Posts Tagged With: weight loss

Running Makes You Stronger. Period.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday weekend! The weather kind of sucked here in NJ (except for Monday), but I did get to spend some time in Atlantic City and catch a Third Eye Blind concert…I’ve been obsessed with them since middle school, and pretty much stalk them every time they come around!

It probably sounds kind of strange, but despite the fact that I’m a blogger and basically broadcast my life all over the Internet on a weekly basis, in “real life,” I’m actually a pretty private person. I tend to keep to myself, and have a hard time sharing my feelings with others…and that includes my family and closest friends. But I am a writer…so stick me in front of a computer, and it all just comes pouring out.

Still, writing this particular post is going to be a little difficult for me, and yet, I feel as though I can’t continue posting with my own special brand of candor and honesty here without at least mentioning that I’m going through a really tough time right now.

I promise, this will not be a “woe is me” kind of post. Instead, it’s something I need to share because it’s a major life change…and my personal weight loss and running journey factor directly into how I’m dealing with it all.

2001

2001

My boyfriend and I have broken up. Out of respect for his privacy, I won’t go into all the sordid details, but suffice it to say that the outcome of our almost 12-year relationship (we were high school sweethearts) has been looking pretty grim for quite some time. We’ve been struggling with various issues for years, and this was honestly the only course of action that was left, unfortunately…I think ending things might even do us both a lot of good.

Since we lived together, it’s hard to say we’re “broken up” when I can sit in my apartment and still see a lot of his clothing and movies and books still lying around, or his posters hanging on the wall or countless framed photos capturing all of our happiest moments, from high school proms to college graduations to vacations and trips (including, of course, our various jaunts to Disney World).

2007

2007

It’s also hard for me because I’m still trying to wrap my mind around the loss of a person who has been in my life for over a decade. He has been there for me through it all…he was my shoulder to cry on when I lost my beloved grandparents, my support system when I began losing weight (for the final time) on Weight Watchers, my cheerleader when I saw my very first published byline in a magazine and crossed the finish line of my first race, the best friend I could always turn to for a laugh or to vent or to hang out and do absolutely nothing.

Needless to say, I am heartbroken. Anger, disappointment, shock, hurt, devastation, disbelief, sadness, rage…you name it, I feel it. I don’t want to be melodramatic, but obviously, this is the man I pictured myself marrying and building a home with and having kids with and growing old together. I desperately wanted all of those things…and I’d thought he was “the one” since I was 16 years old. But right now, let’s just say I have amassed ample evidence to suggest that he simply does not feel the same way about me. And maybe he never truly did. I don’t really know.

2013

2013

There’s nothing I can do about any of this except to learn how to cope. For the first time in my life, I have to learn how to be on my own. And I can’t help but think that there was a time in my life when all of this would have utterly crushed me. I used to hate the sight of my morbidly obese body, and had managed to convince myself that I was worthless. That I had nothing to offer the world. That I was destined to be miserable forever.

There was a time in my life when something would upset me — the bullies at school, a fight with a friend, a bad grade, you name it — and my first (and only) response would be to grab a handful of Oreos or dive headfirst into a bag of Doritos. Eating was how I coped with life’s disappointments, and it was the only thing that could soothe me.

Today, however, I know that no matter what happens — even something as devastating as the end of a relationship in which I’ve invested nearly half of my life —  I will survive. I know that I will be okay. And I’m convinced that running has a lot to do with that.

Losing 90 pounds (and, more importantly, keeping it off) has empowered me to believe that you can change your life, and that your health and happiness are worth fighting for.

My love of Thai Kickboxing and Taekwondo have taught me that, at heart, I amthaifront truly a fighter, and that I am disciplined and motivated enough to achieve anything I want in life.

But when it comes to running…that’s what forced me to realize that I am so much stronger than I ever thought possible.

Any runner knows that our sport can be just as much mental as it is physical, and training my body and my mind to endure 5Ks, then 10Ks, then half marathons — when I used to be someone who would avoid stairs at all costs, and found all of my personal pleasure from raiding the refrigerator — has proven in no uncertain terms that I am STRONG. I transformed myself from an overweight high schooler who physically couldn’t complete the mile in gym class to an adult who runs 13.1 miles like it’s no big thing. I slowly but surely changed absolutely everything about my life, and taught myself how to live as a healthy, active person.

And that’s how I know I can handle anything life throws my way. When life knocks me down, I know I have the courage and tenacity inside of me to get right back up again. I am not a quitter, and I don’t let anyone else dictate my sense of self-worth.

I do believe running has changed the person I am, both inside and out. After the years of torment I endured as an obese child and teenager to the countless failed dieting attempts to hitting rock bottom as a 265-pound 22-year-old, I feel as DSCF3043though running has given me and my entire journey a purpose.

I believe I was meant to discover running as my way of finally making peace with my body, and as a way to love and celebrate the person I am. I feel so incredibly grateful to have found something that fulfills me and gives me a sense of well-being — no matter what happens in my life, I know that I can always reach for my running shoes.

So, in conclusion…I’m going through a tough time right now. And it has hurt me. But I will not let this crush me.

After all…I’m in training. Three months until the Dumbo Double Dare!

Has running ever helped you through a tough time?

In what ways has it changed your life?

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My Incredibly DOPEY Decision

So yesterday I did something crazy. Like, real crazy. WAY crazier than my decision to register for the Dumbo Double Dare, which I thought was just pure MADNESS at the time (and now just doesn’t seem so scary after all).

disneyprincesshalfmarathon1Yesterday, I got completely swept up in the excitement of Walt Disney World’s Marathon Weekend. If you follow runDisney fanatics on Twitter or Facebook — especially as many as I do — you just can’t help it. I had been casually entertaining the idea of attempting a full marathon ever since I crossed the finish line of the Princess Half in February and proved to myself that I could make it through 13.1 miles without dropping dead.

