"There’s days that I don't want to get out of bed, but I know I have to. I have a whole team at work that is reliant on me, so I like to set a good example. Even if you're unmotivated, and you maintain that discipline, you usually don’t regret it. You have to keep reminding yourself of all the good things that come out of everything you have to do."
Health is front of mind for Joseph Plouffe, but with a job that’s not your typical 9 to 5, he has to figure out a way to make it all work.
As a senior manager in charge of American Airlines’ Supplier Management organization, Joseph travels often. So when he’s training for a marathon – like the upcoming Chicago Marathon this month – or an IRONMAN, he’s got to make sure he finds time to train.
And to him, that’s all part of the fun.
“A cool thing about traveling a lot is running in different places”, Joseph says. “I make it a priority. You have to. But it’s fun. You see different parts of the city you otherwise would not be able to see. Things look so much different when you’re running around versus driving in a car. You get to really explore. I’ve run in at least seven states this year.”
After dealing with some difficulties training for a marathon last year, Joseph completed the marathon but didn’t hit is time goal. This year, he wants to hit that sub-3 hour and 30 minute marathon time in Chicago.
He’s also been excited to discover the sport of triathlon and has goals of completing a few 70.3 and full IRONMAN races next year.
“If you have a little bit of discipline and you focus on it, you can make a lot of progress in such a short period of time,” he says. “You just keep making harder and harder goals, and then meeting them, and it just becomes very motivating.”
Read on to learn more about Joseph’s upcoming goals, as well as his career with American Airlines!
Tell me a little bit about yourself, and how fitness and sports came into your life.
I'm 35 years old, and I was born and raised in Detroit. I have a twin brother and an older sister, and 6 nieces and nephews. I moved from Michigan to Dallas for work. I graduated from Western Michigan University with a bachelors in supply chain management, and I’ve been working for American Airlines ever since!
In terms of fitness, I played sports in high school: football, track … I was really active in high school, and it kind of dwindled in my late 20s, really until I quit drinking. So once I gave up alcohol in May 2019, that’s when I really started getting back into fitness, most notably running and practicing yoga and cycling. I started off just running long distance. That was nothing I really did as a kid. I was a sprinter when I ran track in high school, so running anything longer than a couple of miles was not really my thing.
I started running after I quit drinking just to clear my head. I found that it was very therapeutic to me. I was dealing with a lot of mental health issues – anxiety, in particular – and I was unhealthy in more broad terms. I was 50 pounds heavier than I am right now. So quitting drinking, that was the start of it.
I had some ups and downs with injuries the first couple of years, but then after a while, running just became contagious. Last year, in 2022, I decided I wanted to go run a bunch of races. I made a goal to run a race per month including a couple of half marathons.
I ran a full marathon in October 2022: the Detroit Marathon. I did a 70.3, my first IRONMAN, which was another thing I never envisioned myself doing. I was never a swimmer! And I got a gravel bike in March 2020, right before the pandemic. I kept getting injured running, and I wanted to stay active and keep moving. So some friends pushed me to get a bike. And then this past year, I set out a goal to do my first 70.3. It was really eye opening. I was really scared and nervous in the very beginning. It ended up turning out much better than I anticipated. My swim for Chattanooga was one of the most enjoyable parts, to be honest!
What keeps you wanting to grow and learn in the world of sports?
Mostly just came out of the desire to get better. I think there’s some kind of an addiction, especially from a running perspective. You keep seeing your times get better, and it keeps getting easier. If you have a little bit of discipline and you focus on it, you can make a lot of progress in such a short period of time. You just keep making harder and harder goals, and then meeting them, and it just becomes very motivating.
And I want to be healthy. I felt like garbage when I was drinking. I was a social drinker, and I would drink 4 or 5 days a week. I was not healthy. I had high blood pressure. I was overweight. Now, I just keep feeling better and better every day the more and more I focus on my health and overall fitness. It’s been amazing. I feel like I owe it to myself, and I owe a lot of the success to having quit drinking. It’s one of the things that has stayed consistent.
How long have you been running marathons, and how did you get started on long distance running?
