My “Aha Moment” is a lot more than a moment. It took me several years and several attempts before it finally clicked and I made a change in my lifestyle. I owe a lot of it to my family, mostly my kids. I want them to grow up in a family that values making healthy choices. I want them to see me working hard to achieve my goals. I want them to learn to love being active and fit. I want them to see that exercise, in whatever form you choose, can be fun. I want them to feel the incredible rush that you get when reach your goal after months of hard work. I want them to be happy and the best way I know to ensure that happens is to be a good role model for them.
Way back in high school, I cheered and took tumbling classes. As part of our conditioning, we had to run. On days when our coach was feeling particularly cranky we had to run stadiums and I hated every second of it. One of the gym teachers, who was also the girls track coach, tried to convince me to join the track team. I’m pretty sure I laughed – the idea of running further than I absolutely had to just didn’t appeal to me.
In college, I no longer had anyone telling me I had to run, but I still didn’t enjoy it. I went through a few phases where I’d run pretty consistently for 2-3 weeks, then I’d quit. The times I picked up running usually coincided with the times my college boyfriend and I were fighting. It was a great way to blow off steam when he ticked me off. (Side Note: It’s still a great attitude-adjuster for me. My husband can tell when I’ve missed a run, I get a serious case of cranky pants).
After I graduated from college and met my husband, my running shoes didn’t see the light of day for a while.. a long while. We moved in together, adopted a puppy, bought a house, got engaged and married, adopted another dog.. at the time I thought I was too busy to fit working out into my schedule. Ha! I sometimes wonder what exactly I thought “busy” felt like back then!
After being married for two years, we welcomed our son, Braden, into our family. I was busier than ever and struggling with the demands of being a wife, mom, friend, daughter, sister, employee…I felt like I was constantly being pulled in 10 different directions. I wanted to be one of those moms I saw running with a jogging stroller, I wanted to be fit and healthy. I didn’t want it bad enough though, because I had a million excuses. I was too tired, too stressed, too busy. In hindsight, I was nuts. I know now how much happier I would have been if I’d laced up my shoes back then and carved out just 20 minutes a day for myself. Funny how that works, huh?
Shortly before Braden’s 2nd birthday, we decided we were ready for another baby. With our first, we expected that it would take a while. My doctor told me to expect it to take six months. Imagine our surprise when I was holding a positive pregnancy test after our first month trying. With our second baby, it wasn’t so easy. It took some time and I was really frustrated with my body. I hated that things were out of my control. I wanted so badly to be pregnant again and my body would not cooperate. Three months into trying, I had a meltdown. I needed to have control over something. I needed somewhere to focus my energy, because I was obsessing and it wasn’t healthy. I needed to feel like I was in charge of my body again, so I started Couch to 5k and for the first time in my life, I loved running. Just a few months later, I found myself standing in the bathroom holding another positive pregnancy test and I was beyond excited. After trying for what felt like so long (in hindsight, it was well within the “normal” range) to get pregnant, I was terrified that something would go wrong and I’d miscarry, so I hung up my running shoes again.
I had a wonderful pregnancy and in July 2011 we welcomed our daughter, Mackenzie. My plan was to start running again once she was here, but the baby weight was gone fairly quickly (thank you breastfeeding!) and I wasn’t sleeping much, so it didn’t happen. Mackenzie was a nursing champ and I was starving most of the time, so I ate. And ate. And ate. Fast forward a year, and I was 30 pounds heavier and terribly sleep deprived. After seeing pictures from Mackenzie’s first birthday party, I told my husband something had to give. I needed to start taking care of myself so that I could continue to take care of my family. I finally had my “Aha Moment”.
I started Couch to 5k again in August and quickly fell in love with running. Instead of being something that I had to do, running was something that I did for me. I feel strong, healthy, empowered. It’s the one thing in my life that is just for me. I control how far and how fast I go. I decide where to run and what to listen to. It’s the one part of my day where I’m just me and I don’t have to worry about what anyone else needs or wants. Maybe that sounds selfish, but it’s hard to keep an optimistic outlook on life when you’re spending all of your time and energy doing things for other people.
That’s not to say that I just bail on my family when I decide I want to run. That’s hardly the case! My husband is also a runner and we’re both on training schedules right now, so it’s a very delicate balancing act making sure we both get our runs in while keeping our little ones happy and healthy, keeping the house from falling apart, working full time, and trying to have a social life. I’ve just changed the way I look at working out — instead of it being something that I have to find time for in my day, now it is just part of my day. I don’t make excuses, I plan out my day with my workouts included. Just like we need to eat to keep our bodies healthy, I run to keep my body and mind healthy. I found that when I changed the way I thought about running, it became much easier.
In October 2011, I finished the Couch to 5k program and I decided that I wanted to shoot for longer distances. I know myself, I need a goal to keep me motivated. Since then, I’ve finished two half marathons, two 10k’s, a handful of 5k’s, and I’m registered for my first marathon! I’m back at my pre-baby weight, down 30 pounds from my wedding weight, and so much happier.
If you told me last summer that I’d be here today, I would have never believed you. I never thought that I could be a distance runner, that I could be the mom out every Saturday morning pushing the jogging stroller and smiling at others as we cross paths. I think that’s why it feels so good when I cross a finish line – I know that I worked hard, I challenged myself, and I succeeded. I did what I thought was impossible.
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