As a young kid I was somewhat athletic. I enjoyed playing sports. My dad taught me how to throw a ball pretty well, and we would spend hours playing catch and throwing the football around. During elementary school I loved track and field and collected quite a few 1st and 2nd place ribbons throughout those six years. I went to a very small school and there wasn’t a lot of competition, but I felt confident in my abilities!
My First Body Shaming
I did a few years of gymnastics and was pretty good for starting at a later age, (9). That was the first time I heard “You’re fat” from another girl. We were standing there in our gymnastics suits and she was pointing at me. Huh? No one had ever called me that before, and here was this bully, calling me fat for no reason.
For the record, I was not an overweight child and she had no reason for calling me that. I was just a normal sized girl who had suddenly become very aware of body image. I quit gymnastics shortly after that, and the confidence I once had slowly started to fade.
Fast forward to junior high. Maybe it was puberty, or maybe it was going from 75 kids to a school with 300, but I suddenly sucked at everything. I tried out for the volleyball team, thinking I was pretty good. I was not, compared to all the other girls anyway. I didn’t make the team.
I ended up making the basketball team a couple months later, but soon realized that team sports were not my thing. I’ll never forget hearing one of my “friends” whispering “She sucks!” to another girl. I told my coach I had a bad shoulder and couldn’t play anymore and quit the team. That was a half-truth. I had hurt it skiing the winter before, but in reality, I hated letting my team down and having the other girls be mad at me when I made a mistake. My confidence plummeted to a new low.
The Last Sport I Ever Played
That spring, I joined a baseball team. I had always had a good arm and could throw quite far. However, that lingering shoulder problem (which I STILL have to this day) caused my shoulder to separate every time a threw the ball. It hurt terribly, I would just throw the ball straight into the ground, and everyone would laugh at me.
“She sucks.” I heard it again, but this time not from a friend. It was actually the bully from gymnastics who told me I was fat years earlier. Girls can be such bitches. I never tried out for a team sport again and I had no confidence left in me.
I managed to stay somewhat thin throughout most of high school, but something changed in grade 12. I started to gain weight. I didn’t notice it at the time, but when I look back at pictures of that year, I had definitely put on 10-15 lbs. Little did I know, that that was the beginning of my battle with PCOS, which I wouldn’t get diagnosed with until eight years later. I didn’t play sports anymore, I didn’t really exercise and liked to binge eat all the sugar and carbs. Not a good combination. My weight fluctuated from chubby to skinny to chunky over the next couple years.
In college I became aware of the pounds creeping back on me and decided to take a weight lifting course as one of my classes. It taught me a lot of body awareness and how certain muscles work. It was a good foundation of knowledge for me. I also read a book called the GI Diet and it taught me about how food affected my blood sugar and weight gain. I managed to lose 15 lbs that summer, but it didn’t stay off.
I joined a gym after college and managed to maintain an acceptable BMI, but my body image was in ruins. I hated the way I looked. I worked out a lot but couldn’t get to the size I wanted.
Years of mean girls and bad messages from the media had ruined the way I looked at myself. I didn’t understand how important nutrition was to my health. I would binge eat, and binge drink and feel worse and worse about myself.
This cycle continued until after I got married. I tried running outside, but I smoked sometimes at the bar so that wasn’t helping (duh). I worked out at the gym but ate crap and hated my body. It wasn’t until my MS diagnosis that things started to change. I wanted to have a baby, but you can’t have a baby if you don’t get your period. This is what led to the diagnosis of PCOS. After my OB/GYN (and boss at the time) figured out that I had PCOS, he immediately recommended a drug called Metformin. He said it wouldn’t work though, if I didn’t eat right and exercise. A few months later, I was pregnant.
After my first daughter Rowyn was born, I had some work to do. I had gained about 75lbs. I drank a lot of chocolate milk during that pregnancy! Not to mention I worked at a desk all day and was hardly active. And wow, it showed.
I started taking Metformin again and decided to try some Mommy & Me fitness classes at the University where my husband works. I found them quite difficult though, and still lacked a lot of confidence there. I felt very self-conscious, so I decided to stick to home workouts. I started doing Pilates. This helped me gain some muscle and flexibility. I used workout DVDs that I had bought years earlier and worked out while Rowyn napped.
I slowly lost the weight, but it wasn’t until Rowyn started eating solids and regular food that it really started coming off. I really wanted her to eat the best food possible and started making all of our food from scratch.
