Race Shirts

One of the great things about running races is the free t-shirt. Depending upon the race, runners could receive a relatively cheap cotton t-shirt, a dry-fit shirt (that are always in men’s sizes and always big), a long-sleeved t-shirt (my personal fave), or, if one runs a full marathon (which I won’t), a long-sleeved, dry-fit shirt – the epitome of running shirts. One of my spring break goals was to clean out my drawers. Yes, while friends are lounging on beaches in the US and abroad, I was home cleaning my drawers. Anyway, race shirts.

I have over 25 race shirts. I have many other t-shirts that also have some kind of meaning. I really don’t need 40 t-shirts, but there are so many I can’t bear to part with. My daughter suggested I have a quilt made, which I might actually do someday. As I went through my race shirts today, and I pondered tossing some, I was bombarded with memories of races gone by.

There’s the light blue VUJC shirt…that was my very first race ever. It’s a keeper. I remembered how hot it was that day, and that the final 100 yards were all uphill. And I remembered how incredible it felt to cross the finish line. And then there was the Strassenfest shirt. That was my third race, and I remember the end of that race: a lady, whom I presumed was about my age, came up to pass me in the final stretch, and I sprinted to the end to beat her. I was so proud of myself for beating her…until she came up and thanked me for pushing her. Talk about a dose of humility!

I also have my race shirt from Las Vegas. How could I toss that? That’s the race for which Gary and I got up at the crack of dawn, paid an absurd amount for a taxi ride to the race, and ran before my family even crawled out of bed. I will never forget running and seeing the beautiful view of the mountains in the back ground. I have my Turkey Run shirt from this past Thanksgiving. I love that shirt. I ran a really good race that day. My pace was superwoman fast for me, and I placed third in my age group. I have a little bitty trophy for that effort, but I still can’t let go of that shirt. I have another shirt from an Owensboro race. That was my first 10K; that shirt stays. And I have the gray shirt with strawberries on it. That was quite a race! It was down in Kentucky, and it was the first race for my daughter, Morgan. It was also the race that a woman – again, about my age – attempted to pass me as we neared the finish line. It ticked me off. She was absolutely not going to pass me. She didn’t. I kicked her butt. She, however, didn’t thank me. I really am not that hateful; I just get a wee bit competitive at the end of races. If I have been in front of someone for 3 or 6 or 13 miles, I do not want her to pass me at the end.

I still have my shirt from my first half marathon. How can I just take it to Goodwill? I won’t. I love that shirt. It represents a dream that actually came true. It represents months of training. It represents when my friend Jackie and I crossed the finish line hand-in-hand. I can’t even get rid of the shirt from a little race in Rockport that didn’t go so well. When I pulled out that shirt, I remembered the hip injury that caused me to walk some of that race. It was terrible. But that shirt also reminds me that most injuries aren’t forever, because there are lots of shirts that came after that one. I also kept my Race for the Cure shirts. Those races are so very meaningful. They aren’t about racing; they’re about remembering those we’ve lost, and honoring those who survived.

I won’t bore you with every story behind every shirt. Until I get a quilt made. Then I’ll show you my quilt, and tell you every single story. It’s my story. It’s the journey I’ve been on the past four years. And I was blessed today to get to remember the journey, and what a wonderful time it has been. I hope to continue collecting shirts for many years to come.

Running

Joyce Running 2I have been thinking about running lately.  I realize that sounds odd given I run on a regular basis, but I have some new friends who want to begin running, and are working to build up their endurance on the treadmill and elliptical in an effort to meet their goals.  I am so excited for them because I know what a difference running has made in my life.  I want them to know what a difference running will make for them.

Obviously, the first thing running did for me was improve my health.  I was able to lose weight that I had gained over the years (and I continued to blame on babies even though my youngest was 12 at that time).  I have always had issues with high cholesterol, which is hereditary.  Because my father died at 42, getting my cholesterol down down and making my heart stronger was a priority.  When I began running, it was terrible.  As I ran, I would think about how much I hated it.  I kept thinking I needed to find another form of exercise.  But when I finished a run, no matter how short or slow, I felt incredible.  I had run!  So I kept at it.  My friend Jackie began to run with me, and together we gradually built up mileage.  Gary and I began to run 5Ks, which is something I never dreamed possible.  I remember the moment that I knew running had made a major difference in my health.  I was scheduled for surgery, and because of my family history of heart disease, I had to have an EKG beforehand.  As the technician was reading the results, she asked if I was a runner.  I was certainly proud to say yes!  She said she could tell because my heartrate was low, which is typical for runners.

