Today marks the first day of the “Everyday Champion” series. For the month of September we will read about the trials and tribulations of the everyday champion – what got them started on their respective health journey, the challenges they faced along the way, what kept them going, where they are today and where they are going tomorrow.
The first post is written by my good friend, Jenny Van Dijk. The reason I asked Jenny to contribute is because I wanted you (my amazing readers) to hear the story of someone who set and achieved some major health goals. Jenny made a plan, set goals, started training, relied on her support network, and after much sweat and some tears, she accomplished her goal(s). And that, my readers, is no easy feat.
First off, I’m very flattered that Morgan has considered me to be an ‘everyday champion’. I don’t view myself in that light, but writing this piece did allow me to reflect back on a goal that I had achieved and that I am proud of myself for doing. It’s good to give ourselves a pat on the back every now and then!
A few years back, Morgan and I decided to start running once a week together. It was motivating to exercise and chit chat – swapping sweets at a coffee shop for sweat was actually super fun and an efficient way to workout and have a girl’s date at the same time. Our weekly runs turned into crossing the finish line of our very first half marathon together. It was awesome. It was a huge accomplishment.
Achieving that first goal sparked a second one. I wanted to train for and run a half marathon by myself. It was ‘easy’ doing it with friend because you had someone there every step of the way, but I wasn’t convinced I’d be able to do it. I registered anyways. During the months leading up to the race, my Grandpa had been very ill and my Mom lost her best friend to cancer. I had huge motivation – if my Grandpa could recover from heart surgery and Shirley could fight the toughest battle of her life, surely I could push myself through a few more KM’s.
My plan was easy because during my training I was living near the harbourfront trails in Toronto. Whatever distance I ran out, I had to run back. The scenery was a refreshing change from the concrete jungle that surrounds my office. Week by week, I set a ‘long run’ goal which increased each time. On the side I raised money for the hospital charity and a research fund for Shirley’s cause. I had a small but powerful network for support. My parents, close friends and family sent words of encouragement with each donation. My boyfriend Kevin (aka Kev) has also never failed to be my cheerleader.
During the first part of the County race I coincidentally fell in pace with another woman running solo. She was fast. We kept pace from about 4 KM to the 13 KM mark. I set a personal best time on my first 10 KM split, breaking 50 minutes. Then I died…not literally, but it felt like it. The woman pressed on and I hauled my butt up the final hill before the last few clicks. It was honestly brutal, but I filled my head with thoughts of my Grandpa and Shirley and everyone who had made a donation for me to finish this race. I remember rounding the corner on Main Street in Picton for the final 2-3 KM stretch, found my family in the crowd and waved. When I saw Kev a few hundred meters from the finish line I felt so excited and exhausted. I kicked anyways and gave it all that was left in the tank . It was very overwhelming when I crossed the finish line. Best of all, I broke my previous time by almost 14 minutes.
Reflecting back on that race, I know that I never really accomplished the goal by myself- it took that strong support network to help me along the way. I’ve since then ran another half marathon with Kev and plan to run another in a year or so again.
I’m the kind of person who needs to set exercise-specific goals in order to motivate myself, but they don’t always need to be big ones. I even consider my everyday to-do list a list of goals. As long as I keep setting goals, I strive to keep breaking them.
Jenny’s story demonstrates inner strength, tenacity, and courage. She had the courage to a) make a goal, b) make a plan to accomplish the goal and c) actually carry through with the plan and achieve the goal. While it may look easy on paper, actually doing it is another story altogether. Both short- and long-term goal setting is absolutely crucial to long-term success – trust me. Jenny’s ability to set, plan, and carry through a number of short- and long-term goals has allowed her to become a multiple half marathoner. That is a phenomenal accomplishment.
Now, running may not be for you. Or maybe it is, but a half marathon is out of the question. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that you set goals for both the short- and long-term. For example, you may want to dance the merengue on your Caribbean holiday (long-term goal). In order to do that, you need to either take some classes and / or buy a video to train at home (short-term goals). And if you want to get even more specific, you could create a weekly or monthly schedule of when you are going to train. And when you do reach those goals, be sure to give yourself a little reward.
Jenny, thank you for sharing your story. You are truly an everyday champion.