Category Archives: Running

Run with Passion

I like to revisit these pictures often to show myself I can do it, I have done it, and I can do it even better next time!I don’t think this is the most flattering pose I have, but I’m doing it.

Verse Lyrics from “Chosen Generation” by Chris Tomlin
(This song goes through my mind continuously every time I run. I love the opportunity for quiet meditation that running affords me.)

We run with passion for your name we run
Freedom
you broken every chain we run
Our god will not be moved
Our god will never be shaken
We run to you we run

 Running Report (According to my Garmin and the Treadmill Computer):
Over the last 30 days I have Run: 122.69 miles at an average pace of  6.2 MPH
Burning around 14,575 running calories
Over the last 7 days I have Run: 28.62 miles at an average pace of 6.3 MPH
Burning around 3,361 running calories

We know that one pound is equal to 3,500 calories, so if I hadn’t been running the last 7 days, I’d probably be up a pound. A pound doesn’t seem too bad, until at the end of a year, when you notice you gained 20-50 pounds without even realizing it. Pounds have a way of creeping up with stealth until you have gained more than you can continue to control. This should be a great lesson to all of you that exercise matters. Every calorie torched is a calorie off your tush.

This week I’ve had 3 treadmill days. Monday and Tuesday were still snowy, icy, and slushy, so I hopped on the treadmill at the YMCA before doing my strength training routine. I will admit on Tuesday, I was pushed on to new speeds when I looked up and saw the Dr. Oz show on the YMCA TV about obese women who are paid by men to eat. It was the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen or heard of. Apparently there is a sub-culture that is into something called “Feederism”. One 600 pound plus lady said men pay her so that they can smell her fat armpits. I couldn’t look at the screen and read the closed captioning any longer, because it was making me physically sick to watch. Don’t let people steal your dignity like that. However, it did push me on and I’m sure that haunting image will keep me out of the ice cream tub on nights I don’t have the calories banked for it.
Day 94 of my #runstreak was this week and I went 9.4 miles. (Sometimes I like to match my days and distances to entertain myself and mark my territory of accomplishment.) This is my longest distance since November, and it went well despite the extreme amount of slush, leftover snow, mud puddles, and overall wetness. The temperature was perfect for me, somewhere around 30 degrees. I’m probably the only person in Northern Ohio dreading summer. My runs are always so much stronger and more inspired in cold weather temperatures.  I am getting a blister on my little toe, from wet socks I presume, but sometimes in spring running you can’t avoid it. The same thing happened last year when I first started frequent running in the rain. I figure you can’t predict the weather in Cleveland and I’m not going to let an excuse block me. Generally I would choose outdoor running over treadmill running any day, including in rain and snow. Sometimes though, I just don’t have the mental fortitude to deal with it, and on those days, I’m thankful for the YMCA.  
I can consider myself an official runner now because I had my first real experience with chaffing. I wore my Nathan hydration belt so I could carry water, and somehow my shirt had come out from under it and the belt rubbed my stomach the entire run. I came home to a hideous area of chaffing on my stomach from it. If I had been out much longer, I think it would’ve been bleeding because it looks like little open wounds. I know that is TMI, but there are quite a few ugly realities that exist in the world of middle to long distance running that are generally topics not covered by the “polite” population. When you are around runners, pretty much every socially taboo subject is acceptable fodder. (Including discussion on bladder and bowel functionality.)  I usually take really good precautions to avoid chaffing, but I had a wardrobe malfunction. I’m gearing up for a 10 mile run next week to celebrate hitting the 100 plus days of run streaking mark. 
So far my Achilles is doing fairly well. I wore Kineseo tape on it for my long run for the first time in probably over a month and it was more of a preventative measure. I am not getting ahead of myself though and am still taking my pace, and even distances, more slowly than I normally probably would. 
The #runstreak has really been a time of growing and self exploration for me. I never in 100 years would’ve dreamed that I would be obsessed with running and/or exercise in the way that I have become. Contrary to popular belief or opinion, all of this running and working out actually takes very little time from my schedule. You may want to believe that I am spending countless hours logging miles and that you don’t have that kind of time, but in reality, you can start a fitness routine with 20-60 minutes a day. Unless I am training for a race, I almost never workout over an hour. If you watch even 1 to 2 TV shows a day, you have the time to workout. It is a matter of time management and prioritization. Get up earlier, eliminate a TV show, eliminate some social networking time, rearrange your lunch hour, and the possibilities are endless. Give up your excuses today. I gave mine up two years ago and everyday I’m improving, growing, building strength, building endurance, and just having an overall blast.

My Fad Diet

The running medals/race display shelf my hubby got me for Christmas 2011.
~~~~~~~~~MY FAD DIET~~~~~~~~~
Fresh air, fresh fruit,
Light meals, light moods,
A good sweat, goals set,
Body moving, no food soothing,
No static, don’t panic,
Help yourself, help each other,
Love your body, there’s no other,
Heart beats, healthy eats,
A deep breath, a good stretch,
On your feet, eat less meat,
TV off, get your sleep,
Destress…
And don’t second guess.-Sherry Pagoto

I read that poem on “Fad” diets and really enjoyed it, so I thought I would share with the blogosphere. I am more convinced than ever that life is a journey. Far too often we want to take the microwave approach to everything. We are either all in or all out. We are either binging or dieting. One person I talked to the other day is on yet another “diet”. Over the years I have known this person they have vacillated between hundreds of dollars of vitamins a month, gluten free diets (with no allergies), all organic diets, and any other diet plan you can think of, but this person has always been overweight. They have yo-yo’d constantly. I’m always lending a supporting ear, but I am wary of people who declare they are eating nothing but meat. How sustainable is a life of only boiled chicken? Perhaps it is for you, but for me, I enjoy life. I enjoy eating. I am learning to enjoy and embrace the body God gave me. I feel that God wants us to find pleasure in food, otherwise he wouldn’t have given us taste buds. Food is fuel, but if that is all it was meant to be, God would’ve made us to inhale Goo full of nutrients and then race down the road of life. He put Adam and Eve in a garden full of delicious food and perfect plants, so don’t be discouraged if you love to eat. Just, learn how to eat well and take care of yourself. That means indulge and splurge sometimes. You’ll honestly get to the point where the indulgences become fewer and farther between and you will crave health food. I have literally been on a grapefruit binge lately because I crave the natural goodness. I am so thankful to be at the stage of my life where I desire to make the better choices most of the times. I am a woman though, so you know sometimes I just have to have chocolate, and not the healthy 90% cacao kind. I mean the kind piled high with fudge and ice cream:) You live only once on this earth, enjoy it. However, if you want to live a long, healthy, fulfilling life, learn balance and by all means, get off your tail and shake what your mama gave you. Exercise is one of life’s joys. You heard me right, JOYS!
Who would’ve thought that some of my most prized Christmas gifts in 2011 were things I would’ve hated a few years ago? I got my running medals/race promotion display from my husband, as well as my Garmin 110 GPS running watch, and got a Runner’s World Calendar and running socks in our gift basket from the Bridge Church. I can’t believe I ever even survived without my running watch. I used to use the RunKeeper App on my iPhone and I would run with podcasts and music on. However, since I received my running watch I’ve been running “naked”. This means that I’ve been running with no music and no podcasts. I am so totally addicted to “naked” running now. In the chaos of life, I can’t even tell you how amazing it has been to be “present” and in the moment on my runs. The exception to this is anytime I’m on a treadmill. I MUST have something going to keep my sanity on treadmill runs.
Notes from my Garmin 110 GPS Running Watch:
Miles Run over the Last 7 Days: 30.13 (Hooray! I blew past my goal of a #marathonaweek after missing it by a few steps last week.) 
Calories Burnt in 7 Days running: 3,637 (We won’t talk about calories consumed since it was Superbowl week. LOL. Can anyone say “Doritos”?)
I ran day 86 of my #runstreak today. Can you believe it? I’ve run 86 straight days in sickness and in health. In sunshine, rain, ice, and snow, nothing has slowed my go!! 🙂
My average speed has increased slowly and steadily. I am now regularly logging sub 9 minute miles. I don’t think you can even understand the significance of this for me. I literally remember the first time I ran 5 miles in 60 minutes. I started crying and called my husband rejoicing. I never thought I would hit the 12 minute a mile mark on a medium run. (Medium for me is 5-8 miles) Now, I’m consistently getting sub 9 minute miles (ranging from 8:45-8:55 minutes a mile). My average overall is a 9:22-9:30 mile right now for my 5 miles and over runs. I need to amp this up if I’m going to hit my sub 2 hour half marathon, but even if I don’t make it, I know I’m getting fitter, stronger, and faster. No one can take away your running milestones. That is one reason running is so special. The only person you are in competition with is yourself and everyday you can see a better you emerging. Lace your shoes up and get outside. Start today. Start with one mile. Start with walking. It all starts by putting one foot in front of the other. That is the beauty of physical health, it’s not complicated. It’s kind of like salvation. People love to complicate life’s most simple messages. Salvation is by grace through faith, it’s not by your own works and physical fitness is just one foot in front of the other. Don’t stress with all of the “P90X”, “Insanity”, and “Crossfit” plans out there. I’m not knocking them. They are great in context, but sometimes we don’t need insanity, we just need to roll of the couch!
