Sheila Trabelsi

When I submitted my application, I had been contemplating starting an exercise routine for months. I felt stuck, having already reached professional goals. Almost as if I was in a midlife crisis, not knowing what I wanted next. I kept wondering what it was going to take to get me to finally execute the hardest part—starting. When I was going to know what my new goals were? I have always known what I wanted to be and what my goals are, so this was new territory I felt uncomfortable with. Before this, it had been years since I attempted to run a couple 5k’s. Typically, I’d fall off towards the end of training because of injuries and resulting in some tough 5k’s. Then, after, back to sedentary life.

I decided one late night to apply after I had watched highlights of a coworker friend’s journey through this program. I was proud of her and saw how it created a change in her. I was hoping to spur some insight and movement. I was feeling tired of being unhappy in my body, stagnant, waking stiff, feeling older than I am. I was tired of struggling with food and with my clothing. I was mindlessly living.

I recall, as I filled out the application, thinking no way am I going to show my legs when I run. I have always hated how they look and was doing the world a favor. When I got word I was chosen to participate, I was beyond excited. I felt this was the motivating push I needed.

Fear and anxiety set in later as the start neared. Training started in the midst of the COVID 19 pandemic and Ramadan. This meant huge changes in the program. Also, I was fasting 16+ hours a day, and yes, running while fasting. After adjusting to the first week, I began to set my sights on weekly targets, making up if I missed those, and I was holding myself accountable to my mentor, Joy, from afar. I loved having to message Joy in the mornings after my runs. It was such a simple technique that made a huge difference for me. She was the perfect mentor for me. She was nonjudgmental, encouraging, truly joyful, and she taught me a lot about breathing and listening to my body.  Once we did start meeting, masks and all, she was willing to go my own pace and is the one who influenced my morning runs, which I now love.

During several runs, my body and mind would war over wanting to stop. Eventually my body won, and my mind began to quiet and trust my body. I’d push on because I could. I started to wake wanting to run and enjoying the peace of the morning and time for me. I may be slow (yes, I was once passed by a walker), but I’m still a runner, something I never thought I’d be. Also, I proudly run in a skirt on every run, showing my legs!!! My legs…I actually like them!

As the end of training neared, I had pushed through the fear of going to a morning run group with strangers (didn’t go well, but I showed up and ran). I tried trail running, and I enjoyed it. I made a new friend. I ran trails I had never been on. I learned to enjoy running. I found more self confidence (showed those legs). I felt younger in my body. I found a new sense of what is next for me. I had run a couple practice 5k’s on my own prior to the final race just because I could keep going, and it felt good, which was a shocking revelation. I don’t have to feel sick at the end of a race if I prepare properly. I can train and not activate knee pain or shin splints. I realized I need to go slow to go fast.

Today, I still run and show my legs. I continue to exercise and weekly reevaluate my planning. I’ve entered other challenges focused on adding in weights and virtual running groups to keep my competitive spirit propelling me towards my health goals. Also, I’m planning to train for a 10k and half marathon, and someday would love to travel to do races in other states and countries for fun. Also, I have generated some ideas around my next professional goals. Goals that pertain to more leadership opportunities and may include a podcast and some book ideas. I cannot believe how much this program did for me, and that I have finally adopted a runner mindset. I am beyond proud of myself and so thankful for this program, the encouragement, support and belief it had in me when I needed it most.

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Elle Photography

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