Exclusive: Ashley Paulson on working with iFit, this weekend's Olympic Marathon Trials & more
- Sportskeeda's exclusive interview with the possible 2020 American Olympian.
iFit Trainer Ashley Paulson will compete in the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday, February 29, 2020. Paulson -- an accomplished ultrarunner, triathlete, and marathon runner with a personal best time of 2:36:01 -- is a favorite among iFit members on both treadmill and stationary bike workouts. Her extensive running and biking knowledge lends itself to crafting workouts that are not only challenging, but also effective and informative.
Paulson’s long list of professional accolades gained the attention of the iFit team in 2018. Paulson has won 22 marathons, has been a professional triathlete for four years and placed first in an Ultra Ironman -- twice the distance of a standard Ironman -- breaking the course record by more than six hours. Furthermore, at the request of the iFit community, the iFit production crew shot, produced and posted an 18-part Boston Marathon workout series, the first time iFit filmed a live marathon.
At 38 years old and a mother of four, Paulson’s ability to balance a successful fitness career with a busy family life has been a source of inspiration to the iFit community. Rising for an early outdoor run or using her NordicTrack treadmill during her children’s naptime has allowed her to train and race while still prioritizing her family.
I had the pleasure of meeting Ashley Paulson earlier this month while staying at the world-class Stein Eriksen Lodge in Park City, Utah. Following our meet-up -- thanks to the NordicTrack team -- I had the chance to do Q&A with Paulson about this Saturday's race, her fitness journey more. You can follow Paulson on Instagram via @Ashkickn.
What exactly was your journey or the decision that led you to becoming super-fit?
Ashley Paulson: As a little girl I used to wake up each day and do some type of physical activity. From going on a five-mile run with my dad or even Sweating To The Oldies with my mom -- I still love me some Richard Simmons!
Fitness has always been a part of my life, but not necessarily in the most healthy way. I suffered through an eating disorder as a teenager and would merely workout to be SKINNY. As I fought past that, exercising truly helped me gain confidence. It was such a huge part of the change inside of me that I grew to LOVE working out.
So 20 years ago, I decided to run a marathon. It took me four hours to get through that grueling day. Then I made a goal to get a 3:45, then a BQ then a sub 3. It was many, many tiny steps -- and over 80 marathons later -- that led me down this path. If you had asked me 3 years ago if I thought I’d be toeing the line for the Olympic trials, I would have laughed out loud. But my consistency of showing up, and making one goal after another, and here I am! I didn’t compete in high school or college. I would just stay MOVING.
When I was pregnant with my fourth child is when I decided I wanted to take this journey to a new level and really fight to get to the world championships for Ironman. I stayed really fit during my pregnancy. With plenty of early mornings, sacrifice and HARD work I earned my “Pro Card” as a triathlete 9 months after giving birth to my 4th child. Going “Pro” was never the goal. It was once again, the small things and here I am now in my 4th year of racing "Pro" as a triathlete.
Were you a big sports fan growing up? Or did your fitness journey come independently of that?
Ashley Paulson: Oh, I HATED watching sports! I wanted to be out climbing trees. Like I mentioned, I stayed very active as a kid. I believe that all carried over as an adult. Staying fit and always moving was just part of me.
Your race is this Saturday at the Olympic Team Marathon Trials. Is training for that any different than any other recent training?
Ashley Paulsen: Well, that was the initial goal. When I qualified 6 months ago, I was in full “Ironman” mode. I decided to go full force on just “marathon” training to see what I could do if I actually focused on just running. But honestly, I didn’t love it. I found myself feeling injuries coming on and even though it was less hours than Ironman training, I felt like I was getting slower. So I went right back into my Ironman training. With all the swimming and biking I feel it really keeps my body balanced. And the biggest reason I LOVE IT!
Is any of your training done at home on home exercise equipment? Or do you have to be outdoors to train most effectively?
Ashley Paulson: Oh man, over HALF of my training is done on my NordicTrack treadmill. I’m a firm believer in the power of BOTH indoor and outdoor training. Working out on my Nordictrack treadmill, I’m able to stay super-consistent without looking at my watch all the time and I don't have to carry my nutrition on a long run.
I love my speed work on the treadmill too. It's easy to break away too fast outdoors then fall off-pace. It's all about consistency and teaching the body what these paces feel like so when you do take your training outdoors, your body knows just how it feels.
Best case scenario, I believe, is qualifying via the trials. If that happens, how much of your life does that consume?
Ashley Paulson: (laughs) “Best case” indeed! Well, I believe the time commitment wouldn’t change, my efforts certainly would.
If any, what sort of music do you train to?
Ashley Paulson: Oh I LOVE a good beat in my head! I like a good solid mix but my “go to” is punk rock all the way! Unfortunately we can’t listen to music while racing but during training, turn it up!
Does your diet change when you're training for something like the Olympic Team Marathon Trials?
Ashley Paulson: I’m not known for my good eating habits. I’m best known for having a bag of Cheetos in my hand and candy-corn pumpkins in my pocket. In fact, 5 marathons last year were fueled with a bag of Cheetos before my race -- including the race I qualified for the Trials. I do make sure to keep a good variety of nutrients in my body but this is ongoing. Nothing has changed.
I did TRY to switch things up after being told I wouldn’t ever be able to qualify for the Trials at my weight. I went on a pretty clean diet. Dropped some pounds and quite honestly FELT LIKE CRAP! I may have a few extra pounds on me than some of my fellow athletes but that’s OK! I’d rather feel great than hit some magic number on the scale.
I do understand that you can race faster at a lighter weight. But the whole “weight thing” triggers things from my past eating disorder and it’s not worth it to me.
You're also a mother of four beyond your work with NordicTrack and seemingly-endless training. Is there more to your life that you wish more people knew about?
Ashley Paulson: My life is crazy! But I LOVE THE CRAZY! I think I would go insane if I didn’t have “crazy!" My family is my #1. My husband I work together as a team to get all the “kids stuff” taken care of. He supports my training 100%. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t get hard to fit in.
Quite honestly, I miss plenty of workouts because of family and that's okay. I do my best to squeeze it in but if my little man is sick and he needs cuddles from momma. I stop and remember what REALLY matters at the end of the day. I’m far from perfect as a mom and athlete. It’s a tricky balance I’m always trying to figure out. It's a good thing I have my husband Matt, of nearly 20 years, to help me so much!
Finally, Ashley, any last words for the kids?
Ashley Paulson: Oh my littles! My heart is so full of gratitude for their endless support and love. They put up with my sweaty hugs, me singing endlessly on the treadmill while their teenage friends are around. My family is my biggest cheerleader. Lexi, Sami, Ciara and Max, I want you to know, anything is possible if you just keep consistently showing up and FIGHT for those dreams! I love you!