Who Am I?

I think I’m a pretty normal gal. I grew up a tomboy in the Northern California Bay Area. I refused to wear dresses (most of the time) and a typical summer day/night was playing touch football in the street, roller-skating with friends around the neighborhood and playing kick-the-can after dark. I started playing softball at the age of 5, then tried ballet and gymnastics (which I quit so I could play more softball). Then came soccer and swimming on a community swim team. All before high school. I don’t remember why, but volleyball became very intriguing to me the summer before starting high school. I tried out and made the team (it probably didn’t hurt that I was almost 5’9”). I loved it so much that I continued playing through college (mostly amateur outdoor grass doubles tournaments). Through all of this, there was no greater punishment than running. Sprint sets, laps, lines, – you name it, I was punished with it. Running a mile back then was pure torture. “People do this voluntarily”?

I have struggled with my weight for most of my life (more on this topic in another blog), and like most high school kids, I became extremely self-conscious, comparing myself to my shorter and much skinnier friends, wishing I could be like them. But I didn’t know how to effect change in my body in a healthy manner. I attempted on many, many occasions to reduce how much food I was eating, but I didn’t understand calories – what it meant for weight control, how many I should be eating, etc. I didn’t know that the volume or size of your meal wasn’t related at all to how many calories were in a portion, much less knowing what the fat, carbohydrate and protein content was or meant, or why I should care about it. I joined the local YMCA so I could start burning off those extra pounds, but it was short-lived. I think I burned more calories wandering aimlessly around the gym trying to figure out what to do than I did on the equipment itself! “Well, I am big-boned” I tried to convince myself.

Just a few months into my Freshman year of high school, I tore the cartilage in my left knee and had to have arthroscopic surgery to remove a piece that was floating around, causing my knee to lock up sporadically. I started physical therapy and was immediately drawn to the idea of making this my profession. Therapy using exercise? Cool! I still remember 2 of the therapists that helped me get back to being active. The idea of helping others do the same was very appealing. This is what Dr. Phil would refer to as a ‘defining moment’ in my life. The beginning of an academic pathway that would lead me to where I am today – happy, healthy and still wanting to get people moving!

From that moment forward, I was focused on becoming a Physical Therapist. I made it through high school with mediocre grades, but when I started college, all of this changed. I was excelling in the courses I chose because I was excited about getting started in my profession of choice and I was taking classes that had subjects I was actually interested in learning more about. I transferred from a junior college to a local 4-year university my Junior year and chose the B.S. track in Kinesiology as my major since that was the recommended pathway for meeting the requirements necessary for acceptance into a physical therapy Master’s degree program. Apparently, all those science classes I was afraid of in high school were actually interesting and I wanted more! Anatomy, Physiology, Biochem... and then came Exercise Physiology. I think I fell in love with it by the end of the first week. It was intense, but it made so much sense. Almost natural to me. I started getting involved with the lab; learned how to measure body fat, learned about nutrition and the effects of protein, carbs and fat on exercise performance, the importance of Heart Rate and Oxygen Consumption and their implications on performance. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. It was a fun and exciting time. I never dreamed college would be like this. I had became a trainer and a step aerobics teacher while taking undergrad classes, but as I became more involved with the weight loss studies we were doing in the lab, my free time became more and more limited and fitting in one aerobics class a week felt next to impossible.

It was my interest in the physiology of exercise that steered me away from physical therapy. I had a job as a PT assistant for a while, then a couple of weeks of volunteer work with a PT who worked primarily with stroke victims. But nothing took hold of me like Ex Phys. So I changed life tracks again. I wanted to get a grad degree in Ex Phys to learn more, and maybe one day become an academic researcher and professor like my professors were so I could create and run my own studies! My hard work was about to pay off – or so I thought.

I moved down to Los Angeles 12 years ago after being asked to join an Exercise Physiology PhD program at a major university under a respected investigator with a full scholarship. I accepted whole-heartedly, knowing I was signing up for a promised “4 year” program that would entail little sleep and a lot of classroom and lab work. I was completely miserable after 4.5 years, wondering when I would be allowed to graduate, when I would be able to apply for post-graduate positions and when could I get on with my life. I was 29 and had never had a “real” job – well, not full-time, and certainly not any where near a corporate job.

Close to being at the end of my rope with grad school, I met the man I would eventually marry, at a bar in West LA where he was doing stand-up comedy. After just a few months of dating, I knew he was "the one" - and me continuing to be miserable, having no sense of where I was headed or even when I would be allowed to make a choice about where I was headed, was not how I wanted to start off this relationship. I took a hiatus from the program and never went back. I know what brought me here and it wasn't a PhD degree. It was love. Love for exercise physiology and love for a man I hadn’t met yet.