Epilouge:
One more thing I want to mention is that you have to find inspiration and twitter and facebook is a great place for that. Join some running groups either in real life or on social networking. It will help you eliminate all of your excuses. There is a guy I found on twitter that lives right here in Cleveland, Ohio that is my “no more excuse” go to guy. He literally gets up at 3:45 AM EVERYDAY to run. He is a “big wig” at a corporation and his wife is a pediatrician and they have several children and that is the only way he can fit his runs in. So,when my alarm goes off at 5:50 AM or 6:00 AM and I don’t want to budge and I feel sorry for myself because it’s 20 degrees and snowing outside, I know I can get on my twitter an see that he has already run 14 miles in the same weather and did it faster and more enthusiastically than me. This gets me going for some reason. His life is way more crazy than mine and he did it. He logs about 70-80 miles a week and while I don’t do that and probably never will, thinking about his tweets gives me the kick I need.

Persevere, Exercise

 As recorded by my Garmin Connect GPS running watch and online dashboard (1/30/2012):
I have run 110.85 miles in the last 30 days and burnt roughly 11,500 calories running.
I have run 25.43 miles in the last 7 days and burnt roughly 3,000 calories running.
I am 11% of the way to my goal of running 1,000 miles this year.
I missed my #marathonaweek this last 7 days by .77 miles. UGH!!! If only I had charted better I would’ve definitely gotten it in. It’s my first week of 2012 to not run a #marathonaweek. Thankfully, my biggest goal of 2012 is 1,000 miles overall and maintaining the #runstreak all year, rather than specifically running 26.2 miles a week. This is to help me stay injury free. Sometimes too many miles too soon will catapult you onto the disabled list. That is what happened to me last year. I decided in a split second to go from a half marathon to a full marathon in 4 weeks having, at that time, never ran over 13.1 miles at a time. When I reached the point of my training where I was running 16 miles at a time and then 18 miles at a time, I blew out my Achilles Tendon. A whole other host of weird medical things surrounded that as well, like the fact that I have one leg shorter than the other and never knew it, but the bottom line was that I wasn’t prepared for the sudden increase in mileage that I inflicted on myself. If I maintain #marathonaweek levels in 2012, I’ll run over 1,300 miles this year and I’m not sure if I’m 100% ready for that though with my Achilles issues. I’m sure going to go for it though, but I’m going to use caution and wisdom. It’s better to set a goal that is too lofty and only succeed at 50% of it, then to set either no goal or one that is super low. It’s like taking 4 steps forward and one step back. Instead of focusing on the one step back, focus on the 3 steps you moved ahead!

Persevere Friends! Exercise! 

Today is Monday and I’m wishing this Monday was a little more manic. Manic being defined by grandiose thoughts and energy, not being defined by an extra long to do list. I always have one of those. Lately some of my runs have been feeling uninspired. Blame it on the January Blah’s. Chalk it up to the absolutely bizarre winter weather we have had this year. Consider the fact that I keep somehow contracting the same head cold and sinus infection over and over and over again. Or, perhaps it can be attributed to the fact that my first official race of 2012 is still well over 3 months away. Regardless, some of the “Eye of the Tiger” tunes that regularly play in my head and some of the fantasies that I have surrounding me beating a Kenyan in a foot race, have died down lately. It can’t be said of me though that my passion for fitness, health, and nutrition has waned. It is natural for human beings to go through ebbs and flows in life and for our bodies to cycle in and out of passion for things, but the number one indicator of success in any area of life is perseverance. Even the Bible speaks to this on numerous occasions. Matthew 10:22 finishes out by saying “He that endures to the end shall be saved.” So, in the spirit of perseverance, I keep going.

Weighing myself daily keeps me accountable. If I’ve eaten one too many scoops of IceCream, or a whole saltshaker’s worth of too much sodium, the scale tells me very bluntly the next morning and I know to focus harder on my holistic ways that day to balance out the damage. Eventually you learn to shun all that stuff because you just don’t like how disgusting it makes your body feel. I enjoy eating healthy and staying the course 80% of the time because my body is a machine that needs the correct fuel and enjoys functioning on the good stuff. The #runstreak keeps me accountable. The fact that I’ve put all over FaceBook, twitter, and my blog how healthy I am and how much I exercise, surely keeps me accountable. The advantages of social networking in my health journey are enormous. I am not one that would find any benefit to groups like Weight Watchers. In fact, if you see that I’ve gained 5 pounds, I could care less. If I enjoyed my food and I’m feeling good about myself, a public weigh in will not hold me accountable. What does hold me accountable is that all of the blogosphere knows I’ve run 78 straight days and that I’m participating in a #runstreak. I’m linked up to neighbors and friends that I guarantee if they don’t see me out pounding the pavement, will say something. I feel accountable to those I’ve inspired to get more fit, eat healthier, and put one foot in front of the other. So, I guess you can say that I’m more concerned about my overall health and well being because of those watching me (including my children) and those inspiring me on the sidelines and those that I’m inspiring than I am about some pesky number on the scale. I will admit though, I do not like that number to budge in the wrong direction but mainly because it is an indicator of how healthy I’m eating and how much I’m working out, not because I have some phantom number I’m supposed to be.

In 2012 I started a new fitness routine too. I used to go to Curves, the circuit training gym for women. It served its purpose in my life to get me off my tail and jump start my weight loss routine, but I found that I quickly outgrew it. I began running and reached a point where I was no longer getting any more toned, but maintaining. I decided that in January I would join the YMCA with my husband. I had multiple motivations for choosing the YMCA over other gyms, one being the free child care and two being the family atmosphere and programs my children could get involved with, not to mention their mission and vision statement and how it aligns with my values. Anyway, I’ve been doing Nautilus machines and pumping iron since January 2 three times a week and I have seen a drastic change in my abs, arms, back, and legs. It is amazing how one month doing weight bearing exercise, instead of just resistance training, has transformed my body. I tell you this to say, keep your workout routine fresh. I may be running only half inspired, but at least my trips to the gym are inspired. Lately, the men over the age of 70, have been referring to me as “muscles” at the gym.

In 2012 I also decided to increase my water intake. I’ve always been a big drinker, especially of water, but I decided I would start tracking it. I have been striving to drink over 1 gallon of water a day. I realized that I was drinking a good amount, but no where near a gallon. This is good for your skin, and definitely helps stave off hunger pangs. I’ve noticed from personal experience, as well as from information that I’ve read, that oftentimes we confuse hunger and the urge to snack with thirst. Also, if I am going to be a successful runner and PR at my Spring half marathon, I need to be super well hydrated. I am tracking every ounce I drink on my “LiveStrong” iPhone app, which is also where I track all of my calories.

Anyway, to conclude this random post to touch base with all those interested in my running, I haven’t been dreading my runs, just chasing that “high”. Sometimes a run doesn’t put you into a zen like state, but you never, ever, ever regret putting on your shoes, lacing up, and heading out the door. This week I’m officially beginning my training for the Capital City Half Marathon in Columbus, Ohio.  I’m only 95 days away from gathering with thousands of runners across Ohio and the USA all chasing health, PR’s, wellness, accomplishments, and natural highs. With or without “Wizard of Oz” level winds, which have been the norm the last couple of weeks in Cleveland, a run will always leave you a sense of accomplishment, especially when you are training for a race. Whether you choose to endure the pelting snow and ice with your YakTrax on, or venture inside to stare at a wall while you pound one mile after the next on a treadmill, when you are done, you are done. When you’re so sweaty that people think you’re on the verge of a heart attack, even after running in 12 degree temperatures, you can wear that smell with pride. Sometimes you have to fight harder than others for what you know is your personal best, but it is always worth the battle.

Contrasts

“One reason you may not be feeling like you are a person of purpose is if you are not functioning as a person of purpose. Live on purpose.”-Dr. Tony Evans

(The above quote only relates indirectly to this particular blog post. I really liked it though, so I thought I’d share.)

