At the ripe old age of 27, I was told I needed statins. With high cholesterol and two rare diagnoses of hyperparathyroidism (a parathyroid tumor) and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), my doctors told me I needed to improve my diet and exercise more. At the time, I was not active, and at my heaviest, I weighed 197 pounds. I needed to change – and beginning January 2021, I set out to do just that.
At the new year, I bought myself a huge dry erase wall calendar as a sign of my commitment to moving my body for at least 30 minutes each day. For accountability, I would write up my workouts on the calendar for all to see.
I started with walking. I plotted a 3.5 mile route through my city, and I began to walk it a few times per week. Then my fiance bought me spin shoes, and I started riding with Peloton classes. I soon found that endorphins are no joke – I began to crave exercise.
One weekend, on a whim, I signed up for a virtual 5K run. I loved it, and I decided to challenge myself to run a virtual 5K every weekend. As I started gaining fitness, I signed up for some in-person running races. I loved the feeling of competing; there was something powerful about being able to say to myself, "I did this. All my hard work is right here – I am strong, I can do this, my body can do this."
By July, I was still running and cycling on a regular basis, so I decided to put them together into a race: the Women's Philly Duathon in July. After that, I started thinking: Could I do a triathlon? To achieve this goal, I'd need to learn to swim.
Twice per week, my workout calendar was marked with swimming lessons. I also hired a running coach, and she trained me on how to become a stronger runner. Both coaches were women, with women-owned businesses. It fit with my new purpose: for the first time in my life, I felt like an empowered woman. I was taking action to become a better, healthier version of myself, and I was wholeheartedly loving it. The support of other women was critical to this. I was sharing my journey on Instagram and gathering support from women all over the world; and I joined a local women-only triathlon club, the Mullica Hill Women's Triathlon Club. Never had I met a more caring, inclusive, and supportive group than women in triathlon. At my first open-water swim practice, I shared that I was new, and a fellow triathlete swam the entire course alongside me – simply because she knew it was my first time. Because of this support, I achieved a goal I never could have imagined; On August 21, 2021, I raced in my first triathlon and won first place in my age group.
My streak is still going today, though my runs are longer, faster and more frequent. In just 9 months my running race pace for a 5K went from an 11:55 average pace per mile to a 9:06. I celebrate every personal record, every victory and every effort! I never stop pushing myself though – I’ve since completed my first ever half marathon in Philadelphia, and I’m training for my next one in Spring 2022.
As I reflect on where I was a year ago, going from overweight with a possible heart attack diagnosis to becoming the fit, strong, athlete I am today, I become emotional. Health is so important. So is taking care of yourself, advocating for yourself, and surrounding yourself with women who feel the same way. I feel a great sense of accomplishment that I can’t quite put into words. I want every woman to feel that sense of accomplishment, to feel that strength. I feel grateful and appreciative to be in a position in my life where I have the ability to choose this for myself. I realize not all women in the world have this opportunity, and that makes me want to work harder for them. I'm now a volunteer coach for Girls on the Run, an after-school program for girls grades 3-8 that uses running to inspire girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident. I also volunteer for Women International Leaders of Greater Philadelphia, which invests in underserved women through micro-financing, loans, education, and empowerment.
My first goal was to lose weight, but I gained so much more. I’m down more than 40 pounds and feel stronger every day. More importantly, I'm in a season of re-discovering myself. Where will this journey lead me to? I don't know yet, but I know it’s somewhere good.
Inspired to start your own health and fitness streak in 2022? Join our January 2022 Challenge: The Do Something Streak – just 30 minutes of something (anything!) for 30 days. Register here for daily workout suggestions and prizes.