Archives for October 2011

Where Do I Begin? One Step, One Seed

“I could never do a marathon or half-marathon.”

“So proud of you, Sarah, that’s awesome!  But, I could never do it.”

“How did you get started?  I know I can’t jog or finish a half-marathon, but I’d like to get in better shape.”

Since I posted about my half-marathon experience, I’ve read these statements – and ones very similar – quite a few times.  I’ve received emails, Facebook posts, and texts asking the magic question:  “How did you do it?”  This question was usually followed by some type of “I can’t do it” statement.

I remember watching the Biggest Loser, hearing stories of those who went from fat to fit, and thinking that will never be me.  So, when I read these statements, my heart breaks a little, knowing how I used to feel – and still feel sometimes.

If that’s you – someone who wants to get started, but feels like it’s impossible – try to begin with these three things:  a support person/people, motivation, and courage.

Support person:  In June my friend, Ashley, invited me to boot camp.  I only lasted a month, but that experience made me think I was a bit more capable than I thought I was.  Ashley texted me three or four times a week (still does), asking me how I was, if I wanted to exercise, etc.  Her persistence and faith in me kept me going often.

I also have an amazing husband.  Through weight loss and weight gain, my husband, Steve, has never pressured me to lose weight or commented on my weight (smart man, huh?:)  Each time I’ve embarked on a new weight loss journey, he’s been beside me, encouraging, supporting, eating what I eat, etc.  He picks up slack, so I can work out.  He also surprised me at the finish of the half-marathon.  In fact, this journey has brought us closer together.

You may not have an Ashley or a Steve in your life.  But, look around – someone is willing to help. I am willing to help.  I am participating in two races with friends who want to get fit starting yesterday.  I’d be happy to race with you, too!

You should also pray for a support person; I prayed for almost a year for an accountability person.  Then, I got three!  A fitness coach and two spiritual accountability partners.

Motivation:  Something has to motivate your lifestyle change.  It’s what gets you out of bed in the morning. My motivation is spiritual; I feel God made me for more and wants to do work through me that I cannot do in poor physical condition.  I don’t know what that work is, how, or when, but I know He called me on this journey.  (You can read about my motivation here and here.)

Courage:  This morning I was reading through some blog posts and found this one:  One Thing You Must Have to Get Fit.  I thought…time, motivation, support people, etc.  I never considered the “one thing” this blog post suggested:  courage.

“Without courage, there are no new habits.”  That quote stuck with me as I read.  You have to have courage to start, continue, repeat, share, and possibly fail.  You have to be OK with saying one day, “I am going to do this. I may weigh 230 pounds now, but I will complete a half-marathon someday.”

Then, you move.  You start by walking.  When I did, I couldn’t go very far. It was very discouraging. But, I just kept going every day. Some days I’d think…I feel good…I’ll go a little further, and I did.

I record all my exercise on Map my Walk; it’s an app for any type of phone. There’s also Map my Run. Same thing. You turn on your phone’s GPS, push play, and it tells you how far, how fast, etc. It keeps track of your exercise, so you can see accomplishment and progress.

Finding a plan to follow is also important if (like me) you have no clue about anything athletic:)  I Googled “how to train for a half-marathon” and “half marathon training”; that’s where I got my plan.  My plan wasn’t the best choice for a few reasons, but a friend recommended Jeff Galloway’s half-marathon training plan.  It’s the one I am using in preparation for my next half in December.

Interval training is helpful as well – walk three minutes, jog one minute.  I am still terrible at jogging. During the Columbus half, I jogged about 30 minutes of the three hours…on and off. I’d jog at the half-mile mark and mile mark – that’s it. Just start moving…don’t worry if you can’t run:)

Then, find a half-marathon (or 5K or 10K) and register. Check out the half-marathon calendar or the River City Runners (if you live in the Mid-Ohio Valley) to find a race.  Being registered gives you a goal – and a deadline.

All of these resources were essential to my finish in Columbus:  courage, motivation, people, apps, and training plans.  But, above all these, God carried me.  I can’t adequately articulate how I felt His presence.  I knew/know He is with me on this journey.  I know this journey would be impossible without Him.  In my weakness, He is strong.

So, while I look forward to helping each of you begin this journey, I also pray you turn to Him.  Here are a few verses I’ve committed memory.  I often repeat them when I begin to think I can’t do it – I can’t finish.