Running a marathon, a FULL marathon, has always been one of those pie-in-the-sky, maybe someday, “you never know” type dreams for me. Let’s face it, in the grand scheme of things, I’m still a running newbie, and I figured that someday, SOMEDAY, I’d probably go ahead attempt a full marathon.

But there was one thing I did know for sure. I knew that if I WAS going to take on 26.2 miles, it was going to be at Walt Disney World. It just had to be. So I figured maybe I’d consider registering for the 2015 marathon…or 2016. Or, hell, 2017 — what was the rush?

Truth be told, when I read accounts of runners training for their first marathons on their blogs, I’d physically cringe. 20 mile training runs? Who has the time? Or the energy?

When I read countless recaps of this year’s “Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge” — running the half marathon followed by the full marathon in the same weekend — I shook my head. What the hell were these people thinking? Were they TRYING to get themselves injured? Or killed?

But yet I couldn’t help but admit to myself that I was so incredibly, amazingly in awe of these runners. I wanted to do it, too. I wanted to be a marathoner.

I knew there would be one minor road block standing in my way. I was absolutely, unequivocally terrified of the idea of running 26.2 miles. Who did I think I was even CONSIDERING the idea? A year ago I was struggling to finish 5ks, and I really only have a handful of distance races (10 miles+) under my belt…and now I’m sitting here fantasizing about running a marathon?

When I was in Disney World in February for the Princess Half Marathon, cast members were constantly asking me if they’d “see me next January” for the marathon. I would then proceed to laugh hysterically. “I’m not quite there yet,” I told them. In fact, I believe one of my first tweets upon hearing the news of the Dopey Challenge was something along the lines of, “good luck to everyone doing the Dopey Challenge, it ain’t gonna be me!”

But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it. Even just a little bit.

Yesterday, my mindset shifted. Big time. I wrestled with a giant knot in my stomach all morning, watching the clock for the 12pm registration time for the Walt Disney World Marathon. Should I register for 2014? Is it too soon for me? Will I be able to do it? Am I ready? Will I EVER be ready?

The answer? Who knows. Is there EVER a good time to train for a marathon? Will I EVER be “ready?”

There will always be work and family and responsibilities, and I couldn’t help but think that if I WAS going to do this, now is probably as good a time as any. I have a fairly steady client base of both editors and piano students, so while I will never get rich doing what I do, I manage to live quite frugally (I still drive the beat-up old car I bought in college; it has 170,000 miles on it for crying out loud) and also have some money saved up from spending the majority of my 20’s working and living at home with my parents. I don’t have children or pets or a mortgage, and I make my own work hours.

Are YOU Dopey? Photo credit: www.talkdisney.com

Are YOU Dopey? Photo credit: http://www.talkdisney.com

Most importantly? I’m 27 years old, and in the best shape of my life…no physical ailments or health issues of any kind (knock on wood), other than the occasional minor running-related injury, of course.

So yesterday I had to ask myself the question: Why not ME? Why not NOW?

I’m sure you can probably guess what comes next.

I whipped out my Disney Visa (my poor, sad, TIRED Disney Visa), and registered for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon.

But, wait, there’s MORE.

In this moment of insanity, I couldn’t help but be seduced by the Dopey Challenge. In its inaugural year, it’s a challenge to run not only the marathon, but also the weekend’s 5K, brand-new 10K, AND half marathon.

That’s a total of 48.6 miles. In 4 days. The thought still sends chills down my spine. And not the good kind!

Was it it a good idea for my health? My sanity? Maybe, maybe not. But…runners who complete all four races receive not only a medal for each race, but also the coveted Goofy Challenge medal AND the brand spankin’ new Dopey Challenge medal. SIX MEDALS. Can we say BLING?!

So I thought for a moment. If I was going to put my body through months and months of marathon training…why not go ahead and celebrate my hard work with the ULTIMATE weekend of running?

Why not aim high? Why not take this chance? Why not believe in myself for once?

Anyone who knows me knows that I am nothing if not ambitious (and, also, just a little bit off my rocker). So…

DOPEY CHALLENGE HERE I COME!

I think what really sealed the decision for me is that I have truly gone through my whole life putting things off and doubting my ability to do what I wanted. “Someday” I’d “try” to be a freelance writer. “Someday” I’d “try” to lose weight. Of course, there was even a time when I told myself that “someday” I’d “try” to run a 5K…how long ago that seems!

I am TIRED of doubting myself. I am TIRED of putting things off. I want to be the kind of person who has the confidence and the courage to set a goal and then make it happen. I don’t want to “try”…I just want to DO. And I’d say this is a step in the right direction!

Okay, so who else is doing “Dopey?” Is it anyone else’s first marathon?

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Bulu Box Review and Promo Code — Get Yours FREE!

If you took a look through my kitchen and bathroom cabinets, you would find tons of not-so-well organized health and fitness products, from snacks to supplements. I’m one to try pretty much anything, and in my quest to be as healthy as I possibly can be, that means I end up with a whole lot of products that I ultimately decide aren’t for me…and, unfortunately, that means my money pretty much goes to waste.

buluboxSo when I was contacted to be a Bulu Box ambassador, I was psyched! This is a company designed to help people like me identify the products that work best for them without shelling out tons of our hard-earned cash in the process. It’s touted as the first vitamin, supplement, and general health subscription sample box designed to help you feel your best, and because I’m now one of their brand ambassadors, I have a special promo code that will allow my readers to get their own Bulu Box for FREE!

But first, here’s how Bulu Box works: for just $10 a month, you get a box stuffed with 4 or 5 samples from top brands. As any health seeker knows, there’s TONS out there in the way of health products and supplements, and I can easily drop $10 on just ONE product — and if I decide it’s not for me, then I’m out the money. This way, your $10 covers a few different products, and chances are you’ll end up with at least one sample of a new product that you know for sure that you love before investing in the full-size version.

