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A thoughtful approach | Fitness Journeys

Lauren Hatcher, started running in 2012 and completed the Tinkerbell Half Marathon at Disneyland in January. - Courtesy of Lauren Hatcher
Lauren Hatcher, started running in 2012 and completed the Tinkerbell Half Marathon at Disneyland in January.
— image credit: Courtesy of Lauren Hatcher

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part series telling the stories of fitness journeys, a look at what motivated these individuals to make a commitment to a lifestyle of fitness as well tips on how to train well and eat right in the process.

That moment of truth has hit. The urge to lace up the running shoes or sign up for a gym membership has become action. Training has begun.

As you take the first steps on this fitness journey it’s important to remember you’re not the first one to do it. There is much to learn about how to train well to avoid injury as well as fuel the body the way any other athlete would.

Understanding how eating right and training safely fit together is important. Two local experts have advice on how to do that while two athletes who laced up their shoes and started running offer their experiences as inspiration.

No matter where you are on your fitness journey there is always something to learn to help attain those goals whether it’s to lose weight or run that first marathon.

MORE THAN JUST EATING RIGHT AND MOVING MORE

Simone Vincent, a nurse practitioner who works for MultiCare in Maple Valley, has tips to offer and has witnessed patient success stories.

To start off with, Vincent said, a person who is otherwise healthy should start with three to four days a week of moderate to vigorous exercise.

“Initially it’s a good idea to choose an activity that you enjoy, something you can commit to,” Vincent said. “A lot of times I will tell people plan on doing something for five to 10 minutes because once you get into the activity you can do it for longer.”

Vincent recommends finding someone to work out with, as well, to help maintain the commitment to fitness.

That advice is echoed by Pam Kramer, a registered dietitian at MultiCare in Covington.

“For people trying to lose weight, that accountability piece is really important,” Kramer said. “Have an exercise partner or there’s so many groups out there (to join).”

What one gets from a higher level of activity is undeniable, Vincent said. She reminds patients of the benefits of regular exercise.

“Studies have shown it improves our blood cholesterol profiles,” Vincent said. “It improves our overall heart function, it can reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. It also improves the sensitivity to insulin within our bodies … thus controlling our blood glucose levels better. Weight bearing exercises have been shown to increase bone density.”

Vincent added, “Regular exercise has also been shown to decrease anxiety and stress. That’s generally my motivation to get people to start exercising and making themselves a priority.”

It’s important during the process to learn to make healthy diet choices, Vincent said. She encourages budding athletes to eat whole foods as often as possible while avoiding processed items and limiting portions. Don’t forget to hydrate, too.

Kramer noted that hydration levels are dependent on each individual but she recommends keeping caffeine to a minimum and if you want to know if you’re hydrated, take a look at your urine. It may sound a bit gross, but, if the liquid is fairly clear during the day then hydration levels are good.

Another important thing to note, Kramer said, is to watch out for the extra hunger pangs which come with ramping up activity — especially if the goal is weight loss.

“One of the most important things that people who are exercising should know is that it doesn’t give them that green light to eat more if they’re trying to lose weight,” Kramer said. “If weight loss … or even a training program is part of their goals, a good idea which goes against conventional wisdom is a high carb, low fat diet. When people hear carbohydrate they think pasta and bread. When I think of fueling your body for exercise I think of beans, vegetables, fruit and whole grains and those are all highly, highly nutritious.”

Moderation is important and Kramer suggests eating five to six small meals a day of the kinds of whole foods Vincent also recommends.

Kramer also encourages eating breakfast as well as eating something 30 to 60 minutes after a workout, maybe something as simple as a protein bar.

“It really is amazing how a healthy diet can make you thrive,” Kramer said. “It can truly make a bad day into a good day. When people get into it, they truly experience it, they don’t even want to go back to (eating junk food). When you fuel yourself with good food you are going to train better.”

Vincent encourages her patients to be proud of what they have accomplished in their weight loss and fitness goals. And she’s seen how making a commitment to healthy living has changed their lives.

“I just see patients light up emotionally (and) spiritually when they’ve been able to get themselves in a healthier place,” Vincent said. “You set a good example for others around you and your children.”

FROM HATING RUNNING TO A HALF MARATHON

A mom of two young boys, Lauren Hatcher was fit when she decided to start running, but that didn’t mean she was enthusiastic about it.

Hatcher is an instructor for Kristy Fassio, who owns Stroller Strides franchises in Maple Valley and Kent. Hatcher works out with the Maple Valley class and teaches in Kent, something she has done for about a year now.

In April 2012, however, something changed for Hatcher.

“I’ve never considered myself a runner,” Hatcher said. “I actually hated it. I ran track in high school and hated every moment of it. Last April, I had this opportunity. There was an online virtual marathon through joggermom.com. You run the 26.2 miles but it’s on your own time and you have a month to do that.”

It was a small commitment, two or three times a week, just a few miles at a time. Hatcher thought she could manage that.

And as she took on that challenge, her attitude toward running began to slowly change.

“Once I started it I realized I can get out of the house by myself and listen to my music and have 30 minutes of me time,” Hatcher said. “I finished those 26.2 miles and thought, well, that wasn’t that bad and that’s where it started. In May I signed up for a 5K.”

A race that covers five kilometers, more commonly known as a 5K, is equivalent to about 3.1 miles though some races may go a bit farther due to the course layout.

Hatcher gave herself a time goal. She wanted to run the 3.1 miles in 30 minutes. She also wanted to run the entire distance.

After she checked that off her list, she continued training through the summer and decided to set a new goal, this time a 10K which is 6.2 miles. Hatcher ran that in September. Again, her goal was to finish it and run the whole course.