My first marathon was in Detroit on Oct. 16, 2022. I ran a 3:51:45. I was a little disappointed because my goal was 3:30. I was dealing with a bunch of injuries in the last 7 weeks of my training, and I didn’t even really train at that point. I was barely touching 10-15 miles a week. I had such a bad calf strain, and I was injured so badly to the point where I almost didn’t run the marathon. Bit I had a buddy that encouraged me to go out, try to run slow and try to finish. Once I got going, it felt OK. It was a lot of fun.
I never even imagined I could do a marathon to be honest. To most normal people, even a half marathon – it’s very intimidating. It’s really far. I remember I ran my first half when I was 26 with my sister, who was a big runner at the time. I did not train at all. I didn’t know what the concept of training meant. I was basically training on a treadmill. I went out and ran like a 2:14 half at the age of 26.
As I started getting more serious into how I trained and getting more comfortable, the half marathon I ran in early 2022, I wouldn't say it was easy, but it felt surprisingly good. My time was, like, 30 minutes faster. That kind of springboarded the goal to go run a marathon. It gave me the confidence that I needed to know I could actually go accomplish it.
I’ve had a friend named Alex who has been a part of this running journey with me for the last few years too. He first got me into running a little bit. We did the Detroit turkey trot in 2019. When we ran, it was one of those things where we did so much better than our previous time, so we made a pact to make 2022 all about running. We signed up for a race each month. That’s huge, having someone along for the journey.
I think the other thing that motivates me is that as much as you don't see it all the time, is that sharing my journey motivates other people, too. Even if I can convince one or two people to change their lifestyle and get into something healthy, just by me sharing posts on social media, I think that feels good too. I got my twin brother into running. He was the last person I ever thought in a million years would get into long-distance running. It’s so awesome to see him doing that! Now when I go home I can run with him. He’s training for his first marathon. All that has been a big part of the motivating factor to go run a marathon and keep on doing it.
Speaking of running a marathon, do you have any goals for the upcoming Chicago marathon?
I reinstated my time goal of sub-3:30, so that’s 8-minute miles. I think I can do it as long as I have good weather and a good race strategy. I ran a 1:33 half in February and I have just been getting stronger since then. But we’ll see! It’ll be hard either way, but if there’s any place I can do it, it would be Chicago.
I won an entry through the lottery. My buddy Alex didn’t get in, so I have to run it by myself. That’s another thing I learned through this whole process, that you have to apply to the lottery to get into the major marathons. I’ve been applying for all of them. I work for American Airlines, so I have pretty easy access to getting around the world. Eventually that’s a goal of mine, to run all six major marathons.
The average marathoner is 40, and I turn 36 in October, so I’ve got some time. I met this guy after a half marathon who was 59 years old. He was telling me how he just started running in his late 40s. That is so incredible to see someone be in that good of shape into your 40s and 50s. It’s one of those things, if you stay healthy, you can do it for a long time. Maybe you get slower. Maybe running gets a little harder, but it’s something you can continue to do well into your 50s and 60s. That’s pretty cool.
Have you overcome your previous injury from training?
Yes and no. I’m getting better at pre-hab and recovery techniques. I have a lot of ice packs, compression boots, a massage gun … and I do a lot of yoga. All of those things that I do now that I didn’t do prior has really helped.
I only have 3.5 weeks left in my training program, and it has gone much, much better. I’m doing pretty much the same as last year, it’s the Hanson’s Marathon Method. Going in last year, the longest I ever ran was 17 miles. I remember during the marathon, running past the 17 mile mark and wondering what was gonna happen. Around mile 20, you really start to see people fall off and start walking. It gave me some anxiety, but I ended up being fine.
You mentioned wanting to run all the world marathons – what other athletic goals do you have?
I’ve kind of shifted toward two paths now because I found that I really enjoy triathlon more than I enjoy just running a lot. Running in a triathlon – it’s almost not the same because you’re trying to run after a bike ride. It’s like survival. But I think I’ll continue to do the shorter staple races, like half marathons. But unless I get into a major marathon, I probably won’t run many more and focus more on IRONMAN.
