My Health Journey

I grew up an athlete. From my embarrassing Community Athletics soccer days at age five, I was addicted to anything athletic and competitive. At age seven, I was simultaneously taking dance and Taekwondo classes until I realized that I was practicing my punches in the moments between pirouettes (no one got injured…I don’t think), and I dove into practicing and competing in Taekwondo full-time. With a few National medals under my belt, I joined the field hockey and track teams when I started high school. It didn’t matter what it was: if I was challenging myself and competing athletically, I was happy. I was always a gym class hero. I get very competitive about badminton at picnics. No shame.

But, as life will have it, there are always obstacles in front of the things that we love the most 

My sophomore year of high school, I blacked out in the bathroom. A mysterious stomach pain appeared. I couldn’t run the laps around our school’s campus with the hockey team. I spent 10 months in and out of doctor’s offices and hospitals, anywhere but where I wanted to be–on the field or in the gym. After months, I was finally diagnosed with both gluten and dairy intolerance, as well as POTS, a circulation disorder, among some other things. One of the symptoms of POTS is “exercise intolerance.” Once I finally had those diagnoses, a doctor in Philadelphia told me something I often quote: “You might only be able to walk up and down your driveway once a day.”

To the frustration of friends and family members who give me good advice, directions, or grocery lists, I do not listen well. In this case, that was a blessing.

I was eating the same way I was when I was a three-sport, competitive athlete. By that, I mean everything. My metabolism wasn’t working in the same way and I started to put on some weight. I was sitting on the couch, watching TV and watching the muscles I’d developed from running hills and lifting weights fade.

So I decided to make a change.

It started alternating running and walking laps around the top floor of my high school with my very patient best friend. It turned into running, albeit slowly, for shorter distances. Then it was a 5k. Then, when I got to college, it was weightlifting and my first obstacle races. Three years after that hospital visit, it was the morning of my first half-marathon, and I wondered to myself how many driveway-lengths there were in 13.1 miles. Probably a lot.

Everything is about perspective. I was given an obstacle, not unlike the 8-foot walls I now enjoy traversing in obstacle races. I was given a limitation, but only in the form of words. Who was to stop me from trying? The authority to try and change my life was mine and mine alone.

Running great Steve Prefontaine once said, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” His phrasing highlights something that we often take for granted: being physically able is a gift. It’s only when your health is taken away from you that you realize that acutely.

Before I race, my best friend still says to me: remember, you shouldn’t be able to do this at all. So no matter what your time is, you’ve already won. (There’s a reason she’s my best friend.)

In July of 2014, after a year of classes and studying, I finally got my Personal Training Certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. I now work at the Marino Center at Northeastern University as a personal trainer.

In 2014, I completed a goal that I set for myself in 2012 during my first Spartan Race: I got my Trifecta: all three distances completed in one year. Now I have new goals for myself. I have my sights set on continued bigger and better things. But no matter where I go and what I set my sights on, I think it’s important to recognize where I came from, and remember that I’m doing something that I was told should be impossible.

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