I can’t remember how or why I decided to start running, but it was soon after I graduated high school. Maybe 2 or 3 miles a couple times a week. Shorter distances around the track with some bleacher work on the straightaways. I joined a gym soon after and used treadmill running as my main source of cardio training. I remember getting up to 40 minutes with a strange feeling of disbelief. I definitely noticed the weight loss, but I was also playing volleyball up to 3 hours a day several times a week, and not eating as much. I was catching on to the formula by this point, but it still didn’t stop the emotional eating. Of course, I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time, but looking back now, I see it. As my free time decreased and my school work increased, I began struggling with my weight again. I lived near a lake that I knew people from my dorm ran around – and I decided that it would be good for me to have an activity that got me outside again. Enough with the gyms and the aerobic classes – I wanted to get back outside. Round 2 of trying to stick to running and enjoy it began. I struggled with the motivation. Didn’t stick to a schedule. I wasn’t a running expert, or even what I would consider an experienced runner. I forced myself to run the 2 mile loop around the lake for months, but again, let it fall by the wayside.

It wasn’t until after I had been living in LA for a few years and moved near the beach that I found a new passion for running. It was an outdoor escape, a social form of exercise (or the complete opposite when I needed it) and brought a newfound sense of self-confidence. I applied the same discipline I was learning to maintain in grad school to running and I was getting up to 15 miles per week. Some friends of mine were running in a local 5K. I hardly knew these races existed. I’d heard about marathons, but those people were just crazy. I’d never be able to do that. I came in at 29 minutes thanks to an encouraging friend who ran the whole distance with me. Several months later, I ran my first 10K. I think my time was 59 minutes. I had no idea if any of these times were “good”. I just knew that I had done it!! A few months later, I was out running with some friends when we “accidentally” ran 8 miles. Really? Me?

I let running fall by the wayside again when John and I started dating. We had both been regular exercisers when we met, but living an hour’s drive from each other (in light traffic) wasn’t conducive to us spending a lot of time together and truthfully, I was so burned out on school, exercise physiology and the whole idea of exercise, it was easy for me to just drop it altogether so I didn’t have to think about it anymore. It’s amazing what we can convince ourselves of, isn’t it? “I don’t need exercise – I have love!”

As my weight crept up and up, I started having thoughts of hopelessness, just like in high school. I had been working at my first “real” job for a couple of years – one that I thought would be temporary. I tried moving around to another department, but eventually figured out that while there were pieces I enjoyed, the negatives far outweighed the positives. I had already spent a decade trying to figure out what to do with my life and I wasn’t about to let one more day go by forcing myself through it in the workplace. Time for another change.

I quit the job I loathed to show up for and was hired at a different company doing the things I knew I would do great things for. With this new job I found myself regaining self confidence and within 6 weeks, I joined a gym (again) that was smack dab in the middle of my commute between work and home. No room for excuses. I literally passed it every day during the week. A coach once told me “make an appointment with yourself to exercise and don’t miss it.” I had remembered it for years, but didn’t think I had a need for it – until then. It only took 2 weeks of using the elliptical machine before I felt myself actually wanting to run. I jumped on a treadmill on my next scheduled day and struggled through 30 minutes of running for 2 minutes and walking for 1 minute. I was exhausted but exhilarated. I felt “me” starting to come back.

By the end of the first week of my return to running, a thought popped into my brain. In my early 20’s, I told myself I would run a marathon by the time I was 40. I was 34. How long would it take me to get there? Why not start now? I started researching distance running and fell right back in love with exercise physiology, but with a new focus – running. I found out about half marathons. Dreams of signing up for races danced in my head. “I really think I can do this”. Six months later, I ran the 2nd Annual Disneyland Half Marathon in 2:44:01 – still using a run/walk ratio (5:1), but with a pace group. The blog I wrote following that race is posted here too.

I have, over the years, become more of a girly-girl and I can prove it. I now love the color pink, I love to go to the nail salon, I love my hairdresser, I love to dress up, and the shoes I love most in my closet (aside from my running shoes) are the most uncomfortable to wear, but I do it anyway. Yes I know they’re not good for my back, legs or feet, but that’s not really the point here, right?!

After 3.5 years of consistent distance running, I still use run/walk intervals, but I have adopted Jeff Galloway’s training style and have used it to train several friends and co-workers; many of whom have already run their first marathon after only a year of training with no prior running experience. I, in no way, claim to be an expert in running or exercise physiology, but with the knowledge base I have both from college and the researching I’ve been doing specifically on running for the past few years, I can offer advice and oodles of encouragement and praise! I’ve run several half marathons – recently setting a PR at the San Diego Rock-n-Roll Half Marathon in June. If that face doesn't say PR, I don't know what does. :-)

I am extremely excited and honored to be starting up a Galloway Training Group Program for Ventura County. The program won’t be kicking off until November 2010. We’ll start with a half-marathon training group first and grow from there. More details coming soon!!

So there you have it. The short version of how I got here. In case you’re wondering, I ran my first marathon this past January with my husband (yes, he caught the running bug from me a year after I started back up). The 2010 Walt Disneyworld Marathon. I regret not having blogged about the experience, but I can sum it up with 2 descriptors: 1) Sub-freezing temps at the Start; and 2) Forgetting my IT band wrap in the hotel room. More on my chronic issues with IT band pain and how I learned the hard way about the mind-body connection will be posted as well.

Wondering about the Love Live Run motto? Without love, you can’t live. Running has brought new a new way of life for me (and for so many people I love and care about) – a life I attribute to my love for running.

Love. Live. Run.