Tuesday, August 2, 2016

5 Lessons Learned on Run With Zahida's 5 Year Blogiversary!

On August 4th, 2011, the Run With Zahida blog was born. I am so pleased that I have reached this milestone with my blog - my 5 Year Blogiversary!!!

I thought I'd briefly recap a little bit about my story here, the history of this blog, and what I've learned over the course of the last 5 years.

Before launching this blog, I had been blogging for some time already, namely through my art blog titled Art By Zahida  where I have been writing about my artist process for each piece I have created, as well as to talk about events I have been part of as an artist.

Alongside my artistic pursuits, in 2008, I started my journey to health, which led itself to the 130+lbs of weight loss that you now know about. It began with me wanting to get heart healthy in memory of my father who we had just recently lost to a heart attached. Over time, the goal transformed and the rest is history. But I'll continue to recap :)...

2010 offered its share of road blocks: emergency gall bladder surgery, followed by a blood clot (DVT) in my right leg, months on anti-coagulant medication (blood thinners) and finally surgery on both legs in the fall of 2010. I had lost much of the weight before all this happened (about 80lbs), was reaping the benefits of improved health, and had recently completed my first 5km event in a long time, so these several months of inability to exercise was certainly a major setback. It seemed like my body was fighting against me; I was getting healthy and NOW I was running into issues because I used to be obese - in past tense? How was this fair? I had stopped being lazy and stopped ignoring my health. But I didn't let it stop me or get me down and as soon as the bandages were off my legs and I had the strength to be on my feet more than 20min at a time, I started running again. It didn't take long for me to get it back and I set the goal of running a half marathon in 2011.

The half marathon wasn't my first (I had done 2 previously in 2003 and 2004, the first time I lost my weight...but then I didn't keep the weight off). But I would argue that the half marathon in 2011 was the most important one I have ever done. It set this whole "thing" in motion.

I remember telling a colleague about my goal, and he encouraged me to share my story. He convinced me that my story could help others and they would find the story of me training for a half marathon inspiring. I agreed with him, somewhat hesitantly (although I knew he was right) and so, this blog was born. The title, "Run With Zahida" was to mirror the title of my art blog, "Art By Zahida". Thank you, Stuart for encouraging me to start. Not sure I ever properly acknowledged your influence on me in this journey.

I was not entirely sure that my blog could inspire or help others looking to improve their health. But I did know that publicly declaring my goals and talking about my health, my struggles, my fears, this would hold me accountable. Even if nobody was reading, or if very few were reading, I was publicly declaring my goals. You know, if it's on the internet, it has to be true (ha!), or it's somewhat permanent a declaration. I couldn't risk failing like I did back in 2004, when I completed my 2nd half marathon and then let myself go to the point where I put on all the weight I had lost and then some. My lifestyle change would be a permanent one this time around.

And so I began. The hardest part of starting this blog wasn't the writing. I can type stupidly fast and language has always come naturally to me. The hardest part was being OK with being open and vulnerable. I had always been ashamed of my body, my health, and that I let myself do that to myself, you know, I got fat....again. I had to stop being ashamed. How could I possibly not be ashamed though? I assumed that the world would judge me if they knew I once weight 285lbs. Should I not be embarrassed? Shouldn't I pretend that photos of me "fat and ugly and worthless" don't exist? Why would I post photos like this one here for the world to see when I should hide?
With Cam in 2008, before I began my health journey.
I forgot that I am human, and like every single other person in this world, I was not perfect and I had struggled. But my imperfections only make me human; they do not make me shameful. They do not give me reason to hide. My struggle may be different than yours, but that doesn't mean you can't relate. Show me one person who is without flaw, or has lived a perfect life, or who has never struggled with something difficult? It's impossible. That's part of the human experience. Perhaps those who didn't have 130+lbs to lose wouldn't relate to my specific struggle, but they could relate to my attitude toward mine. Perhaps my unwillingness to give up and my drive to achieve were something to look up to.

