The Ultimate “NSV”

Tonight I experienced what could be my most significant NSV – that’s “non scale victory” for you non-Weight Watchers message board members – since starting my weight loss journey back in November of 2007.

I laced up my sneakers, walked back to my old high school, and I ran the DREADED MILE.

That’s right. The track next to the school that they make everyone run during gym class. The one that caused me nothing but humiliation year after year as I watched every single one of my classmates jog past me while I huffed and puffed my way around the 0.25 mile stretch of concrete.

As part of our annual “physical fitness test,” the gym teachers would bark at us to run four times around the track, clicking a stop watch as each student completed their laps and logging their time on a clipboard. I was always one of the last students – if not the last – to drag my feet across the finish line. But what’s worse is that each time I neared the end to begin my next lap, I’d have to listen to my classmates sitting in the bleachers, snickering and uttering the oh-so-many colorful weight-related nicknames they had for me under their breath.

I remember purposely taking a leisurely stroll around the entire track because a.) it was embarrassing to attempt to run and have to stop every 30 seconds and b.) I wanted to make it seem as though I was just simply too cool to run the track. I didn’t care about gym class (as my “C” report card grades for physical education would suggest), and I certainly didn’t give a hoot about making record time for the physical fitness test. I remember eavesdropping on some of my classmates’ times – 9 minutes for the football players, 12 minutes for the cheerleaders – and I am saddened to report that, one year, I believe I came in at just under 25 minutes.

I figured if I put up the facade that I didn’t want to run the mile, and not that I actually couldn’t, I’d head back to my locker after class with just a little bit of my dignity still intact. But then, of course, there were the other fitness challenges I had to endure, including dangling like a fish from the pull-up bar (I still to this day have never successfully completed one) or turning red in the face as I struggled to touch my toes for the “Sit and Reach.”  And, of course, I’d always get paired off with one of the snotty girls to spot me as I managed to complete all of 17 sit-ups in the timed period.

But the mile always seemed the most daunting. I pretty much had a panic attack when I was forced to take a one-credit gym class in college and learned that the final test would be – you guessed it! – running a mile on the campus’ indoor track.  I remember fighting back tears as the jock girls passed me over and over again, slowing down to encourage me and assure me that “I could do it.”  I ultimately had to lie to the gym teacher and tell her I ran two more laps than I actually did because the entire class was finished and staring at me and I was just moments away from a very public, very humiliating breakdown.

It wasn’t just that I was ashamed that my 250+ pound body and sedentary lifestyle were preventing me from completing a routine fitness test that took my classmates less than 15 minutes to finish. It was also that I couldn’t stop all of my repressed memories of being tormented for my weight throughout elementary, middle, and high school by the same kids in the same school in the same small town from flooding back into consciousness. What hurt the most was that not being able to finish that mile in college make me feel as though nothing in my life had changed. At 21 years of age I was still the “Heffer” they called me as a kid – and there was no doubt in my mind that I always would be.

I’ve been thinking about returning to my high school and running the track for quite some time – especially since I still live in my hometown and it’s practically right around the corner. In the spirit of my fresh start on Weight Watchers this month, I decided that tonight was the night.  Time to stop putting things off until tomorrow – or, as is too often the case, the 12th of never. I had to prove to myself that I could do this, once and for all.

I am beyond proud to report that not only did I complete my four laps around the track, but that I RAN the entire time.  When I was finished, I found myself fighting back an overwhelming display of emotions again…but this time, they were feelings of pride and accomplishment. To some it’s just a patch of dirt, but to me, that track symbolizes the pain of a miserable childhood where my fat prevented me from ever fitting in.

By finally conquering that one-mile run, I feel as though I’m able to let just a little bit of my painful past fade away…and I’m one step closer to fully embracing the person I am today.

The best part?  Running that mile was truly effortless. Suddenly the track didn’t seem so scary anymore, and as I rounded the final lap I found myself thinking that I could easily run four more.  Halfway through I realized I forgot to check my watch so I could time myself, so instead I made a mental note of the songs I listened to as I ran. I did it in less than four songs – one of which, appropriately, was Rob Zombie’s “Never Gonna Stop Me” – and with song times of 2:58, 4:05, 2:53, and 50 seconds of the final song, I made it in a little more than 10 minutes.

I was bursting with excitement, so I decided to take a victory lap around my two-square-mile hometown.  I’ve jogged through my neighborhood a million times before, but tonight I was seeing everything with a fresh perspective. I ran past the windows to the high school cafeteria, which suddenly seemed so small. I ran past some of our old high school haunts, and they were swarmed with kids half my age. I even ran past a former classmate of mine and, fortunately for him, he was one of the few who didn’t “moo” at me in the hallways.

That chapter of my life is long gone, and it’s time for me to realize that I’m not that girl anymore. My 10-minute(ish) mile just proved it!

