My Hampton Roads Legacy

 

In a little more than two months, my husband and I will be journeying across the country to relocate in San Diego, CA for my internship.  As I am returning to active duty and my training in San Diego is only a year long, we have no idea where we will be following my internship.  Perhaps we will end up back in Virginia Beach and perhaps we will move elsewhere or continue to reside in CA.  For now, it’s all up in the air.  The one thing I know for sure is that I will have to say goodbye, even if temporarily, to the place and the people that I have come to think of as home.

For the first time in my life, I have really come to understand the value and the power of community.  Despite being raised in a small farming community, I failed to learn the value of connecting to those around you.  I felt that having a few close friendships was sufficient, and while I still feel that this is the case, I have also learned that being connected to a larger body of caring individuals can make a huge impact on one’s life.  Hampton Roads has become that larger body for me, especially within the context of the fitness community.  Triathlon, Crossfit, Nutrition, etc.  I’ve made connections with others through all of these interests/pursuits and I am humbled by how much others have done to enhance the quality of my life.  Therefore, I’ve made the conscious decision to give back to Hampton Roads before I leave.

As you all know, I recently succeeded in raising $840 for Girls on the Run in Hampton Roads.  I would like to give a special thanks Kristin Mayer, the owner and the creativity behind my sponsor, Betty Designs, for generously donating three goodie bags to be given away to those who donated.  I chose the Girls on the Run charity because it represents things that I truly believe in and because my involvement as an assistant coach allowed me to see how magical this program truly is.  I’m now selecting a second charity and I will focus on raising funds for this charity through my race in August at the USAT Age Group National Championships.  This is also a program with which I have recently become personally involved.  The LIFT program, which stands for “Lifting Spirits, Improving Bodies, Feeding Souls, Transforming Lives,” was established by Jim White in 2014 as a Jim White Community Fitness Foundation project.  The program runs month to month and provides individuals in need (homeless, low income, etc) with the opportunity to learn how to live healthier lives through exercise and nutrition classes.

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Jim giving out instructions and Justin and I listening intently at our first session as LIFT volunteers.

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And before I knew it, we were getting another workout for the day.  Mountain climbers pictured here!

I’ve been blessed by my volunteer experience with LIFT.  During the month of May, I participated in the program every Tuesday evening and one Saturday (my work schedule prevented me from attending most Saturdays) by encouraging the participants and working out alongside them.  I was so excited about this venture that my husband joined me!  Though I had read about the program, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I arrived a few minutes early on the first day.  I was thoroughly impressed.  Jim White has solicited a number of quality volunteers including fitness instructors and nutrition experts.  Each participant was given a pedometer on the first day of the program, as well as a water bottle with instructions on how to properly hydrate.  Every Tuesday evening, steps from the pedometers are recorded and the individuals with the most steps each week received an incentive reward (usually a grocery store gift certificate or some other such useful item).  Each session involved approximately a half an hour of exercise along with occasional cooking demonstrations.  Further, the program has attracted the attention of area professionals and the participants received free blood pressure checks and visits with a physical therapist!

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By week 2 the advanced group was off for a short run on the beach… in the SOFT sand.

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As the program grows, so does the organization behind it.  Krista White (Jim’s lovely bride) is heavily involved in the project as well and has acquired the first set of LIFT volunteer shirts so that the participants can more easily identify volunteers!  This version is cotton but I’m told that a dri-fit is coming.  The volunteers donate to cover the cost of their shirts so that the program can keep throwing funds at those who need it!

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Squats on the beach, anyone?

It’s been amazing to work alongside these individuals as they strive for a better way of living.  You all know that it is HARD to get back into the swing of things once you’re even a little bit out of shape.  Running becomes more labored and less “fun” and your energy feels more easily depleted.  ALL of these individuals were basically starting from scratch and, despite the challenges involved in the initial “get into shape” period, the May LIFT participants achieved more than 2 million steps as measured by their pedometers!  TWO MILLION!  Can you imagine the fortitude it takes to press through all of that pain and discomfort?!  Even more impressive is that these individuals did not let feelings of self-consciousness or embarrassment get in their way.  They put themselves out there and opened themselves up to constructive criticism; modifying exercises when necessary and allowing volunteers to help improve their form.  It is truly impressive.  I had to miss the May LIFT graduation (boo) because I was scheduled to work (but it’s my last work day – yay) but I did have the chance to write a letter to each of the graduates to encourage them in their journey and to give them props for all of their hard work so far!

Just so you know, these workouts aren’t watered down! Of course, participants are encouraged to use various modifications for safety and to ensure that they are doing what is appropriate for their level of fitness, but these are some tough workouts!  Check out our plank line relay!  I’m the second person to hop up from a plank and run to the end of the line.  Whew!  That was tough!

It is with great joy that I embark on my fundraising journey for LIFT.  I’ve set some pretty high goals for my performance at Nationals and knowing that the race isn’t just about those goals but also about my fundraising goal will make the tedious work ahead seem more doable.  Since my goal is to finish in the top 18 in my age group and there are likely to be about 200 women in my age division, I’ve decided to commit to donating one dollar for every 30-34 year old female who finish BEHIND me at Nationals. 🙂  Feel free to match my contribution!  Maybe this will provide some extra motivation toward the end of the race when my will is wavering!  Regardless, I want to give back to the community that has given me so much over the last several years.  I will miss you dearly, Hampton Roads.  I leave some of the very best friends I’ve ever had in Virginia Beach and there will be a piece of me missing once I leave this wonderful community but I intend for that to be because I intentionally leave a piece of me behind to benefit others.  I want this to be my legacy here in Hampton Roads; I want to gift this community even though I can never give  back as much as I have received.

Since we still have our own workouts to get in, Justin and I are either heading to LIFT immediately after a track session or a long run, depending on the day.  Of course, on track days, we’ve both had a morning workout as well so you can imagine how tired we are when the LIFT program wraps up at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays.  It’s definitely exhausting and I’m not a HUGE fan of eating tofurkey sandwiches in the car between track and LIFT, but it is DEFINITELY worth the sacrifice.  It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience and I truly hope that this program starts a trend in other areas.  Health and fitness matter, even for those who are jobless or homeless or just down on their luck.  It all starts with putting one foot in front of the other.

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Every LIFT session ends with a brief prayer circle. As you can imagine, it’s a smelly prayer circle but all the more reason to be thankful; we have the ability to be active!

To contribute to my fundraiser for LIFT, please click here!  Let’s get this party started!

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