Running provided a much-needed stress relief.  I can literally leave the house in a horrible mood, go out for a run, and come home with a completely different attitude.  Things that were bugging me before I left, seemed trivial after a run.  When I am worried about a student, or trying to figure out how to reach a kid, I often go for a run to think things through.  When my nephew died unexpectedly, his sister and I ran.  It was time for us to talk about what was going on, and how we felt about everything.  I run when I am worried, stressed, angry, sad.  I run when I am happy, excited, content, calm.   Running can turn around a bad mood, or enhance a good mood.

Running has deepened my friendships, and given me new and amazing friends.  As I mentioned, Jackie and I began together, and eventually her sister Kassi joined us.  The three of us grew up together, and have had many adventures (many won’t ever be discussed in this blog), and now as middle-aged moms, we are still sharing adventures.  Most of my best and most memorable runs have been with Jackie and Kassi.  We have run in rain, thunderstorms (not smart), snow, and unbearable heat.  We have laughed, cried, and cheered.  I have loved these ladies for 35 years, and running has brought us even closer together.   I have also made new friends through running.  Jennifer has become very near and dear to me.  Kim has encouraged and counseled me as I  struggled to add mileage.  Kathy has amazed me by quickly building her mileage and speed.  I am involved with an incredible group of people who will be running their first half marathon next month.  Although it started as my coaching them, they have really done it all on their own, and according to their training runs, they will all be waiting for me at the finish line!  They have stepped up and trained hard, and I can’t wait to share their moment with them.

Running has given me confidence in all areas of my life.  If I can set a goal to run 13.1 miles, and can work to achieve that goal, I know that I can set goals in other areas of my life, and I can achieve those goals.  I have never been an athlete, not even close, so to know that I can run a race and finish in the top 25% is huge.  Heck, just finishing a race is huge!  I began running when I turned 42.  I am a grandmother.  I can run 13.1 miles.

Running has given my husband and me another common love.  We might not run together, but we go to races together, and we support one another.  He has encouraged me, and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.  We are supportive of one another’s training schedules.  We understand when the other has an injury, and celebrate one another’s great runs.  Together, we have worked to inspire our children to take care of their health now, rather than waiting until later in life like we did.  Without Gary’s love and support, I would not be a runner.

Running has led to other forms of exercise.  I began attending Zumba classes about two years ago.  My friend Tracey invited us to go with her, and I have been hooked ever since.  After about a year of attending classes, I became certified to instruct.  I now teach four classes a week, which has enriched my life so much.  Each class is different, and I love each group of ladies.  I have ages 7 to 77 in class.  Gary and I also coach a Biggest Loser team, which has been an awesome experience.  We have made some wonderful friends, and have been thrilled to see them meet goals.  The same year we began running, we purchased bikes.  We biked quite a bit that first year, but then running took over.  We bike on occasion, but don’t have time to bike as often as we’d like.  We have also become involved with Everbody’s Fitness.  Every time I step foot in the door, I am inspired by the members.

Although running is the best thing I have ever done for myself, it isn’t without some negatives.  Injuries are part of running.  I have had hip trouble on and off over the years.   Usually a couple trips to the chiropractic takes care of that issue.  Now I am battling knee pain, and will see an orthopedic doctor tomorrow.  Because running is such an important part of my life, when I can’t run, I am grouchy.  Really, really grouchy.  It frustrates me that I am trying to do something healthy, and I can’t.  It frustrates me to see people out running, and I can’t.  It frustrates me when the weather is perfect, I have time to run, and I can’t.  Running is who I am.  Recently, I was thinking about how much time our family spends on fitness.  If we didn’t spend that time exercising, I am certain my house would be cleaner, laundry would be caught up, and I would cook meals on a regular basis.  But I would also be a different person, one who lacks confidence, one who gets grumpy easily, one who is out of shape.

