Years after I had given birth to my fourth child, people would say to me, “You look good for having had four children.” They would mean it as a compliment. But to my hears it always stung just a little. It was as though they were saying you are overweight and flabby, but that’s to be expected. When I finally got tired of looking as unfit as I felt, I decided to do something about it. I began a workout regimen and adopted healthier eating habits.
The only problem was that no matter which exercise regimen I employed, I could never seem to keep it up consistently. I always started well. In fact, I’d say I’m an amazing starter when it comes to exercise. Whatever the sport or discipline, I’d thoroughly research it, getting myself psyched up in the process. I’d make cards, keep charts, and journal my experiences – for about four to six weeks. Then I’d run out of gas and be unable to regain interest or momentum.
I came to realize that my failure to keep up any consistent exercise revolved around one simple question. Try as I might, I could never prevent myself from asking this question. And without exception as soon as I did, the workout ended and the regimen was trashed. The question was this: “Why I am I doing this again?” In other words, what’s the point? I knew all of the right answers. I’m working out so that I can improve my health. Improved health will allow me a better quality of life. I will set a good example for my (already active) children. I will (theoretically) lengthen my life span and live to see my children’s children, and their children, too. Although all of these answers are true and significant, not one could keep me on the treadmill, on the elliptical, on the weight bench, or on the stationary bike any longer than the other. Even the desire to look better and just be the all around “fly” mommy, the determination to bypass the bathing suits with the skirts “next summer,” and the best reason of all – to take care of the temple of the Holy Spirit were not enough separately or combined to motivate me to roll out of bed in the morning, or motor to the gym in the afternoon, or do some ab work before bed. It seems the pervasive feeling of futility thwarted my exercise efforts at every turn. No answer to my haunting question was good enough to keep me going. That is until I discovered Team In Training.
Team In Training or TNT as they’re most widely known, is a group of regular folks, uber-athletes, and everybody in between, who all have one common passion: championing the fight against blood cancers. TNT takes any person at any fitness level and trains him/her to walk or run marathons or half marathons in exchange for raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). If it sounds pretty straight forward, that’s because it is. Teams are divided by regions and each comes with a few coaches (who teach proper technique, pacing, nutrition, and equipment) and a slew of mentors who provide fundraising, training, and moral support. My group trains three days a week at a few different times. Trainees can choose 6:00 AM or 6:00 PM practices twice a week and one 6:00 AM practice every Saturday for a total of three practices a week.
But that’s not the best part. The best part is the athletes who train together. From almost every age demographic and walk of life, nearly every one has been personally touched by blood cancers in one form or another. Many have lost relatives to cancer. Some have relatives who are survivors. Others are survivors themselves. These people share their personal testimonies before every Saturday practice in what we call “Mission Moments.” Sometimes the testimonies brings smiles rooted in victory. Often they bring tears of sorrow as blood cancers are often fatal – especially in younger children, which so many victims are. Always, however, the Mission Moments before practice provide hope. Hope that one day a cure for cancer will be discovered. Hope in the fact that funds raised by TNT has directly led to the discovery of new drugs that increase the survival rate. And hope for families whose quality of life is made better and whose dignity is better preserved because of the services LLS can offer, largely from funds raised by TNT.
Since beginning training in July of this year, I have asked myself that dreaded question many times – especially on mornings when I rose and left a warm, slumbering house to venture out into the cold darkness for my pre-dawn workout. The difference is in this season the answers to that question come not in words but in faces. When I’m tempted to turn over I see the faces. I see Samantha,* who has lost a sister, a mother to blood cancers and who is fighting to save another sister and a granddaughter who are currently affected with auto immune disease – often a precursor to childhood leukemia. I see Elise,* a vibrant young woman, who discovered that she had Hodgkins’ disease while she was pregnant with her first child – a beautiful, plump baby boy. I see Thomas,* who nearly had his leg amputated, but for a surgeon’s newly acquired knowledge about myloma – knowledge obtained from a study funded by TNT. I see Omar,* who at 25-years of age is a five-time survivor of leukemia and who trains with my group. I see Randolph,* the father of a friend in whose honor I will participate in my first half marathon this November.
So when the thought comes to me, “Why am I doing this again?” I can answer, “I’m doing this for them and their families.” The fact that I have lost 15 pounds and a few dress sizes is now just an added bonus, compared to the relationships I’ve forged and that wonderful feeling of getting to do a good thing for someone other than myself. These days, I’m so disappointed when I can’t make my workouts with the team, that I find a way to squeeze them in on my own time during the week.
So it turns out all it took for me to amp up my workout was to take the focus off myself and put in onto the good I can use my healthy body to do for others. Who knew?
I hope my experience encourages or inspires you in your own journey to find motivation to workout consistently and diligently. If you would like to support my efforts with a donation, I welcome any and all contributions. My secure LLS website contains not only my blog about training with TNT but also a button for donations. To visit my personal TNT page, click here or copy and paste http://pages.teamintraining.org/sctx/rnrsa10/smitcheosp into your browser.
I’m over 60% of the way to my fundraising goal and very motivated to complete my race in November. I thank you in advance for all forms of support, moral, spiritual, and financial.
Follow Sheeri Mitchell on Twitter, catch up with her on Black Planet, or visit her personal blog.
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