Saturday, February 12, 2011

Half Marathon, Yes I Can

As a food lover, I tend to have problems with my weight, and subsequently my health. I'm sure other food lovers can empathise with me on this issue. I've never been of Biggest Loser proportions, but throughout my life so far, I've always been a bit bigger than healthy. While I envy people with naturally fast metabolisms, for most other people who manage to keep their weight in balance, it's due eating better and having more exercise. My main problem, even from as young as I can remember, is that I'm extremely lazy when it comes to moving about. I can happily sit (and still do to this day) for 12 hour periods and watch TV, with the only movements to go to the toilet or get food from the fridge.

The Fittest Point In My Life
It's with no surprise that the fittest point in my life was during my high school days, in particular, when I was in year 10. I played lots of sports everyday (tennis, basketball, cricket, badminton, table tennis) and was out and about after school. During year 10, I also had the toughest gym teacher of all my school days. He was terrible at the theoretical work in the classroom, but come those two periods of physical exercise, he was a drill sergeant. I remember Fridays being the worse day because we knew we were going to be in pain. He would make us do 4 laps of a 2.5 km oval before we got into the real activities. He pushed us all so hard that there were some tears. I remember on my first try of running that oval, I could just do one lap and then was in terrible pain. However, by the end of the year, I was running that 10km so easily and ready to do more. One time, he made me do pushups, and I stopped at 50, saying that was all I could do. But he refused to let me stop and said to keep going. 50 more pushups later and I was really done. Amazing the power of the mind. Back then, I was the same height as I am now, and weighed a very healthy 60kg and a size 28 waist pants.

The Fattest Point In My Life
The fattest point in my life occurred about 3 years ago. During uni, I was still exercising by playing sports, being involved in a number of sports team. However, once work started, slowly over the space of a few years I stopped participating in sports, citing "exhaustion" from work. With a disposable income, I started to eat out a lot. I was buying lunches almost everyday, and eating out for dinner 3-4 times a week, usually at expensive restaurants with multiple courses. I remember the worse point was when I went to buy some new work pants. I took my usual size 32 (I had slowly increased in pant size) but it didn't fit. I had to buy a size 34 pants. I have only ever worn those pants once, as I hate them. That reality kicked me in the guts, and I went on the CSIRO Diet, which consisted of low carbs and mainly protein. I was very disciplined and stuck strictly to this diet for 3 months. I dropped off 5 kgs off my 73 kg body, but was craving food so badly. Friends and work mates were also saying I looked sickly. One work mate, who is a fitness freak, said that it wasn't safe to stay on that diet forever, so hence I resumed normal eating. Slowly but surely, the weight started to come back on.

This kicked me into my second phase, which was to join a gym. I'd been meaning to join a gym for about 5 years, but again gave myself excuses not to. Finally, one day as I was driving home from work and went past the gym, I just went in and signed up. I was super enthusiastic for two months, but saw no results at all. Slowly my morale was decreasing and I was going less and less. Fortunately for me, I bumped into an old high school friend at the gym. She was hardcore, and made me realise how I was not taking the gym seriously. She showed me how to work out hard, and pushed me to my limits. We had a great time working out and I actually enjoyed the gym. At the beginning, she was able to outrun me, outlift me and outstretch me. But after a while, I could keep up with her on both endurance and weight exercises. I still wasn't as flexible. However, it was a devastating blow when after a year, she switched to day sessions to fit around her work. So I was left without my drill sergeant and I floundered. I slowly stopped going to the gym. At the same time, my squash sessions with yet another friend that I was enjoying so much, came to an end too, with his work and family commitments meaning he couldn't play very regularly at all.

From another peak point of where I could run 15 km on the treadmill and lift some good weights and having a flat gut, I slowly put on weight yet again. I gave myself excuses of how work was stressful and I was tired, I'd do it tomorrow, I was studying, I was planning my holidays etc. I just never seemed to exercise. So when I saw that some fellow Melbournian food bloggers were going to participate in the Run Melbourne event, I quickly decided I would do it too. I set myself the target of running the half marathon, as that has always been a dream of mine. About the same time, I saw this iPhone application called Run Keeper. It uses the GPS in the phone to track your running progress. This was exactly what I needed. Being an engineer, I love quantified progress. Seeing how fast, far and long I was running gives me incentive to better it. I look forward to running and beating my own times. Coupled with my Run Keeper Street Teams and lots of encouraging messages on my Twitter account, I hope to be able to complete that half marathon in July and change my life, once and for all, keep hold of healthy habits.

I encourage anyone else interested in changing their fitness habits to join me in the Run Melbourne event. I'd also love you to occasionally, gently remind me to put down that second piece of cake if you see or read that I'm about to eat it. I'm not going to deny myself any foods but will instead try to control the portions, so don't tell me off when you see me eating a macaron, but instead maybe just remind me that I shouldn't eat a second macaron.


  1. Great post Thanh, I was looking at writing a similar one on my blog tonight, but relating it back to over-eating while abroad and the differences between Aus & US eating habits... If I'm up to it, I may also reveal how much I weighed when I returned from the US haha. I just heard about the Run Keeper app last week too from Kim @ All Consuming, I really want to use it but my running is treadmill based... Maybe I'll venture outside of the gym and give it a shot though! Best of luck, can't wait to hear about your marathon success!

  2. Awesome! I need to start running as well. So lazy though. But have also bought a push bike and started cycling.
    Good luck with training. I still need to start my engine!

  3. good job! keep up the EXERCISE =). you just need someone to tell u excuses are just excuses! you can find time no matter how busy, how tired you are.

  4. Lynda, from my short experience, the US eating habits are far unhealthier than in Aus. You have to try the RunKeeper app. You can use it for the treadmill but you need to manually enter the readings. It works best on outdoor runs. Give an outdoor run a go, it's a very different feeling. Thanks. I hope to succeed in my half marathon.

    Penny, you better start training if you want to finish the half marathon :-) But you are doing lots of cycling, so I'm sure you'll be fine.

    Allan, definitely will try to keep up the exercise. I do need people to keep pushing me. I'm not the most motivated person. It is true, you can learn to make time when you stop making excuses.

  5. I certainly admire you for aiming to run half a marathon! It's certainly hard to stay motivated at the gym and I've had my struggles with handling weight as well, but I think I've found a happy medium that my body agrees with (although I still think I'm not doing so well with my sweet intake probably...).

    I do plan to join in the Run Melbourne event, but will probably aim for the shorter fun run. :)

    Good luck! Don't lose your motivation!

  6. Ashley, it's super hard to stay motivated at gym. I can't believe you have problems with your weight. You look super fit. As for sweets, I too ingest way too much of it, it's my biggest weakness.

    Excellent, we shall all run the event together.

  7. Oh wow... I should really keep up my exercise routine.. really hard with my injury... too much and I get knocked out for another week.. but I am at the unfittest and the unhealthiest point in my life right now :(

  8. I-Hua, it is hard to exercise with an injury. Generally walking is good as it's low impact, or maybe take up swimming. If you don't do anything, it'll get worse and you'll be even unfitter. It's either exercise or eat less food *gasp*.

  9. Great work! This is a fabulous idea. I love running, and really value exercise as a way of keeping my stress levels down & helping me sleep better. It is also nice to feel fit. I would love to train for a marathon, but after years of running I have trouble with my knee now. So I tend to stick to the gym for body attack classes, yoga and the cardio machines. Oh I so wish to train for a half too, though!
    Heidi xo

  10. Heidi, thanks, I hope to reach my goal of the half marathon. Keeping fit is really good for one's state of mind as well, definitely helps with sleep by getting regular exercise.