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How I Went From Doing Nothing To Running Half-Marathons

By Chelsea Peoples, PA-C.

I’ve always enjoyed being physically active and was a runner in middle school and high school – I ran track and cross country – but then in college was inconsistent. I did run my first half marathon freshman year, which I enjoyed, and then later on in college one of my friends and I were fairly consistently lap swimming which was very fun, and then in PA school, and when I started working here, I took an unfortunate break from physical activity because I felt overwhelmed from all of the other demands that were going on in my life not realizing what benefits there would have been if I had continued.

I am in general a worrier and find myself very concerned with my patients and my family, and I think there is some benefit to that, but it can get overwhelming at times, and since I’ve been running I feel like I cope with that better, and I have felt less stress. Not that there is less stress in my life but that I am dealing with things better and not feeling quite so overwhelmed. I was not running 12 miles when I started. It was walking 20 minutes a day, and that was a lot for me to be able to fit that in and so I like to try to encourage my patients or anyone that it doesn’t have to be an hour long commitment to physical activity every day. Especially at the beginning because you may not be able to do that.

My husband is very much into golf right now, so we like to, early in the morning before anyone else is awake and we can disrupt them, get to the golf course, and we walk the golf course together. I don’t play golf but I push the stroller, and you know, we get out and run around on the different holes and find fun nature things for the kids.

I was at the hospital with my sister about a year and a half ago when her husband was having surgery, and we were sitting in the waiting room discussing how we’re feeling sluggish and staring down this intimidating family history of diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and feeling motivated to do some things to make a change for that. She and I and our other sister issued each other some exercise challenges and we also all bought fitness trackers so we could kind of challenge each other on a week to week basis on our number of steps and things like that and so I started off a year and a half ago with my husband motivating me just to try and be physically active most of the month.

And so what I decided that would mean was at least 20 minutes of physical activity 16 days of the month and uh it sounds really juvenile but I really made a sticker chart for myself and on the days that I achieved that I put a sticker on the calendar and at the end of the month if I had over 20 days then that was a victory month for me. And so to continue that motivation for me I decided that if I did that for x number of months, then I would be able to you know buy myself proper exercise clothing instead of wearing out my pajama pants when I’m you know walking on the treadmill and the 20 minutes wasn’t anything monumental… It was literally just walking because at that time I had a 2-year-old and a newborn and that was about all I felt I could commit and so I was happy with that.

Last January my sisters and I started discussing this half marathon that was going to be coming up in June, so I did a little bit of research and found a half marathon training schedule and told myself even if I didn’t run it, at least I was going to be trying to prepare for it. So I got a piece of construction paper out and made a grid and days of the week at top and number of weeks on the side and wrote out the number of miles each day I wanted to train and when my rest days were and when my swim days were – because I was lap swimming on Saturdays again – and I would highlight the days that I did what I was supposed to, and for whatever reason having that on the refrigerator was very motivating because here I am, baring myself to my family and the highlighted days were when I did what I was supposed to, and otherwise it was staring me down every day when I didn’t do that, and so that was helpful.

I did run the half marathon in June, and that was very exciting for me. I think signing up for that and telling people I had signed up for it was another motivator because I had spent the money to sign up and people were asking me how my training was going so I felt kind of locked in at that point, so that was encouraging too. I have been running primarily on the treadmill because that is more convenient for my family. I do a lot of my running early in the morning or at night after the kids are in bed or during nap time on the weekends.

Another reason I like the treadmill is because I watch cooking shows while I run and so it feels like, you know, classic quote-unquote “me time” for a mom and there are a lot of different things you can do for your “me time” and I have decided that I’m going to count the running as my “me time” and watching the cooking show makes it more fun so when I have a 10 mile run to do I don’t always think of it as “I have to run ten miles” I think “I get to watch four cooking shows” – which is really fun for me.

When my almost four years old is awake when I’m running he is also really encouraging to me too whenever I finish he always says “Bravo mom” I have some guilt sometimes running when he’s awake because I feel like I want to spend all of my available time with him that I can since I do work. But I rationalize it to myself that it’s healthy for him to see me making exercise a priority and I can observe him playing independently which I think is important for him too.

He’s also taken an interest in cooking shows which is fun for us, so he likes to help me in the kitchen even more than he used to now. It can be really challenging to fit in time for physical activity I think for anyone, and in my case you know having small children and working full time so I like to look at my week coming up on the weekends and look at our schedule you know when will my husband be out of the house you know when do we have activities as a family and then I plan ahead, much like I have to make a meal plan for the week and our grocery list otherwise I mean, when 5:30 rolls around I don’t’ know what we’re going to eat.

My husband has been incredibly supportive of me running, and I know that I would have a really hard time fitting that into our schedule if he wasn’t so encouraging to me. He’s cheered me on as I’ve gotten able to run a longer distance and as I’ve been able to increase my speed and he lets me make that a priority in our week just as must anything he’s doing or anything the kids have going on.

If you can just start off with 10-20 minutes of walking and honestly that will probably feel like so little you’ll want to do more, but if you can just start off with something like that by the end of the week you’ve done an hour more than you did the week before and that makes a huge difference and hopefully as you start to get that in your schedule and make it part of the routine it’ll feel more like second nature.

I mean at this point for me if I haven’t done my run I feel like I’ve missed out a big part of my day, and I’m not saying I have everything done every day, I have piles of laundry to fold and things like that, but the run has become such an important part for me that it’s like taking a shower you just it’s something you do every day to make sure that you get it done.