2 Years On…Bigger and Better!

It’s been two years now since I started my journey of discovering the ‘old’ me. The fitter me, the healthier me and the lighter me! I’m happy to say that two years on, I feel the best I’ve ever felt, both physically and mentally. I feel fit and strong enough to cope with life’s challenges in a far better manner than the past. I’m simply just happier in myself, therefore I’m more in love with life and the beautiful people and things that fill it. It was the best thing I could have ever done – taking the plunge to put on my runners has changed my life forever!!!

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My journey started with the want to lose my ‘baby bearing’ weight. I was the heaviest I’d ever been without being pregnant and with a diagnosed heart condition, the lights were flashing to do something about it. Originally I changed my eating habits by simply ‘cutting out the crap’ and reducing my meal size. Thankfully for me, I’ve always loved eating fruit and veggies so doing those two simple things with my diet helped me immensely!! After a couple of weeks of eating well, I lost a couple of kilos really easily, but I felt I needed more and it was after a long hectic day at home, with three kids under 5, made me come to the realisation of needing some time to myself. With that I put on my runners and the rest is history.

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It took me 6 months to lose the 13 kilos of weight that I had gained since getting married and having three babies and since the very first day I started running until now, I’ve worked consistently week in and week out, building on the distance and speed of my running. Bit by bit I pushed myself to run further and faster and to date, my longest run is 10km (pb 48.52mins) and my fastest run is 4km (pb 18.47 mins). It’s been an awesome two years and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every step my foot has run on the pavement.

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It hasn’t been easy though. There have been days where I’ve had to force myself to go. Winter mornings are a killer, it’s been challenging fitting exercise in while juggling work, 3 kids, a house and a husband who works really long hours and the pain from my ‘netball’ knees has at times been unbearable! But none of this
has ever allowed me to lose focus on what I want to achieve. Running is one of those exercises where your competitor is yourself, so the only person you’re letting down by not going, is yourself! That’s what I love about running though, the challenge to better me and the feeling of a pb never ever gets old…this week’s pb was my 4km hill run 19.21mins – makes you feel so pumped!!!

As I reflect over the past two years, one of the things that’s has assisted me in not giving up, is to constantly set goals. Running especially, can be an exercise where it becomes boring very quickly and because my lifestyle and my heart condition doesn’t allow me to go to gyms or bootcamps, I’ve had to choose an exercise that is convenient and non competitive. When I do feel like I’m getting bored, I know that I’m ready for a change. In the past most of my changes were an increase to distance and then I would spend several weeks or months improving on the speed of that distance. I’ve hit a safe limit for distance for my heart now, so a change now is either in routes or routines.

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My mantra:)

In the past couple of weeks I’ve started a new routine and I’m LOVING it!!!! Now that it’s light at 5am, I have more time in the mornings to exercise. So I’ve decided, instead of my two work days being my rest days, I now exercise every day Monday-Friday and have my rest days over the weekend. Last weekend was the first weekend in two years I didn’t go for a run…it was lovely not having to fit it in over an extremely busy weekend, but by Monday I was chaffing at the bit to run lol! This routine also allows me time to catch up over the weekend if I’ve missed a day through the week for some unforeseen reason…meaning children lol!

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My new routine:
Monday – 5k run
Tuesday – 15min power walk, 10mins of planks, squats, leg raises and lunges using my tiny pink weights, finished with 5 min power walk.
Wednesday – sprint/ short distance 3 or 4k
or 1k sprints with a minute rest between for 4km.
Thursday – same as tues
Friday – 10k run hill run 3 weeks in a row and in the 4th week a flat run
Saturday & Sunday – family fun!!

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The lifestyle I lead now isn’t something I have to force myself to do. Now that I’ve been exercising and eating well for so long, it comes naturally to me each and every day. I love nothing more than to start my day with exercise. It allows me to achieve so much more in my day. I crave salads and veggies (especially if we’ve had a big weekend of get togethers) but I never deprive myself of my favourite treats…all in moderation!! The energy I have now is so fantastic and when faced with a stressful situation or a crazy busy period, I feel so much more in control rather than throwing in the towel and feeling overwhelmed by it all! I feel I’m a better mum and wife where my limits stretched now far our do my limits of the past! I encourage anyone who wants to become the best ‘you’ you can be, to start with something that makes you happy….for me that’s running:)

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When I was diagnosed with a dilated aorta of the heart 2 and half years ago, I was so scared and so overwhelmed with what was inside my body. My first thought was I can’t not be here for my babies!! Now that I’m at my perfect weight for my height and I’m as fit as I’ve ever been, I’m giving myself the best chance for my heart to not get any worse. I will spend the rest of my days continuing to work to help my heart, so I can live a long and happy life with my beautiful party of 5 and inspire my children to be the best they can be!