I received my first box over the weekend — love the motivational quotes on the packaging! — and here are a few of the products I received, just to give you an idea. Two of the products are all-natural sleep aids, and I almost wondered if somehow the Bulu Box folks knew that I’ve been having some issues sleeping lately! The box also comes with a booklet that helps explain exactly what each product is, how to use it, and how it can help you lead a healthier, more active lifestyle.buluboxproducts

The boxes will always contain a new mix of products for both women and men, from vitamins and herbs to energy products and sports nutrition supplements, and the samples are large enough for you to give it a try and decide whether or not the product is right for you.

The good news doesn’t stop there…shipping is completely FREE, and there are no shady contracts — if you ultimately decide you’re not into it, you can cancel your subscription any time. There are also a few different options to choose from: you can opt for a month-to-month, 3, 6, or 12-month subscription.

If you end up really digging one of the products you sampled in your Bulu Box, you can, of course, hit your nearest Whole Foods or vitamin/supplement store to buy the full-size variety…or, you can earn Rewards Points to cash in for your favorite products simply by visiting the Bulu Box website and sharing your thoughts on the products you receive. You earn Rewards Points (50 points per month equals $5) just for sharing your personal reviews and completing short surveys, and you can then trade those points in to purchase the full-sized versions of your favorite products via the Bulu Box website.

All sound good? I thought so, too! So why not give it a try? As a reader of The Final Forty, Bulu Box wants to invite you to get your hands on your first box completely free!

So go ahead and visit Bulu Box, enter your shipping information for the monthly subscription, and use coupon code BULUGAN004 for your free box!

Any other Bulu Box fans out there?

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Putting Myself ‘Out There’

For more than three years now, I have been keeping a secret.

I have a blog.

While those of you who follow me on Twitter — my main forum for publicizing the goings-on here at “The Final Forty” — may be scratching your heads right now, allow me to explain.

beach2007

2007, size 20W

I started blogging in January of 2010 after my weight loss progress on Weight Watchers halted to a standstill. I had shed 80 pounds in 2008, followed by a SLOOOW 10 pounds in 2009, and then after that…nothing. Nada. Zilch. I did absolutely everything I could think to do to kickstart my weight loss again, and yet that scale just would not budge.

Meanwhile, throughout the process of losing so much weight in such a short period of time, I was forced to face an endless string of emotional issues. As I watched my body shrink from a size 20/22W to a size 8/10M, all of the issues that had led me to become so overweight in the first place came rushing to the surface. I had been drowning my emotions in food for so long that once that crutch was no longer there, I didn’t know how to deal with it all. Desperate to keep the weight off, I went in search of anything I could do to make sure my various issues didn’t become so overwhelming that I ended up returning to my old ways…as I had done so many times in the past.

And that is why I started blogging. It was for no reason than to serve as a place for me to sort through all of the issues that go along with making such a drastic lifestyle change so quickly. I told a select handful of people about my blog, assuming that nobody would ever care to venture into the inner-workings of my mind, and that was that. I posted a new blog every week or two…or month or two…and it continued to serve as a personal diary of sorts.

The reason I write this post today is because I am tired of hiding. I have spent the majority of my life hiding behind my weight and using it as an excuse not to do what I really want to do.

I was bullied day in and day out for years for being “the fat girl,” and it’s hard for me to admit it, but I am so not over the pain and humiliation that comes from being singled out and having what I believed was my worst flaw pointed out to me over and over again in the cruelest ways imaginable. I am not over it. I probably never will be.

DSCF9982_2

2012, size 10M

I always wondered if some of my former classmates would ever stumble upon my blog, and that thought used to terrify me…but it is within the last few months that I’ve realized that, in many ways, I owe a part of my success to them. I use the pain of what they put me through to fuel me today…and while I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, facing that kind of adversity from such a young age has forced me to work so much harder and made me so much stronger than I ever thought I could be.

This whole quest to lose “the final forty” has been frustrating, to say the least, but it has also been the most rewarding and fulfilling experience of my life…and I wouldn’t trade my journey for anything. Whether the scale reflects it or not, my body continues to change, and five years later, I can say that my mind is FINALLY starting to catch up with the person I am on the outside.

I owe a lot of that to the incredible support and encouragement that I started to find as soon as I began opening myself up to others, whether it was on Twitter or Facebook or through the countless amazing blogs I read written by people who continue to inspire me to chase my goals every single day, whether it’s pitching my dream magazine or registering for my next half marathon.

princesshalf4My blog is starting to grow now — in fact, I’ll be sharing a new brand ambassadorship here very soon! — and while it will always be a little strange posting personal thoughts and feelings to be read by people I know in “real life,” I’m not afraid anymore. Believe it or not, until today, I never even advertised my own blog on my personal Facebook page…I was judged for so long that it was hard not to obsess over what people would think about my musings on such personal topics as loose skin, or my most embarrassing “before” photos.

But you know what…this is me today, and as hard as it is for me to admit it sometimes, I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, I’m proud of who I am, and after 20+ years of hating my body, I’ve finally reached a place where I can accept myself just the way I am…and I don’t care who knows it. I mean, if I can post pictures of myself in a bathing suit for all the world to see, then I shouldn’t be afraid of anything, right?

People sometimes tell me that I am an inspiration to them (in fact, this awesome runner I’ve been following actually wrote a blog post inspired by something I talked about here, and that is just so unbelievably flattering to me…thank you!), and while it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the notion of inspiring someone else, I do believe I have something to offer the world…and I plan to do just that.

princesshalfI don’t think I would be where I am today in my running journey if it wasn’t for the community of runners who are always willing to share advice and words of encouragement and, yes, even to talk me off the ledge, so to speak, when I was convinced that I’d never be able to finish a 5k…or a 10k…or a half marathon.

I want to fully engage in that community, and I want to fully commit to my running goals — and it all starts with not being afraid to put myself out there.

