Monthly Archives: October 2013

My Interview With Vanessa: Weight Loss & Running

The fitness industry has brought some tremendous friends into my life. I have met people who share the same passion for healthy living and physical activity that I know I will forever be grateful for. One of those persons has given me the opportunity to conduct an interview about the exceptional story of how she fell into her healthy ways. Vanessa is more determined than most. Her intelligence is contagious; her positive energy fills the room. She has experienced GREAT success in weight loss (over 50 lbs!) and is now an accomplished marathon runner. Please continue reading to learn more about my dear friend and a true inspiration to so many!

-What was your goal when you started on your health/fitness journey?

My journey started long ago, when I was still in my 20’s.  I’ve always been a little soft, but I did a fantastic job of gaining weight and acquiring plenty of bad habits in college.  My weight slowly crept up to 195 over the years.  When I saw that number, something finally snapped in my head.  I just could not bear to think that I would weigh 200 pounds!  I asked myself when it would stop?  What was my breaking point.  That number was it, evidently. 

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I tried lots of diets, slim-fast, Atkins, plain calorie counting, just exercise…  I was able to lose weight a little here and a little there, but nothing was really what I would call effective.  I lost enough weight eventually to be satisfied with my wedding dress, and at that time I hovered between 155 and 165 pounds.  I felt healthy, but I was still very soft, especially in the midsection.  I was not happy with my self-image, but I also didn’t do anything about it.

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-How did you get started? How have you stayed motivated?

I’m late to the serious game, I think.  I did very little exercise for the first year and half of my son’s life, and I could feel myself getting weaker.  I am not sure how, really, but I didn’t gain any weight during this time.  I did, however, lose a lot of strength (I couldn’t even do a push up!) and even though I was “thin” I was even softer than before.  Just about that time, a friend of mine was telling me about her experience with a personal trainer at the gym where we both were members.  I took a leap of faith and signed up for 6 sessions soon after that discussion!  It was a real shock getting to work with a professional.  I thought I knew how to exercise properly and effectively.  I thought I knew what foods to eat.  Working with the personal trainer definitely helped me turn my life around.  I still remember the first sessions with him, and that still motivates me.  There are other things, too, of course.  I stay motivated because I’m always finding a new challenge to face, whether it’s a road race or to get better at a particular thing fitness-wise (such as push ups or squats). 

-Was anyone in particular your inspiration? Why?

I can’t pinpoint any single person as my inspiration for getting started, but there are plenty of people now who inspire me!  Currently, my biggest source of inspiration is my running coach.  She is strong, healthy, fearless, and incredibly humble.  She makes running look effortless, and I strive to be like her.

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-Tell me about one mental or physical obstacle you have had to overcome.

One of the biggest things I’ve had to learn is that it’s OK for me to take time to work on making myself healthier and stronger.  At first I felt guilty for taking time for myself when my husband and son were at home, but I’ve changed that mindset.  Now I firmly believe that I must do this or I won’t be as helpful to them.  I also want to set a good example for my son, letting him see that Mommy thinks it’s fun to exercise and that Mommy likes to eat salad.

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-How do you incorporate fitness and balanced meals into your schedule?

My family is very supportive of my efforts, and I would have more of a challenge if I didn’t have their understanding.  My workouts are normally first thing in the morning.  I get home and out of the shower around the time my son wakes up.  Since I’ve completed my workout in the morning, I am able to spend time with my family in the evenings after work and school.  We like to cook a lot on the weekends, when we have much more free time, so that during the week dinner is just a few minutes away.  We have a set grocery list, so most of our meals are variations of the same basic thing.  When I want to try something new, I just make sure those ingredients make it to my shopping list and I’ll experiment during the weekend!

-How does food preparation enhance your ability to be successful in fitness?

Oh, it’s a huge help!  Taking the time to boil a batch of eggs and prep vegetables and fruits, or just to have them already cooked helps a bunch.  When most of the meal is done, finding the missing piece, whether it’s a protein source or a fruit or vegetable is easy!  I like to think about my upcoming workouts and then use that to help guide my nutrition decisions for the day.  For example, if I have a long run planned for Saturday morning, I make sure to include a few more clean carbohydrate sources the few days leading up to my run.  I pack my cooler with my recovery shake and within 20-30 minutes of finishing my run, I am consuming that along with a piece of fruit to help get my muscles refueled and start the recovery process.  I like to have at least 2 different fruits in the house (normally bananas and apples, but nectarines, grapes, and berries make appearances as well) and at least 3 different vegetables (normally broccoli and/or cauliflower, zucchini, salad greens, tomatoes, avocados) always available.  My protein sources are pretty constant: salmon, chicken breast, eggs (lots of eggs), lean turkey, canned tuna, lean beef.

