The SKFitlife challenge could not have come at a better time in my life! I clearly remember the day I found out Stephanie was offering this challenge. It was early January in the parking lot of a Sears, which was going out of business. I planned to buy some weight gloves and any other fitness gear that might help to motivate me to get back in shape. I happened to check my FaceBook on my phone before getting out of my car, and I saw Stephanie’s announcement that she was starting the SKFitlife challenge. It sounded like it was exactly what I needed to get back into shape, and it felt like it was meant to be!
A year of personal illness and tragedy brought me to the point of needing this challenge. In July, 2010, my brother passed away. At that time, my world literally stopped. While trying to deal with my own feelings and emotions, I was also trying to help my parents in their extreme grief. Seeing them like that was absolutely gut-wrenching, and unlike any kind of sorrow I had experienced before. That experience left my family with a stronger bond than ever. Unfortunately, it also left me in a bit of a funk for some time.
With the residual sadness after my brother’s death, I kind of let myself slip a bit. About 6 months after his death, I decided to sign up for a class called “Marathon Training” offered at a local community college. It involved individual runs as well as weekly long runs as a class. The final exam would be to complete either a half marathon or a full marathon. My goal was to run the half. I had never considered myself a “runner”, and thought that this was what I needed to push me outside my comfort zone.
From the beginning, I loved the class. There were students from all kinds of backgrounds, from seasoned “barefoot” marathoners to beginners such as myself. I figured out quickly how much it helped to have a group of people from all fitness levels who were cheering each other on. I loved the comradery. I remember the first time I ran 5 miles continuously, which was something I had never done before in my life.
Unfortunately, during one of my long runs, I injured my knee. It had been bothering me in the weeks before, but I kept pushing on. During that run, it was injured to the point that I could no longer run, and I had to limp back to our class. Because of that injury, I had to take a couple of weeks off from running.
When I returned to my running, I instantly noticed that my endurance had sharply decreased. I had been running up to 6 miles before, but could no longer get through a full mile. It was extremely frustrating. Finally, at one of my long runs, I had to stop so frequently in less than a quarter of a mile that I finally turned around, walked to my car, and drove home. My endurance worsened overnight, and the next morning, I was having trouble with simple activities, such as doing laundry or feeding my dog.
I was discussing my symptoms with one of my friends on the phone, when it hit me. My symptoms sounded like someone with a pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot in the lung. I went to the emergency room, and sure enough, I had multiple blood clots scattered throughout both of my lungs. The lower portion of my left lung showed evidence of necrosis, or tissue death. I was instantly hospitalized, put on bed rest, and given medications to prevent further formation of blood clots.
The doctors tried to find the cause of the blood clots, but they never could find the source. They discovered that I have a gene that increases my likelihood of developing blood clots. The doctors believed that the gene, combined with the damage in my knee from my running injury, was likely what caused me to develop blood clots in my leg, which then traveled to my lungs.
I had to drop out of the Marathon class, and let my body heal. It took several months for my lungs to heal to the point where simple tasks didn’t leave me winded. In that time, my fitness levels only deteriorated. When the doctors said it was okay for me to begin exercising again, I had trouble getting myself started. I realized how much I needed a group to help keep me motivated and inspired. Also, there was a part of me that was afraid to exercise. While it seemed so silly to admit that, I was worried that another injury could lead to blood clots that could be fatal. I knew deep down that my parents could not endure the loss of another one of their children.
All of these factors were in my mind, and that fear led to inactivity. When I started the SKFitlife challenge, I hadn’t worked out since I had been hospitalized, which was in March, 2011. I was the heaviest I had ever been, and was about to have to go up another size in my jeans. I was physically unhealthy and still in that funk that had taken over me since my brother passed away.
Initially, I focused on the nutrition component and the resistance training in the challenge. I took a while to begin the HIIT sessions, since I still had that nagging phobia of running. For me, the nutrition was the most challenging at first, but it was the most needed change. I had an 8 year addiction to a daily sugar-filled Starbucks drink. In this challenge, I not only stopped drinking Starbucks, but cut out my addiction to daily coffee and caffeinated beverages. I also broke the sugar addiction. These were huge accomplishments for me! In addition, I was able to switch over to the Clean-Eating diet. Rather than eating out at restaurants or eating prepackaged foods, I began planning and preparing healthy meals at home.
I discovered that I loved the resistance training. They not only pushed me during the activities, but I felt such a sense of accomplishment after they were finished. I actually looked forward to the next day’s training! Also, I finally got myself to begin the HIIT sessions. I was able to listen to my body (something I struggled with in my Marathon class), and ease into the exercises. I am happy to report that I have not had any injuries from this challenge.
At this point, I have lost a total of 11 pounds! The pants that were bordering on being too tight now slip easily off my hips while still buttoned, and I am down a size. I find this all amazing, since I didn’t follow everything perfectly! It just goes to show how highly effective Stephanie’s workouts are, and the impact good nutrition has on the body.
Aside from the physical changes, this has had a huge impact on how I feel mentally. I am finally out of the slump that I had been in for the last year and a half. I have my fitness “mojo” back! Furthermore, I am really learning to appreciate that taking care of my own physical and emotional self has to be a priority. This challenge has made me realize that the only thing that can limit me from accomplishing my own goals is me! I know that life will always throw in obstacles, but it is up to me to find a way to overcome them. I am the only person who is responsible for my own health and happiness.
I have also discovered that there is nothing wrong or shameful about dreaming big, and going after those dreams! If I don’t believe something is possible and I never try, then it automatically isn’t possible. But, if I do believe something is possible and I go for it, then it really is possible. It is up to me to decide.
The support I have received from Stephanie and the other participants in the challenge has been absolutely amazing, and crucial in helping me to be successful in this challenge. It has been a wonderful experience to be able to interact with women all over the word, each with their own unique background, but all with the same goal of improving their health and fitness. I feel like I have formed real and genuine friendships with Stephanie and the other challengers. This interaction has helped to inspire me to be the best ME I can be!
I have been so happy with the results of this challenge that I have decided to sign up for part 2 of the SKFitlife challenge. My goals are to continue to eat clean, to not miss a single workout, and to work up to the “advanced” resistance training exercises. This challenge has shown me that anything is possible, as long as I believe in myself! I am so excited to begin part 2, and I am eternally grateful to Stephanie for developing and offering this challenge!