Saturday, November 11, 2006

Finding Hidden Strengths...

I've been seeing a personal trainer for about 6 weeks now. It has been a very challenging time for me. Growing up, I was in several different sports and a long-distance runner for my high school. But, my workouts over the past month and a half have been harder than most anything I remember, even from my teenage sports years. I have remained dedicated, and have improved my diet greatly. My eating habits and diet are not exactly where they need to be, but they are getting closer to being there. My workouts, however, are right where they need to be.

After my last set of measurements, my trainer told me that my muscle mass is perfect as it is and I don't need to focus on building more muscle. This was just after a month of training, and that amazed me. Now, my focus was to be the midsection, my problem area, and doing more endurance and cardio training, although I continue with my weight training workouts.

On Saturday morning, I was at my scrapbooking retreat. We had stayed up well past 2 a.m. the night before, talking and cropping--something that is not unusual at one of these weekends. When we went to bed, someone made a joke about staying up so late that they might not make their "morning run." Everyone laughed. Obviously, the idea of going on a run was funny to everyone else.

It was not to me. I had planned my morning run, unlike my other friends at the retreat. I brought my headphones and heart rate monitor and workout gear. I had planned and prepared to make that run and enjoyed the beautiful scenery around me. It was more than just preparing myself to run should the fancy strike me, I actually WANTED to run.

And, so I did. I did not get my jog started until midday. My scrapbooking friends looked at me as if I was nuts. They had come to veg out, scrapbook, munch on snacks and catch up with friends. A retreat to them did not involve exercise, it involved relaxing and the opposite of exercise.

I get this. I used to think this way. I began my run and realized that exercise was no longer a "chore" for me. When did this change happen? Exercise is now something I do most every day. I work out between 5-6 days a week. I don't drop it when I have a busy or stressful week, as I used to. I feel like if I'm stressed, I NEED to exercise to feel better. Exercise comes first now, before making lunch plans with friends and running mundane errands or cleaning the house. My house is messier than it used to be, but I feel better than ever.

As my feet pounded along the gravel road, I hoped that I wouldn't twist an ankle and be stranded in the middle of nowhere, left to hobble back to my cabin in pain. But, I realized something as I ran along worrying about tripping on the big chunks of gravel. I had not run a long distance (aside from the treadmill) in probably 6-8 months, and wasn't dying from this run!

I have run long distances on and off for many years. But, invariably, I quit running and then I always face that painful first few weeks starting back to jogging. They are never fun and never easy. Once I get past those first few weeks, I start loving to run again and remembering how it feels so great for my body.

But, this first run was different. I wasn't out of breath after a mile of running up and down steep hills on a dirt road covered with gravel. I felt really GOOD. So, good that I kept running. When I reached the paved portion of road, I decided that I still felt so good that I shouldn't turn around and go back. I should keep running on the smooth surface until I start feeling really tired and then I could walk back.

I never walked. I ran three miles in 45 minutes and burned more than 900 calories, according to my heart rate monitor. I barely broke a sweat and felt amazing afterward. This was a first for me!

What could be the difference this time from all of those other painful attempts to get back in shape after falling off the exercise wagon? Could it be the weight training? All of those lunges and step ups on the bench? Maybe it was the treadmill workouts that my trainer requires between weight sets, where I set the treadmill to the highest incline (level 15!) and walk as quickly as I can. Maybe it was the small changes in my eating habits. The night before I'd passed on the decadent peanut butter pie and enjoyed my sugar-free mint jello pudding cup just as much. I hadn't even felt deprived!

I realize that it was not one, but all of these changes that made a difference in my hilly run on this particular morning. For the first time, it did not matter to me that my weight had not dropped much and that I still am battling that blasted spare tire around the middle. I felt amazing and in the best shape of my adult life. I was able to run for enjoyment and had energy that I don't recall having in many years. The gift that I've given myself with hard work is paying off, and something that I hope to never lose again.


Blogger Vanessa said...

You should submit this post to Women's Health or some other health magazine. You are an inspiration to us all!

7:27 PM, November 12, 2006  
Blogger speedygeoff said...

You're not so crazy after all.

10:27 PM, November 12, 2006  
Anonymous Nicole said...

Wow. I am so happy for you that you've gotten to this point. I used to exercise for enjoyment, and now I can barely find time. (no, really, it is a time issue, not just an easy excuse.)

Absolutely inspiring.

9:55 AM, November 13, 2006  
Anonymous Angela said...

I was going to say exactly the same thing as Vanessa--you are so incredible, I just don't think you realize what an inspiration you are!

I'm more determined than ever that one of the first things I do when I move will be finding a personal trainer, it sounds like the perfect motivation.

3:18 PM, November 14, 2006  
Blogger Lisabell said...

I am very proud of you, Steph. I need to borrow some of your inspiration, okay??

1:18 AM, November 15, 2006  
Blogger Leanne said...

I can't tell you how inspiring this post is - I've been thinking about it for days, remembering that feeling of exhiliration, how the stress just fell away, I do want that again, too.

Thank you for the motivation - and congratulations on your stick-to-itiveness!

6:24 PM, November 15, 2006  

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