Sunday, April 29, 2012

Believe in Yourself

Hi Friends!

I know, I's been a REALLY long time since I've blogged.  I wanted to share a little about my experience training and running the Illinois Half Marathon yesterday - but before jumping into that, I feel a little overview of what has been happening in my world was necessary.  

The last 5-6 months of my life have been a bit of a roller coaster.  It's amazing how far one can come physically on the road to a healthier lifestyle, and yet, still suffer and struggle.  So many things in life are driven by the brain...and less by what our physical selves can accomplish.  I can tell you this - it never gets easy.  I have come a long way "physically" in the last 3 years.  In the first year, I lost 90 pounds.  In the second year, I started teaching fitness classes and ran my first half marathon and maintained my weight loss.  This past year started like the last...maintaining my physical self through diet and exercise.  But then, I got thrown some curve balls.  Four days after Thanksgiving 2011, I had a hysterectomy.  I felt like I was physically in the best shape of my life, so I was not worried about struggling with recovery.  I took December off from "scheduled" physical exercise (the unscheduled being that I was still caring for 3 kids).  In January, I started back to teaching my Turbo Kick classes and told myself that in February I would start training for the Illinois Half Marathon at the end of April.  

Surgery went fairly well....I recovered with decent pain on day one and two - and only a little pain in the first week.  I started to feel "somewhat" normal.  This is kind of a curse, because it makes you feel like you haven't just had a major surgery, and therefore you do too much too soon!  What I didn't count on was how incredibly TIRED I would feel...and how long that feeling would last (months).  Emotionally.....I became a mess.  I have never in my life struggled with depression, sadness, panic, anxiety, or any of those feelings.  Those of you who know me know that I am a pretty positive and cheerful person.  Suddenly, I felt like an alien was living in my body.  I was sad from the moment I woke up to the moment I feel asleep.  I was sleeping in spurts of 20-30 minutes at a time at night.  My "sleep" was filled with nightmares.  I was never fully rested.  This only fed into the depression.  When you can't sleep, you can't function.  I wasn't functioning.  I couldn't cope with things that I never would have thought twice about before.  Luckily, I have some incredible women in my mom, my mother-in-law, my sisters-in-law, and my best friend.  All of them encouraged me to get help.  Off to the doctor I went and discovered that the hysterectomy had thrown my ovaries (which I kept) into a bit of confusion and they weren't functioning properly.  The doc put me on a hormone replacement...and within a couple weeks, my "old" self started to reappear.  

Unfortunately - all this "emotional" stuff was happening during the months of February and March - when I was supposed to be training for my half marathon.  On top of the emotional stuff, my immune system was not very strong after the surgery.  I was literally sick for about 5 weeks in a row.  I was healthy for a week, and then sick again for 2 weeks.  It was a lovely upper respiratory virus.  No drugs - because it was "viral".  As you can imagine, running with an upper respiratory illness is not fun.  Throw emotional depression and extreme exhaustion on top of it, and you pretty much have the perfect storm of excuses to lay on the couch.  

Here is what is 240 pound ghost was sitting on one shoulder feeding me all of the comforting lines I thought I wanted to hear.  "It's okay, Traci!  You just had surgery a few months ago!  You've been sick for WEEKS!  Even if you managed to train a LITTLE bit for this race, you'll NEVER beat your time from last year!!  Don't do it!!  Your body needs to rest!  This is obviously too soon!  Don't be so hard on yourself!"

But somewhere - deep down inside my heart - my "new" self that has been successful over the last 3 years started cheering me on.  She told me I was STRONG.  She told me a "cold" wasn't going to STOP ME.  She told me that this was a CHALLENGE to see how bad I was willing to FIGHT for something.  She told me that if I could go through surgery, hormonal imbalances, physical illness, complete exhaustion, and the stress in my life AND STILL TRAIN and compete in this race than it would just PROVE how strong I have become.  It would PROVE that you can be parent, a spouse, work hard, go through what life throws at you and NOT TAKE IT sitting down.  YOU CAN STAND UP AND FIGHT FOR WHAT YOU WANT.  

Guess which "me" won that battle?  No doubt - it was the new me.  It was exactly five weeks ago today that I DECIDED to do it.  I knew that no matter what happened with the race, I would feel much better about doing it and falling short of my goal than not doing it at all.  Five weeks ago, I laced up my shoes and GOT SERIOUS.  I went out for a 9 mile run that day.  I hadn't run more than 5 miles in my training to that point, and had missed several training runs and long runs due to illness.  I fought EVERY STEP of that 9 miles.  I wanted to quit on mile 6, 7, 8, and 9.  But my new self BELIEVED.  I knew I could do it.  My new self cheered me on. (My old self would've told me it was okay to quit).  Guess what?  I did that nine miles!  At the end - I broke down and cried.  I proved something to myself that day......that I was STRONG.  I officially signed up for the race and committed that night.  The next week, I ran 10 miles on my long day.  But guess what?  I got sick again.  It lasted a week - but I didn't care.  NOTHING WAS STOPPING ME!  I continued training and believing that I could do it.  Despite everything, I was DETERMINED to make my goal. 

