Olivia Ward

13.1 Miles, Done and Done!

Looking pretty good for running 13.1 miles!

I did it!  I DID IT! Woohoo! OK, I just had to get that out of my system.

As you all know I have had major butterflies leading up to the big race last weekend. I went through the training program, had the usual ups and downs and the morning of the race I’ll admit I was down-right scared! I know it sounds really silly, but there are still times where my inner overweight girl tells me I won’t be able to do it. Thank goodness I had FITNESS’ very own Jenna Autuori-Dedić there cheering me on.  She literally looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, you totally got this!” Sometimes a simple encouraging word is all you need to give you that little push. By the time I got to the starting line I was ready to attack this challenge. My game plan was to really pace myself and keep a consistent speed the entire race.

So many people told me that I would want to book it in the beginning because of the excitement and adrenaline and boy, were they right! I wanted to sprint all out in the beginning, the excitement from the crowd and the runners was electric! Despite my desire to break the world record, I started off with a pace I knew I could sustain. I felt very strong for the first seven miles, they seemed to fly by. Around mile eight I hit my first wall. I was so thankful that I programmed some funny music on my playlist because right when I needed a boost RuPaul’s “Cover Girl” came through my headphones. It really made me laugh and was just the boost I needed.

There were multiple times throughout the race that I was very emotional. It was a little over a year ago that I was 261 lb, unhealthy and unhappy. Fast forward and I am running (running!) a half-marathon. This is what life is about! I have never been so proud of myself. To be honest I don’t really even remember miles 11 to 13, I was so fixated on finishing! As I crossed the finish line I fell into a huge puddle of tears. I did it and I ran every step. It was just another moment in my life where I was overwhelmed with thankfulness. The Biggest Loser not only helped me lose weight, they introduced me to my inner athlete. And I’ll tell you, she’s pretty cool.

I am so thankful for the FITNESS Magazine team. I can’t tell you how amazing the entire staff is! They truly care about people and helping us all become well-rounded, healthy individuals. I am thrilled to have had this experience and the opportunity to share my journey with its readers.

Health & Happiness,

Olivia Ward

Winner, Season 11 The Biggest Loser

Ready for the Starting Line

Staying hydrated during the race clearly won't be a problem! (Photo courtesy of John Herr)

It’s the final countdown! Who is excited? I know this girl is! I can’t wait to run with everyone on Saturday, we are going to have a blast. Even though I am at the end of my training program, there are a few goals I set for myself in this last leg.

First, I want to up my water intake every day this week. I don’t want to have any hydration issues the day of the race, so by going into race day well hydrated I’ll be in great shape.

Second, I want to really take the time to enjoy my runs this week. Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed them all, but there was always an agenda behind them. This week I just want to enjoy the ride and all my hard work. I feel like this is the point in training where you really relax a little. There shouldn’t be anything you need to change up at this point, so when I run I’m going to just take in each moment.

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Speeding Up and Staying Safe

My GoSportID bands–the easiest way to sweat safely! (Photo courtesy of GoSportID)

I can’t believe we are less than two weeks away from the big run! I remember when I started training it seemed so far away. Now it feels like the time has just breezed by! Like most of you I’ve been trucking along logging these miles the past few weeks. And I can’t lie the long runs are hard. I pretty much feel like I’m going to die toward the end, but you know what? When I finish I feel like a million bucks and can’t believe I can actually run that long. It’s such a huge accomplishment for me.

My IT band still keeps me on my feet, but everything else this week was pretty smooth. I really have been trying to concentrate on my hydration (or lack thereof). I have a bad habit of not getting enough water before my run, and then during I am so thirsty. My goal is to up my water intake during the day when I’m not running, so that when it’s time to run I’m not chasing my hydration. Based on what I have read dehydration is something many long distance runners struggle with. Not only will being hydrated help me in running, the health benefits of getting enough water are huge! Who doesn’t want beautiful skin, hair and nails while running your race? Not only will we be speedy, but we’ll look good too!

Another thing I wanted to quickly share with you is in regards to safety. It is so important to have identification on you at all times while running, or working out in general. When I run I don’t like to carry a bunch of stuff. I know there are nifty fuel belts with pockets and all that jazz, but I like to run light. Thankfully, I came across a company called GoSportID when I left The Biggest Loser. They make these awesome safety bracelets that you can engrave your personal mantra on the front and all your emergency contact information on the back. The plate on the bracelet is made of surgical stainless steel and comes with tons of colorful bands you can switch out. Now when I go on my training runs I don’t have to worry about carrying ID and emergency contact info. It’s all right there on my arm! To grab one of your own, check out gosportid.com.

