Over the past several months, I have received many emails, messages, and calls asking me for advice on running, dieting, weight loss and exercising. Anyone that knew me in high school, or even college, would find this ironic. I never exercised and I was never overly-conscious of what I was eating. However, I have been on quite a transformational journey over the last several years and most recently, a journey of inner-endurance and willpower. So, here's your one stop shop to hearing my story of transformation. (In order to do so, I have to be honest and vulnerable in sharing both the triumphs and the failures that composed this change, inside and outside.)
Three, almost four, years ago, I went through a very abusive divorce. It was occurring at a crossroads in my life, as I was also transitioning from a Language Content Development Project Manager into the role of a Cardiac Registered Nurse. If that wasn't enough, I was studying for my Board Examination, mentoring a group of junior high youth at my church, and simultaneously enrolling and beginning my graduate studies to become a Master's Prepared Nurse Leader. Looking back on this transition, I'm not sure how my stress level did not kill me. I struggled for a year on finding purpose and peace. I wasn't okay with not being okay. I was not happy with my emotional or spiritual well-being. In January of 2012, the small group that I had been connected with the preceding August would not take any more of my discontent. They challenged me to enjoy being me. I spent one of the sweetest summers learning what it meant to be happy and to live among those friends that loved me not just because of my flaws, but because of how my flaws were changing me.
In the fall of 2012, after having worked as a cardiac registered nurse for over a year and dealing with some scary health issues within my own family, I realized that I could not continue to live a lifestyle where I was content with being overweight or unhealthy. No longer was I unhappy because I had lost a sense of who I was in my marriage, but now I was unhappy because I knew if I didn't change the way I lived physically, I wouldn't live long enough to truly enjoy being happy in any other capacity
My job as a cardiac nurse also helped to push me toward a lifestyle change. After hours of teaching a very sick woman about why she couldn't smoke and eat fried chicken every day and still have a healthy heart, I realized how frustrated I was with her, but also how I was really talking to myself when I was teaching her. I didn't smoke or eat fried chicken every day, but I certainly didn't eat carrots and drink water every day, either. So, I got on a treadmill and before I could even process all my thoughts and frustrations, I had run one mile.
That's how it started. I increased distance over time, no more than 10% a week, however. I did this until I reached three miles—a personal goal I had set in my mind. At three miles, I told myself, "I'm not tired, why stop here?" I didn't really even know what was beyond three miles. To me, it had always been a scary abyss that only psycho, fit freaks attempted. Three miles became four, four miles became six, six miles became nine miles, and nine miles became 13.1 miles. And soon enough, I became one of those psycho, fit freaks! After each workout, I was more energized than when I started. Sweating almost made me detox all the negative energy that was bottled up inside of me
. All the frustrations from a failed relationship, all the patients apathetic toward their health, all the discontent both spiritually and emotionally within me, and a genuine desire to beat my own goals, fueled every first step onto a treadmill. And friends, the first step into your shoes and onto your exercise machine will ALWAYS be the hardest, even if you're no longer a rookie
The treadmill eventually led to a gravel path and then a concrete road. My runs became stronger and faster, increasing both in frequency and endurance. Realizing that running required an intentional lifestyle change, I found myself changing sleeping and eating habits to support such a vigorous routine
. Working 12-hour days and then running four miles afterwards wouldn't be healthy if I didn't eat the correct foods. I found myself consuming more calories to keep up with the calories burned. Even still, I lost weight. As exercising continued, I found myself craving peppers and hummus over potato chips and yogurt over cookies. My flesh yearned for healthy snacks. If I ever ate french fries or foods high in fat content, I became sick for days because my body had detoxed itself from these types of food items. Along with food, I realized that I needed to consume more water. With sweating so much, I couldn't keep up with the amount of water I needed. Also, I was tired, in a really good way now, but still lacking in beauty sleep. Falling asleep has never been an issue for me, but I gained energy and strength in running when I added just 1-2 hours of sleep each night.
In January of 2013, I had the opportunity to hike in the Southeast Asian jungles of Myanmar. Living on such a simple diet, and using my own two feet as transportation, I received a new perspective on a simple way of living. This trip emotionally prepared me for the journey of weight loss and exercise in the sense that I lived on so little, and was able to appreciate even the most complex situations with only the bare minimum.
In March of 2013, I decided that I needed a 30 before 30 list. On this list, I chose to add #16: Run a Disney World Marathon. I set out to run the Walt Disney World Marathon in January 2014. Some of the goals along the way were smaller races, including the Walt Disney World Wine and Dine Half Marathon in November 2013. Having these goals helped keep me accountable, especially when they were outrageously expensive. That's how I got to where I am now, mentally, physically, and emotionally preparing for the biggest weekend of my life thus far—the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge (39.3 miles).
My successes and failures can and have motivated others, which in return continues to motivate me
. My biggest advice is: be real with yourself. Being real with others will soon follow. Share your journey with others
. Those that matter in your journey will encourage and support you in your endeavor. Those that don't matter may judge you. Do not allow this to discourage you; use it as fuel!
Everyone is capable of so much more than they realize. Allow yourself to take the risk and see how much more you can actually accomplish. You'll soon realize it's more than you ever thought possible.