Over the course of my adult life, healthy eating habits, weight loss, exercise and wellness in general have not come naturally – or even easy at times – to me. I’ve had to work hard to run, to lift, to eat fruits and vegetables, hydrate my body and even take care of my health. Running is not easy for me, nor will it ever be, however, the challenge of running and physical activity is also what makes it appealing to me. In 2009, my health reached an all-time record of poorer than it had ever been, and my weight reached an all-time record of higher than it had ever been. I was miserable, I was unhealthy and I didn’t like myself very much. For me, whether or not I like myself, has always been tied to my physical appearance so when I gained weight, my opinion of myself plummeted. Nothing really significant changed in my eyes other than I stopped walking around campus after I graduated and landed a high-stress job soon after that was more conducive to hitting the drive-through than packing a healthier option. I committed to running a half marathon after hearing I was at high-risk for diabetes. Go big or go home, right? I trained for five months, crossed the finish line and entered a world of racing that took me on one of the greatest adventures of my life. I raced, made friends that have lasted a lifetime, overcame obstacles I never thought I could (like loving myself again), reduced my health risks and even lost nearly 70 pounds in the process.
Everything abruptly stopped for me after I unexpectedly lost my mother just two years later. Mom was my biggest cheerleader – in running and in life. She inspired me and many others to get healthy and fit and to stay that way. At 61 years old, she was for the first time in her life training to run a quarter marathon, right up to the day she died, in fact. When I lost her, my grief consumed me. I stopped running as much and started eating a few more things that I didn’t eat before. I didn’t lose all control, though, and tried to keep up with my training through coaching other runners. When I had an equally unexpected blood clot in my calf travel to my lung a year after Mom’s death, it was game over for me in terms of fitness and health. I lost all control – although unwillingly this time. I physically, emotionally and mentally could not do anything to take care of myself. Just surviving the injuries my body sustained was all I could do – and I was barely doing that.
Now, over two years into my recovery period, I am ready to begin again. While I still carry the emotional wounds of what happened to me, physically I am ready to start taking care of myself again. It won’t be easy and it won’t be fun – and I face a whole new set of challenges this time because of my health – but, I know it is time to put this body back in motion.
I don’t yet know if running will be my activity of choice. I have a lot of painful memories associated with it that I’m not able to process, yet, but I know it has to be something. Maybe walking or cycling or more hiking. I won’t be going big this time – but I will be going.
Getting into a regular health and fitness routine is difficult – whether you are just starting out or starting over. Whether you’re making your health a priority for the first time or 18th time, fitness, health and wellness require hard work, determination, change and even discomfort. More often than not, it’s hard to get healthy!
Going into 2015, it is my goal to put my health first – again. I believe anyone can do it too. Because I did it and if I did it, so can you. And, guess what? You can take small steps to get there. Small steps add up to something when it comes to your health. If there is one thing I have learned over the past several years it is if you lose your health, you have lost everything. If you have your health, then you have everything.
Here are some simple steps to make your health a priority this year:
Be heard and get screened. Make regular doctor’s appointments and go to them. A lot of health problems can not only be found, but solved early on. As questions, be the one in control of your own health. If something doesn’t seem or feel right, take the initiative to take care of you.
Listen to your body. I didn’t listen to mine and I almost wasn’t there to talk about it. One day I went for a two mile run, and the next day I was in Intensive Care without any knowledge of if I would ever come out. I had a pain in my calf that I thought was a pulled muscle, which was actually a blood clot that traveled from my leg, through my heart and lodged in my left lung, becoming life-threatening. I was having trouble breathing and I could barely walk, but I ignored what was swiftly becoming a problem.
Love your heart. This is where even small changes yield big results. Eat right (you know how – fruits, vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats, less sugar and less processed foods, drink plenty of water and move more everyday.
Educate yourself and be safe. Facing a chronic and lifelong illness, I have become very conscious about my health. If you’re facing any challenged whether it be recovering from foot surgery or fighting cancer, know your risks and know what medications you are putting in your body. Again, ask questions. You are your best advocate!
Tell me about you. How are you going to make your health a priority in 2015?
Until the next mile marker,