Four years ago, I was diagnosed with a heart condition called Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia. After suffering through several incorrect diagnoses (one doctor actually told me I’d have to make sure I was never far from a defibrillator), I was finally referred to a well-known cardiologist at UC Davis.
“The good news is, you’re not going to die,” he told me after looking over my test results. “You’ll never be a runner, but you should be able to live a fairly normal life.”
And I was like no shit I’ll never be a runner, I weigh 175 pounds and my idea of athletics is spraying Cheez Whiz on crackers while watching half-naked men swim at the Olympics. Instead of taking it as a challenge, I looked at it as a get-out-of-exercise-free card. And for the next year or so, my weight continued to balloon to the point where I glanced at a photo on Facebook from a friend’s wedding and thought to myself, “Who is that fat girl wearing the same dress as me?” When I looked closer, I realized I was the fat girl. So that kind of sucked.
And in case you think I’m exaggerating:
Obviously I knew I had weight to lose, but was too self-conscious to go to the gym since I could barely use the elliptical machine for more than 10 minutes without becoming drenched in sweat. So instead I counted calories. I had friends try and convince me to do all kinds of gimmicky diets (even one that involved drinking hormones from pregnant ladies’ pee!) but instead of “dieting,” I decided to create new eating habits that I could sustain my entire life. Instead of depriving myself, I left myself eat a cheeseburger for lunch if I felt like it. I’d just eat veggies for dinner instead of a huge helping of pasta and half a loaf of bread, like the old Heather would have. Slowly but steadily the weight came off, until I felt comfortable enough being seen in public wearing gym shorts. There was a lot of self-tanner and internal pep talks involved.
My first day at the gym I thought about what that doctor said about me never being a runner, and out of curiosity I hopped on the treadmill just to see what I could manage. The answer was: Not much. Like, I could barely run for a minute straight at a 12-minute pace. So I lifted weights occasionally and stuck to the elliptical for my cardio, and managed to shed close to 40 pounds.
My fitness/diet routine stayed pretty much the same until January of this year. I was going through a bunch of life changes that at the time felt pretty shitty. I needed a goal; something to work toward and feel good about. And for some reason that damn heart doctor popped back into my mind.
“You’ll never be a runner.”
That night I texted my mom and told her, “I want to run a half marathon this year.”
So I did.
Suck on that, Mr. Cardiologist.