Now that we had a baby, it meant we weren’t going out to eat as much. And most importantly, not chugging pints of beer at the pub on weekends. Robb and I both had lost quite a bit of weight and were the smallest we’d been in a very long time. The best part? I finally started to feel confident again. I didn’t obsess about my appearance every time we left the house, which felt really great.
When Rowyn was two, we decided to try for a second baby. My cycles were regular now and I was the lowest weight I’d been since high school. We only had to try for 2 months and I found out I was pregnant on our 5th wedding anniversary in 2011. I stayed active during this pregnancy. I ate healthy, I continued to do Pilates until around 34 weeks, plus I was chasing a 2-year-old around and not sitting at a desk all day like my last pregnancy. In June 2012 I gave birth to our healthy baby girl, Elia.
I still gained around 50 lbs this pregnancy, but the huge difference was how fast I lost it. I was back down to my pre-pregnancy weight after four months. I started exercising around five weeks after Elia was born.
Around this time, I came across some Jillian Michaels 30-day shred videos on YouTube. Holy sh!t were they hard! I was so sore the next day after I tried her Day 1 workout. But eventually it got easier and I was able to push myself into doing more and more every week. There were only a few free videos on YouTube, so I ended up buying the rest of them on iTunes. Slowly I started seeing definition in my muscles like I had never seen before. I’ve always been naturally muscular, but this was new for me!
The Thing That Changed My Life
In May of 2014, I still wasn’t the exact weight I wanted to be, and I realized I needed more cardio, so I thought maybe I would try running again. I had done it on and off in my 20s but couldn’t go very far or long.
I started running 3-5 km once or twice a week. I really enjoyed it and it was a way for me to escape being a mom for 30 min. It was really therapeutic. (I’ll go more into detail about running on another post later)
When Elia started preschool in 2015, I had about two hours to myself twice a week. I used this time to run. I occasionally ran with another mom who convinced me to run my first race. Training for this race showed me my potential and the adrenalin from that race was unbelievable and had me hooked instantly.
This was in March 2016. It was around this time that I joined a Total Barre class which I ended up loving, and I started doing yoga. I had never considered yoga an actual workout until I did it for the first time. It is not easy!
I signed up for every race I could after that. I did a 10K that October where I placed 7th in my gender and 3rd in my age category. (Oh, and guess who I flew past on that race? My old gymnastics/baseball bully. And she was only doing the 5K .) My confidence soared. After this race, I craved more. Naturally, the next step was a half marathon.
After the 10K race, I found out we were getting an Orange Theory Fitness in our area. I had read about it before, and thought it was a perfect fit for me. You get to run on a treadmill for half the class and do weightlifting for the other half. Perfect. The results I had after joining were amazing. I had never looked so fit in my whole life. And I was addicted.
I went on to run three half marathons after that while still doing Orange Theory and Barre. I suffered a hamstring tear during training on my first half-marathon but managed a time of 2:02. Not bad for running it with an injury that hadn’t fully healed. My times improved greatly for the next two races: 1:54 in October, and 1:52 the following May with Robb by my side. Yes, he started running with me and it was awesome having that experience together.
As of right now, I’m on the fence about running another half marathon in two weeks. Training is hard and time consuming, and I’ve started to dread going for runs. If I do this race, it will be my last, for a while at least. But, I will not stop running, or going to Orange Theory, or doing yoga every day.
Fitness has changed my life. Not only do I look better but I feel amazing, I can keep up with my kids, quickly clean my entire house without getting winded, haul a massive Costco shop in from the car without breaking a sweat, etc., but most importantly I finally feel confidant again. I now know I can walk into any fitness class and be able to keep up, and actually be good at it! That is the best feeling.
Exercising With MS
And I’m sure you’re wondering, what about my MS? How can I do all this and not have any symptoms? I don’t know. My GP thinks running helps. Studies show that cardio has a positive effect on the brain in patients with MS. They also have more energy and less fatigue. After my diagnosis everyone’s advice was “rest, sleep as much as you can, sit as much as you can” I remember all I could think was “fuck that, I’m going to work my ass off to get in shape”.
And here I am now feeling confident and fantastic. Sure, I get tired, and a do have days where I need to rest. But those days are few. I don’t know how long it will last but I’m going to continue to live like this for as long as I can.