I Found a Quick Fix for Motivation!

By , SparkPeople Blogger
By SparkPeople member Megan Gale (GALE.MEGAN)

I've found a quick fix for motivation/body image issues! Want to know what it is?

Sign up for a race.

Mine is a long story, but I promise, itíll make perfect sense, so bear with me! I started my weight loss journey after my fiancť, Kyle, proposed on December 27, 2007. I had always been thin and fairly active (hiking, yoga, rafting, skiing), and had never really watched what I ate.
As the years went on and my metabolism slowed, I gradually increased in my dress size, first from a size 4 to a size 6 in college, then from a size 6 to an 8/10 in graduate school. When Kyle proposed, I began to realize that my body wasn't what it used to be, and I wanted to look perfect for my wedding in August 2009. I knew what I had to do: eat right and exercise.

Diet pills really werenít an optionóI wanted to make a lifestyle change and didnít want a quick fix (a pill) to fix the problem that could lead to more trouble down the road (a screwed-up metabolism). So I joined a gym with my good friend Alie, and signed up for the free session with a personal trainer at the gym. I showed up at the gym in my cute little yoga top and bottoms, fully expecting the trainer to tell me, ďYou don't need to lose weight! You look GREAT!" I got the shock of my life and started to cry when I stepped on the scale: 184. My driver's license (from high school, mind you), said I weighed 150 pounds. I was shocked and angry at myself that I had slowly piled on 34 pounds over the years. My BMI was at 25, directly on the border of healthy and overweight. How could I have let myself get out of control--I didn't even own a scale!

After a rigorous workout with the trainer, Erin, I hired her for 12 training sessions. You'd think that paying for a personal trainer and losing weight for your wedding would provide some motivation to get on the wagon, right? Wrong. Though Erin was amazing, 12 sessions divided over six weeks wasn't enough to get my body back on track. I was working out pretty hard and hungry ALL THE TIME, and was consistently erasing my hard work at the gym by overeating at home (and yup--you CAN overeat on the healthy stuff, too!). I did lose some weight and body fat, but the best thing I gained from Erin was learning how to run.

For my entire life, I HATED to run, but it wasn't until I hired Erin that I realized why: I was running wrong. I'd hit the ground with the ball of my foot first instead of the heel. Though I didn't LOVE it, I felt like after my training sessions, I could actually run with little pain, and was beginning to enjoy it. During our training sessions, Erin was training for Robie Creek, the toughest half marathon in the West. I'd always wanted to race; I had a friend who was a member of "The Breakfast Club," which was a group of friends that would get together every Sunday morning for breakfast and a marathon training run.

Each year, they picked a different marathon to do. The walls of her living room were covered with posters from those marathons (signed by all the members of the Breakfast Club, of course). I always thought that was so neat, and such an accomplishment, but when I was working out with my trainer, I felt like there was no way I could ever do one. I kept up with my workouts, but it wasn't until I joined Spark People last July that I really started to see results. I knew what to eat and how much for the first time. That alone was worthwhile. I learned about balance and moderation. I entered every bit of food I put into my mouth.

As the weight started to come off (I'm at 157, with a goal weight of 140 for my wedding), I started to think I might be able to do a race someday. Kyle was training for the Ironman 70.3, and I was always inspired by his dedication. This sounds TOTALLY cheesy, but when I was watching a recent season of The Biggest Loser, I was SUPER inspired by Helen. Here was this 48-year-old woman, who, three months before was obese, finishing a MARATHON. I said to myself that if she could do it, I could do it.

During the commercial break, I signed up for my first 5K. My new-year's resolution morphed from a rather ambiguous "lose weight and look perfect" to "run a 5K and a 10K in 2009; do a half marathon and a marathon in 2010." After trying to lose weight for 15 months, you can get pretty burned out from the diet restrictions and exercising all the time. I found that when I was training for that 5K, it was easier to focus. Working out had a purpose and the purpose was to prove to myself that I could do it. Fifteen months ago, I couldn't do 20 minutes on the treadmill without feeling like I was going to die. On May 16, I ran 3.1 miles in 33 minutes, and never felt prouder of anything in my life. I know that 3.1 miles isn't very far, but it was the first step to accomplishing my goals. After I crossed that finish line, I had my own Biggest Loser moment. This time last year, I had told Kyle I couldn't do what I just did. Now, eight weeks out from my wedding, I'm training for my first triathlon (just a mini-one: 1/4-mile swim, 5-mile bike, 2-mile run). It's no Ironman, but itís a start.