Tracked with my Garmin 110 GPS Running Watch:

As of 1/21/2012 I’m 8% of the way to my goal of running 1,000 miles this year.
Over the last 7 days I’ve run 26.31 miles and burnt 3,133 calories running.

YakTrax Snow/Ice “Cleats”. Tried them for the first time this week and they are a worthy purchase if you plan on running or walking outdoors in the winter. They have them for $19.99 at Dick’s Sporting Goods and my husband and I are able to share a pair because you just add them to the bottom of your existing tennis shoe. We bought a size Medium.

In Cleveland they say just wait 5 minutes and the weather will be different. I am finding this to be crazily true. Since moving here in 2010, I have started to grow accustom to the fact that there is no normal weather wise. The #runstreak has made this far more clear and plain than ever before. I remember one day in the fall while training for the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon, I made my run plan for the week based on my Weather Channel for iPhone app. This proved to be disastrous. I scheduled a 15 mile run for the day we had a 10% chance of rain and scheduled my cross training on the day my app said an 80% chance of rain. This was prior to the #runstreak (now I run everyday in rain or shine, in sickness or in health) and I was ticked when the rain started pouring about a mile into my 15 mile run and the sun was shining brightly the day I was at the gym cross training. This happened numerous times during my running in 2011. I’ve decided to not make too many plans in 2012 and just go for it. I’ve already run in the worst possible conditions anyway. During a spring run in 2011 I ran in lightening, thunder, hail, and rain. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend putting your life at risk like that, but sometimes you have to get the miles in. I wasn’t the only runner out that day though, so I had other psycho’s to stare at through the hail. Coincidentally, I ran a PR on that 8 mile run. I’m sure it was the fact I felt like I was being chased by lightening bolts that put the spring in my step.

So, in keeping with the spirit of Cleveland winter, over the last 10 days we’ve had glimpses into every season but summer. I’ve run in spring conditions complete with the sun and birds chirping. I’ve run in cloudy, dreary fall like temperatures and conditions. And, finally, I’ve run in brutal winter. I started this last week full of energy and very jazzed about my health and my #runstreak and have hit every high and low in between. First, my running times and mileage were impeded by last weekends snow/ice storm (pre Yaktrax) on Sunday and Monday. Also, whether I run indoors or outdoors is also determined on my children. If they are in school or out of school and if my husband is working from his office at home and can keep an eye on them, or if he is in the community or at business meetings away from his home office. My kids are way too big for jogging strollers and not quite big enough to ride bikes alongside my longer runs yet, so sometimes I go to the YMCA and use the treadmill solely for their free child watch feature. Both of my boys have told me they are running marathons at some point though. I have glorious visions of our family of 4 crossing a finish line holding hands someday at a huge race, like the ING New York City Marathon. A mom can dream can’t she? 🙂

Back to this weeks running story……..I ran 6 miles on the Treadmill at the YMCA on Tuesday and felt pretty good, despite the fact I ran indoors, only to start feeling sick Tuesday afternoon and evening, a feeling that hung on until Thursday evening. I had some sort of stomach virus coupled with a sinus infection and it really sucked the life out of me. It was one of those illnesses though where you have to keep going. I still had appointments to keep, people to host at my house, Foundations classes, music practice, and office work that wouldn’t wait for my illness to pass. I thought if none of this stuff lets me be sick, then I had to keep the #runstreak alive too. I decided to run on the Treadmill Wednesday because I didn’t have the mental fortitude to tough out the rough headwinds while keeping myself from heaving. Two treadmill miles Wednesday felt worse than 6 miles Tuesday. Thursday I was slowly feeling somewhat better, so I went out for another 6 miles and averaged a 9:33 mile overall, which is still slow. Yesterday, Friday, the temperatures were registering -5 degrees, and having come off of an illness, I decided to do the treadmill again and logged only 3 miles. I did 9:22 miles though, so I’m almost back up to my current fitness levels. I am not one that can mentally pull off a long treadmill run very often, especially when I wasn’t completely up to par. Three to Six miles is long enough to stare at a wall while listening to leadership and preaching podcasts. (As a side note, sometimes I listen to music, but I like to run outside with nothing and build up my leadership skills and spirit when running on a treadmill by listening to podcasts.)

Today was warmer, around 20 degrees, but was a winter wonderland. I snapped on the YakTrax and went for a difficult 3.25 miles. ( I found out later that I had inadvertently run the #twitterroadrace In addition to pushing for people to #runstreak and run at least a marathon a week #marathonweek, fitness bloggers everywhere are uniting for 5K’s calling them #twitterroadrace and you just post your time on twitter and see how you did compared to everyone else. I think you have to run with a GPS and be able to upload and prove your time. Twitter is a great way to connect with other runners and athletes and keep motivating and inspiring yourself. You can also do the hash tags #runchat and #seenonmyrun for further help and entertainment)  Nothing in my  neighborhood had been plowed since it is Saturday, so I had to pick my legs up high and try to run in the street in tire tracks. Unfortunately there weren’t lots of tire tracks since no one had been out and about. It was a fun, invigorating run though. Running in deep snow is more difficult than you think. Like I’ve stated in other blogs, it feels like you are running through sand and the headwinds were strong today. A friendly neighbor expressed his concern to me. He apparently didn’t think a little lady needed to be out running post snow Apocalypse. I thanked him for his kindness and just kept running. This week was about contrasts in my attitude, running speed, running conditions, and mileage. My mileage is down overall this week because of the mixture of weather and illness, but my streak is 69 days in with no end in sight.

I went over the hurdle I was most concerned about this week, the hurdle of what happens to my streak when I’m sick. Thankfully, I almost never get sick, so hopefully I won’t have to jump this hurdle often. However, I know that if I am sick I can always head out the door or to the treadmill and at least complete one to two lousy measly miles. I will pull from the mental fortitude and strength I’m gaining from this streak for my marathon this year. When I’m doing a 1:59 half marathon (which will be a PR) and crossing the finish line of my full marathon, I’ll be grateful for every day I slogged through.

2012 will hold my 5 th half marathon and first full marathon since my marathon plans were stolen from me by injury last year. I also plan to log over 1,000 miles over the course of this year. I started the year with 800 miles as my goal, but was already 10% of the way there not even a full month into the year, so I set a new more challenging, yet attainable goal. My Garmin tracks it all for me and I’ll report to you. For now, bundle up and go for a run. The snow never hurt anybody that was dressed appropriately (no shorts and tank tops for January runs).

RePost: From Fat to Fit

This blog, From Fat to Fit, was originally posted January 17, 2011. The content is still relevant and I have had requests recently about the content, so I decided to RePost it for easy access. More to come tomorrow on the #runstreak this week, the FAQ’s of the week, my insight into Romans for our church LifeGroups this week, and my commentary about what God is doing in the Bridge Church. I hope you keep coming back to the blog. Feel free to comment and leave any questions.

I’ve lost even more weight and toned up further since these “after” pictures.
Biggest Loser Style Pose

I have been inundated with requests to take people through my lifestyle change journey and have decided, after answering countless personal emails and typing the same things over and over again, to try and narrate for you my journey, what helped me, what didn’t help, and some things that I’m still working to improve. We are already almost through January 2011 and I imagine some of you have been successful in your resolutions and are full swing into your weight loss and/or fitness/health journey and there are others of you that caved the second the Valentine’s Day displays went up at the stores and you caught glimpse of the beloved lover “chocolate”.

After overdosing on yummy food goodness for at least a month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, most people heave a disappointed sigh as they try to fit into their pants. Having already started the holidays with a few extra pounds they vowed to get off the year prior, they just give in for “one more month” with a renewed declaration in their spirits to try again next year. Well, next year is here and some of those people are currently beating themselves up because they are already off the wagon again. Oh well, better luck next time in 2012 they say. That person was me in 2009. Every year since I can remember I’ve been vowing to lose weight. This blog is my story of journey and triumph.

If you could add up all the diets I’ve been on, all the books on food and dieting I’ve read, and the number of exercise related paraphernalia I’ve purchased in my life, I’m sure you’d be blown away. In fact, I ought to have my Medical Degree in nutrition by now earned by life credits and personal development. It may surprise you to learn a few things about me that I don’t like to talk about. Believe it or not, there are things I don’t like to discuss. For the sake of helping my friends, acquaintances, and even just random women down the street, I will share with you.
