Posted on 05 September 2014.
Shila Kiander (right) and Leslie Cardinal (left) after the Mackinac Bridge Run. Shila was one of several fitness ambassadors in the race.
By Judy Reed
When the throng of 500 runners set off on the Mackinac Bridge run on Labor Day, one of our very own was leading the pack. Shila Kiander, of Cedar Springs, was honored as one of 13 fitness ambassadors from across the state, due to her commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
“It felt really good to be chosen,” said Shila, “like it validated all my hard work. Like they felt my story should be shared.”
Shila decided to take charge of her health two years ago, at the age of 42, after a visit to her doctor. Being genetically predisposed to diabetes, she decided it was time to change her life, not only for her, but to be a role model for her daughters. She began logging calories and working out the very next day. Within nine months she saw great results, and overall has lost 120 pounds.
For Shila, one of the secrets to her success has been having a supportive network of family and friends. For example, when her daughters would cook dinner, they would have all the calories figured out for her. Her daughter, Sarah, told Shila that if she would run, she would run with her. And the rest of the family also participates with her in the races. Her friend Leslie Cardinal, also of Cedar Springs, ran with her in the Mackinac Race, as well as others.
Shila after her weight loss.
Shila before her weight loss.
“Having a network is really important; not to hold you accountable, but to support you,” Shila explained.
Running is not something she ever thought she’d do. She started out slowly, walking in her first few races. In May 2013, she ran her first 5K, and has done 23 races since then. In order to qualify for the Mackinac Bridge Run, she had to have run in two other races, and then was picked through a lottery to participate. Her friend Leslie also was chosen through the lottery. Shila’s family walked the bridge afterward.
“It was about 4-1/2 miles. I ran the whole thing, and saw the sunrise as I was running. It was awesome,” remarked Shila.
Since losing the weight, Shila has noticed a big difference in the way she views herself. “It really helped my self-confidence,” she remarked. “Before, we would go out to eat, and I would be concerned on whether I could fit through the chairs. I don’t have to do that anymore. It’s also been great being able to purchase regular size clothes. I can now share clothes with my daughter Kelsey, and it’s great when someone likes an outfit on her, and she says, ‘It’s my mom’s.’ I never thought she’d be able to say that.”
Shila said her weight loss journey has made her kids more aware of what a healthy lifestyle looks like. And they love what their mom has accomplished.
“I’m so proud of my mom’s weight loss, she’s worked so hard and she never gives up,” said Sarah. “I am so happy that she got selected to be a fitness ambassador, I think she worked so hard for this and I think she is a great example for others who are trying to lose weight.”
The rest of her family echoed those sentiments.
Shila said she doesn’t plan to push to lose even more weight. “I’m just trying to maintain. I want to be able to live and not worry about one more pound. I’m comfortable where I’m at.”
Her current workout routine includes three days of crossfit (aerobics and strength training) a week, one 3-mile run, and walking in between.
We asked Shila if she had any tips for people wanting to get healthier. “If you want to do it, you can—just decide to do it. Start where you are. Go for a walk. Drink more water. Choose healthier options. Just start with one thing at a time and do it,” she said.