Thursday, March 15, 2012

Get Your Fun On

So a year and 2 months ago, I decided to focus on running. Never mind that I’ve been terrible at and hated running for most of my life. I was broke and running is cheap. You can do it outside almost year round here in the sunny south and your only expenditures are one of those iPod arm bands and shoes. Like my father before me, I was in love with the image of a runner – a tall, slim, woman with straight hair and defined and toned muscles, gliding silently down my street just before dawn with seemingly endless determination and lung capacity. I was enticed by all the positive stories out there on the blogosphere about how running helped people change their lives and how rewarding marathoning was. The reality is that I huff and puff and mentally beat the crap out of myself for everything that I view as “wrong” with my body every step of the way.

This is photographic evidence of the only sport I've ever been good at. (I'm the one front and center)
The game is called "Ring Around the Nosey", and if there was a world champlionship, I would win.

I started with a pie-in-the-sky goal of running a ½ marathon. I never signed up for one, but registered myself for a 10K 6 months from my first training run. The 10K was reduced to a 5K because of heat concerns and I still couldn’t run the whole thing. I felt like a total embarrassment the entire time. But I rallied and focused on my most successful training runs and signed up for a 15K 6 months later, hoping that if it went well I would up my training for a ½ marathon 6 months after that.  3 weeks before the 15K, I ran a 5K turkey trot with a goal of finishing in under 30 minutes. The Grige was in charge of pacing me and the course was much flatter than I was used to. I finished in 32 minutes. All I remember of the race is the terrified looks on my co-runners faces as I screamed at the Grige: “I hate you! You a**-hole! I HATE you!” all through the last quarter mile. The poor guy was just trying to pace me and I was so exhausted and pissed-off (and insanely competitive) that I was losing my mind because he wasn’t even breaking a sweat while I felt like I was DYING. Needless to say, I did not run the 15K.
So Running is not for you? No big deal. Try something else awesome. Like climbing mountains.
 And that, as they say, was the tipping point. I walked away from running and started focusing on yoga, which I love. I felt strong, happy and beautiful every time I left the studio. I had allowed myself to believe that because it wasn’t cardio or competitive, it didn’t mean anything. Now that it was all I was doing, I stopped blaming myself, pushing myself and criticizing myself. Surprisingly, three months after I decided to put running behind me for good, I went out for a Sunday morning jog. I didn’t bring a watch and I stopped and did yoga half way through. I walked at intervals when breathing became uncomfortable and I soaked up the beautiful, early spring weather. After that, I started going for more runs – always without a watch and without a schedule. It’s become a part of my mornings that I look forward to and if I don’t want to go, I just don’t go! Amazing!
Maybe you are wondering why I am writing about this. Good question!

When I was in High School, I was an assistant coach for Girls on the Run. GOTR is a program for 3rd – 5th grade girls that promotes positive self-image through discussions, activities and daily runs, culminating in a 5K fun run. I hated running then as much as I did 6 months ago, and I felt strongly that the girls who weren’t naturally athletic but wanted to participate needed a role model too.  Someone who would walk part of the workout with them and could show them that the program wasn’t about turning into a great runner – it was about loving yourself enough to take care of your body, whether it was fast or slow, for 5 miles or 0.5 miles.

Somewhere in the seven or eight years since high school, I forgot everything I knew so clearly then. I forgot that the whole point of diet and exercise is to have fun and to care for the body you have. I started thinking that I had to complete a marathon to be valued as a runner and that I had to become a vegan and quit drinking to be valued as a healthy eater. I started injecting negative self-talk into every aspect of my life – my hair is too thin, I can feel my stomach jiggling, I should skip dinner since I’ll be drinking tonight, I’m not smart enough for that promotion… it goes on and on. I even masked it with humor: “no way, guys. You do not want to see this beer gut in a bikini… ha…ha…ha….”
mmmmmm - If I can't drink Oberon on my diet, it's probably not going to last.
I hope that all the young girls and women in my life have been ignoring me for the last few years, because that kind of behavior has to stop. I’m writing about my experience with running because there are not enough people out there speaking positively about themselves and rejoicing in their relative mediocrity. I’ll never be able to run a marathon, but I should still be proud of my 7 mile run/walk! It was not mediocre for me! You do not have to do century rides and marathons to be “into fitness”. You do not have to eliminate chocolate or beer or whatever your favorite food is to be a healthy eater. You do not have to have flat abs to wear a two-piece at the beach.  So I am vowing to stop the negative self-talk. I am a healthy, smart, funny young woman and I am better than that. And so are you.

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