Friday, August 30, 2013

I lost 140 quarter pounders

That might seem like an odd thing to say but I'm sure it creates quite the visual.  Close your eyes and picture 140 quarter pounders stacked up like little sentinels ready for battle.  That's how much weight I've lost so far.  The equivalent of 140 quarter pounders.  When you hear 35 pounds it may not seem like much but to have that comparison really makes you appreciate just how much weight that is.

Back in April the company I work for hosted a "Biggest Loser" competition.  There were pretty substantial cash prizes for the top 3 "losers" in both total weight lost and percentage.  It was free to enter and they even offered a credit towards gym memberships so I figured I had nothing to lose but the pounds.  I started by changing small things here and there in my diet, nothing drastic.  The progress was slow but I was happy with that.  By the end of the first month I had lost 10 pounds.  I noticed a significant difference in the way I felt and how my clothes fit.  It sparked a fire to work harder for my results.  I started running more and doing some home work outs with resistance bands.  At the end of the second month I had shed another 10 pounds with changes in my body that were even noticeable to those around me.  Now I was also finally able to make it into the top 5 for total pounds lost so things got serious.  I joined a gym and became much more aware of the things I ate and drank.  When all was said and done I lost about 25 pounds but it wasn't enough to take home any of the prizes.  As much as I was disappointed about not winning, I was still ecstatic to have lost so much weight in a relatively short amount of time.

Since then I've been able to say goodbye to another 10 pounds which has dramatically changed my health.  For me it was never about the way I looked or how much I weighed.  I just wanted to be healthy and part of that was how it would enhance my athletic ability as a runner.  My very first race was a 5k and took me close to an hour.  I'm still not a speed demon, but I've been able to get my time down to about 40 minutes.  The biggest victory was that I'm finally able to get through an entire race without taking a break to walk.  This may not sound like a big deal, but for me this milestone was a huge success.  Now I can even get through an entire 10k without taking any breaks.  It's a great feeling.  For those of you struggling with your weight, take it one day at a time. Those pounds didn't appear overnight and it will take hard work to get rid of them. It won't be easy, but it will definitely be worth it. Try to focus on the non scale victories like fitting into an old pair of jeans you used to love. The scale can sometimes be deceiving of your true progress so its good to look at other markers of success. For as long as I can remember I've never been considered a "healthy weight" by those doctor charts, but I've run a half marathon this year and finished a triathlon so maybe those charts don't know everything. It's about how you feel and your own progress. Start with small changes so it doesn't feel like you're giving up everything you love. I started by drinking half my weight in ounces of water every day and walking a lot. Walking will lead to running or something else you enjoy and you can build your way up to more exercise. It's a journey, so don't get discouraged when you hit the road blocks, have faith that those are just stepping stones to reach higher ground. For me, running is a huge part of my weight loss journey.  Looking forward to the next race keeps me focused and motivated to stay on track. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Power of Positive Energy

I’m a firm believer that when you put positive vibes out into the world they come back to you in spades.  For instance, try going a whole day without complaining.  Not even once.  Just take things in stride and see how different you feel by the time you lay down to go to sleep.  I know it’s a lot easier said than done, but it’s helped me to appreciate my days so much more and I have far less stress.  This goes the same for actively emitting good energy with everything you do.  After finishing my first half marathon I was so thankful for the experience that I had to thank all the people who helped me get there.  I sent an email to the woman from Xsport who gave me a free race registration code, the president of my company for encouraging employees to get healthy by sponsoring different races and a biggest loser competition; I even emailed New Balance to say thanks for making such great shoes.  It sounds silly, but the thought of potentially making someone smile with just a quick email made me happy.  I heard back from ALL of them.  The woman from Xsport wrote me a long heartfelt email that brought me to tears, the president of my company called me personally to congratulate me and New Balance offered me a spot as a product tester.  I wasn’t expecting ANY of that to happen, but there it was. 

