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Fitness: Liz's Story

I've played field hockey since the eighth grade. I am now a varsity player entering my senior year of high school, but I have to admit that I wasn't always physically fit. I was a scrawny little kid who was always the shortest and most petite in my class. My mom had always feared that if I played competitive sports, I'd get hurt by aggressive players. So I wasn't very athletically involved during my childhood.

From Humiliated to Motivated

When I entered middle school, a lot of my friends were signing up for the school's sports teams. One of my friends convinced me to try out for the soccer team with her. I had played a little bit of soccer before, so I figured that it wouldn't be too bad since I already knew the rules and how to dribble, pass, and shoot. On the first day of tryouts, I entered the field feeling quite optimistic until the coach told us to run laps for warm-up.

Bells and whistles went off in my head because I knew that I could not run for very long without getting really tired. As I struggled to keep up with the team, I found myself falling farther and farther behind until I was the last one to finish. Before we could even get a water break, the coach then made us do sprints back and forth across the field! I was so exhausted that by the time we did dribbling and passing drills I barely had any strength left to kick the ball!

After tryouts were over, my name never made it on the list. I was disappointed, but at the same time, I expected it. It was at that moment that I knew I had to do something about my health and fitness. I didn't want to be humiliated like that again.

When springtime rolled around, I made a big decision to sign up for the track and field team. People thought I was crazy because I ran a slow 11-minute mile in gym class, but I was determined to get into shape and improve my mile time. The first day of practice was one of the hardest workouts I've ever had. It was a lot of running for me, especially since I decided to participate in the long-distance events.

Fortunately, I wasn't the only slow runner trying to get into shape. A few others were on the same level as me with a similar goal. Day after day we supported and cheered each other on during practices and meets. As the season progressed, I found that I could run longer, faster, and without as much pain as I used to. One of the happiest days of my life was the last meet of the season when my mile time was 9 minutes. I could not believe that I had cut my time down by 2 minutes in just one season! It was painful and a lot of work, but the results were definitely worth it.

Eighth grade soon rolled around and I was feeling really confident about trying out for another fall sport. Instead of attempting soccer a second time, I decided to give field hockey a try. Again, the coach instructed us to run a lot of laps and sprints. This time, I was well prepared. After a week of tryouts, I was ecstatic to see that my name made it on the list.

I was inspired. I even took up kung-fu lessons in addition to being on both the track and field and hockey teams. Being in shape helped me feel energized, flexible, and strong. I also felt accomplished: My best mile time ever was 6½ minutes — a long way from the 11 minutes that I started with.

Junior-Year Setbacks

After I got fit I learned another important lesson: Once you do get into shape, don't stop or give up!

In high school, juggling all my athletic activities and schoolwork during my freshman and sophomore years was challenging but not impossible. But then junior year rolled around and I had the added responsibilities of planning for college, scholarships, PSATs, SATs, and finding a job so I could buy gas for my car.

It became almost impossible to manage my time. The job gave me gas money, but it wore me out so much that I would often come home at night exhausted. Halfway through the year, I gave up some of my commitments to focus on priorities: Since I want to go to art school, I decided to spend more time on my artwork and my academics and less time on sports. I quit taking kung-fu lessons after 3 years of training and I quit track early in my fifth season. I knew my fitness would suffer, but I pledged to run on weekends and whenever I had free time.

Unfortunately, I didn't keep my own promise. When I did have free time, I spent it going out with friends or catching up on sleep. I could feel my body getting more and more sluggish, but I kept telling myself that I would run the next day. I kept putting off exercising, and eventually I found myself stressed out and moody. My body kept sending signals that I wasn't healthy, but I ignored them. When it came to the point that going up the stairs in my house became tiring, I realized that — busy or not — exercise had to be a priority.

Getting back into shape was extremely hard. When I was on the track team, I could run for miles. Now running for just 15 minutes left me really tired. It was slow and painful, and yet at the same time, I was feeling better and stronger again. Although I may never be able to get back into the tip-top shape I used to be in, I've found that even a little exercise makes a difference. Staying fit and healthy is one of the best things I can do for my body.

Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: September 2014

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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