Discovering my passion for running (and martial arts!) has helped me to conquer so many of my demons, and maybe I’m as addicted to running as I once was addicted to food — jury’s still out on how healthy THAT is! — but I don’t know where I’d be if I didn’t finally discover something that has helped give meaning to my transformation and my future as a healthy, active person.

So…if you’re reading this, and would be so kind as to connect with me, here’s where to find me. No more hiding!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jenniferlnelson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheFinalForty

E-mail: thefinalforty at gmail dot com

Professional website: www.jenniferlnelson.com

Do you ever have a hard time posting about personal topics when people you know in “real life” are reading?

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I DID IT! My First Half Marathon: Disney Princess!

I’m back from my first half marathon and RunDisney event — the Disney Princess Half Marathon — and I’ll be posting a whole lot of recaps and photos over the next few days…but first and foremost, I would like to announce that I DID finish, and I DID have the time of my life! I cannot WAIT for my next RunDisney race: the Dumbo Double Dare in Disneyland!

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One of many, many castle photo ops!

Before I start posting lots and lots of recaps, reviews (Race Retreat, ChEAR Squad, etc.) and photos from my trip, I wanted to take a moment to share a few post-race thoughts. My finish time was an entire hour — yes, a whole freakin’ HOUR! — later than what I had planned (2:30), but I’m going to go ahead and chalk that up to the fact that I stopped for almost EVERY photo opportunity along the course, a few pit stops, and, of course, the ridiculous humidity that I was SO not prepared to run in.

As a Northern princess, I had spent the last few months tackling my final long runs in the bone-chilling 30 degree weather…and the temperatures on race day soared to almost 80 degrees, with 90 percent humidity! I tried my best to maintain my usual 9-10/minute mile pace in between character stops, but ultimately couldn’t muster anything faster than 11-12/minute miles, especially in the second part of the race when I was really feeling the effects of the 2:30am wake-up call and was literally dripping with sweat (gross!).

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Yes, I was one of those runners taking pictures of all the mile markers!

Probably to the dismay of my devoted “ChEAR Squad” — my mom, sister, and BF — I would also be lying if I didn’t admit that I was sort of taking my sweet old time along the course. I am an absolute Disney freak, and I definitely got a little carried away with the excitement of combining my absolute two favorite things — running and Disney — on the day of the race. I was lucky enough to move up to Corral A based upon my most recent 10K time — because, yes, I am usually just a tad faster than my 3:30 half marathon finish might suggest! — and since I had that extra time cushion (there was a 16-minute/mile maximum pace starting with the last wave of runners), I decided to take full advantage of all the fun and excitement along the course.

DSCF2792

Yet another photo op!

I saw lots of other women arguing with their running buddies about stopping for a particular character or photo opportunity, and I didn’t want to do that to myself — I wanted to take tons of pictures and have fun and enjoy this moment that I had worked so hard for, and if that meant a less-than-desirable finish time, so what? I’ll just run another half marathon that doesn’t include all of the hooplah on the sidelines and focus on my time for that race.

The course was also pretty crowded (more on that later), so my time also included lots of weaving around slower runners and walkers, because my only other race day plan was that when I wasn’t stopping for photo ops or potty breaks that I would just keep running…and that’s exactly what did!

For me, this race wasn’t about setting a PR (although, as a first time half marathoner, I suppose it was an automatic PR), it was about having a blast in my favorite place in the world…and, most importantly, proving to myself that I can do this. I had spent the last six months training and planning and thinking about this race, and all while wrestling with self-doubt that I’d ever be able to cross that finish line. I am not some natural-born athlete; I may be physically fit now, but I am, at my core, a woman who battles a lifelong weight problem every single day, and all of the residual issues that go along with that — and I probably always will be.

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By far the LONGEST character line of the race!

And that’s why, my Disney obsession aside, I would recommend the Disney Princess Half Marathon to any first-time half marathon runner — or anyone looking to infuse a little bit of fun into their racing schedule. I was surrounded by nothing but supportive women in all shapes, sizes, ages, and ability levels, and it wasn’t some pressure-packed race experience amongst elite runners…even in Corral A. By the time I was standing at the start line and waiting for the Fairy Godmother to send us off, I had all the confidence I needed to know that I would be able to call myself a half marathoner in just a few short hours.

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Nothing better than celebrating a successful race at the Magic Kingdom!

It was a race that was all about having some silly, girly fun, with runners wearing elaborate princess costumes and tiaras and being sprinkled with pixie dust upon crossing the finish line. I honestly didn’t even have time to play the self-deprecating “you’re never going to finish” game along the course because I was so preoccupied with my next big moment — running through Cinderella’s castle, seeing the Epcot ball in the distance — or wondering which character I might get to visit with next.

Overall, I had an AMAZING first half marathon experience, and I can’t wait to share the finer details here with all of you! Stay tuned! 🙂

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The Moment I’ve Been Waiting For

It’s finally here! Tomorrow I will be flying to Orlando for my very first half marathon: the Disney Princess Half Marathon.

princessmedal

I could probably use this final blog post for a 2,000 word narrative on what this race means to me, or a summary of all the blood, sweat, and tears I put into the training process. I could also probably launch into a lengthy speech on how completely and utterly life-changing preparing to take on my first 13.1 has been — and how there’s a part of me that still can’t believe I’m doing this.

But I won’t. I’ll keep this short and sweet — mainly, because I’m not even close to done packing and I have about a million other things to do, but also because I feel as though I’ve already poured my heart and soul into my previous 50 or so blog posts that have revolved around this race.

I will say that no matter what happens this weekend — whether I shock myself with a sub-2 hour finish time (in my dreams) or fall flat on my face in mile 6 (literally or figuratively), I will never be the same person again.

This event is not just 13.1 miles through a theme park; to me, it is undeniable proof that the old me is gone forever. The 260+ pound girl who once avoided staircases for fear of becoming too winded will officially become a half marathoner.

