Three years ago when I was visiting my parents (who live out of state) as I do every summer. My father, who is diabetic, is never without a diet Pepsi in his hand (going through about 20 a day) now has to give himself shots for a disease that just a few years ago his doctors told him could be controlled with diet and exercise. Was this my future? I knew then something had to change. I scheduled a physical the week I returned. My doctor told me I could stand to lose a few pounds (she was being gracious) and was concerned that some of my other issues, like insomnia, lack of energy, and depression were exacerbated by my lack of activity.Things had to change.
This isn’t the story of a girl who grew up active and fell off the bandwagon after college. I wasn’t ever an athletic kid. I didn’t grow up in an athletic family. I really had no idea where too start. Team sports were daunting and I joined a gym with good intentions, but never got up the guts to go. What I did have in my favor is location. I live within walking distance of two state parks and the Appalachian trail is just a quick drive from my house. So I started hiking. My dogs were especially happy with this new routine. I loved it.
Something inside me just sort of clicked after several weeks of hiking. If I can walk and hike, I thought, I can run. So, like Forrest Gump, I started running. Well, it wasn’t quite that epic. The first time out I ran about a tenth of a mile and walked another four. But I kept going. We had a treadmill in the basement that I dusted off. I started making deals with myself while watching shows on the DVR. Walk during the show, run through the commercials. Soon, I was running through the show and walking during commercials. Finally, without really realizing it, I broke a personal record and ran six miles in 1 hour. SIX MILES! The girl who never thought of herself as athletic was running.
Now I was confident enough to try out some 5Ks. There was a zombie run and a few mud runs. Then I got the crazy idea to run a half marathon -- not an actual organized event, I wasn’t ready for that. Instead, I mapped out a route locally and after about two months of training, got out there to tackle those 13.1 miles. There was some walking, there was lots of sweat, and it wasn’t pretty, but I did it. Such an amazing feeling to know that my body, the one I had spent most of my life feeling uncomfortable in, was now strong -- strong enough to tackle some pretty incredible challenges.
But pride (and a smaller waistline) weren’t the only benefits I’d noticed. I was sleeping better, I had more energy, and I’d found an alternative to eating my feelings. There is nothing like coming home from an especially stressful day and running until I can’t run anymore. My last physical turned up great numbers - all the numbers that used to be of concern are now well in the normal range. I am not the fastest or the most graceful runner. Any sort of physical activity seems to turn my face a lovely shade of tomato red and I sweat like it’s my job. Somedays I walk more than I run, but I still get out there. Judging myself against the progress of others is something I let go of long ago, instead I focus on how far I’ve come. I am strong and I am a runner. Something I couldn’t have imagined three years ago is now something I can’t imagine ever being without.
Danielle has been a high school English teacher 14 years and a geek her whole life. When she’s not out running or hiking, she can usually be found lost in a book. You can follow her literary and school related adventures and misadventures on twitter (@MyMercurialMuse) or on her blog (www.MyMercurialMusings.com).