Let the countdown begin!

Overcoming My Injury Fears

Keep your legs injury-free by taking time the time to stretch. (Photo courtesy of Laura Doss)

Since the beginning of my training I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. While I was at The Biggest Loser Ranch I seriously injured my IT band. I have mentioned this before, which is why all the icing and foam rolling has been crucial to my training. Up until this point I haven’t had any issues, but in the back of my mind I have been counting the minutes for this issue to flare up, and this week the other shoe finally dropped. It wasn’t as bad as it has been in the past, but that nagging knee pain was there toward the end of my long runs. I’m thankful it’s something I can work through, but it is disappointing at the same time.

I’m writing about all of this because it really got me thinking. I remember when I was on the ranch and Jillian Michaels told us that what you fear the most has a way of materializing. Interesting, right? I think it’s not just what you fear, but also what you focus on. At the risk of getting too philosophical, I think that in the back of my mind I was so fixated on waiting for my IT band to flare up that it finally did. Perhaps it would have flared up regardless, but it is still something to think about.

I’m sharing this with you because I’m hoping it will bring you some encouragement. I could have taken this situation as defeat and given up, or I could choose to move forward, learn something and do my best. I choose to overcome my fear. Does that mean that my IT band will stop acting up? Probably not, but it does mean that I can choose to not live in fear of that happening!

Can you believe we are getting so close? I can’t wait to see you all on the big day and run together! How has your training been going? Tell me about it in the comments below!

The Pros of Treadmill Training

I keep this cutout close by in case I need even more motivation to get on the treadmill!

Now that we are less than a month away from the big day, I thought it would be a great time to talk about treadmill training! First off I have to admit, I am a huge wimp when it comes to the outdoor elements. If it is sprinkling outside, I am in the gym on a treadmill. As you can imagine that makes it a little tough to get the miles in when you live in NYC with our always-fickle weather. Since I have done a lot of my training thus far on a treadmill, I wanted to share with you the details of the one I chose to have in my home.

From the day I left The Biggest Loser Ranch I’ve done a lot of research on treadmills. I spent so many hours running on a treadmill there that I knew it would become a very important piece of equipment in my maintenance journey at home. After looking at what felt like hundreds of treadmills and reading thousands of reviews, I went with the NordicTrack C900 Pro. I really felt like NordicTrack had such a good track record with at home equipment.  And let’s face it, as much as I would love to have a commercial treadmill, they are just plain huge and extremely expensive. So I was extremely fortunate when I found out NordicTrack and Sears wanted to gift the C900 Pro to help me prepare for my first half-marathon. It now sits in a proud spot in my living room! Yes, that’s right it’s in my living room, right smack in the middle. I love watching people’s reaction when they come over! I figure you can’t ignore a machine like that when you see it every day. I’m also proud to say not only have I used it every day, but there has never been a single pair of clothing hung on it! Seeing is believing, so if you have a treadmill, keep it in eye’s view. Odds are you’ll definitely use it more.

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Learning to Roll with the Tide

Jenna and I showing off our guns after a CrossFit session in Miami!

I’m starting to find that some weeks are more eventful than others. This week was really smooth for the most part, but the main thing I took away from it was flexibility. Not the type of flexibility you’re thinking of, I’m talking about being flexible in life. As I’ve said many times before I’m super Type A and when I commit to something I do it 100 percent. But this weekend I decided to miss my long run to go to Miami with FITNESS’ Fitness Editor, Jenna Autuori-Dedic.

Before you tisk, tisk me hear me out. Although it was a great time in the sun, it wasn’t just laying around. We were attending Puma’s BodyTrain Miami event, a fitness program that lets you work out with your buddy doing things you have probably never tried before. Needless to say, it was awesome! We spent two days working out with some of the countries finest trainers and trying out Puma’s new gear. We practiced soccer drills with the US female soccer star Leslie Osborne, then shadowboxed with Cara Castronuova, a former Biggest Loser trainer and two-time Golden Glove champ, and then we hit the beach for a CrossFit competition with Mel Ockerby, an amazing CrossFit competitor (burpees in the water by the shore? Yes, we did those and we loved it!). I will tell you we sweated a TON and I was doing things, like knee-kicking a soccer ball back and forth to Jenna, that worked my body out in ways I don’t ever usually do. So even though I was going off of my plan slightly it was a great switch for both my body and mind. I found that when I woke up this morning I was refreshed and ready to run.

