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December 31, 2006. I made my annual New Year's Resolution to get healthy. I had been making that resolution and not sticking to it for some years at that point. But this year was different. I would turn 40 in 2007, and that scared me. No longer did I want to lose weight so I would look good, but rather I wanted to lose weight so that I could live well. With 40 approaching, I realized that it was just a matter of time before I would be taking daily doses of high blood pressure medication, high cholesterol medication, and maybe diabetes medication, if I continued to live as unhealthy as I was. I was 5'2" and at a high weight of 167 pounds and bursting out of my size 14 and just about into a size 16 (although I refused to buy anything in that size). After 3 kids and many bags of chips, fries, and takeout, I realized that I was not the person that I meant to be. I wanted to return to the size that I was before I had kids - a size 6. That was my goal and I wanted to get there before New Year's Eve 2007. And so the journey began...

I joined an all women's gym and resolved to walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes for 5 days a week. The gym had a contest. If you could lose at least 10 pounds within the next 6 weeks, you would get the next month's membership for free. I signed on and boosted my walking schedule up to 6 days per week. I resolved to make healthy eating choices and cut my portions in half. By the end of the 6 weeks, I was down 13 pounds, and had bumped up my treadmill walks to a walk/jog. Watch out. I was on a roll!

With the money that I saved on my next month's membership, I made an appointment for a half hour session with a personal trainer. Her name was Lia. Lia called me before our session to discuss exactly what I was looking to get out of our meeting. I told her that although I was doing very well with my cardio, I thought that I needed to add strength training to my routine and didn't really know what to do with that. I asked her to put together a routine that I could do on my own a few times a week that would strength train most of my muscles. Lia went through a routine that she put together for me that included upper body, lower body and core. The only equipment needed would be dumbells. This meant that I could either do these workouts at home or at the gym. My meeting with Lia changed my life. Anytime in the past, when I attempted strength training, I always used lighter dumbells. Lia pointed out how I would need to add more weight. I saw immediate results which motivated me to keep it up and add more weight as I saw fit.

For the first time in my life, my eating was in total control. I three meals per day and snacked only when hungry. I ate the same dinners that I made for my family, but just cut the portion sizes. I also enjoyed a glass of red wine with dinner a few times per week. For the most part, I skipped desserts. I decided that I would only have a dessert, if I really wanted it. That meant skipping the birthday cake at all the kids parties that I attended. I only ever ate that cake because it was given to me. The cake usually wasn't very good, usually some dry commerically baked cake. I decided that I would not waste my calories on stuff like that anymore. The same went for bread. If I went out to dinner, I decided that I would only enjoy a piece of bread from the breadbasket, if the bread was really worth it. My new attitude towards food went a long way in helping me continue to shed the pounds.

By April, I was able to run a mile and a half continuously, so I decided to bring most of my running outdoors. I was also down to a size 10. My annual physical was very successful. My chloesterol was down to 166 from 210 the prior year. My blood pressure was 110/70 and all my other scores were within the healthy range. My husband ran with me to show me a 2 mile cross country trail in our local park. He used to run that trail when he was in high school. The trail had some difficult inclines and hills. I fell in love with running it immediately and decided to make an effort to run that trail at least once per week. In the end, I usually got there at least 3 times per week.

By the end of May, I was just about down to a size 6 and doing the 5K cross country trail in our local park. The hills on that trail were much more challengin, but I loved the run. My goal in running was just to complete the milage. If I had a day where I was feeling tired, I always give myself permission to slow down, or to even walk a bit. I figured that if I was having a bad day, and going slow or walking a bit, at least I was out there and finishing, which was a lot more than if I did nothing at all. At the time, I was going through some marital problems. I found running to be my sanity saver. I would crave my runs. They cleared my mind and I felt so good after them. Some days, I would be so frustrated that I would do an all out fast 2 miler. I would feel sweet relief when I was done - all my frustrated energy was put to good use. Running just about saved my life at this point. And I thank God for those tranquil trails. Just me, my running shoes, the birds, squirrels, and a few other runners running through the woods. I loved the peaceful feelings it would bring me.

At this point, people were really beginning to notice the changes in my body. Not only had I shrunk to a smaller size, but because of my running and strength training, I was firm and strong looking. My body was better than it was when I was the same size in my twenties. I was in better shape too. I continued on with my running and decided at the beginning of August that I would try my first 5K race. My goal was to finish and not to finish last. Image my surprise, when I finished at a time of 28:40. Not too shabby for a beginner. I ran another 5K two weeks later and improved upon my time, finishing at 28:00. By this time I was down to 114 pounds and between a size 2 and 4. I was just trying to get a handle on maintaining my weight and not losing any more. I was amazed by the amount of food that I could now eat without gaining weight. It's really true what they say about what exercise does to your metabolism. Mine went from the speed of slow and backwards to the speed of light. I signed up for three more 5K races. In my third race, I once again improved my time and was down to 27:15. My confidence was now growing. It was at this point I realized that I could really be a runner, not just a tag-a-long. I read somewhere that women have a tendency to downplay their abilities, and it wasn't until this point that I realized that I had been doing that all along. My speed was improving, and with time, I have the ability to be a good runner, or anything else that I put my mind to. It took me 40 years to realize that I had the power all along. My next race, I improved my time once again, coming in at 25:15. This time, I also placed first in my age group. Now, granted, this was the smallest race that I had completed (only 150 entrants), but when I look at how far that I have come in such a short period of time, I have to say that I am very proud of myself. At the beginning of the year, the only race that I might have won, was a race to the refrigerator. I wish that I had found this inner strength years ago. But the fact is, I am grateful to have found it at all. Some women go through life and never discover their inner strength. Running has done this for me. And now I'm addicted.

I'm running another 5K this weekend, but will be running this one with my 6 year old son, so this race will not be about time - it will just be about sharing the experience with my youngest son and helping him to find his inner strength. When I think back to New Year's Eve, I am so grateful that this was the year that I made it - I kept my resolution. And now that I'm here, I never want to go back to the person that I was before. I see so many possibilities for myself in my life now and so many things that I am capable of. My husband and I went out to dinner with friends a few weeks ago and stopped off for a drink afterwards. I was asked to show proof of age before they would serve me - what a hoot! A friend of mine asked me to run a half-marathon with him next year. I'm thinking about doing that, but first I want to successfully complete a few 10K races. That will be my next challenge and I have no doubt that I will be happy with my results.... Joanne, NYC, Age 40








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