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If you take a look through my high school yearbook, you won’t find a picture of me in any athletic endeavor. I wasn’t one for competitive activities. In fact, I would run away from the volleyball in gym, can barely throw a ball (which people have witnessed, much to my chagrin), was one of the last people picked during team selection, and I pretty much shunned any competitive activities growing up.

I was fortunate, though, in that my mom loved to go for walks. When I was in my teens, we would go for long walks through our little town or on the surrounding country roads.

During my senior year of high school a small gym opened in the basement of the local beauty salon. My mom and I joined. I still remember the first time I got on the stair stepper. I was 17, and was breathless within seconds and could barely manage 10 minutes on it. But I kept at it, and was soon up to 30 minutes at a fairly decent clip.

In college I loved inline skating and would “try” to run. I had a job that kept me moving plus lived off campus, so found myself walking two to three miles each day to get to classes.

Several months after graduating college I had my first desk job — and a coworker who brought in a box of donuts everyday, of which I ate two to three. Then, I had a shocking moment. I tried on a swimsuit for a family vacation. Whoa. My decreased level of activity and poor eating habits showed. I was 23, nine months out of college, and had gained 15 to 20 lb.

Fortunately, those early activities with my mom, and working out in that small, dimly lit fitness center, helped to mold my love of physically activity.  So, I quickly joined a fitness center and began participating in group-fitness classes, lifting weights, and using the cardio equipment. During the warmer months, I would walk, “try” to run, and still enjoyed inline skating.

My second job found me working on a little membership magazine called Experience. Over time the magazine was rebranded as Experience Life, and Pilar Gerasimo built the publication into a nationally distributed, award-winning, forward-thinking, healthy-living magazine.

As part of my job, I needed to read the articles in the publication. I enjoyed the pieces on nutrition and healthy cooking and slowly started to incorporate what I was learning into my daily meals. I also experimented with adding new weight-lifting moves into my existing fitness routine. And again, during the warmer months, I would walk and “try” to run.

In  2005, I read my first article about heart rate training and interval training. I decided to purchase a heart rate monitor. I strapped it on and went for a run. I realized why I had struggled with running all those prior years. I had been pushing way too hard. I would spike my heart rate well above any sustainable level and, as a result, get extremely winded right away. So, I slowed down my pace to stay in a more appropriate and sustainable zone. I also started to incorporate the high intensity intervals I had learned about into my workouts in hopes of improving my cardio.

All of this seemed to be working.

I soon found myself running a 10-minute mile for three miles, which was incredible for me. I kept at it and did a couple of 5Ks for fun.

In 2011, I decided to do a half marathon. In August, I completed my first half in just over 2 hours. I did another one in October with my brother. After the second half, I decided never again. There was too much of a time commitment balancing training with two young children at home, work, and a husband that travels for his work. And there was a little too much pain involved for my liking.

Last year I decided to purchase a new road bike. I was having some issues with my hips (presumably from my two pregnancies) and thought this activity would be a little more gentle on my body vs. running. Plus, it was time to graduate from using my mother-in-law’s hand-me-down bike, which, “for fun,” I had outfitted with a baby seat, pull-behind child trailer and two small children. I may have not looked stylish, but, wow, what a workout!

I also decided to start participating in the studio cycle classes at my Life Time Fitness club. I soon discovered that the studio cycle classes jump started my cardio. I went from running a 10-minute mile to running an 8 minute, 45 second mile, which I attribute to the training I was receiving in the cycling classes.

So, I thought, now that I have this great bike and cycle training, and I can run at a fairly decent clip, maybe I should do something with the two of them combined together?

I decided to register for the Esprit de She duathlon that was held on August 4. I was a little apprehensive about the event since I had never biked with a large group of people and wasn’t sure what to expect. Plus, if you read my first blog, you know I really struggled with the post-bike portion of the run.

Now, keep in mind this is a girl that wasn’t, athletic in high school, who has never participated in anything really competitive and who struggled with running for years.

So, I was shocked and elated to discover that I ended up placing 20th overall in the event and 6th in my age division! Who would have thought that the girl that ran away from the volleyball during gym class and struggled with running would ever accomplish something like that!

But, what I find even more amazing is that I’m eeking up on 40 and I’m stronger, faster, and over all healthier than I was in my teens and twenties.

I think what’s the most amazing part of this experience is that you can’t define yourself by your past, whether that past is 20 years ago or yesterday. Had I resigned myself to “not being athletic” or “not being a runner” I would have missed out on this incredibly empowering and confidence building experience.

So, here’s to letting go of our past selves. And here’s to our stronger, healthier, future selves!

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