Coates spent most of her life effortlessly slender; she never exercised and never worried about what she ate. And then she turned 40. “My weight just gradually crept up,” says Coates. “It was horrible. I always felt I looked really good. Suddenly, I felt old.”
Until March 2004, Coates worked at a high-pressure job as a sales representative for a perfume distributor. The job often demanded 12-hour days, which Coates often spent sitting at her desk or in her car, which also served as her dining room. “I never thought about what I ate,” she says. “I would pull in for gas, realize it was 2 p.m. and I hadn’t eaten yet, and pick up a chocolate bar and a Coke.” When she quit her job to focus on taking care of her two teenagers and her 83-year-old mother, Coates realized how tired and out of shape she was. At five-foot-four and 150 pounds, Coates not obese by any standard, but much heavier than she had ever been. Years of not exercising had taken their toll on her small frame. Even a short walk was a tall task that left her short of breath and exhausted.
Coates refused to let her lack of fitness know-how stop her from getting in shape. She says she would have felt out of her element going to a gym, so she asked her neighbour, a fitness buff who complements her running schedule with six-kilometre walks, if she could tag along. “I was accountable to her twice a week,” says Coates. “I have to go because she would be standing in my driveway, waiting for me.”
Coates noticed an immediate energy boost and that, along with an upcoming trip to New Zealand, encouraged her to exercise more often. She added three more six-kilometre walks a week, increasing her routine to 30 kilometres over five days. By the time Coates left for her trip, she had lost 10 pounds, and more importantly to her, felt strong, positive and alert.
Coates is now down to a svelte 130 pounds, and in January she found the courage to go to a gym. She realized that walking wasn’t going to challenge her physically, so she signed up with a personal trainer who she sees twice a week to add muscle conditioning to her workouts. Coates also started doing yoga and continues to walk with her neighbour. Her next goal is completing a 10-kilometre run next spring, and she recently started a walk/run program to ease her body into running. “My focus wasn’t to lose weight or fit into a dress,” she says. “It was just to feel healthy.”
Her advice to you:
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Not the people in magazines, not the people at the gym. You have to do this for your healthiest you. Starting to exercise (especially if you’ve never done it before) can seem daunting, but you just have to do it and be fearless.
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