Mon10212019

Last updateD, d M Y ga

Back You are here: Home Women World Health Women Exercises Run, Swim and Bike With Confidence

Women Exercises

Run, Swim and Bike With Confidence

NOW

Brandy Gray
Age: 42
Height: 5'8"
Current weight: 128 lb
Heaviest weight: 160 lb
Lightbulb moment: Realizing exercise helped her fight stress
Biggest benefit: Feeling healthier now than 10 years ago

Growing up in Boone, NC, I was your typical jock: I played varsity basketball, volleyball, and softball, and I loved to ski. I was always in great shape.

After I graduated from college, though, my activity level went way down. I got married and went straight to work as a general contractor, doing home construction. Although I didn't sit behind a desk all day, I also didn't have much time to exercise. My eating took a turn for the worse too. It was easier to hit the drive-through than prepare something healthy.

The scale continued to climb when I started having kids at age 27. I lost most of the 25 pounds I gained with my son, but after I gave birth to my daughter 2 years later, the pounds were much tougher to take off. My weight stuck at 150 pounds.

As a busy working mom--I was building my business and caring for the kids at the same time--I didn't make eating right or exercising a priority, and the number on the scale gradually crept up, adding a few pounds each year. Before I realized it, I was 160 pounds. I'm 5-foot-8, so most people might not have labeled me as overweight just by looking at me, but I was beginning to feel less and less healthy. I wasn't sleeping well, and the stress from my work and unhappy marriage was taking a toll.

Exercise Therapy

About 4 years ago, my husband and I decided to separate. There were moments when I felt so overwhelmed that my chest got tight, and it was hard to breathe. One day I decided I had to escape and go for a walk. Just moving around outdoors made breathing easier. I began walking several times a week as a way to handle the stress.

Soon I started mixing some running into my walking for a challenge, which quickly turned into mostly running with a little walking. I live in a hilly area, so I'd run up the hills and walk back down for 30 minutes every day. I'd get home from work, put on my shoes, and go for a run. It truly was the high point of my day.

I noticed that I was losing weight just by increasing my exercise--my clothes felt looser. And because I was already feeling healthier, I began to eat healthier. I tried foods I'd never had before, like whole grain couscous, and began eating more vegetables. My kids, ages 13 and 15, now call me the Health Nut, which I fully embrace as my nickname.

Happy Birthday To Me

In 2010, my 40th birthday was looming large. I didn't want a party. I wanted a challenge. I found a women-only triathlon series in North Carolina called Ramblin' Rose. It seemed like the perfect present to myself. I borrowed my father's bicycle to ride outside and began swimming in the local pool. At first I was gasping after just a few laps, but soon I was swimming a few hundred yards at a time. When I crossed the finish line in August (the weekend before my 40th birthday), it felt like my greatest athletic achievement ever. I couldn't believe I completed the 225-yard swim, 8-mile bike ride, and 2-mile run in a little over an hour.

I wanted to keep up the momentum, so I signed up for the Kiawah Island Half-Marathon, which is near Charleston, SC. I'd never come close to running that distance--it's 13.1 miles--so I joined up with Team in Training, which provides coaching for participants who raise money for cancer research. When I crossed that finish line in December 2010, I was overwhelmed with joy.

Staying the Course

I still run regularly, and I'm signed up for my second half-marathon in December. I've also added weight training to my routine to help strengthen my bones.

I am sleeping more soundly and have more energy than ever. I also have more definition in my arms and legs, and I'm thrilled that I wear a size 6 in jeans, not the 12s I wore a few years ago. I feel the healthiest I've ever been in my life, and I can't wait to see what the future brings.