Number one, before my two pregnancies and subsequent weight gain, I actually, at one point in my life, struggled with anorexic behaviors. It was actually humiliating for me to admit this at one point because how could a 5’7” 98 pound girl balloon to where I had gotten. How’s that for recovery? Believe it or not, people with disordered eating can easily swing from anorexia to morbid obesity. It really is the same faulty thought patterns that get people. I personally know several obese people that struggle with bulimia and anorexia. I encourage you to not make judgments on peoples eating and fitness levels when you don’t know their story. Number two fact played into my lifestyle change was the fact that my dad was in his 30’s when his health began to fail. He died at 51. Realizing that I was turning 30 in 2010 really took me to a place mentally that few can understand. It’s not about growing older. It’s not about impending wrinkles or vanity, but it was about the fact that my life could already be half over. I have so many relatives that didn’t live very long or healthy lives. My blood Bentley relatives can attest to you that our genetics are some sort of ticking time bomb and they are definitely not conducive to being thin and healthy. The Bentley relatives that are thin and healthy work overtime to be so. We are not natural hotties, but we’re geniuses, guess you can’t have it all 🙂

My struggles with weight began at age 14 when I realized I was fat. I know my mom will read this and weep and say “Jessica how could you think that”, but those of you that knew me then and don’t have the maternal emotional ties will attest to the fact that this was true. I really and truly did need to lose weight. I was ending Junior High and beginning high school and wanted to be attractive to the opposite sex. Puberty really has a way of messing with your head. I began a healthy, balanced diet that quickly spiraled into an unhealthy intake of only 500 calories at the most a day coupled with lots of exercise and quick, out of control weight loss. I’m sure this time period in my life destroyed my metabolism. I would not say that I was anorexic in a classic sense because anorexics cannot see what they are doing to themselves and often times still view themselves as fat. I did not view myself as fat; in fact, I viewed myself as superior to everyone else. They had to eat to live and I didn’t. I had power over it. To make an incredibly long story short, my wakeup call came at a Doctor’s appointment when I was 15 and at 5’7” weighed 98 pounds, had a blood sugar of 12 and was told my liver would fail within a year if I didn’t start eating better. Miraculously, this was all I needed to know. I certainly didn’t want to die. I also had such kind friends (you know who you are) that started calling me “skelator”. This actually didn’t’ help me. I knew this was their way to express how scared they felt about my condition but in reality it just made me feel more superior. I was skinnier than anybody and everyone knew it. I was awesome.

After my wake up call, I was told to gain weight. This was amazing to me. I had never needed to gain weight. I was always fat. I didn’t enter this next phase of my journey very well. I started eating like a crazy person. My body was probably malnourished so was prompting me to eat constantly. My weight went up practically overnight. I wish I had stayed at 135 pounds on my way up the scale, but at some point I quit caring about my weight again. I wanted to be attractive, but at the time had boyfriends and male suitors, so I guess I was accomplishing that on some level. In retrospect, all of this insanity I’m sure was tied into the stress of long term illness. My dad’s kidneys failed when I was in 3rd grade and so for years he was on a doctor’s restricted diet. Our whole house revolved around sodium content, sugar content, and the scale. When your kidneys fail, you have to weigh yourself several times a day because you aren’t peeing at all. You have to make sure the water doesn’t build up too much. I guarantee that my weight loss, although necessary and healthy initially, spiraled into something I could control in my life. My dad went on to a kidney transplant when I was 10 but battled everything in the book for the next 14 years after that until he died. I bet people really don’t know the extent of the stress in my family because my dad was an eternal optimist, a genius, and a hard worker. I even had myself convinced he wasn’t as sick as he really was. Perhaps my over control of calories went the opposite way when I was told to gain weight.

Whichever way you swing, if you are on the anorexic end or overeating end, ultimately you have a very unhealthy relationship with food. One thing that changed my journey was to stop looking at food as anything other than fuel. I still enjoy eating. I love the act of eating with my family and friends. I love to cuddle with a bowl of ice cream on the couch with my husband and enjoy the silence of my kids being in bed. I love celebrating the holidays with food. The only difference this time is that I listen to my body. Food is not your friend or your enemy, it is just food. It won’t make you happy or change your life. An apple tastes just as good as apple pie. So, unless it’s a holiday, why sabotage yourself with the unhealthier choice?

If you sat down to read this thinking you were getting a light hearted blog about weight loss, you are surprised by now I’m sure! I don’t feel like I can be truly honest about how I came to this point without sharing all of that with you. For most people, weight loss isn’t just about food or weight, it’s about stuff much deeper and more complex, so unless you deal with all of that, you’ll just keep yo-yo dieting. I overcame my food issues years ago. Once I got married, I settled happily into life and didn’t really think about food much. I just enjoyed eating. I gained about 15 wedding pounds and then got pregnant with my first son. I then gained 25 pounds being pregnant and lost only about 15 of those pounds after he was born. If you’re not good at math, I’ll spell it out. That means I started my second pregnancy 25 pounds bigger than I was on my wedding day. I gained 30 pounds in my second pregnancy and then was thrown into a whirlwind of life 6 months after giving birth. We moved, began traveling full time to cast vision for the church we were to be starting in Cleveland, and living on an insane schedule. I had lost a few of the pregnancy pounds but found myself actually gaining instead of losing. Because of our travel schedule and preaching at churches all over the country, we were eating out constantly, eating out at weird hours of the day, and offered very few healthy choices and options. I was also caring for a toddler and infant who had no structure or schedule due to the insane nature of our life at the time. I nursed both of my children for the first year and didn’t find the weight loss benefit from it that many of my friends find.

Add to this the death of my dad right before my first pregnancy and pretty much, I had a recipe for disaster. I stood on the scale one morning at the end of 2009 and declared, “I will not be this person anymore.” I was going to lose weight healthy and normally, rid my mind of both the anorexic extremist control of my early teenage years and of the “lassiez-faire” attitude of marriage and motherhood, and get my health in order. I was turning 30 and I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure my sons have a mother that lives to be older than 51. None of my dad’s illnesses were weight related and I might still get some long term illness even trying to live healthy, but I need to know I’m doing everything in my power to lose weight.
I have not used supplements or pills. I have done this the old fashioned way. I have taken all the advice, tidbits, and pieces of knowledge I have gathered over the years and with trial and error applied all the things that work for me. First off, I joined Curves. Curves is a gym for women. Cuyahoga County offered free memberships through the Cleveland Clinic’s Go Fit program last year so I didn’t have to pay any startup fee or monthly fee for 6 full months. The program made you get weighed and measured weekly and if you didn’t go a minimum of 3 times, they charged you. I literally despise wasting money so that was a major motivator and the weekly weigh in’s kept me accountable. I got up at 6:30 am and hit the gym 3 times a week to start off. The weight began to fall off me. It was amazing. I was following the Curves Weight management plan which is almost identical to weight watchers. You have free fruits and vegetables and an emphasis on protein. It doesn’t eliminate carbs, but carbs are no longer your main fuel source. I even allowed myself every Sunday to eat whatever I wanted and didn’t deprive myself during the week. My main key was exercise and counting calories. I use Live Strong/the Daily Plate. They have a website or you can download their APP for your smartphone. I used Live Strong to determine my calorie count for the day, count my calories, and log my food choices. I still use Live Strong. It provides you with the knowledge you need. I bet you’d be shocked if you actually realized how many calories you truly need to how many you are actually consuming. I’ve been one to make healthier choices even at my most overweight points, but I obviously was very unaware of how much was truly going in.

I’m sorry this isn’t a lose weight quick blog. I have found that losing weight quickly doesn’t work. It doesn’t deal with the issues you have surrounding food and body image and it doesn’t’ deal with the bigger picture of how you can come up with a plan that you can live with. It doesn’t change your lifestyle. The fact of the matter is calories in, calories out. The fact is that you can be thin and skinny without being healthy. If been thin or skinny is your goal, I’m probably not the person to motivate you. Jillian Michael’s calls these people “Fat-Skinny People”. Being thin or skinny doesn’t mean you are physically fit, healthy, or happy. I have learned through all of my dieting, food issues, and loss/grief issues due to my dad’s health problems and subsequent death that you are in charge of your own happiness. As a Christian, my joy comes from God. This world wants to rob you of your joy and your self-worth as a human being, and especially as women. God just wants you to be the best you that you can be. My goal is to be healthy. I can serve God, my family, and my fellow man better when I’m healthy. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to be thin, but my health matters more to me.

The fitness gains I earned at Curves pushed me into pursuing what I once thought was impossible. I’ve never been athletic. Even at my thinnest points, I wasn’t truly physically fit. I’ve always enjoyed moving and never been lazy, but most exercise attempts stopped at just speed walking. Now, with Curves, I was doing circuit training, strength training, and cardio and began to feel the need to step it up. My husband had picked back up his quest to be healthy too and mentioned he wanted to do a marathon. I thought, why not, and told him I wanted to join him in a half marathon. My first few days out I couldn’t even run a mile. With a combination of walk/running, Curves, and marathonrookie.com, I was able to train for and run the 13.1 mile Akron Half-Marathon in 2:34 and that time includes my bathroom breaks so the run was probably more like 2:28.

