When I signed on to be a Skirt Sports Ambassador, I was thrilled – they’re all about encouraging women to move and embrace their bodies, no matter their size, age, or ability. Their message of fearlessness and acceptance is one that I wholeheartedly stand behind. Too often the snark and body-shaming in the periphery of the fitness community will and spread those negative vibes. And as an Ambassador for their brand, I’m so lucky to be another voice for positive change. Given my own journey through the past 10+ years, I’m especially honored to help spread the message of being yourself and going after your fitness goals without fear.
When I first started running, I took it up as I started losing weight back in 2004, and had to start slowly – I weighed more than 270+ lbs and I couldn’t go more than a quarter mile before quitting.
I was uncomfortable in my own skin and frankly, felt trapped. I was just about to turn 21, I was in college and building an awesome new path in life for myself, but I didn’t feel “skinny enough” to do the things that other people around me were doing. Dating, going out to clubs and bars – I didn’t want to put myself out there because I was afraid of what others would think of me. I took every whisper, every look, every dating rejection as a result of my weight and my appearance, so I put up a wall.
Every day I would put on a show of over-confidence to mask the self-loathing going on under the surface, and each night I would retreat back into my own world, lock the door, and dream of the real me. I saw myself a hundred pounds lighter, living my dream life: successfully managing a full professional and personal schedule all with the confidence I knew I had inside.
Finally, a few days before my 21st birthday in July, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a crushing blow; my mother is my whole world. After breaking down in the hallway of our house when she said the words, my immediate reaction (later that day) was to go down to the park to run myself into oblivion. I had never run more than a mile before that day, but I needed to numb the pain and couldn’t think of anything else to do. So I ran. And I didn’t care about what anyone thought of me that day.
When I look back on it, I realize it was a desperate need to do something – anything – to take care of myself. The C-word has a way of putting all of your life choices into perspective, even if it’s not you but your immediate family. I now technically had “a family history” of cancer. And the only weapon I had against that was taking better care of myself. So after burning myself out in the park that day doing I don’t even remember how many miles (I lost count after 5), I started to pay closer attention to my choices: what I ate, how I moved, how I spent my free time. And wouldn’t you know it: by eating sensibly and moving more, I lost between 30-40 lbs in that first 6 months.
There’s a lot more to my fitness story after that – I went on to lose a total of more than 100 lbs in the next 5 years, AND my mother beat cancer and has been officially cancer-free since 2005! – but the point of it is this: you can’t live your life in fear. Fear of becoming sick, fear of losing your loved ones, fear of what others will think of you – none of it helps you, unless it motivates you to do something.
I spent most of my teen and adult life hiding from what I could become, and once I conquered that fear and did something about it, I finally found the courage I needed to change. I became an athlete; a runner; I became the me I always knew I was!