I have a special post for you guys today. As part of my ongoing Brooks Run Happy Ambassadorship, I was given the opportunity to interview another one of their Brooks I.D. members. (If you missed last year’s interview, check it out – it’s also extremely inspiring: “For Everyone Who Says They Can’t,” featuring Jeff Le.)
“I.D.", in this case, stands for “Inspire Daily.” The group is made up of people who are active in their running communities and share a passion for the Brooks brand. They are runners, coaches, mentors, and leaders. Some of them are the leading runners in their towns, and others might be holding down the back of the pack. But all of them have one big thing in common – they work hard to achieve personal running goals, pushing their own limits and encouraging others to do the same along the way. Some of them also have very inspiring stories, like Jeff that I interviewed last year, and Tory, who I’m interviewing today.
Tory Klementsen was once over 100 pounds overweight and running changed her life. She now works with new athletes to help them find their inner athlete. Read on for our interview all about her journey to health – it’s amazing.
Tell me more about your weight loss journey. What inspired you to get fit?
I had always had this "picture" of myself as a fit and active person, but it was really only a picture. On the outside I was sedentary and obese. I had no confidence that I was able to be that fit person. Finally, at the age of 37, I had an epiphany that the main thing standing in my way of being the person I could and should be was my own self talk and lack of confidence. So I started on a journey to better health. My husband joined me and together we made small changes in our diet and after about four weeks added some exercise. At first I will admit it was hard, but I found a women’s only gym that was accessible to my fitness level and as my body started to change and adapt I just kept wanting to push it further.
What was the hardest part of your weight loss journey? What made you stick with it and not give up?
The hardest part was really my own self doubt and the fear that I was going to be a different person. The part that made me stick with it was that I was seeing these changes in my body; not just the smaller clothes but the ability to do things I’d never done before, from fitting comfortably in an airplane seat to spending a day walking at the zoo without once thinking of sitting down.
How did you get started running?
The first time I ran, my husband and I were out for a walk and I said: "race you to the stop sign!" I won (!) and right there I decided "I want to be a runner." I was so amazed it didn’t hurt and that I could do this thing that had, as a kid, been used in PE as punishment. It was that simple.
The first time I ran a race I was dead last… it was a one miler and I swear they turned off the clock, but the best part was one of my students who had run the four miler waited for me and cheered me in. I felt like a rock star and was hooked.
What’s your #1 proudest running moment?
It may sound silly, but the first time I ran "the perimeter" at the junior high school I attended without stopping. I cried because that was so huge for me. When I was in 9th grade I’d run that in 10 minutes… run my heart out for the President’s Physical Fitness Test. I was so proud, until I got my grade: "D –Attempted." I was so defeated I swore I’d never run again.
Running that perimeter as an adult represented taking running back and making it mine.
Was there one specific moment where you knew everything you’d done to get healthy was completely worth it?
Literally the week I hit my goal I had a CT scan for kidney stones and they found a cancerous tumor in my pancreas. Long story short, I had to have three surgeries to have it removed and I truly feel that my health took me through the procedures I had. One of which, the biggest surgery they do (Whipple Procedure), was much easier than if I’d had it the year prior. I also felt that I got better care. The tumor was found on a fluke, very early. Such a blessing. I was so lucky.
What inspires you to stay fit now and not return to where you once were?
Sometimes it’s hard. I had a brain hemorrhage in 2012 and suffer from chronic daily headaches. There are whole days spent in the dark in bed surrounded by my six dogs. On good days, the run is the only time I feel a break from the pain and it helps me feel normal again. I look back to where I was and realize that I’ve had two major health issues that I might not have come through had I been overweight and out of shape, especially the last one. My doctor believes my low blood pressure and healthy low heart rate kept the brain hemorrhage from being worse than it was.
What would you tell someone who thinks it’s too late for them to turn their lives around and get healthy?
It is never too late. Every single choice you make has the ability to impact your health in a positive or negative way. Your body is the only thing you are wholly responsible for your entire adult life. Take that responsibility seriously and it will pay off!
Any tips for brand new runners?
Get good shoes! That is the most important thing you need to do to start! Also, cross train. Find a good running group with a coach who knows how to help you reach your goals. Get a monthly pedicure and manicure because your feet and your muscles are what carry you through all those miles! (My female runners LOVE that last one.)
What would you tell someone who thinks they can’t run?
I hear this all the time and I always say, "You have two legs? You can run!" I’m kind of known for pushing people into doing things they didn’t know they could… heck, even if they don’t have two functional legs. I just motivated one of my students who has spina bifida to wheel his first 5k (The Cupcake Run, a race I put on every year). He did it, even though he was pretty sure he might die. I had another former student mentor him. He promised to push him up the hills (since his chair isn’t made for racing). One of my friends is the RD of a half marathon and offered him and I an entry so we’re going to train for that (well he is, I’m coaching him) because he felt like he could do anything after crossing the finish line of the 5k, so I said "Imagine how you’ll feel when you finish a half marathon!"
I coach new runners to their first 5k or 10k, half or full marathon. We often go with a run/walk program that includes a runner’s boot camp. The goal is to get them to the start line healthy and ready and to the finish line upright and with a smile on their face. It is the most amazing and rewarding feeling to cross the finish line with someone for their first race and know that they are a different person because of it.
Such an amazing story, huh? It truly is never too late. I hope that some of you will use this post as inspiration to begin your own health journeys, or as motivation to continue leading healthy, active lives.
If you’re a runner, how did you get started? And if you want to become one… tell me how you’ll start! Here’s a post all about how I started running, written on the eve of my second half marathon.