That finisher’s medal will not be just a shiny piece of bling to mount on my wall; it will be a visual representation of exacarielcostumetly what I can accomplish when I allow myself to believe that I can. I’ve already proven to myself that I was never “destined” to be obese — I CAN lose weight, I CAN keep it off, and I CAN live life as a healthy, active person. And this race will prove, once and for all, that I am not “too fat” to run. I CAN run a half marathon, and I CAN take on absolutely anything else I want to accomplish in life.

This weekend, I become an athlete. The third-grader who came in last on the mile in gym class (every. single. year) is long gone, and so is the college student who broke down in humiliated tears after being unable to finish a mile run along with fellow classmates in the university-required “Personal Fitness” course.

And yes, part of that is because I am thinner and fitter now, and yes, I’ve been training for this race for an ungodly six months, putting in mile after mile, day after day.

But the other reason — the most important reason of all — is that I have finally learned to allow myself the opportunity to succeed. I couldn’t have successfully lost the weight or  trained for a half marathon without finally accepting that I am capable of more than I ever thought possible.

Running a half marathon requires physical strength…there’s no doubt about it. But any runner will tell you that the mental strength you need to tough it out through long distances — or to have the confidence to even register for a 13.1 or a 26.2 mile race in the first place — can prove far more important.

Little did I know that I had that strength inside of me all along. I just had to believe it.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter or Facebook for race day and weekend updates!

And…if you are also participating in the Princess Half Marathon Weekend and happen to spot certain crazy Ariel-costumed runner this week, please be sure to say ‘hi’! 😀

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Why I Love Running

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d proclaim the reasons I’ve fallen head over heels for running.

(I better love it, seeing as how ONE WEEK FROM TODAY, I will be headed down to Walt Disney World to take on my very first half marathon!)

1.) The way I feel when I’m done. Sure, sure, the running part is great and all, but whether I’ve gone out for a 2-mile run or a 12-mile run, there are no words to express the way I feel when it’s over. Call it runner’s high, call it endorphins, call it whatever you want, but I am addicted! I never feel more confident than when I can spend some time in my running duds and come home all sweaty and tired and sore and…proud.

2013-02-06 13.59.372.) The new relationship with food. It’s no secret that I used to have a serious weight problem; I spent most of my life struggling with obesity, and trying every trick in the book to gain control over my unhealthy eating habits, from fad diets to good old-fashioned starvation. Now that I’m a runner, I am forced to see food for what it truly is: fuel. Gone are the days when I obsess over every carbohydrate or scour the supermarket for the latest and greatest in fat-free snacks; I understand now that my body needs carbs and fats and all of these other nutrients — in moderation — to perform at its best.

3.) The sense of accomplishment. There is little in life that makes me as proud as the moment when I cross the finish line of a race, or when I head out for a 10- or 12-mile run and actually finish. It doesn’t matter whether I PRed or struggled through every mile — I get to constantly experience the joy that comes from setting a goal and seeing it through every time I sign up for a race or take on a new distance. There’s nothing like proving to myself over and over again that I CAN do this.

4.) The community. It has been so rewarding to communicate with, and learn from, fellow runners, who are always so willing to share their tips and encouragement. Coming in from a bad run to see that I have a new supportive comment on my blog or an encouraging tweet from another runner helps more than I could have ever imagined. It’s so much fun getting to share my new obsession!

5.) The stress relief. I’m definitely not known to be a relaxed, carefree person — I’m pretty much the exact definition of someone with a Type A personality, and have always tended to be just a tad high-strung. But not when I’m running. Lacing up my sneakers and going out for a run is a time for me to unwind, decompress, and maybe even work through the problems of the day in a calm, rational way as I’m traversing my usual running routes. Don’t get me wrong, running can certainly be physically exhausting, but it really can help soothe the mind. Even my mind.

6.) The body acceptance. Thanks to my lifelong weight struggles, I’ve always been pretty hard on myself about my body (read: I’ve loathed it with a passion). Even after my weight loss, I focused on imperfections like residual stretch marks or loose skin instead of seeing what was right there in front of me: a strong, healthy body. Running makes you appreciate everything your body is capable of achieving, and it has helped me develop an acceptance for what I have — and for that, I am eternally grateful. I’m not saying I have the perfect body, or that I ever will, but I’ve finally been able to break the cycle of striving to be “skinny” — instead, I focus on being the strongest, fittest (and, yes, even fastest!) runner I can be.

7.) The empowerment. I don’t think I need to say that running is HARD. WORK. But proving to myself that, yes, I could run a 10K, or yes, I could make it to double-digits in my long runs, makes me feel as though I could accomplish ANYTHING. Because running can be so physically grueling, and because it is a physical activity that was never, ever possible for me — someone who has always been obese — conquering my fear of taking on new distances and proving to myself every single day exactly what I am capable of achieving when I set my mind to it is incredibly, unbelievably empowering. I was the girl who couldn’t run the mile in gym class in high school, who was pointed at and laughed at for huffing and puffing my way around the outdoor track four times and still finishing last. And today…I am training for a half marathon.

8.) The travel. Of course, I had to mention this one! I can see now that running just pairs so nicely with my desire to travel and go places and experience new things. I am beyond thrilled to be able to combine my love of running with my love of, oh, I don’t know, say Disney World, and am excited to participate in races and meet other runners from other other parts of the country (and, no, I don’t just mean my upcoming trip to Disneyland for the Dumbo Double Dare).  My running journey has been nothing but exciting and fulfilling, and I look forward to where it might take me next!

Your turn. What do YOU love about running?

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13.1 Lessons I’ve Learned While Training for My First 13.1

Yesterday, I braved the snow and ice (thanks a lot, Nemo!) and went out for my last long run before the Disney Princess Half Marathon. I planned to take on 12 miles — my longest run to date. Though the packed down snow and icy patches along my usual route slowed me down a bit, I am happy to announce that I finished all 12 miles…and, most importantly, that I felt pretty damn good!

