I had a pretty active childhood. In fact, Apolo Ohno, the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete of all time, was my in-line speed skating relay partner before he transitioned to the ice. But as I grew up, I just didn’t put my health first. I didn’t stay active. I would eat nachos and pizza before ever considering something healthy.
During this period, I was on the “chubby” side of the fence, but I never considered myself obese. Ironically, one of my first jobs was doing choreography for a local sports dance team, a rather active profession. I had the confidence to teach others how to follow a routine and perform it well, but couldn’t take control of my own health. I continued making bad food choices, grew more and more self-conscious and found myself behind the scenes, no longer in the spotlight like other dancers.
Over the next eight years, I tried to be moderately active and pursued job opportunities in the healthcare field. Then my life turned upside down. My father, who was overweight, became very ill. It was an incredibly difficult time for me and my family. I was fortunate enough to have him walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, but had to come home from my honeymoon early because he was ailing so quickly. Being an only child, his death destroyed me. And while he had a real medical condition, I believe it was the weight that took his life. On his deathbed, I promised him I would always take care of myself.
While trying to cope, I saw Jared Fogle, the Subway® guy who has since become a personal friend and inspiration, run the New York City Marathon. I figured if they can do it, so can I. So I started running. It was my way of mourning my father. I could hear his whisper chanting me on. This was my time to set an example for myself and my family. I began setting small, incremental goals for distance and time, and watched my endurance and strength improve. Before I knew it, I was enjoying that “runners high,” getting better sleep, and my jeans started to fit better and better. Friends and family even began commenting on my appearance and healthy glow.
Fast-forward several years, and I am now a marathon runner. I completed the Seattle Rock’n Roll Marathon in five hours and 40 minutes earlier this year, and am signed up for my second marathon in December. Let me be clear—I never saw myself running a marathon. But the truth is, it’s really amazing what your body is capable of. You just need to take that first step, set small, attainable goals and not give up. Training for a marathon has really changed my life. I’m now known to run six miles round-trip to our nearest SUBWAY® restaurant to get my favorite Buffalo Chicken and Oven-Roasted Chicken Breast sandwiches. And you should also know, there’s no getting me off the dance floor now!
Know anyone else that took control of his or her health? Nominate that person for the American Heart Association’s Lifestyle Change Award, sponsored by Premera Blue Cross. Awardees will be honored at the Puget Sound Heart and Stroke Walk, held October 26 at Seattle Center, and sponsored nationally by SUBWAY® restaurants and Jenny Craig.
Kari Armour, 32, is currently developing an exercise and wellness program for assisted-living facilities and pursuing her Doctorate in Physical Therapy with an option in Healthcare Administration at Eastern Washington at Bellevue. She lives in Redmond, Wash., with her husband, Paul, and her two teenage step-sons, Josh and Kyle.