Speaking of Ironman, Kyle finished the 70.3 miler (1.3-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, and 13-mile run!) in 6:08. After the race, as I was collecting Kyleís bags and his bicycle, I met a really friendly man in his mid-60s. He had placed first in his age divisionóthe 55 and older group. He told me he just started running three years ago, and just started doing triathlons two years ago. Now here he was, mid-60s, placing first in his age group on a 70.3 mile race! Again I thought to myself, ďIf he can do it, I can do it!Ē

Since Iíve been training for my 5K and my mini-triathlon, Iíve eased up on myself a little and am beginning to appreciate my body for all it can do--how fast it can go, how hard it can work--flaws and all. Iím far from perfect, but training for races has given me an appreciation for my body the way it is, now, not in 15 pounds, not in a dress size. And all this training will undoubtedly help me reach my goal weight and look FANTASTIC for my wedding. Itís just amazingóand encouragingóto look at what I can do now and what Iím capable of now versus where I was a year ago. And thatís more than I could say 15 months ago. Training for a race isnít about coming in first; itís about dedicating yourself to finishing, and proving to yourself that you can do it.

Admittedly, I wanted to lose weight for my wedding and look ďperfectĒ to impress other people (but donít we all?). No wonder Iíve lost my motivation! But with racing, I feel like Iím doing it just for ME. Iím doing it to prove to the 184-pound version of me that there was a 140-pound person hiding under there and that that person is capable of anything. Iím doing it to prove to myself that Iíll NEVER be that heavy again. Iím doing it to prove I can put in the time, dedicate myself to finishing, and know I can do it. Iím doing it to prove I can, to prove Iím worth itóto myself. And thatís an empowering feeling, something no one can ever take away from me. And thatís more than I could say 15 months ago.

Megan has been a member of Spark People since July 2008. Though always active with hiking, skiing, rafting, and yoga, she gained weight after graduating from college and getting a sedentary desk job. She lives in Boise, Idaho, with her incredibly supportive fiancť, Kyle. They plan on running a 10K in October, the Robie Creek half marathon next spring, and the Portland marathon in 2010. Long term, they want to train for and compete in triathlons together.

Megan hopes she is able to "Spread the Spark" by making healthy lifestyle choices, and living the example she hopes to set. Her new mantra is "If they can do it, so can I!" She wants other people reading this to know that no matter your weight or current fitness level, there is NOTHING you can't do. You may not be able to do it now, but if you keep chipping away at it, you'll make progress and get there!

Do you have an inspirational story you think we should include on the dailySpark? Do you have any funny stories about weight loss? Send them to editor@dailyspark.com. Include the subject line: From the Mouths of Members

Did Megan's story inspire you? Do you run races?

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I am going to sign up for my first 5K right now. I can do it. (My friends just asked me if I wanted to do it - now I need to say yes) Report
rock on and do it up like only you can, megan! here's to making healthy choices, good decisions, and maintaining positive, forward motion! best regards and continued good health and success to you on the balance of your journey and daily maintenance.....nancy Report
Thank you for sharing your story Report
Way to go Megan. I too have used races as my motivator once I met my target weight. Maintenance has been harder than the losing but with the goal of competing a 5k and 10k and eventually a marathon, I have been able to fight through the hard times and keep (most of the time) the healthy habits in place. Being heavier would hurt my running. Also key was your realization that you need to do this for YOU - not just to impress others or to meet some societal dictate that you must be a certain weight or size. For me, I always try to remember that it is about health, not a dress size or what the scale says. All the best for you and your husband to me and here's to the next race. Report
I agree totally with this article and relate soooo much to Megan. I have always tried to go to the gym and exercise because I felt it was the "right thing" to do but I never really found a passion for exercise until I started competing in races. I did a half-marathon last spring and my first Olympic tri last week and it is so exhilerating to cross that finish line knowing all the hard work that went into it. I am seriously considering a half ironman myself. Report
Very well said. Running has done the same thing for me, focusing on what my body can do and the steady improvements is so much more immediate and satisfying than struggling with the readings on the scale. Report
Great story you have! Thanks for taking the time to share!

