The Metamorphosis from Rhino to Unicorn

The Threadless Runnin' Rhino tank

The Threadless Runnin' Rhino tank

This is probably one of the most difficult pieces I've ever sat down to write, mostly due to the emotions that run through me when I look back at the journey I've taken.

In the past year I've replaced over 65 pounds with a new love of health, being active and muscle mass. The externally visible changes have prompted many interesting conversations on my process that I never expected, but have greatly enjoyed having. It's these conversations that have compelled me to write about my experiences.

My Fitness and Health Regimen.

The photo above was taken about a month ago. For the longest time, this was the journey I thought I was going through. In the end, however, that was far from the most valuable outcome I'd gain. When I started, I set a goal to lose 70 pounds within a year. To help me get started, I bought a gym membership and continued to use an app on my phone to keep track of my workout activities and my daily caloric intake. Last summer was focused on getting myself to the gym 2-3 times a week. Putting in a few miles on the treadmill in an hour was an accomplishment. While I used the game Zombies, Run! during my trips to the gym, it was more like a game of Zombies, Walk!

My Jawbone UP band

My Jawbone UP band

By November, the distance and speed I was able to run was starting to improve and I was showing small signs of progress. However, I felt I had hit a plateau. To help with this, I immediately added the Jawbone UP band to my regimen and started convincing other like-minded folk, including some that have been a great inspiration to me during this process, to jump on the bandwagon. By keeping track of all my health and activity data via UP, I was able to start gaining some amazing insights. I could start to see that it was not simply about the number of calories and the amount of physical activity. My sleep patterns impacted my eating which impacted my mood which impacted my activity level which impacted my sleep. 

For the first time, I was starting to look at my health from more of a holistic viewpoint, and it ended up making me only crave more and more data. Additionally, seeing photos  of healthy recipes from team members made me want to share and exchange delicious ways to cook healthy foods.  I used this motivation to keep me going, but after a few months, I found myself still feeling focused on my weight loss progress slowing down yet again.

And so I re-evaluated the toolkit I was using for this journey:

  • Gym membership
  • Jawbone UP band
  • Zombies, Run!  

And took a look at my current activity regimen: 

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Elliptical
  • Hiking
My first Tanita test - April 2013

My first Tanita test - April 2013

It was time for another change. I had lost over 50, but felt that expert opinions and help would be a good fit, now that I've started to look at other areas of my health. In April, I first enlisted a personal trainer to help with my strength and endurance. I also utilized a health coach offered as a courtesy by my employer in order to look at my nutritional health. April was also when I took on tap lessons and my first Tanita test, which was a pure data geek out moment. This test showed my current weight, what my caloric intake should be to maintain that weight, my muscle mass and my metabolic rate. 

I'll never forget my first visit with my health coach. We spent time discussing my journey and why I initiated the visit, which was due to feeling like I had hit a wall as far as weight loss was concerned. I remember when she looked at me and told me that it would be hard, but I needed to stop focusing on scale weight and everything would happen naturally with all the items I had added to my toolkit. We talked about ways to change my already good eating habits to make them work even more on my behalf. We have also talked about how mental health, stress, workload and other aspects of my life can affect my health. She's been a godsend, and while I didn't believe her at first, eventually when I stopped focusing on the scale, and started focusing on life, eating even cleaner than I had been and making the most out of my workouts, everything started to fall in place again. 

Top: June 9, 2012. Bottom: June 9, 2013. 

Top: June 9, 2012. Bottom: June 9, 2013. 

I think it would also be hard to forget my first personal training session. I nearly threw up. And I never throw up.  It was one of the most physically and mentally challenging hours of my life. But once again, I quickly figured out I had made the right decision. Only a few weeks later, during the Pat's Run, I ran the fastest pace I had ever ran and the longest distance other than my one half-marathon attempt a few years ago (4.2 miles in stead of my typical 5k). And it only kept getting better. I don't even know how to explain it, but I could feel my strength and endurance changing at an amazing rate. It was crazy, but nice to have someone there to push me that has also recently been through the same life changing journey. Sometimes I would rather sleep or go out with friends, but every week I get the courage to go deal with whatever he hands to me, even when our first conversation is, "This is going to be fun for you today." Which pretty much means, I'll thank him a few days later at the earliest.

Celebrating Running Day with a year of running collage

Celebrating Running Day with a year of running collage

If you know me, you know that I used to always claim I wasn't a runner. Running was just what I did to keep in shape for other things I liked to do more. 

I'm not ready to say I'm a complete runner yet, but my viewpoint has definitely changed. I actually enjoy running, as well as other types of physical activity, so running is just another one of those things I enjoy doing and try to challenge myself with. Now it's the stair stepper and the bike that are my least favorite forms of cardio. My next goal is not to disappoint my Ragnar team with my slow running skills. I haven't tried a 10k at once yet, but my 5k time has dwindled to 28 minutes. That's crazy pants people, I'm telling you. 

After a couple months of personal training, I decided to add another activity type to my toolkit that I've been wanting to pick back up for awhile now, hoop dancing.  

