January 1, 2011

How I Came To Be Addicted

I'm astounded to think of how far I've come, fitness-wise, in only a year.

I've written before at my on-and-off relationship with exercise. I was never an athletic child. My parents didn't put me in any sports; rather, I did ballet, baton twirling, and piano lessons. I never asked to do sports, so who knows what they would have said had I asked to play soccer or something else. Nevertheless, I wasn't athletic at all, and was always one of those kids picked last for teams in P.E.

In high school I joined a local gym with some friends, and went quite often. I loved lifting weights and getting on the Stairmaster (which was a novel machine back in the late 80's). But then I went to college, and exercise went out the window. Sure, I walked everywhere, took a fitness class here and there, and played intermural inner-tube water polo. But for the most part, I was a couch potato, which, coupled with the increased junk food and alcohol I was consuming was not good.

After college, I joined a gym and worked out periodically. I would have spurts of interest where I would go a few times a week, then I wouldn't go at all for months. I loved lifting the weights, but hated doing cardio. It bored me to tears. I just wasn't committed.

In 1998, when I was 28 years old, I began running. I found I really enjoyed it, and trained for my first 5K. Soon enough I was doing lots of local 5K races, and eventually ran my first half marathon in 1999. I kept up my running enough over the years that I wanted to cross something off my "bucket list": run a full marathon. This dream was realized in 2003 when I completed the Suzuki Rock n Roll Marathon in San Diego. It was a terrible experience for me....I overhydrated and bonked at mile 20, making me walk most of the last 6 miles...but I did it. I was a marathoner.

Soon after the race, I got pregnant with my son, D, and stopped running (and exercising) altogether. After he was born, we bought a jogging stroller with the thought that I would run with him. Of course, I rarely did. I still had my gym membership and would go once in a while, but really hardly ever. A few years later, my daughter, A was born. She had so many medical issues (NICU for 12 weeks, breathing tube, feeding tube, tons of doctors and therapy appointments) that all thoughts of taking care of myself went out the window. It was all about her. Whatever time and energy left over from taking care of her went to my son, who was only 2. My needs were in last place.

About a year and a half ago, in May 2009, I had a bone scan at the doctor's office and was diagnosed with osteopenia, which is low bone mineral density, and a slippery slope to full-blown osteoporosis. I was told I could take medication, or try to help it via life-style changes (namely, doing weight-bearing exercise). I had another medical reason to exercise: my family's horrific history of heart disease. My mother had a heart attack at age 63 (luckily she survived it). My father has had by-pass surgery. His mother died very young from a heart attack. Between them and other family members, I have heart disease history on both sides of my family. And while I have low cholesterol (thank you vegetarian diet!) and have always had very low blood pressure, I am still at-risk. I didn't want to take medication and opted for the life-style route.

I quit my old gym, which, while cheap, was several miles away, and joined a nicer, much more expensive gym only a half mile from my house. I began running on the treadmill, and soon got the idea to train for another half marathon. I found one that would be taking place the following January, and began training. However, in the fall I broke a metatarsal (part of my toe) and was in a walking boot for two months. I stopped all exercise, sold my bib to the half marathon, and became a couch potato once again.

In January 2010 I got the clearance to run. I signed up for yet another half marathon, the America's Finest City, and started to train. My training was pretty half-assed. I was committed to my weekly long run, and faithfully increased the mileage every week. But I would only do 1-2 short runs in the week, and nothing else. I wasn't too motivated for some reason, and I kept injuring myself. During this time, I asked a friend, who is a runner and triathlete, to train me. He kept mentioning that I should be cross-training to increase fitness and avoid injury. I would always ignore him.

In June, I injured myself yet again, and, yet again he suggested cross training. This time, something clicked. That night, I went out and bought a swim cap and goggles, and the next day I went to the pool and did a few laps. When I told my friend, he informed me about a triathlon I should sign up for. Triathlon!?!? I had only been in a pool once, and hadn't biked in about 10 years. However, a few days later I signed up, and started to train daily.

Since June, I have completed two half marathons (the America's Finest City Half Marathon and the Disneyland Half Marathon) and two sprint triathlons (the Mission Bay Triathlon and the Fearless (Double) Triathlon). My race schedule for 2011 already has me signed up for 3 half marathons and one triathlon, with more of each still to be registered for.

I pretty much work out 7 days a week now. Every day I either swim, bike or run (or do the elliptical machine if I am too injured to run). I also started to lift weights again. I only take a day off if I am sick, exhausted, or if logistically I can't fit it in (as in childcare issues). When I don't work out, I don't feel right. I am addicted, and that's ok. I have never felt better, and feel like I look the best I ever have. I am still slow---heck, I almost came in last place during my last triathlon--but I get it done. I'm slow and steady, a proud back-of-the-packer.

I have spent so much money this year on my passion. Not just on race entry fees, but on gear! A wetsuit, goggles, Garmin 305, new iPod, running shoes...I even just bought a used bike off of Craig's List. But all my gear gets used, and is money well spent.

I can't wait to become even fitter in 2011. I want to become the best athlete I can be. I may always be slow, and always in the back-of-the-pack, but I'm out there trying, and I want to be as healthy as possible. I was watching the coverage of the Kona Ironman World Champion a few weeks ago, and there was a competitor who was 80 years old. He has been doing the Ironman yearly since he was 55. He said something to the effect of "if you want to be healthy when you're 80, you'd better be paying attention to what you're doing to your body when you're 40".

I'm paying attention.


  1. What a journey you've been on! I hope at some point I enjoy working on my fitness enough to do it 7 days a week. You go, girl.

  2. Keep up the great work!

    My mom has amazingly survived 3 heart attacks before the age of 50...and my dad has high BP. That definitely plays a role in my desire to be active and eat healthy.

  3. What a great job you've done in your fitness journey so far! Can't wait to read about you signing up for you first marathon. :)

  4. I was the fat kid with asthma that was ALWAYS picked last for teams in school and HATED HATED HATED Phys Ed! Also have a family with a strong history of heart disease and that's my main motivation. It was fun to read your blog!

  5. Outstanding! I'm a parent too, so I totally understand the "kids first" mentality. Just remember the instructions you get on every airplane trip: "Put your oxygen mask on first." Remember to take care of yourself. It seems like you've got that down and are on to great accomplishments this year. Good luck!

  6. So resonant. And timely, SM. Very nice post, and you should be very proud.

  7. What a journey you've been on! I agree with Sid, you should be very proud!

  8. Wow. Very inspiring. I am a bit opposite: was a great athlete in high school (team sports like volleyball and basketball) which, once I had kids, fizzled. I don't like to run. So, recently I've started Nordic Walking (with my Geek Poles as I fondly call them). We'll see. I like it. I also do yoga sometimes. It's challenging to transition from team sports to individual sports.

    You inspire me, though!

  9. Very inspiring. Since I resigned back in November I have gone back to the gym. I literally had not been there prior since 2003. I was feeling terrible inside and out. I know that exercising more will change that. I have never been a runner...I think my breathing technique is all wrong. I would love to run if I could overcome that. I may need to find a running partner locally. I do love bike riding though!!! Speaking of triathalons....if you are ever in Sacramento you should check out the Eppies Great Race! It's a non traditional triathalon (running, bicycle, and kayak). Happy New Year!

  10. Thanks for the recap. I love hearing how people began their fitness love. I was like you--I hated sports or fitness and was picked last in PE (and tortured by the Mean Girls in PE as well). The experiences were so negative.

    I am so glad I found fitness though. Despite the injuries I've had as well, I still feel 100% better working out than compared to when I didn't.


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