Inspiration for the Journey

Walk Tall: Paula Hjelle’s Journey to Health & Joy


(Left) Paula six months before embarking on her daring year-long initiative toward health. (Right) Paula after some laps at her local YMCA this March.


Last August we introduced you Paula Hjelle, a single mom who’s been on a journey toward health and joy. Over the course of a year, she’s lost 50 pounds, performed physical feats she could have never dreamed of, and has collected the hard-earned wealth of wisdom of one whose undergone a life changing transformation.  We hope Paula’s brave steps and advice will inspire and empower you on your own journey toward wellbeing.


1). What have you learned through this journey toward health?


I have learned that I can do it! I have learned that exercise and the road to health is a very slow process, but so worth it. I am learning to love myself and see my potential. I have learned that sweat is a good thing. I have learned that it is ok to have bad days, bad weeks, the trick is to not get discouraged, but allow them to help you get back on track and stay motivated. I have learned that a lifestyle change can begin with a single step.



A recent picture of Paula with her two girls.


2.) How has your everyday life changed?


Oh wow! There are so many changes. I have more energy, more strength, more stamina. I have developed a routine of going to the YMCA 4-6 days a week–something is missing from my routine if I can’t be there. My favorite exercise is biking and I ride 7-8 miles a day. It’s great exercise and I love being outside. I even ride to work! I am striving very hard to make healthy food choices and eliminate processed food. Food that is good for you doesn’t have to be boring, bland and tasteless. I can walk for miles now or bike for many miles without becoming winded or struggling. I was never a water drinker. I didn’t like it and only drank Diet Coke. I have now completely given up diet coke, and feel so much better without all of those toxins in my system.


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Paula’s favorite exercise is biking. She rides to work, often racking up 7-8 miles a day.

3.) What things have changed within yourself?


This will be a work in process for a long time. I am learning that I am capable of change. I am learning that I can do it! I am learning that I do have value and can bring joy to others and be an encouragement to them. I am learning that God made me for a unique purpose and maybe, just maybe exercise and encouraging others is part of that purpose. I am learning that I and only I am responsible for changing my body. I can’t blame anyone else for the obesity, and my choices.



Paula completed her first indoor triathalon in February, something she would have never dreamed of doing over a year ago.

4.) What advice do you have for our readers who want to take steps toward healthy living?


It all begins with one step. When I first started, I couldn’t even walk a block without my shins throbbing in pain. I would try and walk and would come home crying and needing ice. I wanted to quit during those times, but my girls kept encouraging me to keep going. I just kept doing it despite the pain, and soon it became easier. I couldn’t carry a laundry basket with clothes up 10 steps without having to stop. Find a good support system. You will face bad days, you will face temptation, you will want to give up, but with a good support system, you will be able to overcome. Find an activity or a sport that you enjoy doing and do it. If you don’t like the workout you’re doing, you will become quickly dissatisfied. It all begins with a single step and a want to change attitude.



Paula uses the leg press at her local YMCA. Working out 4-5 times a week has become a part of her routine.



5.) What about this process has most surprised you? What have you most enjoyed?


I am truly surprised at how much I am able to do now, by how much better I feel, and that I have developed a love for exercise. I am surprised that I was in an Indoor Triathalon and finished it. I am looking for new ways to exercise and am planning to be in a Memorial Day 5 k walk/run. This would never have been on my radar a year ago. I am surprised by the support systems that are available if you seek to find them. I have most enjoyed having a personal trainer. Janel has been encouraging and supportive throughout. She pushes me way beyond what I think I am capable of, and doesn’t give up on me when I want to give up on me. She is and has been a huge blessing in my life. Thanks Janel!



Paula works out at her local YMCA with her trainer Janel. Support has been an important part of her process.


6.) May 3rd is your 51st birthday. What are you doing to celebrate ?


My birthday will be pretty quiet, although I am entertaining the thought of participating in a MS Walk in the Twin Cities. I think that would be a pretty good way to bring in another year.

7.) Is there anything else you’d like to add?


I would like to thank Schuler Shoes for all of their support during the last year. I believe I would not have started on this incredible journey without them. I hope my story will inspire you to make a change in your life. Maybe you have been on the fence knowing you need to do something but just don’t think you can. YOU CAN! Start with the first step and KEEP GOING, the health you gain, the self- confidence to know you can keep going, and the rewards will be so worth the journey. Remember it is not a diet, but a lifestyle change that will be the most rewarding. My daughter tells me that diet is a bad word.

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