My story is still ongoing. I’m not to the end of my journey. If weight loss was my ultimate goal, I’m about 10 pounds from my ideal “dream” weight, but it’s not my ultimate goal. I’m currently 26% body fat but would like to be 21%-24% which is optimum fitness for a girl. I’d like to take my health the next level by reducing/eliminating diet drinks, reducing/eliminating artificial sweeteners, and eating foods with very few ingredients. Jillian Michaels says to only eat things that have a mother or that came straight from the ground. I also am trying to not eat foods that have ingredients in them that you need a PhD to pronounce or describe. I’m still working on this. The call of the “hydrogenated” sirens is sometimes too hard to resist. I’d also like to further reduce sodium. I’m a work in progress and God calls me fearfully and wonderfully made. I’ve learned to love the way I look and not compare myself to the Kim Kardashians of the world. Fact of the matter is that normal women don’t look like that because we don’t engage in plastic surgery, have the money for personal trainers, and have personal chefs. I don’t compare myself to my friends that are several inches shorter than me or have a smaller bone structures anymore. I am who I am and God ordained me to be who I am and I’m enjoying every second of my full life in Christ and with my friends and family. Life is a precious gift and I want mine to be as long and healthy as possible.

Helpful hints:1) Drink lots of water. Not only does it fill you up but it actually increases your metabolism by as much as 30% for 40-45 minutes after drinking it.
2) Eat tons of fiber. This fills you up and helps your body clear out toxins. (Hey, I said it as nice as I could)
3) Eat lots of fruits and vegetables (Sorry. No getting around this)
4) Exercise a minimum of 3 days a week. Having no time is not a good excuse. Make time even if it means setting the alarm an hour early every day.
5) Don’t let money be an excuse. A lack of money is not a good excuse to not eat healthy and exercise. You will either pay in lots of medical bills and health related problems or pay to purchase healthier groceries and for the necessary exercise gear. Either way, eventually you’ll pay. Let health be a priority. Cancel your Cable TV if you have to. Being healthy is more important.
6) Have a good support system. Lots of people have actually tried to discourage me believe it or not. I tune these voices out with the voices of my champions and supporters. Don’t let fat, jealous, miserable, unhealthy people steer your course. Find your true friends and family and let them support you. My husband Jonathan was my #1 cheerleader. He was my workout partner and was happy to help me make healthier choices.
7) Motivate yourself. Ultimately unless you are internally motivated you’ll fail. It is not everyone and their brother’s job to keep you constantly propped up. You have to be your own ally. Set small goals and reward yourself for each one that you meet. Don’t set 75 pounds as your goal. Set 10 pounds, celebrate when you reach that goal, and then set another one.
8) Read and Watch things about health and wellness. I like all the Biggest Loser stuff, all the marathon/weight/wellness documentaries, and books about health. Jillian Michaels “Master your Metabolism” is extreme, but I incorporated some of it and liked it. The book “Spark” is great. Runners World magazine has also been a great addition to my reading. Curves has a weight management book that details their plan that is helpful and there are countless websites and blogs that you can tap into. Educate yourself. I love all of the books in the “Eat this, Not that” series. They are tips that require almost no brain to follow. The books are basically picture books. Hit up your local library. This will save you lots of money in the reading department and you can consume more knowledge that way.
9) Learn to recognize true hunger and not just eat to eat or because you feel like you need to because it’s “meal time”. I’m still working on this.
10) Believe in and value yourself. You are worth it! Don’t let spouses or children or jobs stress you to the point that you stop taking care of yourself. Exercise is an amazing way to clear your mind and make you a better you.

Run On

Running Stats 
(Taken from my Garmin GPS Forerunner 110 Watch and the Treadmill Dashboard when appropriate) :
27.65 Miles Ran over the Last 7 Days with
2,371 approximate calories burnt running 
(The calorie burn isn’t entirely accurate because it only calculates the calories burnt outside and not the treadmill calories. You can probably add around 500 calories for the days/miles I was on a treadmill)

As you know by now, I have been in a health and fitness journey since January 2010. I will rerun my “Fat to Fit” blog sometime to give you the details of this journey, but the basic summary is that I’ve struggled with weight my whole life and reached an all time high about 12 months after my second son was born and at the door way to turning 30. Aging isn’t an option, in fact it’s a great alternative to the other choice which is death, but being fat and old is a choice. I chose to enter my 30’s with a completely new mindset. I turned 30 April 23, 2010, 4 months into my journey, ran my first half marathon 9 months into my journey, and sit here now, 2 years into my journey with 55 pounds forever gone, 4 half marathons run, and on day 64 of my first ever #runstreak. I’m more toned than ever, more fit than ever, look better than ever, and hardly ever get sick. I’m sure it’s all related. On one of these blogs I’m going to talk about the fountain of youth. You really can live longer (barring some catastrophic accident or illness), feel better, and accomplish all of your dreams. God made you for a forward moving journey. Don’t allow defeat and stagnation in any area of your life, especially your fitness. Bring that flesh under subjection, and in the process of getting lean and mean, you’ll grow in God. One of the FAQ’s I’m going to address this week is on fitness and fasting. You really don’t want to miss it. When you add and grow in one discipline in your life, every other discipline will line up accordingly. God knew what he was talking about in His word. He made you. He formed you. He fashioned you. He didn’t mess up.

Yesterday my #runstreak occurred at 6 AM and I stumbled out the door in “Rocky” mode. It was single digit temperatures out and my neighborhood had not been plowed yet. The sidewalk areas that neighbors had snow blown or snow shoveled were more akin to ice skating rinks that clean areas. I couldn’t let the streak end though and knew that with my church, leadership, and prayer schedule yesterday I wouldn’t make it to the YMCA during the hours prior to their closing. I do have an elliptical machine at home that I used to do as a cross training element on days like this, but now that I’m an official member of the #runstreak club, cross training can’t count towards maintaining the streak. So, since I treat Sunday’s as my workout day “off”, I rarely go further than 2.1 miles anyway, I knew I could handle the arctic blast and snow for at least the bare minimum #runstreak requirement of a mile and perhaps go my full two miles. I bundled up like Rocky, in fact, I later discovered I had too many clothes on. We’ll address what to wear in my second FAQ blog this week, but as a preview I’ll tell you that you don’t want to overdress or you’ll overheat, even in the frigid air. The only part of my body not overdressed were my precious little fingers which had on some cheap little Wal-Mart gloves and almost fell off. My husband had the advantage of a heads up on this because he left to do his #runstreak when I got home and I advised him to wear Ski Gloves and he was fine. Anyway, I ran in the middle of the road, dodging in and out of tire tracks trying to find a path where I could get some speed going without hitting ice. I only had one minor run in with a snow plow who didn’t see me running. It could have end badly, but thankfully my cat like reflexes put me out of harms way. I only did 1.75 miles because I was getting tired of trying to find a strip of road acceptable for foot traffic. The bottom line though is, NO EXCUSES. I got the run in and was able to enjoy the Lord’s Day worshipping with my church family and my run really was very fun. It is nice to have days that are not status quo.

Today was warmer, around 24 degrees, when I left for my run. I ran out of time yesterday to buy my ice cleats though and regretted it immensely. On Monday’s I do weight training at the gym in addition to my run, so I usually only run 3 miles as a muscle warm up and cardio event. Today I did 3.2 miles outside and it felt like I was running in a sand pit. Because it is MLK Jr. day, I didn’t have to run as early as normal. I went out the door at about 9 AM, and while that was great, it posed a problem in that I couldn’t just freely run in the middle of the road without risking a run in with a Mack Truck. The sidewalks in my neighborhood, and on the main road outside my neighborhood, still varied from snow up to my ankles to ice skating rinks. I really could have used those snow cleats. I had trouble getting any speed up and only averaged a 9:32 mile. It felt more like an 8:58 per mile average though because I had to pick my legs up higher and push against resistance. The result was that I was able to work muscles in my run that aren’t normally worked. I may run on the beach some this summer to mimic that feeling and get other areas of my legs prepared. I then went to the YMCA and did a fast 1 mile run on the treadmill because I didn’t like my 9:32 average. I wanted to get in an “all out” mile at least before my weights.

