How did I end up here ? This is a question I ask myself every day. I never imagined I would fall in love with fitness. I had no idea that I, the uncoordinated big girl (I am 6’2” and around 235lbs), would be on an incredible journey. A journey to a better me. I never knew how happy my heart and soul would be to cross my first finish line, and to then witness others cross theirs. It’s amazing!
Back to the Beginning
Let me back up a bit for you. As a kid growing up, I was a tomboy and a “big girl”. I was always taller than everyone and chunkier, built kind of like a Linebacker. I spent most of my time outside playing with my dog or the kids in the neighborhood. But I was very self-conscious of my size and acutely aware that I had a hard time keeping up.
As a teen I wanted nothing to do with sports or gym class, because I hated running that darn mile. As a young adult, I went on to college. I became a smoker and I kept adding on weight -- getting bigger and bigger. Even though I typically had a smile on my face, I was dying inside. I hated myself, I wanted to hide every time I heard “Wow! You’re a big girl.” But like many of us, I would just roll my eyes and laugh it off when others were around.
The Wake-Up Call
At age 33, I had a wake-up call. Due to a rare tumor, my dad’s health started to decline. I was faced with and began to understand mortality; I decided I needed to find a better, healthier me.
I asked a friend who was selling health and wellness products to help me. She got me set up with all sorts of vitamins and shakes and healthy eating options. Soon, my energy level was up, I was losing weight, a feeling good.
Next, I started to exercise at home. I was jamming to the exercise DVDs and realized something – I was falling in love with exercise. Like a weirdo, I felt great working up a sweat and getting my heartrate up! I was able to successfully drop 60lbs and keep it off.
Although I was making a lot of healthy changes, there was still one glaringly large issue: I was a 20-year, 2 pack a day smoker. I knew I needed to quit but was afraid I would regain the 60lbs I had worked so hard to lose. I reached out to a few of my friends and asked for pointers on how to quit smoking without gaining the weight back. Their response? “Just do it! Just quit and we will help you get through it!”
My friends did help, but ultimately it came down to ME. I had to want to quit smoking and I had to want it more than anything. So, I randomly chose a pack of cigarettes and decided after that pack was finished, I was done. As you’d imagine, dropping cigarettes like the bad habit they are was super hard. Unfortunately, I started to gain weight and got depressed. I was miserable. But I had worked so hard; I didn’t want to go backwards.
The Gym Turning Point
Somehow, I mustered up the courage to join a gym. I met a trainer who was willing to help me, and he suggested trying to run. “Um, I’m sorry, do what now?!” came flying out of my mouth. He said to try running to open up my lungs. I told him there was no way I could run; my body would certainly boycott. Despite my protests, he created a plan for me. Before I knew it, I was jogging. ME. Jogging! Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t jogging much, and it was all in intervals, but I was actually doing it.
About a month later, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw an ad for the Warrior Dash. I was looking at it and was like “Damn, this looks fun AND I can play in the mud!” I shared the ad with some friends, and they all said the same thing “You can’t do it, you’re not in shape.” “You’ll hurt yourself.” “You’ll never finish.” “You weren’t built for that.” I’m sure you get the idea. But I didn’t care what they said. I wanted to do it. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. A person isn’t “built” for one thing or another. I would do it and I would finish.
The Race is On
So, on a mission, I signed up for the Mud Run. I figured as race day got closer one of my friends would surely join me, but no one would do it. I could have bailed on the run, and honestly thought about it. But I decided to chuck-it-in-the-f*ck-it-bucket and do it. I showed up to the Mud Run alone and scared sh*tless.
I had all the feelings running through me when that starting bell rang, and as each obstacle came, I thought “What great hell is this?!” And one after another, I conquered the obstacles until I completed them ALL. As I crawled through the last muddy pit and headed towards the finish line I was overcome with pride. I set out to push my limits and I did it. Me, the former heavy smoker with an ongoing love of food. I did it!
It was at that moment I realized I wanted more of that feeling and I wanted to share that feeling with as many people as I could. I started participating in 5K’s and, with each race I convinced another friend to join me. When I’d ask them to join me, my friends would say “No way. I can’t do that!” They would join me, some reluctantly, and the look on their faces as they crossed the finish line… absolutely awesome.
Just Trust Me
I remember doing a color run 5K with 3 ladies who have never done anything like it before. They had given me the usual excuse “I can’t run.” “I can’t jog.” And I told them, you don’t have to run or jog. You can walk, dance, skip, hop, whatever you’d like because you CAN do it. I begged them to trust me. Trust me that you can get through the race. Trust me that you will feel tired, sore, and sweaty. And trust me when I say you will feel incredible.
They trusted me and they each crossed that finish line with the biggest smile on their face. One of the ladies confessed that during part of the run, a gentleman in a wheelchair rolled by her (on an incline) and she said to herself, “If he can do it why can’t I?” They were out of breath, sweaty, laughing, and proud. And me? My heart was full. The looks of accomplishment, pride, and “Yes I Can” attitude, that’s what makes it all worth it for me.
I even got my trainer to join me for his first mud run. It was a blast! He was amazed at how many different types of people were there, how many strangers became instant friends as they helped each other through obstacles, and how much fun everyone was having. This is what sets my heart on fire, this is what fuels me to keep going.
Sharing in the Moment of Pride
For the past 3 years, I’ve been dragging reluctant folks to races so they can see what they are capable of. It’s not about how fit you are. It’s about having fun, making healthy choices, and enjoying the moments. I went from being all alone at my first Mud Run to having a gaggle of friends that are just as addicted to the events as I am.
This year, I have team of outstanding ladies ready to join me at MudGirl for their first ever obstacle course and muddy mayhem. I can’t wait for them to experience the comradery of the #PinkArmy, to feel the accomplishment, the overwhelming pride, and to want to do it all over again.
I spent so many years feeling like I wasn’t enough, moping around with an “I can’t” mindset, and it was horrible. My journey to this moment wasn’t always fun, but it was worth it. My story isn’t finished. My Warrior burns more each day as I test my abilities and work on improving. I’m working on me, for me.