Yesterday (04/28/12), I ran the Illinois Half Marathon in Champaign, Illinois.  I finished 13.1 miles in 1:56:51.  I EXCEEDED MY GOAL!  I BEAT my old time by OVER 7 minutes!!


I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

Just believe.

Curt and I after the race!!

Mom and I after the race!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Accountability is KEY!!

WOWZA!!  It's been a long time since I've last posted anything!  Like all of you out there...this summer has been busy, busy, busy.  My months of May, June, and 1/2 of July were consumed with school - but, I FINALLY finished college!!!  My daughter was participating in softball, I was still teaching my Turbo Kick class twice a week, and trying to keep up with my two little boys.  So - now that I can finally breath again, I wanted to share what is next for me!

First of all, although I have lost a large amount of weight (90+ pounds) and maintained it for over a year now, the battle to live a healthy lifestyle is always there for me.  Although I don't struggle with making good choices as much as I once did, I still struggle every now and then.  During this journey, I've learned a lot about myself...but most of all, I've learned what has made me successful is ACCOUNTABILITY.  Having something or someone to hold me accountable has been the key to success!!  What I have also learned, is that it's not totally fair to put the "accountability" pressure on a single person.  Here are some examples of what I have done to stay accountable:
  • Became certified to teach Turbo Kick, and teach it 2-3 times per week. (nothing like a class full of people wanting to work out to keep you accountable!)
  • Talk about my health and fitness goals with my husband.
  • Helped my hubby with an idea to form a Facebook group in which members post about their workouts, nutrition, motivation, etc.  It is an AWESOME support group for those looking to lead healthier lifestyles!
Now that I am in "maintenance" mode, I am always looking for more - meaning more ways to keep myself accountable and motivated.  In the last few months, I have really felt God leading me to use my experience to help others.  Specifically, I have felt led to offer a free class to my community.  So, I contacted my town's recreation board and pitched the idea of me teaching a free class to the community once a week.  They were excited and supportive of the idea!!

Starting next week, I will be teaching a free Turbo Kick class in my community!!  I AM SO EXCITED!!!  I really hope the members of my community are open and willing to try something new.  Not only will they be able to get a great workout, but more importantly, I want to build a support group for people.  Having this class once a week will create some accountability, not only for me, but for those who participate!  I am really looking forward to see the positive benefits of having this class!!  Here are the details:

  • Place:  Westwood Park (Mackinaw, Illinois)
  • Time:  Tuesday nights from 7:00 - 8:00
  • Bring:  A towel and/or yoga mat and a bottle of water
For those of you who read this blog that live in the area - I hope to see you there!!!  I promise to support and help you as much as possible.  Two years ago, I would have never thought I could be doing something like this.  We are all busy...we all struggle with "finding the time" for ourselves.  As mothers, even when we make the time, we then struggle with the guilt we feel for taking time away from our families for ourselves.  Trust me, your kids WANT you to be healthy.  My daughter doesn't even recognize old pictures of me...and thankfully, my boys won't really remember the "old" me.  My example will help them grow up healthier and happier!!  No matter what commitments you have in your life, you can make the time to live healthier.  It is possible.  I am proof!!

Yours in health,

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Illinois Half Marathon - Done!!

It was the week of Christmas.....and even though I had been teaching Turbo Kick for almost a month, I was starting to feel sluggish.  I had over indulged on Christmas cookies and treats, exercised little that week, and was feeling depressed.  So, on December 26th, my husband Curt challenged me to get out of the house and DO something.  It was the middle of winter (and what a winter it was)!!!  Luckily, Curt had some cold weather running clothes for me to borrow.  I thought I would put on his gear, and just go for a walk around town...I think it was 15-20 degrees that day.  But, something changed when I put on the clothes.  I thought to myself, why not run instead of walk?  I had tried running on and off over the years for exercise, and disliked it very much.  But this time, something changed.  I don't know if it was my attitude, my cardio improvement due to Turbo Kick, or running with less weight, but I liked it. 