Today started week #3 of my new weight training routine and I can see wonderful results already. My biceps, triceps, shoulders, and back are finally starting to look healthy and toned. When you are a runner your legs and glutes get quite a bit of work, but you have to go out of your way to strengthen your core and upper body. This helps guard against injury and makes you run stronger and faster.

In other related news, I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods and bought a pair of ice cleats for $19.99. They attach to your regular tennis shoe and provide a grip in the snow and ice. They are metal coils on the bottom and will make your shoes non slip. I bought one pair and my husband and I will share them since we don’t run outside together. While there I peeked at the clearance racks and found a super cute running skirt for only $8.98. You can’t even imagine the steal that this is. Running skirts are all the rage right now because you don’t have to sacrifice fashion for fitness. Since they are the rage, the cost is usually a fortune to find one that covers more than your hiney. Anyway, we’ll cover clothes on my clothing FAQ blog, but I wanted you to know that Dick’s has lots of cute shirts, bottoms, and fitness gear on clearance with an additional 50% the lowest price.

#Houston2012

Today the #runstreak tried to defeat me, but I overcame. Due to a very hectic schedule today, a foot of snow on the ground, and the fact that the YMCA only has childcare for limited hours on Saturdays, I could’ve possibly been persuaded, in a weak moment, to abandon the streak. Afterall, can this really continue through the rest of the winter? Is it really worth getting totally geared up, bundling up 2 wiggling kids, and hopping in the sled just to pop out a couple of miles on the treadmill? Not to mention the fact that my poor kids already had a day of being drug all over God’s green earth with on the agenda and this was just adding to their to do list. (I’ve found though that a happy, healthy, in shape mom makes happy, health boys. They also love the YMCA kid watch and all of the activities. It’s just getting them out the door that is a marathon in and of itself,) Going to the gym seems reasonable on weight/strength training days, but I really prefer to just be able to jet out the door and log my miles near home on running only days. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, running outdoors is significantly more appealing to me anyway. The  #runstreak so far has been suprisingly easy to stick to, and I’ve had very few times I’ve wanted to abandon it. Even on Christmas morning I had no problems, as I ran at 6 AM past neighbors sleepily getting into their cars for early morning mass enduring stares of wonderment at the sight of some nut logging miles on the blessed holiday morning. However, today was different. It is a random Saturday in January and the weather isn’t looking good for the perceivable future and I’m facing a long term sentence to the treadmill, so is it worth it?

Thankfully, it was worth it and will continue to be worth it. As I read my Runner’s World tweets about the USA Olympic Trials and all of the records being set today in Houston, I shamelessly imagined that I was an Olympic Hopeful as I ran my 4 miles on the treadmill. I’m not embarassed to say or ashamed to admit that in my own fantasy world I’m the leader of the pack. I would’ve gone even further and longer, but child watch was closing and I had an agenda longer than said 4 miles to accomplish today. I’m happy that day #62 came and went and I am victorious. I am blessed with the health to run and I want to never take that for granted and celebrate it everyday. I already have my plan for tomorrow morning ready. Sunday’s are my light day. They are crazy, hectic for me, so I rarely to never run further than my 2.1 mile loop I have in my neighborhood. It’s always dark as I stumble out the front door at 6AM, so I stay in my subdivision where most people have their porch lights on. I miss all the Christmas lights beaming on my path, but enjoy the solitude, fresh cold air, and time to get my mind on the greatness of our God before the Sunday rush really kicks into high gear. Because I will not be able to go to the YMCA tomorrow and use the treadmill, I will be running in the foot of snow. I’m hoping there’s not a lot of ice because I don’t particularly want to be sprawled out in the middle of the street with a broken leg at the crack of dawn. The temperature looks like it will be single digits and windy, so I’ve got all the cold weather gear laying out, ready to eliminate any excuses I might conjure up. Since Sundays are my running “day off” of sorts (I don’t actually take the day off. I just run short and light), I will be able to proceed with caution. Running in the ice and snow without the proper shoes, which I don’t have winter running shoes yet, isn’t advisable if you are pushing distance an speed. I have a trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods on my to do list though to check out shoe gaiters and ice cleats. I’m not sure if I’ll buy these items, but running outside means a lot to me so it might be a worthy investment.

Whatever you want to do and accomplish in life, just start doing it now. Start it today. Don’t put it off any longer. Imagine where you want to be next year and take the steps today to make it happen. Tune in this week for my first two “Frequently Asked Questions”. They will be “What do you wear for running?” and “How did you continue your runstreak while fasting?”. I am going to address the fasting component of running nutrition before I address other nutrition questions because so many people are in the middle of a “First Fruits” fast for 2012, including myself. Tune back in for answers to these questions, more #runstreak musings, some Biblical inspiration, and some Bridge Church musings.

The Streak Continues

Remembering these moments keep me going!

Last 7 Day Report: 29.79 Miles Run, 3,230 Calories burnt running

Yesterday I celebrated day 60 of my #runstreak (That hashtag groups all the people on twitter together that are participating in a runstreak.) with a 6 mile dark, rainy run in the morning. Today, however, I had to do one of the things I hate the most and that is run on the treadmill. Runners affectionately refer to this as the “dreadmill”. Some people do well with indoor exercise, but I am self diagnosed ADD and need the stimuli that running outside gives me to escape from my own head. You would be amused if you knew the lines of reasoning and logic that come to me on my runs. Oftentimes though, I have acute mental clarity and use my runs as a time of meditation, worship, and personal development. I can’t complain too much about the treadmill though. I do live in Cleveland, Ohio where the winters are brutal. I’ve dodged a bullet this year though. Because of our mild winter, ice, wind, and single digit temps have driven me onto the treadmill only 3 times.

I will be blogging about my streak, what it means to me, my struggles and victories with it, and my new fitness routine I’ve started this year. I will also start a “Frequently Asked Questions” portion. I get E-mails from friends and acquaintances all over intrigued with Jessica 2.0. You have to understand that athelete was never a word anyone would’ve ever used to describe me and now people frequently tell me I’m the most dedicated, physically fit person they know. I wouldn’t go that far, but I am dedicated to my new way of living and I want you to experience the same sense of accomplishment and endorphin rush that I feel now.

The streak began in November when Runner’s World issued a twitter challenge. If you want to run, or currently do run, you absolutely need to subscribe to Runner’s World magazine and follow them on twitter. This is a valuable resource for all runners, especially novice and recreational runners. Runner’s World said we needed to fight against the fitness losses and weight gains that we all experience in the Holiday season, remove excuses, and end 2011 strong. They proposed that people join the #rwrunstreak on Thanksgiving Day and run everyday through New Year’s Day 2012. When I saw the tweet it was the week before Thanksgiving and I had already run 4 days in a row that week. I thought, I’m going to take on the challenge. My husband also took the challenge and that friendly comptetition always feeds my running, so I was glad to know that on the nasty days he’d be out there too, not just me. We don’t get to run together much because of our 2 small children, but just knowing that he is going to run at some point drives me out the door to push harder, further, and faster.

So, I took the challenge and ran everyday from then on. I ran on Thanksgiving Day (5 miles in fact). I ran on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I ran on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. I ran distances ranging from 2.1 miles to 8 miles on my streak and felt so good after New Year’s Day that I decided to continue the streak into 2012. According to the US Running Streak Association all you have to do to keep a streak is run a minimum of one mile a day. This sounds easy, but sometimes getting out the door is the hardest part. The run is the reward. Getting up in the dark at 5:30 and 6 AM in the winter to get a run in is not always appealing. My bed is comfortable. However, in keeping with no excuses, I know that if I don’t do it then it won’t get done. As a mother and someone that works in ministry, my afternoons and evenings are jam packed.

Since my first race of the year, the Capital City Half Marathon in Columbus, Ohio, isn’t until May, I’m not smack in the middle of Marathon training and have some liberty with my running schedule. I am just working on keeping my fitness levels high and my mileage consistent so that when I’m in the middle of training I can keep my injury rate down. In a later blog, I’ll discuss my continued battle with Achilles Tendonitis.

In closing, if streaking seems weird to you, it did to me at one point too. It defies conventional wisdom for the bodies need to replenish and rest. I feel like my Sunday runs, which I keep to a quick 2.1 miles, are a day off. When you’re used to running everyday a short jaunt is restful and replinishing. I also realize from reading the #runstreak feed that there are people that have streaked for over 30 years. Several people have been streaking for 1,500 plus days. These people keep me going. I can’t say that will be my future, only God knows. I can say though that for now, in this hour, in this moment, there are NO excuses. We will discuss in our FAQ blogs some of the excuses people use and how you can stop those excuses in their tracks.