I had a following right away for this blog, I lost another 40lbs, and training for the half marathon went so very well that I finished more than 30min faster at this half marathon than at my previous one 7 years before. That had a lot to do with my wonderful running friend, Patti, whom I trained with, who encouraged me every step of the way, and ran the Victoria Half Marathon with me in October 2011. I learned so much from you, Patti. Thank you!!!! <3

At the finish line with Patti at the 2011 Victoria Marathon finish line
But the blogging journey didn't end there, as my running journey was only really getting started!

I don't need to recount the next 5 years to you now, because the rest is here on this blog. If you don't know it, you can certainly read on. It's no secret that I am obsessed with running, and run all the time. My health and lifestyle change, have been permanent changes. I see no possibility of ever slipping back. Races I've completed, well there's no sense listing them off. And I see no end in sight to this passion or this writing pursuit.

So instead of recounting the last 5 years since this blog was born, I thought I would share 5 positive lessons I learned over the last 5 years that have translated from this blog or from the sport of running to my life in general. Here you have it, in no particular order:

  • There's no place for shame in my life - I do not have to be ashamed about the body I used to have or the body I have today. Who cares if anyone sees a "fat" photo of me. Those photos are part of my story, as I am the same girl today as I was in those photos. I just look a little different, I'm a bit wiser maybe, and I like sports now. But the other version of me is just as pretty, intelligent, and worthy. Now I am slim with an athletic build, but I will never have a flat tummy. I have extra skin hanging off my tummy, my inner thighs and my arms and this will never go away naturally. Who cares! It's a symbol of my journey, my battle scars, so to speak. I used to shy away from wearing shorts and tank tops but now I wear them proud. I am proud of my body and what it can do. I am proud of my many miles my legs have traveled. I am proud of me. I don't have to pretend I was never that other girl as she is still me.

  • Vulnerability is OK - I am no longer afraid to share what makes me human. I don't hide when I am not doing well. I openly talk about my struggles and triumphs here and in conversation and this attitude has set me free. I hope it has helped others overcome their own barrier.
  • Community is everything -  This might have been a reason why after running my first 2 half marathons, my health slipped away. I didn't know any other runners well. I trained by myself, traveled to and from the races alone, spoke to nobody at the races, and didn't really share the experience with anyone. Now I have the opposite approach. Races are my social time. Catching up with friends often involves running. I am involved and have been involved in the running community the last 5 years. I have coached runners, I work at a running store, I know race directors, I have been ambassador to races and write about them here etc. I have become friends in real life with people I met online because of this blog or my social media presence. I show up at races, no matter how small, and find I always know a bunch of the people in the crowd by name. The difference it makes, being involved and social vs being introverted and quiet (my natural tendency) is a huge one. You can share the joys of the sport, share knowledge you've gained, learn from others, and most importantly, you never ever feel alone.
  • Be held accountable - If you want to achieve your goal, tell someone about it. Even if you only tell one very special person, tell that one person. I choose to declare my goals on this blog. I post my workouts on Dailymile. There's always someone watching. But I also talk about what I want to do when it comes to any goal I set. This is not just with running but I will always at least tell my husband or whoever is listening, about any other goal that's important to me. For example, this summer, I wanted to paint a new canvas. I said it out loud to a few people so I had to do it because they would one day ask me about it. And I did do it!
  • Celebrate success, no matter how small - Sometimes we get caught up into believing that only major milestones in life are worth celebrating. I think running has taught me that that is no true. I shouldn't just celebrate the marathons, but every small victory, every finish line crossed, every workout, every new running friendship made, every bad weather day that wasn't made an excuse, every injury I recovered from, every new place discovered on foot, and every day I am alive, well, and healthy. 
So now I'm thinking I should run the Victoria Half Marathon this coming October to mark the 5 year milestone. What do you think?

Thank you for all your support thus far on my journey this last 5 years. To 55+ more!

<3 Zahida

1 comment:

  1. You are the absolute best. This is a wonderful reflection both on life and on running and how the two journeys intersect oh so often. I am so grateful for your blog. Thank-you for being your awesome, vulnerable imperfect self and having the courage to share your story with others