The Secret

Since I started getting healthy, I have had the opportunity to talk to a multitude of people about running, health, fitness, and nutrition.  For me, these started out as subjects I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole, but now, there isn’t hardly anything else I would rather talk about (except maybe my husband or my dogs!).  And I love learning about health and fitness too.  I’ve collected books from fitness celebrities and role models like Jillian Michaels and Tosca Reno; from professional athletes like Apolo Ono and Rachel Toor; and subscribed to industry magazines like Runner’s World, Trail Runner, and Oxygen.
People have told me I am an inspiration to them.  And everytime this happens, I am left completely humbled and speechless, my mind boggled by the fact that I could be a motivator to anyone – let alone an inspiration for them to lead a healthy lifestyle.
So, does anyone care to guess what the number one question is that I get asked?  I’ll tell you: What’s the secret?  When I first got asked this question, it only created more for me – the secret to what?  To running?  To weight loss?  To working out?  To eating right?  To getting healthy and literally changing your metabolic make-up?  I began to realize that people didn’t so much care about what the secret was about, just that there was one, a magic, “do-this-one-thing” and you’ll be set for a lifetime.  A thing you could do to loose weight and get healthy and look hot all without putting a lot of effort into it.  People are looking for a Hollywood “quick-fix” to change their lives, and a lot of them are convinced I have already found it.  So after being asked, “What’s the secret?” many times, I started contemplating my own life and what I did to make changes that are permanent, healthy, and manageable.  Things that get me excited to wake up in the morning and start a new day.  And believe me; I have had plenty of time to think about my response.  So, here it is, once and for all:
There is no secret. 
Yes.  You read right.  There is no secret, and now I will tell you why.
Fitness and health and nutrition and weight loss and endurance sports are all so intertwined that, first of all, it is impossible to have any one without the others.  And at the same time, these things don’t have to be all-consuming and put a damper on the things you enjoy most in life.  People ask me routinely what I do – let me start by telling you what I don’t do:
1)      I don’t take pills or “nutritional” shakes.
2)      I don’t starve myself.
3)      I don’t spend more than 4 hours a week in the gym.
4)      I don’t deprive myself.
5)      I don’t spend hours meal planning and meticulously counting calories.
6)      I don’t beat myself up when I have an “off day.”  It’s what you do to get back on that matters.
The changes in my have taken places slowly, but surely, and I have worked really hard to get where I am today, and I know I will keep working hard to get where I need to be.  So, therefore, the thing I have done, do, and will continue doing is work hard.  It’s the only thing that works!  Sure, I have bad days and struggle and take a few steps backwards, but I am always happy to get myself back on track and start working hard the next day (or maybe the next day after that) to keep achieving my goals.  I make mistakes too.  I find what works, what doesn’t, how to improve, how to fit something into my schedule, and move on.  The past is gone for me, and I don’t ever want to go back.   What do I do, then?
1)      I do keep journals about everything – food, workouts, running, thoughts, weight-loss progress, my other endeavors, scrapbooks, this blog, etc.
2)      I do strength train 2-3 days a week with my personal trainer.
3)      I do run just about everyday and on weekends with my running club.
4)      I do always, always, always have something to train for, a challenge to look forward to.
5)      I do try my best to eat “clean” – no processed food, no fast food, minimal restaurant food, no soda, no excess sugar, no candy, lean meats and fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains only, smaller portions of carbs and starches, fill up on fruits and vegetables.
6)      I do drink plenty of water everyday, but I am not obsessive – I drink until my thirst is satisfied.
7)      I allow myself to be my “old” self every once in awhile – have dinner out with a friend, skip running to hang out with my husband, not worry about working out when I am on vacation, order the French fries at lunch, etc.  These things have decreased as a I go along.
People look at me and say “Okay, but still, how do you do it?”  How do you give up white spaghetti or rice?  Pepsi?  Snickers?  How do you make yourself like asparagus?  Natural peanut butter?  Cooking your own meals?  How do you go to a gym when you don’t know what to do?  Don’t have the cash?  Don’t own a sports bra?  How do you start running when you can’t even walk up the stairs without getting out of breath?
And I tell them, “One little tiny step at a time, as small as you need to take to make the change.”  Just start.  Just make the commitment to make the change.  The rest is easy and happens almost without you knowing it!  There is no such thing as ‘I can’t,” “It’s too hard,” “It hurts too much,” ‘I don’t have the time,” “I don’t have the money,” “It’s too complicated.”  No, no, no, no, no.  None of that applies to you!
I started small, and when that was too big, I started even smaller. 
I joined the Y.  On my own.  No clue what to do so I started working out in a group exercise class three times a week.  It was a promotional program that whoever lost the most weight in a six week time period got their money for the classes back.  I came in second, but I was hooked on small group and individual training.  Now I work out with a very affordable trainer 2-3 times a week.  We don’t need a gym, hence no membership fee.   

