As promised, I’m bringing you guys some great posts from some amazing friends and bloggers while I’m away on vacation.  This post is brought to you by one of my most dedicated Circuit Training class members, Jen.  Jen has recently accomplished some major fitness goals and is here with you to share her story today.  Thanks, Jen, for writing a guest blog in my absence!

Find Your Motivation

A few weeks ago Athena asked me to write a guest post while she was on vacation.  I was very excited to be able to share some of my motivations and successes!  I’m Jen Ryder, and if you take any of her classes at the Oak Square YMCA you have definitely seen me around, and have seen a lot less of me lately!  I work for a travel agency in Boston that specializes in group travel to marathons all over the world.  To say I am surrounded by fitness conscious people most of my day is an understatement!

Since the start of 2012, I have lost 28.8 pounds and gained so much in my fitness.  I consider myself to be an active person – snowboarding, scuba diving, and surfing to name a few.  I have lost weight before, most recently in 2009, but over the last two and a half years the pounds crept their way back on.  How?  Pretty simple: I realized I need to have a solid goal to reach to keep me focused.  I’m not talking about a number on the scale, but something I can work to achieve.  Here is a picture of me from last October cheering on my friend Aimee running the Hartford Half Marathon with her husband Ede:

Back in January, my friend Andrea brought up the idea of running the Fairfield Half Marathon in June.  I immediately thought no, since I’ve done two half marathons already and didn’t need to prove to myself that I could do one.  After a few more conversations, I decided to give it a go and signed up.  I thought this would be a good way to kick-start 2012 on a positive side.  Now I needed a goal.  I decided not only to run this race, but to run it and set a new personal best.  By a lot.  My previous best time was 2:34.  I want to do this one in 2:20.  I have never been a fast runner.  I can get through the miles, but speed has never been on my side.

I put my plan of action together:

  • I had started using the Lose It! website to track my calories and keep a food journal.  First step was to use this program everyday and know what I was putting into my body to fuel it for workouts.
  • Next I needed a training plan.  Andrea found one for us to follow for 18 weeks (the longest I have ever trained for a race).
  • Finally I needed to plan what I would do for cross training to supplement the running.  I had been taking Athena’s circuit training class once a week and decided to add some more classes to help with my strength training.  On day one of training on February 20th, while still recovering from an ankle sprain, I set out on a 3 mile run and began working towards my goal.  Generally, my weekly workouts looked something like this:

Mondays – Run and sometimes spin depending on the distance
Tuesdays – Kickboxing with Liz, and Circuit Training with Athena at the Y (Two A Day Tuesday)
Wednesdays – Run
Thursdays – Circuit Training with Athena in the morning and run
Fridays – TRX class
Saturdays – Long Run
Sundays – Off from training

I followed this schedule exactly for 18 weeks with increasing mileage, keeping track of everything I ate, and doing all the miles and workouts.  Was it easy?  No, but I loved doing it.  As the pounds started to come off I became more focused and motivated.  Training was getting easier, and to my surprise I was getting faster!  I took 4 minutes off my mile time from when I started to when I finished.  And then people started noticing the difference in me, which added to my motivation.  I was doing something on my own, for me, and I was succeeding!

Then came race day – June 24th.  It was warmer than I had hoped, but I knew I was prepared.  I put 18 weeks of hard training for this race and I was so amped and excited to run it!  My friends weren’t joking about the hills on this course!  Luckily almost all the hills and long climbs were in the shade.  I blew my previous times out of the water and finished in 2 hours and 24 minutes – a personal best by 10 minutes!  I had reached my race day weight goal too – about 4 days before the race.  I was so happy and proud of what I had accomplished!  I couldn’t hide my smile for the post race photo:

What I have always known is that it takes a sensible eating plan and a consistent workout routine to lose weight.  There is no magic pill or quick solution.  You have to put the time in – it is that simple.  I like having a race to train for and to keep myself focused.  I put all my workouts in my planner so I knew what I was doing at the start of each week.  I chose classes at the gym that I like, so my workouts never seemed like a chore.  I actually enjoy running now.  I never really enjoyed it when I ran my previous half marathons, but now I look forward to going out on a long run.  It gives me time to clear my head.   I am more conscious now than ever about what I put into my body.  I drink a lot of water (be careful not to drink your calories!), cut back on alcohol consumption considerably, and plan out my meals for the week.  Most importantly, I do allow myself to have something if I want to eat it, but just the right portion of it – whether it’s ice cream on a hot day, pizza, or Mexican Night with friends.

So what’s next?  I have another half marathon in less than four weeks – the Old Port Half Marathon in Portland, Maine.  I hope to set a personal best by at least a few minutes and be about 10 pounds lighter.  I still need to lose another 17 pounds to reach the goal I set for myself back in January.  According to Lose It! I will reach that goal around Labor Day weekend!  Then it will be the Hartford Half Marathon in October.  I plan to keep a race on my calendar at all times.  The most important keys to what I have accomplished are that I found a plan that worked for me, I stuck with it, and I enjoyed it.

What are the keys to your fitness and weight loss successes?

(Keep rockin’ it, Jen!  You look amazing and are SO dedicated!)