There is a route around our town that is a 3.6 mile loop from our house.  So, I decided on the day after Christmas I would just start running until I was tired, and then I would walk the rest of the loop.  Guess what?  I ran the whole loop, and it felt GOOD.  It felt almost EASY!  Running had never felt that way to me.  I came back excited.....and then Curt laid down another challenge...."Why don't you run the Illinois Half Marathon with me?"  HAHAHAHA!!!!  I think I probably laughed out loud - but if not, I was surely laughing on the inside.  I mean, I had just run 3.6 miles, but I didn't think there was any way I would be able to run 13.1 miles!!!  Then, about 5-10 minutes passed, and I thought, "Why not?"  I had accomplished a lot in the last two years....lost 90 pounds, quit my full-time job, started teaching fitness classes...why not a half marathon?  So, much to the surprise of my husband, I said yes to 13.1 miles!

I found a beginner training plan, which I started in the beginning of February...12 weeks before the April 30th Illinois Half Marathon race date.  Did I stick to the plan all the time?  NOPE.  I have three kids, I'm in school 1-2 nights a week, and I teach classes 3-4 times a week.  Sticking to a training plan perfectly is difficult for busy moms!  But, I did the best I could in my training, didn't beat myself up if I missed a day or ran less than the training plan recommended, and in the words of Forrest Gump, "I just kept running." 

Race day came upon me, and I started to get slightly nervous.  My longest training run was 10 miles.  It was HARD.  I only did that 10 mile run one time, and it was 3 weeks prior to race day.  Could I really run 3.1 more on top of that?  I was about to find out!!  I had a primary goal of just finishing the race without walking.  My secondary goal was to finish around 2:20.  Based on my training run pace, I thought 2:20 was probably realistic.  Curt and I traveled to Champaign on Friday night, had our pasta dinner, and got to bed early.  On race morning, I woke up excited...ready to complete a challenge I never imagined I would be able to accomplish.  I crossed the start line, started my watch, and pressed play on my iPod.  I had my music set to "shuffle", but the first song was "Push It" by Salt-n-Pepa.  I smiled and decided to go for it!  I accomplished my first goal of finishing the race with out walking, and I blew my second goal out of the water with a 2:03:43 finish time.  That boils down to a 9:27 minute/mile pace!  (I don't think I could even run ONE mile at that pace in high school, let alone 13.1!)

So friends....BELIEVE in yourself, CHALLENGE yourself, and you may just be surprised at what you can accomplish!!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Learn from your mistakes - and then don't look back!

Two years ago, I weighed 240 pounds and got winded going from the 1st floor to the 2nd floor of my house.  Today, I ran 9.13 miles at a 9:38 pace! 

What a difference a couple years can make!!  Nothing has given me more quiet time and reflection than when I am running.  During those miles, I reflect on a lot of kids, my family, my friends - but mostly, myself.  Today while I was running, I started to wonder why I didn't treat my body better in my 20's.  I realized that I had wasted almost a decade of my life being unhealthy.  I ate terrible foods, rarely exercised, and smoked the occasional cigarette.  Why??  Probably, because I wasn't very smart.  Probably because I didn't really care about my body.  Mostly, because I was in my 20's, and age wasn't really something I thought of very often.  I had the "I'll live for forever" mentality.  But luckily, I got wiser....and luckily, I started to care more about myself.  Now, I have a choice.  I could spend a lot of time looking back and wishing I did things differently....or, I could move forward - learning from my poor choices and living to make better decisions.  I've chosen the latter!

I don't want to sound cliche - but truly - every day of this life is a gift and a blessing from God.  Why look back on your life and wish you would have done this, or tried that, or taken better care of the body God blessed you with?  There is no time like today...USE IT.  Learn from the mistakes of the past, and then forget them and START TODAY.  Challenge yourself, take a risk, and be happy with your decisions.  By now, you know what has worked and what hasn't worked for you.  Don't repeat what hasn't worked.  Keep moving forward.  Keep learning.  Keep growing.  Live every day like YOU are worth it....because you are!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Recipe: Skillet Pasta Florentine

Hey friends!  I tried a new recipe last week that I wanted to share.  For those of you who are not meat lovers, this is a meat-free recipe.  I also think if you wanted to tweak it to add some ground turkey or chicken, it would be delicious!  I did make a few changes to the way I prepared this, because I wanted to make it ahead in a casserole dish and bake it in the oven instead of in the skillet.  I've noted my changes in red.  Hope you enjoy!

