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How a runner lost 80 pounds without losing beer

"There is nothing I crave more after a long run than a good beer."
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Dani Holmes-Kirk is living proof that you can lose a lot of weight but you don’t have to give up on craft beer. You just have to be smart about it.

“I don’t waste my time on beers I don’t enjoy,” she said. “Now I know how precious my calories are, so the beer has to be worth it.”

She also works hard to earn all of her beer, including running 54 races last year. She shares this journey on her blog, Weight Off My Shoulders.

For five years, she has used the blog as an outlet to talk about overcoming back surgery, eating disorders, depression and weight gain. Today, she is happy, healthy and has successfully kept off more than 80-plus pounds through Weight Watchers and running.

Dani talked with me about her favorite beers, what keeps her motivated, and what she hopes to accomplish in the future.

What are your beer runner credentials? 

I am co-captain of the running team for Slumbrew Brewing Company out of Somerville, MA. Does that count?

While I have always enjoyed beer, my love of fitness came about later in that journey. In college, I rode the Coors Light Silver Bullet while playing rugby at Tufts. It wasn’t until after college, I learned the awesomeness that is local craft beer. Now whenever I travel–which is usually on for races–I try to drink local. Checking out local breweries is something my wife and I enjoy doing when out of town. And in town, we are lucky enough to live near a handful of great breweries.

My fitness journey really flourished when I started my weight loss journey in 2009. Now there is nothing I crave more after a long run than a good beer. I actively seek out races that feature good local craft beer at the end. We have a great series called the Cambridge 5k series, which features four 5ks over the year. Each one ends with a great after party where 3-4 local breweries pour. It is a great time.

What is your go-to post run beer?

If I can have just one specific one, I go with Slumbrew Porter Square Porter. If I have options, I want to go with a porter or a good IPA.

You’ve lost 80 pounds. Amazing! Can you sum up how you did it?

It has been a lifelong struggle.The turning point for me was joining Weight Watchers in 2009. Weight Watchers taught me how I can still enjoy my favorite treats and lose weight. I remember saying the day I joined WW, I wouldn’t give up beer, wine or tater tots. Thankfully, over six years later, I haven’t. I learned that you really can’t out workout a bad diet so finding a balance was big for me.

You ran 54 races in a year. What was your secret to avoiding injury and burn-out?

I started a run streak in 2014 and that really motivated me to keep running during 2015. There were three big things that helped me:

1) Having a group of friends that I could turn to for support whether they be in my everyday life or those I have met through social media. It is a huge help having people to turn to that get it. They know how grueling a training cycle can be or they are in the middle of their own run streak so they have the right thing to say to get you out the door.

2) I varied my paces up. I wasn’t 100% focused on PRing last year so I didn’t have a lot of speed work in my plan. But I made sure to vary my pace. I would run with any pace group to keep the legs fresh and the make sure I didn’t push my threshold each run, which I can sometimes do when running alone. I ended up using my shorter 5k races as my speedwork.

3) Always have a race on the calendar keeps me motivated. When I don’t have something to look forward to, I feel lost and it is hard for me to get out and run.

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What race did you do that had the best post-finish beer?

I would have to go Cambridge 5k series because my brewery is one of the pourers. Therefore I have that Slumbrew Porter Square Porter or Flagraiser IPA right there waiting for me!

What has been your biggest accomplishment in this journey?

This is a tough one. There have been so many amazing things that have happened to me since starting this blog and sharing my journey on social media. I want to say having the courage to start. It took a lot for me to get out there and attempt running for the first time in January 2005 and for the second time after back surgery in 2011. So telling myself I was worth this has to be the best thing I have ever done.

How do you top this success in 2016 (and beyond)?

By continuing to push the boundaries of my comfort zone. I never thought I would enjoy running one miles. I never thought I would want to run a 5k. I never thought I would be sitting here today with 35 half marathons, 9 marathons and 7 triathlons (including a half Ironman) under my belt. I would’ve laughed at you if you told me I would be the person seeking out multirace weekends. But that is who I have become and I want to hold on to that passion. I want to keep fighting, keep inspiring, keep selfie-ing and keep running for as long as I can.

My goal in 2011 was to run again after back surgery in January of that year–I ran a half in August.

My goal in 2012 was to run a sub-4 hour marathon (3:58:49 in November 2012).

My goal in 2013 was to tackle my first triathlon and run my first Boston Marathon with Tedy’s Team in honor of my Stroke Heroes (finished 1 minute before the bombs went off).

My goal in 2014 was to take on the Run Disney Dopey Challenge (4 races- 5k, 10k, half, full) in 4 days, run 2 marathons in 6 days and complete my first half ironman.

My goal in 2015 was to run my first relay race–I did Ragnar Cape Cod in May and Reach the Beach with New Balance in September.

My goal in 2016 is to potentially run my first Ultra race.

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Any other words of wisdom?

Believe. You are stronger than you think and you are ready to start this journey. If you feel like you are alone, find a support system whether it be in your community or on social media.

 

Author
Tim Cigelske is DRAFT's Beer Runner. (Beer Run•ner [noun]: Someone equally devoted to fine beer appreciation and an active, healthy lifestyle. Ex. "John downed four microbrews at the triathlon finish line. He's a total beer runner.”) Follow Tim on Twitter @TheBeerRunner, and email him at beerrunner [at] draftmag.com.

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