Healthy Living: Maddie's Story

>> Monday, August 30, 2010

Maddie writes:

I'm an aspiring writer and photog over at my blog called Spidatter. It wasn't until early this past spring that I began to love talking to others about my relationship with running. Not to worry . . . this won't be a rant about the marathon I'm training for (because I'm not), nor about how much I just love love love to wake up at 5am and get a few miles in before work (because I don't).

It's a relationship that never really got off the ground, unfortunately. I'm not sure what the deal breaker was. It might have been all of those forced jog-a-thon fundraisers in Kindergarten (which I walked), or the "running of the dreaded mile" in third grade (which I also walked . . . in the snow), or perhaps it was all of those laps we did in PE in fifth grade . . . in our plaid, pleated uniform dresses. I'm the one with the white sailor blouse on under my jumper.

While the above memories all feed into my broken relationship with the track, the moment in my running history that truly highlights my athletic demise (and also doubles as an oft-repeated family anecdote) was the mile I had to run for physical fitness testing in junior high. Junior high was a nightmare in and of itself, from which I'm still debriefing. And then at the end of the day, they made you run. We had these super cute red PE shirts we had to wear with the private school's logo printed on them. And all of the girls who needed sports bras were anti-wearing them (I was in that category) . . . while the girls with nothing to cover would seemingly wear them "just for fun."

So there I am running the mile on a beat-up field full of gopher holes and puddles. Near lap four, I glance around and realize that I am one of only two people left still running. And the other girl is about to cross the finish line. And I am behind her. AND SHE IS WEARING A BACK BRACE. If that doesn't scream, "Give up already! You are not a runner!" to an already insecure 13-year-old girl, I don't what does...

My childhood eating habits also mirrored my poor grasp of exercise. I have never been more than ten or so pounds over the normal weight for my height and age (whatever normal is), but I was rarely in good shape, and my body type leans more toward the curvier side of the spectrum. Growing up, I ate decently, but definitely not intelligently. I rarely binged and learned early on what portion sizes were, by I had no idea what I was eating. My mom and younger sisters had metabolisms that allowed them to eat Cocoa Puffs for breakfast and not gain an ounce. By college I realized that I was not capable of living the same lifestyle.

Now I'm 24, and I have just begun to mend my broken bond with running and whole foods. In one month, I decided to quit my job of three years and move to a new house after three years in the old one. I also found myself surrounded by new friends who all seemed to be yogis and half-marathon trainees. I was struggling to find something I could control in this 'new life' that suddenly looked so different than it had a few months ago. To be honest, it really started as a shallow effort to fit in. I was frustrated by my lack of health and fitness knowledge (last year I had NO idea what an "out-and-back" was . . . or Stevia, for example). So I started small, knowing that jumping full force into anything new could result in a fast burn-out.

It really began with a trip to Lululemon and the purchase of this bra, the first sports bra that actually took the chest pain out of physical activity for me. I had foolishly sworn off this store previously as over-priced and over-zealous, created for the people who do yoga up to three times a day. And then I found myself all but drowning in a social circle of Lululemon believers and testimonies. So I ventured into the store -- petrified, mind you -- and bought the aforementioned sports bra. Which is solid as a rock . . . and yet bizarrely comfortable. And Lord help me if I don't get my money's worth out of a $50 sports bra and burn some major calories in the process. So now, I run. At least every other day. Not impressively fast, and not amazingly far -- but that's still running.

It's amazing what a little monetary guilt can do to your exercise routine. Sometimes looking fantastic and spending unholy amounts of $$$ on athletic attire is by far the best motivation to sweat. Whatever it takes, right?

Shortly after my fitness wardrobe update, a friend asked me to run a half marathon with her. I laughed, and then realized she wasn't laughing, and then thought, "Oh, I guess I actually have been running . . ." My friend Amanda (on the left in the picture) was super inspirational (even if she doesn't know it!) because she herself has already ran several half marathons and one full marathon as well. The whole idea was completely foreign to me. But I was graciously shown different online training schedules that laid out daily runs and work-outs to slowly (keyword here) prepare my body for a 13.1 mile run (jog?) . . .

The first time I successfully ran four miles without stopping to walk was huge for me. I remember calling my mom feeling heady with endorphins, and just about crying into my phone that I'd finished four.

There is a half in my hometown of Santa Barbara in November that I'm planning on signing up for soon. I've only gotten up to six miles so far, but knowing how big of a battle one used to be gives me hope that this goal is reachable.

Thanks for reading, and hope you are encouraged! ANYONE can become a self-made athlete.

Maddie (from Spidatter)

In need of some healthy fitspiration? While you're here, you can read more great stories like Maddie's -- as well as submit your own healthy living story to be featured on our site!

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