Have you ever known something was going on with your body, but nobody would listen to you? Have you gotten to the point of being so frustrated and discouraged that a small part of you wanted to just give up? Did you kick that urge to the curb and keep fighting for answers only to find them and get YOU back? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, I think you’ll find some major mid-week motivation in Alex’s story!
Like so many others I’ve posted about, I met Alex through my running group, GMMRTT. She is one of those people whose energy and smile are contagious. You can’t be in her presence without feeling happy and positive, two qualities that I love in people. We met during a group run up a small mountain last summer at 5:30 AM. Anyone that is game to eat hills for breakfast with me (with a smile on their face!) is kick ass in my book. Since then, I’ve come to learn more about Alex and most recently, one of her posts on our GMMRTT Facebook page caught my attention and I knew her story would be inspiring to so many other women out there.
Alex is a wife, mother to a sweet, kind, and mischievous 6 year old son nicknamed “AJ”, and step-mom to a beautiful, caring, athletic, 16 year old named Katelyn. She also works full time for New Hampshire Orthopaedic Center. Additionally, Alex is the co-chapter leader for our running group, GMMRTT, (which is a full time job in itself!), and of course, she is a runner.
“After giving birth to my son in 2008 and spending the next year trying to lose baby weight without success, I spent months trying to figure out what was wrong with me. I had gained weight very suddenly at the end of high school without any change to my diet, and then packed on the pounds through college. I became used to being overweight, but after adding baby weight and actively trying to lose it, I was discouraged that I was not seeing results.” Despite Alex’s discouragement, she did not give up on herself. She continued fighting for answers. Alex had been on Mirena for about 18 months after her son was born. She insisted it be removed because she felt it was the source of her problems. When things did not improve, she set up a follow-up visit with her doctor. She knew something else had to be going on with her body so she insisted on further testing. Blood work was conducted and Alex was referred to an endocrinologist, or as she refers to him, “…the man that changed my life.” It was then that she learned her “…hormones were so out of whack…” and was ultimately diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), also known as Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD).
According to womenshealth.gov, it is estimated that “between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 women of childbearing age has PCOS. As many as 5 million women in the United States may be affected. It can occur in girls as young as 11 years old.” While the direct cause of PCOS is unknown, we do know that the main issue with PCOS lies in a hormonal imbalance that may be driven by an increased level of insulin in the body. The symptoms of PCOS vary from one women to the next, but may include infertility, complications during pregnancy, and weight gain, amongst other things.
When Alex was diagnosed, it was an eye-opener. Looking back, she realized that many of the things she had experienced were linked to this syndrome. “Before my son was born, I had an ectopic pregnancy that resulted in the loss of a fallopian tube. When we finally got pregnant with AJ, I had extremely high blood pressure throughout the pregnancy…and eventually was induced…I had finally achieved birthing a perfect baby boy and knew it was time for me to get my health in check.” Alex was started on medications that would help her to feel better overall, but they were not going to cause her to magically lose the excess weight. “I was 100 pounds overweight and in risk of type II diabetes and heart issues…it was time to get to work!”
“In January of 2012, I decided to put my life and health in my own hands and change everything. I went on a diet, eliminating processed foods and red meat and paid attention to every piece of food I put in my mouth.” By August of 2012, just 8 months later, Alex had managed to lose 100 pounds by making healthy decisions. 100 POUNDS!!! “I felt amazing, but I had lost weight without working out which meant I lost a lot of muscle.” Over the following year, Alex focused on maintaining her weight loss and was successful. Healthy eating was no longer just a change Alex had made, it had become her new lifestyle.
By late July of 2013, she knew she was ready to incorporate regular exercise into her new routine and so she began running. “I got it in my head that I HAD to run the Cigna Corporate Road Race with my company”, which was only 3 weeks away at the time. She began running one block at a time after work or whenever she could fit it in. Within 3 weeks, she was running one mile. She never stopped trying. Alex made a promise with herself that she was going to finish that Cigna 5K, and so she did. “I finished in about 50 minutes. It could’ve taken me 2 hours. I didn’t care. It was the fact that I had it in me to do it. I was hooked!” She ran the same race in 2014 and finished in 31 minutes, crying tears of joy and accomplishment as she crossed the finish. Alex set a goal and worked hard to achieve it. Starting something new is never an easy task, but like Alex, you just have to keep fighting and you WILL ACHIEVE!
Alex has continued running since. While this winter she has been doing more lunch and after work runs because of the weather, she prefers to run early morning around 5:00 AM or 5:30 AM. “I am so ready to run first thing in the morning again when most of the city is still asleep and I am chasing the sunrise. If you haven’t tried it, do it! Don’t let the time scare you. It’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment to be done your workout by 6:30 AM.” Alex will run her first official 10K race next month and I will have the pleasure of joining her for her first half marathon, the Zooma Cape Cod Half Marathon, this Fall. She is going to CRUSH IT!!! Other than running, Alex is working to incorporate cross training and enjoys hiking trails and cycling.
Alex gets her motivation to keep going mainly from within. “I never want to look at another year of my life and wish I had done something different. I spent too many years sidelined due to my weight and feeling like I couldn’t do it.” Her inspiration comes from all of the women she meets who “…hit the pavement or treadmill despite being stretched too thin professionally or have multiple children at home, and also those stroller warriors who take their children with them. Pushing an extra 50-100 pounds is crazy!” Alex has a great support system in her husband, Chris, who is behind her every step of the way and always there to remind her to keep going when she is doubting her abilities. If Alex takes a few days off from running, Chris is there give her a little nudge to get back at it. “When I don’t want to run and would rather sit on the couch and drink my calories, my loving husband holds up two, three, or occasionally four fingers and just stares at me.” This is Alex’s reminder that it’s been two, three, or four days since her last run. It helps her stay on track and remember that before she sips that glass of wine, a run is in order. “Chris knows that running makes me a better mother, a better wife, and a better person.”
I asked Alex what advice she would give to someone just getting started with running. “Take it slow. It isn’t about your pace or time. Other runners don’t care if you run a 12 minute mile or an 8 minute mile. You are still a runner. The only person you should worry about beating is yourself. Nobody else matters.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Too often, the novice and the experienced runner beats himself or herself up over pace, time, or distance. They compare themselves to others and forget that the only true competition lies within. Always remember, YOU ARE A RUNNER. Focus on your ABILITIES. Remain POSITIVE. No matter what shape or size you are, no matter how short or long your run, and no matter how slow or fast your legs may carry you on any given day, NEVER GIVE UP ON YOU! YOU ARE WORTH IT!