Charlie Watson hasn’t always been a fitness fanatic. In fact, when she ran her first marathon in April 2012, she described herself as a “non-runner”.
Fast-forward to the present day and the 28-year-o has seven marathons under her belt (she’s also running London 2017), more than 25,000 Instagram followers and spends her time travelling the world on active holidays (that look incredible but exhausting).
A former journalist, Watson now runs a successful blog The Runner Beans, which she started to document her training for her first marathon, and is studying dietetics at university.
She is passionate about “helping people start their journey to a healthier, more active life” through her blog and work as a future dietician.
We caught up with her ahead of her eight marathon to discuss why she loves running, hates diets and believes sleep is just as important as squats to achieving your fitness goals.
Talk us through your week in fitness
I’ve been training for both the Boston and London marathons for the past few months, so I was running 6 days a week, usually first thing (about 5.30am). Typically my week includes a speed workout (such as 2 mile warm up, 6 X 800m, 1 mile cool down) done on a Tuesday, a weekend long run (building up to 19/20 miles), a recovery run the following day, and three easy runs of between 4.5-7 miles. My weekly mileage is around 40 miles. I’m adding in 1-2 strength workouts a week after the marathon and will cut down my running days to 4/5!
What’s your favourite type of workout and why?
I love running. Whether it’s an easy run with friends, a hard workout like mile repeats (I actually love the speed workouts), or a race I’ve been training for over a couple of months.
I like the challenge both physically and mentally that comes with running. Plus it’s free and can be done pretty much anywhere!
What’s your favourite way to spend your rest day?
I love rest days. I used to take my rest day the day following a long run but now have it the day after a speed workout - it helps you grow, recover, gain strength and refocus for the rest of the week.
I should probably do something stretchy on my rest day but I usually opt for a lie in instead - sleep is just as important to training as the hard work that goes in!
What do you eat throughout the week to complement your training schedule?
Marathon training means I’m hungry all the time. I try to eat real food (cutting processed crap from my diet). Typically I have overnight oats on the train into London after my morning run with a coffee, fruit and nut snack with tea mid-morning, then leftovers for lunch.
I’ve been cooking a lot from Shalane Flanagan’s Run Fast, Eat Slow cook book - delicious, nourishing meals. 4pm means something chocolatey and a cup of tea, every day without fail! Dinner is based on plenty of veg, slow release carbs and lean meat - except on a Sunday when post long run we usually make a roast (the leftovers are great for lunches during the week!)
What are your pre and post-workout snacks?
I usually run fasted first thing, then either have a smoothie or milky coffee with overnight oats post-run. If it’s a really hard workout in the morning then I’ll have a banana and some almond butter with a glass of water.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about food?
What works for others might not work for you and vice versa. Everyone is different, so it’s all about trial and error. I’ve also learned that as soon as you tell yourself you can’t have something, you want it even more.
I don’t cut anything from my diet, I eat everything in moderation. Studying for my Dietetics degree has reaffirmed that balance is key.
Do you have a motivational mantra that keeps you going?
One day you won’t be able to do this, today is not that day.
I think about how much I will regret it if I bail on a workout or give up halfway through. I was told by a friend that no-one can do it for you, and when it comes to race day, only you know whether you’ve given your all in both training and during the race. I like to know I’ve given everything I have, that way whatever the result, I can be proud of myself.
Do you always have fitness/body goals you are aiming for?
Personally I don’t have body goals per se - although with a wedding in Sept - I do want to work on my back and arms to look toned in my wedding dress - however I’m more concerned with getting faster. My goal is to run a sub 3.35 marathon which would earn me a Boston Qualifying time.
What’s your ultimate workout track and why?
Rudimental ‘Feel the Love’ is mine and my fiancees song - it makes me feel like he’s right there with me during a tough race and pushes me forward. Otherwise I love a bit of Tay (Taylor Swift) during any workout.