I have to admit, after watching the "Biggest Loser" this season, I, too was inspired to run a Marathon. I also felt that if they could to it, so could I!

I ran my first 2 mi. race in July, my first 10K last week, and hope to find a half-marathon (not scheduled on a Sunday) in the near future.

Thanks again! Report
Thanks so much for the inspirational story. Races are a big part of what keeps me motivated. Once I finish one race, I can't wait for the next! My only worry is....what will I do for motivation in the middle of winter??!! Thanks again! Report
thanks for the extra motivation. i picked up running nine years ago and don't plan on stopping! i love how i feel afterwards and how only better and better it gets w/ proper training and so many options of races to choose from. Godspeed and congratulations on your wedding to be! Report
i really identify with you, Megan. I'd always hated running too even though i knew i had to get off the couch and get back into shape. For the past 2-3 yrs, i'd let myself go and gained a lot weight. I started working out again in May and on a whim, i signed up for a 10km race. I was so nervous and my main fear was not finishing. I almost pulled out! But i stuck with it anyway, and it's true what they say...your body is capable of more than you thnik! I actually won a medal! Now i've lost 9kg and i run almost every day...for fun! Well i do get lazy on some days but it's only getting off the couch that's so tough...once i'm up, i'm running! Report
i am glad you found something to motivate you. doing something else that is often easier than dieting. good luck with your future races. Report
AWESOME! I have tendonitis in my achilles tendon and my feet so I haven't physically been able to run in years. Report
Thanks for sharing your story- Like you, I found signing up for my first 5K to be a truly motivating milestone. I'd gotten deconditioned and overweight over the past couple years. Then, after doing a lot of hill walking all winter, for my 50th birthday in late March of this year I signed up for a mother's day 5K that was also a cancer fundraiser. My goals were to 1) finish in a faster time than I could walk it, 2) run the whole length and 3) have fun. I finished in 32:36, never having run a race before. I became a mother at 42 and am now a runner at 50. Who'd a thunk that the body could be filled with such surprises?! Report
I did my first 5K 4th of July weekend and after feeling the rush of crossing the finish line, decided to try to do one 5K race each month. So far I have done two more. With each one I just try to improve my time a little bit. It has rejuvenated my competitive spirit and given me purpose to my workouts (besides just wanting to lose weight). I am looking forward to the next one.....! Report
I have a similar story of motivation. To make it short, I am just starting to run at age 57 just so I can say I did it. To motivate me I asked friends and co-workers to pledge money for 5K labor day weekend for MPS Society. It is a 12 week pledge that ends Sept 1st. I have a pledge per pound of 75.00 to date and more expected. It has kept me going over the long summer of picnics and events that constantly temp me. I have lost 11 lbs for the event and a total of 91 lbs to date. Feeling wonderful. I will write the full story later. Anyone want to contribute to the cause can just let me know. Report
Thanks for sharing your story! Report
I loved this blog...it is very motivational. I wonder if there are marathons for charity. That would really motivate me. Thank you! Report
Way to go, Megan!!! I didn't decide to get in shape until I was 48 years old. I started running at the age of 49, and I ran my first 5K two months after I ran my first step. At the age of 50 I ran my first full marathon. Running lets me look at life differently. It keeps me focused on being healthy and fit. Report
Great blog and you have done a great job for yourself too. You are an inspiration for sure. Report
Your story inspired me! Congratulations on finishing the 5K. I understand about dieting and exercising without a focus. I plan on signing up for our local 15K in October. Report
Way to go Megan, so glad you found something you love and enjoy doing. Keep
up the great program you have and don't let it become a job. Report
Congrats! I'm so excited for you, for getting married and finishing your 5K. One day I want to run an entire 5K. But I hate to run too!!! I'm going to do it eventually! Report
Congratulations on finding your love of racing, and the ongoing motivation and support for your journey!

Please be careful with your running as a heel striker. There is a ton of research out there that proves that midfoot striking or forefoot striking are both way healthier ways to run. Heel striking will only leave you with injuries (I'm living proof of that!).