New Beginnings

2011Akron Half Marathon After the Finish (Sporting my 2011 Capital City Half Shirt)
Me in 2008 in Chicago. I couldn’t have run a mile if you chased me with a gun.

On numerous occasions I have been made aware of the fact that my blog has been neglected and really no longer is relevant. While I am always inundated with life changing thoughts, quotes, statements, and advice (ha. I am a superhero in my own eyes.), I rarely have the time to sit down and put them into wonderful words of life. As I was remunerating on this fact, yet again, on my 6 mile run this morning, I decided to keep with the theme and mantra of my life and put away excuses. The fact of the matter is that if you ever turn on your TV, look at Facebook, or stare at a wall, you have time to do what is important to you. You have to learn to capitalize on every 5 minute nugget that a 24 hour day affords you. I have been living, since January 2010, by a new set of rules in my life. This new set of rules can be summed up in one phrase, “No Excuses”. I get so tired of people letting their lives, families, jobs, churches, and relationships crumble around them because of a list of what can only be described as “excuses”. I put away excuses and made some drastic changes in my life, so this small change of actually keeping up on my blog should seem like a breeze.

If you have known me for any length of time, you know that I literally am not the same person I was when I began this blog in 2008. In 2008 I was in the middle of tremendous transition in my life. I was 55 plus pounds overweight, traveling full time for my job, in the process of moving to a place where I knew nobody, and the exhausted nursing mother of one infant and one toddler. Times have changed. I now am the exhausted mother of a first grader and a pre-schooler, both of whom are capable of feeding themselves when I put it on the table and have a job where I not only don’t travel all the time, but my office is in my home. I have also morphed from the least athletic person that you have ever met in your life, into a marathoner. In fact, I am currently in the middle of a #runstreak and have run every single day with no breaks since November 17, 2011 and plan to keep the streak alive. I feel stronger, healthier, and happier than I ever have in my existence. I want to share with you what I am doing in my life. I have had so many people ask me questions relating to my weight loss, fitness, and running that I have decided the time I’ve wasted on Facebook in the past and the little posts I’ve put that have annoyed my less active friends I will turn into a blog and hopefully inspire those that need inspired and in the process hold myself accountable.

Over the next few weeks, months, and possibly years, you will read a wide variety of things on this blog. I am passionate about Jesus and equally as passionate about not only serving him, but to reach those that are far from God and help them find new life in Christ. A big part of my passion is now rapped up into balanced, moderate living and putting our minds, bodies, self esteems, and well being in a marriage partnership with spirituality. You can’t fulfil your full potential spiritually if you haven’t linked up the mind, body, and spirit connections. I know this very well. The Lord’s prayer tells us that we can ask for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. We know that in heaven we will have a glorified body, so why not seek to walk in health and wellness on earth instead of crawling to our deaths fat, out of breath, and depressed. I will share with  you my running and eating experiences as well as thoughts surrounding every other random thing in my life. I hope I can transition this blog into the dream I have for it. I am on a continuous journey in my life to develop into the best person that I can be.

From Fat to Fit

I have been inundated with requests to take people through my lifestyle change journey and have decided, after answering countless personal emails and typing the same things over and over again, to try and narrate for you my journey, what helped me, what didn’t help, and some things that I’m still working to improve. We are already almost through January 2011 and I imagine some of you have been successful in your resolutions and are full swing into your weight loss and/or fitness/health journey and there are others of you that caved the second the Valentine’s Day displays went up at the stores and you caught glimpse of the beloved lover “chocolate”.

After overdosing on yummy food goodness for at least a month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, most people heave a disappointed sigh as they try to fit into their pants. Having already started the holidays with a few extra pounds they vowed to get off the year prior, they just give in for “one more month” with a renewed declaration in their spirits to try again next year. Well, next year is here and some of those people are currently beating themselves up because they are already off the wagon again. Oh well, better luck next time in 2012 they say. That person was me in 2009. Every year since I can remember I’ve been vowing to lose weight. This blog is my story of journey and triumph.

If you could add up all the diets I’ve been on, all the books on food and dieting I’ve read, and the number of exercise related paraphernalia I’ve purchased in my life, I’m sure you’d be blown away. In fact, I ought to have my Medical Degree in nutrition by now earned by life credits and personal development. It may surprise you to learn a few things about me that I don’t like to talk about. Believe it or not, there are things I don’t like to discuss. For the sake of helping my friends, acquaintances, and even just random women down the street, I will share with you.
Number one, before my two pregnancies and subsequent weight gain, I actually, at one point in my life, struggled with anorexic behaviors. It was actually humiliating for me to admit this at one point because how could a 5’7” 98 pound girl balloon to where I had gotten. How’s that for recovery? Believe it or not, people with disordered eating can easily swing from anorexia to morbid obesity. It really is the same faulty thought patterns that get people. I personally know several obese people that struggle with bulimia and anorexia. I encourage you to not make judgments on peoples eating and fitness levels when you don’t know their story. Number two fact played into my lifestyle change was the fact that my dad was in his 30’s when his health began to fail. He died at 51. Realizing that I was turning 30 in 2010 really took me to a place mentally that few can understand. It’s not about growing older. It’s not about impending wrinkles or vanity, but it was about the fact that my life could already be half over. I have so many relatives that didn’t live very long or healthy lives. My blood Bentley relatives can attest to you that our genetics are some sort of ticking time bomb and they are definitely not conducive to being thin and healthy. The Bentley relatives that are thin and healthy work overtime to be so. We are not natural hotties, but we’re geniuses, guess you can’t have it all 🙂

My struggles with weight began at age 14 when I realized I was fat. I know my mom will read this and weep and say “Jessica how could you think that”, but those of you that knew me then and don’t have the maternal emotional ties will attest to the fact that this was true. I really and truly did need to lose weight. I was ending Junior High and beginning high school and wanted to be attractive to the opposite sex. Puberty really has a way of messing with your head. I began a healthy, balanced diet that quickly spiraled into an unhealthy intake of only 500 calories at the most a day coupled with lots of exercise and quick, out of control weight loss. I’m sure this time period in my life destroyed my metabolism. I would not say that I was anorexic in a classic sense because anorexics cannot see what they are doing to themselves and often times still view themselves as fat. I did not view myself as fat; in fact, I viewed myself as superior to everyone else. They had to eat to live and I didn’t. I had power over it. To make an incredibly long story short, my wakeup call came at a Doctor’s appointment when I was 15 and at 5’7” weighed 98 pounds, had a blood sugar of 12 and was told my liver would fail within a year if I didn’t start eating better. Miraculously, this was all I needed to know. I certainly didn’t want to die. I also had such kind friends (you know who you are) that started calling me “skelator”. This actually didn’t’ help me. I knew this was their way to express how scared they felt about my condition but in reality it just made me feel more superior. I was skinnier than anybody and everyone knew it. I was awesome.

After my wake up call, I was told to gain weight. This was amazing to me. I had never needed to gain weight. I was always fat. I didn’t enter this next phase of my journey very well. I started eating like a crazy person. My body was probably malnourished so was prompting me to eat constantly. My weight went up practically overnight. I wish I had stayed at 135 pounds on my way up the scale, but at some point I quit caring about my weight again. I wanted to be attractive, but at the time had boyfriends and male suitors, so I guess I was accomplishing that on some level. In retrospect, all of this insanity I’m sure was tied into the stress of long term illness. My dad’s kidneys failed when I was in 3rd grade and so for years he was on a doctor’s restricted diet. Our whole house revolved around sodium content, sugar content, and the scale. When your kidneys fail, you have to weigh yourself several times a day because you aren’t peeing at all. You have to make sure the water doesn’t build up too much. I guarantee that my weight loss, although necessary and healthy initially, spiraled into something I could control in my life. My dad went on to a kidney transplant when I was 10 but battled everything in the book for the next 14 years after that until he died. I bet people really don’t know the extent of the stress in my family because my dad was an eternal optimist, a genius, and a hard worker. I even had myself convinced he wasn’t as sick as he really was. Perhaps my over control of calories went the opposite way when I was told to gain weight.

Whichever way you swing, if you are on the anorexic end or overeating end, ultimately you have a very unhealthy relationship with food. One thing that changed my journey was to stop looking at food as anything other than fuel. I still enjoy eating. I love the act of eating with my family and friends. I love to cuddle with a bowl of ice cream on the couch with my husband and enjoy the silence of my kids being in bed. I love celebrating the holidays with food. The only difference this time is that I listen to my body. Food is not your friend or your enemy, it is just food. It won’t make you happy or change your life. An apple tastes just as good as apple pie. So, unless it’s a holiday, why sabotage yourself with the unhealthier choice?