What is surprising about that is Hatcher ran the 10K distance for the first time when she ran the race, but, she ran the entire race and checked that off her list.

The next step would be an even longer distance event.

“One of my bucket list items was to run a Disney race,” Hatcher said. “I love Disney. I convinced my husband to sign up for their half marathon in January. I thought that will get through the holidays and make the holidays a little easier to get through so we signed up for the half marathon. All of I sudden I found myself getting fitted for shoes and I got myself a Garmin (GPS running watch).”

And it wasn’t until January, more than six months after she started running, that she considered herself a runner.

The watershed moment was when she finally bought a pair of running tights before she ran the TinkerBell Half Marathon at Disneyland in January.

Unlike her lead in to the 10K, Hatcher downloaded the running plan laid out by Disney’s running guru Jeff Galloway on www.rundisney.com. Galloway develops training plans for the different Disney races offered at the resorts throughout the year.

“I followed that for the most part,” Hatcher said of the training plan.

As for the TinkerBell Half, well, it was an experience she likely won’t forget.

“It was amazing,” Hatcher said. “It was the most fun run I’ve ever done, it was just the atmosphere, they just put on a good show. It’s a crazy morning start time at 5 because they have to have you out of the park before it opens. There’s just so many people and people are dressed up. The first six miles were inside the parks (California Adventure and Disneyland). By the time we left the park it was six miles and I felt like I had barely run so that was awesome.

“They just had so much to look at, you’re going through the parks, they had characters out, they had music playing, they had people cheering you on then after you leave the parks you run through Anaheim and there were people on the streets cheering you on.”

It was so much fun, Hatcher said, she wants to run every event Disney offers.

Now she’s signed up for a race of some sort every month for several months this year. She’s going to run in a variety of events with differing distances.

“A lot of it is just finishing, that feeling when you accomplish something, no matter how big or small it is,” she said. “I am in no way fast but I am completing them so when you get that medal or something at the end, you know that it’s been earned, and it feels good.”

And having completed so many of her goals, Hatcher can see how much running has added to her life. During the holidays she ate better. It offers some balance to her life as a mother especially now that her sons, who are 4 and 2, can see that she’s active both in Stroller Strides and as a runner.

There’s a social element to running she has also come to enjoy.

“I have a few girlfriends who are runners who introduced me to it and at first I was like, ‘No, I’m not a runner,’” Hatcher said. “Now it’s a way for me to see them … we can go sit down and have coffee or dinner or we can get together and go for a run.”

Once upon a time, less than a year ago, in fact, Hatcher hated to lace up her shoes and pound the pavement. Now it’s an unexpected joy.

“I got to a point where I didn’t want to go back where running three miles is torture,” she said. “That’s what keeps me going, I don’t want to have to start over.”

RUNNING AS THERAPY

Ryan Light decided to start running two years ago, he wrote in an email interview, to help deal with a bout of OCD and anxiety.

“I thought exercise would give me some relief,” wrote Light, a Maple Valley resident. “I had a few friends of mine that were runners so I deiced to try it out.”

At first, Light followed a program during which he alternated running and walking. Since then, he has progressed to training for his first marathon.

But, at the start of his training, he did the run-walk plan for eight weeks at which point he could run for 45 minutes straight then he built up his runs until he could run for an hour.

Then, Light wrote, he began to build up his runs by adding 15 minutes until he could run for three hours at a stretch which gave him the mileage he would need to run a full marathon, or 26.2 miles.

When he decided it was time to run his first marathon, Light put in for the ING New York City Marathon set for Nov. 4, and submitted his $11 with the hope of earning a lottery spot. He got one.

It would have been an intense emotional experience for Light, not just because it would have been the first marathon, but because the course would have taken him through his childhood neighborhood in Queens. It’s a place which holds some unpleasant memories but after a tumultuous childhood, a hitch in the United States Army, a rough life after the military before settling down in the Northwest it would have been an opportunity for healing.

Then Superstorm Sandy swept through New York City. Organizers cancelled the marathon.

“To be honest I was very, very disappointed and I was tired of running,” Light wrote. “I spent 4 months training for a race that never happened so I was spent.”

Light was also disappointed with how the marathon organizers handled things prior to canceling the race. Runners signed up for the marathon were given three options: run it this year, run it in 2014 or 2015 or run the half marathon in New York City in March.

“Because of my distaste for (the New York City Marathon Road Runners) I was torn if I even wanted to run in the race,” Light wrote. “However, the race itself is a once in a lifetime so I decided to prolong the event to 2015. This way we could bring my daughter with us and she can see the city I grew up in and so love.”

In the meantime, Light selected another race for his first marathon.

“I decided to run in the Marine Corps Marathon this year for a few reasons,” Light wrote. “My plan is to do one BIG marathon a year and I’ve always wanted to go and visit (Washington) D.C. My son Elijiah is a statistics nut so my wife and I thought we would take him to see D.C. the week before I run the race. Plus, I’m probably going to run for a non-profit that is armed services focused this year so I thought what better event to run for?”

In spite of the frustration and disappointment surrounding the New York City marathon, his love of running has not dampened. He plans to run a half marathon each month this year with the Marine Corps Marathon set for October. He also plans to do a 50K race, also known as an ultramarathon, sometime in 2014.

“Running has changed my life,” he wrote. “It gives me the mental break I need from the busyness of life, and it allows me the time I need to focus my thoughts on what’s important to me, my God and family. It has also done wonders for my stress and anxiety, now I still have bouts with my OCD, but my stress is way down and I can’t imagine where life would be if I didn’t start running.”

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