By Katrina Elle

Growing up, I was always a chubby teenager, never playing sports, and not knowing what 'proper eating habits' were exactly. I ate what was put in front of me and made unhealthy decisions given the opportunity.

After going to college, I decided I wanted to finally make a change once I saw the impact these habits had on my body year after year. Initially, I made the mistake of turning to fat burners. Bad idea. They worked, don't get me wrong.

But they made me jittery, sweaty, and were pulled off of the shelves - which is never a good sign. I eventually weaned myself off of them and ended up gaining a little bit of the weight back that I'd lost. In 2006 I started learning more about being fit & what it took to be fit the 'right way.' I had the fitness magazine routines, I was weight training and working out around 5 times a week.

I was newly single and happened to have a lot of free time. I then began running because some friends of mine talked me into signing up for a local 5K, showing off flashy medals speaking of competition. After some shorter summertime runs, I’d built up enough mileage to run the actual race.

What a rush! I was hooked and over the course of 2006 and 2007 I ran over five 5K races. I loved that distance; it was just enough for me to feel a sense of pride from finishing all while avoiding injury. I was on a high! I then transitioned into a darker time of my life and quicker than I knew it, my health and fitness took a backseat... I became sedentary and I wasn’t eating healthily… for 2 years.

Before I knew it, it was 2009, I was 25+ pounds overweight and had forgotten all I'd learned about fitness. Slowly, and with much apprehension and embarrassment, I got back to working out at the gym I once knew so well. I did some elliptical machine work to just get moving again.

That was a start. I also did the Insanity Program in 2010, which helped me shed 15 pounds and gain muscle tone that I didn’t have before. It was SUPER difficult, but I loved the challenge and the feel of something other than being on a machine for 30+ minutes. I’d gained newly found strength that pushed me into wanting to do and try more. I did Zumba, TRX, Crossfit/Crossboot… I’d found my passion and it was a positive outlet for me. Simultaneously, I met my husband in the gym.

It's crazy how life can hand you lemons! By the end of 2011, I decided to take my training up a few notches. Through a side job, I befriended some new running friends who were part of a local running group. I began running with them multiple times a week. I enjoyed running alone, but now the miles just flew by and I was getting to catch up at the same time!

Before I knew it, I found myself planning a 15K with a running coach! In March of 2012, I ran my farthest distance race: the Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K. From that point on, I wanted more… I wanted to keep running farther. I wanted to do things in life that I hadn't done before and knew the time was now or never! I, first, had to take into account the many lessons I learned from that 15K. I, of course, made many 'newbie runner' mistakes including wearing new gear and not incorporating enough cross-training into my workouts in order to avoid injury. I'm now at a very happy place in my life.

Related Article: The 2 Pounds Per Week Rule to Burn Fat Faster

I went on to run my first half marathon in November of 2012 in 1:58:57 and ran 5 more half marathons simultaneously each month, earning me 2nd level membership in the Half Fanatics Club. As of May 2013, I've already completed 13 races total. I am signed up to run the Marine Corps Marathon as my first full marathon this fall also.

And… my husband and I even just celebrated our 1st year Anniversary on Cinco De Mayo. To boot, I'm currently studying to become a NASM Certified Personal Trainer. My goal? To help others. To teach others. I now know that knowledge was what I needed to get fit the smart way in the first place. It just takes knowledge and effort to get results, and most people don't know that - they think there's some secret pill or shake, which doesn't exist. I can't wait to help others reach their true potential and live healthier and happier lives!

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