If you sat down to read this thinking you were getting a light hearted blog about weight loss, you are surprised by now I’m sure! I don’t feel like I can be truly honest about how I came to this point without sharing all of that with you. For most people, weight loss isn’t just about food or weight, it’s about stuff much deeper and more complex, so unless you deal with all of that, you’ll just keep yo-yo dieting. I overcame my food issues years ago. Once I got married, I settled happily into life and didn’t really think about food much. I just enjoyed eating. I gained about 15 wedding pounds and then got pregnant with my first son. I then gained 25 pounds being pregnant and lost only about 15 of those pounds after he was born. If you’re not good at math, I’ll spell it out. That means I started my second pregnancy 25 pounds bigger than I was on my wedding day. I gained 30 pounds in my second pregnancy and then was thrown into a whirlwind of life 6 months after giving birth. We moved, began traveling full time to cast vision for the church we were to be starting in Cleveland, and living on an insane schedule. I had lost a few of the pregnancy pounds but found myself actually gaining instead of losing. Because of our travel schedule and preaching at churches all over the country, we were eating out constantly, eating out at weird hours of the day, and offered very few healthy choices and options. I was also caring for a toddler and infant who had no structure or schedule due to the insane nature of our life at the time. I nursed both of my children for the first year and didn’t find the weight loss benefit from it that many of my friends find.

Add to this the death of my dad right before my first pregnancy and pretty much, I had a recipe for disaster. I stood on the scale one morning at the end of 2009 and declared, “I will not be this person anymore.” I was going to lose weight healthy and normally, rid my mind of both the anorexic extremist control of my early teenage years and of the “lassiez-faire” attitude of marriage and motherhood, and get my health in order. I was turning 30 and I wanted to do everything in my power to make sure my sons have a mother that lives to be older than 51. None of my dad’s illnesses were weight related and I might still get some long term illness even trying to live healthy, but I need to know I’m doing everything in my power to lose weight.
I have not used supplements or pills. I have done this the old fashioned way. I have taken all the advice, tidbits, and pieces of knowledge I have gathered over the years and with trial and error applied all the things that work for me. First off, I joined Curves. Curves is a gym for women. Cuyahoga County offered free memberships through the Cleveland Clinic’s Go Fit program last year so I didn’t have to pay any startup fee or monthly fee for 6 full months. The program made you get weighed and measured weekly and if you didn’t go a minimum of 3 times, they charged you. I literally despise wasting money so that was a major motivator and the weekly weigh in’s kept me accountable. I got up at 6:30 am and hit the gym 3 times a week to start off. The weight began to fall off me. It was amazing. I was following the Curves Weight management plan which is almost identical to weight watchers. You have free fruits and vegetables and an emphasis on protein. It doesn’t eliminate carbs, but carbs are no longer your main fuel source. I even allowed myself every Sunday to eat whatever I wanted and didn’t deprive myself during the week. My main key was exercise and counting calories. I use Live Strong/the Daily Plate. They have a website or you can download their APP for your smartphone. I used Live Strong to determine my calorie count for the day, count my calories, and log my food choices. I still use Live Strong. It provides you with the knowledge you need. I bet you’d be shocked if you actually realized how many calories you truly need to how many you are actually consuming. I’ve been one to make healthier choices even at my most overweight points, but I obviously was very unaware of how much was truly going in.

I’m sorry this isn’t a lose weight quick blog. I have found that losing weight quickly doesn’t work. It doesn’t deal with the issues you have surrounding food and body image and it doesn’t’ deal with the bigger picture of how you can come up with a plan that you can live with. It doesn’t change your lifestyle. The fact of the matter is calories in, calories out. The fact is that you can be thin and skinny without being healthy. If been thin or skinny is your goal, I’m probably not the person to motivate you. Jillian Michael’s calls these people “Fat-Skinny People”. Being thin or skinny doesn’t mean you are physically fit, healthy, or happy. I have learned through all of my dieting, food issues, and loss/grief issues due to my dad’s health problems and subsequent death that you are in charge of your own happiness. As a Christian, my joy comes from God. This world wants to rob you of your joy and your self-worth as a human being, and especially as women. God just wants you to be the best you that you can be. My goal is to be healthy. I can serve God, my family, and my fellow man better when I’m healthy. Don’t get me wrong, I do want to be thin, but my health matters more to me.

The fitness gains I earned at Curves pushed me into pursuing what I once thought was impossible. I’ve never been athletic. Even at my thinnest points, I wasn’t truly physically fit. I’ve always enjoyed moving and never been lazy, but most exercise attempts stopped at just speed walking. Now, with Curves, I was doing circuit training, strength training, and cardio and began to feel the need to step it up. My husband had picked back up his quest to be healthy too and mentioned he wanted to do a marathon. I thought, why not, and told him I wanted to join him in a half marathon. My first few days out I couldn’t even run a mile. With a combination of walk/running, Curves, and marathonrookie.com, I was able to train for and run the 13.1 mile Akron Half-Marathon in 2:34 and that time includes my bathroom breaks so the run was probably more like 2:28.

My story is still ongoing. I’m not to the end of my journey. If weight loss was my ultimate goal, I’m about 10 pounds from my ideal “dream” weight, but it’s not my ultimate goal. I’m currently 26% body fat but would like to be 21%-24% which is optimum fitness for a girl. I’d like to take my health the next level by reducing/eliminating diet drinks, reducing/eliminating artificial sweeteners, and eating foods with very few ingredients. Jillian Michaels says to only eat things that have a mother or that came straight from the ground. I also am trying to not eat foods that have ingredients in them that you need a PhD to pronounce or describe. I’m still working on this. The call of the “hydrogenated” sirens is sometimes too hard to resist. I’d also like to further reduce sodium. I’m a work in progress and God calls me fearfully and wonderfully made. I’ve learned to love the way I look and not compare myself to the Kim Kardashians of the world. Fact of the matter is that normal women don’t look like that because we don’t engage in plastic surgery, have the money for personal trainers, and have personal chefs. I don’t compare myself to my friends that are several inches shorter than me or have a smaller bone structures anymore. I am who I am and God ordained me to be who I am and I’m enjoying every second of my full life in Christ and with my friends and family. Life is a precious gift and I want mine to be as long and healthy as possible.

Helpful hints:
1) Drink lots of water. Not only does it fill you up but it actually increases your metabolism by as much as 30% for 40-45 minutes after drinking it.
2) Eat tons of fiber. This fills you up and helps your body clear out toxins. (Hey, I said it as nice as I could)
3) Eat lots of fruits and vegetables (Sorry. No getting around this)
4) Exercise a minimum of 3 days a week. Having no time is not a good excuse. Make time even if it means setting the alarm an hour early every day.
5) Don’t let money be an excuse. A lack of money is not a good excuse to not eat healthy and exercise. You will either pay in lots of medical bills and health related problems or pay to purchase healthier groceries and for the necessary exercise gear. Either way, eventually you’ll pay. Let health be a priority. Cancel your Cable TV if you have to. Being healthy is more important.
6) Have a good support system. Lots of people have actually tried to discourage me believe it or not. I tune these voices out with the voices of my champions and supporters. Don’t let fat, jealous, miserable, unhealthy people steer your course. Find your true friends and family and let them support you. My husband Jonathan was my #1 cheerleader. He was my workout partner and was happy to help me make healthier choices.
7) Motivate yourself. Ultimately unless you are internally motivated you’ll fail. It is not everyone and their brother’s job to keep you constantly propped up. You have to be your own ally. Set small goals and reward yourself for each one that you meet. Don’t set 75 pounds as your goal. Set 10 pounds, celebrate when you reach that goal, and then set another one.
8) Read and Watch things about health and wellness. I like all the Biggest Loser stuff, all the marathon/weight/wellness documentaries, and books about health. Jillian Michaels “Master your Metabolism” is extreme, but I incorporated some of it and liked it. The book “Spark” is great. Runners World magazine has also been a great addition to my reading. Curves has a weight management book that details their plan that is helpful and there are countless websites and blogs that you can tap into. Educate yourself. I love all of the books in the “Eat this, Not that” series. They are tips that require almost no brain to follow. The books are basically picture books. Hit up your local library. This will save you lots of money in the reading department and you can consume more knowledge that way.
9) Learn to recognize true hunger and not just eat to eat or because you feel like you need to because it’s “meal time”. I’m still working on this.
10) Believe in and value yourself. You are worth it! Don’t let spouses or children or jobs stress you to the point that you stop taking care of yourself. Exercise is an amazing way to clear your mind and make you a better you.