My goal for next year is to do two 70.3 races and one full IRONMAN. I already signed up for IRONMAN Texas in April. I’m not sure what other one I’ll do. Then IRONMAN Arizona. That’ll be more of my focus.
Triathlon is so enjoyable. In terms of how hard it is, it’s not comparable. It’s just a totally different strategy. You need to have a nutrition plan, and a hydration plan. It’s a lot more involved, and there’s a different community. Plus, it’s good training for the marathons, right? The human body is just incredible. When those professionals go run a full marathon after doing all the swimming and biking, and they still crush me in solo marathon time … I don’t know how they do it, but it’s incredible.
What is it about triathlon that has you hooked?
I like that you can mix it up a little bit, use different muscles and train different disciplines. As much as I enjoy running, triathlon is just more technical. There’s so much more strategy to it. I do think the community is different too. IRONMAN and tri communities are a lot more tight-knit.
And it’s just another challenge, another way to keep pushing yourself. I’ll tell you, the time commitment balloons running – I don’t know how people that have a family find the time to go train. On your long days, on the weekends, you wake up to do a swim, then a long bike, then a 20- to 30-minute run. Your whole day is just training. You feel so accomplished after it too. It’s like, I can’t believe I did that all day. I never stopped moving. That’s basically what every Saturday and Sunday were for my entire 70.3 training program.
Another thing I noticed that’s really cool is that triathlon is literally for anyone. Anyone can do it. It’s not just for the super elite athletes. If you have a plan, and you’re motivated, you can do it. It’s also a very welcoming community. Everyone’s trying to help one another. I’ve been fortunate to have some old high school friends I haven't talked to in decades who met up with me in Chattanooga. They gave me tips and tricks. I leveraged that a lot.
You said you got your first job out of college with American Airlines, and you’re still there today! Tell me about your job and why you enjoy the work you do.
I’m a senior manager in charge of our Supplier Management organization, which is a supply chain role. We manage all of our after-market suppliers that provide aircraft parts to maintain our fleet of aircraft and keep planes in the sky.
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have held five or more roles on various teams throughout my career with American. The people I work with in my team and across the company are amazing! And just the ability to travel around the world and be a part of a company that helps connect people around the world – it feels great. I could go on and on about it, but I love working for American. It’s been my dream job and I’m so extremely fortunate to be part of a great company and team.
Plus you both travel a lot and do a lot of trail work! How did you get involved with that?
I’m a part of an employee business resource group called Living Green at American and I try to be as active as possible. I think it sets a good example for my team and people outside of my organization. It’s a good way to go meet new people around the company, all while getting to travel to cool places and help out local communities.
The one I did recently in Mount Rainier, it was a collection of 30 to 40 American Airlines employees all across the network. We went camping, and for a couple of days you got to meet a bunch of people. I went totally by myself, and everyone I met there was for the first time. I love being out in nature. The National Park Service is amazing to work with.
And what better way to give back, especially if you’re into hiking and outdoors and you’re using these trails. It’s important to maintain them. The National Park Service does a fantastic job too. It’s a lot of fun. Last year I did a clean up Olympic National Park in Washington. It’s a good excuse to get out and enjoy the outdoors and national parks all while trying to help out. And I think the people you meet in doing things and putting yourself out there and taking yourself out of your comfort zone is remarkable, and it’s a big part of the reason why I wanted to become an ambassador.
How did you find Athletic Brewing and the ambassador program?
I quit drinking in May 2019. My twin brother had quit years prior. He always drank the typical NA brews. When I quit, I was like, there has to be something better out there. So I went to Total Wine, and that's when I found Athletic. I was so pumped to be sober. I was posting about all my non alcoholic hauls, trying them all, seeing which ones I liked the best.
First couple of months, I tried like 20 different ones. Athletic was by far my favorite. So I started following all these companies, and I saw the post on Athletic’s social media to go join the group, and it’s history from there. I wasn’t really familiar with what it was gonna be. I wanted to be an advocate for sober curiosity. I’m a pretty avid poster about sobriety and what it’s done for me and my life.
