out to the FHITpros, they do an awesome job!
JH: Before my first Fhitting Room class, I didn’t know any workouts using kettlebells. So learning how to strength train with various kettlebell exercises has been great and I’ll definitely use them in the future. Also love some high-frequency box jumps.
JK: My favorite strength movements are typically those that also have a cardio aspect and hit multiple muscle groups. I love man-makers for that reason. Additionally, something that I have been working on for a while in FHIXtreme as well as regular class is pull-ups. I am so close to my goal of 10 strict, unbroken pull-ups (I can do 9 right now).
7) What are your favorite ways to recover after Long Runs?
CE: My favorite way to recover after a long run is a Juice Press protein smoothie, a three egg scramble with broccoli, spinach avocado, sriracha and an orange, and a nice large cold brew. I love a good cold beer.
CH: Honestly – a shower and a nap work wonders, but you can’t go wrong with a burger and a beer.
AL: Brunch. Who doesn’t love a good brunch? Especially when you need to replace 1,800 calories. My long runs are typically weekend mornings, so I try to enjoy the rest of the morning with a much needed protein shake, pot of coffee (yes whole pot – don’t judge; coffee = life), shower, and a good brunch. After those much needed staples, I try to stay moving, active, and busy. Sitting on a couch sounds appealing but I know I need to keep the muscles loose and prevent them tensing up as much as possible.
DD: My favorite way to recover is an Epsom salt bath and a nap! It’s different for everyone, but really whatever helps you relax the most.
JH: Rest, using foam rollers and massage balls.
JK: My favorite way to recover after a long run is with an ice bath or cryotherapy. But before I go into recovery mode, I love getting a hearty brunch meal with fellow Project Moonshot athletes.
BD: My recovery secret is compression sleeves for my calves after I binge on a delicious brunch with friends.
8) What will you do to celebrate after finishing the marathon?
CE: After completing the Chicago Marathon I will be eating my way through the city including several deep dish pizzas. I like to really let myself relax for about a week after the race. I will eat whatever I feel like. If this means ice cream for dinner, then it’s ice cream for dinner. I plan on signing up for another marathon early next year and then heading back to Fhitting Room to get my base strength back up!!
CH: Since my Moonshot race was in October, I’ll be spectating the NYC Marathon this year. I can’t wait to cheer for everyone running and watch Meb Keflezighi run his last marathon!
AL: Attacking my fiancé and family with a big sweaty hug is priority number one. I’ve already warned them to wear waterproof gear in preparation – although I’m secretly hoping they forget, because this hug, like winter, is coming.
Short term plan: November 5th is my birthday so meeting my friends and family at a bar to celebrate the day and the marathon is absolutely happening. I am just as nervous for that celebration as the marathon itself. I am going to deplete my body of almost 3,000 stored calories and then have some beer so we’ll see what happens. It’s going to be problematic.
Long term plan: A few well deserved days off from running, I plan to incorporate more Fhitting Room workouts than marathon training has allotted me. I’ll be continuing my FHITpit routines, all while getting rested, recovered, and ready for whatever is next (ideally one day, a trip up to Boston).
DD: As I mentioned, it’s tough telling those close to you that you can’t do something because of training. To celebrate, I’m going to spend time with loved ones as much as possible. Especially, my love Valeria who also sacrifices so much for me to be able to chase my dreams.
JH: Celebrate with friends and family at a bar, drink a lot of beer.
JK: After the marathon, I will be going to the Bay Area to visit a good friend. I have been taking my training incredibly seriously, and haven’t gone away or taken a vacation since the start of the program in mid-July. I am looking forward to taking a break from the city, after I see it from the whole different perspective as a New York City Marathon Finisher!
BD: I will be celebrating with my Fhitting Room fam + my biological fam that is coming from out of town to watch me complete my first marathon. I couldn’t do this without their support and I can’t wait to crush this and start planning for my next marathon!