“Be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of age.”  Matthew 28:20

“I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as the mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”   Matthew 17:20

Before you can finish, you have to start.  One step, one seed – that’s all it takes.

Praying for each of you:)


One Thing You Must Have to Get Fit

Who Wants to Finish 8,825th?

The Answer to My Struggle with Weight

Where Did I Begin?

Map My Walk

Jeff Galloway’s Half-Marathon Training Plan

Half-Marathon Calendar

Who Wants to Finish 8,825th?

On Sunday I participated in the Nationwide Insurance Columbus Half-Marathon.  I finished 8,825 out of 9,934.  Yeah, I know.  Who aspires to place 8,825th?  Pretty sure no one.  But, I couldn’t be happier:)

In June, if you would have told me, “Sarah, you’ll be doing a half-marathon in October,” I would have laughed.  Not a “that’s funny” laugh, but a “I am laughing to cover up that deep down I know I could never do that” laugh.  My jokes about fitness level (or lack thereof) or my eating habits used to mask pain/sadness and embarrassment.  Pain and sadness that I lacked the motivation and confidence to pursue such a goal.  Embarrassment about being so out of shape at age 35 that I could barely make it two miles without incredible knee and hip pain.

As many of you know, a pastor at my church challenged the leadership to pray and fast on June 26, and I began pursuing a new lifestyle on June 27.  When I began that Monday morning, I could barely walk from my house across the bridge and back, which is 1.6 miles.  I remember the first time I made this trek; I was so proud – 1.6 miles!

From there, it was baby steps – literally.  I walked a little further each day.  A little faster each week.  And added jogging after a month.  I had tons of blisters and joint pain – always using an ice pack or heating pad trying to move past this injury or that one.

On August 20, I (very) impulsively registered for the Columbus half-marathon.  I was talking to my friend, Anda, at a soccer tournament.  She’d just finished second in the Parkersburg Half Marathon, and she said I should try a race.

After registering, I felt a new pressure to be in shape.  I thought, “this is what I need – a goal.”   I Googled “half-marathon training plan” and began the plan the next Monday.

My goal?  To finish…period.  This meant I had to walk/jog 13.1 miles in less than four hours.  But, day after day, I’d record my pace.  I was just too slow and out of shape.   No way was I going to finish in less than four hours.  Then, on September 24, I completed the entire 13.1 with my friend, Ashley, and her mom.  Our time was about three hours and fifteen minutes.

For the first time, I believed I could finish.

Still, all the training and preparation in the world could not have prepared me for Sunday’s race.  Beginning with my pre-race dinner and the marathon expo on Saturday evening, I discovered I had much to learn.  Gu?  Gatorade chews?  Energy jellybeans?  Belts for carrying water or Gatorade?  Taped knees?  Carb loading?  Pacing?  GPS watches?  Headbands?  Oh my…who knew?  Not me.

At 7:30 am on Sunday morning, I found myself smushed into Corral E with a few other thousand participants.   But, one participant would be more important than I ever could have imagined:  my friend, Ashley.

From the start to mile four, it felt as if I had a knife in my ankle – evidently, two days rest was a bad idea.  Ashley talked to me and encouraged me to run the entire way.  “This is what you’ve trained for, Sarah.  You can do this.  You’re doing great.” Her continual words of encouragement kept me from giving in to my typical self-talk: You’re still too overweight to do this…you’ll never be in shape…you’ll never finish…you just aren’t made for this…give up…it hurts too bad.

I pushed through.

At mile nine, I had nothing left.  I texted my husband asking him to pray.  I prayed, asking God to carry me.  I listened to Ashley…”Only five more, Sarah.  This is nothing but your typical workout each morning.  We have to jog now.  Jog to the stop sign…to the Comfort Inn…to the corner…to the yellow flag.”  She pushed, and I did my best.

Then, Ashley says, “We have five minutes to finish.  If you run, we can finish under three hours.”  Huh?  We can?

I pushed up the hill and rounded the corner.  There it was – the Finish.  I was overwhelmed with emotion and couldn’t breathe.  I almost stopped, but Ashley grabbed my hand, and said, “Come on!” This is what you’ve trained for…you can do this…let’s go.”

