Meet a Health Hero: Leslie Marant

Read more about Black Girls RUN! co-ambassador Leslie Marant, a semi-finalist in our 2013 Health Hero Challenge!

>> You can vote for Leslie on our Facebook page September 17-23. Mark your calendar!

Name: Leslie Marant

Occupation: Co-ambassador for Black Girls RUN! Philadelphia and Owner of Temple Building Fitness

Who or what motivates you to be healthy?
Three things motivate me to be healthy: the mental and physical benefits I receive from living a healthy lifestyle; the example I set for my children and family; and my desire to inspire others (clients, running group members, Black Girls Run! Philadelphia, coworkers) to change and live healthier lives. I get a great sense of accomplishment from seeing lower blood-pressure numbers at each annual physical, lifting heavier weights, improving my endurance and running faster. I also want to give my children a legacy of healthy living so they don’t have to care for me because I made poor lifestyle choices. As a personal trainer and coach it’s important for me to practice what I preach, be an example and set a standard.  I enjoy demonstrating that it’s possible to be healthy and active in spite of the many demands on our time.

Describe a health or fitness related turning point in your life.
At my 2008 annual physical, I weighed 50 pounds more than I do today. My physician said, “You’re steadily gaining weight at a rate of three to five pounds per year. If you keep this up you’re going to have high blood pressure and diabetes.” It scared me. My family has a strong history of hypertension. My grandparents’ and an aunt’s deaths were due to strokes. My mother and three maternal aunts have taken medicine for hypertension since they were 40 years old or younger. I did not want to suffer the same fate or introduce diabetes to my family since no one had ever been diagnosed with it.

In October 2008, I began running on my treadmill which had functioned as little more than a laundry rack in the six years I’d owned it. I had not run since my high school track days. I headed to the basement with my inhaler, water, and whatever sweats and raggedy t-shirt I owned. I couldn’t run a quarter mile and cried. Nevertheless I rose every weekday and ran again. I was an annoying pain to my friends as I sent them early morning accountability text messages to inform them of each day’s meager accomplishment. Having forgotten all of my former training, I simply added a quarter mile to my distance each week. It took three months for me to be able to run three miles. I kept running and in May 2009, with little more than treadmill training miles, I completed my first road race in almost 25 years, the Broad Street Run. It was amazing.

Later I learned the importance of strength training, muscle development and maintenance, and proper nutrition. I began to research, study and incorporate consistent strength training into my exercise regimen. By June 2009, I’d shed 50 pounds. Because exercise and healthy nutrition became my lifestyle I avoided weight gain and the negative effects of yo-yo dieting. I have maintained the weight loss, become a National Association of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer, and formed my company Temple Building Fitness, with the single goal of helping others change their lives and reclaim their health. I love my new lifestyle and haven’t looked back!

What “policy” would you institute to make Greater Philadelphia a healthier region?
Two things: I would have the city/region develop more “built” environments that are traffic-free paths and areas for walking, jogging, biking and outdoor exercise. An example of that would be using many of the vacant lots and neglected land in all areas of the city/region to create space which encourages use for fitness. The other policy would be to have the city adopt a collective and comprehensive health and fitness initiative in which local recreation centers have a standardized curriculum of healthy living classes that educate the public about nutrition, exercise, lifestyle choices, and disease prevention.

What is the most important part of your health and fitness regimen?
Consistency is everything. It’s important that movement and proper nutrition become habit, priority and part of our daily routine instead of something in which we engage haphazardly or as a fad. Consistency is key. I have made working out and proper nutrition priorities in my life and I devote time to ensuring that I take care of myself regularly. Consistency, not perfection, is the attainable goal I set for myself.

What is your number one piece of health related advice?
You can do it. No matter what your perceived limitations, challenges, level of physical fitness (or “unfitness”), weight, or what the demands on your time may be, you can do what it takes to adopt and live a healthy and fit lifestyle. As a divorced mom of three busy children, including one with special educational needs, an attorney by day and personal trainer by all other available hours, I understand how difficult in can be to believe there is no time to exercise and that convenient, but unhealthy, food choices are our only options. However, if you start small, are patient, find your fitness (the activities you enjoy), learn how to make better food choices and engage  consistently, you can achieve whatever health and fitness goals you set.