I have this loop that I really like to run when I’m looking for a good workout that won’t take me too long. I shoot straight up 4th Street all the way up to the mall, do a little lap there, and jog back down 7th when I’m ready to head home. When I pass Safeway I know my warm-up is over, and when Arena Stage is behind me I’m ready for my cool down. The route is exactly 3.5 miles long.

If you had asked me 4 months ago if I could run 3.5 miles without stopping, I would have laughed right in your face. My round, 163-pound, post-holidays self could barely run for a few minutes, let alone miles at a time.  I was overweight, out of shape, and uncomfortable in my own skin. One morning, something inside me snapped, and I realized that I needed to lose some weight and get back into shape. I had a moment of clarity and decided to start a health and fitness challenge to work on throughout the winter and spring so that I would be ready by summertime with a healthy new lifestyle. The goal: to lose 15 pounds in 15 weeks.

As a Southwest DC resident, I looked around me to find out how I could accomplish my goal in a convenient way, and I discovered a myriad of possibilities.  First things first, I signed up for a membership at our local Gold’s Gym, over at 3rd and D St SW.  What I found there was an extremely affordable membership, and a general manager who signed me up himself and personally shared with me some of his very own weight loss tips. Just for signing up I was given one free session with a personal trainer to discuss my health and fitness levels, talk about my goals, and show me a few exercises that would help me target the areas I needed to improve. I was encouraged to try out their numerous classes, and I was good to go.

As the weeks went on in my challenge and the weather warmed up a bit, I started to venture out and about in my neighborhood for workout opportunities. Once I was able to jog for a significant amount of time, I started doing loops up around the Mall, which is how I discovered my favorite route. I could also head over to the Navy Yard area for workouts on the boardwalk in Yards Park, right along the river. Pro tip: they offer free athletic classes outside there in the summertime! There are even several parks in the area that could double as an outdoor gym for calisthenics and strength training. In one of my most significant accomplishments of late, I ran from my apartment along the waterfront over to the Tidal basin, did a lap around the full circumference, and then kept going back to my neck of the woods at 4th and M St SW. The total trip was 4 miles and it was the first time I had ever run that distance without stopping in my entire life.

Now here I am at the end of my challenge, 15 weeks later. I’m happy and proud to say that I did achieve my goal in the end, and not just 15, but 16 pounds from my former self, I now weigh 147 beautiful, healthy pounds. I’m not here to brag about my weight loss though, I’m here to highlight the endless opportunities that we Southwesterners have right here in our own neighborhood to get out and get active. We have a whole quadrant filled with historical landmarks, picturesque scenery, and modern amenities to serve as the backdrop for our active lifestyles, no matter the level of fitness. Southwest DC is now my workout playground, and you could easily make it yours, too.

By Julia Cole

To follow Julia’s progress, learn some of her recipes, and get her weight loss tips & tricks, check out her blog at jujosays.blogspot.com, or follow her on Twitter @jujosays.

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