Editor’s note: Jeff’s handing this week’s blog duties over to Ashley, a client who’s become a (freakishly cheerful) part of the Second City Fitness community. She first started coming to the studio for yoga classes and is now a regular at our workouts. We’re not sure we could get rid of her if we tried. She’ll be blogging regularly about her training experiences.
To understand where I am now, it’s important to tell you where I’ve been. And it’s important to understand where I hope to go and why I started working with Second City Fitness.
To borrow a phrase from John “The Penguin” Bingham, I’m an accidental athlete. Growing up, I was occasionally sporty, but never talented or committed enough to be considered anything other than second string. Somewhere along the way – whether it was gymnastics in kindergarten (I had the wrong body type), or swimming in elementary school (not a sprinter), or the field hockey games in high school (I volunteered to play goalie because it involved less running.) – my “unathletic” title went from being casually implied to a simple fact.
That was until 2011 when I was staring down the barrel of a 30th birthday and a scale that was teetering dangerously close to 250 pounds. With the support of a great group of friends, I began training for a 5K with the goal of finishing the race – running the entire way – in time for my birthday in May. The race took me nearly 46 minutes to complete. But I crossed the finish line with an automatic PR and the first inkling that this running thing could transform me: mind, body and soul.
Since 2012, I’ve done more than a dozen races, including five half marathons and a triathlon. I changed my life, losing about 40 pounds and discovering that while I may not be the fastest (or medium-fastest or slow-fastest) runner out there, I’ve done more than I, and most people who knew me “before,” ever thought possible.
While I’m SO proud of what I accomplished and beyond grateful for the support from my friends and coaches at Chicago Endurance Sports, I decided this year it was time to try to push myself to another level. After all, I’d started this adventure more than two years ago with the idea that I could turn myself into a science experiment to see what my body was capable of. Now, two years later, I want to see what can happen if I turn up the heat.
Which is how I wound up having a heart-to-heart conversation with Jeff Schmelz and his wife, Kristin, and decided to jump head-first into a SCF training program.
About six weeks into this adventure, I’m stronger, faster and more confident about reaching my lofty (for me) goals as I train for my 6th half marathon and my first international-distance triathlon. (Shhh. Don’t tell anyone, but I’m even thinking about a one-day half iron.) But more importantly, I’m learning about the emotional and psychological side of training – which might be the biggest hurdle to overcome.
The first week’s workout may as well have been a therapy session, complete with breakthroughs that went far beyond the workout realm. It turns out I’m a scaredy-cat control freak with a healthy dose of skepticism (some might call this a “trust issue”). I’m also a perfectionist who was finding validation by meeting my easy-to-attain fitness goals. I was constantly under-reaching, in part because I was afraid of failing. And I was lacking the confidence to think that I could be anything other than slow, fat and, well, unathletic.
I picked up more fundamental things, too. Jeff told me to push my pace on runs and, it turns out, I actually could. (Who knew? Oh. Wait. He did.) Now, instead of the comfortable 14:00/mile, I’m keeping my solo runs around 12:00-12:30. Meanwhile, I wasn’t drinking enough water and was consuming too few calories to support my workouts. Pushing myself and fueling has already made a difference.
These first few weeks have been filled with rough workouts (I’m looking at you, alternating-arm kettlebell swings), but with some really profound moments, too. And the process has involved more than just weekly core classes and training sessions. I’m doing homework every day by keeping a journal and adding calisthenics to my daily routine. (What, you don’t do squats, lunges and pushups in the breakroom?)
But the most humbling and inspiring thing has been getting a chance to see myself through someone else’s eyes. It turned out Jeff believed in me far more than I believed in myself.
A blogger I love is spending time this year talking about how we write our own stories and take our own misrepresentations and half-truths and turn them into our own facts. With Second City Fitness, I’m slowly rewriting my own story – one day at a time. It’s a scary, powerful, nerve-wracking, awe-inspiring, fascinating, hard and sweaty process. And I’m loving every single day.
If only I’d started it earlier.