April 7, 2017 by Diane Thuna
When Kara enrolled in Trico’ Centre's 40-day challenge in January her goal was simple – just to finish it. “For me consistent exercise is essential for good health,” she explains, “and I owe it to my husband and kids to focus on my well-being.” Certainly Kara is the picture of health: lithe, strong and vibrant. But it was not always that way for her.
Growing up Kara was never particularly active. “I was never an athlete, never into team sports. We would occasionally go skiing or something but that’s really it.” That all changed in when she had her first child and decided that she needed to get moving. “I started with a personal trainer,” she recalls, “and really learned to like lifting weights.” But in 2011 Kara’s health quickly deteriorated and she was soon diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. For the next two 2 years her activity levels were severely curtailed. She spent months at a time feeling numb from the chest down. With her sense of touch going haywire, even stroking a dog’s soft fur could give her pain. Touching the needles of the family Christmas tree was so agonizing it nearly sent her over the edge.
“I was 30 lbs overweight at one point,” Kara recalls. “I was on huge amounts of Prednisone and had almost totally given up.” She didn’t though. She could walk, and so she did. Sometimes only ten metres, sometimes more, but she would do it. “At the end of the day,” says Kara, “there’s always something you can do.” She recommends that when things are bad you push your boundaries a little bit and look for tiny incremental improvements. “You have to have faith in the process and know that it all adds up over time, especially when you have a chronic illness.”
Gradually Kara added other things like swimming to her routine and found that immersion in the water masked her symptoms somewhat. She also discovered that walking in the cold numbed her sensation and allowed her to move more easily. “The hardest thing was finding the balance between doing too much and not being able to function for the rest of the day and doing too little to push myself.”
Over the years though, it became easier and today Kara is in a great place, even completing two fitness competitions last year. Just like the 40-day challenge, those competitions were a tool she used to help keep her motivated and going to the gym. “The show itself is not really my world,” she laughs. “I’m normally wearing Birkenstocks, not heels. But it’s all about improving yourself. I credit where I am now to exercise and I want to help others who may be in the same dark place I was.”
As for Kara, she’s already looking forward to Trico’s next challenge. “It’s one more piece of motivation to keep active,” she says. “I love the absolute consistency of coming to the gym every day. During the challenge you don’t ponder whether or not you should come to work out – you just do it!”