Training for a race sounds so intimidating until you do it once and then, for many people, it becomes a passion. My friend, Sonja, was inspired to participate in her first Susan G. Komen 3-Day – a 60 mile walk over three days – to raise awareness for a cause that has affected her personally. I hope her story inspires you as much as it inspires me!

On Valentine’s Day, 2013, Sonja was diagnosed with breast cancer. There is no history of breast cancer in her family. Her double mastectomy was almost immediate, taking place in March. Then, because of an infection, she endured five additional surgeries. In November, she was told she was no longer a successful candidate to complete the final phase of her reconstruction surgery. Sonja is just 37 years old; she is a daughter, sister, wife and mother to a 5-year-old daughter named Audrey.

I could tell you about many of the daily uphill battles she faced during her recovery; stories that anyone with a loved one or dear friend or family member who has endured a double mastectomy could relate to. Everyday tasks suddenly became challenges – things like taking a shower, trying to walk, sleeping, bending over, and even sneezing. The inability to hold her child was devastating.

But all of that didn’t keep Sonja down! To no one’s surprise, Sonja is actively training for her first Susan G. Komen 3-Day this October in Atlanta. Sonja will tell you that, when she first heard about the three-day walk in Atlanta, she thought it sounded great…for someone else. But, she continually felt called to commit and soon enlisted the help of one of her close friends, Melissa, who happens to be a personal trainer and fitness instructor. She is going to accompany Sonja on the 3-Day walk this October.

When I asked Melissa how she was going to help Sonja train for her first 3-Day, she had the following advice for people training to participate in their first Susan G. Komen 3-Day*:

Training Walks – Nothing prepares you better for walking than walking. The important thing is to increase your mileage safely over a four-month period. Increasing your walking mileage is the most important part of your training. One strategy for fitting long mileage into your schedule is to divide the walking mileage into two sessions per day instead of trying to cram everything in to one arduous walk.

Cross Training – Cross training is often neglected but is essential to increase your muscle strength and endurance while decreasing the risk of overuse injuries. Any activity that increases your heart rate and involves using your whole body qualifies as cross training. This includes bicycling, the elliptical trainer, swimming, rollerblading, Pilates, yoga or dance. Duration of the activity is what we are trying to incorporate, not the intensity or type of activity. (Laura – how long/many cross training activities should someone training aim to do a week?)

Listen to Your Body – Don’t overdo it! If you feel pain during or after a training session, then it’s your body’s way of telling you that you’ve overexerted yourself. Stop training and rest for a week, and once your body feels up to it, resume your training schedule.

Sonja and Melissa fit daily training into their busy schedules in the early morning hours and before work. They begin their training by walking fast laps at the mall. Recently, Melissa added some bicycling into Sonja’s daily routine.

I’m excited for my friends as they embrace this journey together and create lifelong memories with other inspirational women who are making progress toward the ultimate goal of a world without breast cancer. I can’t wait to watch as Sonja and Mel, and hundreds of other courageous women, cross yet another finish line in an endeavor to stand up, fight, and run all over breast cancer.

*Make sure you consult with your Doctor before you embark on a new exercise routine.