If you had told Stephanie at 15 that she would be running, horse-riding and boxing at the age of 25, that she would be sweating her way through HIIT sessions and that she would participate in the Ghent Half Marathon, she probably wouldn’t have believed you.
We had a wonderfully honest conversation with Stephanie about her difficulties with obesity in her youth, and the passion for sports and dietetics that came from it. If you need some inspiration for your next sporting challenge, keep reading.
Stephanie, would you briefly introduce yourself?
Stephanie: I’m Stephanie De Sterck. I’m 25 years old and I live in the countryside in Lierde. My partner lives in Lede, and I work as a complaints analyst in Puurs. Each day, I investigate and follow up on complaints for a major pharmaceutical company.
Interesting! How did you find your way into this job?
Stephanie: After completing my studies in Nutrition and Dietetics, I started working as a quality manager at Solina in the food industry. It was a nice job, but I wanted to take on a new challenge. Last year, Maxime from Pauwels Consulting contacted me for an interesting project and voilà – now I’m here. I investigate complaints on a daily basis, I check whether they are justified, I look at samples, and I investigate where potential errors have occurred.
What do you do to clear your head in the evening?
Stephanie: Exercise! It can really calm me down. I used to want to challenge myself by seeing if I could run faster within a specific time. I was very focused on figures and results at the time, and I was meticulous with my diet. I weighed everything. Now I exercise more for fun and to find a sense of inner peace.
Weighing up your diet… it calls for discipline! Have you always been so conscious about sport and health?
Stephanie: No, and this is perhaps my greatest intrinsic motivation. Up until my 15th birthday, I was always obese. As a result, I developed an eating disorder when I turned 15. My brother gave me the motivation to start eating again and exercising a lot at 16. Strength training, high-intensity interval training, boxing, running… I did it all – and I still do. I’ve also taken up horse-riding in the last year. Most days I don’t sit still.
On 27 March, you’ll be running the Ghent Half Marathon with Pauwels Consulting.
Stephanie: That’s right! I’m looking forward to it. I like to challenge myself to try new things and I like to set goals. After a few viking runs, it’s now the perfect opportunity to take on a longer distance and also meet my colleagues at Pauwels Consulting. I expect that I’ll have a hard time because I’ve just been out with a fracture for two months, but a good mindset can do wonders.
You’re right! Do you do any specific preparation for a half marathon like this one?
Stephanie: Yes, I do. While injured, I’ve been walking around inside or outside four or five times a week. Now I have to build up my strength. Luckily, I recover quickly, so I think I’ll be ready in time.
In any case, I try to run at least three times a week in preparation for any run. I alternate this with HIIT routines, and I took up horse-riding last year. In the last two weeks before a run, I also increase my carbohydrate intake to make sure I have sufficient carbohydrate reserves at the start. The day before a run I usually rest, eat some spaghetti and go to bed early.
How do you combine this with your work schedule?
Stephanie: I still work a lot from home. That’s perfect for getting plenty of exercise in. I prefer to run in the morning, but if I start at 7am then I’m not too keen to get up to go for a run at 5am. In that case, I’ll just go running after work. Close the laptop, throw on some clothes and get out there. And if it’s too cold, I just jump on the treadmill. With the right music, I can always motivate myself.
Do you have any tips for other consultants who want to start running?
Stephanie: Above all, try to enjoy it. Sport doesn’t have to be a competition. It’s the perfect way for me to relieve stress. That’s why I don’t have Strava or any other app. I’d like to see my distances, but my times aren’t as important to me as they used to be. Pay attention to that kind of thing for too long and you’ll have a sports burnout, and then the fun’s gone.
I would also say: be patient in building up your stamina and take regular breaks. Don’t just go out and run 20 kilometres if you haven’t trained for it. Start by jogging for 10 minutes, then walk for 2 minutes and build it up from there. Even if you have a strong intrinsic motivation, you should also look for external factors that make running (even) more fun. A pleasant environment, a fun playlist or a fun dog that can join you: it can make a world of difference.
Thank you for the tips, Stephanie, and for your great story and openness. I wish you every success and enjoyment in preparing for the half marathon. See you at the Flanders Sports Arena in Ghent on 27 March! Train hard!