When I was pregnant with our last child, I would fantasize about what it would feel like to be fit and strong again. I remember feeling genuine envy when a thinner friend of mine bent down so quickly to grab a pen for me while I was 38 weeks pregnant and felt like a walrus. She did it with such ease and didn’t have the urge to vomit on the way back up. I know it sounds funny, but I was so excited to get comfortable in my own body again after carrying all these babies. I made the silent goal that I would get fit and strong over the course of the next twelve months.
Then I gave birth, got busy with life, and a world pandemic happened. I stress ate way too much and watched tv with dessert every night. When our last child turned 1 in May, I was not only not fit or strong, I was actually at my heaviest non-pregnancy weight I’ve ever been at. Here I was celebrating my fourth child’s first birthday and I was still so uncomfortable in my own body. I felt weak, fatigued, and disappointed. I am 34 years old for goodness sake. I should be in the prime of my life. Something had to change. I wanted to feel better and get stronger!
After taking our daughter, Esther, to an allergy and asthma specialist for her hospitalizations, I realized in our conversations that maybe I actually had some issues to address. In May, I made myself an appointment with the specialist and got some tests run. Turns out, some of my seasonal allergies are actually very severe, that have caused breathing problems and I also have some exercise induced asthma. I cried, I felt so validated. I have believed my whole life that “I am not a runner” because every time I run it is so miserable. I assumed it was simply because I was out of shape but I kept trying in the spring and it did not get better. After discussing everything with my doctor, she had me try some asthma meds and going running was suddenly possible! Painful still, yes, but actually doable.
In the past, when I would run, it would feel like I couldn’t get oxygen and my head might pop off my body. It was painful and NOT in a fun, challenging way. Now, as I would take off each time, it was hard work and I would begin to sweat but I didn’t feel panicky, like an anxiety attack was around the corner. I just felt like I wanted to push further and harder, and could. It was shocking and exhilarating. Each day, I’d wake up earlier to get alone time with my coffee and Jesus, then get time in for my run and stretches. I started wanting to run for longer and stretching began to feel so good that I extended it. I started logging what I was eating to really see the numbers in front of me (something Brett has done with his marathon training). Because of my history with an eating disorder, I knew diets and fads were not what I wanted. I wanted a lifestyle change. As I logged the calories and looked at the nutrient content, I was energized to eat smarter and fuel my body.
Somewhere in there my son, Johnny, asked if he could run with me. He is incredibly athletic and plays travel soccer. As we ran, he sweetly slowed himself to my pace and encouraged me. As we were finishing our first run, he mentioned he’d be happy to help me with my form. I laughed out loud and said yes! I need all the help I can get after successfully avoiding running my whole life. After that, I would make Brett join me occasionally to help me with form. When I was crippled with shin splints one day, I hobbled home and asked Brett to help again. It’s been a hot, humid, and unusual summer for me.
And now here we are. Today is the day before my 35th birthday and I have been running, stretching, and eating well faithfully for exactly 100 days! I feel physically more like myself than I have in a long time. I am getting strong again and have shed some weight. I feel at home in my body as opposed to being trapped in it and by it. I actually want to challenge myself to try more and different exercises. I have the energy and excitement to push my body that I now trust more. At 100 days in, I can say I have begun a lifestyle change. I’ve allowed myself to have recovery days where the only movement I do is walk the dogs. I have celebration days where I truly enjoy every bite of that pizza, donut, etc., and then I carry on, undeterred that I gave myself space to enjoy the luxuries of life.
I used to think that in order to get in shape, I’d need to find a level of grit I didn’t yet have. Discovering there was an actual physical issue holding me back that could be helped was both shocking and validating that I am not a wimp. Once that issue was addressed, I did have to find a new grit but it wasn’t as much physical as it was emotional and mental to try new things and give my body grace to get there. I haven’t arrived, not even close- but I am on a new chapter of my journey, one that I plan to integrate into the rest of my life. I wanted to share this so that if anyone else out there has struggled with a similar lie, they might be encouraged and seek some help. Also- I am proud to now declare to the world: I AM A RUNNER!