At some point over the past few years, I proclaimed myself a “marathon enthusiast.”
I thought about this phrase a couple of weeks ago as I was suffering through a short run. Get that? Suffering. And on a short run. This was a three mile jaunt through the neighborhood, meant simply to keep my legs warm for the longer fifteen mile run that was coming up at the end of the week. The three miles should have been easy, but each and every step of those three miles was a beating. I’m not sure why, apart from the fact that I’m not naturally athletic nor ever will be. I remember thinking to myself, “Marathon distance is, like, nearly nine times this! I’m going to die during the next race!”
Marathon enthusiast? Not so much.
I’d be lying if I told you that this bit of hysteria on a run is unusual. Because every run includes at least some mental freaking out, some bargaining, and finally, some resignation. I can’t believe I’m doing this, I’ll never do this again, and I’ve got to keep doing this. All in one run, no matter the distance. Three miles, twenty-six miles… all the same. Jenn freaking out, cursing herself and everyone around her for ever deciding to run in the first place.
I’ve written about this before, and I write about it now in the hopes of encouraging those of you who are like me, trying really hard to fight metabolism, aging, and just plain lack of athleticism, by going out there and doing what it takes to stay in shape. It is never easy for me. It never has been. And it never will be.
I was overweight in college. I couldn’t walk across campus or even climb a set of stairs without getting out of breath. I was twenty-two and at what should have been the peak of my health, I was pretty certain that I was the best I would ever be… eating a dozen donuts by myself in one sitting, consuming whole pizzas on my own, and chalking it all up to “just being me.” When I ordered my college ring, I ordered it two sizes bigger, knowing that I would likely gain even more weight, just as I had over the course of my college career. I didn’t figure I ever could change, so I never even considered how I could start the process. I comforted myself with the truth that God loved me as I was (and He did and He does) and that trying to fight a losing battle of staying healthy when I was clearly not made for it was pointless and would only frustrate me.
When I graduated and left for Namibia, I found myself in a situation where there were no Krispy Kreme donuts to be had. (Suffering for the Lord, y’all!) And the teenagers I was working with were hard to keep up with in the shape that I was in. So, I started eating differently. And I started running. I was slow, unable to even run a city block without stopping to walk, but I kept at it. Soon, I noticed that I couldn’t lift my garage door without nearly losing my jeans in the process because they were fitting so loosely. And soon after that, my sorority shirts from college began to look like they were swallowing me.
Little by little, I was able to run farther and farther. Did it ever get easier? No. It’s never been easy. But I kept on, knowing that I could go a step farther tomorrow than I did today… and I did.
By the time I came back to the US two years later, I was forty pounds lighter and could run three miles at a time without needing an oxygen tank. (This was progress! Serious progress!)
And the weight has stayed off, and I’ve stayed healthy effortlessly… no! I gained fifty pounds with my Ana pregnancy. Then I gained fifty pounds with my Emma pregnancy. (I was consistent.) And I turned thirty, which FYI, does nothing to help you keep in shape and stay healthy. But I went back to what I knew would work and lost the weight again, oftentimes through tears and frustration. (Lots of tears over lots of miles and half-eaten desserts.)
I have people who talk to me about losing weight and staying healthy, who flippantly joke that I don’t know what it’s like and that running comes easy to me after all these years. It’s NEVER easy. And I don’t say this to discourage you. I say it to ENCOURAGE you. It is HARD. But it’s not impossible, especially if someone like me, who has been where I’ve been and has no athleticism at all, can get there, stay there, and continue working towards it.
So, when you go out on your next run and it’s miserable — I’m there, too. And when you step on the scale and wonder how impossible it seems to get where you want to be — I’ve been there, too. And when you start figthing your age and think it’s always an uphill battle — it is for me, too.
But it’s not impossible. And it’s worth the work and the effort. And we’re adding quality years to our lives and are able to serve God better and more effiiciently because we take care of ourselves.
Don’t be discouraged. You CAN do it!