AN INTERVIEW WITH RUNNER, SARAH HOCKERSMITH, FOR THE MY JOURNEY STORY SERIES
LAC: When did you decide to start making your health a priority (what or whom inspired this decision) and what were your goals?
Sarah: Well… I definitely needed to make my health a priority, but honestly, I didn’t set out with that goal in mind. I went through a divorce, a very unexpected and difficult one. I continued to focus on work, as that was the only place I felt like “me”. Outside of that, I hate to admit, I was pretty broken. I could feel myself slowly slipping away, and I knew I needed to reach out. I couldn’t eat, sleep, my hair was falling out, and I cried. A lot. I talked to my doctor, and he said I needed to find a focus. Something I loved to do and I needed to give it my all. I guess I wanted a magic pill. I had no idea what that would be because, well, I felt broken. Only a few days later, I was at work and a couple of the ladies at work approached me. They informed me they were going to train for the Triple Crown of Running, and I should join them. In my mind, I thought, “What! I am not a running. I don’t run.” However, I knew I needed something so I decided to give it a try. That day is when my journey began. Although we know the physical health benefits of exercise, I honestly must say this journey was more a focus on the mental health benefits. I know there is research out there supporting that, but I am living proof. My life changed that day, and my goals expanded to not just being mentally healthy again, but to being physically healthy as well. All this was new to me, as I didn’t exercise much, and it was an amazing feeling. I also had a whole group of cheerleaders, family, friends, and colleagues, who were encouraging me.
LAC: How did you get started and what did you do to improve your health?
Sarah: I trained for the Triple Crown of Running and ran all three races in 2013. I than ran the mini marathon, by myself, that same year. I was beginning to feel stronger mentally and physically every single day. I again ran the Triple Crown and the mini in 2014. I knew I needed something else, but I wasn’t sure what at thE time. In November of that year, a friend invited me to try CrossFit with her. I was very apprehensive, as I didn’t really know much about “working out” but agreed to try. I loved it! I loved the whole group mentality and how encouraging everyone was. I didn’t stick with it, as financially it wasn’t in the budget at the time, but it stirred up a craving for more than just running. The physical exertion was changing my body, as well as my mind. The trainers were very knowledgeable and through the short time I took those classes, I began to think more about the eating aspect of my health. Another friend was really into CrossFit, and we would talk food and meal prep. It was then that I really started to eat healthier as well. I am not perfect, just ask my friends, but I truly do put a lot more focus on eating better. I prepare meals for the week on Sundays so I am not tempted to just grab whatever I can that is easy. A friend asked me to join her Fitcamp class as well, and I absolutely love it. We meet three days a week to work out together. I joined LAC in November of 2014 just to use the treadmills for training in cold weather. My friends have encouraged me to try the classes there, and I love it, and the people there, as well. In 2015, I completed the races again…my best mini of the three.
LAC: How did you stay motivated and what was the biggest challenge?
Sarah: The motivation part was not as challenging as I thought it would be. I was surrounded by people who were encouraging, and making good choices for their health as well. I was seeing my body change, but more importantly, I was getting myself back again after a huge setback such as divorce. Running is therapy for me; it gives me time to think, reflect, just “me” time. After joining Fitcamp, and attending classes at LAC with friends, it isn’t hard to stay motivated. I have never been a part of group fitness, and I am sad I have missed out. I was so intimidated at first, and there is absolutely nothing intimidating about it. Everyone is trying to be better, and everyone encourages me to be better. On days when I am not especially motivated, others take over, holding me accountable. The biggest challenge for me was incorporating healthier eating into my journey. It has been baby steps, but I am getting there. Cooking is also a form of therapy for me, so I love trying new and healthier recipes. I still struggle; I crave all things not so good for my body. However, I have come so far, and I continue to improve. It has helped keep me motivated by talking and sharing with others. When you are surrounded by people trying to make healthier choices, it is much easier to stick to it! I have a long way to go, but I am taking the steps to get there.
LAC: What positive changes did you see in your life and what did you learn throughout this process?
Sarah: There were so many positive changes I my life that it is hard to know where to even begin, I have connected with some pretty fabulous people. I am stronger. In all areas. I am more confident in who I am. When I ran the mini for the first time, solo, I remember waking up and thinking, “I can’t do this. I really don’t think I can.” I sent a message to my sister, who didn’t miss a race that first year of my journey, and shared my doubt. Her response, “You’re doing it. If you have to walk it, fine. But you are doing it. Come on. We are waiting.” That is what I learned…don’t give up and always show up. Showing up is half the battle. This has become part of my driving force…people counting on me to show up and give it my best. Although my body has changed, I have a long way to go. My mind is stronger and healthier as well. I still have a way to go there as well. But I learned you have to start. If you don’t start, you will never see what you are capable of doing. Throughout this journey, and with others pushing and pulling me along. I am stronger and much more capable than I ever imagined. I learned that you can’t be afraid to start. And if you are, let others help. Without Sarah and Kelly training with me to do what I thought was impossible, without Alicia and Lori cheering me on, without Mandi inviting me to classes, and the fabulous women who check where I am if I am not there, without Kelly’s daily text messages letting me know what time we are meeting for Group power, Spinning…that is what I learned. You don’t have to go at it alone. Join a group. Grab a buddy. It will change you.
LAC: Final Thoughts? Is there anything else you would like share about your story?
Sarah: Final thoughts. Five real life and fitness related. One, trust God, even when doubt creeps in. Without my faith, I have nothing. Two, be brave even when you are afraid. Starting is scary. Not starting at all is scarier. Three, others’ actions, words, and opinions of you should not and do not define your worth. You are enough. You are. Four, if you are intimidated, as I was, if you lack the confidence that you can, as I did, stop. Stop being afraid. I thought that I wouldn’t have a clue, I would look dumb, all those things when I started doing group fitness. No one is judging you. They are there for their own fitness, and they all started somewhere. From my experienced running buddies, to the trainers at CrossFit, to my coaches at Fitcamp, to the instructors at LAC…not one time did I ever feel “dumb” or “judged”. They are all encouraging, offering support, and cheering me on. That goes for all the people in the classes as well. This journey is one that has strengthened me physically, emotionally, mentally. Give it a try. Just ask around…I didn’t have a clue where to begin. And I am still learning. But three years later, I just show up. Join a group. Try something new. Run, spin, lift. Just show up. Five, if you are not as I was, and you are confident in your fitness level, and where you are, support someone else. Ask them to join you, encourage them, don’t let up. Sometimes that is all it takes. You never know the impact you may have on someone…look at all those who have greatly impacted my life. When you see me, your first thought won’t be, “Wow! She is fit.” This is a journey. But from where I came from, my progress is immense. And for me, that is what counts.