Name: Jill Young
Occupation: Corporate recruiter
Hometown: Abingdon, Maryland
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Start Weight: 205 pounds
End Weight: 146 pounds
Time Running: 18 months
I started running after the birth of my second son in 2007, as a means to help treat postpartum depression symptoms. Fortunately, I was part of a local mom’s club, and some of my friends asked if I would like to run the Susan G. Komen 5K as my very first race with them. I like feeling included, and I said yes.
I had given birth my son in April and started training in July, following the Hal Higdon 5K training plan for 12 weeks. I successfully finished in 34 minutes, and was officially hooked on running for several years.
But then I stopped. I gave up running after my return to the corporate workplace. I couldn’t find the balance between working full time, being a mom, and running. I had to commute into the city. So I continued to eat as if I were still running, and I started to gain weight since I was no longer burning all those calories. I gave into all those treats in the office, and became more and more sedentary. My new normal became nightly bowls of ice cream.
Before I knew it, I had put on 60 pounds in two years. Luckily, I later accepted a job that allowed me to work from home, and I promised myself that I would get back out there. I was so heavy and unhappy. It was so hard to see pictures of myself when I was fit and strong.
Being so heavy, I couldn’t even walk uphill without wheezing. I was diagnosed with asthma, and really struggled physically. It is scary to be heavy and struggle with breathing. It felt embarrassing to see people. So instead of some fad diet, I did what I knew worked for me: running.
My first run was on April 27, 2017, around four years after stopping. It was slow and steady. I did one mile: It took me 20 minutes, and I had to walk on the uphill. My neighbor is into fitness and told me, “Twenty-one days make a habit.” That became my mantra. I would repeat it over and over while running.
Naturally, my first goal was to run every day for 21 days. I started with a mile a day, and worked my way up from there. It was so mentally challenging knowing that I had gone from running a marathon to not being able to run a mile. But, at the same time, I knew I could do it.
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There were some setbacks that first month: figuring out the right shoes, some major aches, and the fear of hurting myself. But I stuck with it. I kept at it after 21 days, and worked my way up in mileage.
Back then, I would run over lunch time; however, I found that I am a better employee— sharper mentally—when I run in the morning. I am not a morning person, and generally need to be awake for at least an hour before I can tackle a run. Now, I run five to six miles after my kids get on the bus. That becomes my me-time where I think about the day and how I will approach the challenges at work and then at home with my family.
My diet not only played a role in my weight loss, but also in my ability to run. Once I was running a mile or two a day, I started to notice the scale moving, and that made me want to eat better. Why do all that running to sabotage it with unhealthy food?
I started incorporating salad back into my diet. I stopped eating red meat and chose lean proteins and healthy grains. Eating better helped me increase my mileage and feel better while running.
With my life completely changed, I am down 59 pounds to 146 pounds. My running is such a booster for my mental health. I have fun challenging myself. My niece and I went for a run on Black Friday, and she asked if I thought I could run a half marathon. So the next day, I did, for the first time since 2010.
Life is hard and throws us all sorts of curveballs. Running is a constant—it’s free—and there is a lot of camaraderie. When I am faced with a major life challenge, I am armed with the knowledge that I can do anything I set my mind to. I know this from being a runner.
My advice for anyone going through a similar situation is to go for it. Go tackle that first run. Do it for 21 days. Change your life. Nature is so beautiful, and running makes us a part of it. Tell that negative voice inside that, “Yes, you can do it.”
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This content was originally published here.