I’m so excited to have Ashley from Ashley, etc. guest post for me today. I was intrigued by her story, having recently just had a baby and is now training for her first half marathon. In many ways, I was just like her not too long ago! I felt that many others might relate. Becoming a first time parent can be a shock to the system, I appreciate Ashley sharing her story with us today!
You know those really inspirational stories about people who’ve overcome incredible obstacles just because they woke up one morning and decided that they were going to do it no matter what?
Yeah, this isn’t one of those.
Yes, I gave birth 9 months ago, and yes, I am training for a half-marathon, but I’d be lying through my teeth if I acted in any way like what I’ve decided to do is an easy feat, or like I’m the sort of person who actually accomplishes their goals without kicking and screaming the entire way to the finish line.
I’ve struggled with weight issues for much of my life. I’ve never been a heavy person, but I’ve never felt particularly thin, either. I usually hover somewhere in between the two extremes, and more often than not, I describe myself as “on a diet” or “trying to lose weight” when asked. I’ve been “trying to lose weight” for the better part of the last decade. I started running in college as a way to manage my stress and avoid the dreaded Freshman 15. The act stuck with me, and I continued to run post-college and even while living abroad and teaching English in South Korea. When I got pregnant in January of 2011, I vowed to continue exercising and had grand plans of returning to my size 8 jeans right after the baby came. Unfortunately, I didn’t take into account how taxing pregnancy would actually be, or the fact that I am just plain lazy sometimes. I ended up putting on about 40 pounds during my pregnancy, and then found—as most of us do—that once the baby came, it was nearly impossible to find the time to try to get the weight off.
Around the time my daughter turned 6 months old, I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety Disorder. I’d been struggling for months, but I figured it was just normal mom stress; that I just needed to try harder, be better, do more, and I would be okay. Getting a Postpartum diagnosis and being put on medication for the first time in my life really showed me that I needed to take a step back and focus on my health, both mentally and physically. I joined a local gym—nothing fancy, just a family-owned place where I pay $16/month for my membership. I started poking around online trying to find a race or two that I could train for to help motivate myself. I remembered that Dallas hosts a marathon every year and decided to see if maybe they held smaller races at that event, too. Upon looking at the website for the Dallas Marathon, I was immediately sucked in to the idea of trying for the Half. I hadn’t run in over a year, and even when I was a regular runner I had never gone farther than 3 miles in one run, but I couldn’t let go of the desire to run a Half Marathon.
I used Google to find a Couch-to-Half-Marathon training schedule and started training. The first few weeks of training runs were easy, and they flew by. Everything was going really well until around my 7th week of training when I hit a major plateau and basically just stopped exercising completely. I didn’t feel like doing anything, and I wasn’t sure why. Three weeks went by, and finally, I brought my concerns to my therapist. We got into a long conversation about ruts and patterns, and the ways that people sabotage themselves because often self-sabotage is easier than the idea of leaving our comfort zones. I learned that my comfort zone is having body issues. My comfort zone is giving up on myself. My comfort zone is always stopping just shy of feeling good.
My therapist gave me an assignment to get me back on track. The instructions were really simple: DO IT. When I feel overwhelmed, when I feel like I might not succeed, when I feel afraid, I have to just DO IT; I have to run anyway, go to the gym anyway, eat the darn salad anyway. Going back to the gym after nearly a month of no exercise was even more daunting than going back for the first time after the baby, but I DID IT. And, I learned that in order to keep doing it, it helps to have a few things in order:
1. Have a plan, and keep your goals posted somewhere you can see them every day.
This is the marker board in my kitchen where I write out my workout plans for the week and keep my training schedule posted. I’m the sort of person who will come up with any excuse to wiggle my way out of a workout, so writing things down is really important for me. If I can see the goals there glaring at me every day, I’m a lot less likely to ignore them. Plus, there is ENORMOUS satisfaction in crossing out my accomplishments each day, and I feel awesome when I get to the end of the week and see bold, blue lines through everything on that board. Figure out what works for you, then map it out, and get to it!
2. Don’t get distracted by shiny objects.
In the past, I’ve very much felt like I couldn’t reach my fitness goals because I didn’t have the money for a gym membership or I didn’t have the right gear. I felt like I needed the best shoes, the fancy heart rate monitor, and the expensive workout duds before I could really get started on training. The truth is, barefoot cavemen got into better shape than us just by getting out and moving. Don’t think you have to join a super expensive gym and hire a personal trainer in order to get back in shape. Go to Half-Price Books and find a workout DVD you can do in your living room. Look up exercises that you can do right in your own home, like squats, lunges, wall sits, and mountain climbers. Go for walks after dinner. Swim at a local community center. Spend some time crawling around the house with your baby. Yesterday, I did Tracy Anderson’s Post-Pregnancy DVD in my living room while my daughter crawled back-and-forth under my legs! There are a million ways to get healthy, and they don’t have to involve a ton of time and money.
3. DO IT!
Don’t let one bad day discourage you from starting over tomorrow. Don’t let your fears and insecurities stop you from taking that first step (or that 50th step). When you feel negative thoughts start to creep in, just say, “Shh! Not now. I have work to do.” Don’t give those thoughts the time to take over. Before you know it, this will bleed into other areas of your life, and you’ll start doing dishes when you don’t feel like it, getting up earlier when you don’t feel like it—you’ll learn that you are WORTH the effort it takes to do little things that improve your quality of life.
Making any kind of positive life change is hard. No matter how great it sounds to say I have a baby and I’m training for a half-marathon, I still struggle every day to keep going and keep working. I still struggle every day with worrying if I can actually do it and thinking I might just quit. I’ve learned that training is a process; that every long term goal is really accomplished one day, one mental battle with yourself, and one workout at a time.
A big thanks to Erika for the opportunity to guest post. I hope you guys found some of this stuff helpful!