A segment of yesterday's running route!

A segment of yesterday’s running route!

I know that many half marathon training plans only go up to 10 miles, but I wanted to see if I could push myself just a bit further. I needed to prove to myself that I CAN take on this distance…and I’m figuring the adrenaline and the excitement of seeing that finish line will carry me through the final 1.1 miles on race day!

As I was making my way through yesterday’s wintry wonderland, I did a lot of thinking. Knowing that it was my last long run after months and months of training (I’ve been working on building up my base since LAST AUGUST!), I couldn’t help but feel a little bit nostalgic about my running journey thus far. I have a feeling that there will be many more half marathons in my future, but because this is my first — and, let’s face it, because it’s taking place at Walt Disney World — I know it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Last summer, my idea of “running” was heading out for slow 2-3 mile jog a few times a week at the park near my apartment. It was just something I did to exercise when I had the time. At that point, I had also completed a few 5Ks and 4-milers “just for fun.” Yet despite my inexperience, for some reason, I felt compelled to go ahead and sign up for a half marathon.

The thought of running a half marathon — especially a RunDisney event — had crossed my mind several times in the past, but it was never something I thought I could actually accomplish. Those events, after all, were for “real” runners.

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Longest run ever: 12 miles!

I had no idea then just how much clicking that “register” button was going to change my life, and as I tackled yesterday’s scheduled 12 miles, I found myself thinking about all of the things I’ve learned along my journey to my first half marathon. And, what a coincidence, there are 13.1 of ’em!

1.) Running is hard. I figured I’d start with the obvious. Six months ago, I saw running as little more than a cardio activity…you know, something you did to burn some calories and maybe even drop a few pounds. I had no idea how much jargon there was to learn (fartleks, anyone?) or the experimentation necessary to find the right sneakers or pre-race fuel or what it would take to complete a structured training plan of runs over the course of a few months. The act of running is pretty straightforward, I suppose — one foot in front of the other — but there is NOTHING easy about it.

2.) Runners are among the most supportive people — ever! As I’ve become more active on social media sites like Twitter, and even running-specific sites like Daily Mile, I have found nothing but support from fellow runners. Whether I’m chatting with people at races or sharing tips on-line, there’s definitely a “we’re all in this together” kind of mentality that comes from the shared experience of running. I’m so grateful for all the runners who have offered guidance, support, and that much-needed bit of encouragement along the way!

12m_3

Feeling good!

3.) Running is as much mental as it is physical. When I started getting serious about improving, I found that runners and running magazines and running websites and running books and all of the various sources of information I started studying seemed to allude to this fact. To be honest, I never believed it…until now. I’ve experienced firsthand what it’s like to have your body quit on you, whether it’s during a 10-mile training run or a local 5K. Even when my legs feel like lead and I want nothing more than to take a nap on the side of the road, somehow, your mind takes over…and you just get through it. It’s that same mental toughness that has gotten me out the door to squeeze in an early morning run, run a race on a 85-degree day, or perhaps even tackle a 12-miler in the aftermath of a blizzard!

4.) Running is completely, utterly addicting. I used to see runners on the side of the road at 6am on a frigid winter morning or a blistering hot summer afternoon and wonder what the hell they were thinking. Now I know. The runner’s high is oh-so-very real, and I need it. All the time. If I’m sick or injured or am unable to run for any length of time — even just a few days — I can’t even describe the torture! I feel as though my life revolves around running now…when I’m not actually pounding the pavement, I’m registering for my next race or researching new workouts or reading magazines like Runner’s World. I know running can be tough on the body, but as someone who used to be addicted to food, I’d say this is a much healthier alternative!

5.) There are countless ways to get injured.  I’m not stupid or anything…I knew running wasn’t exactly akin to yoga or taking a spin on a stationary bike, but I had no idea just how hard day after day of running 4 or 6 or 8 or 10+ miles was going to be on my body. I’ve become accustomed to being sore pretty much all the time, and I’m lucky in that I’ve suffered only minor injuries throughout my half marathon training. But the fear of knowing that I can injure myself enough to take me out of the game, so to speak, at any given moment is pretty damn terrifying. It’s just so easy to suffer a stress fracture or develop tendinitis or pull a hamstring, and that sort of leads me to my next lesson learned…

6.) You learn to appreciate your body and everything it can do. It’s no secret that I’ve always pretty much hated my body. A lifetime of being 30 or 50 or 100 pounds overweight at any given time and being called oh-so-flattering nicknames like “thunder thighs” throughout your elementary, middle, and high school years can do that to you. I may be a comfortable size 8/10 now, but my body is far from perfect — the years of yo-yo dieting have certainly taken their toll. But since I’ve started running, I can honestly say that I have completely stopped obsessing over my body’s imperfections. When you start proving to yourself on a daily basis just how strong you are, or how fast you can be, suddenly a little loose skin just doesn’t seem so important anymore. My legs are definitely larger than the average person’s, but you know what? Those legs have carried me through 10K races and 10-mile runs. I am truly ashamed of myself for poisoning my body with food and inactivity for so many years, and taking my health for granted…now that I’m a runner, I do everything in my power to take care of what I have and I fully appreciate just how far these “thunder thighs” have taken me.

7.) The right fuel makes all the difference. As a formerly obese person, my life pretty much used to revolve around eating…and even after my weight loss, I continued to battle with my unhealthy relationship with food. But then you start training for an endurance event like a half marathon, and suddenly, every morsel that passes my lips is evaluated for the way in which it will affect my running. I know exactly which healthy foods will help power me through my next run, and I’ve had to impose all sorts of rules on myself when it comes to racing or preparing for longer runs. Not to mention I had no idea just how difficult it was going to be to find the long run fuel that worked for my apparently sensitive stomach, and would help keep me going for miles and miles (the winner: Clif Shot Bloks!) Running has finally helped me learn to look at food for what it really is — fuel — and for that reason alone, I will continue to lace up my sneakers.

