Inspiration as motivation
Weight loss is a welcome bonus
Crystal McPherson was determined to find a different way. When her doctor told her that her blood pressure was high, the 37-year-old MNPS auditor wanted to avoid taking medicine. So she cut meat out of her diet. As a vegetarian, her numbers improved a little.
Everything changed when she was pregnant with her son. Her blood pressure spiked, and her doctor prescribed the medicine she’d resisted for so long.
“But I really felt this was something I could control,” she says, “And maybe I could do it through a combination of food and exercise.”
A former track runner and coach, Crystal understood that staying off medicine would require a lifelong commitment to a healthier lifestyle to keep her blood pressure under control.
An active three-year-old boy provided added incentive for her to work toward better numbers. He was the inspiration that kept her motivated.
“I want to be around for my son,” she says. “If I can do that through exercise, then that’s what I need to do. I told my doctor I was going to change my mindset and that will affect my outcome.”
With that decision made, the next step was finding a place to exercise.
“I planned to join the YMCA or a gym close to my school,” Crystal says. “But then I heard about the MNPS Employee Wellness Center, and it was like the clouds dispersed. I thought, ‘You mean I can come here and not have to pay a membership? And they have the same machines? And they have a track?!’”
She’s been a regular ever since, reliving her earlier days as a runner. She checks in with her doctor every three months, and he’s impressed with her progress. That gives her even more motivation to keep going.
“At first, I just did what I could do,” she says. “Then I started giving it extra effort. It takes 25 laps on the fitness center track to equal a mile. In the beginning, I couldn’t run that far, so I had to break it down. I’d walk one, then run the next, and every couple of days, I increased the running.”
Fitting an hour’s workout into her busy days did require some changes to her schedule.
“I had to wake up at 4:00 a.m. to work out,” she says. “I had to develop that discipline. Now I’m in the best shape ever.”
Crystal was so laser-focused on lowering her blood pressure that some other benefits escaped her notice at first.
“People started telling me, ‘You need to get some new clothes!’” she says. “I’ve gone from a size 16 to a size 4. I’m shocked by the weight loss. It wasn’t really my initial goal.”
When talking about her fitness center visits, she echoes a familiar refrain heard from other gym goers: It’s a judgment-free zone. “It’s a very comfortable place,” she says. “Everyone goes at their own pace, and no one is comparing themselves to others.”
Crystal no longer has to take blood pressure medicine, and she has some advice for those who are considering making healthy lifestyle changes.
“Decide what your goal is,” she says. “Decide what inspires you, whether it’s your family or experiences you’ve had. If you have the inspiration, then the discipline isn’t that hard. If you do it for just five minutes, that’s five minutes you’ve added to your life. It doesn’t have to be a whole hour to make a difference.
“Exercising starts with your decision to change for the better,” she continues. “If you change your thoughts, you change your outcome.”