Words by Sarah Hartley
I just started. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t make a big show of it. I just began.
I started small. I focused on what I was eating. I’ve never had a problem with adjusting my diet, so I figured the easiest step was to focus there first. I re-downloaded the My Fitness Pal app and started paying attention to my portion sizes. I started watching how many calories were in the foods I had been eating. I didn’t starve myself, I still enjoyed food, I just did it in a healthier way. This was my sole focus for a month. And I began to see very slight changes in my body and how I was feeling.
Next, I knew I needed to incorporate exercise. But the thing is, I’ve always hated exercising. Once in a while I am happy to do it, but more often than not, I’d rather sit on my couch and read. But then something occurred to me - if I go to work out, I get time TO MYSELF. And as any mom knows (especially those who stay home with their kids), that is incredibly hard to come by. So, I went for a short walk once or twice a week. Then it became a few times a week. But the light of day was getting shorter and the weather was getting colder. I knew pretty soon I would use my husband’s work schedule as an excuse to stop my workouts. “It’s too late and too cold out to go run at the park.” I knew that would be my mantra.
So instead of making an excuse like I have done at least a dozen times in the past when I’ve started down the health-focused path, I didn’t give myself an out. This time, I loaded up my kids during the day while it was still nice out, and I went to the park to walk. No, I didn’t get the time to myself like I had hoped, but I did still get the exercise my body desperately needed. Not only that, I was able to show my kids something valuable - their Mommy taking care of herself.
Those workouts were tough. Pushing a 20 pound stroller with 60 pounds of kids on it is no joke. My pace was slow, my legs burned, and I never quite made it as far as I did on the days I went without them. But the point is, I still did it. We went nearly every day that they weren’t in daycare and it was something that I began to really look forward to. Plus, an energetic four-year-old with non-stop energy is a great motivator to just keep going. “Come on Mommy, let’s run some more!” Face palm, one foot in front of the other, and we’re off.
But the end of summer gave way to the brutal temperatures of early fall in Pennsylvania, and I faced my next hurdle. It wouldn’t be much longer that I’d be able to take my boys outside during the day for these walks. But again, I refused to give myself that as an excuse.
I talked to my husband and asked about cancelling the membership we had at our current gym (which I never used) and instead signing up at our local YMCA because they have drop off child care. It would leave me literally no excuses because they offered long hours of child care twice a day with no restrictions. I could drop them off, I could go workout, and I could come back and get them. Not only that, but they could play during that time and socialize with other kids. He agreed and I made it a habit to begin our nearly daily gym trips the very next day.
Throughout my walks outside, I had occasionally tried to push myself to run - especially when I was alone. I have always wanted to be a runner, but have never been able to enjoy it. I have always put too much pressure on myself with big goals right off the bat. But this time, I didn’t want to fail. I wanted to make this stick. So I started small. I began trying to run a quarter mile at a time. It was hard, I was out of breath, but each time I saw that bright green ¼ mile sign, I felt like I had achieved something.
When I moved my workouts inside, I set a new goal for myself - to run one mile without stopping. This is something that I haven’t been able to do in years - if ever. But it was my new goal, and just as I had been doing, I worked up to it slowly. I still remember the day that I was able to do it, because not only did I hit my goal - I exceeded it! I ran 1.25 miles without stopping, something I don’t think I had ever done before. I came out of that workout feeling so powerful. Feeling like I could do anything now.
So, I set a new goal - I wanted to run 1.5 miles without stopping. I was able to hit THAT goal within a week. But the best part? I was really enjoying it. I had inadvertently become a runner. I’m now up to 2 miles without stopping. And each day that I step off that treadmill, I am proud of myself. I’m proud that for the first time in years I have actually stuck to a plan and refused to give myself excuses.
I haven’t seen any big drastic changes in my body yet, but I HAVE seen a huge change in mindset. It feels good knowing that I was able to set these goals and stick to them. So if you’re looking to become a runner this year, or just looking to finally accomplish those health goals you always set out to do, here are my 3 biggest tips:
1. Start small. If you immediately put a huge goal on yourself, it will feel impossible to reach. So if your goal is to lose 50 pounds, start with 5. And when you lose those 5, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment already that will make you want to keep going.
2. Pick one focus. I think what really helped me to succeed this time around was that I was trying to do it all at once. I wasn’t trying to eat right AND workout AND drink my body weight in water AND get more sleep, AND AND AND. I chose to first focus on my eating and get that under control before I moved on to adding in another goal. Pick a focus, start there, master it, and then add in your next goal.
3. Don’t give yourself an excuse. This has without a doubt been my biggest struggle. But when I stopped giving myself excuses, that’s when I started to see a real change. If Plan A doesn’t work out, figure out what Plan B is and do that. You are worth the time and energy to get healthy - no matter what “healthy” means to you. You just have to believe it.
About the Author:
Sarah Hartley is the creator and editor in chief of Holl & Lane Magazine, a magazine dedicated to showcasing real life from real women. Searching for a magazine that featured honest life in a beautiful way, that would give women a voice and a platform, Sarah set out to create that magazine. She publishes stories on infertility, miscarriage, mental health, body image, self-care, love and loss, and so much more. She wants to show women that they are not alone. She is also a wife to Brandon, a mom to Henry and Harrison, and lives near Pittsburgh, PA. In her (minimal) spare time, she loves to read, have dance parties with her son, and enjoy a beer with her husband at the end of a long week. You can read more of her writing at sarahhartley.net.