Skillet Pasta Florentine
From:  Taste of Home Healthy Cooking
Prep: 20 minutes  Cook Time:  30 minutes


  • 3 cups uncooked spiral pasta (I used whole wheat rotini)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) 2% cottage cheese
  • 1-1/2 cups reduced-fat ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 jar (14 ounces) meatless spaghetti sauce
  • 1 teaspoon each dried parsley flakes, oregano and basil (I used 3 tsp. Italian Seasoning)
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese


  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the egg, cottage cheese, ricotta, spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella and herbs.
  • Drain pasta. Place half of sauce in a large skillet; layer with pasta and remaining sauce. Top with cheese mixture.  I used a 13 x 9 dish.  Spread about 3/4 cup of sauce on the bottom of the dish, layer the pasta and pour the remaining sauce over the pasta.  Top with cheese mixture.
  • Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 25-30 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160°.   I baked at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.
  • Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and remaining mozzarella cheese; cover and cook 5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Yield: 6 servings.
Nutrition Facts: 1 serving equals 383 calories, 9 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 73 mg cholesterol, 775 mg sodium, 47 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 27 g protein.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

History is a factor, but it doesn't have to define you!

You know how sometimes you start thinking about something and you just can't stop?  I had one of those moments last night.  During my class at Lincoln College, we did an exercise where we were supposed to write down 10 single words that we would use to describe ourselves to a complete stranger.  The first two were easy...the next eight were harder.  Here is what I came up with (in the order that I came up with them):


Next, we were to put a star next to the top three words from the list.  I chose Wife, Mother, and Transformed.  When we shared our words in class, the word "transformed" got a puzzled look from a few people.  One student said, "I gotta ask, what does transformed mean?"  So, I briefly told the class how in the last year and a half I had lost a little over 90 pounds, and that it has transformed every area of my life.  My relationships with my family, my professional life, and my home life have been greatly transformed.

After class, I was stopped by a fellow student who wanted to talk to me regarding my weight loss.  There were many parallels in my story and the questions he was asking me regarding how I overcame certain obstacles.  It seems, that many women deal with the same issues - but most importantly - giving themselves permission to take time for their own health and NOT feeling guilty about it.  Why do we do that to ourselves ladies??  Now, I'm sure men deal with this issue as well, but women have a way of beating ourselves up over it.  All the way home, I contemplated my upbringing, my emotional makeup, and what led me to make certain choices throughout my life regarding diet and exercise.

When I got home, I couldn't shut my brain off.  I started to realize how much we are our own worst enemy.  And, I figured out that until we can recognize the WHAT and WHY of our emotional history, learn from it, and overcome it, many of us will always deal with the cycle of beating ourselves up for taking time away from our families to get healthy.  So - what did I do?  I started writing.  I opened up a Word Document on my computer and really started to dissect what about my past has led me to make poor health decisions (i.e. Why did I dislike exercise for so many years of my life?  Why did I have such a low self-image?  Why did I think I was "fat" as a size 7 teenager?)  Because I think so many can learn from this exercise, I'm willing to share some of what I wrote.  A lot of this is deeply personal, but I think so many of us struggle from the same types of stories that I want to share an excerpt of it.  If it leads one of you out there to contemplate and learn from your own emotional history...I will consider it time well spent.  :-)

An excerpt from my childhood - part of why I am who I've become:

My first nickname, so endearingly given to me by my older brother, was Chubby.  Sometimes, just to mix it up a little, he would call me “chubs”, “chubster”, or “Chubby Cheekers”.  Creative, huh?  Throughout my childhood, the male members of my family (even extended family) reinforced to me how chubby I was.  Every family get together, I heard about my chubby cheeks and rounded belly.  I really didn’t feel at the time these comments were detrimental to my self-image.  I just thought they were teasing me.
Looking back now, I wonder if this reinforcement was what caused me to notice the cellulite on my backside by the age of seven when I clinched my butt muscles (and stared at it in the mirror, clenching and unclenching my butt for a good 20 minutes before my mom came in and asked me what the heck I was doing).  I wonder if the “chubby” comments are what possessed me to ask for the popular Buns of Steel workout video for my birthday when I was in 6th grade.  Not sure…but I’m thinking it didn’t help, right?  By the way – I got the video as my birthday gift.
And a few paragraphs later.....
It took me years to realize it, but the tribulations I had as a teenager playing softball had a direct correlation to my lack of inactivity in the next decade of my life.  Several times over the years, my husband and I would start an exercise program to lose weight.  My determined hubby, who has a military background, would occasionally let the drill sergeant side of him come out as a way to motivate me.  The effect, however, was directly opposite.  The minute I felt “pushed” to do something, I quit.  I did not want anyone telling me to workout, do one more rep, run harder, or do more.  I usually would get angry at my husband (who had no clue what he had done to upset me) and just give up.
And a little further down.....

