My name is Rachel Langley. I am a runner and a fitness lover.
Even with those words out there on the page for everyone to see, it’s still hard to believe. Last year at the age of 42, I decided enough was enough. I wanted to get strong, get fit and see just what this 5 foot tall body was capable of. Although my history does not include weight struggles, it does include a serious lack of physical fitness and athletic interest. It includes unending bowls of pasta and sodium packed frozen foods. The speedy metabolism of my younger years started to hit the inevitable wall as I started to sway into my 40’s. The body staring back at me in the mirror was beginning to look like it belonged to someone else. As a person that only periodically struggled with weight or body image in her 20’s and 30’s, it was jarring. I literally remember having this moment of panic, it was a feeling of complete loss of control – my age, gravity, weight, life itself, had started to bear down on a figure I had always taken for granted. I felt as if the downward spiral into my 40’s was inevitable and it was moving at warp speed. I was depressed and insecure.
And then, just like that, I woke up.
A friend of mine, who is a celebrity trainer out in Los Angeles, Holly Perkins, started a Summer Shape-Up Challenge in July of 2012 through her Facebook page. The timing of the challenge, my reconnecting with her and the impending fear that my body was no longer my own collided into a perfect storm. Six days a week (yes, six), I committed to the workout and nutrition calendar Holly had designed, along with the DVD she supplied. I took my first ever “before” pictures because somewhere deep inside, I knew I was about to commit in a big way to changing my body. What I did not expect is that it would change my life.
When I began, that first week of July…I could not do 10 jumping jacks without wanting to die. The misconception that my petite frame meant I was “in shape” could not have been further from the truth (something that I blame on media messaging…but that’s a post for a different day!). I thought to myself, how would I ever get through a month of this? But then something magical happened. After approximately week two, I started to see a small physical difference, but more importantly, I FELT something different. I had energy. And not manufactured “caffeine-high energy” but real, live energy to move. I remember standing at the stove cooking dinner (frozen meals a thing of the past) and feeling this surge of energy to start moving. So right there, in front of the stove, I started doing plié squats.
And that’s when the fitness bug bit me and to date, still hasn’t let go. I will never forget that moment.
A full 31 days later I took my “progress” picture. And it was a remarkable difference. Friends that saw the “before” could not believe that was my body. Again, being petite you learn how to hide the flab under well-fitting clothes and remarkable posture. And the “progress” picture had people asking me “how did you do it?”. It was a question that left me stranded. I knew how – the technical part, the exercise DVD, the healthy eating tips, the recommended amount of cardio vs strength training. But when it came to how or why on a more personal level, I struggled. And I still struggle to find a concise answer. It truly was the drive to push myself, to try something I had never tried before. I thought about how sad it would be if I never gave myself the opportunity to see my body at its best. If I could push through the fear, the frustration and…to quote Nike…and “Just Do It”.
And here I am. Six months later. Doing it. I love testing my strength, my endurance, all of it. There is so much more to learn and so much further to go on this journey – I’m by all means a work in progress. Perfection is not the goal. Progress is. It’s a path I never want to deviate from. And, turns out, it’s a path I prefer to run.
In late September 2012, a couple months into my new found fitness addiction, I decided to try a Couch to 5K Running program. My goal was to run 1 mile of the Free to Breathe Lung Cancer Awareness 5K in October. I would participate in memory of my grandfather, Joe and my mother Paula, who I had lost in 2010 at age 60, to lung cancer. I had remembered, toward the end of her illness while resting in bed, she was moving her legs while sleeping. When she awoke, she shared that she dreamt she was running.
I thought what a beautiful way to pay tribute to my mother’s memory. I would run. 1 mile. For her. Because I had never felt a desire to run for myself. Ever.
That changed. When I started, I could barely run a minute straight. It was jumping jack hell all over again. I fought hard to commit to it. This was far harder than committing to the work out plan over the summer. I had fully absorbed into every ounce of my being a true love for fitness and clean eating. But running…no this would be a TRUE test.
Approximately half way through the program, I got injured. Too much, too soon. My body rebelled. I took two weeks off and when I returned I had lost track of where I had left off with the plan. It was frustrating. But more than anything, I wanted to run one mile on October 20th for my mom. Just one mile of the 3.1 miles had to be possible. I’d make it possible.
And it was. On October 20th of 2012, I not only ran 1 mile, I ran 2, then 3, then 3.1.
My first 5K…in memory of those I loved and lost. 3.1 beautiful, glorious miles. I ran them all. And it’s been love ever since. I am now running 5+ miles (all at one time!), and have since completed another 5k, registered for a 10k in June, and seriously considering a half marathon for September (Rock n Roll Half Marathon).
I hope you will believe when I tell you; I was not a likely candidate for a story like the one I have shared today. In fact, even as I type these words, it’s hard to believe I am still transforming into this woman. I not only took control of my body, but also took control of my life. My story is not one about losing weight or dieting, it’s about truly changing yourself, inside and out. I am a far happier, confident and peaceful person as a result of the changes I have made. It’s the one connection few people talk about…the connection to your spirit, your joy, your true self. When you take the reins and control the things that once made you feel powerless, you start to recognize the real beauty of yourself. You recognize the power to change is all up to you. And once you realize it, there is nothing quite as magical as that. There is a quote I love, from the movie “The Wizard of Oz”. It is a quote, that every time I read it, I hear it in my mother’s voice.
“You had the power all along my dear”. –Glinda the Good Witch