Monday, August 12, 2013

Runner's Spotlight: Meet Sherry Pagoto

Sherry planking at the beach!
I'm pleased to introduce my next featured runner, Dr. Sherry Pagoto! I first learned of Sherry after she plugged my first Twitter Road Race in January of last year. After checking out her awesome health and fitness blog, I knew she was someone I wanted to get to know better.

Sherry is a clinical psychologist and Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. However, she is best known in Twitterland as the co-founder of the Plank A Day Revolution.

I've been lucky enough to hang out and run with Sherry both times I was out in Boston this summer. The first time we ran together, we did the last few miles of the Boston Marathon course to show our support for the Boston running community. We then promptly dropped to the ground and planked at the finish line! 

Sherry is loads of fun to hang with and it's with great pleasure that I get to feature her on my blog!

Runners, meet Sherry Pagoto!

Doug Cassaro (DC):    When did you start running and why?  
Sherry Pagoto (SP): My running career got off to a rocky start. My big sis Julie (@ptrunningmomof4) was a track star so I decided to follow in her footsteps by signing up for the junior high school track team. Turns out, big sis is the only track star in my family. Not only did I lose every race, I came in dead last-- legs shaking and stomach turning inside out.  The coach finally reassigned me from running to throwing shot put.  I was also abysmal at that.  I concluded that I wasn’t made to run and decided not to sign up the following year.  Several years later I wanted to lose a few pounds so I started a walking/running program.  Slowly working my way up from walking to running and gradually building my mileage led to better results than my ill-fated track experience.  I ran non-seriously for several years but never signed up for a race or even ran further than 6-8 miles at a time.  In 2007, my commitment to running turned a corner after I had my daughter. I experienced a life-threatening hemorrhage following childbirth that resulted in emergency abdominal surgery, multiple blood transfusions, and a prolonged recovery period. Being immobilized during the recovery period made me long for the days I was active. As I lie in bed in pain, unable to move without assistance for weeks I cursed myself for ever taking the ability to exercise for granted and for blowing off workouts because I was “too tired” or “too busy.” When I fully recovered, my commitment to running was razor sharp.  The moment the doctor gave me the green light to exercise I fired up the treadmill. Six months after having my daughter I ran my first 5K and a few months after that I ran my first half marathon.  I’ve run 9 more half marys since and 2 marathons. Every time I feel my motivation waning I reflect on how it felt to be incapacitated and remind myself how grateful I am for the ability to run.   

DC: What exactly is the 'Plank A Day Revolution' and how did it all get started?
SP: A few years ago I had to stop running due to increasingly severe lower back pain.  My sister, the track star, is also a physical therapist and advised that my core strength was atrocious.  I tried various core workouts but would quit after a day or two. My longtime friend, Mike Bauman (@mbfgmike) had the same problem even though we tried to motivate each other.  Finally after trying a few routines, we just accepted we were weak and pitiful and decided that we needed to downshift to the smallest goal possible and build up.  We agreed to do a single plank per day and tweet it to each other with the hashtag #plankaday for accountability.  Some of our followers decided to join us, and then some of their followers joined them, and then some of THEIR followers joined them….and so on it grew.  Since the first #plankaday tweet over 2 years ago almost 9K people have planked with us. New plankers continue to join every day and I have built up an entire ab routine for myself thanks to #plankaday.  Anyone can join! If you use the #plankaday hashtag you will get a “welcome to #plankaday!” tweet and then the @PlankPolice will help keep you accountable by tweeting you when you miss 2 days in a row. From time to time, we host various plank challenges like #plankanhour and have teamed up with Doug's #TwitterRoadRace to get people planking and running.

DC: What are your current running goals?  
SP: My goals right now are to complete a duathlon, the Boston Marathon, an ultramarathon, and I’m slowly but surely working on running a half mary in every state (10 down).  My ultimate goal though is to keep my body healthy so that I can run into my old age so I can finally win a race and be the second track star in the family next to what’s-her-name.

DC:  What is your weirdest/funniest running moment?  
SP: I once got lost on a trail run. Making matters worse, a slew of runners followed me as I confidently led them into the middle of nowhere. Oops!  Hopefully no one had their heart set on a PR! 

DC: Your advocacy for living healthy and staying active is something I really admire about you. What led you to being such a strong voice in the fitness community?  
SP: Thanks!  I am a weight loss/nutrition/fitness researcher (and counselor) and 2 years ago I jumped onto Twitter as @DrSherryPagoto and started blogging as a way to get my voice into a larger community.  I talk about the research on these topics as well as my own personal journey with health and fitness.

DC: Who is the biggest motivator in your life? 
SP: Like happiness--motivation is an inside job.  The thing that motivates me the most is not so much other people but rather how I feel when I run (or bike).  Exercise is the magic pill.   

DC: If someone were to approach you stating they wanted to start exercising, what type of advice would you give them?  
SP: I tell my patients to start small, ridiculously small (see #plankaday story). If someone isn’t exercising at all, I suggest 5 mins on a few days a week and then building from there.  Most people find they end up going over 5 minutes once they start exercising but the non-intimidating goal makes it easier to “get there” which is the biggest challenge.

DC: If you could only give one piece of running advice to a newbie runner, what would it be? 
SP: Even if you hate it now, you will soon love it and not be able to live without it, just don’t quit before that happens. 

DC: When is your next race? 
SP: I have had a several month hiatus from racing due to patellar tendinitis but I’m finally ready to sign up. The tendinitis led to a growing love affair with biking and so now I have duathlons on my radar. I will be doing the Monster Dash Duathlon in Lowell, MA in October.  I may sneak in a 5K in the meantime as well just for kicks.  

DC: Anything else we should know about you?
SP: I have a blog on Psychology Today called Shrink and a blog called They are both about how to live a healthy lifestyle. Also, #plankaday has a page on FUdiet as well as on Facebook.

1 comment:

  1. She's amazing, I love her. Keep it up Sherry! Anyways, are you guys interested to hire a personal trainer? You can visit or you can contact them on (949) 313-4034 for the information.