Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I've Come a Long Way, Baby!

This week marks the two year anniversary of my gall bladder attack. What a lovely thing to celebrate, huh? In fact, there was nothing lovely about the event. I went down on Thanksgiving night. My gall bladder was stone-riddled and so inflamed, I was admitted to the hospital for two days of intraveneous antibiotics. The following week, I was in surgery having it removed. If you're interested, you can read about it here.

I'm not actually celebrating the anniversary of getting sick. I'm celebrating the anniversary of deciding to get healthy.

Spending Thanksgiving break in the hospital and missing the following week and a half of school messed with my psyche in a big way. Compounding my angst was the bout with vertigo I had earlier that same year which caused me to miss the last two days of school. I wasn't even OLD yet, and I felt like I was falling apart.

Yeah, screw that.

Something clearly had to change, starting with my attitude. I was depressed. I had become extremely sedentary over the years, and while not obese by any stretch, I had packed on some extra pounds. I had no outlet for stress beyond chocolate and the occasional night out with friends.

The following January, a friend invited a whole group of us at school to go to Jazzercise with her on their annual One Day Sale. I've waxed lyrical about Jazzercise on several occasions, but I can't overstate how big a difference it has made in my life. I kept going back to class even when I was wheezing, sore, out of breath, out of shape, and just plain pathetic. Why? Because it was fun.

In any given class, you might dance to Britney, J.Lo, Rascal Flatts, an orchestral version of "Kashmir" with Slash on guitar, a Fall Out Boy cover of "Beat It", or "Put the Bass in your Walk" with RuPaul. I dare you to dance to that and not smile!

I did smile...a lot. The mental/emotional results were almost immediate. No matter how out of breath or sore I was, I felt better afterwards. My head was clearer. I slept better. I had more patience, and I pulled myself out of that "I'm falling apart" funk. The physical results weren't far behind the mental. Even without changing my eating habits, I started dropping weight. Burning more calories will do that. When I started dropping weight, I changed my eating habits. Success breeds success.

The strength training component of Jazzercise began to reshape my body and my self image. Feeling physically strong made me feel mentally strong. The rush that came with each milestone has stayed with me. I remember the first time I did a side plank without cheating. I remember the first real push-up I did. I can string together several in a row now. I've increased my hand weights by a total of 10 pounds since I started. Each success makes me want to push harder to get to the next milestone.

Last spring, I started running. The first time, it was because my son asked me to run with him. When my son requests my company with no strings attached, I try to oblige because it doesn't happen very often. Plus, it was cool that my son thought I could hang with him on a run. Honestly, I didn't hang very well, but I finished. I liked that I was in shape enough to finish, so I ran again. And again. And again.

In October, I ran the Race for the Cure in Lexington. It was my first 5K, and I finished under my goal time. Last week, I ran the Southern Lights Stroll, another local 5K. I ran two full minutes faster than my Race for the Cure time, and I did a happy dance in front of God and everybody when I crossed the finish line. I have set two long-term running goals for myself. I'm definitely going to run a 10K in the Spring, and maybe even do the Triple Crown in Louisville. That's a 5K, a 10K, and a 10 mile race each 2 weeks apart. I'd like to do a half marathon within a year.

Those goals are lofty, and I will have to work hard to achieve them, but here's the thing. I'm closer to those goals today than I was to where I am now two years ago. I've gone from sedentary, depressed, overweight, out-of-shape, in the hospital having organs removed to training for a half marathon.

The change came because I decided to make it. I'm a bit hard-headed, and it took a Thanksgiving in the hospital to get me there. This Thanksgiving, I will run before I sit down at the table with my family. I will go to Jazzercise on Friday morning and dance with my friends. I'm healthy and in shape, and for that, I am truly thankful.

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