I spent much of yesterday morning jumping through hoops to get my work out accomplished.

No school and no sitter to be had. No play date to scrounge up. So, despite howls of objection, the plan was 24 Hour Fitness and the Kid’s Club. For some reason it requires negotiations only previously experienced when engaging North Korea to get my kids to sit in front of a video for 45 minutes at 24 Hour Fitness. Interestingly, they beg to do the same activity at home.

The treaty signed, we headed to the gym only to find the Kid’s Club full. Curses.

This will happen I told myself, but deep down I felt a slight surge of panic. Exercise is now a crucial part of my life. I need it. It makes me feel strong, keeps me healthy, and is helping me maintain my 50 lbs weight loss (5 months and counting!). It also sets a good example for my kids, no matter how much they complain about the childcare arrangements.

I never once saw either of my parents do any physical activity. Exercise was an experience of no value in my household, although late-night binge eating was an olympic level sport. Neither exercise nor binge-eating were ever discussed, but I saw one and not the other. Guess which behavior I modeled?

So home I dragged them for an hour of cleaning. I called back to the gym. The Kid’s Club had an opening. Yes! Back into the car seats and back to 24 Hour Fitness we went.

Checked in, I whisked the boys to the TV Room of Doom and just as I signed them in the perky child care worker announced, “We close at noon.”

The clock on the wall said 11:31.


I was in a foul mood as I scrambled to the treadmill. I need to do 3 miles. I have to do 3 miles. I’ll never get in 3 miles. Never.

I started at a 9:31 pace (6.3 mph).

I’ll never do itI’m lucky to run 30 minutes at 9:31.

And then it hit me. What kind of fucking attitude is that?

I thought about something I never believed I would have had the ability to do.

I thought about having the guts to leave an abusive relationship. I thought about sitting in my car day after day at work, crying. About how scared I was, but somehow one day I found the strength to say, “Fuck this shit,” and leave.

I increased my speed.

I thought about my son dying at birth. How I couldn’t imagine living with my soul cut in half. But somehow I picked myself up. I thought about how I am not only just living, but I actually have joy.

I increased my speed again.

I thought about the months my boys spent in the intensive care unit. How day after day I stumbled through my existence, but somehow I found a spark and reignited my fire.

I pushed myself harder.

I thought about Victor, my poor sweet Victor, born with tight and twisted muscles. How the doctors and therapists tried to soften the blow about his cerebral palsy. About what he wouldn’t be able to do. I thought about how I poured my fire into him and worked his gnarled limbs day after day until I sparked enough of a flame that he took over. I thought how his teachers say they have never seen a student squeeze every last drop out of himself.

I ran even faster.

I thought about my little bug, Oliver, whose tiny hands collapse on his pencil. How beads of sweat form as he tries to hold it the right way. When, in frustration, he wants to throw his pencil against the wall I ask, “What’s our motto?” “We never give up,” he chirps in his staccato, and then we hug and work on his grip again. Every day he digs so deep just to hold that Goddamn pencil. Once, very recently, he did it all on his own. Once with 5 years of trying. “If I can do it once, I can do it again,” I hear him telling himself and it makes me proud because I know where he got that attitude.

I stepped it up again.

I thought about having the courage to get divorced. A second time. How I mined depths I didn’t know I had to tell my kids. God, that was hard. But I did it and we are so much better for it.

I increased my pace again.

I thought about the dedication that it took to lose 50 lbs. How that was all me. Day after day after day.

I looked down. I was at a 8:37 pace (7 mph) and I finished out the 26 minutes feeling great.

I didn’t make it to 3 miles, but then again I’d never have believed I could run 2.8 miles in 26 minutes. But I did.

And the next time I need to dig deep, I’ll add that to the list.

Join the Conversation


  1. Wow! I am at a loss for words Dr. Jen! You and yours have been through soooo much! And come out on the other side with such resilience, strength, and perseverance, committed to extracting so more joy from life.

    And you have motivated me to get up and take those steps to extract more joy from my life!

    Thank you!

  2. Awesome Jen, great motivational story. So happy about the weight loss but even more so re your leaving the abusive relationship. Those guys should be hung by their toes. Congratulations.

  3. Awesome,Awesome,Awesome.
    I understand completely the need to get the workout done. During residency and now with more personal challenges my workout has become my space for meditation and recovery. I have been through shit in the last three years but reflecting on the positive, staying in the now and smiling when I thought I never could bring me to the next day. I am so glad I found your blog. You add to my resilience. Thank you and keep on running.

  4. Great blog. Inspirational. I’m sitting on my cough recovering from a broken foot and DVT looking forward to getting back on the road once I’m allowed to bear weight again.

  5. Your story sounds incredible and the hardships many and I hear the strength in you through having survived it all. Unfortunately, in many instances it is the hard times that push us to achieve so much more and teach us resilience and perseverance to get there as you have so eloquently described!
    I know I had to rely on teaching my kids this approach when I was feeling as if I had brought so much hurt and anger and heartsore stuff upon them when I decided to leave their father and take them away. To just have faith that they would be stronger for it in the end, if I could just make them feel loved and that they could do whatever they wanted to as long as they just applied themselves and stuck to it. Not advocating divorce for one minute though, it helps to know that one just has to apply the mind to the positive aspects and move forward.

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