It has been a few solid months since I have done a Focus on You post so guess what – it’s time to bring it back! Are you new to the blog and haven’t seen this mini series? Check out the other Focus on You Posts…
For this post, I am going to focus on taking control. A couple of months back, Marcus and I had his Aunt Nancy and Uncle Dave stay with us for a few days. They are runners as well, so of course we have that instant connection. However, they have not been runners forever. They actually got started running because Nancy realized it was time for her to take control. Nancy was nice enough to answer a few questions for me, so that she could share her journey to the world of running with everyone here. She didn’t start running because she wanted to, but rather because she had. Read on and see why!
When did you decide to start your running journey? What made you make that decision?
I had been losing a battle with weight for years, but about 3-1/2 years ago my health took a sudden downturn. One day I woke up with pain and swelling in one knuckle. Within days the pain, redness and swelling started jumping from joint to joint. I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. All of a sudden the struggle wasn’t just about vanity anymore.
How bad were your symptoms before you started exercising? When did you start noticing a difference in your joint disease becoming more manageable?
Within two months my hands couldn’t open a water bottle, stairs were excruciating on my knees, and my ankles were the size of baseballs. Every joint screamed “don’t move”, but my gut told me not to listen. Around this time I met a surgeon (for an unrelated issue) who was passionate about running and swimming. He inspired me to quit trying to lose weight and instead focus on getting fit. That simple attitude shift turned everything around for me. I started joining my husband Dave at the gym at 5am each morning. At night we would walk and eventually progressed to running. I also changed the way I ate. I noticed my symptoms decreasing within weeks, and by 3 months my swelling and pain were gone. I take medication, but exercise and healthy eating are key, as anytime I slack off, my symptoms return.
When you first started running, how far could you go? What is your longest distance to date?
The first time I ran, I literally could only run sixty seconds at a time. I had asthma as a kid, and evidently my lungs were not as enthusiastic about running as the rest of me. It took me 1-1/2 years to run one mile without stopping. To date I have completed many short races and four half-marathons. Last month I finally ran an entire half marathon without any walking. To me that is a miracle.
How has life changed?
I’ve lost 50 pounds (I’m 5’2” tall) and have kept it off for 3 years. I stopped my joint disease in its tracks. I have more confidence and I appreciate my health in a way I never had before (turns out pain is a great motivator). My youngest son recently started an adventure tour company called Heart Pounding Adventures, and last weekend we went speed boating, glider plane flying, off-roading, and water skiing. I would never have tried those things before (I wouldn’t have fit in the cockpit!). I still have a long way to go to be truly fit, but I sure am enjoying the journey!!
How has your running affected your family?
I’ve been married for 28 years, and Dave is my rock. He’s always been athletic, but wasn’t a runner. He took up running just for me. Now he loves it. Three weeks ago he ran his first full marathon, and is already signed up for another one, the stud!! This is the first sport we can enjoy together even though we are at vastly different levels. Our two grown sons, Danny and Michael, are very proud of us. They are also more intentional about their own fitness. There is no down side. I am very grateful to have so much support.
What is your favorite race that you have run so far?
My favorite race is the ET Moonlight Marathon, Half, 10K and 51K (I do the half). It is in Rachel, Nevada, in August, and starts at midnight! The weather is 65 degrees, the full moon lights up the tundra, there are shooting stars overhead, and it just feels great to do something that my colleagues think I am crazy for doing! This year it takes place August 4. You can find out about it at www.calicoracing.com.
Did you ever think that when you started exercising, that you would be running half marathons!?
No way!! Growing up I was the kid who was picked last for every team. I am completely inept when it comes to any sport. Believe me, I am not impressive when I run – I huff and puff, and most people can walk as fast as I run. But none of that matters. I can honestly say that because of my lifestyle changes my body now feels better, works better, and looks better than it did 15 years ago! Running is totally worth the time and effort.
What have you learned by taking up running?
Physically I am capable of so much more than I had ever thought. Much of what we think is normal aging is actually a choice and we have a lot more power than we realize when it comes to staying healthy. It doesn’t matter that I’m not fast or “athletic”. It only matters that I keep at it and never give up.
What pieces of advice do you have for others that are starting their running/weight loss journey?
My life has changed in such a positive way that I wanted to pay it forward. So last January my surgeon, (now mentor and friend) and I partnered on a couple of motivational presentations to inspire others the way he inspired me. It was a blast and I think we did some good. Here are a few of the key points that came out of those talks:
- Be the tortoise!! Remember the story of The Tortoise and the Hare? Slow but steady gets results. This “tortoise” is 5 sizes smaller, pain-free most days, has avoided injury and is a much happier, healthier person.
- Pay yourself first – This rule is good for more than just saving money. Schedule your run or other exercise as a top priority each day. Fit your other obligations around it, rather than vice versa.
- Make being fit who you are as opposed to something you do. If running is something you do, eventually you’ll probably stop doing it. When it is who you are, then it doesn’t matter if you are busy or traveling or tired. You will find a way to run because it is part of who you are.
- Exercise in the morning. Get it done early. You’ll feel better and have more energy the rest of the day.
- Figure it out – Don’t let lack of time and other barriers get in your way. We’ve all been super-busy at work when an unexpected top-priority assignment gets heaped on. You figure out a way to get it done because your eye is on the goal, not the barrier. Think of running that way.
- Find a buddy and find a mentor. A buddy is someone you run with and provide mutual support and encouragement. A mentor is someone who knows more than you about the sport, to whom you report your progress, and who won’t “love you anyway” if you give up. You need both.
- Be patient – the journey is what is important. If your goal is weight loss, and you only lose 2 lbs. a month, that’s 24 lbs. a year. If you are going to be alive in a year, you may as well be 24 lbs. lighter!
- Look how far you’ve come. Take notice of all of the ways that running is improving your life. Can you breathe easier? Take stairs without pain? Are your pants looser? Have you met fun and interesting people? Looking at the big picture keeps you from getting frustrated if you aren’t going to win your division anytime soon.
- Giving up is not an option. Let this be your mantra.
I’ve decided to start training for a full marathon. In my head that sounds scary and completely unrealistic. But 3 years ago that’s how I felt about a half, and these days I don’t let fear stop me. So I’ll focus on how great it will feel when I cross that finish line, and set the goal of finishing before they pick up the porta-potties! Running rocks!!!
Nancy is such an inspiration to me, and I knew I had to share her story with everyone! Nancy is the perfect example of why you do not have to be a “so-called” runner to run. All it takes is believing in yourself, and knowing it is good for you, no matter how hard it may be in the beginning. And guess what – now Nancy is just as much a runner as you or I – she has the medals to prove it!