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Digital Running Club » Columns, Downsizing » Facing Obstacles

Facing Obstacles

The only time in my life that I can recall actually choosing to run was between my junior and senior year of high school. I wanted to go on a teen missions trip to England and Scotland, which first meant enduring two weeks of boot camp. In preparation for boot camp, I needed to lose 20 pounds and be able to jog a one mile winding trail. For weeks I jogged around town with a clear focus of what I needed to achieve.

As I reflect back on my boot camp experience, the intent of the trail and obstacle course we faced everyday apply to my current situation as well: follow instructions, work within boundaries, and be a team player.

By the end of the two weeks, each teen had to demonstrate mastery of a few obstacles, such as running through tires and crawling under wooden planks. My fitness journey seems to parallel three such obstacles: The Slough of Despond, Jacob’s Ladder and The Wall.

The Slough of Despond

The Slough of Despond is a mud pit – my biggest nightmare! The only way to get past it is by swinging on a rope. If you don’t get a good running start or don’t have enough confidence, you’re doomed to fall in the mud. If this happens, you have to try it again and again and again until you succeed.

As a teen, when I watched team members swing on the rope, those who successfully made it to the other side landed on their feet and didn’t budge. When it was my turn, I tried doing the same thing, but as soon as I landed, I would fall back into the mud. I had to quickly get out of the mud before it pulled me down further into its gnawing hands. On my third attempt, I was determined to fall forward. Who cares what worked for others; I needed to find a solution that would work for me. Sure enough, when my feet hit the dry land and I went forward to my knees, I successfully mastered the challenge.

When I stumble as I journey toward better health now, I realize that I have a choice. I can stay stuck in the situation and let it pull me down even further, or I can quickly find a way out and get back on track. Such was the case when I was ill recently. While fighting chills and aches and fending off the need to vomit, I craved carbohydrates. I gave in to the cravings because those foods stayed down, but as soon as I was feeling better, I knew that I needed to quickly get back on course.

Whenever I face an obstacle and need to do things differently, my great-niece Brianna is my inspiration. Bri was born without her lower right forearm and hand, caused by Amniotic Band Syndrome. Bri has such a love for life and a positive attitude. When faced with a challenge, she thinks it through and gives it a try. If she doesn’t succeed on the first attempt, she uses a different tactic. Bri has taught me to not get worked up over something that doesn’t come easily. Instead, think it through and be willing to try different approaches.

During the winter season most of my walks have been indoor walks. Ten laps (1/2 mile) or twenty laps (1 mile) aren’t too bad, but when faced with forty laps (2 miles) I needed to get creative in coping with the monotony of the laps. I played different music, added some arm movements every fifth lap and switched direction midway through. Thanks Bri for the inspiration!

Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder is a 30 foot rope net. The object is to climb up and back down the other side, always facing the net. You are not allowed to just slide down the net.

My first few attempts at Jacob’s Ladder were filled with fear. I’m not fond of heights and couldn’t make it to the top of the ladder. A teammate then offered to climb the ladder with me. He told me, “Focus on the small steps and not on what still needs to be accomplished.” I focused on getting my feet off the ground… getting into a pattern of climbing the net… reaching the top of the ladder… safely getting over the top and facing the net as I climbed downward… it worked!

When Coach Brian told me to walk that very first mile, I was fearful. I was fearful that I physically couldn’t walk a mile and scared of the numbness in my feet. If I walk where I can easily touch something to catch my balance, I’m not as fearful. So walking in the middle of a road was hard for me, but I learned to focus on making it to the end of the corner, one corner at a time.

Although I have many more pounds to lose and a long way to go in regards to walking or jogging, I have to recognize and appreciate the achievements made thus far. If I only focus on where I want to be months or even years from now, that can be discouraging and cause doubt to enter my mind. I don’t want to go there. In fact, I am amazed by the progress I’ve made so far. Check this out, it’s part of the journaling I’ve been doing through this process:

Week 1 Week 5 Week 10
Blood Pressure 150/90 142/80 132/78
Walking Distance Total for the Week 3.25 Miles 4 Miles 5 Miles
Pain Level (1 – Low, 10 – High) 8 6 2
Confidence in Walking (1 – Low, 10 – High) 2 4 7
Pulse Rate 79 75 71
Weight Loss 7 lbs 27 lbs total 37 lbs total

The Wall

The Wall stands twelve feet tall. It is only by group effort that everyone is able to make it up and over the wall.

For me, The Wall was actually my favorite obstacle. I fully trusted the guys who boosted me up, was thankful for the arms ready to help me over the top, and breathed a sigh of relief as other team members guided me safely to the ground. The Wall was also the final obstacle of the course and I knew I was finished for the day!

As I continue on my fitness journey, I am very encouraged by the team that surrounds and supports me.

