The buddy system

If I could tell anyone anything that I have learned in the last couple of years, it would be that we are only as good as our team. The right people can help to reveal pieces of ourselves we never knew possible, and push us to improve and stretch ourselves.

This past spring and summer, I covered a lot of ground, running the Brooklyn Half in NYC and the AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, GA. While the secret introvert inside of me largely prefers to workout alone, one of my favorite aspects of weight loss has been how it encourages group activity.

City Running Tour
City Running Tour in Washington DC, July 2014

This summer, my group of friends took a leisurely 3 mile run through the streets of DC with City Running Tours. It was a great way to see the sights and sounds of the District, and gain knowledge about the place we reside. Ultimately, the tour ended at a bar where we received Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and a beer. (Best day ever, right?) Studies show that social support is linked to lasting weight loss. While my post-run dessert wasn’t ideal, the camaraderie of the event was what mattered.

It made me think about my arrival in Washington DC. Years ago, I was introduced to a group of folks who enjoyed activities such as volleyball, canoeing, hiking and running. At my heaviest, I would participate in events as my body would allow, which was often difficult due to the strain on my knees and back. As I shed pounds, I was thrilled to be able to participate.

Our events often end at with a brunch or bar outing, further facilitating togetherness. Ultimately, it serves not only as a great way to use a goal to covertly encourage activity, but it has also become a way to forge new relationships.

My local friends aren’t the only ones to see me looking like I was rode hard and put away wet. I also have several friends in other cities who help me to stay accountable with phone calls and messages of support, or track my progress through apps such as LoseIt, Runkeeper, Map My Run and Fitbit.

AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, GA, July 4, 2014
AJC Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta, GA, July 4, 2014

What I love about my crew is that we often rally together in a common purpose the same way that we would for a party or vacation. The first time I ran EVER in life was in January 2012, six months before my 30th birthday. Often, I have mentioned my father dragging me to a track at 8 years old, begging me to run one lap, which I refused. Unbeknownst to me, my friends committed me to fundraising for an event. With less than 8 weeks of training before the big day, I was completely out of my league.

The team devised a training schedule and decided that Sundays would be reserved for the weekly long runs that prepare you for the race. The day before, Alexis and Jared took me out for a practice run of three miles, which I barely survived. The act itself was so uncomfortable and foreign. With every step, it seemed like I was crashing onto the pavement, rattling my bones. I didn’t have the proper stride or form, but I kept moving.

Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon, Washington DC, March 2013
Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, Washington DC, March 2013

When I woke up the next morning to join the entire team for a 5 mile run, every part of my body was stiff and sore. As I got dressed, I wanted to give up before I had even truly begun, dreading the group, who was meeting in my lobby. My phone rang, and my friends told me that they were waiting for me downstairs. I sucked it up, joined them and completed the run.

I learned a valuable lesson. The second day is always more important than the first. The first day is a display of your intention. The second day is a testimony of your commitment. In life, if you can move past the fear and discomfort of the first day, you can gain skill and confidence in anything you choose to pursue.

Many people run because they feel helpless when a loved one is ill. Some people are motivated to move on the behalf of someone who is unable. For others, it serves as  a way to channel energy positively.

Pride wouldn’t allow me to let anyone down, as we were running to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in support of our friend John Reinhardt. I also thought of my dear friend Jeff Peterson, who passed away in 2002 from the same disease.

Over time, the soreness either faded, or became more manageable. I was fitted for the proper running shoes. I altered my diet to have the energy for the physical task. I found the right gear for myself to wear. I began to tolerate running in cold weather. I became prepared.

I credit all of this to my friends, whose movements and actions I observed during the steep learning curve. They referred me to books, products or web links that would help me improve. They would tell me not to be too hard on myself. They would share their own stories of starting. Their support kept me on point.

I hate talking while running. To this day, it still isn’t native to me. My friends LOVE to talk during runs. I need a constant stream of music to keep me moving, which birthed my monthly Club Koko mix. While I was attempting to find my groove as a runner, it was comforting to know that they were right beside me, even in silence.

Finish line of the Brooklyn Half Marathon, May 2014
Finish line of the Brooklyn Half Marathon, May 2014

Today, I use the half marathon training as a way to maintain my goal weight and remain fit. The other aspect is that I get to put my body to use for good. Two years after my first half marathon, a crew of 24 ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon, collectively raising almost $11,000 for the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation. Had I been unable to make the 13 mile trek from the Brooklyn museum to the finish line in Coney Island, I would have missed a friend proposing to his girlfriend.

With all of us at the finish line celebrating, one thing was for certain: with a little help from your friends, anything is possible.

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