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It takes pain to gain in preparing for marathon

As I struggle to get up and down the stairs without crying out in pain because of the stiffness in my legs, I console myself with this thought — it is only going to get worse.

This is my 40th birthday gift to myself.

I wanted to mark the milestone in a way I wouldn't forget, so instead of a big bash or an exotic trip, I'm going to spend the next eight months getting ready to attempt something I'm not even sure I am capable of accomplishing.

In 2008, the year I turn 40, I plan to run all five Utah marathons. Insiders call it the Grand Slam, and until recently, I hadn't even considered it as something I wanted to do.

That's what turning 40 does to a person.

It makes you reflect on what you've done, and more importantly on what you haven't done. I want to know what I'm capable of doing as a runner, which I think will help me understand myself more completely as a person.

The problem is I lack that one attribute that successful distance runners share — commitment.

I am a master procrastinator, and nowhere in my life is it more useful than fitness. Seems no matter how much I plan, I can always find something more important to do than work out. That's why I will not be attempting this feat myself. I have enlisted the help of a trainer.

For the first time in my life, I want supervision.

Neil Anderson, who is a master trainer and the host of the Health and Fitness Zone on 1280 The Zone, will oversee this endeavor. We started with total humiliation — measurements and the weigh in — and then he outlined a workout plan that will cover the next 16 weeks. He's going to monitor my progress, or lack thereof, and also my health.

I will chronicle my training in this column every other week, and my hope is to answer not only my own questions about getting fit, but also those of our readers. I am hoping a few of you will play along and feel free to e-mail your questions which I'll throw at Neil in hopes he doesn't notice when I miss a workout or two.

My first question for Neil was simple: Why does he have to know so much about me in order to help me with a workout plan?

I can understand the measurements, weight and body fat, and even the essay he required detailing my eating habits. But Neil also wanted to know what I want out of the experiences. Did I want to race or just finish? Did I have workout partners or would I be training alone? What experience do I have training?

"Seems like much ado about nothing, but it will be very important to our progress — especially in the later stages of your training," he said to me. "Trust me — things will come up in the future that will make us refer back to your baseline to make progress. Answering all of these questions, and more, up front will make your experience much more pleasant. It will also help me keep you accountable."

Then he added, "There is a lot to know. The biggest mistake I see most people make when they run a marathon is that they go off half-cocked and just throw caution to the wind. Not smart. Little adjustments to your program early on will make the difference between an experience that you suffer through and an experience you truly enjoy."

NEXT: What was I doing for workouts and how did Neil change that?