Monday, June 27, 2011

Meet Karyn, Fitness Revolutionary

Karyn is getting back in the swing of things with a healthy dose of humor. Read her story here and watch out Johnny Denim!!

Denim jeans. A leather belt. A plaid shirt. And worst of all...sandals with socks. Not exactly the description of someone you might find in your worst nightmare, unless of course the person who fits that description is an elderly gentleman who finished 14 seconds in front of you in the first and only race you have ever entered. To make matters worse, it was the Walter Hunt Memorial Fourth of July Race; a wonderful Bangor tradition, but let’s face it, the course is (mostly) down hill and it only covers a distance of 1.86 miles. Perhaps I was over confident. Perhaps I was crazy. Perhaps I began a little too fast and just had nothing left for the end of the race when I adjusted my eyes to make sure that I was really trailing a man who looked like he should be posing for an L.L. Bean ad. Either way, as I rounded the corner by The Grasshopper Shop and saw the loving smiles and heard the supportive cheers of my family and friends, I vowed that he would not beat the end, the only thing wounded was my pride. My brother nicknamed the man “Johnny Denim” and the story still gets a pretty good laugh each time we rehash it.

Growing up I don’t think that I ever would have considered myself a hardcore athlete, but I was athletic. I played soccer, basketball, and “ran” track. The first two I played for the love of the sports, but I was a member of the track team so that I could keep my social life up to date. My fondest memories of being on the track team are of going to Fairmount Market for a ham and cheese with pickles sandwich with my best friend every other day before practice. That should give you a pretty good idea of how much of a priority running was for me. When I did run, I did the short sprints because the idea of having to run “all the way around the track” terrified me.

Fast forward 20 years and not much had changed. I traded being a student for being a teacher, being a girlfriend for being a wife, and being a babysitter for being a mother of a wonderful son (all AMAZING additions by the way!). I still loved ham and cheese with pickles, and though I no longer played myself, I watched soccer and basketball on TV, and the idea of running any distance could still strike a fear in me like I had never known. Oh....and I was at least 60 pounds overweight.

In the summer of 2008, I joined Weight Watchers for the fourth time in my life. The first time I joined I lost 25 pounds easily, but rather than sticking to it when I met my goal, I stopped going to meetings and the weight came back. The second time I joined I had to stop because I was pregnant. The third time I tried to do the at-work approach, but life got in the way. It’s easy to say that isn’t it? That life gets in the way? But by the summer of 2008 my son was four years old and ACTIVE. I was having trouble chasing him around and keeping up with him, and every time we went to the beach I sat on the sidelines and watched my husband and son swim because I would not be caught dead in a bathing suit. When my son would ask why I was not going swimming, I would tell him that I did not have a suit. And then, the fateful day came when my son said, “Hey Mom, I know what I am going to ask Santa for this year!” When I asked him what that was, he responded, “I am going to ask him to get you a bathing suit so you can go swimming with me and Daddy.” I was crushed. The next day I joined Weight Watchers and began walking three miles a day. That summer I lost 25 pounds and I walked and walked and walked. At the end of the summer a good friend of mine told me about the Couch to 5K Running Program, and though I never in a million years believed that I could run a 5K, I gave it a try because my walks were becoming a bit of a bore. Within three weeks I was addicted. Don’t get me wrong, though I loved it, it was never a pretty sight. On the day that I finished running my first three miles without stopping, I doubled over to catch my breath and the mailman actually stopped to ask me if I needed assistance. Another proud moment for sure! In the end, and to make a long story short, by February of the next year, I had lost 58 pounds and I was running five miles a day.......I simply could not get enough of it. I woke up in the morning excited to get to the gym, or if it was warm enough, go outside for a run. On the days that I could not make it to the gym, or if my body needed a rest, I missed it and could not wait to get back. I have never, ever, in my life felt as healthy, energetic, and alive as I did when I was running on a regular basis.

So what happened? In June of 2009 I began to get the first symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis, but I ignored them because I just loved running too much. And then, not long after my run-in with “Johnny Denim” I just could not stand the pain any longer and I had to stop running all together. It disappoints me that I did not have the heart to stay strong and find other ways to take care of myself and keep myself moving. Instead, I felt sorry for myself, made very poor food choices, and I am now right back where I started. Let’s be honest. Just like you have to work hard to lose 58 pounds, you have to work pretty hard to gain that kind of weight back, too. I know that, and I own it. I am currently at least 60 pounds overweight and I am beginning the journey again. My son gave me the motivation to get healthy the last time. This time, I am beginning my journey back to a healthy life on the heels of the death of my father who died very unexpectedly in February of this year. His death has turned my world upside down, but now that the fog has lifted a bit, I can see more clearly now than ever that I MUST take care of myself. The list of reasons to get healthy is endless. I am going to look forward to family runs in the future, and to a life dedicated to movement. In September I will be 40 years old, and even though I will still be in the beginning phases of my journey, I know it will be something that I am, first and foremost, doing for me. Life will no longer get in the way because “life” itself will be my goal. “Johnny Denim”....if you’re out there, I’ll be back!

Thanks to Amy and all of the other inspiring people at Mainely Running for bringing hope and support to so many!

Inspired by Karyn? Have your own story of goal setting to share? We want to hear from you! Contact us at We'll follow you and support you as one of our fitness revolutionaries. There's no better way to keep yourself accountable!

Previously on Mainely Running