Becoming An Athlete

After my fourth baby in five years was born, I was dismayed to observe that the inevitable had happened.  Yes, as all those women who had entered their 30's  before me had predicted, my metabolism suddenly slowed down.  Whereas the pregnancy weight from the first three had seemingly fallen off my body with very little effort, these pounds were determined to stay.  When my baby turned one, and I was still wearing that extra fat, I agonized over how I could motivate myself to lose it.  I had been walking 45 minutes a day for years and lifting weights once or twice a week.  No longer was this sufficient.

During one of my weekly visits to the gym, I heard about a contest:  The 30 Day Challenge.  Immediately, I knew I had found the
motivation I needed.  I cut out all extra fat and sugars, maxed on fruits and veggies, guzzled water, and worked out harder than ever.  Retaining my morning walk, I added to it an afternoon cardio time, and I began using free weights daily.  I worked with a personal trainer who was an invaluable asset, giving me fantastic instruction and encouragement. I could never have gotten started in the weight room without his help.  Within 30 days, my body had already changed dramatically, as I lost 15 pounds of fat and gained quite a bit of definition in my muscles.  No, I did not win the $25,000 award; however, what I won has become much more precious to me:  a habit, which soon became a passion. 

When the Challenge was over, I found that I craved the workouts rather than the sweets.  I continued my meal plans and exercise, and the pounds kept dropping off for six months, until I had reached my ideal weight and a body fat percentage in the teens.  At that time, I discovered that running became not only easy for me, but enjoyable.  Perhaps it was because of the weight loss or perhaps because of the increased leg strength, but running became my new love.  I began to run a few miles each day, then a few more miles, then enter races, then win races, and I am now training for my sixth marathon.

As my youngest turns six this year, I remember that I have now maintained my weight for five years. Maintenance comes naturally, as I tend to make wise choices and eat reasonable portions.  Furthermore, my exercise routine uses an astounding amount of calories, so there is no fear of gaining fat for me.  Throughout these years, I have kept my weight down, and the only thing I gain is more muscle definition.
 
In fact, I'm all muscle, baby!  Whether at the gym, at church, or in my neighborhood, women frequently ask how I have attained and how I maintain my body, and close friends often say that I am their inspiration.  Even my eight-year-old daughter says, “Mommy, I hope my legs will look like yours someday,” or, “Mommy, you have such beautiful arms.”  My advice to these e ncouraging fans includes observing portion control, filling up their appetite with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and working out rigorously.  There is a time in everyone's schedule for working out, even if it requires sacrifice.  For instance, I awaken at 4:20 AM each day because I must complete my workout and be home in time to get my four young children ready for school.  When I am in the midst of marathon training, I occasionally get up at 3:30 AM.  Some sacrifices are necessary, but there is always a place in the schedule to insert a daily workout.  It's essential to make the workout as convenient as possible, thus allowing less opportunity for excuses.

People often ask me, “What motivates you to work out so intensely?”  I usually refer to some upcoming race, or I make a joke about being mildly obsessed.  I could reply that I love the energy I gain from exercising, that I enjoy the admiration of friends and family, that I delight to see what it does to my body, that I rejoice in a new found confidence.  However, the simple truth is that I am motivated because, in my 30’s, I have become something I was never before:  an athlete.  It's not the end result that thrills me; it is the means.  Fitness is my lifestyle.  I am an athlete, and I love every minute of it!

Cara Esau
2009