Sunday, March 31, 2013

"Shuffling On" to a Happy, Healthy Future!

Happy Easter!! I can't believe it's been over a year since I last posted on here. I really enjoyed keeping up with it when I first started, but then I got away from it for a while. Since then, my passion for running has remained the same--I've completed five full marathons, eleven half marathons, two 15Ks, and 8 5Ks since starting this journey about 19 months ago--but a lot of other things have changed. For starters, I was offered new job as a kindergarten aide last September, which increased my work hours, and two weeks ago, I began a new job as a preschool teacher for the Elmhurst Park District. It is so exciting to have this opportunity and finally be working as a teacher, but again, it has drastically changed the way I work out on a daily basis. Before this academic year, I had the freedom to be at the gym for six hours in the middle of the day, which is how I was able to focus on losing those 150 pounds, but obviously, that's not an attainable lifestyle for the long term. I always knew it was coming, and that was actually the whole reason I started this blog in the first place--to talk about the challenges of balancing healthy diet/exercise habits with all the other life responsibilities that everyone has.
It's still a daily struggle to maintain my weight. The battles I encountered at 337 pounds are still very much a part of my life today. Realistically, I always knew that those struggles wouldn't go away completely. It's something we all have to work through. It might seem a little easier for someone else when you're looking at it from your own perspective, but generally speaking, that's what life is, and LIFE is something that we all have in front of us right now. The battle I'm fighting might be different from yours, but that doesn't make it any more or less challenging. It's all just part of what we must face as we make the decision to keep working and moving forward.

Yesterday, I ran the Egg Shell Shuffle Half Marathon in Elk Grove Village--my first race in over two months--and I knew that it would be a little more difficult, since I haven't devoted the same amount of time to training. I quickly fell behind and was actually dead last before even reaching mile 2! That was frustrating at first, but then I realized... I could be disappointed that I wasn't running as well as others, or proud that I had gotten up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning to go run 13 miles. I could obsess over where I was in relation to everyone else on the course, or I could smile and enjoy taking part in this race on such a beautiful, sunny spring day. I could lament over being slow, or be grateful that my body is healthy enough to run today. I've known runners with injuries and surgeries that have halted or even ended their running careers. I have no idea if I will be in that same position someday. Maybe so, but not today. Today, I can run, and anyone who's been blessed with that kind of gift shouldn't complain that they're not fast enough. Truth be told, I haven't always taken my own advice in that regard, but it's something I try to remind myself of when I start getting too worked up about my finish time.

There weren't many participants in yesterday's race, at least compared to others that I've done, so it got pretty quiet on the course, giving me time to think about why I even choose to do this with my free time. I love to run races because of the excitement that builds at the start line, the camaraderie you feel with your fellow runners on the course, the pride you feel the entire evening afterward, even when you're limping around like an 80-year-old woman....and the medals. Yes, the medals. Think I'm kidding? Actually, I'm not...I love the bling, and it's one of the top reasons I love racing. I love having it around my neck the entire day after earning it, wearing it to bed for the night, then hanging it with the others the next morning as a tangible reminder of what I accomplished. It's a material item, and as such, it is not the most important thing in the world, but it makes me happy.

So yes, that's the reason why I sign up for marathons, half marathons, 5K's, etc... The reasons why I run in general are a little different. It's because I know that I am committing to something that's challenging and succeeding at it. I am accomplishing something that takes a lot of time, self-discipline, and dedication. And if I can do that, then I can be successful at my job. I can deal with situations and people in everyday life that might not always be ideal. I can be happy. I wish everyone could have something like this in their lives that makes them feel this way. Lord knows it doesn't necessarily have to be running--it just has to be something that motivates you enough to do BE better.

My high school friend Amanda ran her very first 5K yesterday (the Egg Shell Shuffle offered both a 5K and half marathon options) with her husband Andy (both pictured above). They've lost about 40 pounds each (and counting!) on Weight Watchers and have found joy in running...and not just that, but running TOGETHER. That's what it's all about. That's the beauty of running. All different kinds of people can discipline themselves, train their bodies, and prepare their minds to run. You just have to want it. Then you have to go out there and do it. I was a far cry from the skinny, physically fit, long-legged teenagers in high school who ran cross country and track, and who breezed through gym class because it came naturally to them...and yet today, at age 28, my body can run 26.2 miles. I may finish two, three, or even four hours behind those same high schoolers I was talking about before, but does it really matter all that much? If it gets you out in the fresh air, makes you happy, helps you control your weight and gives you a sense of doing something positive in your life, then what else could you possibly want? I guess we all naturally want to be just a little bit better and a little bit stronger, but sometimes, if you stop and look, what you were hoping for all along is already there.

Can you tell I got a pep talk from my mom yesterday? Yep...that's why she's one of my best friends!

I hope everyone had a nice Easter. Time to get back to work tomorrow...eeeeeeeek!