Find the exercise that works for you.  And do it.

I walked around my apartment complex for 20 minutes 3 times a week.  That sucked, nothing was happening.  So I tried jogging a little.  That hurt, nothing was happening.  So I went back to the Y and used the elliptical.  Easy on the joints, no thought involved, no pounding, no pain.  The pounds started coming off, the elliptical got easier until it was too easy.  I tried the treadmill, got bored there, and tried jogging outside again.  It still sucked.  I made it once around the track – on a good day.  Then, I ran a mile and a half one afternoon and I was hooked.  I walked into work one day and said I was thinking about running a marathon, my friend said she was in.  We found MIT and trained for and ran our first half marathon together.   

Do something to get your heart rate up and do it often.

I swapped out one un-healthy thing I put in my mouth a day for something better.  I never dieted.  Popcorn instead of potato chips.  Sweet potato instead of a white potato.  More green beans instead of more rice.  Half white pasta, half wheat pasta.  Beans for one meal instead of beef.  Chicken instead of steak.  I shopped the perimeter of the grocery store.  Whole mile to 2% to 1% to ½ % (even I am still working on skim!).  A cup of tea instead of coffee.  A sprig of mint instead of sugar.  Cook dinner and make extra to take to lunch the next day.  Oatmeal instead of nothing for breakfast.  Organic chicken when it’s on sale.  Berries with almond slivers as a desert instead of ice cream.  Getting creative by trying out new things in the kitchen – some are good, some not so good.  What I am about to tell you is not a lie – your body will thank you, it will become dependent on the good, fresh, whole, natural things you put in your mouth, and you will not be able to eat crap anymore.  You will crave goodness and wholeness.  Your body will change your diet naturally.  It takes time, patience, dedication, and falling off the wagon once in awhile to start seeing the changes, but they will come.  I promise you this.  We are not meant to eat the way most of us do today – highly processes, high fat, chemical-laden foods.  If you need a plan to get you started, the Diabetics “diet” is something I highly recommend as a guideline for how we should all be eating – regardless of our metabolic state.    

Eat fresh, whole, natural, non-processed foods and your body will naturally start to change for the better.

I could talk about these things four hours – and I want to!  The bottom line for me is – there is no secret and there are no excuses.  JUST DO SOMETHING.  One change a week for six months, if that’s what it takes, but do it, and stick to it, and you will not be disappointed.  I am convinced there are no excuses for eating poorly and not exercising daily – we can all do it.  Walk your dog.  Eat at home instead of running through the drive-through.  Play with your kids at the pool.  Eat an apple before bed instead of a pop-tart.  Get up 10 minutes early in the morning and walk up and down your stairs three times.  To hard?  Do 25 jumping jacks instead.  Don’t like broccoli?  Try something new to you like kale or asparagus.  Don’t even know what is healthy to eat?  Look it up online, get a book, try and read about as many different things as you want until you find what works for you.  I don’t care – just do something.  Once you do, you won’t ever want to go back.
We all can.  I am the proof.  Start small and the results will be big.  The secret is there is no secret.  It is the little things we do today that grow into the big things we are able to do tomorrow. 


  1. bravo, here’s a “how do you do it” how do you all you are doing and write such good blog posts!

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