Thursday, September 30, 2010

5k, then and now

On Sunday, my husband and I walked a 5k together.  Well, the course was a little shorter than a 5k, truth be told, but it was nice to get outside into a beautiful area and take a walk together to support an important cause - research for a disease called Mucopolysaccharidosis. We averaged a 19:45 per mile pace over 2.29 miles with some hills thrown in for good measure.  As we enjoyed the sunshine, brisk air and oak trees of western Novato, I found myself thinking a lot about the last 5k that I did.

Like Sunday's walk, my last 5k was also to support an important cause - mental health.  As a future psychologist, doing events like the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) 5k are important to me to help de-stigmatize mental conditions as well as to build a supportive environment where folks who are having all kinds of mental struggles can find support and caring from others.  And, of course, doing a 5k is a fun, healthy way to approach those goals.

The problem was, I wasn't all that healthy when I did the NAMI walk.  It was on May 22, 2010, and I had reached my heaviest weight in my whole life - about 298 pounds.  Despite my weight, I had a vision of myself as being in "OK shape" and I truly thought I would be able to knock out a 5k with no problem.  After all, I had been working with a personal trainer for a couple of months, and had improved in my overall fitness and stamina since starting the training.

About 20 minutes into the walk, though, I started having doubts about myself.  It's the first time I've ever wondered to myself, "Can I actually finish this 5k?"  I was breathing hard, fighting asthma, and my heart was palpitating.  On top of that, my legs got tired much more easily than I expected.  When we got to the hill in the course, I thought for sure I was going to have to quit halfway through.  Fortunately, my dad was walking with me at that point, and with his consistent, comforting presence, I managed to finish the 5k in an hour and 16 minutes, at a pace of 22:35 per mile.

After that 5k, I felt exhausted, my energy completely obliterated.  I struggled to walk back to the car and collapsed into a 4-hour nap as soon as I reached the house.  When I woke up from my nap, still feeling as though my limbs were weighed down with an additional 100 pounds of lead, I made the decision to move forward with my idea to start on the MNP program.  I knew I couldn't continue to live that way any more, and I believed that the MNP program was the best hope I had for turning my life around.

Fast forward 4 months, and I am so thankful I had that experience.  Not because it was fun to go through -- it surely wasn't.  But it pointed out to me in a visceral manner just how unhealthy I had become.  I had known my weight wasn't good for me, but I'd always had a vision of myself as a healthy person other than the number on the scale.  The reality of my poor health came crashing down on me during that 5k, and allowed me to jump-start the change that has transformed my life so dramatically in such a short time.

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