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Training for Races Gave Her the Motivation She Needed to Lose 40 Pounds — and Keep It Off

Runner’s World logo Runner’s World 9/28/2021 By Erin Pinneo, as told to Emily Shiffer
This mom of three maintained a 40-pound weight loss with running. © Courtesy Erin Pinneo This mom of three maintained a 40-pound weight loss with running.

Name: Erin Pinneo

Age: 36

Location: Nebraska

Occupation: Substance Use Counselor

Start Weight: 180 pounds

End Weight: 140 pounds

Time Running: 4 years, 1 month

I have always had a hard time appreciating who I am, and as I got older, that didn’t change. I would put on the façade that I didn’t care what others thought, when in reality, it was all I could think about. I enjoyed the outdoors and being active, but not exercising. I never wanted to challenge myself out of fear of failing.

A few years after having my second child, I was talked into doing a weight-loss challenge with coworkers. It was January of 2011; I was 25 years old and 155 pounds. I lost 20 pounds by using the MyFitnessPal app to keep track of what I was eating and how much I was exercising.

I was going to the gym daily, which is how I found the treadmill. While attending classes at the gym, I developed relationships with a few ladies, which led to morning run invites. Slowly, my confidence grew, and I started running more. I completed my first half marathon eight months later, then started training for my first marathon. During that time, my husband and I became foster parents to a 4-month-old boy (who is now our forever son). I switched schedules to be with my children more and didn’t have time to train anymore, so I wasn’t able to run the marathon.

Over the next four years, I gained all the weight back, plus an additional 25 pounds—I hit 180 pounds. I struggled with depression and anxiety, I ate my feelings, and I was very unhappy and disengaged. I knew a change needed to be made, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. I always had an excuse, and never the motivation or discipline.

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So in July of 2017, a month away from my 32nd birthday, I signed up to do a mud run with friends. After this run, I remembered how happy I was when I ran—it felt like therapy. I decided to keep going. I cleaned up my eating the same way I did before, and I began running in the mornings. I had to constantly remind myself to not make excuses. I signed up for a half marathon for motivation and kept hitting the pavement.

By November 2017, I was down 40 pounds and had finished the half marathon. I kept going. My motivation now was to tackle that marathon I had quit years ago. After a few setbacks due to injuries, in May 2019, I was able to complete my first marathon.

Erin’s Must-Have Running Gear

Brooks Running Shoes: I rotate between the Launch for shorter runs and the Glycerin for longer runs.

Garmin Forerunner 245 Music Running Watch: I love tracking my stats (miles, pace, heart rate, splits, etc.). I also use it for music.

Aftershokz Headphones: You can hear your environment around you, and the sound quality is awesome.

NoxGear Tracer 360 Visibility Vest: I do 90 percent of my running before dawn, so being safe while on the roads is important. This helps me be seen by the traffic in front and behind me.

In 2020, COVID-19 hit. Races were canceled, but my running was not. I kept training, and in April 2020, I completed my second (virtual) marathon with a huge PR. Next, I took on the 4 x 4 x 48 challenge, where you run four miles every four hours for 48 hours. This led to my first 200-mile month. The feeling of accomplishment at the end of each goal is incredible.

Now, I get up at 4 a.m. most mornings, six days a week, and I average about 30 miles a week. I create my own plans suited to my current goals. My current goal is to complete my third 26.2 at the 2021 Chicago Marathon. And hopefully I will run my first 50K the week after. I now try and run about one race each month to always have something fun to look forward to.

These three tips have helped me maintain my weight loss and my love of running:

1. Find solutions, not excuses

Don’t focus on what doesn’t work, focus on what does and challenge yourself. Accountability from someone else can help with this.

2. Create a schedule/routine

I know that afternoons are crazy and chaotic for me with three children and working a full-time job, so every morning I get up and run or work out at the same time. It’s all about discipline.

3. Adjust, don’t quit

When something doesn’t work the way you planned, adjust your expectations (and attitude) and keep going. Your goal is to be the best version of you, not someone else. Overall, I have lost 40 pounds—and maintained this loss for four years. Running helps clear my head and keep my anxiety at bay. For me, running is more focused on maintaining my mental health than physical health. But you have to have balance between both. I have a friend who I talk to daily about our runs and plans for races. This drives our motivation. We call each other out on our excuses. That accountability is a life saver!

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