Good luck! Report
Even walking an event can make you feel wonderful. I have walked four marathons. Finishing the first one was definitely one of the best feelings I have ever had! I might add that a 74 year old woman was faster than I was. It is so inspiring to see active older people. I have started running. I never thought I could do it either. Patient training has gradually turned me into a runner. I plan to run a marathon later this year or early next year. I am a slow runner thus far, but I can do it! Woo hoo! Report
Very Inspiring! I don't own a scale and have gained weight similar to you. I too started to gain in college and now with a sedentary desk job, I am pushing my self to reach 10,000 steps a day. It upsets me that that it takes so much for me to reach that number because I use to do it easily when I worked in a restaurant way back when. Again, INSPIRING!! Thanks for your story! Report
I am so inspired by your story. I just started running and is having a difficult time.... my legs feel strong, but I am having difficulties with the breathing, and often feel like giving up. After reading your story, I plan on hanging on in there and not giving up. I can and I will..... My goal is simple, and that is to run 2 mile at least 3 times a week.... Thanks for sharing your story. Report
WOO HOO Megan! THANKS for sharing your story! What a great inspiration you are to everyone on SparkPeople.

"Iím doing it to prove to the 184-pound version of me that there was a 140-pound person hiding under there and that that person is capable of anything. Iím doing it to prove to myself that Iíll NEVER be that heavy again. Iím doing it to prove I can put in the time, dedicate myself to finishing, and know I can do it. Iím doing it to prove I can, to prove Iím worth itóto myself. And thatís an empowering feeling, something no one can ever take away from me."

I teared up here.
Exactly!! I'm training for my first 10K and this whole story really resonated with me.
Thank you for sharing it. Report
Inspiring Report
I did my first 10K 2 weeks ago. I did a walk/run mode. But my whole goal was to finish it. I did and came in 2nd in my age category 55-59. I can now say I did it. Never in a million years did I think I could do this. Report
I was never a real runner, and used to run here and there as cross-training. Not till a sparkfriend began doing 5K's did she inspire me to try. So for the past 8 weeks I've been doing the "Couch to 5K" program (Sparkteam too) and now I am on week 8, Day 2, running 2.9 miles straight without stopping. My first 5K is in 2 weeks. In the beginning of the program, I thought I'd die after 30 sec of running. Now I feel I can go forever! The C25K program is amazing and I'm even more amazed that I can run longer than I ever thought, and I'm out to prove myself in 2 weeks at my first 5K! After I do the 5K I'm going to train for a 10K. It will never stop! Report
I've used the same statement many times, if she/he can do it, so can I and it feels so good to know that I've excelled because someone else set an example and I didn't waiver when someone (jealous) said, oh you can't do that... lol, what do they know anyhow.

Way to go on your achievements Megan! Report
Thank you so much for sharing!!!! I have signed up for a 5K. And even though I know that I will not jog/walk it as fast as you, I am excited to know that I am going to be in my first ever public race! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas about running! I will definitely look forward to telling you about how it actually was....Now you have me excited to train this evening at the GYM!! Report
I want to run, but I don't know how or where to start. I can't afford a trainer and I don't know any runners. Report
First of all, you are amazing! But I am sure you get that all the time! My story is similar to yours in some ways. I originally started losing for my wedding, then after the wedding lost motivation and gained 40 back (crazy I know)...I was re-inspired by watching Biggest Loser a few years back, and I lost that 40 again and 45 more...best part is that approximately 105 pounds has been gone for almost 2 years now! And it inspired me to start doing charity walks first (and I have done tons), followed by sprint Triathlons (I now have 3 under my belt), and I want to do a 8k yet this fall, and maybe a 1/2 marathon next summer! I fully agree that training for something(with your doctors approval of course) is the best way to stay focused. You just know if you don't work out that you will regret it race day, so you keep it up! Great story!!! Report
Congrats on finishing the 5K and moving on to even bigger races! I was in the same situation with my weight loss, kind of stuck, so I decided to do something I never thought possible and sign up for a 5K. I'm currently training and will complete my race in September. It's great to see how well you did, it gives me motivation to keep going!! Report
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