One of the topics that we've started talking about as a group is the concept of just getting started. It's a perfect time of year to start living this balanced life. We all have a ":my beginning" story... and I don't know that I've ever shared mine.
Throughout my childhood, I was always active. I played basketball, softball, and soccer. I took dance classes. I ran track (briefly... in middle school). I loved spending my days running around the neighborhood, riding my bike and rollerblading. When I went got to middle school and high school, I focused on basketball and soccer. I was the captain of our freshman and jv basketball team for two years and a three year varsity letter recipient in soccer. I ended up quitting my senior year due to some conflicts with the coach (aka, he was a jerk and I was a 17 year old who thought she knew better... which I probably did). I continued playing club soccer for the next year. When I went to college, I ended up playing soccer for our school's team my freshman year. But going into my sophomore year, we had a coaching change which scared me away, as well as a full class load as a bio-chem major. See, at my school, you missed games and practices for classes, not the other way around. I would have missed most of my season. And that's when I stopped being active. Completely stopped.
By the time I graduated in 2002, I had gained about 35 pounds. At the time, my mom was going through an amazing transformation of her body through weight watchers and one afternoon, while at their house, my dad told me I looked chunky.
That's all it took.
I know that he loved me unconditionally, but his always tall, lanky, athletic little girl had let herself go and it was showing. So I joined weight watchers. I learned about portions, and the value of eating more balanced food (I loved weight watchers in that I could eat what I wanted, but I know that I had more points to spend, the better I ate). By January of 2003, I had lost about 25 of those pounds that I had gained in college and decided I needed something else to keep me going.
I signed up for a half marathon - I just wanted to walk it. This wasn't anything that anyone in my family had ever done. But my mom had been walking with her weight watcher partner and they had signed up to walk a half that April. She was my inspiration. She had changed her life and I was on the way to doing the same. So I slowly started training.
I lived with my sister in a condo that had a gym. So I went to the treadmill. I was always alone in the gym so I'd put on MTV and walk. I eventually decided to try to run. I remember the first time, setting the treadmill to maybe 5.5 and "jogging". I was gasping for air, convinced that I had asthma or something because of the burning in my lungs. That lasted about a minute. I walked some more. Each day I added more and more running, increasing not only the distance, but also the speed. Before I knew it, I was running at a constant 10:00/mile pace for a mile... then two... then three. My mind started to change and I decided that I wouldn't just walk my first half marathon, but that I would do a run/walk program.
Then I met my Tom. He was a football player turned marathon runner. I told him about my goals to run/walk the half and he totally supported me. He didn't know the "old" me, the overweight me. He only knew what I told him I had worked through, and saw my potential. He challenged me to run the half. And I did just that in April (totally to impress him). I crossed the finish line in 2:11:00 - exactly a 10:00 mile. I was over the moon.
I called Tom that night and told him what I had accomplished. Instead of telling me how great it was (well he did that too of course), but he simply said "let's run a marathon together". A what? There was no way that I could double what I had just done that day. But he reminded me that it takes baby steps, exactly like it did to go from gasping for air when I first started training to running the half. I was on board.
For the next 6 months, we trained together and in October 2003, we crossed the finish line together, holding hands, of the Chicago Marathon. I cried and said "I will never do that again".
Ironman distance races. I've won races, and my age group, and I've joined a team. I tell everyone I can about my passion because it's not just a hobby, it's who I am, it's what I love. It's become my LIFESTLYE.
People have questioned my love of triathlon. I've lost friends over it. They didn't "get" why I would choose a hundred mile bike ride over "pool days" with the girls and margarita nights. They didn't see that I balanced that... I could do those things AND the things I loved. My family has come to learn that I need to get a workout in to feel good, to be happy, to get my day going. You might want to be cuddled up on the couch (and I most likely want to do that too), but I'll do it after a swim, or a bike, or a run. That's just me.
This lifestyle has changed me. I've grown to be more confident in my skin (and I'll be the first to admit that I'm not 100% there, but I'm working on it). I love challenges and pushing my own limits. I know that my body can do things that most people doubt. I have learned that the words "I'll never do that again" are usually replaced with "when can I do that again".
Thinking back to when I started, here are my 7 things that changed my life:
- Start small - don't make a goal that might be attainable, but will frustrate you if you don't hit right away. I started with losing 5 pounds. Then 10 pounds. Then 10%. Then 20 pounds. I ran for 1 minute, than 2, then upped my speed to 5.6, and 5.7. If you start and say "I'm going to run 5 miles today", you won't.
- Reward yourself when you hit small milestones, but with things other than food - if you ran more in a 30 minute workout that you walked, splurge one something like a new running top or maybe a pedicure. Something that is going to motivate you to keep moving. Food rewards only sets you back.
- Tell people about your goals. Everyone that I knew, knew that I was on weight watchers. They knew that I was signed up for the half. And I asked them to check on me so that I was accountable. No need to be embarrassed of where you are starting... we all have to have a "beginning".
- Don't worry about looking funny. I remember being so happy that my gym was empty because I was a big girl trying to run and I'm sure it wasn't pretty. But thinking back, I would have done it if the gym was busy. I had every right to be there. I still look funny when I run (I run with my thumbs up). But whatever... I'm telling everyone that I'm awesome... that's why I do it!
- Be patient. It took me a long time for my lungs to stop burning. And it took me a long time before I could run a mile. And then before I could run two miles. It took me months to lose 35 pounds. It's not a fast process...
- Along with #5, don't compare yourself to others. It's hard to do when someone in a similar situation to you (or so you think) is skinnier, faster, stronger, etc. than you. You don't know their story, their "beginning" and you don't know how hard they've worked to get there. Just focus on you, your accomplishments and remember that's all that matters.
- Keep smiling... even when it gets hard, and it will, fake it till you can make it. There are days when I wanted to give up. There are days I still want to give up. But I choose to do these things. If I do them with a scowl, it's because I'm not enjoying it. And if you don't enjoy it, why do it? Find something that makes you smile and stick with that!
If you want to be involved with the FitFluential community, come join as a FitFluential Enthusiast - FitFluential is open to everyone who is passionate about fitness and living a healthy lifestyle.