“The most important investment you can make is in yourself.” -Warren Buffett
The journey is the reward--and it starts with just one step.
My health journey goes back to around the time I started junior high. I knew my mom was always trying to lose a few pounds, and Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda were getting people to sweat with them on TV. I started exercising and experimenting with eating as little as I could get away with. I enjoyed it so much I even “taught” aerobics classes to my friends.
For quite a few years, I considered myself a night owl. I worked all kinds of crazy schedules—starting in high school, working full-time at Ponderosa Steakhouse. Yes, I was a full-time student, getting good grades, and working 40 hours (sometimes until 10 or 11 at night). It goes without saying that back then I wasn’t getting the amount of sleep that a teenager needs. That pattern continued as an adult. I had a bunch of different jobs first in the telecom industry in a call center, office jobs, and at a gym as a personal trainer. Most days, I ate dinner no earlier than eight or nine o’clock, and there were a lot of times that I wouldn’t even get home until ten o’clock or later and then still had to think about dinner. With those late nights, I would sleep as late as possible, which meant that I started my days feeling like I was already behind the eight-ball. My body was way out of rhythm back then. My stomach was frequently upset—so much so that I kept Pepto Bismol caplets in my purse, and I almost always had ginger ale at home “just in case.”
Later, I was a single mother, working long hours, trying to make ends meet, do “all the things”, and I was incredibly stressed out. I was also constipated (without realizing it because not having to eliminate every day seemed “normal” to me), had frequent headaches, and recurring acne and eczema. Sometimes the headaches were so bad that I’d wake up in excruciating pain. I thought all of this was normal. I grew up with my dad taking aspirin daily for headaches, and my mom had stomach issues from the time that I was a little girl, so I just accepted all of this without thinking that I had the power to change any of it. I thought that these ailments were genetic and not something that I had any control over. It took me quite a few years to get out of that spiral.
I started paying more attention to what I was eating—reading labels for more than just calorie count and really focusing on ingredients, looking up ones that had long, mysterious sounding names. This was a big change for me—because I had been obsessed with counting calories. I used to count every calorie that went in my mouth. I would double check my math throughout the day to make sure I didn’t eat too many calories. I hate to admit it, but back then I also drank a bunch of diet soda and ate foods with artificial sweeteners because I cared more about the calories in my food than how I was nourishing myself. I ate a lot of processed foods and frozen meals because they were convenient, and I felt like I didn’t have the time to cook from scratch every day. My main concern was still how many calories I was consuming.
Slowly, I began to make changes like eating more plants and whole foods. I started eating less processed foods like crackers and store-bought cereals. I tried out new vegetables and different recipes. I discovered ways to swap healthier ingredients to up the nutrition in my meals.
I gradually switched to a vegetarian diet about 9 years ago, and then soon after I decided to cut out dairy products and eggs as well. Most people tell me how hard they think it would be to stop eating dairy, especially cheese, but I think that because my changes were gradual that it wasn’t that hard for me. I’ve even discovered how to make several cheese alternatives using cashews that taste even better than the real thing to me. The best part of going plant-based for me is that I stopped counting calories completely. I went from being obsessed about every calorie that went in my mouth to eating what feels good for my body. I feel better connected to the nourishment my body needs, and I crave healthier foods.
Oh, and I kicked my diet soda habit several years ago too. That was major for me. When I was a kid, we drank nothing but water at meals—tap water, and I thought it was terrible. When I was a teenager, we started having diet soda in the house, and it became a part of my every day. When I worked at Ponderosa, they allowed us unlimited soda. I would keep a cup filled and at-the-ready throughout my shift so I’m sure I drank quite a bit of it. It continued even after I graduated and had “real jobs.” I’d always make sure to have some diet soda in my lunch bag or have money for a can or two. I’m not sure when, but I started to realize that even though it was calorie free that it wasn’t doing me any good. I knew I should drink more water, and I decided to quit drinking diet soda and other diet drinks too (Crystal Lite was another favorite of mine). My whole family drank diet soda, and even if I tried to quit it, I’d go to a birthday party or picnic, and there it would be, and inevitably, I’d start drinking it again. I guess I quit it a couple of times before it stuck. I’m not sure how long it’s been since I drank any diet soda—at least 6 years or more. I know it sounds like I’m talking about cigarettes or drugs, but with all the chemicals in diet soda, it kind of is.
Another big transformation came when I chose to become a runner. I say that I chose to become a runner because it really was a decision. Prior to that, I thought running was boring. I owned a treadmill at the time, but I only ever walked on it the first couple of years that I had it. I had been certified as a personal trainer for several years at that point, and I loved working out, but I hadn’t been a fan of running. My turning point was when I signed up to compete in a sprint triathlon—swim a half mile, ride a bike for 15 miles, and then run a 5k.
