I will never have a perfect six pack of abs. There. I said it.
I could run 10 miles a day, every day, do hours of abdominal exercises, and try to eat flawlessly, and I still think I would not have a perfect six pack…
and I am okay with that.
The reason I am content with “not being perfect,” is because giving my personal best is all that matters. There are times in everyone’s life when “your best” can mean different things. It can mean running a personal best in a race, bench pressing your own body-weight, or eating great and hitting your goal weight. On the contrary, your best can also mean getting 5 minutes of crunches in after a long day, failing miserably at a yoga class (but embracing the courage to show up and try), or playing hide-and-seek tag with your children before bedtime.
When I was 20 years old, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. In short, my thyroid gland does not produce enough of the thyroid hormone– meaning my metabolism is slower than a turtle stampeding through molasses (Hello weight-gain!). Before being diagnosed, I had gained close to 35 pounds over two years. I assumed it was because I was happy, in love, and had been wining and dining, yet I felt anything but perfect. Giving my workouts my best never felt “good enough”. I didn’t even feel like I was making a dent in progress. To top it all off, I was always extremely fatigued. After being diagnosed, and put on a low dose of medication, I began to feel better slowly. I lost a little weight, and felt less tired. After a few years of getting ‘back in the swing of things’ physically, I felt good enough to get a gym membership, and hire an amazing personal trainer. However, my condition is something I always will have to monitor. When I am feeling tired, or “off,” I need to be on top of checking my thyroid levels, and keep on track with my body as it can cause severe problems if not treated with the correct dosage.
When I was 24, I decided to train with a charity team and complete a marathon. I was feeling great about myself physically. I was the fittest I had ever been. I had muscles and definition that I didn’t know existed. I had the cardio endurance to tell a 20 minute story to my teammate, laughing up a storm, while hill training without blinking an eye. However, during the first 1/4 mile of the marathon, I tripped over a pothole. It hurt, but I continued and crossed the finish line. I discovered post race that I had sprained my ankle due to the trip. Because I continued running, I caused tissue damage. I was sent home from the doc in what I called my “storm-trooper boot” (aka: air-cast). I was told no running for at least 12 weeks. Talk about anxiety! I had just spent 6 MONTHS training and becoming a “real runner,” and now, it was all taken away from me. I had to get creative. I took up indoor cycling (approved by my doc) and was the only one in spin class with a storm trooper boot. I learned to improvise during intense climbs by sticking my boot in the air, out to the side and peddling with one foot. My class called me “The Peg-Legged-Peddler”. I was also allowed to take it off to swim, and while I was swimming laps, I would find myself laughing at people sending confused glances at the single, lone storm trooper boot standing erect on a towel near lane 2. My upper body strength grew from swimming. Eventually, I “accidentally” fell in love with cycling.
When I was 25, I bought my first road bike. I was training for my first cycling race but wasn’t very familiar with anything other than my Schwinn growing up. This was a whole new ball game. Multiple gears, and weird handle bars? I was busting my butt, balancing training for my second marathon,and my first cycling race. I had been running my fastest mile times ever, and was in really great physical shape. I felt like a true athlete. One day, I went on a quick ride around the block with a cyclist friend, who was teaching me some tips. I had what they call “clipless” pedals on my bike, therefore my cycling shoes were attached to my pedals while riding for efficiency. While crossing a busy street, I had to brake pretty fast and forgot that I was attached to my pedals. When I instinctively went to put my feet on the ground, I toppled over, hitting my head on the concrete….bounced like a rubber ball and hit again for the second time. Did I mention this was the only day in road bike history that I wasn’t wearing a helmet? To spare you any painful details, let’s just leave it at the fact that I got a pretty bad concussion. This concussion affected my whole body so bad, but my symptoms were delayed. Just a few weeks before the marathon, (based on a pretty abnormal MRI), my doctor gave me strict “No-Go.”instructions. I had to withdraw from the race.
My heart was truly broken. I was going through a lot of personal things during that time as well, and training for/running the marathon was my stress reliever. It kept me going on bad days, made me feel empowered, and I had raised so much money for charity while doing it. I felt like I had failed. When I announced to my teammates that I would have to drop out, they all supported me and encouraged me that I “would be back.” At the time, I felt like whatever was wrong with by body would never be fixed. I continued to go to Saturday training’s and walk, or just be there to help out however I could. I still found a way to feel like part of the team. On marathon day, the morning after my spinal tap, there I was, relentless– cheering on every single runner, in a silly costume with a sign that read “A ship in the harbor may be safe.. but that’s not what ships were built for.” I cried when my teammates crossed the finish line; partly because I was proud and inspired, and partly because I wished I was running right next to them.
It took months for the doctors to find ways to help me subdue my symptoms. Some things went away over time, and other things I still deal with daily, but on a much milder level. As my body started to cooperate again, I slowly began running, and cycling. I signed up for races, and got stronger again. Some days it felt like it was “one step forward, two steps back” but I surrounded myself with inspiring people. A year later, I crossed the finished line of my second marathon, with my teammate by my side. Since that day, I have completed several half-marathons and cycling races. Maybe I am slower than I used to be, and maybe it’s more difficult than it used to be. Maybe it’s crazy to balance while also flying, but I do it because I can. I may not be perfect, but I always give my current best. I am healthy. I am lucky. I am capable.
I run because I can.