Exercise for ME

(Topic: Fitness after loss)

Hi Friends!

One of the biggest parts of my grief journey has been redefining my Self. This is something that everyone goes through at some point, but usually not to quite the same degree or for the same reasons (a mid-life crisis, for example, is suddenly taking a close look at who you are and what you’re doing with your life – and then changing something!).

For me, the redefinition is completely because of how I’d pictured myself with a child, and in the grief process, I wasn’t just missing Charlie, or even who Charlie would have been, I also didn’t have the role in life I’d expected to have. I thought I’d be caring for him and behaving like a mommy, even to the point of having to realize that I’d been picturing doing chores with him around, so doing chores without him around became incredibly difficult.

I do many things in Charlie’s memory, and one of the ways I’ve redefined myself has been as a memory-keeping-mama (still a mama, just a different kind) — but it’s also been very important to me to find other ways of existing and find new interests for myself.

So, kind of in memory of Charlie, one of the things I began to do was try to take care of my health. In the initial phases of grief, my fitness was completely unimportant – I overate and didn’t exercise, but that’s not what I was focused on initially – my mental health was more pressing. Eventually, however, my mental health got to a relatively stable place, and I was able to devote more attention to other things.

I started by trying to do better with food choices, and also started tracking my calorie intake (as of the 19th of November, I’ve been tracking for a whole year!). I found a lovely Facebook group at some point, of loss moms who wanted to focus on their physical health, but who wanted a group of people who understand some of the hurdles. This group of loss moms has been one of the best groups I’ve ever joined.

At some point, one of them suggested a virtual race, particularly a specific race that donated a portion of the profits to a charity – in this case, a pregnancy loss charity. I’d never done a virtual race before, so I followed the link someone posted and read about it.

A virtual race can be used for training or for motivation to do more fitness activities. Often, the company you order from provides a race bib and a medal, and you are accountable only to yourself for the miles – so you’re really rewarding yourself, rather than them rewarding you. Most companies let you log the miles in pieces or even over different modes – so some people swim, or use a treadmill.

I don’t run, I walk – so after I ordered the packet, I could have done my miles whenever I wanted. However, the ladies in my group all agreed to do the miles the same day, so we’d be doing them “together” despite not being located anywhere near each other.

I got a real thrill from this virtual race, also because it had been a long time since I’d walked or hiked more than one mile at a time. Doing a 5k (3.1 miles) was a huge step for me – and having a giant suncatcher medal made it very real and exciting! I posted about this particular race/walk in more detail back in September: My First 5K.

The day I got my race packet! I wore the medal all day, that’s how excited I was.

The medal is absolutely beautiful, too.

So you can see the light come through.

After that success and excitement, I realized that, while that race was technically in memory of Charlie because of the charity it supported, 5k’s were a thing I could do for ME! It would help my own fitness, and was something I would not likely have done with a child (though, who knows?), and it made me feel like I’d accomplished something amazing.

So I signed up for more.

Of course, when I (a night owl) have to leave the house by 7 or even earlier, to get to a race in time for registration, especially if it’s not in my town, I curse my enthusiasm. But I do end up really enjoying myself!

The first live 5k I participated in was at Kent State University, and benefited their study abroad program, helping to provide scholarships for KSU students who want to expand their horizons through an international experience.

Interestingly, despite doing this for me, I chose to wear a shirt from a memorial walk, and a hat with a tiger – Charlie is always with me in some way. They had photo-ops like this at the beginning, every mile marker, and at the end!

I’d never done a race before. The sidewalk markings were a new thing for me! My hubby ran cross-country in high school, so he’s much more familiar with this whole world, but it’s new to me!

I’m so excited to finish! My time was 1:01:38. Having been out of shape for a while, I was quite happy with this time! (Again, walking. I don’t run.)

At this point, I had two medals, and was quite excited about both…. So I got some kid’s peg racks cheaply, added a few extra pegs, and hung them on the wall for me and for hubby to add our medals to! After all, I wanted to display them 🙂

At this point my husband seemed interested in what I was doing, too, though he has less time free because of a hefty work schedule. But he did agree to accompany me along to a few 5k’s, and we also signed up for a total-miles virtual challenge (tiger-themed, so we had to do it!!!).

I hung the tiger challenge trackers on our wall. The idea is to complete 100 miles over September, October, and November, or longer if you need it. I think I’m on track to get about halfway in the intended time.

Our tiger trackers!

In the last few months, I’ve done a few memorial walks, some virtual and some live, and a bike ride with my sister… every bit counts toward the tiger miles too, as long as it’s an “intentional” mile.

The miles add up! As I write this, I’m actually up to 42.

Another thing I’ve been doing is saving my race bibs, and making notes if I have a specific time or number of miles worth remembering. To keep it neat and pretty, and to keep me excited and thus motivated, I’ve picked up a small-format scrapbooking album and give each bib/race its own page.

Cover pic from my first live race.

My first race bib. I put details at the top for each of them.

I’ve since added a separate tag with my chip time.
From the most recent race! My chip time on this was 57:32, which is a 4 minute improvement! I give some of the credit to hubby, though. His pace is naturally faster than mine, but we were walking together, so I’m pretty sure he sped me up a bit.

I may not choose to race all that often, and at this point I’m one of the walkers, but I’m finding this is a great thing to do for myself in memory of no one but the fat I’m losing! 😀

Yours,

Sarah

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