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Women Who Move: Jamie Ann Leisel

AGE: 34

I was overweight for much of my life. For years, I tried different diets. I would lose a few pounds, gain them back and eventually quit. Finally, I joined a local Weight Watchers and started to see real results.

With the structure and support of the group, I slowly shed 39 pounds. As I became lighter, I found that I was able to start exercising. One evening I went for a walk, and on my way back home I started running. I just wanted to see how far I could go. I didn’t think I’d make it more than a block, but I ended up finishing a full two miles. I felt exhilarated. Running soon became part of my daily life.

About nine months later, I made it to my goal weight. I had dropped 40 more pounds—a total of 79!—and felt great. I reflect back on those first pounds lost and am thankful that I became  t enough to get out the door. When I started running, the weight began to drop off faster than ever before.

Throughout that time, I was setting little running goals for myself. I signed up for my first 5k race with my sister-in-law, then a few weeks later I ran a 10k. There was thunder and lightning, but I spent  the race visualizing how accomplished I would feel at the finish. It was incredible to discover how much strength I had.

This past fall, I ran my first half marathon. It’s official: I’m a runner! My husband and 5-year-old daughter even train with me sometimes. We’ve replaced watching television with getting outside and connecting. Running has not only changed my body—but my family as well. ■