Veronica Soles’ fitness journey has taken her on countless trails and roadways as she logs mile after mile to prepare for races.
It’s taken her to gyms, where bicep curls and squats leave her muscles aching.
It’s taken her to the produce department of the grocery store, where she buys more fresh vegetables and fewer sweets.
Soon, her journey will take her to a place she’s never been before: a nude beach.
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Soles, 39, figures baring it all will be a great way to celebrate her health success. The Cary woman, who works for a nonprofit in Raleigh, plans to celebrate her 40th birthday next winter at Haulover Beach, a clothing-optional stretch of sand near Miami.
“I just want to go and be free and celebrate myself,” Soles said.
She has a lot to celebrate.
At 5-foot-3, Soles was always petite, although she didn’t exercise. She had her first child when she was 30 and her second when she was 31.
Her weight crept up to 170 pounds, she said, and she was shocked by what she saw in the mirror one day.
“I saw myself ... and I thought, ‘Oh my God, when did that happen?’” Soles recalled.
Since then, she has lost about 35 pounds by changing her diet and exercising.
At first, she went to the gym, walking on the treadmill and using the elliptical machine. In 2009, she joined Weight Watchers with her co-workers.
A hip-hop dance class got her excited about the idea of working out more, so she started running – a 5K program first before working up to longer distances.
Soles has completed seven half-marathons and two full marathons.
Now Soles helps coordinate a Black Girls RUN! group in Cary. She said she enjoys the social aspect of the group, chatting about healthy-eating tips and exercise.
Earlier this year, Soles won a contest hosted by D1, a local training facility, and Max Muscle, which specializes in fitness nutrition. She receives free supplements and nutrition plans, along with free personal training sessions as part of a three-month program.
I wanted to write about Soles partly because I also enjoy running. I’m tackling the Raleigh Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon on Sunday. (Soles told me she didn’t sign up for the race because it’s too hilly, which has made me question my sanity and every decision I’ve made for the last two months of training.)
I doubt I’ll ever be brave enough to go to a nude beach, but women like Soles are so inspirational. She’s on a committee at work to encourage people to get moving, and she offers nutrition and exercise advice to anyone who asks.
But mostly, Soles said, it’s about being a good example to her daughters, who are 8 and 9.
For her birthday next January, she’s ready to cut loose with her girlfriends at the beach – it will be up to them, of course, whether they want to take it all off.
“I think people, regardless of the size you are, need to feel confident,” Soles said.