My mother, like so many mothers, was 110% devoted to taking care of her family.  She put this need ahead of her own needs.  While I genuinely appreciate all that she did for me and my brother (and love her more than she will ever know for all of the love and support she gave to me), that was my example to follow when I became a wife and mother.  In the beginning of my marriage and in the first several years of being a mother, I felt that taking “me” time to exercise was simply selfish.  I felt that if I left my kids for an hour to go for a walk or head to the gym, that I was a bad mother.  This is the quintessential struggle for 98% of the mothers that I know and talk to – they simply feel what I call “mommy guilt”.  They do not feel it is fair to their family to take time for themselves. 

As mothers, we devote our time, our energy, and even our bodies to our children.  We let our tummies stretch out and give up on the possibility that we will ever look right in a bikini again.  We let our breasts become someone else’s source of food, regardless of the pain it may cause us and the commitment it requires to give such a gift.  We become soft so that when our kids are sick in the middle of the night, they can snuggle into our bodies and feel comforted.  Cellulite, stretch marks, displaced belly buttons, and sagging (or enlarged) boobs become our “new” bodies.  We look in the mirror and succumb to the fact that we will never look like a movie star, so why bother?

And lastly....

What I eventually learned, and what anyone reading this who struggles to live a healthy lifestyle has to understand is that you absolutely HAVE to deal with your inner demons/mental blocks/reasons you are the way you are.  It is imperative to understand how you got to the point you are at today so that you can overcome it.  You have to know what triggers you negatively as well as what you need as positive reinforcement.  Most weight problems, in my opinion, are deeply rooted in our emotional history.  Understanding your emotions, how you react in certain situations, what motivates you, and what prompts you to “shut down” is not easy.  You have to be honest with yourself and deal with the ugly that may be lurking inside you.  Understand it.  Learn from it.  Overcome it.  Become stronger because of it. 
That, my friends, is the key to lifelong success with managing your weight and your health.
These are just pieces of my full writing....but I hope you can read it and maybe see a little of yourself in it.  I'll keep writing my story, and one day, maybe I'll publish it in full.  :-)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Goals + Accountability = Motivation & Results

For many people starting a weight loss or fitness regimen, becoming motivated is difficult.  However, STAYING motivated is the real struggle!  I can't tell you how many times I started a "diet" or workout routine, only to give up a week or a month into it.  I would lose my focus and motivation and before you know it, I had put on the weight I had lost plus a few pounds.  That cycle continued - until it all finally "clicked".

In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons for my success this time is because I was highly motivated, and remained highly motivated throughout my journey.  Wonder why?  Because I was accountable to someone (who was also highly motivated) and I had a goal.  When I started on my weight loss journey, I had just given birth to my third child.  During my pregnancy, my husband had made the decision to get healthy, and by the time I gave birth he had lost about 60 pounds!!  Embarrassingly, this put his weight about 40 pounds less than mine.  For whatever reason, that was the moment it clicked for me.  Throughout my marriage, I put on A LOT of weight, but I didn't care because Curt always weighed more than me.  So it was okay.  :-)  But now, here I was weighing in at 240 and he was down to 200 pounds!  I just couldn't have that - so my weight loss "goal" was simply to weigh less than he did.  I didn't set a certain number I wanted to hit or a specific amount of weight to lose.  I just wanted to weigh less than he did.  As a bonus, he also became my accountability partner.

The great thing about having an accountability partner is that you don't have to work out together, be on the same eating plan, or even see one another in person for that matter.  Curt and I didn't go to the gym together nor did we eat exactly the same things.  But, he knew that I was wanting to "catch up" to him.  So, at the end of the day he would ask me how I did.  When I weighed myself every week, I would tell him what I lost.  And so it continued like that for a year and a half.  My goal to catch up to Curt was always there, because he kept losing weight as well.  Finally, A YEAR AFTER I started trying to catch him, I finally did it!  He had continued to lose and got down to 160 pounds.  It took me a year to get there, and then I surpassed him!  Now, I finally weigh less than he does.  Whoohoo!

Having a moving goal like I did was highly motivational.  I never once thought about giving up.  Curt was always there to see how I was doing and we encouraged each other to keep going.  So, if you find yourself struggling to get started, or perhaps struggling to keep going, find someone (I'll help you!!) who you can be accountable to.  That person should know your goals, and you should check in with each other to report progress and/or setbacks.  Set specific goals!  That doesn't mean you have to set a final "number", but maybe your goal is just to lose 1 pound a week, or weigh less than your spouse/mom/dad/brother/fill in the blank, or get off your blood pressure medication.  Whatever it is, have a goal and a partner, and I promise you that your motivation will be stronger and stick around for the long haul!!

You can do it!!