Saturday, June 21, 2014

1st Blogiversary

One year ago yesterday, on June 20th, 2013, I began the Project Lovely Laura blog and what a year it has been! I had no idea where this crazy little blog would take me when I wrote my first blog post.  I began this blog to hold myself accountable to my weight loss and running goals and it has definitely done that and more.

I've found a little corner of web space where I can share my triumphs and struggles as I work towards my goals.  I've also met (virtually) some really amazing people who I would not have met otherwise.  The weight loss/running/healthy lifestyle web community is an incredibly supportive, encouraging, and informative group and I love connecting with others who share similar goals.  I also love being able to share a bit about my family as this blog has been a scrapbook of sorts of our activities over the past year.  I love going back to re-read older blog posts to remember the highlights of our year.  

I've learned that I truly enjoy writing and it has been a wonderful outlet for me.  In the fall, I wrote a short story for a publication that I heard about online.  I submitted my story, but never heard anything back and I'm beginning to wonder if it was a legit publication to begin with.  In any case, though, I am very proud of the story I wrote and I thought it would be a nice story to share for the one year anniversary of my blog.  

Mind over Matter: How I Became a Runner

For as long as I can remember, I’ve despised running.  It’s quite unfortunate, really, considering running and I go way back to elementary school when I was asked to run my first timed mile.  I have vivid memories of running around the field where we played soccer and flag football and getting Popsicle sticks from the P.E. teacher each time you passed until you had completed the appropriate number of laps.  The field was expansive and to me, it seemed like we ran an infinite number of laps, but in reality, it was probably only closer to 10.  Running the timed mile was easy for some of my classmates, but for me, each step was excruciating; my chest burned, my legs ached, and I was never able to run a full lap, much less the entire mile we were asked to complete.  

By the time I reached high school, we had graduated to running four laps around the track and I still dreaded the timed mile.  The burning in my lungs, my legs, and nearly every muscle in my body with each step hadn’t disappeared with my youth.   I started each mile at a leisurely run before slowing to a walk as my other classmates blew ahead of me.  I ran only when I thought the P.E. teacher was watching and I almost always finished last.  

As I’ve grown up, though, I’ve met some amazing runners, many of whom are marathoners and I am always intrigued by their passion and determination.  I could never understand what would possess someone to run one mile, much less 26.2, but there was always a small voice in my head thinking If they can do it, why can’t I?  Having been overweight nearly my entire adult life, I decided it was time to get serious about my health, so much to my surprise, and to those who know me; I decided to start running in January 2013 to lose weight.   I downloaded the Couch-to-5K app and set off on a path that changed my life.  

The Couch-to-5K program is designed to get beginners to go from sitting on the couch to running a 5K (or approximately 30 minutes) in 9 weeks.  The first day of the program consisted of 9 intervals of 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking.   I balked at the thought of running for 60 seconds.  There is no way I can run for 60 seconds.  I was willing to give it a try though.   Running was exactly as difficult as I remembered; each second was a struggle and I kept my phone handy so I could count down the seconds to my next walking interval.  When I finished all 9 intervals, I was sweaty, out of breath, but pleasantly surprised and ridiculously proud that I finished.  

Each day I ran after that first day consisted of a similar pattern of I can’t and I did.  I would often look ahead to the next intervals with the same thoughts: I can’t run for 90 seconds, I certainly can’t run for 3 minutes, there is no way I can run 6 minutes straight.  However, each and every time I said I couldn’t, I did.  There were certainly weeks that I had to repeat to build up my strength, but I was always able to run the intervals in the program. 

I made it to week 6 of the Couch-to-5K program and decided to switch gears and try my own interval training.  One day on my lunch break, I decided to see what I was made of and challenged myself to run a mile.  I set out on my favorite path at a local park and it wasn’t long before I was looking at my watch to see how far I had come.  My phone said only .4 miles, but I pushed on.  Each time I felt like stopping, I’d challenge myself to run to the next landmark.  Run to that trashcan and you can stop for a walk break.  Something always happened when I got to the next landmark, though.  I kept pushing myself forward and before I knew it, I had run 1.1 miles.  For the first time in my 30 years of life, I had run a mile non-stop!  If I could have called all of my former P.E. teachers, I would have.  