-What is your greatness achievement?
Fitness or life-wise?  🙂 
Fitness-wise it has to be completing two full marathons.  I’m currently training for my 3rd marathon this coming December! 

Life-wise it must be giving birth to my son.  That was an incredibly tough workout!  He’s been a great source of my happiness.

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-How did you feel before you regularly practiced daily healthy habits?

I don’t really remember how I felt long ago, before my daily habits were “healthier”, but I sure know how I feel NOW when my nutrition is off!  Don’t get me wrong, I will still enjoy an occasional treat such as ice cream or cookies, or some other indulgent food, but if I stray for too long, or in too large an amount, my body lets me know right away.  I usually feel bloated, sluggish, lethargic, sleepy, and even hungrier for more of the food that made feel ill in the first place!  It’s really incredible.  But, thankfully, it doesn’t take very long to get back on track.  The hardest part then is to fight the first urges.  If I can make it two days with clean eating, my body is reset and then I crave foods that help my body, like fruits and vegetables, instead of foods that satisfy my mind only (cookies, ice cream, etc.)

-Do you have a favorite quote or saying that helps to keep you focused?

I love running, but I do have those days where I just want to be done, or I feel weak.  On those runs I try to tell myself this: “You are strong.  You are able.  You are beautiful.”

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-Do you encourage your child to eat balanced meals and exercise?

I’m happy that my son is very active!  He likes to play “kick” and “catch” and also enjoys riding his indoor tricycle.  He runs inside the house more than I like him to, but I let him do so as long as he’s mindful.  Food is a little tougher on this little picky guy, but he is becoming a little more adventurous the older he gets.  He regularly asks for things like peas, carrots, hummus, and broccoli.  We’re still working on the fresh fruit, but for now I’m happy he enjoys applesauce!  He is curious about what I’m eating, so I always offer him a bite of what I’m having.  Some times he tries, and other times he’s not interested.

-Are you currently training for a competition?
You bet!  I’m training for my 3rd marathon this December 2013.  I have different goals with this race.  My ideal, everything-is-just-right goal, is to finish with a time to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  My I-did-the-best-I-could and followed my coach’s advice is to break 4 hours.  My least-stressful and most-attainable goal is to beat 4:29!  Any of them would give me a PR in the marathon.
-What is the best advice you can give to someone who is interested in losing weight?
Focus on the food!  Most of the weight loss I’ve experienced has been through diet modification.  I think what helped me the most was keeping a food diary and then showing it to an experienced trainer.  He made a few notes and suggestions and he helped me tweak my nutrition plan slowly and effectively.  I think it’s really amazing how you might not know how much you are eating, or WHAT you are eating.  If you keep a food diary and are honest with yourself about it, then it’s easy to see little bits here and there where you could improve.  I’m still working on my nutrition plan, but every day I try to eat mostly whole and unprocessed foods.  
-What does being healthy and fit mean to you?

Strength, mental and physical.  My journey started out simply to lose weight, but now I’m much more interested in seeing how strong I can be, how much faster and farther I can run.

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-Please share your open thoughts on fitness and health:
Fitness is very often a team effort.  I think anyone can improve by motivating themselves, but I also believe that seeking help can be really beneficial.  It’s about timing and plenty of patience, though.  If you aren’t ready to make the commitment and make the sacrifices, then it’s going to be more of a struggle.  I was ready to get help from a personal trainer.  And then, when I was braver and felt a little more confident in my running, I sought help from an experienced running coach.  In both instances I got the timing just right and was able to see some significant improvements right away.  Growing up, my  mother always encouraged me to try to figure things out for myself first, and then, if I couldn’t find an answer, to ask for help.  I’ve been very fortunate to have found some great resources to allow me to grow and become a stronger person.  Being polite is always on trend, so I try to always remember to say “thanks” to my coaches and trainers.
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