8.) You need more than sneakers. Don’t get me wrong, finding the right pair of footwear is CRITICAL, but I used to think that running was among the more inexpensive activities to get hooked on — especially if you compare it to something like my martial arts classes (not cheap!). If only I had known then the endless amounts of gear that would become essential to my running life, from fuel belts to GPS watches to BondiBands! And then, of course, there’s the wardrobe — my running attire now far outnumbers my “regular” clothing, and I have a full array of sweat-wicking clothing and accessories for every single weather contingency…and, I’ll admit it, in every color and pattern. Nothing wrong with looking cute while you run!

9.) Bad runs happen, and there’s nothing you can do about it. When I was getting started, I’d constantly battle the urge to throw in the towel after struggling to complete what was supposed to be an “easy” 3-mile training run. I still marvel at the fact that there are days when I take on 7 miles with seemingly little effort, and others when 4 miles feels more like 400 miles. There are so many factors that will affect your performance, from the weather to your level of hydration to what you ate for dinner the night before to what color nail polish you’re wearing (okay, I’m exaggerating), but the bottom line is that no matter how well-trained you are, sometimes you’re just going to have a bad run. And there’s no use in beating yourself up over it.

10.) Runners come in all shapes and sizes. I used to be completely convinced that I could never be a “runner” because I don’t have the typical “runner’s body.” I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I told myself I was too “fat” to run. But when I started participating in races, I looked around and saw people of all shapes and sizes lining up at the starting line…and now I kind of like to think of myself as proof that you definitely do not have to be “skinny” to run! I’ve learned that with proper training, anyone can learn how to improve, regardless of your size…if I can do it, anyone can!

11.) Discipline is EVERYTHING. When it comes to running, I’ve found that there is nothing more important than discipline. Runners succeed because they force themselves out of bed to squeeze in a 4am training run before work, or consistently choose the right foods and get ample sleep because they know it boosts their performance. Once I started disciplining myself to follow a consistent training plan and educate myself on proper nutrition to fuel my new activity, everything changed…suddenly, I could run faster, and felt so much better while doing so. You cannot train for a half marathon or a marathon or a triathlon or any kind of endurance event without having discipline, period.

12.) You can only compete against yourself. I know there are elite athletes, but of course, most of us will never be one of those runners. I spent so much time being intimidated by other runners and the fear of being “too slow” to participate in a race with those who can run a 6 or 7 minute-per-mile pace that it took me this long to figure out that running is a sport where you really only have to worry about yourself. Every race is an opportunity to set your own PR or put your own training to the test or challenge yourself in a new way, and you don’t have to be concerned with what everyone else is doing. You worry about running your own race, and that’s it.

And finally, lesson number 13.1 (sorry, just trying to be cute) I’ve learned while training for my first half marathon:

impossible13.1.) There is nothing — NOTHING — like crossing a finish line. It doesn’t matter how many 5Ks I have under my belt, or the fact that the 10K distance no longer terrifies me…crossing the finish line of a race is an indescribable feeling. When I’ve found myself struggling during a training run, all I have to do is imagine the moment when I cross the finish line of my first half marathon to keep me going. Running is fun and all, but for me, every time I finish a race — regardless of the distance involved — it is proof positive that I am doing something that I never thought I could do. It is the ultimate metaphor for setting a goal and the pride that comes to seeing it through to the very end.

For me, running is kind of like achieving the impossible every single day. And maybe that’s why running my first half marathon at Walt Disney World is just so meaningful to me.

What were some of the things you learned while training for your first half (or full!) marathon?

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Small Successes = Big Results

First, I need to just announce that exactly one month from today, I will be arriving at the Walt Disney World resort for the Disney Princess Half Marathon weekend [insert sheer panic here].

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Finally an orange belt!

This weekend I completed what might be, to many people, pretty small successes. On Friday I finally graduated to orange belt in Taekwondo. Because I can’t attend as many classes as I would like each week due to my work schedule (I moonlight as a private piano teacher, so I’m usually tied up until 7pm or 8pm each night), it takes me a bit longer to earn the necessary stripes to be considered for my next belt level — and it seems like I’ve been at white forever!

Although it was slightly awkward that all of my “grown-up” friends who are enrolled in the program graduated ahead of me, and I therefore was the ONLY adult participating in Friday night’s ceremony, to me earning a new belt in either of my martial arts programs is still very much a symbol of setting a goal and following through — a concept that was completely foreign to me just a few years ago.

At the end of the day, it’s basically just a colorful cotton belt and a silly little graduation ceremony, but for me it’s a reminder of what can happen when you summon the courage to try something new. While Muay Thai is physically taxing — I pretty much always end up in a puddle of my own sweat — Taekwondo’s precise, rigid movements and complicated forms requires a mental focus and physical flexibility that I really didn’t think I was ever capable of achieving. It’s hard work, but I’m doing it!

Speaking of hard work, I also managed to complete my longest long run yet this weekend: 11 miles. It was my first time breaking 10 miles on a long run, and I have to say that I completely agree with whomever first said that running is more mental than physical.

When my legs are starting to feel like lead and I just want to be DONE ALREADY, I really have to dig deep to find the motivation to finish. My mind seems to just completely take over, and I then can somehow manage to ignore an achy knee, blistering toe, grumbling tummy, or, let’s be honest, just plain old boredom.

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11 miles down!

While heading out for a quick 3-, 4-, or even 5-mile run is starting to feel pretty routine to me, those runs that are over 6 miles long are still mentally and physically exhausting. I was thrilled when I ran my first double-digit run, but to be honest it has been at least 2 weeks since my last long run…first there was the holiday craziness (read: I was too busy buying out the malls during the post-Christmas sales) and then I was too focused on my Muay Thai kickboxing test to carve out two hours for a long run.

