It was the summer of 2010 and my sister had left me a voicemail. In her typical stoic way she informed me that she was on her way to the ER as she had woken up that morning with one leg twice the size of the other!
She lived in Albuquerque and I was here in Edmonds. She’s my only sister, younger than I, just mid-30s at the time.
She could have died from that blood clot in her leg, and she needed surgery pretty quickly. They placed a couple of stents in her arteries and kept her in the hospital for three days to recover. She was on blood thinners for years afterward and had to be very careful whenever she got on a plane.
But did I mention she was a smoker?
Somehow, she told me later, she knew that her being in the hospital, on morphine and forbidden to smoke, was the greatest opportunity she’d ever have to quit smoking. So she made up her mind right then and there, she was done.
She had smoked cigarettes since age 18.
She hasn’t had a cigarette since!
(She also hasn’t had a sip of alcohol in 13 years, but that’s another story.)
She couldn’t possibly have known how her decision to quit smoking would alter her life so significantly in the years to come. It’s like when you throw a pebble into a lake and it generates tiny ripples that spread out further and further over the lake, impacting more of the water’s surface than you thought possible.
Quitting smoking is not a tiny pebble, it’s a major life change. But the ripples caused by that decision caused changes over the years that led to where she is now.
Even a year after surgery she was still sedentary (but non-smoking) and started talking about taking tennis lessons. She started working with a trainer learning to lift weights. She tried Crossfit. She started running. She became very involved in an extensive online health and fitness community, and was asked to become a moderator in a large group on Facebook. She relocated herself to Tampa, Florida, without knowing a soul, just because she’d always wanted to live there. She joined a track club. She started traveling to different races all over both coasts of the U.S. Last year, she entered the lottery for the incredibly popular Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. and got in on her first try — her first marathon.
Every day the newsfeed on MyFitnessPal announces things like this:
“Sister burned 1663 calories doing 155 minutes of a 16 mile run”
“Sister burned 337 calories doing 40 minutes of track workout”
I am so in awe of what my sister has accomplished and so proud of her. She keeps on running, no matter what, in her signature uniform of colorful knee-high socks and a sport skirt. As a matter of fact, she just became a Skirt Sports Ambassador! As Skirt Sports says, “Our Ambassadors believe that living an active, healthy lifestyle brings confidence, courage, balance and happiness to their busy lives.”
That’s my sister!
Back then, I really didn’t think she’d ever quit smoking. It was such a huge part of her identity, habits and life. But now it’s her running that is a HUGE part of her identity, habits and life! We can all change in ways we couldn’t have even comprehended before we did it.
Make one change in your life. Then make one more. Then keep making them. You never know where the ripple effect will push you.
Pritam Potts, owner of Advanced Athlete LLC, is a NSCA-certified trainer and strength coach with 15+ years of experience working with athletes and clients of all ages. Her specialty is in functional strength applications, developing core and overall strength and coordination specifically for the purpose of enhancing the body’s ability to function optimally and safely in athletic movement. You can find her online at facebook.com/advancedathlete and twitter.com/advancedathlete.