Hello! My name is Karli. I live in Bucks County, PA, in a suburb of Philadelphia. I’m 34 year’s old which brings a small scowl to my face when I actually write the words to describe myself. Why? Because I certainly don’t feel like I’m 34! At least not in the way I imagined it when I was growing up. As a child, the thirties always seemed liked “old age”; reserved for motherhood, which I have not been blessed to experience at this juncture in my life. But here I am… 34 L and content with my body. I know I will never have a flat-board stomach or completely toned arms and legs but I’m okay with that!
My story about health and fitness starts here: I am a tomboy. Always have been and always will be. Anyone that knows me knows this. I have played sports my entire life. Of course, when you’re an adolescent and you’re outside playing every day and engaged in competitive practices and games several times a week, this is more than enough to keep a girl thin and healthy. My sport of choice was soccer. Growing up, I played for as many as 4 different teams at one time. I played soccer almost every weekday and every weekend. I loved it, although at times it was wearing and excruciating. I missed out on a lot of things a teenager might otherwise prefer to do with friends because of soccer. But the silver lining here is that I got to play Division I women’s soccer in the most competitive conference in the country when I accepted a scholarship to play for Wake Forest University during my senior year of high school.
When I went away to college in the summer of 1996, I was 5’3” and an average, healthy weight. After 4 years of intense training, fitness and weight training as a Division I athlete, guess how much I weight I gained through college? If you said 20 pounds, you would be about right. Now, let me be forthcoming that much of this excess weight could be attributed to late-night indulgences of Papa John’s pizza and a healthy tolerance of alcoholic beverages. But the muscle mass I gained after 4 years of lifting like I was on the football team certainly didn’t help either!
(Wake Forest University Soccer, 1996-2000)
So, I was 22 years old, my competitive soccer career was seemingly over having graduated from college and I hated how I felt physically! What to do?
Despite a lifestyle that was geared around sports and activities, it may or may not be surprising to learn that I absolutely loathed exercising. At least I thought I did. The concept of working-out “for me” was just an unknown concept. Growing up, I always ran during soccer games and soccer practices (the average soccer player runs approximately 6 miles during a 90-minute match at an average speed of 4 mph) but you don’t even realize it because you are so enmeshed with playing the game. Then, once I got to college, I learned what it was like to be “forced” to exercise. I spent four years being told when to run, how far to run, how fast to run, how much weight to lift and how many repetitions to do. So, maybe now it’s more understandable that I strongly disliked running at this juncture in my life! (Most fitness training as it relates to soccer is anaerobic which consists of short sprints; and interval training which combines both aerobic and anaerobic fitness at the same time).
So, I started off by doing the only thing I knew how to do from a fitness perspective: I re-involved myself in the game I have loved since I was 5 years old. Initially, I was utterly BURNT OUT from Playing soccer at such a high level for most of my life. But I think that’s why Coaching appealed to me at first. I got to be around the game that I have so much respect for while having the amazing opportunity to share my knowledge with young kids. And when I got to play around with the kids as an added bonus, it was for FUN. It didn’t matter who won or lost. Finally, I started exercising on my own. I joined a local gym and started doing regular cardiovascular workouts 3-4 days a week for approximately 40-45 minutes per day. My activities of choice included running, using the Elliptical machine or the Stairmaster.
(Swarthmore coaches in Germany, Summer 2011)
Eventually, I started to play soccer competitively again. First, it was an outdoor co-ed league. Then I got a lucky break in 2005 when I was coaching 12 and 13 year-olds in the Olympic Development Program: I met the head coach at Swarthmore College, a local Division III women’s college team and he asked if I would join his staff. This break was noteworthy for two reasons: First, I got to coach and play with 18-21 yr-old women who challenged me and reinvigorated my love of the game like never before; and, in my third year, I was introduced to a new assistant coach, Lauren who in turn invited me to play in an adult women’s league with some of her friends. I have been playing with this group of women since, in multiple leagues, both indoor small-sided and outdoor full-field. We are a mix of former Division I and Division III players. And we rarely lose a gameJ. Last summer, a group of us won The Philadelphia Union Blue & Gold Cup and were honored at half-time of a MLS Union match.
(Philadelphia Blue & Gold Cup Champions, Summer 2012)
It’s hard to believe I actually enjoy running now. I run 2-3 days per week, anywhere from 3-5 miles at a time. I am proud to say that I did a 10-miler, The Broad Street Run, twice and have considered doing a half-marathon in the near future. My current exercise regime also includes 2-3 days a week at the gym where I will do 60 minutes of cardio (Elliptical machine and/ or the Stairmaster) as well as one day per week of competitive soccer. All in all, I try to exercise 5 days a week and thoroughly enjoy the days where I let my body rest. During Swarthmore’s season in the fall, I don’t get as much time in the gym but I end up playing more soccer with the team during practices which keeps me in shape. I also enjoy playing golf, going for bike rides and playing tennis with my boyfriend, Chris.
My caveat has always been: work hard, play hard. I don’t diet (other than the occasional cleanse) and I don’t fluctuate in weight (now that I am at a healthy weight again). I do most of this activity to justify the fact that I love to eat what I want to eat and drink what I want to drink. This is not to say that I have an unhealthy diet. I think I eat fairly well but I don’t really like to watch what I eat. I eat the things I want to eat which includes a lot of salads and chicken but also a lot of salty foods and cheese.
The important thing about my “exercise” regime is that a portion of it is made up of things that don’t even feel like exercise. I believe that by incorporating these sports (soccer, golf, tennis, etc) into my regular schedule, it makes the more formal cardio activities, such as running, more enjoyable because you’re not “forced” to do them every day. And the practice of constantly doing something different is beneficial for both your mind and body. An added bonus is that the organized activities such as soccer and golf are always done with my friends which makes it that much more enjoyable.
Of course, everyone needs to find works for them. Some people are more comfortable having a healthier diet and doing less exercise which is great! But if you are looking for a way to get or stay in shape that doesn’t require going to the gym every day, I strongly recommend finding a recreational team sport or activity that you can do with some friends and incorporate it into your workout schedule! So, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Thanks for reading!