Life is beautiful, isn’t it? But I think what makes it even more beautiful is our ability to tell and share in each others’ stories. I’m excited to share a story with you that is so brave and equally as beautiful.
Here is Valerie’s story. It’s one of strength and self-acceptance. She fought through the negative thoughts that told her she needed to be more, do more, and run more. But of course, Valerie tells her story the best. So, I’ll let her take it away.
Running With Intention
My parents met running. So I guess you could say part of my literal existence is because my mom and dad were the only two people running on a cold winter morning in college. Running, to me, is more than exercise. It’s a form of freeing my mind and tuning into my soul. If you’re not a runner or have never experienced the mental benefits, I’ve been there too. My relationship with running has not been an easy journey and it’s taken years to finally use it in a way that enhances my life.
Growing up in an active family and watching my sister complete countless marathons inspired me to start running after I stopped playing sports in high school. But my intention when I started running was based solely on body image. I wanted to lose weight and this was the only way I knew how. Of course I was aware of the plethora of other ways it could enhance my health, but quite frankly, I couldn’t have cared less. Picking up running came extremely naturally to me thanks to my genetics and competitive nature. But being the type-A person I am, running went from a hobby to an addiction.
It wasn’t until college that I realized I had a unhealthy obsession with running and exercise. While most students were enjoying lazy Sundays eating Papa John’s while reminiscing on the night before, I would be out running a “light 8 miles.” And no, this wasn’t because I was training for a race or an event. I was punishing myself for drinking and eating pizza the night before.
Looking back at college, I can truly say that at the time I would’ve rather gone for a run than hang out with my friends. I missed out on what were supposed to be some of the most memorable times of my life, because I was so consumed with making sure I was running enough to balance out my lifestyle. I would sign up for half marathons solely to have a valid excuse for running so much. I knew that this wasn’t normal and it quickly began to take a toll on my body. At one point, I ended up tearing my hip flexor and still insisting on finishing a half marathon in record time. Every day was spent with undeniable anxiety around when my next run was going to be. I knew it was time to get serious.
The reason why it took my so long to confront this issue is because no one told me it was wrong. I was constantly being praised for being able to run so far and so frequently. The only person who was going to be able to do something my unhealthy obsession was myself. This is a real problem that many struggle with and that many don’t want to admit they have. Our culture condones excessive exercising and putting our bodies through hell to feel satisfied. I’m here to argue that this approach is fleeting. It’s unsustainable and can ultimately end up causing more stress in your life.
I can proudly say that today, running is fun for me again. Being able to tune into my body and give it what it needs has changed my entire mindset. Some days I wake up and want to sprint 4 miles; some days I need an easy short jog. I can finally see the other ways it positively benefits my health. When I run I have more energy, less anxiety, a better mood, etc.. I no longer run because I feel guilty for how much I’ve indulged or because my pants fit a little tighter than normal. If you can honor your body and turn towards your intuition, you’ll be able to experience a more fulfilling bond with running.
Maria’s story is very different from mine, but both of our journeys highlight how having the right intention when running can move you in the right direction – to a place of health and peace.