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6 thoughts on “The Ultimate “NSV”

  1. hamiltonmka

    YOU ARE AMAZING!!! What a significant accomplishment!

    First of all, I am seriously impressed that you did a mile in 10 minutes. That is wicked fast! And you’re right – this was a great task to tell your body and mind that you are no longer that young lady who was unable to do that run. You did it AND MORE! I love that you ran through town too. I often get that feeling when I’m running through my neighborhood and the run is making me not feel like I want to die but instead feel strong and fast and breezy. I daydream that every house I pass is secretly inside calling another neighbor saying “did you see her? She just ran by here AGAIN!” LOL!

    Whatever it takes, right? ;o)

    Congrats. You should be very proud of yourself.

    • THANK YOU, THANK YOU! 😀

      What’s funny is that I’ve never really timed myself while running (other than to make sure I’m earning the number of APs I so desire, haha), so I really had no idea how quickly I could do a mile. I also haven’t been keeping track of how many miles I run – I just recently discovered that the park I head to every day is almost exactly 2 miles around, and so it made me think about how many times I repeat the loop and how many miles I must have been running this whole time.

      Now I’m sort of obsessed with knowing just how far I can go! I think that means I’m ready (mentally) for that 5K. Finding one is on my weekend to-do list. 🙂

      I think I sell myself short sometimes because I still have a hard time looking in the mirror and seeing “a runner,” and I also think I stop myself a little too often when I’m running, biking, strength training, etc. because I THINK I need a break, if that makes sense. While listening to my iPod, I used to run for a song, then walk for a song, then I progressed to running for a song, then walking for the first verse of the next song, etc. But I’m seeing more and more that I can go for several songs without feeling out of breath or tired. It’s like I no longer NEED to stop…but sometimes I still do.

      So, if anything, this NSV has made me realize that I can push myself a whole lot harder than I have been, and my body is definitely fit enough to handle it. I realized after the first lap on the track that the only reason I was starting to feel fatigue was that my mind was racing with all of these horrible memories, and I was scared to death that I would fail at completing it yet again. Like a big dork, I started talking to myself and telling myself to calm down, and that I could do this, and suddenly the rest of the mile was a breeze.

      I know exactly what you mean about running through the neighborhood. You definitely do feel a sense of pride – you’re letting everyone know that you’ve made a commitment to being healthier, and it’s your opportunity to show them just how much your hard work is paying off! There are about 15 different bagel shops, pizza places, and Dunkin Donuts in my town, so it always feels great to fly past someone shoving pizza or donuts in their mouth – just like I used to do on a daily basis – and physically prove to myself that I really am NOT that person anymore. Sort of like conquering that mile just did. 😀

  2. I’m starting to wrestle with “not being that girl anymore,” too. I fully believe that the mental part of this journey will be harder and longer than the physical part (which is HARD :).

    I did the same thing, by the way. I acted cool during PE so I could maintain my dignity and not run during something as easy as kickball or softball. I would purposefully screw up, and I earned the nickname “Princess” for it. It’s funny that they were more mad at me for being a “snob,” as they saw it, than for being overweight. But then, and sometimes now, it all seems to lead back to that word: fat.

    Thanks for helping me journal my way through your comment section. Ha!

    • Hi Felisha,

      You couldn’t be more right. I’m reminded every day that this journey is just as much mental as it is physical. I seem to have no trouble counting POINTs or getting to the gym – when I “fall off the wagon,” it’s almost always because of some emotional issue or body image hang up that I’m still battling.

      This is unrelated to gym class, but I, too, used to do other things to bring attention to myself that was unrelated to my weight in middle/high school…not the least of which was publicly obsessing over one band (Hanson) by wearing their t-shirts every day and doing all sorts of other obnoxious things (writing their names on my hands, etc.). Better to be called “Hanson Freak” than “Fat Girl,” you know?

      Thank YOU for reading and sharing and keeping me going! 🙂

      Jen

  3. Melissa

    I literally had this exact same high school experience. I haven’t gone back yet but my fiance and I talked about doing it just 2 days ago. It freaks me out…but I think it has to be done.

    Good for you for doing it. That is amazing and a fantastic start to your re-commitment to WW. 🙂

    • Hi Melissa,

      Thanks so much for reading, and for your kind words. It’s does help to know that I’m not the only one who still carries around these negative memories of gym class…and being publicly humiliated on the track.

      For what it’s worth, I think you should go for it – you might just surprise yourself. I know I did! You can TOTALLY do this, and it’ll be even nicer to accomplish this goal with your fiance. (Congratulations, by the way!) What better way to let go of the past and celebrate this new chapter of your life? 😀

      Please keep checking back – I’d LOVE to hear from you! (I post updates on Twitter @jenniferlnelson, or feel free to “friend me” on Facebook at Jennifer L. Nelson).

      Jen

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