And, I did.  I jogged, and then sprinted toward the finish as hundreds of people lining the course cheered me/us on.   I stepped on the timer at 3:00:30.  I didn’t make it under three hours, but I finished.  I think I was in shock looking back.  I couldn’t speak (a miracle, I know:)

Best of all, my husband and children surprised me! I had my own cheering section!  And, that cheering section was not limited to my family and Ashley.  I looked at my phone.  Texts, emails, Facebook posts…all supporting, encouraging, praying, and loving – me – overwhelming!

Please understand:  I didn’t complete a half-marathon on my own; I completed a half-marathon surrounded by the love and prayers of family and friends.  Big dreams and big goals can NOT be completed alone.  We have to have supporters, cheerleaders, and helpers.  In fact, Coach Ashley literally had to drag me toward the finish!

Who’s dragging you toward the finish – or even toward the next step?  Have you surrounded yourself with people who are supportive of your dreams and goals?  Or, do naysayers and excuse-makers surround you?

I could never never never have accomplished this goal without my supporters.

I could never never never have accomplished this goal without Jesus.  I can’t articulate how he carried/carries me continually.  Through temptation, injuries, doubt, defeat, and discouragement, He remains.

I often cling to Hebrews 12: 1-3 – 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Some days my race is literal – other days figurative.  Regardless, my goal is always to keep my eyes fixed on him, putting one foot in front of the other – sometimes walking and sometimes running the race He marked out for me before the beginning of time.  When I face opposition, I am reminded that He did too – on a scale that I will never know or understand.  When I grow weary, I don’t lose heart – I pray, lean, and seek Him.

No matter what you’re facing today, I pray you fix your eyes on Him – and Him alone.  Don’t grow weary; don’t lose heart.  Throw off the sin that so easily trips you up, and run with perseverance the race he has marked out for you.

He will be there running alongside you – and carrying you when needed.



Where Have All the Dreamers Gone?

I don’t dream big enough.  Some time ago I placed God in a box, and there he’s remained.  I ask him to do what I know I can do, not what He can do through me.  It’s not that I fear failure; I’ve failed plenty.  I lack faith.

As I talked to my friend, Angie, last night, this became clear to me even though it’s a realization that’s been forming for a few weeks.

Angie just completed the Emmaus Walk.  I’d give you more details, but all I really know is that she left last Thursday, went to a camp without any timepieces or technology, and returned on Sunday.  Her experience was breathtaking; I could see it in her face and hear it in her words.

We shared what God spoke to each of our hearts last weekend.  And, the message was somewhat similar.

When did we stop dreaming?

When I was little girl, I dreamed of marrying a handsome boy, having four children, living in a house, and becoming a lawyer.

I continued dreaming in college.  My mom recently found a letter I’d written her the summer before my senior year at WVU in which I jokingly asked her to take on my responsibilities for the upcoming year which included:  planning a wedding; planning and hosting the Golden Key regional convention at WVU; interning at the Office of Admissions; acting as president of Mortar Board, a member of Mountaineer Council, some office in the Public Relations Student Society of America, and a host of other organizations; graduating from the Honors Program; and I could go on.  It was crazy!

My dreams were big, my commitments many, my support system amazing, and my God was faithful.  I prayed and he carried me. With a childlike faith, I asked him for the impossible countless times, not even knowing how “impossible” the ask was.

Did he show up every time? No.  But, I distinctly remember that when I failed or when a dream deflated, I still praised Him.

So, what happened?  When did I quit dreaming?  When did I box up my faith?

My dreams stopped when I felt the weight of this world, complete with its expectations and degradations.

I believed a culture that told me I was made for the American dream- pursue it.  Make money, climb the ladder, buy a house, buy a car, become popular, work your fingers to the bone, make your life appear perfect.  Go to bed.  Get up.  Repeat.

It doesn’t work.

Why?  We were made for more. I was made for more.  And that “more” comes only from God.  That longing in me can only be filled by Him (thanks, Angie:).  My husband, my children, food, exercise, friends, my care group, my family, or stuff can’t fill the longing.  Only He can.

And, my God wants me to dream big.  He wants me to ask him to do immeasurably more through me for His glory.  He wants me to have big faith.

God reminded me this morning of Nehemiah, who rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem in 52 days.  Despite opposition, injustice, and a conspiracy, Nehemiah cries out to God, asking for help, believing in His faithfulness.  God frustrates the plans of Nehemiah’s enemies (Nehemiah 4:15), and Nehemiah boldly proclaims to those working on the wall in 4:20, “Our God will fight for us.”

That same God fights for me today – and you.