As I kept pushing myself to run further distances, I realized that it wasn’t my physical strength that was holding me back, but rather my mental strength.  I always thought that I wasn’t built for running, but it was simply a case of mind over matter.  Never once did my legs feel like they would give out while I ran; it was always my head that doubted whether or not I could go on.  

With that in mind, I set out to run my first 5K in September 2013 and when I crossed the finish line, I couldn’t contain my excitement. It’s hard running 3.1 miles, particularly when your mind tells you to quit after the initial rush of the starting line wears off, up every hill, and around every corner.   It was truly a battle of wills and I had temporarily conquered the nay-sayer in my head that fall day.  

Following my 5K, on October 13, 2013, I set out to run my first 10K.  I signed up for the race knowing it would be a huge challenge, but I thought that I would be up to it.  I was also trying to prove to myself that by doing this race, I could also do a ½ marathon in the spring of 2014.  In the weeks leading up to the race, though, my training fell by the wayside and I was only running once or twice a week and not more than 3.5 miles at a time.  I was nervous the morning of the race because I had my heart set on running the entire 6.2 mile race and I didn’t want to let myself down.    I felt mentally and physically unprepared, but nevertheless, I took my place at the starting line. 

I gave myself an out early on in the race, by saying I could stop for a brief walking break after the first 5K if I needed to.   I kept going though at the 5K mark, and every time after that when I wanted to stop and walk, I pushed the negative thoughts out of my head and slowed my pace a bit to conserve energy.  I put one foot in front of the other and step-by-step, I made it across the finish line.  

I was elated when I crossed the finish line and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.  I knew in that moment, that I could do anything I set my mind to and that I could, without a doubt, do a ½ marathon.  Prior to that race, I told everyone I knew that I was going to do a ½, but there was always a nagging voice in my head that said I couldn’t.  That negative voice was permanently silenced that morning when I crossed the finish line and that race did more for my self-esteem than I can express.   

I can think of exactly three times in my life when I felt invincible; after the births of my two sons and the day I ran my 10K.  Now I understand exactly why someone would choose to run 1 mile, 13.1 miles, or even 26.2 miles; to feel that sense of incredible accomplishment and to know that you exceeded not only your physical capabilities, but your mental ones, as well.  

The runner’s high extends beyond running, though, and translates into all that I do.  I have more confidence as a wife, mother, friend, and in my professional life and since I began running, I’ve lost over 60 lbs. and kept it off.  I wish I could flash back to that day on the soccer field in elementary school and tell that little girl that she can do anything she puts her mind to, because she can and she will. 

I could stand to update the stats in the story given that I've now completed my first half and my total weight loss is no longer over 60 lbs (argh and more on that in a post later this week), but the sentiment of the story is the same and something I need to remind myself of daily.  I can do anything I put my mind to.  

I haven't forgotten about the Virtual 5K for my one year blogiversary, however, it should be noted that one should look at their calendar before making such statements.  I neglected to remember that I had to work late three nights this week, which left me utterly exhausted and without time to run.  Last night, Matt and I had a much needed date night and it was really nice spending quality time with him and I figured a run and blogging could wait.  So, I will be doing my 5K in the next few days and I will be sure to share when I do.

Thank you all for being a part of the blogging journey with me; I appreciate your support, your encouragement, and your comments more than I can express.  Here's to another great year of the Project Lovely Laura blog! 

As I've been preparing for Napa training (t-minus 9 days until my training plan starts) and getting back in my exercise, weight loss, and nutrition groove, I am reminded of a favorite quote of mine that I know I've used before on the blog, but it bears repeating.

"She believed she could, so she did."