  • My niece Amanda, Brianna’s mom, is probably my number one fan! Prior to working with Coach Brian, Amanda knew that I had a desire to get healthy. She knew my struggles and she even wished that we could go on “The Biggest Losers” together before she lost weight. (I’m proud of you Amanda!) Amanda constantly sends me little encouraging messages. She believes in me.
  • Coach Brian and his wife Raffi provide me with great guidance. Brian challenges me to do things, such as a 10 minute half mile, that I didn’t know I could do. He also is frank if he observes I’m going off course.
  • “Father” Joe, my healthcare coach, is probably my biggest support. He has been there with my early struggles and cheers me on as I master goals one at a time.
  • Dr. Gunzburger takes my blood pressure every Monday night. Although it only takes a few minutes to take my blood pressure, Dr. G. has a genuine interest in my progress. If I’m having doubts or questions about something, he listens and gives great advice. He’s even verbally taught me how to fix haddock–something I’ve never done before!
  • Dave, a pharmacist and a neighbor up the street, inspires me with his dedication to walking to work every day. He has walked to work for at least fifteen years, always with a smile and a friendly wave. For years I wished I could be a walker like Dave and I’m getting there!
  • Family, close friends and Facebook friends have also been very encouraging and supportive. I’m humbled by the sincere interest others have in my fitness journey. I’m inspired by those who have “been there” and are doing so well in their own journey. Yet, I’m teary-eyed by those who share their current struggles and are desperately looking to make a change.

In a recent exchange of emails with Coach Brian, I told him that I was almost overwhelmed by the support I am receiving. Brian reminded me that people are willing to commit to helping me, or encouraging me, to get me up and over that wall (getting my life on a healthy track) as long as I’m giving it my all.

I continue to look forward to where this journey takes me and I will always be grateful for the opportunity that I’ve been given. For anyone who is in a similar situation, it all begins with you. In order to make a change, you have to choose to want to change. No one can make that choice for you. Along with choosing, you need to be fully committed to change–no more procrastination and no more excuses. Do what you need to do to free up your schedule so that you can stay committed.

Surround yourself with support. Seek out individuals to help you. When people realize you’re serious about your commitment, they will help you up and over The Wall.

Written by

Barb Bergerson lives in Western New York. She has a passion for helping people and getting to know their life stories. She teaches part-time in a jail, is a church administrative assistant, and enjoys freelance writing. Barb loves spending time with her nieces, playing games and relaxing by her pond. She’s excited about focusing on her health and getting back into the game of life. Get updates on Barb's progress on Facebook.

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14 Responses to "Facing Obstacles"

  1. Patti says:

    Wow! Love this and love you! I really appreciate your insight. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us.

  2. Amanda says:

    Super honored to be your #1 fan :-) Love you and I’m very proud of you.

  3. Sherry Chucci says:

    This is so inspiring. I have been overweight most of my life and making it a journey to get healthy now. You have inspired me! Thanks for sharing your journey. I used to live beside Carl and Melody at TFC when Amanda and Candace where just children.

    • Barb says:

      Hi Sherry. Good for you for wanting to get healthy. You can do it!!! Set small goals and focus on them. I still have a long ways to go, but keep my focus on the small goals. Keep us posted!!!

  4. Raffi says:

    Hi Barb,
    As you probably know, I read all of your posts here and on Facebook. This was particularly interesting to me because of “the wall”. Did you know runners use that phrase all the time? They talk about hitting an imaginary wall that your brain and body just don’t want to get past. As someone who is not easily self motivated, I related well to the WALL analogy.
    My healthy lifestyle journey had to be more about “a diet” or something I tried for a few months. I had to find within myself the desire to live a healthy life, determine my goals, make my own rules – and make it a whole new lifestyle. That was the only thing that worked for me. Essentially, I think I built myself a world without walls! And wide open space is always more fun to run around in!

  5. Kathy Winans says:

    Barb, give up the great job. How long have we “talked” about getting healthy and didn’t, and now we are both on a journey to getting healthy. Some days I struggle with proper eating & exercise, but I have to remind myself of how far I’ve come and how I don’t want to ever go back. We have a lot to be proud of girl and one step and one day at a time we will both get there, because we have finally CHOSEN to do, not talk !!!!!! WOOHOO!!! Very proud of you Barb!!

  6. Sarah Lewis says:

    Barb, you’ve taken on a serious challenge, and it’s great to see the progress you’ve made already! You’re doing this! Keep at it. :)

    • Barb says:

      Thanks a lot Sarah. I’m glad that I’ve finally gotten to a point where I was ready to make changes.

  7. Francoise Merry says:

    Hi Barb, I finally caught up with your wonderful writings, wonderful progress. Thanks for sharing so deeply and in such an interesting and challenging way. I heard from Sandy Rowley today how disciplined you are when facing snacks at the small group. She is in awe. I am too. Well done dear Barb. Looking forward to seeing you again soooooon ! Missed you!

    • Barb says:

      There are food temptations all around, but it’s getting easier. In my head I still LOVE cookies, but haven’t given in. I did enjoy some things while on vacation, but also ate several healthful meals.

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