Angela Tieri makes running look easy. With a marathon PR of 3:01, two 50-mile finishes, and a rigorous understanding of strength training for injury prevention, she’s the woman to talk to about your next running goal. Read on to learn about her spirit plant, her take on women and trail running, and her very big 2016 goal.
What’s the first thing you ate this morning?
I had two gluten-free waffles. They were pumpkin spice, my favorite, with sunflower seed butter. I ate them in my car because it was 5:15 AM and I was driving to work. I’m a personal trainer, so I usually start work at 6:00 AM. Bright and early.
I’ve been gluten-free for about five years out of necessity. Gluten does not make me feel very good, so I have to avoid it. Because I’m so active, I eat a lot of rice. Four pounds a week or something crazy like that.
When it comes to food, what’s your guilty pleasure?
Cheese. I love cheese. And ice cream.
What’s your spirit animal?
I actually have a spirit animal and a spirit plant. My spirit animal is the bison. I don’t know why, but I feel very strongly connected with them. I love running by them in Golden Gate Park. They’re so big and graceful.
My spirit plant is the redwood tree. I actually got it tattooed on my arm last year after my 50-miler because I feel so special in the redwood trees. They’re so massive and I feel their power. They make me feel really small. I grew up in Boston, where we don’t have trees that size.
Redwoods can withstand forest fires and earthquakes – they’ve been around for hundreds of years and they’re still standing strong.
What was your path into running?
I definitely took the long way. I did track and field in middle school, and in high school I played field hockey because that’s what all my friends did. In college I would run just for fun, primarily to stay in shape. When I graduated from college I couldn’t afford to join a gym, so I decided to sign up for a half marathon in order to have a goal to train towards.
I loved the training and I got hooked. I loved being outside and running around the Charles River in Boston. I ran the half marathon – this was in 2006 – and then I started wanting to beat my time. Actually, during my first half marathon I was passed by a race walker. Someone speed walking beat me! I’ve come a long way since then. Thirteen miles felt like an epic distance for me in the beginning and now I’m running fifty miles. That’s what I love about running: there’s no end to it. There’s always something to improve and get better at.
What was your path into teaching and training?
I went to school for graphic design, and after college I worked for a magazine doing art direction. I moved to San Francisco because they had an office out here. They ended up firing my old boss and hiring a new guy who wanted me to move back to Boston, and I said no. I didn’t want to leave California. They fired me, but I got a pretty nice severance package because I had been there for a long time.
I started applying to a lot of graphic design jobs, but the whole scene had changed a lot. Everything was web-based and I just didn’t have those skills. I started doing some soul-searching to think about what I really wanted to do and what really made me happy. I was burned out with design, but I had been helping my friends make training programs for running and strength training. I thought that if I could get paid to do that, it would be incredible.
I started doing research. I got my personal training certification and a couple of different run coaching certifications all over the span of one summer. I was studying and cramming and taking tests. I found a job as an intern for a guy who helped show me the ropes of the business. I learned a lot working at places like Equinox, and now I’m fully independent running my own business. I’ve been doing it for three years now and it’s gotten to the point where my schedule is full, and I’m loving every second. I’m happy.
What advice would you give someone who wants to teach or train?
Find your niche. Find something that you’re really good at and that you enjoy doing. I’m a runner: I love running and I want everyone else to love running as much as I do. When people see that passion in you, they want to work with you.
What do you want people to take away from your classes?
Any goal that you have is within your reach. If you want to run the Boston Marathon, there’s a way to do it. You’re going to have to work your butt off sometimes and it isn’t going to be easy, but you can do it if you’re willing to work for it and sacrifice some things to get there.
The other thing that I want people to take away is how important the core is to everything – every single movement. Strength training, running, and even just walking down the street. The core is the center of your body. It’s not just your abs; it’s your glutes and your hips and your back. If that’s dysfunctional, you’re going to get injured at some point.
What is your proudest teaching moment?
I have a client named Jack who is 67 years old. He is so passionate about running. He loves it. He’ll go out and chug along for hours on end. When we first started working together, he had been injured and wasn’t running very well, so we focused on an issue he was having with his hamstring. One day he told me that he had a secret dream that he had never told anyone: he wanted to run an ultramarathon.
I told him, “Why not, Jack? Let’s do it!” We picked a good one for him and started working towards it, and this past October he completed a 50k. I was so proud.
What is your MoveWith word and why?
Confidence. I picked it because running has helped me gain a tremendous amount of confidence in myself. I used to be a really shy kid, always wanting to please people and do my best. I cared a lot about what other people thought and felt like I wasn’t good enough.
When I started running and found that I was pretty good at it, I kept going until I got to the point where I realized I don’t care what people think. I don’t care that my thighs are big; they can run marathons. I don’t care that I’m not super skinny; I can run for a really, really long time, and I love it. Having that internal confidence to know that what I do is good for me makes me feel better about myself. I want to instill that in women especially. It doesn’t matter what you look like as long as you’re happy in your body and you’re healthy.
What is your next big goal?
In April I’m running the Boston Marathon for the fourth time. I want to break three hours. I tried to do it in 2015, but between the weather and stomach issues, the forces were against me. I’m confident that I can do it this year. That’s kind of my holy grail of running. I want to break three hours at Boston because that’s my home turf. My family will be out there supporting me. That’s what I’ll be focusing on.
What are you excited about teaching next?
Last fall I taught a four-part trail running series where we started with easy trails in the city and then progressed from there to harder and harder trails. I taught the group everything they need to know about transitioning from road running to trail running. That’s something I’d wanted to do for a really long time, especially for women. The female population in trail running is much smaller than the men’s. 30% of 50k finishers are women, and the percentage goes down as the distance goes up.
I can’t understand why, because trail running is so much fun and it’s empowering to be able to crush these mountains. I know that part of the reason is family and time commitments, but I think a lot of it is fear of going out there alone and not knowing what to expected. I wanted to take away that mystery and show that it’s not so bad. It can be really hard, but that’s what makes it fun. You meet great people and see some amazing things.
In the spring I want to do another four-part trail running series where we work toward a goal race. We’ll pick a race, probably in the Marin Headlands, and we’ll do training runs on the course. I’ll go over how to race, what to eat and drink, and everything that I’ve learned throughout my experiences.