From mailbox to mountain
Six years ago, the idea of becoming a sponsored professional athlete wouldn’t have occurred to Diaz. Although she had been active when she was younger, she had just undergone a failed 28th surgery, was in pain and was on a lot of medication, with a home health nurse visiting her several times a week. She was also going through a divorce. Sad, angry and exhausted, she knew that she was headed for trouble. She resolved to start moving. The first day, she made it to the mailbox.
“For me, just to be able to walk from my front door to the mailbox was the biggest reward,” Diaz said. “I was starting to notice that the sky was blue and the flowers were pink and that there were purple flowers that I’d never seen before.”
The next week, she made it around the block. After two weeks of walking, she made it two blocks away to the ocean,—a place she’d never been in the two years that she lived there.
“I just felt happy. I felt energetic,” she said. “I was meeting new people. I was seeing things that I didn’t know were in my neighborhood.”
Then a call came through letting her know that her insurance covered a SilverSneakers plan at her local 24 Hour Fitness gym that was five blocks away, her first experience in a gym.
“I started introducing myself, and I just loved the atmosphere and I loved meeting so many people and … just being a part of something,” she said. Diaz started walking on the treadmill and doing upper-body exercises, and she began noticing some of her discomfort going away.
Excited about her new mobility, she signed up for a Ronald McDonald 5K walk, began raising funds and told a friend so she wouldn’t back out. On race day, she showed up in a purple tutu, red lipstick and braids.
“I raced when everybody raced and stopped when everybody stopped. And I knew from that instant, I wanted to keep doing what I was doing over and over and over again.”