Once I started running, I discovered that I liked it better than I thought I would. When I started doing more sprint triathlons, people would ask me which of the three sport was my favorite, and I was surprised to learn that it really was running. So, while I kept with the triathlons for a while, I decided to focus primarily on running. I found that training fit best in my life if I could do it early in the morning before work. That meant that I had to start getting to bed earlier or suffer on the run or miss it entirely. I had changed to an office job, which still came with some long hours, but for the most part, I wasn’t working as late anymore—although I frequently ate lunch in front of my computer at work, and dinner was late due to the long commute that I had at the time.
Running started as a fun hobby for me. I began to really enjoy it, and I quickly signed up for my first half marathon (13.1 miles). I did a few more, but at that point I couldn’t conceive of running a full marathon (26.2 miles). I would joke about it with friends, but it seemed like it was completely out of the realm of possibility. That all changed when I looked at a running pace calculator which estimated that I could complete a marathon fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. I knew it was just an estimate, but that gave me just the push that I needed to sign up for my first marathon. I remember the fear and excitement that I felt as I sat at my computer registering for that race. After I hit the enter button, I had a moment of “what the heck did I just do?!?” followed by the realization that I had some serious training to do.
I became committed to running; I did long runs, tempo runs, speed work, yoga, and strength training. But a huge component of my training was the belief that I had it in me to do the training and then endure for 26.2 miles. In September 2011, I ran my first marathon, and I loved it. I won’t lie, it was A LOT of work, and at times the training and the actual race was less than comfortable, but I was hooked. I didn’t qualify for Boston at my first marathon, but I did at my second attempt. If you’re a runner and you know about Boston, then you know how amazed and grateful I was to qualify for such a prestigious event. I had never really considered myself an “athlete” before that so going to the Boston Marathon was a very surreal event.
My first time running the Boston Marathon was 2013, the year of the bombing. When the bombs went off, I had finished and was waiting for my drop bag of warm clothing. It sounded like fireworks or a cannon at first. The people around me were pretty confused at first, but then chaos ensued, and we scattered in a bunch of directions. It certainly didn’t end the way that I envisioned it. I had a lot of mixed feelings because I went from celebrating my accomplishment finishing the Boston Marathon to all the sadness and devastation.
I’ve run the Boston Marathon six times, and more than 30 total marathons to date. I really do owe it all to believing it was possible. If I had kept the mindset that “other people run marathons”, I would have never done the work to get me to that first starting line and to create some amazing memories.
As my running increased, I found myself doing more yoga. Yoga opened a whole new world to me that I never knew existed. When I first started practicing yoga, I thought it was all about the workout. I viewed it as a way to cross train and to care for my body between runs. I really had no idea that yoga can also be a “work in.” I loved the feeling of going inward and noticing how my body was feeling when I was on my yoga mat. I began to learn that I could make subtle adjustments with my body or my breath that could make a big difference in how I was feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally. And I learned that I could use these same tools off my mat. I eventually got certified as a yoga teacher as well so I could share yoga with others.
Through my yoga training, I found Ayurveda. It is the sister science of yoga, and it literally translates to “science of life.” I began to read more about eating, sleeping, and living in rhythm with nature. I learned about working with my circadian rhythm—not against it like I had earlier in life. I started to align my habits and my day to fit what was becoming important to me. I realized that I had a lot more energy and that I was starting to feel stronger than I ever had. I also discovered that when I started keeping a more dependable schedule that my stomach issues, headaches, and skin issues were radically decreased. I started sleeping better and waking up energized for my early morning runs and to face that day.
I continue to evolve and change my habits in small ways, and the more that I do, the more I feel like I’m thriving and growing. Today, at 53, I feel the strongest and the healthiest that I ever have. In fact, I often almost forget my age because this is not what I had imagined 53 would feel like. Learning all of this feels like such a great gift, and because of this, I feel it’s my dharma to share all that I’ve learned with others.
If you want to live your best life, to feel energized, healthy, and vibrant no matter how many trips you’ve made around the sun, contact me for a Body Goals Conversation to get started today.
- ACE (American Council on Exercise)-Certified Personal Trainer – 1997 to present
- RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) Running Coach – 2013 to present
- E – RYT 200, RYT 500 Yoga Teacher – 2016 to present
- ACE-Certified Health Coach – 2019 to present
- Yoga Health Coach – 2020 to present