Pro Distance Runner and Coach Neely Gracey Shares Her Training Schedule

Runner Neely Gracey

My name is Neely Gracey and I am a Pro distance runner for Adidas living and training in Boulder, CO. I have a personal coaching business called, Get Running, and I currently coach 70 runners from all over the country. In my spare time, I enjoy playing with our Viszla puppy Strider, and sipping Kombucha or decaf Americanos with friends.

How and why did you get into running?

I was born into the sport! My dad was a pro marathoner, and he was running the Boston Marathon when I was born. My mom ran all through her pregnancy with me, and when I was growing up I just didn’t know any difference. I set my own goals in 8th grade, and that is when I started actually training. I used to love the 400, but now my favorite distance in the Half Marathon!

Why is running important for you?

It is true, running is not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. And I love the life that running has built for me. I met my husband when we competed together on the Shippensburg University Track and Cross Country teams. I have traveled all over the US, raced in six countries, and met so many amazing people along the way. The community of runners is really a special group full of inspiration and positive outlook.

Runner Neely Gracey

How do you train and become better at running?

I train in Boulder, Colorado. The altitude (mile high) helps my system process oxygen more efficiently so when I go down to sea level, I can run faster for longer! My husband Dillon helps coach me along with Steve Magness (author of The Science of Running, and, Peak Performance). My dad is a great source of knowledge and support, and I feel very grateful for these guys whom I trust that help me strive towards my goals.

Runner Neely Gracey

What are the hardest parts of running?

Being a pro runner is not glamorous… most days are spent sweaty and grimy, early solo miles, hot afternoon sessions, we go through the same emotions that every other runner deals with. It’s just we get paid to do it, which is good and bad. Good because on those tough days, it is extra motivation. We are also able to devote hours to training and recovering, since that is the main focus of our day. The bad part is that if we get injured, we risk losing out on races, money, and even sponsorship.

Finding the balance of pushing hard but not too hard is essential, and I have certainly had moments where I wanted to quit. But I love running, and if I had to choose between making an Olympic team, but then never running again, or never making the Olympics but being able to run for the rest of my life, I would totally choose the later. My run is an essential part of my day that helps me be me!

Runner Neely Gracey

How do you eat and sleep?

This is the most underrated side of training. I can only run 2ish hours per day, but the other 22ish hours are spent recovering and getting my body and mind ready for the next run. I find a routine really helps me stay on track with making good meal choices, getting enough rest, and focusing my mental and physical energy on training.

On a typical day, I wake up between 5:30-6am. I have coffee and a light breakfast (toast, a banana, or a power bar), drink 12-24oz of water or electrolyte mix, and then head out that door around 7:30am for my workout. I run between 10-20miles in the morning, and after my run, I do a core/strength/stretching routine followed by a real breakfast (smoothie, yogurt/fruit/granola, avocado toast with an egg).

I sit down to check emails, connect with my clients whom I coach, and then get rehydrated and ready for my afternoon run or cross training session. This is often followed with a massage appointment, physical therapy, or lifting. I try to have everything done by the time my husband gets home at 5pm so we can enjoy the evening together before an early bedtime to start the day over once again.

Runner Neely Gracey

How do you prepare for events/races?

I am terribly uncoordinated. I don’t do any types of sports that include a ball. I do enjoy spinning, the pool, or my ElliptiGO for cross training. I incorporate 30-60min non-running exercise a few days per week. In prep for races, I like to do a short fartlek (speed play) workout a few days before. I do a warm up, and then 2x1min hard on 2min easy, and 4x30sec hard on 90sec easy. This gets my muscles firing and puts a little pop in my step that helps me feel ready to race fast.

How do you handle injuries and recovery?

Injuries are so tough. I have certainly had my fair share of struggles. In 2012, I missed the Olympic trials due to my first fracture. I was devastated as I sat in the stands and watched my race go on without me. During this time of healing, I utilized non-impact exercise on the ElliptiGO and that made a huge difference in my mental state as I was able to still get outside, and sweat, and feel like I was still working towards my goals. I did come back to training three months later and ran multiple personal best times.

Runner Neely Gracey

What is your best advice for people new to running?

Running is difficult. I have been at an elite level for 14 years, and everytime I take a little time off and get back to training, it is a brutal first two weeks. The key is to stick with it. Running is very repetitive, and consistency over time will build fitness and efficiency. Even if it is just 1mile a day, stick with it, and you will see progress.

Best advice for people who have been running for years?

Every year, I learn more about the sport. About what I need toward off injury, stay motivated, and enjoy training and racing. Don’t put yourself in a box, sometimes the best thing you can do is run uninhibited. Leave the watch at home and run off feel. Race a new distance that challenges but excites you. Remember, it is your journey, and running is too difficult to not enjoy the process.

How do you balance normal life with running?

When you’re good at anything, there is typically a lack of balance in your life. I find that I have to keep my world small and eliminate distraction so I can focus on my goals. I do say “no” to social events that go later than 8pm. My husband, Dillon, supports my professional goals and we always have a show going that we can watch in the evenings to relax and unwind. This year, we have watched every episode/season of Friends, The Office, House of Cards, Suits, Modern Family, The Goldbergs, as well as many episodes of HGTV. I am fortunate that Dillon has a great job, so I do not put pressure on myself and rely on my career to have financial stability. I just focus on my goals and training to make them possible. The rest falls into place.

Runner Neely Gracey

What kind of running shoes and clothes do you use?

I am sponsored by Adidas! I train in the Energy Boost and race in the Adios and Boston. I typically have 4-5 pairs of shoes between training and racing that I will wear at a given time. I go through at least 1 pair of shoes per month since I only run around 300 miles per pair.

What has been your best sport purchase below $100?

My TRX straps hang from the ceiling in my home gym, and the travel set is $99 on Amazon. They provide a full body workout and I incorporate them into my strength training every week. For recovery, the R3 foot roller from Roll Recovery is my favorite for tight arches.

What other favorite gear do you have?

I always wear sunglasses while running. Adidas Sport Eyewear has launched some trendy options that are functional and fun. I have glasses to match all my outfits.

Runner Neely Gracey

What will the future bring?

Short term, I am training for a fall marathon. Long term, I have my eye on the 2020 Olympic trials in hopes to be in the mix to represent Team USA in Tokyo.

Follow Neely Gracey on her website and Instagram

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