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Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009 03:31 pm

Stepping it up

Amanda.jpg

As a young graduate student, I didn’t see a problem with heading to Steak ‘n Shake after a late night out with friends or grabbing McDonald’s in between classes. And even though I had been active in college — rowing competitively with the school’s team and jogging frequently with roommates — I stopped exercising, too. It definitely showed — I gained 15 pounds that year.

I got my first newspaper job in Centralia, a small town in southern Illinois. I started walking with a co-worker during our lunch breaks, and soon after that, we joined Curves, a 30-minute workout program for women. It was easy and didn’t take too much time. A helpful part of the program, too, was getting weighed and measured each month. It gave me a great incentive to keep at it — I wanted those numbers to go down, not up.

I moved to Springfield to work for Illinois Times in June 2007. I’d only been to the city once and didn’t know one single soul. After work and on weekends, I started going to the local Curves and also joined the downtown YMCA (thanks to a free membership through IT). I started slow, running for 30 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical a few times a week. By the fall, I was running three miles through Washington Park. I eventually started running more and more often with friends I’d made at the YMCA.

By exercising and eating healthier meals at home, I finally shed those 15 pounds and more. But I didn’t want to stop there — my next goal was to run a half-marathon. The farthest I’d ever run in my life was six miles, and I did that once. But I found a beginner’s training schedule online, ran four times a week for 10 weeks and had a good excuse to eat peanut butter and bagels and pasta.

I ran in the Lincoln Memorial Half-Marathon in April 2008 and have finished three more half-marathons since then. My next goal: running the 26.2-mile Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon in April 2010.

What’s worked for me can work for you. It’s all about baby steps. Commit yourself to exercising for 30 minutes, three times a week, and go from there. Find activities that you enjoy. For me it was running, but for you it could be dancing, biking with your kids or even walking your dog.

Want to share your health story? Whether you've had good or bad experiences, we want to hear about it. Write something about 200-300 words and send it to me at pyeagle@illinoistimes.com. The best reader stories will be posted on the blog, so put your best foot forward!

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