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Moment of Glory….

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Today I achieved something I thought I never would! It’s almost 2 years since I took up the challenge of running and I’m so very happy that I did! For me running is many things. It’s my fitness, it’s my therapy, it’s helping me maintain my heart condition! When I started running I never thought I’d get to the point I’m at today. Initially I was happy just getting out there and regaining myself back after having three babies in 5 years! That feeling only lasted a few months. Once I got past the sore feeling and feeling like I can’t catch my breath, I went from only worrying about how long I could run for to how far I could run.

Month after month I started believing. Believing in myself that I could achieve anything that I want to. I was becoming stronger and stronger, week by week I was getting fitter and fitter. My ability to run 4km turned into 5km and 6km until I reached my target distance of 10km!! My personal best times were being improved on bit by bit as I just kept chipping away! But today’s personal best and run in general was the best run I’ve ever ran and it went something like this….

I woke up feeling amazing. It was the best night sleep I’d had in about two weeks. I was very excited to be wearing my new outfit that I bought through the week…Lorna Jane 7/8 black tights, Michelle Bridges hot pink racer back singlet and a white bonds sports bra! I felt ready, I felt so comfortable in my new outfit and my head was happy and clear. My plan was to go out hard and run 5km under 25 mins – that I did! I’ve been carrying a knee injury lately and it’s the best it’s felt in a few weeks so I was happy to get to 5km under 25 mins without it causing me to much grief!

The first 5km were the hardest because once I started the back half of my 10k, I felt amazing! When I reached the 7km in a pb time of 34.50 I knew there was nothing stopping me running 10km under 50mins. Usually by this point in my run I start to lose a few seconds each km from fatigue but I felt so fit and energised today like I could’ve ran a marathon! As each km kept rolling by I couldn’t believe my ears when I was being told by the Map My Run lady the times I was running – I was in disbelief….8km 39.30, 9km 44.09!!! The last kilometer usually feels like 10km in itself but as I kept putting one foot in front of the other and feeling on top of the world, it was over before I knew it! And there in that moment as I’d run the the run of my life and had finished as strong as I started I was granted the time of 48.54 minutes at 10km!!!!! I was in shock, absolute disbelief. In that moment I had created my own personal moment of glory!!!

As I walked the 2km to get back home, I kept shaking my head and was questioning what just happened. “Maybe the Map My Run App that I use was lying?” I said to myself! But I’d run that route before and it was pretty much my 5km route twice as I wanted to do a flat fast run today…well that I did!! I’ll never forget that moment I finished – I wasn’t sore, tired or breathless…I felt fit, fantastic and most of all happy and content that me, the person who use to want to hurl at the thought of running a kilometer let alone 10km had just achieved something special…in the land of the world of amateur running anyway:) lol! After today, I believe anything is possible and if you put the hard work in you will reap the rewards!!!

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Don’t Lose Sight!

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Life can be hard. It can be complicated. When you think you have it figured out and it seems as though things are sailing along nicely, that’s when you can almost guarantee that something will be layed out as a hurdle in your path to happiness. But that’s just life isn’t it!

In the 33 years that I’ve lived, my family and I have been through many ups and downs. The cycle usually consists of everyone going about their business – living, loving, laughing while working hard and then usually it only takes the ring of a phone to create a new sequence of events. We’ve been there for each other through deaths, injuries, illnesses and loss but as much as we feel upset, disheartened, heart-broken or depressed at the time, we find the strength to pick ourselves up and move forward in the direction we were heading when that phone call was made!

This year has seen so many things happen already. It’s been one thing after another and just as you feel as though you are standing upright from the last knock, you are facing the ground again! Our recent mishap for our family happened on Sunday. While our very talented nephew, who has a very promising rugby league future ahead of him, was playing footy, ran 100m towards his try line and instead of scoring he was tackled around his ankles, which ended with his lower leg being broken in three places. How things can change in a split second and from one simple action.

