Life, Running

My Fitness History: Dance, Cheer, IBD and Me

Hi Friends:)

So, I’ve gotten a few questions recently about how I got into running, and how I’ve built such an active lifestyle for myself. It’s funny, though; I really don’t have a great answer. No one thing inspired me to get fit. In fact, most of the people and activities that should have gotten me super fitnessy didn’t.

I like doing things on my own terms, and on my own timing. Fitness is no exception.

I hated most physical fitness as a child. I was an awful soccer player and don’t even get me started with riding bikes… however, I LOVED to dance. I started once a week ballet classes when a toddler and just sort of kept going with that. Once I was older, I expanded it to two hours a week. 

When I was 15, I realized that it wasn’t really okay to be winded going up the stairs to Biology class, so I signed up for the JV track team at school. I ran the one mile during winter season and the 800 during outdoor track. I decided that someday, somehow, I was going to run a marathon. I didn’t keep up with running, though; I gave up track in favor of more AP classes my senior year in high school, and jogged only once in a while, when I needed to clear my head or shake out excess energy.

Once I got to college, I decided on a whim to try out for the cheerleading team. I’d danced my whole life and took a tiny bit of gymnastics (I had some decent flexibility and a solid round-off) but I’d never cheered. Somehow, I made the team.

I’d never been in a gym, never touched a weight, and I’d sure as heck never worn a cheerleading uniform. Before I knew it, though, I was tossing my best friends in the air, and being lifted into the air myself.   

Varsity Cheerleading required twice a week lifting with a personal trainer and cardio three times a week. I managed to never quite keep up with my workouts, made tons of excuses, and honestly just did the bare minimum to stay on the team. I even skipped sessions with a local gymnastics gym where I should have been perfecting back handsprings. If I met my college aged self on the sidewalk right now, I’d roll my eyes at her so hard… then I’d walk away because I’d literally just recovered from thyroid cancer at that point. And when you’re hormones are off, you really don’t feel like moving your body. You feel like battening down the hatches and waiting for it all to be over.  

 

Once I graduated, I moved to New York City! I was living in Brooklyn, working as a teacher, and going to grad school. I was very stressed that first year; who wouldn’t be?!? money was tight, my job was super challenging, and I was on my own in the big city for the first time. I still remembered that promise I’d made to myself to run a marathon someday, but I just didn’t feel motivated at that point.  

 

Eventually, all the pizza, booze, and teacher-lounge donuts took a toll on me, though. I noticed my clothes fitting not so well; I also noticed that I was having serious digestive issues; bathroom emergencies, painful bloating, and acid reflux, all day, erry day. I switched to a lower-carb diet, which helped, and started jogging. It took me weeks to jog just one mile straight through, and months to get up to five miles.

At that same time, I joined a cheap gym in an inconvenient location. Guys…DON’T DO THAT. I quit that gym after 3 months and joined a nicer one with multiple, highly accessible locations; I found I was motivated to use the pricier membership more than the $10-a-month “Judgement Free Zone.”

So during my second year teaching, I started going to the gym after work and class a few times a week. I fell in love with Zumba, and the elliptical was a good friend of mine. I hit up some yoga classes and discovered so many wonderful running routes through the city. I started looking better, and feeling better, and eating better, and wanting more. I still had weeks where I didn’t make it to the gym- WE ALL DO! But I started wanting to go to the gym more; it was no longer about maintaining a healthy weight or looking a certain way. It was about the endorphins and the joy.

Then two things happened; I got diagnosed with IBD, and I started running halves.

It’s a funny thing, Inflammatory Bowel Disease. It looks different for everyone. Mine is actually extremely mild, if you can call constant pain and 5-10x daily bathroom emergencies “mild.” I wasn’t showing signs of internal bleeding or ulcers, so I was put on the FODMAPs diet, which worked wonders for me (and it sure doesn’t work for everyone).  I was no longer dehydrated and malnourished. I no longer had to map out my training runs according to where there were the cleanest public restrooms. Once my gut was under control, my body was under control. And that was pretty darn amazing.

I moved back to Boston the following year, and continued to revel in my new-found athleticism. I fell out of love with Zumba, and discovered spinning instead. I ran half a dozen more half marathons. I ran for fun, especially when I traveled. There were-and are- no excuses for me anymore; I always feel like moving. I love the places my feet can take me, and I love the joy my own strength brings me. 

I was 27 when I ran my first full marathon, a full four years after I started running.

I love being active with my friends and family, as well. Nothing is more enjoyable for me than hiking with my best friends!

I am a huge believer in the tie between fitness and happiness. A psychologist once told me that 30+ minutes of cardio 4x a week or more is as effective or more effective than a low-dose anti-depressant. There is power in movement, friends!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my fitness history:)

NOW YOU TELL ME…

  • Were you an athletic kid? What activities did you love when you were younger?
  • What motivates you to move? I know for me my appearance was a big motivator at first, but then it morphed into something more. 
  • Favorite form of cardio right now?