As I mentioned in my teaser post I have known our next RMR member my entire life. We shared a bedroom, I borrowed her clothes, we whispered late at night until we got in trouble and have spent countless hours, over our lifetime, talking about life. Growing up together I spent much of my life in awe of Sue. She was tall, beautiful, athletic and a star on the volleyball court. As her baby sister, I held her on a pedestal. Sue Emery is my sister and it is with pride and joy I share her journey with you.
Sue has been married to her handsome husband Ken for 34 years. They have three incredible adult children; Everett and his beautiful bride Courtney, Emma-Leigh and Lydia. Sue and Ken just welcomed their first granddaughter, Essie on May 1st. As a first-grade teacher, Sue loves her job and is passionate about setting a good example not only for her class, but all kids in her school. She combines her passion for the outdoors, gardening, and her love of animals with the lessons she shares with her first graders. When movie night hits, Sue loves the Marvel Universe movies, including Guardians of the Galaxy and The Mandalorian. Her music runs the spectrum from country, rock or whatever strikes her mood.
Growing up the oldest of four children Sue was busy and active her entire life. Growing up in a small town meant she was playing outside until after dark, riding bikes with friends, playing tag or chasing after her siblings. Once organized sports began in junior high Sue eagerly joined and balanced studies with sports, excelling at volleyball. Her focus on fitness continued into high school and college. As a young adult she played softball and volleyball enjoying different city leagues. Although Sue ran in junior high and high school it was not her favorite sport. As her life changed running allowed her the chance to get out and it became something she enjoyed.
Enjoying the challenge, Sue embraced running and has completed numerous road races, including 10 half marathons. Life unfortunately decided to throw her a curve ball and she ended up tearing her meniscus. After surgery she worked closely with her doctor to bounce back as quickly as possible. With the support of her family and determined to stay on track with her weight and exercise she began immediately with simple daily exercises daily. The knee surgery would force Sue to look at different forms of exercise.
A torn meniscus is not the only difficulty Sue has battled. Life is full of challenges, some bigger than others. Daily challenges include being tired, not having enough time, taking care of the house, family, meals and balancing work. Being a mom is an incredible experience, but also draws time. In the incredibly short time her kids were growing up it was easy to forget about taking care of herself as she followed them around, cheered them on, helped with homework and focused to be present in their lives. Sue learned to make the most of each situation and incorporated small 10-15 minutes exercise routines.
Depression and anxiety have also impacted her ability to stay active, at times even bringing life to a crashing halt. Proactively she has learned to recognize those days and fights them by taking walks alone or going to a power row class. Sue is able to focus, find her center and breathe.
Almost everyone has faced a time when they have wanted to quit, Sue included. Last year was a blur for her. She stopped walking and her normal workout routines stopped as well. She hoped that as a teacher she would still maintain her active lifestyle with the many stairs in her building, but found that she had begun struggling to breathe, even when not walking up the stairs. She was on edge, scattered, disjointed and it all hit a breaking point. Sue had continually been filling other people’s cups and not her own and realized to be the best version of Sue she needed to take care of herself. Taking a couple of days off from work she invested in herself. Deciding to unwind at a spa, something she had never done before, she walked in feeling as if she had run a marathon she wasn’t prepared for. Every muscle was taut as a bow string and stress was riding just behind her eyes. Sitting down and succumbing to the calm music she was able to close her eyes, relax and breathe. In the coming days she took her two puppies for walks and began to re-center. Ken convinced her to try a rowing class at a local studio. She had never rowed before and new situations caused her anxiety. She hated him the entire way there and to make it worse when she arrived her machine was right behind the instructor with what felt like a spotlight focused directly on her. The rowing began and Sue just listened to the coach and began to relax. Sweating like crazy, blood pumping she felt herself coming alive. That day she fell in love with rowing.
Rowing had become Sue’s go-to at least four times per week and sometimes a double class on Sundays. Complementing her row workouts, she stretched several times a day and added simple, easy things to increase her fitness and activity level; parking in the farthest parking spot from the store, always taking the stairs and walking briskly wherever she goes. When social distancing first became a daily part of life, Sue found herself a little lost during the first week. The routine was wonderful, but she needed to adapt to the new circumstances. Determined to continue she began to take the puppies, Puck and Jack for a walk, several times a day. As with many dogs during social distancing, they now hide when the leashes come out. Ken and Sue discussed other options with all gyms shut down and decided on purchasing a rowing machine. The coaches at her local RowHouse started live Facebook row classes. Embracing their challenges and setting personal goals Sue has been able to stay on track.
Sue’s dedication and commitment has impacted her family. All her children continue to be active and her husband competes in Ironman races. She has also seen changes in herself. Over the years, Sue has yo-yoed with her weight and exercise. Right after her knee surgery she dropped weight and felt good, but after a couple of tough years her weight was back up. After a consistent back and forth she realized her heart wasn’t focused. Deciding to quit making excuses she set her goals and feels better, has been more consistent and is fitting into smaller size clothing.
In the years she has remained active there are a few memories that stand out for Sue. Running the Princess ½ marathon once and the Glass Slipper Challenge, 10K and half marathon once at Disney world was a favorite. The energy she felt running through the parks, having hundreds of people, including the characters cheering her on was amazing. Having the opportunity to share those races with her sister and of course getting the fabulous bling was a plus. Another memory was completing a ½ marathon with her RowHouse. The music was pumping through her veins, coaches were running around cheering each athlete on and every athlete, as they finished cheering everyone else to the finish. It was an amazing team feeling for Sue that brought tears to her eyes.
Sue’s best advice for anyone just getting started is to start easy. Find something you enjoy doing and set short term and long-term goals. Plan your exercise like you would plan a meeting or other event, putting it into your calendar. It takes times to get into a routine. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a workout, everyone does. Get back the next day, remember why you started the journey and before you know it you will be addicted.
Quarantine is a challenge for everyone but find joy in how communities are coming together to help each other. Find the heart-warming stories and surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Sue encourages everyone to focus on the positive and love life.