Name: Sheri Shaw
Occupation: Assistant Dean for Student Success
Start Weight: 298 pounds
End Weight: 190 pounds
Time Running: 11 months
Running has always been a component of my life. My older brother, Eugene Shaw, was an avid runner in high school and I emulated him. So I joined the junior high track and field teams to stretch myself competitively.
In my teens and 20s, I could just get up and run, doing 5Ks, 10Ks, and even half marathons with ease. But as I approached my late 20s and 30s, joint pain—which I blamed on old high school volleyball injuries—became a problem for me, and my running habit slowed.
But really, it was because of my inability to manage my time due to the increased pressures to demonstrate professional success. I had begun to grow in university administration, and I became focused on work and less on managing my workout schedule. After consistent late nights and coffee runs, the weight began to creep up. Mentally, I talked myself out of trying to go for a run.
My workouts turned into heavy lifting and low impact cardio, but it didn’t fill the void left by running. I loved the feeling of lacing up my shoes, popping on my run-tracking app, turning on my music playlist, and going outside. I missed it, and my weight showed that.
Before I knew it, I had gotten up to 298 pounds in September 2019. At that time, I was having surgery to remove scar tissue that had developed from donating my kidney in 2001. So once I recovered and was cleared to be active, I knew I wanted to get back out and run.
Before I could do that though, I needed to ease the joint pain. That month, I started my journey by changing my eating habits.
As a kidney donor, I have always avoided smoking and drinking, and eaten foods high in fibre. However, I consumed a lot of high-fat foods, fast food, caffeine, and sugar. That, along with the lack of exercise, pushed me to where I was.
When I started utilising a food-tracking app, I gave up those foods and made more of an effort to put the right things in my body. Adding a little movement to those changes, I lost 40 pounds by the new year.
To kick off 2020, I joined a friend and her family at Hilton Head Health, a weight loss retreat. This, I thought, would help me jumpstart my journey, and it did.
It got me excited about the process and to get my running back up, even if I had to start by walking a lot. Every other day, I was going out for two-mile runs coupled with a 30-minute Burn Boot camp workout. Slowly, I saw my endurance go up at the gym where I worked. I would hide the digital screens and focus on running through a song on my playlist.
I found, for me, that music helped me find my cadence and get lost in my runs while heavy beats kept me going at a good pace. It also helped with time. When I started, I tried to run for an entire song. One song became two, then three, and then four. Four songs equaled a mile. I hadn’t run a mile without stopping in over four years!
For months, I stayed in that two-mile comfort zone, afraid of pains resurfacing from previous injuries (IT band, knee, and Achilles). That all changed during the coronavirus pandemic when a friend introduced me to virtual racing. With that, I turned to running three to five miles outside. I started out at 15-minute miles and am already up to 12-minute pace.
With the addition of running again, the weight continues to come off. I’m currently at 190 pounds, and I’m still going strong toward my goal of 170, the weight at which my doctors say I would be the healthiest for my kidney function.
Having lost more than 100 pounds, I feel like myself again. I am the size I was over 20 years ago, when I first started college. I’ve found the runner I want to be again. These changes allow me to move my body with more ease and I’ve noticed a return of my high activity level. I’m even challenging myself to run for entire playlists—I recently made one that lasted for two hours, and I covered eight miles, my longest run in a long time.
For anyone out there that wants to make a similar change, my advice is to just lace up. I spent so much time talking myself out of running that I wasted precious time toward making myself feel better emotionally, physically, and personally. What I failed to see is that I could create a new runner profile that complemented who I am today rather than trying to be the runner I was in high school.
Also, don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. Run for you. This is your race. Face it with grace at your own pace. There will be valleys, hills, setbacks, and roadblocks. That’s why the goal has to be forward motion; not matter how large or small, it is still forward progression. Yesterday’s ceiling is tomorrow’s floor. Keep challenging yourself and keep growing.
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