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Originally published in summer newsletter 2012, written by Lisa Vanlint.
Back in 2000, I was a bit of a cautionary tale, definitely the “before” picture in any ad campaign. I weighed over 200 lbs., I smoked half a pack/day, I liked any drink that came with an umbrella, and I considered myself a healthy eater since onion rings are vegetables, right?
The thing is, I didn’t feel like I was doing anything wrong. I really did think I was eating moderately because I would turn down a piece of cake or an extra helping even though I wanted it, and I said no to some of the fattier/richer stuff. I just said yes a lot more than I said no. I figured I had one of those unfortunate metabolisms that nature decided should stay large no matter what. I had basically given up and tried to get comfortable buying yet another pair of pants in yet another larger size. Even so, a 40” waistband was hard to swallow…even harder when those 40” felt snug. But there were friends to meet at the pub. Oh, and its half-price wing night, so it’s better to get the party-size-platter. Life was fun, but I didn’t feel so great…not just physically, emotionally too.
Flash to 2006, and I had a baby on the way, a very happy and exciting time! I had already given up smoking thanks to a nasty bout of pneumonia a few years back, and I was happy to make the umbrella drinks virgins for 9 months, but my food choices still led to borderline gestational diabetes. As much as I hated injecting insulin, pricking my fingers to test blood sugar is not only a pain in the ass, it really hurt! A lot!
Thanks to a doctor-order visit to the Dietician to manage my blood sugar, I learned about a crazy concept called portion control. I also learned to eat several smaller meals to level out the peaks and valleys. More importantly, I had to learn that having several smaller meals does not mean grazing all day on what adds up to one gigantic meal. I’ve tried to keep these lessons with me, though sometimes I need a gentle reminder/kick in the pants. I love the wellness blog for that.
Up until now, I had a lot of little a-ha moments, but never anything truly earth-shattering. That moment came after the birth of our son, all 9 lbs. of bouncing baby boy. Normally a newborn’s blood sugar is tested just once. Because of my gestational diabetes which, let’s face it, came from a lifetime of my excesses, they needed to test him every few hours. Each time they pricked his tiny heel and made him bleed, I wanted to cry or die.
So A-HA happened. I had luckily given birth to the best personal trainer and inspiration you could ask for. Our son was hard to soothe unless I held him and did deep knee bends, danced him around in SalsaBabies or FitMom classes, or took him for a powerwalk. Later, when he started walking, then running, I realized I needed to be in a lot better shape to keep up with him.
Transitioning back to work meant saying goodbye to the mommy classes that I liked so much, but I didn’t want to lose what I started. I joined GoodLife gym and tried every class they had. I like the social aspect, and that I don’t have to make it up as I go along, I can follow the trained professional. Some classes I liked (Combat! Pump! Flow!), and some not so much (Alison, you may have the Step class to yourself), but I just kept going and mixed it up to keep it fresh and fun.
Slowly but surely, I dropped a lot of weight and felt more energetic and better in general. When we took a family trip to the beach I no longer felt embarrassed to wear a bathing suit. I went for a nice powerwalk but found the strangest thing… a powerwalk was no longer enough to get my heart rate up. I experimented with this crazy idea of running and found that I could actually do it. I started by just running during the chorus of songs, then walking during the verses. Then I ran for a whole song, but walked for 2 and repeated that a few times. I slowly built up my running /walking ratio from choruses to 1/2 to 1/1, to 2/1 and finally running straight for 5 km.
That 5 km led to more and I ran my first half marathon in 2010. That’s 21.1 km of pure running. I’d now done 4 Half Marathons, but hadn’t done anything as long as Around the Bay, the oldest race in North America. Clocking in at 30 KM, and with the last 10 km of hill after hill, it was going to be a stretch. What a crazy thing to try for a former smoker who used to weigh over 200 lbs.
March 25th, 2012, 9:30 AM, a shot rang out and we were off, all 6,121 of us. There was a time in Around the Bay that I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. Somewhere in the 22 – 27 km range, I felt my right calf, quad and both hamstrings threaten to pop. My breathing up the hills started to have a soft screaming sound to it like a tennis player. I had luckily made peace with my long term goal over my short term one.
My long term goal is to run a half marathon every year till I’m 60 (hopefully with my son when he’s old enough), then a 10 K every year till age 70, then a 5 K every year till 80. Then if I’m still kickin’ it, I might take up swimming. My short term goal is to run the current race as fast as I can. I had hoped to do it in less than 3 hours, but it was clear at the 22 km mark that I needed to stop looking at my watch and just focus on finishing the race.
I had to take some walking breaks up those hills, and after passing a few runners waylaid on the side with medics hovering over them, I knew I was doing the right thing and the best I could do on the day. In the end, I had nothing left in the tank. I had run out of fumes a few kilometers ago and was running on the memory of fumes. I thought about my friends and family that had driven in from Toronto and were waiting for me to cross the finish line. There was no way in hell I was going to walk across it, I needed to run strong. That thought motivated me for the final 3 km till I crossed that beautiful line and knew that I had done it!
So what’s next? After some well-earned R&R, I’m now staring at my latest registration, the 2012 Toronto Waterfront Marathon…the full, not the half. I registered early since a. it will motivate me to keep running all summer and fall; b. the earlier you register, the cheaper it is; and c. I’d like to do just 1 full marathon in a bucket-list kind of way. 42.2 km terrifies me, but I’m going to try. How about you?