When You Run, You Win the Day

Megan, that is some life you’ve already had for a young person. Judging by the progress on your bucket list it seems like you’re winning… Depression is, rightly, being more recognised and accepted as an illness. Have you found (or not) that your running helps you in this regard? Oh, and what’s your target time for your half-marathon?

Roy McCarthy
Blog: https://backontherock.com/

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Hi Roy!

Thanks for stopping by! I definitely feel like I’m winning at life, although, I cannot say that I always have felt this way. Our inner struggles might make us who we are, but understanding them is quite difficult. It isn’t until we truly understand and accept what lies within us, that we can overcome it.

I shut a lot of people out at an early age. I was seven when my parents got divorced, and, for a long time, I thought it was my fault. (Mom, I know you’re reading this, so don’t worry, I haven’t felt this way in ages. Love you!) I wasn’t one of those kids who turned to the school books to distract me. I was a very average child when it came to school. But sports kept me going. I started basketball in 5th grade and, while I wasn’t the best on the team, I certainly wasn’t the worst. Our practices in grade school weren’t very intense — I mean, we were in grade school, not in college — but going to practice and running up and down the court and learning the plays kept me occupied enough to not have to think about depression.

In every single stage of my life, running and sports have pulled me through. I have something to focus on. Something that didn’t necessarily require me to engage with other people emotionally. I had my teammates and while I didn’t trust them to keep any of my secrets, I trusted that they wanted to win as much as I did so we performed well as a team.

It was funny though… I always had this want to be around people. I didn’t like being alone. I wasn’t comfortable. I didn’t know how to be alone. I would surround myself with my basketball or volleyball teammates, but not have any friends. They were my teammates. They were not my friends. I had a very very small group of friends once I got to high-school, but it was a very close-knit group of about 5 girls. And that’s it. But I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Now my experience and thoughts on my actual high-school days isn’t all that revolutionary. High-school is high-school. Filled with unnecessary drama and a lot of awkwardness. I think it’s pretty safe to say that the majority of people in high-school have suffered depression to a certain degree. I was wont who turned to sports because of it.

Throughout college, I dealt with failing a few classes, switching majors, boyfriend drama, the death of my grandma and my grandpa within a year and a half of each other, learning the hard way how to handle money which lead me to $0 to my name, transferring schools and switching my major again. But through all of that, the one thing I really enjoyed was volleyball. I was on the Club Volleyball team at my first college, and then I joined an intramural team at the second college. Since I started volleyball in 7th grade, there had not been one year that passed where I didn’t play on a team. (Even to this day! I play sand volleyball every summer.) Going to practice and focusing on how to better pass the ball or how to serve in the spot I wanted to – those things kept me from falling into the trap of self-loathing. I have always had the tendency to get into a slump and focus on the bad things in my life. It wasn’t a constant throughout my entire college experience, but it happened often enough to affect my friendships and relationships. Admittedly, I wasn’t all that great at dealing with it in college. I thankfully have a few friends from that time in my life who stuck around. Most of my friendships from then faded away, but that isn’t something I dwell on anymore.

Ironically, I didn’t really enjoy running all that much until after college. I was a seasonal runner for the longest time. I would run only during the summer, and it was never consistent. About a year and a half ago, I really started getting into running. June 18th 2016 I ran my first half-marathon ever. I ran two more after that. And thus year, I have three more scheduled in the books. I finally call myself a runner. And not even a seasonal runner – I have ran in all of the seasons. The hottest it’s been was around 90 and the coldest has been around 15 degrees F. I’ve rain in pouring rain and snow. Not going to lie, I felt pretty bad ass running in the snow.

runRunning has become such a lifeline for me. And, to be honest, I really wish I would have started running sooner. Because running releases endorphins, it just makes me feel like a rockstar when I’m done running. And that will happen to everyone. I really believe it will. Now, don’t let running fool you. It is very much so a mental game. I can’t tell you how many times I have said “WHY AM I DOING THIS?” or “I HATE RUNNING” while I was running. But I have never once been done with a run and said “well that wasn’t worth it.” Because it’s worth it every single time. It’s almost like an addiction at this point. A healthy addiction. Now if that isn’t an oxymoron!

Running or any other form of exercise has been proven time and time again to help reduce stress levels and help lower your depression. The endorphins that get released while exercising interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.

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If anyone is looking to start running, just know that it is never too late! I’ve read about so many 90 year olds, yes ninety, that still run – some of whom didn’t even start to pick up running until well after retirement. I encourage people to try the Couch to 5K app. It’s amazing. It helped me get started with running. You can find their website here for more information: http://www.c25k.com/ It’s a free app as well, so there’s nothing to lose!