That same week I was telling my coworkers that I thought a good challenge for my next race would be a triathlon.  Literally that same day when we got back from lunch there was an email from our company asking if anyone wanted a free entry for the Chicago Lifetime Triathlon.  I threw my name into the pool on the off chance that I might get picked and a few hours later got a confirmation that I was chosen as one of the 3 athletes to represent Perl Mortgage on race day.  A small panic set in when I realized I had about a month to train for 3 individual sports, 2 of which I hadn’t done in years.  Some orders on amazon, a few early birthday gifts and a trip to the cycle shop later, I had a new bike, wet suit, tri suit, and pretty much all of the gear I would need.  Luckily I have some triathlete friends who gave me pointers and helped me train. 

The energy on race day was unlike anything I had ever felt before.  I could barely eat that morning as my nerves really got the best of me.  Setting up transition with a flashlight before the sun came up was so surreal.  I did the best I could, mostly just tossing things together with a lick and prayer, hoping for a miracle.  A funny thing happened when I actually started the race, it was like the second I hit that freezing cold lake water it washed away everything and I was left with just the buoy ahead of me telling me where to go.  I survived the swim and headed back to transition to grab my bike for the next leg of the race.  This part is still a sore subject since it was so rough for me.  I really struggled with the part I thought would be the easiest for me.  It took me almost 30 minutes longer to complete the bike than I had done in training.  I had to keep reminding myself the important thing was to just finish.  Once I got to the run portion I was golden.  I was able to just relax and enjoy my favorite of the 3 sports.  My family and friends were there at the finish line to cheer me on to the grand finale of my triathlon debut.  As I sprinted across the finish line I was overflowing with happiness and couldn’t stop smiling.  So now that I’ve had a few days to recover, it’s time to start writing those thank you notes again and see where they take me this time!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Running is punishment

I played sports my whole life. You would think running should come easy to me right? False. The only thing that group sports taught me was that running is punishment. You mess up in practice, you're running laps. I spent the first 26 years of my life believing that running was only the result of two things: being chased, or being punished. 

Last year, for my birthday, my best friend Jacob convinced me to sign up for a 5k race. He was really excited about it and didn't want to do it alone. I hated running but I loved my friend so I reluctantly agreed. We went for one run together and I thought I was going to die. He had been training and I had been lazy. Race day came and the excitement drowned out any doubts or fears I had that day. I could barely make it through the first mile at a light jog. The rest of the race was a mix of walking, jogging, and complaining. I was out of shape and it was a struggle. Eventually I finished, and by some grace of God wasn't the last one to do so. It made me realize that a change had to come. That day I made a promise to myself to do at least one 5k race a month. Little did I know how much that one small promise would lead to.

 Slowly but surely, each month came and another race was checked off my list. Jacob joined me for the first follow up to my debut and so did Abby which got her hooked. The next month Jacob was off at school, but Abby and her husband Johnny joined me for our first race of the new year. February was tricky because noone really wanted to run in the snow, but I didn't want to break my promise to myself so I bundled up tight and ran through the blizzard on Superbowl Sunday. I did the next couple races by myself and enjoyed the freedom of running at my own pace.

 Six months into my journey I was so excited that I wanted those closest to me to get involved too. I convinced my mom to do a 5k run with me for Mother’s day and she loved it! That same month I also tackled my first 5 mile race (it was Cinco de Mayo themed and I just couldn’t pass it up). By June I finished my first obstacle/mud run and was completely hooked. Those of you who are runners know what I mean, and those of you who think you should only run when you’re being chased, well, I was one of you less than a year ago.

Last month, completely by accident and a stroke of good fortune, I signed up for the Chicago Rock’N’Roll half marathon. I didn’t think I would even finish but I was eager to at least try and see how far I could make it. Each mile I kept wondering if that was the one where my body would just give out and I would have to get carried to the finish line in the medic van. I never gave up, just kept pushing myself to make it one more mile, and finally when I made it across that finish line I realized that everything I needed I already had inside myself. I can’t even describe the feeling of pure elation when you find yourself at the finish line of a race that you never even thought you would start. All those excuses I kept giving myself just faded away and I proved to myself that I was my own biggest obstacle in reaching my goals.

Over this past weekend I took things to a whole new level...I conquered my first triathlon. I wasn't trying to win, or even set some kind of personal record, I just wanted the opportunity to cross that finish line. That’s pretty much how I approach all of my races, it’s a journey and I am my only competition. To be better than I was yesterday, because whether I’m the first or last person to get there, the finish line is the same.