Fat to Fit to First Level: ‘What If?’

Two little words, so much promise.

I have been on this journey of self-discovery and fitness for over a year now. I want to take a moment to thank every person who reads this column, follows the Fat to Fit social media sites, and supports me on this trek. Many of you are taking your own parallel journey, and we find strength by leaning on and learning from each other.

As my body continues to tone up while my weight creeps ever so slowly downward (come ON already, thirty pounds – sheesh!  *sigh*), I stumbled upon a picture of me taken a few years ago.

Photo by Greg Bell

I love to run. I mean, really love to run. This photo was taken after a rather grueling race, but – surprise – the one where I ran my best PR ever! There are several reasons why I’m sharing this photo here.

First, I am back to the same size/shape/weight I was when this photo was taken. As one traverses a weight gain-to-loss journey, it is both comforting and inspiring to realize I’m back where I was then, when I was running on a regular basis. #CelebrateTheSmallWinsAlongTheWay

Second, raw honesty: I have only run 5Ks. Running a 5K – a little over three miles – for young and/or fast runners, may seem like a trifling “achievement” and nothing to write about. But therein lies my truth: while I love to run, I am absolutely terrible at it. My average time for a 5K race is just over 30 minutes. Not. Kidding. I have good form, steady pace, excellent rhythm to my breathing. I’m just s.l.o.w. Turtle slow.

At one point in my running stint, I aspired to run a half-marathon. I worked towards this goal for a few months until I realized that, even as hard as I was training, a realistic time for me to complete 13 miles would be about four hours. At that point, a half-marathon race would long be over, the finish line taken up, and I would be the very last person to complete the course. Disheartening, to say the least. Not to mention how dreadfully embarrassing it would be to have the officer driving drag having to creep along behind me in his cruiser for four hours! No thanks! #LetMeKeepAShredOfDignity

So I gave up on my dream of running a half-marathon. It was completely unrealistic for me, just as trying to make my little mustang a four-star eventer would be futile and frustrating, for both me and him.

But, in my heart of hearts, I sometimes reflect on my days of running 5Ks, and I smile to myself. Why? Because I didn’t start running until I was well into adulthood, and I overcame my embarrassment of being larger than most all the other female runners, as well as my fear of being last to finish, to the point where I ran several races and enjoyed each and every one. I felt like an athlete when I was training and racing. And I loved that feeling.

A hard fall off a young warmblood sidelined my running activities for several months. By the time I was healed enough to resume running, I had decided to save my knees for posting the trot instead, so I do a good bit of walking and hiking these days, but rarely run. And that’s okay. Some activities, like marching band in high school, are for a season of life, not a lifetime. Running had a wonderful place in my life when I was a runner; riding and hiking, however, are lifetime passions. So I don’t miss running, I simply appreciate how much joy it gave me during that season.

They say (whoever “they” may be) that, aside from the death of one’s spouse, divorce is the next most stressful life event one can experience. Two months post-final-decree, I won’t disagree, friends. The waves of doubt (“What more could I have tried?”) and guilt (“If I wasn’t so stubborn and selfish!”) come crashing over me at random times and hit my self-esteem like a tsunami. Funny how those of us who ride seem so susceptible to constantly bashing on ourselves while ignoring the rational mind’s very factual rest-of-the-story (“He lied to me, over and over again.” “I’m not perfect, but there’s no way this could be 100% my fault.”)

Sometimes, even the simplest activities, things I used to do easily and still love doing, become a challenge.

Case in point: recently, a nearby state park had an organized night hike in celebration of National Trails Day.

Did someone say “canter pirouette”? Photo by Esther Roberts

I really wanted to go, because I love being out in nature during twilight and nighttime and this park usually closes at sundown. This night hike was a rare opportunity to follow the rangers into the dark and enjoy all bats and owls and frogs and other nocturnal animals. I pre-registered to go, but, on the day of the hike, I waffled back and forth. “I should stay here and work.” “I won’t know a soul.” “Everyone else will be laughing with their companions, and there I’ll be, Miz Middle-aged Loser.” Blah. Blah. Blah.

I was texting with a gal pal not long before the make-or-break time. You know what time I mean. That time when you either have to decide to do something and get in the truck and go, or dawdle til you’ll be late and miss the event, which means you have, de facto, decided not to go. I told my friend I thought I’d just stay home and read for the evening.

She, however, encouraged me to go. “I think you need to get out there. You might have a great time…”

And that, my friends, is when I realized I was once again allowing fear to dictate my life. My mind was ensnared in the “what if” game in a negative way. “What if” I feel isolated? “What if” I feel embarrassed? And on and on.

But her suggestion that, “you might have a great time” flipped my brain into a much more positive round of the “what ifs.” “What if” I go and have a blast? “What if” anyone who notices me hiking without a trail buddy thinks, “she’s a fearless badass to be out here alone”? (Raw honesty: I realize that everyone else on the hike probably took no note of me whatsoever; the ego, however, sure likes to make you think everyone is watching your every move and judging you!)

More to the point regarding my commitment to fitness and to getting Kaliwohi in shape: “What if” this hike – and many more – help strengthen my legs so I can ride better?

So I grabbed my hiking stick – a turtle, to remind me to slow down and enjoy the little things – and a bottle of water and hopped in my truck and went for my first “solo” hike in years.

And it was marvelous.

Sunset at Seven Islands State Birding Park. Photo by Esther Roberts

Join me on this journey on Facebook: Fat to Fit at Horse Nation (page and group), and my blog www.appalachianchic.com.


Go Riding

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