When you run, you win the day.

Love always,
Megan
#CaffeinatedOpinions

P.S. My current half-marathon PR is 2:46:33. I have a half-marathon coming up May 13th that I’m shooting to shave off 10 minutes. Big goal for me!

 

 

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Thank you everyone for reading!

Feel free to submit your questions HERE (not in the comments)

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My Fitness Journey

In my entire year journey of getting back into shape and training for a half marathon and changing my diet, I’ve never shared any before or after photos of myself. To be honest, I rarely took any before photos because I was embarrassed. I untagged every photo that someone took of me. I offered to be the photographer so I didn’t need to be in a photo. I didn’t feel good about myself. I didn’t like how I looked, so why have a memory of that? I have measurements and my weight from before, but it hasn’t been anything I’ve shared.

Let me take you back to the beginning…

In college, I was 155 lbs. That was my ideal weight. I was playing volleyball – both on the club team at UW-Oshkosh as well as a rec league- and running. I was a casual runner in college… Maybe like 5 miles a week and definitely NOT consistent. Plus,  I walked to and from class. All that adds up. I was health conscious and ate healthier than most of my peers, but not really. Thank you metabolism. I graduated college in 2010 and moved back home. I continued to play volleyball in summer. I would run a handful of times, but nothing more than a few miles sporadically. I had a job at Sam’s Club which very much so kept me on my feet all day.

April 2012, I moved to Chicago. And this is when the slow downhill started. Yes, I had to walk to the nearest public transportation option, but then I sat. All. Day. Long. I had a desk job. And then being in a new city, all I did was eat out and eat too much. Thanks a lot Groupon. There was always a plethora of free food at work, which was never good for you. I gained about 10 lbs my first year working there. I still continued to play volleyball in summer though, so that was at least something. But summer in the Midwest… it doesn’t last long.

August 2013, I quit my job in Chicago and moved back to Wisconsin and in with my bf Josh. I quit because I found a job opportunity that was close to home. (Walking distance!) I thought it would be a good career move, but a few months later, they fired me for no reason. (Oh I have a post about that entire drama filled job…) Unemployment and depression led me down a very not good path. I was unemployed for MONTHS. Dec 19th, 2013 until May 22nd. 2014, I had no job. I had no motivation to work out. I cried myself to sleep often. I would go for days of eating burgers and ice cream and getting drunk and binge watching Gossip Girl.

Hello 185 lbs. 

I finally landed a job at Starbucks May 2014. At least i was on my feet all day, but I didn’t do anything outside of work. I ate crappy foods. I made excuses. “Oh I work weekends now. I can’t do anything.” “I work a morning shift-I’m too tired when I come home.” “I work a late shift, but I don’t feel like working out before work.” You name it, I had an excuse.

I quit Starbucks beginning Aug 2014 because I found a new role back at the company I was originally with in Chicago. I should have never left the company, but that’s another blog post. 

Commuting was hard. I left the house at 6am and didn’t get home until 8pm. The hours were brutal. (Shocker, I wrote about this previously too!) I was able to switch my hours after a few months (Nov 2014). So I was gone 6am to 630pm. Still a very long day. I ran occasionally, but not too much.

Summer 2015 I ran a few 5Ks with some friends and decided that I needed to run again and be active. I was so embarrassed of myself at this point. I hit 189 lbs at my heaviest. I never hit 190 lbs, but it was kind of a wake up call. I had become really good friends with Ally and she quickly became my running buddy. Aug 2015 was when we really started to think about our goals for 2016. We were running a decent amount, but focusing on stairs. We signed up for the Chicago Skyrise Climb. 103 floors up in Sears Tower (yeah yeah Willis Tower. It will always be the Sears Tower). I dropped a few lbs by this point, but I was still around 175-180 lbs.

Nov 8th, 2015. We climbed. 103 floors.  Words cannot describe how I felt that day. I almost cried when I finished. The fundraising money was for RIC, (Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago). As I did my climb, firefighters in their gear passed me.  I passed a few older people who were walking with canes and a PT just in case. It was so incredibly inspirational. And then, the people handing out medals at the top of the stairs were in wheelchairs. People who could no longer walk.

“Why am I wasting my life not being active anymore?”

After that climb, Ally and I talked about our 2016 goals and decided that we should make a goal of running 1,000 miles in 2016. Very very high goal, but hey, we did the math and it was definitely feasible.