We were guttered for him. His season that just started, the week commencing which involved Broncos training, rep training and the start of his high school football has been put on hold until further notice! He is our champion, to us he was invincible. But no one is invincible, at anytime anything can happen to anyone of us. And I guess that’s the joys of rugby league. It’s been a massive few days. Watching my first-born nephew who is like a son to me take the pain not only from his leg and having it surgically fixed where a plate was inserted, but the pain of having to put his love of life on hold, all in his stride. He’s been so brave through it all, as has my sister and brother-in-law. I’m just so proud to call them my family.

Which brings me to why I wrote this blog. Plenty of people everyday are faced with ill-health, broken bones and situations that seem unbearable, but it’s a bump in the road that I believe has been put their to test our passion and strength. Situations like these can make or break a person, but life is too short to let it take us down! Life is precious and it’s there to be lived and enjoyed. It needs to be nurtured. Since finding out about my heart condition (although I’d rather not have it), it has been the best thing that could have happened. I’m now the fittest I’ve ever been (mentally and physically), the healthiest I’ve ever been and when we are faced with situations that aren’t pleasant, I feel as though I’m a much stronger person when dealing with whatever it is! My heart condition has not allowed me to lose sight of living a great life, it’s given me the determination to live life to its fullest!

My nephew’s broken leg is terrible, it’s disappointing, but it’s just a bump in his road. Him and I had a good talk last night about not letting it disheartened him enough to lose sight of the bigger picture. This situation I believe will show us just how passionate he is about his rugby league career and when he has made a full recovery and returns to the game, he will be bigger, better and stronger than we’ve already seen.

I believe things happen for a reason. Sometimes we figure these reasons out and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes that answer comes to us straightaway and other times it can take days, months and even years. But in all of life’s mishaps it’s so important not to lose sight. Life is about being challenged and it takes guts, strength and determination for these challenges to not knock us down. As humans we are allowed to feel upset when things are going wrong, we are allowed to shed tears or scream to the sky above. But we should never feel as though we are defeated!

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I AM the lucky one….

Three weeks ago I had my yearly echo and today I’m finally getting my results back! What a loooonnng three weeks it’s been. Hoping and praying that my results haven’t changed since I was diagnosed with a heart condition two years ago. All I want to hear today is that my aorta hasn’t dilated any further. I’ve worked hard this 12 months to maintain my fitness and weight loss, which gives me the best chance of keeping my blood pressure down. And have I lead a stress free life like I’m suppose to? As much as you can when you are a prep special Ed teacher and mother of 3 children who are 7,5 and 2!

As I sit here in the hospital waiting room I’m feeling sick and nervous. I was hoping that starting to write this blog would keep my mind occupied but it doesn’t completely stop me from feeling worried. I can’t believe another year has passed. It only feels like yesterday that I was here and another year before that, waiting in the same room. As I walked from the carpark to the Mater hospital and through the corridors, all the memories I’ve lived at this hospital come flooding back….birthing my three children, having a curette after my miscarriage, having half my thyroid removed and the biggest health challenge yet my heart! But with each memory lived the door was closed behind me, this door is different, it’s one that will stay open for the rest of my life. The Mater hospital will be a place I visit indefinitely……

Thankfully my name was called out about 15 minutes after I sat down, which was good as it didn’t give me much time to think! As I took a seat in my cardiologist’s office I felt calm and ready to hear whatever I was to be faced with. We had our usual discussion on how my health has been over the past year. He was happy with everything. My blood pressure was perfect and he is extremely impressed with my fitness and overall well being! AND the best news of all my heart is no worse than last year’s echo….to say I’m thrilled is an understatement!!!!!

As I thank god that I’ve made it through another year, I’m also so very thankful that I’m even aware of my heart condition. Each time I visit my cardiologist he reflects with me how lucky I was to have this picked up while pregnant with my third baby. It is unknown how or why my heart’s aorta is dilated, but he believes I was born with this condition and in most cases you are unaware until its too late. At this time of year I’m always brought to tears as to how different my life could have ended up if we didn’t have Mia…my angel baby!

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I will spend the rest of my life kissing this baby for saving me!!

Like so many people who are faced with health complications, some can be fixed and so many can’t. I feel so blessed that my condition is now known and I now have the chance to live a long healthy life! I AM the lucky one. Yes I have to live the rest of my life with a defect on the organ that keeps me alive, and yes I can’t do EVERYTHING I want to do from a physical perspective and therefore I must be extra careful and cautious, BUT no matter how I look at this situation I AM the lucky one and there are far more people worse off than me!

