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Des Linden Gets Super Honest About Skipping Strength Training and Being a Female Athlete

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Photo: Boston Globe / Contributor/Getty Images

Brooks athlete Desiree Linden, casually known as "Des" and the female winner of the N'oreaster-plagued 2018 Boston Marathon, is enjoying her time in the spotlight. Since the win—the career high to top all career highs for a pro marathoner—she's appeared at the New York Stock Exchange, been honored on the Boston Celtics court, and presented Taylor Swift with the Top Female Artist award at the Billboard Music Awards. But those aren't the only perks. Now that she's bagged the big one, Linden feels free to get a little ~crazy~ with her training plan for the upcoming New York City Marathon. 

Read on to hear how she's prepping for her second big race of the year, the all-too-relatable words she has to say about "getting back in shape," and what it means to be a female athlete today. 

Training After the Boston Win

If you run races, you've likely heard people harp on the importance of strength training. If you *accidentally* miss your lifting days, you now have the perfect excuse: Des Linden didn't strength train before her big win at the Boston Marathon. 

"Well, I should’ve been doing it," Linden tells Shape. "When I was told my new coach that I wasn't doing any strength training, he was like 'oh, Jesus.' I think I got away with it because I had a really good, dialed-in training plan. I know that I should’ve been doing strength training too, but doing strength for the sake of doing it is a horrible decision as a runner. Now, I do what I need to address my weaknesses and do what’s good for running specifically."

It's paying off. "I feel stronger later in workouts and runs," she says, "and even as I go through the routine, I’m like, 'oh these squats don’t hurt as much, and I’m not as sore, so I know there’s a benefit there.'"

Also on the agenda after Boston? A whole lot more recovery. "We’re putting more recovery days between hard sessions, which is allowing me to have great, quality sessions," she says. "Feeling fresher than ever before is kind of nice. I understand the philosophy of cumulative fatigue and learning how to run tired all the time, but at age 35, I don’t think I ever got fresh. I think I was always just tired all the time. This age thing is coming into play with me now too, so I'm feeling fresher, recovering more—I think is going to be valuable." (Des' go-to post-marathon recovery move? Massage. Here are other marathon recovery strategies you'll actually want to try.)

Starting to Run Again Is *Never* Easy

Starting to log miles after taking time off and feel like you're going to die? Guess what–you're not alone. Turns out, even elite runners who literally get paid to pound the pavement are also on the struggle-bus when  getting back in running shape.

After finishing fourth in Boston in 2017, Linden took a break through the fall season last year–an unusual move for a runner of her caliber. When she laced up her running sneaks again, she was the first to admit it wasn't easy. "You get out of shape and when you start back up, it doesn’t feel great," she says. "It’s like: Why am I doing this? What’s the point? Is it gonna get easier?" Eventually, (thank the fitness gods) it does. (See: 5 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started Running.)

"It takes about 10 days to two weeks, and then you create a routine," she says. "Then if you don’t run, you kind of feel stale. "It's supposed to be hard at first. Then one day, you get out there and just feel good. That happens across the board, from beginner to elite. Once you get out of shape, it’s hard to get in shape, and once you get in shape, it’s amazing." 

What It's Like Being a Female Athlete Today

Linden didn't just make headlines because she pushed through Boston's worst-ever race weather to get the W; the world was just as captivated by her team-player spirit. (Read more about how she helped motivation fellow competitors on the course, including NYC Marathon reigning champ Shalane Flanagan.)

"I think there’s a lot of respect in our sport because everyone knows how difficult it is," she says. "So, to see someone succeed, you know it’s super hard and you know the level of work that went into it, so it’s easy to root for other people who are also doing it the right way and working through the process. You want it to be you, but if not, you respect the other person because you get how hard it is." Just peep the heartfelt kudos Flanagan gave Linden following Boston.

If anything, that stronger-together mindset between America's elite female marathoners is indicative of everything else going on in the nation right now: "It’s such an exciting time to be a female athlete. It’s like the unofficial year of the woman," says Linden.

"There’s just so much momentum and energy and positive things happening, not just in sport but culturally, in America," she says. "It’s really fun to be part of it, even to play just a tiny role in this moment." 

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