Dec 2015 I applied for an internal position which I got hired for (and an currently in this role) in Feb 2016. (My manager wanted me to stay for a month to train the new people. Yippee!)  My new job was way more flexible. I left my house at 6am, but I was able to be home by 540pm. It made all the difference. 

And running just took off from there.

January, I ran 86 miles.

Somewhere around March, Ally and I talked about doing a half in August maybe, so that was something we were aiming to do. We ran a lot. We read a lot about half marathons.

April 2nd, 2016, Ally and I ran a 10K… in 28 degree weather… IN THE SNOW. It was my last run in my 20s so there was no way we were backing out of this one. It was a tough run to get through. I lost feeling in my toes after the second mile. But we finished it! And we knew if we could get through that, we could get through so much more.

In May, we realized how far we had come, and signed up for our first half marathon in June! JUNE!

June 18th, 2016 – we ran our first half-marathon. It was beautiful. It was hot. And I cried when I was done. My family and bf were there to meet me at the finish line. Hello emotions. At this point, I was around 165. I watched my diet, but not too much. I was starting to feel so good about myself! We even signed up for another half marathon in Sept!

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July 2016 I did a 5K obstacle course in Madison. As I was sliding down the slide, I jammed my knee. This was a little bit of a setback; however, I took more initiative than the Old Megan would have done. I went to see a PT, I got some exercises to do (and actually did them!!). I took a little time off running to heal up. I would do some slow jogs, but stopped when the pain went from an achy dull pain to a sharp pain.

Aug 28th, 2016 – I ran another half marathon with my coworkers. I had signed up for this one months ago, before I hurt my knee, so I unfortunately had to walk the majority of it because my knee hurt so badly.

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Sept 10th, 2016 – Yes, 13 days apart, Ally and I ran another half-marathon, and I even beat my time from our first one in June!

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The longer runs because easier. And I just wanted to keep running. Running kept me happy. It kept me sane. I hit a plateau with my weight – I was hovering around 163-166 lbs. I wasn’t even all that concerned about it. I’m not really one to weight myself often, mostly because it led to disappointment. But I wanted to know what more I should be doing. Well, the one thing that didn’t really change was my diet.

Nov 2016: November was a huge month for me. I made a goal of running 100 miles this month. One. hundred. Miles. At the end of Oct, I was at 367.5 miles total for the year. Not where I wanted to be. I knew 1,000 miles would not happen this year. But Ally and I teamed up and added our miles together. This has been a learning year for us, and we didn’t want a number to get us down. So we are doing a team effort of 1,000 miles this year. Well, I still wanted to reach a high goal, so 100 miles it was! Not only did I run more, but I changed my diet. I had gotten a wellness exam at my work, which showed a slightly elevated cholesterol level. 212. 12 points above the max “normal” range. Because my good cholesterol was at 92, they told me “you really don’t have to worry about it because 100milesnovyour good cholesterol is so high, that it balances out your bad cholesterol.” But all I heard was “you have a slightly high cholesterol level.” I cut out red meat, pork and eggs, and I VERY much so limited my dairy. I made a conscious decision to eat more fruits and veggies. I had oatmeal with pb and bananas almost every morning. I just felt SO much better. By the end of Nov, I didn’t want a ton of cookies. I didn’t want to have a steak dripping in butter. I felt great. I was getting plenty of protein and fruits and veggies. I didn’t really track calories as much as I just paid attention to sugar, cholesterol, fats, sodium and ingredients. If I couldn’t pronounce it, I didn’t eat it. If it had WAY too many ingredients, I didn’t eat it. Yes of course I helped myself to some not so good foods, but it was a few times the entire month, instead of a few times a week. Hey, I’m not perfect and I love chocolate. I ended up hitting my 100 miles in Nov. It was amazing.

Well this ENTIRE story leads up to this photo and the reason behind this novel:

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I randomly decided to weigh myself on Monday (I always weight myself at night before going to bed. Gotta keep it consistent) and I was 158.7. Wait, what? I was back in the 150s. I weighed myself every night, but I never got above 159.6. It was anywhere from 157.9 to 159.6.

Holy crap. This whole eating healthy thing actually works. 🙂 Ha. Not that I had my doubts, but when you start seeing results, there’s just NO turning back now.

I’m 30 and I feel better now than when I was 25.

(Also, side note. I really love the app I used. Ha. PicsArt)

And here we are Dec 9th, 2016 and I’m already on pace to hit 100 more miles this month.

I got this!!