Sunday, October 3, 2010

There's No Crying On The Treadmill.

Well, apparently, I missed that memo, because today I most certainly was crying on the treadmill. 

First, some background. I grew up skinny and stayed that way through my school years and the Marine Corps. And then I started adding a couple of pounds every year and somehow, fifteen years passed and forty pounds stayed. 

In 2006, I got myself back to the gym and lost a total of twenty-seven pounds. I was a healthy and happy 183 pounds and was feeling great. I was even running, working myself up to a record 6.71 miles in sixty minutes. Life was good. Then, in early 2007, I was diagnosed with adult whooping cough (pertussis) and was out on disability for nearly two months. My workouts all came to a halt, as did my recreational scuba diving and bike riding. It was literally all I could do to breath while walking, let alone while doing anything else. 

And the weight started to come back. Even after I recovered, I stayed trapped in that "poor me" slump. I didn't want to work out. I didn't care if I ate right. My eating habits were terrible, my weekends were spent out drinking and inhaling crappy junk food, and there was absolutely no exercise. 

By this past January, I had gained back all I had lost plus another ten pounds. At 43 years old, I was at a lifetime high weight of 220 pounds and wondering what was going on with my life. I looked in the mirror and saw a stranger there. I looked at photos and couldn't believe I was that person. I was fat, terribly unhappy, and feeling like a complete slug. 

Enter Spark People. I had joined a year earlier but didn't really get involved with the site. But I came back to it and decided to give it a real shot. I started tracking my food intake and was shocked to learn just how many calories I was eating every day. I used the Spark Points as a guide to lead me around the different areas of the site. I read and then participated in message boards. I joined Spark Teams. And I started making Spark Buddies. The more involved I got, the more I wanted to stay involved. 

My interest and commitment fluctuated through the first half of the year. I lost the same ten pounds again and again, never staying disciplined enough to lose it for good. I let work distract me, thinking that I didn't have the time and energy to focus on both. But I was mistaken. It was only when I put myself and my health first that I truly had the energy required to do all of the other things I needed to do. 

In late June, I decided to make a complete commitment to myself and my own wellbeing. I set myself up on a regimented 30 Day Kick Start program, monitoring every bite I ate, forgoing all junk food and alcohol, and working out every day. I was 212 pounds and laser-focused on getting under 200. Turns out, it didn't take thirty days. It took about three weeks for me to hit the magic number and enter 1-derland. And it felt amazing. 

For the rest of July and all of August, I was consistent with my workouts and my healthy eating. The pounds continued to come off and I got down to 187.5 by the first week of September. I had lost over thirty pounds and it was finally showing. Friends and family complimented me on my success. Co-workers noticed the changes. Everything was going great. I was working out two to three hours a day, And then, suddenly, getting up for the gym was harder and harder. I felt burnt out, like I had given all that I could. I decided I could coast for a while. I stopped working out, only running three times over three weeks. I still ate fairly well, though I let myself eat fast food more often. I was maintaining, hovering between 188 and 193. 

I let myself have the time off. And I don't feel guilty or like a failure. I wanted time off from the gym and I took it. I wanted to sleep in and I did. I wanted different things and I let myself have them. And through it all, I ate well enough that my weight remained fairly constant. But I knew that it was temporary. Weighing in the high 180's is not where I want to be. 

And so, I'm once again focused. What I want is to feel strong and lean and fast. And that will only come if I am willing to work at it. So far this month, I have been spot on. I'm back at the gym, mixing up my cardio, and feeling in the groove. And today... well... today was my biggest challenge yet. I decided that today would be my long run day to see what I could do. I challenged myself to double my longest run. I was confident that I could run a 10k in less than an hour. Yep, I was going to run faster than six ten-minute miles. 

I stepped on the treadmill determined to make it. I started out strong, completing the 5k in just under thirty minutes. So far, so good. And after that, I knew I was more than halfway through and I was not going to let anything stop me. At mile five, I was surprised to hear myself with an out loud, "yes!" that startled my running neighbors. And at the six mile mark, it happened. 

It caught me by surprise, in fact. One moment I was running, listening to my music and thinking, "sweet, I'm almost done!" And the next thing I knew, there were tears welling up in my eyes. I was so happy, so proud of myself, so top-of-the-world for setting a specific goal and not quitting. And then I was laughing out loud at myself and my own emotional overload. 

So yes, folks, there is crying on the treadmill. And I don't apologize for it and I certainly am not embarrassed by it. For me, it's proof that I can still be surprised by my own accomplishments. I can still rattle my own cage and shake things up. 

I'm alive. And I'm not slowing down. 

Me, after my run. I blame the goofy smile on all the endorphins.