My current toolkit for my fitness journey now includes: 

  • Gym membership
  • Jawbone UP band
  • Zombies, Run!  
  • Tap Troupe
  • Hoop Dancing Lessons
  • Health Coach
  • Personal Trainer

My focus has switched from losing weight to toning and strengthening and being as in shape as I can be. I've decided to call it Moderate Maintenance mode. I'm happy with how I look and feel, but want to refine some areas a little more.

My Personal + Social Lifecludes

I admit, it has been a little tough on my personal and social life to make these changes. I won't lie and say it was easy, but it did become easier over time.

I never denied myself going out with friends when I wanted to, but I also made sure I wasn't eating out or going to bars all the time. This made me somewhat of a hermit and cut off from my friends some, but I needed to make sure that I was strong enough to resist some of the temptation that would come my way. I set good calorie, activity level and sleep goals and made sure I stuck to them. This meant finding new favorites at local restaurants and starting to enjoy water so much more than I ever have. 

One important thing to note though, is that I never denied myself anything, just made sure my food intake for the day still balanced. If I wanted cake, I had some cake. I just didn't eat a giant piece of cake. Or two pieces of cake. And I typically ended up having a salad or something for dinner to even things out. I don't believe in fighting what you want to enjoy; it's just a matter of not over-indulging. 

Fitting all these new time consuming things into my schedule is what ended up making me look like a recluse most of all. I started off by scheduling time for the gym into my calendar as I would any other appointment. This made me stick to my guns and go, but I also missed out on some fun activities. I also had to plan time into my week to cook and prepare meals at home so I wasn't tempted to go out to eat all the time. 

From L to R: My brother's wedding (July 2012), Dirty Girl Mud Run (October 2012), Thin Mint Sprint 5k (March 2013), Mini golf outing with friends (May 2013)

From L to R: My brother's wedding (July 2012), Dirty Girl Mud Run (October 2012), Thin Mint Sprint 5k (March 2013), Mini golf outing with friends (May 2013)

Recently, after about a year, it all fit into place and I was able to start balancing my routine much more efficiently, still giving me time to socialize with my friends and enjoy some being with myself too. Many of my close friends were able to see updates on my progress via Facebook or Path, but not many had seen me in the wild, so to speak. To many of them, they were seeing a year of progress at one time, and had lots of questions and comments to make.

For the first time, it made me step back and really reflect on how the past year has gone and the journey that I have taken. It's still a little surreal still, but it also helps validate the goals and challenges I set for myself. And the fact that I never want to go back. My journey focus changed over time to more of an overall health standpoint than just a weight loss standpoint, but it would be dishonest to say that those don't matter at all anymore. It would also be a lie to say my journey is over. I still plan to continue with my personal trainer and health coach for the foreseeable future and use my entire toolkit to keep my health in better shape than it's ever been.

Current Status

It's been a little over a year now, and I've lost 66 of the 70 I had hoped to, but I never took into account muscle mass and other health criteria earlier, which have improved more than I could've hoped for. I'm pretty happy with where I've landed and consider all my goals met. 

My current regimen for Moderate Maintenance includes maintaing a specific calorie intake daily and getting 3 high intensity days and 2 low intensity days in a week, though I usually end up at the gym 6 days.

My Fitspirations

I'd like to thank everyone and everything that's helped me along this journey. Those that have pushed to keep me going and accepted the nights I wasn't able to join in festivities because I needed to hit the gym or had to make sure I rested for the next day. It is difficult to make such change without supporters. 

Meghan - I have always been amazed at what you challenge yourself to accomplish and seeing how motivated you are only inspires me to march forward. 

Madelyn - Madelyn, you are incredible at what you push yourself to do. The fact that you run in the freezing cold, something I don't think I could bring myself to do anymore, absolutely inspires me. One of my next goals is to actually complete Tough Mudder with you and other family members as one unstoppable team.

Mandy - Having been through a similar journey, I really was inspired by what you challenged yourself with also. I can only hope we can continue this somewhat jointly with some hooping sessions, running excursions and more muddy runs.

Lori - Your exercise regimen, running prowess and clean eating is a constant source of inspiration. Trying some of your recipes has been one of the most unexpected and best parts of this journey.

Dani -  I always told you I wasn't a runner. And look at me now. I partially blame you for that and will make you do more runs with me in the future. Just don't sign me up for a half or full marathon quite yet.

My Path Friends -  You guys have dealt with a lot of my moodiness and complaining I think over the past year and I want to apologize for it. I hope you all know that your support within our little circle of trust is overwhelmingly powerful.

My Up Team -  I'm sure this isn't news, but I love my UP team. They're like my little workout buddies that are in this with me, cheering each other on, giving each other helpful advice and tips and sharing recipes and motivational tactics. We are addicted to our bands and don't know what we'd do with out them. Or each other.

Wrapping Things Up

In conclusion, I'd like to thank everyone that has helped motivate me or not get in my way and try to break my focus. You're all amazing and this was not something I accomplished on my own. Your support and positivity has really made a difference and allowed this journey to become so much more than a transition from a rhino to a unicorn.

This post only touches the surface of the emotions and thoughts I have about this process. I am truly a health/fitness junkie and advocate if I wasn't one before. I'll happy talk with anyone that is looking for more inspiration or advice or just has questions I haven't fully answered here. If you have made it to the end of this fairly long musing, thank you. 

Now I'm going to go hit the elliptical. It's a low intensity day.