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Chasing Rachel

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine.” Marianne Williamson

The year I graduated from high school, I fell in love with a woman named Rachel. She was the most beautiful, graceful woman I had ever seen, bar none. Strength, grace, sexiness, and power were all combined in one body. I wanted to look like Rachel, have the work ethic of Rachel, achieve like Rachel. She was, after all, the first Ms. Universe, crowned in 1980.

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Rachel McLish in 1980.

Now, I’ve never shared this with anyone, but her physique was what I’ve compared myself to for the past 30+ years. I’m not a huge bodybuilding fan, because I think most female bodybuilders are somewhat grotesque looking in a pre-drug tested East German sort of way. But there was something about Rachel’s combination of strength, beauty and grace that just captivated me. She was on the outside how I felt on the inside. My body has never matched my spirit, but in her I saw an ideal fitness level to which I aspired.

After my college graduation, I got a job at the YMCA in White Plains, NY. One of the benefits of working there was that I had full use of the facilities for FREE! I played raquetball daily, used the Nautilus circuit, got massages, swam. It was a wonderful time and I got VERY fit. People would line the raquetball gallery to watch me dive and usually beat the pants off Hedi Rahimi, a coworker.

Life went on, I met and married a great guy, moved north, got a different job, had a child, got another job, went on business trips, gained weight, lost weight, got soft and flabby, ate too much, drank too much, and fell into a state of abysmal disrepair. My highest weight (keep in mind I’m only 5’2″) was 227 pounds. I was obese and feeling every pound. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking that some day I would look like Rachel and have my body be as strong as my spirit.

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Rachel McLish in 1998.

Enter Team Beach Body and my friend Jolie Dunham and her coach John Schneider (yes, THE John Schneider). Last year, on 11/11/11, I started to work out and eat right. I have been losing weight since then, and am currently under 200 pounds. I have a long way to go, a lot of crunches to do, a lot of weight to lose. In the back of my mind is the certainty that my Rachel body is hiding under all my fluffiness. An outstanding group of people from Team Beach Body is inspiring me to find it.

I have committed myself to entering a 4-mile endurance race in North Carolina next year. It’s one of those events where you crawl through the mud, swim under things, get all dirty and nasty and sweaty and have the time of your life (www.spartanrace.com). I’m going that far away from my home because Nancy, a Beach Body friend is racing there, and I want to join her, not only to support her, but to prove to myself that I can do this, too. I am also waiting that long because I have a great deal of work to do to get fit enough, Rachel enough, to finish the race.

When that happens, and we stand on the finish line together, I will know that I have found my inner Rachel; strong, sexy, muddy, unafraid and drop dead gorgeous. Wish us luck!

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A 53-year old Rachel McLish in 2008.

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