It's Time to Change Your Life

When you start venturing into your 60s and even your 50s, most people tend to start slowing down a bit, whether it's from age, health or a little of both.

Not Tony and Donna Palumbo.

Nope, Tony and Donna decided it was time to speed things up a bit.
They didn't necessarily shift into "life in the fast lane" as The Eagles once wrote, but it wasn't life in the slow lane, either.

It was, as many people eventually find out, a step in the right direction.

Donna was 49, out of shape and not healthy six years ago. So, she joined Fleet Feet's No Boundaries training program (NOBO) and trained for her first 5K (3.1 miles). Then her first 10K (6.2 miles). Then her first half marathon (13.1 miles). Then, her first marathon (26.2 miles).

She lost 35 pounds that first year in the training program and feels better than ever as she turns 55 this month.

Her husband, Tony, 67, a retired Raytheon executive and Army vet, watched his wife get healthy and wanted some of that good feeling, too.

Two years ago, he joined Fleet Feet's No Boundaries program and Tony not only did his first 5K, but also eventually his first half marathon. And, he lost 41 pounds to boot.

Now, they're a couple of running gurus and giving back.

For the last few years, Donna has coached in the NOBO programs and mentored in the NOBO, 10K and half marathon training programs and Tony mentored in the NOBO program. Both are looking forward to sharing their experiences and expertise as Fleet Feet gets ready for its 2016 training programs in just a few weeks. Here are some of their thoughts from participating and running in Fleet Feet's training programs:

1) How did you both get started in running and our training programs?
Donna: I was 49, out of shape and decided I wanted to be healthy and active when I turned 50. I signed up for Cotton Row NOBO with great trepidation and had such a great experience - Coaches Jeri Browder and Kay Noller made it light hearted and fun and I became hooked on running. NOBO was just the tip of the iceberg!

Tony: I had become pretty heavy and out of shape, having not really done any type of exercise in well over 20 years. I went on a weight loss and exercise program, and NOBO offered the opportunity to start with other people who were in similar condition. I quickly realized that the people I met kept me motivated to continue.

2) What did you expect from the training programs.
Donna: I did not know what to expect, but hoped to be able to crawl across the finish line for my first 5k. I have done that and so much more! In addition to NOBO, I have successfully completed 10k, 1/2 and marathon training and have reached goals I never thought were possible. In addition to reaching my running goals, I have made life long friends that I met in the training programs, and volunteer regularly in the running community.

Tony: I expected the training programs to complement my weight loss efforts and to help kick in the metabolism rate. Even more than that, I wanted to be able to greatly increase my lung capacity and energy levels. I found that as I began losing weight, my ability to increase my pace became more pronounced, and that in turn helped to increase my stamina and my metabolism.

3) Donna, did you ever hope/expect Tony to get involved?
Donna: I hoped that he would, but I did not want to push him. When he retired, he made the decision to try NOBO and I was 100 percent behind his decision. After completing the program, he decided he liked it so much he started mentoring. He went on to take 1/2 training and completed his first 1/2 at 67 years old! I am incredibly proud of him and his accomplishments!

4) Tony, how was Donna an influence on you?
Tony: It was obvious that she was having such a great time and meeting really nice people in the process. I could also see how much the exercise benefited her physically and mentally. Her enthusiasm and dedication to better health convinced me to start on changing my life as well. It has been a good journey, and one that we enjoy together — although she is faster and can run much farther than me. I am happy with the half marathons and lesser miles.

5) Why did you guys want to be mentors/coaches?
Donna: Fleet Feet training programs helped me transform my life and I love helping others make positive, healthy changes in their lives. We are all in different places in our fitness journey and it is an honor to be able to help others reach their goals. Fleet Feet provides a safe, fun environment for individuals looking to reach their fitness goals and I am fortunate to be part of their family.

Tony: I was so pleased with my own experience, I thought that I could help others who are seeking a healthier lifestyle, and especially those who have physical issues, aches and pains that have kept them, at least mentally, from believing they could participate. What many don’t understand is that everyone has some issues, aches, and pains. Getting started and keeping with it is the key to long term success and health.

6) What’s the best thing about the Fleet Feet training programs and what are you guys doing this year?
Donna: There are so many wonderful things about Fleet Feet and the training programs to include:
- Positive, energetic coaches and mentors
- Personalized attention - everyone is welcome regardless of their fitness level
- Support and camaraderie of the group
- Invaluable resources for all things running - form, injury prevention, etc.

This year I am mentoring half training and coaching Cotton Row NOBO. I plan on taking triathlon and marathon training in 2016.

Fleet Feet is a great family that offers so much more than training opportunities to running community. In addition to sponsoring races, they support local charities and provide fun runs throughout the year. Their knowledgeable staff has the expertise to keep you running healthy and happy!

Tony: I have learned that the people are the best thing about the Fleet Feet training programs, from coaches and mentors to the participants. In every instance, the people gel and become friends in a way that would otherwise take years of routine social interface. The other aspect is that runners and walkers set their own pace. The challenge is not to defeat the others, but to finish at the pace that each has personally determined is appropriate, even if it is at a fast walk. The programs are a major benefit to the community, bringing people together of all ages, sizes, and conditions, all working together, but each with his or her own personal goal. The staff at Fleet Feet is immensely helpful, professional, and dedicated to the running community, and their advice and assistance is cheerfully provided for both serious competitors and to those like me who are just trying to stay healthy and involved.

By: Chris Welch

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