My Journey from unhealthy to the better happier me
Sitting in the office waiting for my doctor, I already knew she was going to bring up my weight gain again: I gained another 10 pounds. Finally, she knocked on the door and came in, her look of disapproval had my stomach sinking. “Kelly, if you don’t learn how to control your diet you will be giving yourself insulin in addition to Rachel. Who will take care of her diabetes if you’re not around?” This was my wakeup call. Yes, I have an amazing support system in my husband, but could he be successful all alone? Did I want to chance it? Was losing weight and be healthy so hard to obtain? I was going to find out.
Following my appointment, I went directly to the YMCA and signed up for a membership. Now what? I started by trying out the treadmill, elliptical, swimming, and weights. Nothing held my attention, how was I going to succeed if it felt like so much extra work? In talking with one of my girlfriends she told me about a class at the Y she was loving, Zumba. She said, “You adore dancing, so I bet you will also enjoy this.”
I met up with Jess the next night to try a Zumba class, though I didn’t hold much hope that it would be my key to success. When class started, the music was pumping and the instructor began moving, her smile and movements where contagious. When she cooled us down 50 minutes later I couldn’t believe I had just worked out for an hour it didn’t feel like working out. It felt like a dance party. My clothes were drenched, but I felt good. I had found my workout. I started attending class 3 to5 times a week trying out all the different instructors at the Y. After three weeks I had lost 5 pounds and I was excited, I knew I had found the start to my healthier me. Jess and I continued to meet for Zumba but also walked 3 times a week on the treadmill. It was like our “coffee hour”. There was one day I saw Jess running on the treadmill and I was very envious. I had always wanted to run but my asthma prevented it (according to my doctors). I explained this to Jess and she suggested trying it one minute at a time, and if I found that I couldn’t breathe, then they were right. Then she pointedly asked me: what is the harm in trying 1 minute at a time? She was right one minute at a time was the way to go!
I downloaded the Couch to 5K program in October of 2011 and started following it faithfully. In early November my family encouraged me to sign up for my first 5K that they were all running. I was nervous and thought, “How will I do this? I’m only on week 3 of the program and running up to 5 minutes at a time.” My cousin, who is an avid runner, also encouraged me to sign up see how it goes. So against my own better judgment, I signed up. Race day came in early December and I wasn’t at the point in the program where I could run the whole 5k but I was going to do my best. I was able to run almost the entire 5k! It took my about 50 minutes to complete but I did it. At this point I had lost 25 pounds and was feeling like a new woman but I know I had more work to do.
Next step in my journey: nutrition. I had spent most of my adult life educating others about healthy diets for themselves or their loved ones living with diabetes but I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching. “Lead by example” became my new mantra. I started setting mini-goals for myself such as if I lost x amount of weight I could do or buy something special. One of the smartest mini goals I made was when I lost 60 pounds I decided I would go for my Zumba license so I could help others exercise and be healthier. When I had lost 50lbs I signed up for my instructor training. One of my proudest moments on this journey was feeling confident in my own skin to demonstrate all the Latin dance moves I learned for my Zumba instructor test. I was licensed to teach in early 2012.
Since then, I have kept my promise to myself, my family and to others. 2012 brought me a year of firsts. I taught my first solo Zumba class, I joined a running club, and I tried a distance longer than a 5K. I decided to join the Wicked Running Club because I wanted to find a running partner to help me become faster and more consistent with my running. What I found was a family. Our color is red and when you put on that red shirt for the first time you right away feel like part of the club, and you usually meet a few members at a race. In reality, what joining Wicked has done is opened the door for everyone in the club to offer encouragement on this journey. There is no better feeling in the world than coming around the bend to a sea of red screaming and cheering you in. You feel unstoppable. Having a running community at your fingertips allows you to meet up with training buddies with the same pace or goals. The running community welcomed me with open arms and I have been a permanent fixture ever since. I now lead a training group through Wicked called “The Slowest Runner Sets The Pace”. We meet several times a week and I will happily run with whoever my slowest runner is. It is empowering to help someone else accomplish their running goals. I have been lovingly named the “Queen of the Slowest Runners”, which is a title I take very seriously. I believe that any runner, no matter their pace, is destined for their own greatness whatever that may be.
Through my work with the Slowest Runners I accomplished things this year I never thought I could: I trained and ran my first ultra marathon of 30 miles. When I received a race entry into Ghost train an ultra-marathon I said, “Thank you, but I can’t run this. I have never run more than a ½ marathon.” However, I’m not a quitter and I love challenges so I decided (after a time) to think about it. As I thought about it, I realized that I COULD do this. Next, came finding other crazy runners willing to join me in this quest. I found an amazing training partner, Sandy, which helped me achieve my goal.
Sandy and I started our training 8 months before the big day. We ran through most of the North Shore and sometimes in New Hampshire as well. We even went on vacation together to stay on track. (When race day came we found we had something else in common; we over pack! Good thing our husbands love us and were willing to be our race support.)
As we stepped up to the start line we were so excited and nervous at the same time. The race started and we were on our way. Just as in our training we decided to document the miles with selfies. We found out fast that we didn’t have enough fingers to correspond with the miles completed and take the photos but we were laughing and enjoying the adventure. We had two fifteen mile loops to complete our goal of 30 miles. When we came in from our first 15 miles we where wet from rain but in good spirits. Our friend and fellow runner, Patty, ran us in for the last quarter mile. She gave us just the right amount of motivation to keep us going. Our husbands gave us big hugs and kisses and wished us luck on our next loop. We were still having fun and laughs as the miles kept adding up. As we were heading towards the final miles and dusk was setting in my Aunt Ann was heading back out for her third loop. She provided words of encouragement and told us how proud she was of us for completing this race. We now had the end in sight and our pace was speeding up. We saw our husbands and I started to get so excited and emotional we had finished! Together Sandy and I had tackled Ghost Train, which meant that we can now call ourselves Ultra-Marathoners. Our husbands wrapped us in their arms and told us how proud they were. To this day this remains my favorite race and I can’t wait to try it again next year.
Running and Zumba have become integral parts of my journey to healthier living. What’s important is finding the regimen that works for you and sticking to it. For some, like me, the social aspect is key. But for others, it’s getting into the routine. For everyone, though, this is about making a commitment to yourself and going on a journey to find what works. It wasn’t easy getting here… but it’s what gets me up in the morning, literally!