This morning, I stood in my kitchen, mentally preparing myself to open the front door. I could feel the anxiety gurgling to the surface with each second that I dragged out tying my shoe laces, ensuring I had my favorite playlist loaded up. I strapped my phone onto my arm; took it off again. Good grief. There are just so many apps I have to have open—don’t even get my started on my Apple Watch— so I spewed a few cuss words. Opening the door, I stepped across the threshold and stood there, refusing to move, and after what felt like lifetimes, I did the one thing no one would ever suspect of me. I went for a run.

Don’t worry. You aren’t reading that wrong. I said it. I went on a run. On purpose. As in, nothing was chasing me. There was no emergency; there was no money involved. Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I have a strong hatred of running. In fact, it wouldn’t be incorrect to suggest I am disdainful of running for any reason other than survival during the possible zombie apocalypse, and even then I am far more prone to furiously peddling a tricycle than to outpace the undead.

I’d been mentally planning for a few weeks now. That’s how I function: I think for long stretches of time, do my research, consider the risk potential from all sides, and then—and only then—do I actually act. I started taking my health far more seriously not quite a year ago, and in January, I upped my exercise game from occasional long walks when closer parking wasn’t an option to borderline obsessive. I dedicate no less than one hour every day to some type of strength training and/or cardio, but all this time, I’ve stood firm on my no running rule. But I was feeling stuck, and I needed something new. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

Like most people, social media has been a great way for me to reconnect with my family and friends all across the world. I’ve enjoyed seeing my college friend’s new business take off, friends’ children grow up, and family events I can’t always attend because of the distance. Believe it or not, before the days of constant reposts and memes, Facebook encouraged us to connect with people, and I am only marginally embarrassed to admit that there were friend requests where I had to check in with old friends to remind me who someone was from a past that seems very long ago.

My memories of Amy are fleeting. I did remember her from our high school days almost 25 years ago, but I don’t think we drifted too closely in each other’s orbits then. At first, she was just one more person from home that I once knew. General curiosity let me stay current in her life, and then her wildly astute and far too hysterical for her age daughter kept me checking in. She went from someone I knew to someone I was interested in so much so that I remember a conversation with another friend about how I wished I’d known her better then. Yet, high school was a long time ago, and I could only hope I wasn’t a jerk to her at any point in our brief stint in each other’s lives.

Then, something started to happen. Amy started to change—in this insanely wonderful kind of way. Her choices and her journey are her story to tell, so I’ll leave her to it; however, I went from interested in to invested in pretty quickly. Amy was so open and honest about her health and fitness journey that I reached out to her to bounce around some ideas about things like supplements or protein boosts. She is single handedly responsible for my household’s obsession with Halo Top ice cream. Even at a distance, she became someone whose insights I respected, and I would find myself wishing we lived closer just so we could actually have a conversation about our personal preferences for bullet coffee versus the short spurts of messages we’d shared.

The last few months, I haven’t been as focused on weight loss—although a side benefit for sure—as I have concentrated on being healthy. My friend Heather and I have this shared motto: strong, not skinny. And I’ve seen that idea reflected in the changes to my body. I won’t lie and say I’m not impressed with my push up game these days (real ones, by the way, not modified ones thankyouverymuch) or that I don’t feel like a total badass on the hardest of my HIIT training days.

But even with all the sweat I’ve dripped the last few months, today was different. I strapped on my armband, loaded my 850 million apps, and started Day 1 of C25K. Two miles later, I returned to my driveway, plopping down on the concrete to catch my breath. I did a quick assessment. My run provided me with a grand total of 2 cat sightings, 1 squirrel dodge, and 1 terrifying encounter with a Fruit Loop box and the storm drain (Hush it. I saw the original, and that clown is scary).

I noted several rookie mistakes, and I know now that ensuring my wireless headphones are working before I leave the house is critical to my timing and mental state. But every time I wanted to just stop, I thought of Amy and the pictures I’ve seen, the progress she’s made, and the conversations we’ve had—and I kept going.

Standing up, I walked inside to grab some water, and I leaned back on my kitchen counter. After shutting down all 496 apps that were running and logging my time, I opened up my messenger, seeking out Amy. I needed her to know that I’d taken the leap. Plus, I needed to tell her about the problems one might experience if one wears the wrong compression pants and they are a little too big. Not that that happened to me or anything. Nope.

For those of you who still have your mouths open at this turn of events: don’t get me wrong; I still prefer strength training over running, and I have zero interest in any type of marathon or splits or trails or whatever else comes along with that world. But I plan to get up tomorrow morning and push the button to start Day 2, but before I do, I’ll run through the list of Amy’s suggestions one more time and know that when the zombies do come, at least I have a fighting chance.

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