My fitness “aha!” moment is actually a journey that began almost a decade ago when I joined two friends in training for a half marathon. We ran that race, and I was so excited to cross the finish line. I thought about my dad, who was at home, preparing our family’s Thanksgiving meal. I thought about how he, fighting a losing battle with Type 2 diabetes, could barely walk, much less run. Powerful, right? I’d love to tell you I continued to run from that day, but the truth is, I didn’t run another race for four years. I did join a gym and began exercising regularly. I recognized that training for the half marathon put me in the best shape of my adult life, and I didn’t want to lose that.
In 2009, while my now husband and I were dating, we ran a few 5k and 10k races together. We weren’t fast, but the goal was to finish, to exercise together, to have fun. We even tackled a half marathon together. We were taking steps to become healthy, but more change was on the horizon. My dad passed away just three months before our wedding, his body shut down system by system because of the diabetes. My dad couldn’t walk me down the aisle because of a disease that was preventable.
After we settled into married life, my husband and I made some drastic diet changes. We signed up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) to make sure we would eat enough vegetables. We reduced the amount of meat we consumed, replacing it with plant-based protein sources. We stopped buying packaged/processed foods and began cooking from scratch. We continued to run and trained for more races. My husband even joined the gym in his office building and began attending yoga and Pilates classes regularly.
A few things happened in result of our changes. We both lost weight, we slept better, and we had more energy, overall. And we ran faster. The half marathon distance that took us almost 2.5 hours to complete in 2009 only took us 1:50 in 2011, even less in 2012. Our 30-minute 5ks shrank to 22-24 minutes in length. Our goal to simply finish shifted into “finish faster.” For me, it went further when I got a tiny taste of winning in November 2011. First place in my age group in a small 5k? Sure, why not? Second place in my age group in a larger 5k a month later? Yes, please. That first win changed something in me. In that moment, despite it being such a tiny race, I felt like an athlete. Not the kind with delusions of grandeur, but in a small-pond, medium-sized fish kind of way. It’s a feeling that’s addicting.
During that time, something clicked. I could be fit, and help others avoid the pain I carried. I would become a personal trainer, to help people get fit, to reclaim their inner athlete. To make sure their children didn’t lose them to a preventable disease. And in the mean time, I continue to run races with my husband. Sometimes it’s to win, and sometimes it’s simply because there’s someone out there who can’t. And I hope to inspire those who can but don’t know it yet.