This is a good life lesson for me in general because we all know life just happens. We can plan until we are blue in the face but sometimes life has other ideas. So instead of stressing, just go with it! I’m so glad I did because I met so many amazing men and women in Miami, and many runners who shared some tips with me for the rest of my training. I would have definitely missed out had I not stretched myself a little. So, here we are at the halfway point! I’m starting to get really excited, how are you feeling?


My Legs Get an Unexpected Rest (and Some New Ink!)

My new tattoo sidelined my running for the week. This week I'm getting back on course!

Another week goes down in the books! I can’t believe I’ll be running this race so soon! I have to admit, I’m actually getting really excited,
the longer I train the more confident I feel about actually being able to run this thing. But this week was a little strange for me. You know the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?” Well, that was not so much the case for me.

My sister Hannah and I were there for an appearance and while I was there I decided to get a tattoo. Not that big of a deal, but in the whim of the moment I thought it would be awesome to put the tattoo on the top of my foot. When I made this decision I was thinking about how adorable it would look in heels and strappy sandals. I was not thinking about healing time or not being able to run. That’s right, not being able to run for four days. Moral of the story is: Don’t get a tattoo on your foot when training for a half-marathon.

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Feeling Good with Pre and Post-Run TLC

Foam rolling keeps my legs in tact to tackle those long runs. (Photo courtesy of EcoWise)

Week two ­– done and done. This week for me was all about logging the miles. I’m still in the beginning of my training so it’s not a huge amount of miles yet, but it’s still a lot of time. Sticking with my trusty plan, I’m thankful that at this point, outside of the usual soreness, I haven’t had any injuries. Staying injury-free is a big goal for me during this process, and one thing I learned from The Biggest Loser is that sidestepping injuries when you are training has nothing to do with crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. That sounds silly, right? But when you think about it, how often have you really taken the time to concentrate on prepping your body for a run, or any workout for that matter? I know in the past the most I ever did was maybe a side bend or two. After injuring my IT band last spring I quickly realized the importance of taking care of my body not only before a workout, but after as well.

One of the best tools I have been using for the last two weeks is my foam roller. If you are unfamiliar with the foam roller let me first apologize for being the one to introduce you. Yes, “rolling” using the roller is not pleasant and in the beginning hurts a quite bit. It takes a few tries to get used to it, but I can truly say has saved my IT bands.  If you find you’re experiencing similar problems, pick one up at a sporting goods store of even online, they are pretty cheap!

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My Half-Marathon Mantra

I went outside of my comfort level to try the latest CrossFit studio in NYC. (Photo courtesy of CrossFit212)

Week one – done and done! I have to say that the first week of training went surprisingly well. I can’t tell you how much it helps to have a good training program to follow. It was truly my saving grace last week by keeping me on track with my runs. Even though I usually run four times a week, it’s amazing how different it was for me to basically run every day. Not to mention having a plan that dictates your mileage!

For the most part I did stick to the plan. Due to traveling, I switched two days around but managed to get all the miles in regardless. Even as I write this, sitting on a plane headed to the West coast, it feels great knowing that I got up extra early this morning to run. Just like I said, “done and done” was my motto for the week. I’m also happy with my choice to follow the beginner plan, because although I feel like I’m in good physical shape, I am very much a beginner as far as racing goes.

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Meet Olivia, Our Half-Marathon Beginner Runner (and Biggest Loser Season 11 Champ!)

I went from this (left) to that (right), and now I'm ready to tackle my first half-marathon! (Photos courtesy of NBC)

First, I have to tell you how EXCITED I am to be doing this project for FITNESS Magazine. That being said I will totally admit that I am scared to death of running a half-marathon. I’m sure that might be surprising to most since I survived eight months with Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels on Season 11 of The Biggest Loser, but I’ve never run a half-marathon! A 5K yes, marathon NO.

Over the past few weeks I have been trying to figure out what I’m so scared of. Is it the distance? Is it the fear of the unknown? Am I scared I will get injured? Um, the answer is YES, YES, and Y-E-S! One thing I learned through my journey on The Biggest Loser is that when you face your fears head on there will always be growth, and you will probably learn something in the process. It’s funny, alongside that fear is some real, true excitement (told you I was nuts!). It seems crazy that both of those emotions can coexist in my body, but they very much do. I know that I can do this, but in true “Olivia Style” I take comfort in a plan. I know Hannah is somewhere rolling her eyes at this very moment.

Click read more to find out how Olivia is getting ready to start her training plan!

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