FIT & FAB
“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” These poignant words on the awesome power of gratitude are attributed to Helen Keller. The experience helped her to overcome self-pity and become of service to others. What are you grateful for? How often do we say thanks for the blessings that abound in our lives? We are alive and life, despite “the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to,” is an incredible gift. In the mad hustle and bustle, we often forget to be still in the moment and just say thanks. Gratitude is perhaps the most important key to finding success and happiness. As a mental health principle, the benefits of gratitude extend far beyond what we may imagine. Scientific studies have shown that it is associated with better health, more optimism and positive emotions, fewer aches and pains, more progress towards personal goals, greater alertness and determination, better sleep, and improved self-esteem. With no downside to gratitude, it is a goal that we should all embrace. Today the practice of mindfulness is recognized as an effective way to tap into our feelings of gratitude. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention on purpose in the present moment, non-judgmentally…as if your life depended on it”. When we are mindful we become aware of everything around us and the life that we have been given. Out of that grows quite naturally the spirit of gratitude. It enables us to live in the present without dwelling on the past or stressing about the future. It is quite simply being in the moment. Gratitude is an attitude and gratitude is a choice. Denis Waitley puts it beautifully, “Happiness cannot be travelled to, owned, earned, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”
My guest Dr Jackie Sabga is testimony to the power of determination and focus. Her grace and gratitude are seen in her giving back to the causes that she holds dear. Her fitness evolution continues and it is my joy to share her journey.—Judy Alcantara
Dr Jackie Sabga:
I was a 'busy' child. One of those little girls who traded quiet play time for climbing trees, exploring the outdoors and trying to keep up with neighbourhood friends as we traversed roads and drains and pathways. I loved my dance classes and I was an avid tennis player. As I entered university and then continued on to medical school, the demands of my studies began to eat away at the time that I had devoted to these activities.
I took on the roles of wife, doctor, and mother with the same enthusiasm with which I had embraced most life situations. I devoted my time and my energy to all those most important to me: my family and my patients. For many years I didn't feel like anything was missing or 'wrong' and I comfortably became overweight and sedentary, and very content with this version of myself. In 2013, I realized that I was not taking the advice that I was doling out in great measure to my patients about weight control, diet, and exercise, and I sought the services of Alexa Cheekes at Anybody Fitness. Those sessions were brilliant at giving me a jump start to a healthier, fitter body. Alexa worked her magic, I paid closer attention to my diet and I began to lose weight. Thirty pounds to be exact!! They say that success breeds success, and I grew more confident in my ability to get fit and to stay fit.
At that time, an opportunity presented itself and that's where the real story began. I was approached by a patient who had a bucket list wish to run a half marathon. This seemed almost comical to me because at that time I could not even run one side of the Queen's Park Savannah without feeling like I might need to call an ambulance!! So, inspired but terrified, I joined up with a group of seven other formidable women. We called ourselves the Bucket Listers and took on the challenge to find a running coach and to actually complete what seemed at the time like the impossible. We were lucky to be coached and shaped by the amazing Dexter Simon and the +OAW Running club and the rest, as they say, is history. After months of drills, speed work, long runs, strength work, and even a run from Tetron gates to Maracas Bay, Bucket Listers ran that first half marathon in Savannah, Georgia, in November 2014.
I had never dreamed that I would ever get involved in endurance sports, and certainly, if I did it would be a single event and then back to life as we knew it. But, I was enjoying this new aspect of my life and I felt healthy and ready for more. Just two short months after that, Bucket Listers took the leap to do a FULL MARATHON in Miami, Florida. Against all odds, with the support of family, friends, and coach, we joined the ranks of the <1% (less than one per cent) of the world population who has successfully run this distance. It's almost impossible to describe the sense of accomplishment that came with this achievement...the realization that I could make these demands of my body, which had previously been allowed to just tag along on my life's journey. With my team, we went on to complete the 2015 Fusion adventure race, a local endurance race that is nothing short of gruelling. The training for this event included road running, trail running, cycling, and hiking, sometimes in the dead of night!! Although I have never thought of myself as an 'athlete' I began to entertain the idea of doing my first triathlon. I enlisted the services of my best friend, Cherise Stauble, and we began to train for an Ironman 70.3 AUGUSTA. As a non-swimmer, a novice cyclist, and a wannabe runner, this endeavour to swim 1.2 miles, ride 56 miles, and run 13.1 miles was exceptionally daunting. We teamed up with Derrick Simon, one of the region's only Ironman-certified coaches and we literally worked our butts off!! Triathletes like to say that 'our sport is three times better than your sport', but they fail to tell you that it's also three times harder!!! In September 2016, we went with four other Trini triathletes and completed the Ironman Augusta 70.3. I couldn't possibly explain the feeling of euphoria that accompanied swimming, riding, and running that distance. The medal that was placed around my neck as I crossed the finish line held the weight of hours and days and weeks and months of training. Many tears were shed, many successes celebrated and failures were cast aside, responsibilities were balanced, and doubts were pushed away. I had gone from an overweight mother, wife, and doctor, to a successful Ironman triathlete. Some days I still can't believe that I accomplished that feat!
Of course, the journey is not over. I managed to convince Cherise that she and I had what it takes to race from London to Paris. Yes! Across the south of England, down to the coast, ferry across the English Channel and through the countryside of France to Paris. On a bike!! The training resumed and we logged countless hours on those machines. We frequently questioned our sanity but kept pushing forward, trying to suppress the ever-present demons of self-doubt. We did this ride as more than a personal challenge though: through the kind generosity of corporate T&T, we also raised $200,000 for our favourite charities: the Just Because Foundation and the T&T Cancer Society.
The ride was harder than anything I had ever done and I thought we were cured for life. There was no way that I could see myself doing anything that could live up to that challenge...until the next crazy idea began to take shape: A Full Ironman 140.6 race in November 2018 in Tempe, Arizona!! For the past several months we have been training rigorously for this race and it has been unforgettable. We train at least ten times a week in an attempt to develop skills that were non-existent just a few short years ago. It is demanding and difficult and there have been many joyful celebrations and many tearful disappointments. The level of discipline needed to get ready for an event like this is huge. We are preparing our bodies to traverse over 140.6 miles in less than 17 hours, as we swim, ride, and run our way to that finish line. My family has embraced the idea and they have been extremely supportive; the team effort of Bucket Listers, the family of OAW, the coaching of people like Dexter Simon, Dereck Simon, Karen Arajuo, Edward Tuberoso, and the constant driving force of Cherise Stauble and my SISTAS...it has made the journey possible and beyond worthwhile!!
'Don't worry, there's always something next!'...mountains seem like a good next challenge??!!! Let's see...