When Sandy Enness began whipping herself back into shape at age 52, a whipping is exactly what it felt like. It had been 21 years since the former marathoner had donned a pair of running shoes and, in her own words, she was “far out of shape.”
“I hadn’t been a serious runner since 1989,” Enness said. “It wasn’t easy getting back in shape. It’s been one step at a time.”
Enness’ return to long-distance running was inspired, in part, by the untimely deaths of several acquaintances in a short period of time.
“In 2010, I noticed that 13 people I knew passed on since the first of the year,” she said. “They were all obese and not active and around my age. You have to move to stay healthy.”
Also, about that same time, the insurance company that covered Enness changed its policy, offering lower co-pay rates to customers who maintained a BMI (basal metabolic index) below 30 points. Enness began working out and managed to get her BMI down to 29.8.
“I just made it under the bar,” Enness said. “I didn’t want to pay the higher insurance premiums. I wanted to make sure I was on that 29.9 and under list.”
As a former athlete, Enness knew enough to start slowly and build up her endurance and strength. Even so, she soon realized she was going to need some help. Even shorter runs caused her to experience serious pain in her legs and feet.
“It hurt when I was trying to run and I was wearing my right (shoe) heel off,” Enness explained. “I consulted a posture therapist and after months of therapy I feel young again and pain-free. My shoes do not wear unevenly any more.”
In addition to the exercise, Enness began making healthy choices regarding diet, time management and family decisions.
“I started setting goals for myself and focused on that,” Enness said. “My cholesterol also had jumped up, so I knew I had to lose weight to get that back down. Eventually, I want to get my BMI to 24 or 25. That’s my current goal.”
Since making the decision for a healthier lifestyle, Enness has run in a number of races, including the Old Kent River Bank Run, the Mackinac Bridge Run and several other popular runs short of a marathon.
It was while running a half-marathon in Grand Rapids that Enness truly found her calling.
“I was struggling to finish the half-marathon,” Enness said. “I heard the announcer say, ‘Here comes 87-year-old Jerry Hancock, finishing strong in the marathon.’ I thought, ‘wow.’ He said he hoped to finish a marathon when he was 100. I decided then, if he can do it, I can do it.”
Enness credits much of her recent success in running on the therapy she received from Pain Free Pros, a Lansing training studio. According Pain Free Pros owner Charlie Furguson, postural therapy can help bring all the body’s systems — muscular, skeletal, digestive and circulatory — back to their optimum.
Though it has taken several years to transition from out-of-shape mother of two to soon-to-be marathon runner, Enness says the work has been more than worth it.
“I know now is the time for me to do this,” Enness said. “I’m setting a good example for my granddaughters. I know that with God on your side, anything is possible.”