Ever since I quit, my life has completely changed for the better. Athletic has been a big part of that. Just having a good solid option … and I was always a big IPA person, and that’s what Athletic is known for! I was already turning people onto Athletic. So why not be a part of the community, get more involved. I usually set goals every year too, to make sure that I’m posting a lot and volunteering for events. I’ve done three events now. I love it.
I also feel like I see Athletic everywhere. It’s not just non-alcoholic beer; it’s so much more than that for some people. It has really helped people in their journey. I’ve even gotten people that drink normally who want an alternative option during the week.
What are some of your proudest achievements?
Quitting drinking – I think that’s No. 1 for me. I never thought in a million years I would quit because it’s such a thing that is so normal and routine. Quitting drinking changed my mindset completely. It’s easy to be bitter and negative when things aren’t going your way. It takes a lot of humility just to be positive. Since I quit drinking, that mindset has come much easier for me.
Besides that, there are a couple of things. I won in 2019 the American Airlines Chairman’s Award, the highest accolade you can get at American Airlines. They only select 100 people out of about 130,000 per year. You typically have to be nominated by a director or higher, and it goes through a whole committee. That is a very proud moment for me. I worked really hard, and I appreciate that I was recognized for my hard work.
Athletic-wise, I finished my first marathon, finished my first 70.3. Graduating college – making it out of there alive. There’s a lot I want to do in life. I think an ongoing achievement I have is that I continue to foster good relationships with friends and family, and being a kind human, being someone that people of when you’re gone. I think that’s a journey nobody quite finishes at any time, it’s like a way of life. You want to make sure you leave a positive mark on society.
Do you have any bucket list races, events or achievements that you’d like to attain one day?
I would love to do the Boston Marathon, whether I qualify or get in through charity. That definitely would be a bucket list. It’s the most renowned marathon in the world.
What’s your favorite (recovery) food?
After long morning workouts, I always go to Original Chop Shop. It’s a restaurant chain. I get this rice and chicken teriyaki bowl. Basically I love anything with rice, chicken, avocados, veggies. I try to eat as healthy as possible, but I’ll also have a cookie here and there too.
What do you like to do on rest days?
Typically, yoga. I started practicing yoga shortly after I quit drinking. My body needs it. It’s like my physical therapy. Staying flexible and staying loose, and just the mindfulness of it. It helps with clearing your head, and it’s good meditation. And travel. I feel like I've been nonstop training for like the last two years. I try to align my rest days with when I'm going to be flying.
How do you train when you travel so much for work?
I make time for it. I had a conference in New York City just a couple of weeks ago. I was out every morning at 6 a.m. running. It was really awesome. Also a cool thing about traveling a lot is running in different places. I was running around Montreal, D.C. … I make it a priority. You have to. But it’s fun. You see different parts of the city you otherwise would not be able to see. Things look so much different when you’re running around versus driving in a car. You get to really explore. I’ve run in at least seven states this year.
What gets you up and out of bed every day?
Discipline. There’s days that I don't want to get out of bed but I know I have to. I have a whole team at work that is reliant on me, so I like to set a good example and be a good leader. You have your good days, bad days, days you're unmotivated. Even if you're unmotivated, and you maintain that discipline, you usually don’t regret it one bit. If I ever feel unmotivated to go for a run, usually halfway through I’m so thankful I did because I feel so much better.
You have to keep reminding yourself of all the good things that come out of everything you have to do. I always say just do things. Overcome that mentality of not wanting to do something.
What does Fit for All Times mean to you?
I think it’s about feeling good, being comfortable in your skin, your body. You can feel it. It’s about having a sound body and mind and being able to face adversity mentally, emotionally, physically. That’s what it means to be fit for all times. It’s not just physical. There’s a lot of mental benefits that come from exercise and being in good shape, and running and biking and swimming and practicing yoga. All of those things are important for your mental health. When you talk about emotional intelligence, all of those things collide in some way. You have to be ready to deal with those challenges; to be ready and comfortable in all those moments when you face adversity.
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