For years, Becca had watched her mother fight health battles, first with weight then with cancer. She saw the affects that the battles had, not just on her mother’s body but on her quality of life. And so, Becca made a decision. She wasn’t going to out that way. So she started running, short distances at first, then a half marathon. The goal was simple: A healthy lifestyle which also embraced challenges to keep things interesting.
“I know how valuable life is,” Becca said. “I watched my mom battle cancer and last year she lost her life to it. During my half marathon, I wore my mom’s cancer survivor t-shirt. She was overweight her whole adult life. She tried everything under the sun and it never worked. She never could win her [weight] battle and she gave up. I watched her body go through chemotherapy and radiation and thought, you know, I don’t want to do that. If I can change my life to better my odds of not having to do that, then I’ll do it. Life is too valuable.”
I met Becca through the good folks at TRYChips, interviewing her for a profile for their website. (And if you haven’t tried TRYChips yet, give them a shout!) Her story struck a chord with me. She talked about her reasons for wanting a healthy lifestyle, acknowledging that she was never going to win her age group at a race and eschewing the popular philosophy regarding goal-setting.
“People say to me that I should set a size or weight goal. And I’ve said no to that,” Becca said. “I want to be fit and whatever that looks like on me, that’s what I’m going to be. I’m just thrilled with how far I’ve come. I feel like I have further to go, but every time I exercise or every time I enter a race, I’m one step closer. It’s a reminder, for me, that this is my new lifestyle.”
And so, as summer kicks off and another race season is in full swing, Becca’s story got me thinking about my own goals, philosophies and reasons why I started doing all this in the first place:
1. My grandmother. I instantly connected with Becca’s emotions of watching her mother suffer through health issues. As much as I adored my grandmother, she struggled with her health and largely ignored doing anything to help herself. Her quality of life was non-existent for two years before six months of acute illness brought about the end. It was at that time I became a vegetarian, not because I thought it was a health cure-all but because I needed to do something concrete, and yes a bit dramatic, to begin taking control of my own body. I love you Gram. But I don’t want to go out the same way you did. I can’t necessarily ward off illness, disease and injury, but I can put my body in the best possible position and, more importantly, enjoy all aspects of my life along the way.
2. A challenge. I needed to get out of my comfort zone and getting into triathlon was an instant way to do that. I wanted to grow and explore and face fears — fears I didn’t even know I had. Starting endurance sports gave me that opportunity. After securing the basics of swimming, biking and running came putting the three together. Then playing with different distances. Then playing with speed. And no offense, but I found it far more interesting and invigorating than drinking beer until 4 a.m. listening to others talk about things they used to do. I was ready to start doing.
3. Creating new definitions. Part of why I chose endurance sports over, say, bird watching, is that part of me really wanted to be an athlete. I just didn’t know how. I didn’t think I was good enough. If I’m not in contention to win, am I an athlete? Seriously, I’ve had people tell me that no, I’m not an athlete. That an athlete is results oriented and that I have to have achieve a certain level of performance in order to qualify as an athlete. I believed them for a long time. It’s only been recently that I could return to my initial gut reaction to the results-oriented definition: Bullshit. See, I get to choose what being an athlete means. I also get to define success. I get to make up exactly what my life means. Others are entitled to their opinions, but they don’t have to live my life. I’d rather be doing and fall short of my time goal then sitting on my couch secretly longing to be part of the action. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to win. The competition brings out the best in me, whether I stand on the podium or finish last in my age group. Being engaged brings me joy, and so much is possible when I live from there.