I decided that since I try to take kickboxing on both Saturday and Sunday mornings (it’s hard for me to make the weeknight classes), that I’d move my long runs to Friday afternoons. And, since my first half marathon is but four short weeks away (!), I decided it was time to attempt breaking 10 miles…even though most training plans go up to 10, I felt that finishing 11 miles would somehow put me in the “half marathon zone.” I really just want to prove to myself that I CAN do this.

Here’s how my long runs typically work:

Miles 1-2: Warming up, finding my pace (I try to slow down to a 10-11/minute mile)

Miles 3-4: Feeling good, pumped up for the run

Miles 5-6: Starting to get a little tired, looking forward to whatever treat I have stashed in my fuel belt (side note: I’m still experimenting with fuel options because gels seem to make me nauseated, so I’m very much looking for suggestions!)

Miles 7-8: Questioning my sanity, wondering why the hell I committed myself to this

Miles 9-10: Exhausted, doubting that I’ll ever be able to make it to 13.1

Miles 11+: Glad it’s over, so incredibly PROUD that I finished

As I’ve gotten more serious about martial arts and my half-marathon training, I’m seeing more and more just how important these “small successes” really are.

Now that I’m slowly (and I do mean slowly) starting to get over my reluctance to set goals — I was always afraid I would just end up a “failure” — even the tiniest accomplishments are enough to make me over-the-moon excited. And, surprisingly enough, I’m even starting to allow myself to feel proud of my efforts instead of constantly tearing myself down.

Memorizing Taekwondo forms can be hard, and increasing your mileage in preparation for a half-marathon can seem insane, but somehow something as small as breaking a wooden board or slipping a finisher’s medal around your neck makes it all worth it!

What are some of your long run tips?

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Mastering the Art of Self-Confidence

This weekend, I earned my Bo-Black belt in Muay Thai kickboxing (in this program, it’s the belt right before black…and, not gonna lie, I’m excited because our names are embroidered on the belts).thaicertificate

As per my usual MO, I spent weeks freaking out about this test. Was I going to survive the workout? Could I remember all of the forms and self-defense moves? Could I break all of the boards? Was I going to fall flat on my face in front of everyone? Were spectators going to think I was strong enough, fast enough, fit enough, flexible enough to be a martial artist?

Then when I found out I was going to be expected to give a speech (mind you, a mere 60-90 second “testimonial” about what our martial arts training has done for us), that’s when I began losing sleep over the whole thing.

I know it’s only natural to feel butterflies before an event like this, but for me, I also happen to know that my nerves tend to run a little bit deeper than jitters.

After all this time, I still struggle with my self-confidence, and have to constantly force myself to believe that I CAN finish a 10K or ace a martial arts test or submit a great article for that new-to-me magazine. I waste an unbelievable amount of energy convincing myself that I’m not going to be able to do something — even when I know it’s ridiculous.

thaispeechOn Saturday, I had a few little amusing missteps — four attempts to break a few stupid wooden boards with a side-kick! — but you know what? I did just fine. Like I always do.

And that speech I’ve been panicking about? Thanks to the help of my my theater-trained sister, I was the only one who didn’t read straight from a piece of paper (which, by the way, I was told we were NOT going to have in front of us). I spoke from the heart about what martial arts has done for me, and all the words I had rehearsed just came pouring out. I even received a round of applause for my announcement about running my first half marathon next month, and several of my fellow candidates told me that I’m an inspiration and/or they had no idea I used to be overweight — both of which are still so hard for me to wrap my mind around.

I’m finding that every time I prove to myself I CAN do something, whether it’s crossing the finish line of a race or even having to (gasp!) speak in public, my self-confidence grows just a tiny little bit.thaiknee

Maybe someday I’ll be able to stop doubting myself and finally find my self-confidence, but for now, I’m thrilled with each and every step that gets me there.

In case anyone was curious, I thought I’d share the “testimonial” I submitted to be chosen to speak. Like running, I really do believe that martial arts has changed my life — so while it’s always a bit awkward for me to share the sordid details of my weight struggles, it really was an honor.

Shortly before I began the Thai Kickboxing program, I weighed almost 100 pounds more than I do today. I’ve struggled with obesity since childhood, and have always been 40, 60, or even 80 or more pounds overweight at any given time throughout my life.

 thaifrontAfter losing 90 pounds on Weight Watchers in 2008, I found myself getting bored with the treadmill and my usual gym routine.  I was terrified of gaining my weight back — as I had done so many times in the past — and wanted to find something that would keep me motivated and ensure that I never again returned to my old ways.

After my first Thai Kickboxing class, I was completely hooked…and today I can’t imagine my life without martial arts.IMG_1404

My training ended up doing so much more than helping me maintain my weight loss.  Today I’m in the best shape of my life, and feel both physically and mentally stronger than I ever thought possible. It has helped me break the cycle of constantly obsessing over my dress size, the number on the scale, or the need to be “skinny” — all I care about is being the healthiest person I can be, and pushing myself to become stronger, faster, and more physically fit.

Proving to myself that I could succeed in this program has given me the confidence to pursue my career goals and try other things I never thought I could do; I’ve recently started taking Taekwondo, and I’m training to run my first half marathon next month. 

thaithumbsup Five years ago I never could have imagined that I would enjoy waking up on a Sunday morning to endure an agonizing kickboxing workout, or head out for a 10-mile run.  My training has inspired me to live by principles like perseverance and self-control, and ultimately develop the tools I needed to conquer my weight problem once and for all.thaikick

I want to thank all of the instructors for always motivating us to improve, and for pushing us harder than we think we can go. I also want to thank you for the words of wisdom and motivation you share with us during class.  They are truly powerful for people like me who need the reminder of how far we’ve come — and why our health and physical fitness is worth fighting for.

What are some things you’ve done to help boost your self-confidence?

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