If you have ever considered adding running to your exercise regimine, try it.  It will be extremely difficult, and you will probably hate it.  I hated it for months.  Eventually, though, you will find a confidence you never knew existed.  You will make friends, and have a community of support that will amaze you.  You will be encouraging others to join you because it has improved your life.   Find a running mentor; you will have lots of questions, and the support will be invaluable.  If running isn’t for you, find a workout that is.  Find something you love, learn everything you can about it, and ask others to join you.  You won’t regret it.

Lessons Learned

It seems my blogs get fewer and fewer as we get busier.  I figured I might as well take advantage of being home sick today.  I have been plannning to write about the next chapter in our fitness journey, and the lessons we have learned along the way.

The past four years, Gary and I have been working on creating a healthier lifestyle for our family.  We have been eating healthier, and though we are not always successful, gone are the Little Debbies (except the occasional Nutty Bar after a long run), the bags of chips, and desserts baked for no reason.  We also added exercise to our days.  First, we began to run and bike, and then the running pushed everything else aside.  We began to enter races, and have since run countless 5Ks, 10Ks, and I am preparing for my fifth half marathon.  Gary is training for his second marathon.  I became a Zumba instructor, and now teach four classes a week.  We, along with our daughters, have become active at the gym.  When we began we also wanted to set a positive example for our children.  It took a couple of years, but the girls are now exercising regularly, and have actually found joy in working out.

This winter, we began a new chapter in our lives.  Gary and I are now coaching a team in our gym’s Biggest Loser competition.  Gary won the first season of Biggest Loser last summer, so he was an obvious choice as a coach.  We decided we would coach together, and it has been an incredible experience.  We coach the orange team, and are so blessed to have so many dedicated members.  They have made working out fun.  While they have thanked us for helping them, I don’t think they have any idea what they have done for us.  Some of our members had never exercised in their lives, yet they have taken on every challenge we have given them.  They have mastered the treadmill and elliptical, suffered through their first spinning classes, danced the calories away in Zumba, built muscle in pilates, and consequently, lost weight and inches.  Stepping into a gym can be intimidating, even for those who are in shape.  Trying new classes isn’t easy.  One doesn’t really know what to expect when the music starts.  The orange team, along with all of the other Biggest Loser contestants – 180 of them! – have stepped up and met the challenge.  Their dedication and bravery has inspired me to keep going.  I am trying to learn as much as I can about living a healthy lifestyle so that I can share that information with our team.

While I will always be proud of the accomplishments I have seen through running and working out, the pride I have in our team members cannot be surpassed.  Getting their texts on weigh-in day, seeing their pride when they’ve gone just a little further or faster, and watching them laugh together as they sweat their butts off is so very fulfilling.  We have told them over and over that this is not a 12 week program; this has to be a lifestyle change.  We want them to make choices they can maintain.  They need to make food choices that they can keep long after the final weigh-in.  They need to find exercises that make them happy so they will stick with it even after they complete their Biggest Loser journeys.

I have to say, Everbody’s Fitness is an amazing place.  The staff and clients are so supportive of everyone.  We all, no matter our size or fitness level, are working for similar goals.  We want to be healthy and more fit.  We want to live active lives so we can keep up with our children and grandchildren.  We want to see just what our bodies can do when we step out of our comfort zones.  While one might be uncomfortable during that first trip to the gym, once he or she experiences the support, that discomfort will quickly dissolve.  We are all cheering for others at the gym.

The friendships I have made over the past year are invaluable.  I have made friends with fellow staff members, people who attend my Zumba classes, clients, and now our Orange Team.  These friendships will last because we have sweated together, opened up to one another, and because they bring me joy.  Orange Team, I am so stinkin’ proud of each of you!  I know that there have been times you’ve wanted to quit, but you haven’t.  I promise that you won’t regret sticking it out.  You would regret quitting.  Remember that first workout?  I told you that if it were easy, everyone would be thin and fit.  It isn’t easy.  It will likely be the hardest thing you ever do.  But it will also be the most worthwhile thing you ever do.  Promise.  And Gary and I will be here through it all, whether you want us to or not!

Now get off the computer and do something active!