Fit as a Fangirl

Kristen smiles and holds the Star Wars Dark Side 5K medal

Before we start, I want to say that body-positivity and your own health are of the utmost importance! Do what’s right for your body, whether that’s eating (or avoiding or reducing your intake of) certain foods, or limited exercise or more exercise. I’m writing what’s been in my experience, and it isn’t necessarily the same way for everyone.

In the past year or two, I’ve been trying to gain healthier habits through exercising and watching what I eat. Without going too much into my medical history, I have been classified as being overweight for most of my life and my doctors have noted the associated health risks related to that and what appears in my family history. So while I’ve wanted to lose weight in the past — for reasons that were admittedly more for vanity and less for health — I thought that, with that guidance from my doctor, I could use this opportunity to stick to the goals of being healthier, and weight loss would just be another result from the action.

Keeping up with consistent exercise was probably the most daunting thing for me! I had never really enjoyed solitary exercise: I just can’t picture myself putting in long hours at the gym with only some free weights or a treadmill, and NO ONE to talk or at least give a friendly nod to. But I realized that there were ways I could enjoy it rather than just ‘grit and bear it.’

After seeing Her Universe’s activewear line at Kohl’s<, Hot Topicand their website, I started getting hooked! But since I work in an office during the week, there isn’t much opportunity to wear yoga pants! After acquiring various sets (Captain America and Wonder Woman are included in my active line-up!), I felt like I had to have an ‘excuse’ to wear them more often and out and about.

Running shirt with a cartoon Princess Leia that says "Aren't you a little slow for a stormtrooper?' with runner's tag.
Getting ready for race day!

My first start in exercising regularly really started when I signed up for the Star Wars 5K in 2017. It was my first race, and I knew that if I were going to get through it, I would have to prepare myself. I started hitting the gym, alternating between yoga and cycling classes with some bouts on the treadmill. Since I don’t have the best stamina when it comes to running, I had to start small with some power walking. I remember one of my first times trying to run: I had a playlist of my favorite songs, and after about 15 minutes of doing a brisk walk I thought I could run through the entirety of “The Schuyler Sisters” from Hamilton. It’s only about 3 minutes — easy, right?

Nope. I couldn’t even make it to the first “and Peggy!”

It also didn’t help that I couldn’t help but mouth the words, which made me lose precious breaths, but that’s beside the point.

But eventually I worked my way through it. I started doing spin and yoga classes to vary my workouts. When it came to running, I mostly followed a Couch to 5K training plan, where you work your way up to running for longer intervals. Some days were better than others, and when I needed a break or a breath, I took it. I had to feel okay about walking out of a spin class or leaving the gym earlier than expected because I was too winded. I had to put my own health and safety ahead of fears of judgement or fear of ‘failing’ at my exercise plan. Because if I didn’t run at my own pace, I may not be able to it to the finish line anyway.

Sign that says: "Be careful not to choke on your convictions." from Darth Vader.
Quality advice from Darth Vader at the RunDisney packet pick-up.

I did have some of those fears going into the Star Wars 5K. What if I had to stop too much? How would it look for an overweight young woman with a ‘Aren’t you a little slow for a Stormtrooper?’ t-shirt if she was seen stopping multiple times and drinking from the two water bottles attached to her belt? What if the worst happened and I couldn’t finish because I rolled an ankle or my asthma got the better of me?

While it’s hard to quash the fears, I was able to put myself at ease by preparing the best I could. By working out regularly, I built my stamina and breath control to where I felt like the worst case scenario wouldn’t happen.

And the Star Wars 5K was the best thing I could have asked for. It’s got all ages and levels of runners, so it really is designed for you to go at your own pace. I wanted to finish within the approximately 45-minute window to get the medal, but I saw plenty of people that were just doing some brisk walking. I slowed down when I needed to, but also challenged myself to run as much as I could. And, as I get ready for the next one this April, I know I want to be faster to finish a little earlier simply so I have more time for photo ops at the end! (Rule 4 still applies even in fan-themed runs!)

The next Star Wars 5K is on the horizon. But even outside of that, I’ve been exercising more regularly than I had before. I feel better, both physically and emotionally, as I make this part of my life. It’s still not my favorite activity, but it’s something else that I need to do for my own health and self-care, the way I’d need to make time to iron clothes or clean my living or work spaces. I’ve even joined a soccer team with friends to give me the encouragement to keep going every week — and the support when they see I’m struggling and need a sub in the middle of a game.

The whole Star Wars 5K may have only been a few hours of a morning, but it was also the key motivation in getting me to get into a healthy routine. And who knows, maybe I’ll work up to the half-marathon someday! As long as I keep running at my own pace and making progress along the way, that’s what really matters in the end.