I’ve been putting off this post for quite some time. After seeing others tell their fitness stories on their own blogs, I’ve finally taken the time to write my own.
I’m not the only one who has noticed a growing fitness trend among my friends on social networks. Mike LaMonica said it best with his post on the activities he’s noticed everyone getting into. There are CrossFit cultists, cyclists, runners and boot-campers flooding my Twitter feed on any given day. I can see how workout-related tweets can come off as pretentious, but for a lot of us, they are the motivation we need in order to make that pit-stop at the gym before heading home from work. It’s certainly made a difference for me as I’ve tried over the past few years to make fitness a bigger part of my life.
Staying in shape during high school was a piece of cake. Between marching band and water polo, sports and extracurriculars did the work for me. In college, the opposite happened and I fell victim to dreaded freshman weight gain, except mine was more than 15 pounds. It wasn’t until my senior year that I got fed up with buying higher sized clothing and thought I’d give running a try.
Even though my “run” was (and still is) more of a jog, I’d make my way around the path outside my apartment building in college when the mood struck, but struggled to make it a part of my daily routine when I moved back home in 2008. After some convincing from my sister, I signed up at the YMCA in June of 2009. Having a gym buddy helped get me there when I didn’t want to go and soon I saw miles accumulate on the treadmill. I was ready to try out a race.
When I finished my first 5K in August of 2009 I instantly fell in love with it. The warm, encouraging atmosphere made my intimidation melt away and I felt like this was something I could do on a regular basis. That day I made it my mission to run at least one 5K race per month for a year — 12 races total. This past July marked my grand finale at the Hemingway Days Sunset 5K in Key West.
Little did I know that in the middle of that year, one of my best friends would challenge me to complete the Disney Princess Half Marathon with her. Thinking it was an impossible feat, I signed up not knowing what to expect from myself. Thanks to miles and miles of practice, Gu energy gels, the Black Eyed Peas, race-day adrenaline and being able to dance while I ran with my friend Christi, we pulled off 13.1 miles in just under 3 hours back in March. Never in a million years did I think I would be able to run for that long or that far without passing out or puking all over the place. To my surprise, we both felt pretty good at the finish line.
After a handful of races, it wasn’t long before I started to get sick of answering the “What was your time?” question. Hearing people ask me that became such a drag. It was a loaded question that somehow negated the fact that I had just run 3.1 miles. It was a bubble-burster.
From day one, all I wanted was to finish, and not in last place. That’s it. Removing the pressure of faster times and longer distances meant that I could still set long term goals for myself without suffering the mental setbacks of having an off-day. Tracking your time day-to-day is like weighing yourself every day when you are trying a new diet. The moment you see a number you don’t want, it’s easy to quit or lose motivation. If you don’t know what you weigh every single day but can feel your clothes getting looser (or your runs getting easier) you must be doing something right. Thanks to my small running victories, I was experiencing both and it felt good.
I still have a few goals I’d like to accomplish. I’d like to run at least one race in under 30 minutes (the closest I’ve come is 32 minutes) and I’m looking forward to completing the Disney Princess Half Marathon again in February. The satisfaction of knowing I’ve made a healthy change in my life is gratification enough for me to keep at it, regardless of what the scale or time clock says. I’m a healthier, happier version of myself and I know I can attribute some of that to the time I that I gift to myself when I run.