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So where to from here?…The next step in relation to my heart is to have an exercise stress test, to check to see what my blood pressure does while I exercise. Then I’ll be back to the hospital in March next year for my annual echo. I am to keep doing what I’m doing in terms of keeping fit and eating healthy and I have to keep as stress free as I can. I could lye down and not move and rap myself up in cotton wool, but that’s one: not a life and two: not realistic! I don’t look at this as I’ve been given a death sentence, I look at this as I’ve been given a second chance. A chance to take the best care of myself. And I will spend the rest of my life giving myself the best chance to live a long, healthy and happy life with my beautiful family.

Today I feel blessed. I feel like I can keep going for another year. I feel free again for a while. Free to live, free to love and free to enjoy the simple things in life! Cheers to my heart!

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Fist Pump Moment!

pExactly one year ago I started a running diary which consisted of distances and times that I ran. It has allowed me to keep track of my improvement over time. When I started running I did it for two reasons, to help me lose my last lot of baby weight and to help me build my fitness to a point that it use to be. These two factors that I have been able to not only achieve but maintain for almost a year now, also gives my heart condition the best chance of not getting any worse!

On January 2nd 2012 I measured my first run of 4km and set a goal for myself to run it within half an hour. That day I achieved my goal and ran it in 28.53mins. From then on I chipped away at that time. Bit by bit, step by step, I improved. 4km was a safe distance for me. I knew I was capable of always finishing and never stopping until that 4th kilometer was complete. Anything longer than that freaked me out so I didn’t push myself any further.

As the months went by, before I knew it I was running 4km in 25 mins! The challenge against myself was becoming addictive! I became more confident with each run and now I am able to run any distance up to 10km! Growing up I always played competitive netball, so that competitive instinct comes roaring back out each time I run! Eventually 25 minutes was a thing of the past and I was slowly getting closer and closer to 20 minutes! My main goal was to eventually run five or so minutes per kilometer and by the end of last year I was consistently doing that not only for 4km but for every kilometer up to 8km!!!

Running PBs
1km 4.35
2km 9.35
3km 14.23
4km 18.47
5km 24.30
6km 30.02
7km 35.40
8km 40.57
9km 48.00
10km 52.21

The day I ran my first 4km in under 20 minutes I was so pumped! I couldn’t believe it! From a netballer and sprinter to a long distance runner….who would have ever thought! But once a goal is achieved you set your sights on other goals then and although I never thought in a million years I would ever run 4km in under 19 minutes I’m happy to say I did and only two days ago!

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My pb was 19.30 so my goal was to get under the .30! Running isn’t easy and running a fast pace over a large distance is ever harder! I’d pretty much resigned myself to being at my peak for my 4km and I was happy with that! I did have in the back of mind that it would be nice to take 10 minutes off my original pb I started with a year ago, but I silently kept that to myself!

We are currently on holidays at the coast and as a runner, there is nothing better than running at the beach! It was my first run of our holiday. I’d had two bad night sleeps, a sore knee and was getting over a kinked neck! But I was determined to get out and have a run. I walked to the point where I wanted to start my run, it was about 1.5kms in total! So many people were out and about – running, walking, bike riding! I created a new playlist on my iPhone so I was all set. The minute I took off I felt fast! I actually thought I probably should slow down or I’ll die in the arse lol!

As I reached my 1st km I was 4.35mins into my run, then my second 9.35mins! I was stoked with these times but had run them several times before. It was at my 3rd km and a pb of 14.23 that I thought I may have been in with a chance! I was still feeling fantastic and had the end in sight! Where I normally sprint the last 100m by the last 500m I was starting to feel the tank was getting low. But I held on and pushed the last bit and when I reached my 4km mark at 18.47 mins I fist pumped the air lol!

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People were probably thinking what is that freak doing, but I didn’t care….I’d just taken 10 minutes off my original pb from when I started running 4km a year ago!!! Straightaway I had to tell someone so I text a bestie of mine who runs and would understand what that meant to me!!! What a great feeling:)

Anyone can do what I’ve done. I’m no Olympic champion and never will be, but I am my own champion and my children’s champion and that’s all that matters to me! I do this for myself and in the hope that I inspire my children to always want to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.

Well now it’s a new year, new chapter, new goals, but one thing that will always be the same will be my will power, strength, determination and consistency….this is what brought me here to the point I am at today:)!
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