Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Day I Changed My Life

Two years ago I walked into a doctor's office and changed my life. Literally. It's something I've been thinking a lot about in the past few weeks and I finally decided to just write it all down in order to help me think through how much has changed. So, this is gonna be a long one. Be warned.

I've struggled with weight for most of my life, trying a wide variety of diets and going through phases when I'd work out a lot. Some of these had at least temporary success, but nothing ever really stuck. So, I suppose in reality I my life changed when I made the doctor's appointment. This particular doctor specializes in weight loss and a coworker of mine had been having great success with them and I figured it was worth a try. Can't hurt, might help, right?!

On the day of the appointment, I'd just come back from celebrating my 40th birthday with a huge group of family and friends in the mountains of Colorado where we spent our time sledding and snowshoeing and playing silly games. It was a better weekend than I could have even asked for. Strangely enough, I didn't even think about the fact that in just a couple of days I'd probably be put on a diet. And on that day, I just walked in like I was going to any other appointment. Maybe it was better that way and maybe it's an indication that I really was in the right frame of mind to start this journey.
Snowshoeing with the family for my 40th.

I will spare you the details of everything we talked about during that visit, but I knew right away that this was going to be different. That I was going to be different. They took blood and asked questions and did put me on a "diet" but all with the focus on making changes I could live with. When I went back for my first follow up, I'd lost 13 lbs. And progress continued from there. Not always in so dramatic a fashion, but a few pounds at a time, day by day and week by week. A metabolic disorder was discovered and corrected, meal plans were tweaked according to what worked and what didn't. And gradually I learned how to eat in a way that is healthy and sustainable long term.

After a few months just focusing on dietary changes, I knew I wanted to also add in some additional activity. I already walked my boxer, Malu, daily, but it wasn't far and it wasn't vigoruos. So, at first, I just started walking. I would go further and further until soon, on weekend days, I was walking up to 6 miles. At that point I decided I wanted to start running. I don't know why. Any of you who know me well will know that I've never been a runner. Hated it, in fact. But I was determined. So, I signed up for The Color Run 5k because I knew I needed the motivation and I downloaded a couch to 5k program. The first day, when it was hard for me to run the 1 minute without feeling like I would die, I didn't think I'd ever make it to that race. But I did. The first time I had a run that was so good that I got what people were talking about when they said they get a runner's high, I almost cried right there, running down the street. I had become a runner. A very slow one, but a runner all the same.

My first race actually ended up being the Lozilu 5k mud run that I did with 5 other women. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Some of those obstacles were pushing the limits for me. But it showed me that I could do more than I think I can and that it really is addicting to conquer something difficult. 

After the mud run

One of the most wonderful things through all of this has been the wonderful support of my friends and family. At our family reunion in August of 2013, a whole group of us cousins and siblings got up early on a few of the mornings just so they could all join me for my training runs. Some of my immediate family even came to St. Louis to participate in The Color Run with me.

With Stella, Michael and Ben

My Mama and I

Even my dad participated in the craziness

With Torsten and Corrie after we finished the run

I've been fortunate enough to have friends who also love to run, and have made others in the process. There are 4 of us who often run races together and then go for brunch and Bloody Mary's together afterwards. Not sure we always run off the number of calories that we eat, but we have fun in any case. Last year, on my birthday, we ran a 6K together in the freezing cold. Who knew I'd ever think it would be fun to celebrate by running? 

Michael, Me, Robin and Nik at the Stan Musial Memorial Bride 6K

And last May, at the urging of my brother, who said he'd run it with me if I was willing, I got to run the Bolder Boulder 10K. I ran it with friends and family and even more family cheering for us. It was a wild and crazy race and we're all signed to rock it again this year. Can't wait!

China, Seth, Me & Shira

Me and Phoebe

All told, I've now run 8 races from a 5K distance up to a 15K. And I'm signed up for a 5 miler and a 7K next month, the Bolder Boulder again this year and planning to register for and run my first 1/2 Marathon at the MO' Cowbell in September. Who am I?!?!

Of course, along with running, often comes the common running injuries. And I've managed to deal with a few of them so far. Shin splints, plantar fasciitis, knee issues...of course, the knee actually originated with a biking incident on the brand new bike I bought after my birthday. Let's just say that my first experience with clipless pedals (why are they called clipless when they actually do have clips???) did not go well. Completely different than clipping in and out of a stationary bike in spin class, let me tell you. And I have the orthopedist bills to prove it. I ended up missing a couple of races all together and having to jump from the 1/2 Marathon to the 5K in another because I just hadn't been able to train enough after recovery. But those injuries have forced me to be creative sometimes to find ways to exercise that wouldn't make the injuries worse. I've discovered that I love spinning. Its a brutal workout but for some reason, I just keep going back for more. And now, I'm loving high intensity interval workouts. I leave the classes feeling like I've gotten my ass kicked, but it sure makes me work harder than if I just trudge along on the treadmill on my own! And while I always enjoyed hiking and walking, I now think about those kinds of activities as a good way to relax and unwind. Vacations aren't just times to sit around now, but opportunities for me to spend more time out and moving. 

When my mom asked me what I wanted to do this summer while I was visiting them, my answers were all involved with hiking and trying out a stand up paddle board and going white water rafting. 

SUP on the Little Tennessee River in Franklin, NC
And for my birthday this year, I thought I'd better carry on the active tradition, since I showshoed 2 years ago and ran a race last year. So, this year, a couple of friends and I went hiking. 

Me, Julie and Jen hiking at Rockwoods Reservation. 
Notice I'm even wearing the lei my parents sent to me for my birthday

Sure, I still enjoy sitting with a good book and my feet up. But now I think about how I can spend a couple of hours being active and still have time for the lazy stuff too. I don't know why the time was right for this shift in thinking. All I know is that when I look back to who I was 2 years ago, I'm amazed at the different mindset. I'll never be the super skinny person or the talented athlete. And I'm perfectly fine with that. I don't need to run the fastest or the longest, but now, I look forward to challenging myself to do a little more, go a little faster if I can, try something new that my put me outside of my comfort zone. And the process, I've managed to lose around 90 lbs! Not too shabby. I've got more I'd like to get off, but it'll come off eventually.

In the meantime, I'm having a blast living this new life of mine.