Think you have nothing to learn from a formerly 320-pound individual?
Written by: Sabrina Grotewold
If you’ve been a runner for several years and can hardly imagine a life that doesn’t involve participating in the sport, then you know the incredible amount of discipline, motivation, self-confidence and mental focus it takes to become a devoted runner. Navigating the ups and downs of being an athlete, from managing injuries to balancing work, home and social commitments with training, comes at a price, but it’s the small rewards—lowering cholesterol, increasing lean muscle mass, crossing a finish line with a new personal record—that make the sacrifices worthwhile. If you’ve been competitive—whatever this word means to you—for a long time, you might not even remember what life was like before running and sports became a focal point. But, becoming a self-motivated, dedicated athlete is a journey that Kimberly Fine, a 26-year-old Chicagoan will never forget.
Three years ago, Fine worked long, unpredictable hours in the bustling advertising industry with success, but the 320 pounds she carried on her frame slowed her down. If you’re thinking this is just another weight-loss story, you’d be right. But, you’d also be wrong not to consider the incredible inner strength and determination it takes to rewire the brain’s reward center, readjust values, restore health and, essentially reinvent oneself. Before January 2009, Fine had tried to shed pounds, but she’d always end up back to where she’d started. Fine didn’t know that she wouldn’t fail again, but she mustered the inner strength to try.
“I’ve been up and down my entire life, and I remember thinking that I was just meant to be big. In January 2009, I was 320 pounds; I’ve always been lucky to have good friends and a supportive family, but I wasn’t living the life that a 26-year-old girl should be living,” Fine said. “I had failed so many times before and I wasn’t sure if this time would be any different, but looking, back I was finding things to justify my failure. Instead, this time, I took a different route; I didn’t let that happen. That’s not to say that I didn’t have ups and downs along the way and I’m going to continue to have ups and downs.”
Although Fine recalls being overweight for much of her life, she wasn’t a sedentary youth. She played basketball in high school, an activity that promoted a 75-pound weight loss at the time. After piling the pounds back on as a young adult, Fine decided to start her journey not just by slashing calories but by embarking on a new education; she read everything she could find about eating healthfully and approached exercise with a Jillian Michaels-esque push yourself mentality. Instead of allowing negative thoughts to pervade, Fine focused on little goals. Just like a marathoner, Fine didn’t allow anxiety over how far she had to go to discourage her—she knew that the healthy changes she started to make would have to be for the long haul. One-hundred and seventy pounds ago, Fine couldn’t complete one lap around a 400-meter track; today, she’s a runner and triathlete who is studying to become a certified NASM trainer.
“I would say to myself, ‘I’m going to the gym and I’m going to run X amount of miles today.’ I talked myself through it and it became such a mental battle and I told myself I’m not leaving the gym until I do this,” Fine recalled. “I told myself I’m not going to die I’m going to get this done one way or another. It kind of became fun to see how far I could push myself. With my initial goal of wanting to run a half-marathon, I approached everything sort of rationally; my mentality was that I’d sign up for a race and I’d train and then I’d do it—I tried not to overanalyze things, to wonder how I was going to do it or how well I was going to do it. I just tried to take things one step at a time.”
To celebrate her one-year anniversary of revamping her life, Fine ran 13.1 miles on the treadmill at her gym. Moved by her plight, a friend of Fine’s ran alongside her on the next treadmill, cheering Fine on and motivating her to keep going. To keep the momentum going, Fine set a second goal of completing 10 races in 2010; the races included a stair climb, 5Ks, 10Ks and the Chicago Olympic Distance Triathlon. Her New Year’s resolution for 2012? Complete her first half-Ironman.
“My mentality has changed drastically; now I truly believe that I can do anything,” she said. “Instead of ‘why me,’ I think, ‘why not me;’ why can’t I complete a half-Ironman or whatever I set my mind to? People are so quick to put limitations on themselves and they’re so quick to write the story of what they’re capable of.”