Leslie Kay

The Power of Smart Training

Within 18 months I ran two marathons with two very different experiences and two very different race times. My second marathon was 47 minutes faster. How?

I achieved this personal best with smarter marathon training and having more fun.

For my very first marathon, my focus was solely running. The result was I ended up overtraining, injured, and in pain for weeks after the race.

The second time around, fully recovered, I ran a course that was much more difficult and in the heat of summer. Yet, I was out there moving fast, pain free, having fun and talking to everybody.

My favorite memory was mile 24, where a stranger became a friend, and coached the coach to maintain the pace to the finish line.

What training secrets created such a different and positive experience and may help you prepare for the Walt Disney World® Marathon Weekend? Will you believe me when I say, I was able to do all this by running less while training.

For the year and a half after my first marathon, I dedicated myself to learning how to train smarter and stay injury-free. Since then, I've coached myself and many other runners how to build a foundation of wellness that supports their running goal. I like to think of it as the Pyramid of Change. This pyramid incorporates all areas of wellness including physical activity, sleep, nutrition, mindset and support. Physical basics include preventive health like making sure you get your annual check-up with your doctor and knowing your key health numbers: body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol so you can help stay in control of your health.

I'm excited to share my learnings with you so you can run your runDisney best and have a great experience all the way across the finish line!

Any time you're feeling challenged or stuck in your training program, use the Pyramid of Change and try a new exercise, a different level of intensity, grab a friend or get back to basics.


Cross Training – By reducing my running from five days to three days per week, it allowed me to add strength training, stretching and other forms of cardio such as cycling, swimming and rowing. This variety reduced the impact on my body, continued to build my endurance, increased strength and reduced muscle imbalances. The result was decreased injury and increased performance – both faster and stronger!

Structured Runs – Intentional runs designed for speed training, a medium run, and then a long slow run with a friend helped make the time and miles go faster.

Get Support – Ask a friend, family member or coach to help cheer you on to the finish line.

Mindset/Motivation – When you know your "why," you can develop mental focus and stay motivated to achieving your goal.

Accomplishing my second marathon was eye-opening and reinforced how important it is to honor our bodies in order to reach our potential and achieve our personal definition for wellness. When you're properly prepared and can run pain-free, then you'll get to fully enjoy your favorite runDisney memories.

That's the power of smart training.


Briane Agostinelli is a health coach at Cigna. Cigna is the presenting sponsor of Walt Disney World® Marathon Weekend.

This content is for educational purposes only and does not provide medical advice. Speak to your doctor if you have health concerns and prior to starting a new diet or exercise program. Source: Stretches, Fuel your body, Positive Thinking Sets You Up for Success,