PRINCETON, Ill. — Jill Frueh is running away from her
But the 37-year-old mother of two, wife to Jared, horse
enthusiast, owner with her husband of a showpig breeding operation and the
manager, for the last 12 years, of the Bureau County Farm Bureau, freely admits
“I joke, when people ask me, what made you start, I say it
was either this or medication,” she said.
“This” was running, but running in the digital age. Frueh
started her program using two phone apps, a Couch to 5K app.
Couch to 5K is a program that does what it says. It starts a
running program gradually, with short bursts of jogging or running combined with
a few minutes of walking and works the individual up to being able to run five
kilometers — 3.1 miles.
It sounds intimidating, but after the birth of her son,
Parker, who now is 3 — daughter Payton is 5 — Frueh didn’t feel like herself.
“It didn’t start out to be as much of a weight-loss issue as
it was being healthy,” she said.
With a newborn, a toddler, a husband, a full-time job of her
own and the showpig business, Frueh said she was being pulled in many
directions. She felt like she had lost control.
“I went to the doctor and said I’m not depressed, but I’m
just not myself. The doctor said you can try these things, try medication and I
said let me try one more thing,” she said.
She’d heard about the Couch to 5K program from friends and
through Facebook. So she downloaded the app and got started.
“Before I started it, I had never run more than a mile and a
step, and that was only because in high school you had to run a mile to
graduate,” Frueh said.
Most of the versions of the Couch to 5K app are set up so
the program has an audio component, a virtual coach of sorts, telling when to
start and stop walking and running.
Getting started and keeping with the program was difficult.
“I had no idea, at 200 pounds, what made me think I could
run,” Frueh said.
Like so many people, the weight gain wasn’t sudden, but
“I was fit going through high school, but every time I went
to college, I gained 15 pounds. It just crept up me, 10 pounds a year,” Frueh
Now, she said she realizes the effect gaining weight had on
other aspects of her life. Always friendly and outgoing, Frueh said standing up
and speaking in front of groups became something she didn’t enjoy.
“Self-esteem plays a huge part. I grew up with 4-H and FFA
and doing public speaking. I wasn’t nervous, but I got to a point in my adult
life that I just did not feel like speaking. I never really could figure out why
— now, it doesn’t bother me, so I think once your health comes back, your
self-esteem comes back and that helps in other ways, too,” she said.
Frueh also had three good reasons to get and stay healthy,
Payton, Parker and Jared. Having had some health issues during her pregnancy
with Parker, Frueh was more aware than ever that she had to stay healthy for her
family, as well as herself.
“I thought, if I have these problems when I’m pregnant, it’s
not going to get better by itself. I had two kids, and I had to take a look at
myself and start taking care of myself for other people,” she said.
She also realized that while she was striving to feed her
children a healthy, balanced diet, their mother wasn’t doing the same.
“When they’re babies and you start feeding them baby food,
you give them a fruit cup and a vegetable cup or a meat cup and a half fruit and
half a vegetable, and I thought I’m feeding them vegetables, but I’m not eating
any vegetables,” she said.
She started running at the Metro Center in Princeton.
She also was careful to set a good example for her daughter
about weight and body image.
“Parker was too young to understand, but I was very careful,
around Payton, about not saying we’re going to the Metro Center so I can lose
weight. She’d say why do we have to go to the Metro Center again, and I’d say
because I want to be healthy,” Frueh said.
That half hour on the treadmill, while Payton and Parker
socialized at the center’s daycare, became her own time.
“I needed a hobby of some sort. I needed 30 minutes of the
day that wasn’t lunch hour being clocked on, and that’s what that time became,”
Three years later, Frueh has run her way to better health,
fitness and weight loss. She’s lost 80 pounds and now weighs 120 pounds. A size
18 when she started, Frueh now buys sizes 4 and 6.
She is determined to make fitness and healthy eating a
marathon, not a sprint.
“I’m not on a diet. This is a lifestyle. I don’t really want
to cut anything out for an extended period of time because, at the end of the
day, I still want to eat with my family,” she said.
For the last 30 pounds she lost, she decided to temporarily
cut sugar from her diet. She consulted with a nutritionist to find out not only
how to cut sugar out, but how to ease small amounts back in and maintain her
While she continued the Couch to 5K directions, Frueh also
changed her diet. She used another popular app called My Fitness Pal, where
individuals can log their personal information and keep track of their physical
activity, calorie intake and calories expenditures each day.
“I set myself at a strict 1,200 calories,” she said.
Frueh took a closer look at what she was eating.
“I watch what I eat, especially at breakfast and at lunch
and especially at work. I want to make sure I can eat with my family. That has
turned into more healthy meals because I want to eat what they’re eating,” she
Her kids have their snack drawer at home, with fruit snacks,
Teddy Grahams and goldfish crackers, but Frueh prohibits herself from visiting
that drawer, other than to restock it.
The family’s diet has moved from meat and potatoes and bread
to meat, but with more vegetables and fruits.
She’s also learned that there are challenges to eating
“It’s expensive to eat healthy. It really is so that was
something that I had to keep in mind,” she said.
Getting her husband and kids on board helped, especially
with fresh vegetables and fruits with a limited shelf life.
“If you can get your whole family on board to eat it, the
food gets used and eaten and it’s not going to waste,” Frueh said.
Far from being dismayed, the guests at her bureau meetings
have welcomed the addition of a fruit plate or vegetable tray to the usual
“I’ve had more people than I’ve ever thought I would thank
me for bringing some bananas or some apples because they’re diabetic and they
can’t eat the pastries or they’ll tell me, ‘I’m trying to cut down on the
doughnuts, too,’” Frueh said.
She laughs when asked what husband Jared, who works as a
district sales manager for AgriGold, thinks of his wife’s transformation.
“When I was starting this, I think he thought — although he
never said it — he was probably like here we go again,” she said.
While the visible focus is the weight she’s lost, Frueh said
her personal focus, regaining and maintaining her health, remains her goal.
While the three-year time frame might seem discouraging, she knows that
long-term process makes it more likely for her to stick with the program.
“I get up and weigh every day, but it’s just a mind frame.
I’m not losing weight for a trip to Mexico or for an event. I’m losing weight
forever, so there was no timeline in it,” she said. “I was OK with it being
gradual and not like all of a sudden 10 pounds come off in a month because this
way, you know you’re going to keep it off or hope that you keep it off.
Initially, it wasn’t for the weight anyway. That was a great follow-up. It was
great that it worked out that way.”