Have you stopped dreaming?  Is your faith human size or God size?

I pray you remember that dreams come in all shapes and sizes.  My “dream” for today is to make much of Him…for someone to see his glory today…maybe even through me.

My “dream” for tomorrow?  Next year?  God recently gave me a new dream, a new path.  I am praying for the courage to dream big again for His glory.  I am praying for a new, God-size faith to take the first step.  I pray you will, too:)!



Catalyst/ Are You Present?


Are You Present?

Do you live in the past?  Do you live for the future?  Or, do you find peace in the present? I’ve been reflecting on this over the past three days while attending the Catalyst conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

Sometimes I live in the past.  I miss former friends.  I regret many decisions.  I am disappointed in my actions and words.  I wish I’d been nicer, acted better, or stayed silent. So, I replay these scenes, situations, and exchanges in my head, knowing I can’t change them, wishing I could.

At the same time, I also cling too much to past victories and successes.  Does anyone care that I was valedictorian…ummmm…no.  When you’re 35, titles, GPAs, and awards that were once so important, matter little if at all.

Sometimes I live in the future.  My cluttered to-do list is filled with tasks I need to/should complete.  I often say, “I’ll do that when X happens or when Y happens.”  But, I rarely take steps toward the items on my big dreams list. It never seems to be the “right” or “perfect” time.

In fact, I am always planning, organizing, and strategizing for the future.  Lots of busyness – few results.  I just can’t make the leap (stay tuned for a future blog post on why:)  See?  Future post!

Sadly, I am not sure I ever live in the present.  As I compose this post, I am asking myself…

Am I ever fully present?

Do I sit and soak in the present?  In His presence?  Or, am I always looking toward tomorrow, next week, next year, or the next ten years?

While I am thankful for the weight I have lost and the improvement in my health, it’s not enough.  I look toward 5 more, 10 more, 50 more pounds.  Each day when I exercise, I am looking toward October 16, and when that race is complete, I plan to immediately register for another one.

See?  Always, always, looking ahead.  Never, never, basking in the present. I am not truly in the moment…in the blessing…in the accomplishing…in the pain… in the joy.  I am always moving ahead.  [Insert super big sigh here!]

God brought the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10: 38 to mind as I considered my presence issues.  Mary was present with Jesus; she sat at his feet and listened to his teaching.  Martha was too busy serving to be truly present, and Jesus tells Martha:  Mary has chosen the good portion which will not be take away from her.

I want the good portion; God wants that for me too.

By living life as Martha, I am missing it.  I am missing the moments, the blessings, the accomplishments, the pain, and the joy.  If I truly want to make much of Him each day and live as if Jesus is everything, I have to learn to live in the moment.

I have written about my technology diet and my not to-do list.  For the most part, I have been successful.  But, it’s creeping back in, and I know it.  I was scrolling through my fantasy football update (my team is awesome if you’re wondering!) and twitter while at restaurant with my family last week.  I checked my phone during care group.  I was looking at my phone as my friend talked to me yesterday.  It’s almost second nature.

I sometimes justify, asking myself, “what’s the big deal?”  Maybe it’s rude to look at your phone when someone’s addressing you, but I see lots of people doing that.  I need to talk to my family at mealtime, but I see them and talk to them all day.  Really?  Does it matter that much?

Yes.  Yes, it does because people matter.  Simple, huh?  As a lover of people, I know this and feel this.  Yet, my actions often don’t communicate it.  I can’t communicate “you matter” if I am not present – in the moment  – listening to, loving on, and learning from those around me.

And deeper still, I can’t communicate “you matter – you are everything” to my God if I am not present – in the moment – listening to, loving on, and learning from my God.

Are you present?  When you’re driving your kiddo to school or soccer?  When you’re watching her piano lesson?  When you’re with friends?  When you’re eating a meal with your family?

I am often not, so I am taking Jim Collins’ challenge from Catalyst:  One day a week, I will completely unplug – no technology. I will also be more intentional daily about being present, asking God to reveal where I fall short and help me improve.

I am present.  I will be present – for me, for others, and (most of all) for Him.

Psalm 16:11           

You make known to me the path of life

In your presence there is fullness of joy.



Mary and Martha – Luke 10

Catalyst Conference

Do You Have a Not To-Do List?

De-busying Life Lesson One:  The Social Media/Technology Diet

The Answer to My Struggle with Weight

Jim Collins