breaking up with running

Last year, as I began to take my health more seriously, I started working out regularly.  At first this meant lots of group exercise classes, which I think are a fantastic way to stay motivated when pursuing personal fitness goals.  For a while I’d hit the gym every day, paying others to kick my butt in kickboxing, total strength, and step classes.  But then, finally, I caught the running bug.

My boyfriend at the time had been running regularly for a while, and I would always whine whenever he took me out for a 5k.  It seemed impossible.  But somehow, between graduating college and moving to a new city, running started fitting itself into my schedule more often.  It became something I craved rather than something I dreaded or resented.  Soon a 5k was manageable.  Six miles was a stretch.  And then one day I got lost in my new city and I accidentally ran 13 miles.  I was hooked.

Instead of browsing shopping websites or gossip blogs, I spent my lazy internet hours browsing cool races and marathon training plans.  I had huge plans to run the 2011 Disney Marathon.  I felt strong and fast and invincible and…for the first time in a while…fit.

Running was also a huge part of my relationship with my boyfriend.    We pushed each other and encouraged each other.  I became secretly competitive.  While running was something that made me feel good about myself (most of the time), I couldn’t honestly say I was only doing it for myself.  But I stuck with it. I loved that there was an activity that we could share, running races together and geeking out over glossy new copies of Runner’s World.

And then one day I busted ass on a morning run, and sprained my ankle, and everything changed.  I was injured on and off for almost nine months, troubled by a domino effect of compensation injuries.  Every time my boyfriend told me about his new 5k time, I hated him for it. I resented every runner I saw on the street.  I cried.  Even after I finally found an outlet at my yoga studio, my injury was still a constant source of frustration. Why couldn’t I run without pain?  Why wasn’t my body doing what I wanted it to do?  My self-esteem was so caught up in being this badass runner girl.  I didn’t know what my injury meant for my identity.

Gradually, though, things changed. After failing to train for a half marathon in March because of crippling pain, I decided that running wasn’t worth the emotional and physical stress it had caused me.  Over the next few months, my relationship with running and my relationship with my boyfriend both ended.  Both, to a certain extent, because I needed to do what was right for me, to listen to what my heart and my body were telling me.

So I took some time off.  I just did yoga. And, magically, I was happy. And, despite my fears, I didn’t gain weight.  My clothes fit just the same.  I felt a sense of freedom: free from the mental fixation on running, free from a feeling of obligation, free from a fear of whom I might become if I stopped running.  I embraced my yoga practice even more fully – it’s a whole lot easier to bend and twist and stretch when you’re not tight from miles of running.  I only pursued physical activities that my body craved.

And, after a little while, I went for a run or two.  No longer because I had eaten too much, or because I felt the need to train for something, or because I wanted to tell someone that I had run.  I just….wanted to.  I wanted to be outside and feel the rush of my breath and the rhythm of my footsteps.  And it felt great, because this time, I was doing it on different terms. I was doing it for fun.  I was doing it for me.

So over the summer, running and I were on a break.  We saw other people.  And I had a shameless love affair with my yoga studio.  It was lovely. But I’ve begun lacing up my shoes again – only once or twice a week – and it’s been great. Humbling, but great (remember that time I ran a 23:25 5k? Yeah, I’m a little slower now). I have a feeling that, once the leaves turn and the cool breeze starts blowing, I’ll crave the crunch of leaves beneath my feet.  I’m sure I’ll lace up my running shoes a little more frequently this season; I might even participate in a few 5ks.  But this time, I have no expectations.  Because it’s not life or death or all or nothing.  It’s just running.

6 thoughts on “breaking up with running

  1. You’ve come a long way, baby! love your last line of wisdom, and can fill in the blank with anything I might over obsess, worry or generally get myself in a pickle over – ” it’s not life or death or all or nothing. It’s just _______”

    -mldd

  2. This is great! I love your take on running..it’s refreshing. I’ve recently cut back on my running and at first I was miserable, but now, I’m much more content not feeling like I absolutely have to run, and rather doing some cross training or only running a few times a week because I want to. I’m so glad you posted this..you have great insight!

    Have a great weekend!

    • i’m so glad you feel that way! I feel like it’s so easy to fall into the trap of wanting to run every day. it’s really great to feel like you’re active because you WANT to be, not because you know you SHOULD be. enjoy your weekend as well! xo

  3. I had a very similar running/ yoga experience. However, for me it was my knee, and I won’t be able to run again even in small doses… and i’m ok with that now 🙂 I can completely understand the emotion of getting sad and frustrated and jealous of other people running when am injured and couldn’t participate. I fought it for a while and would still would try to make it work, but my knee was getting weaker and weaker and we were becoming enemies.

    I didn’t think I would find anything physical activity in which I would have passion ever again. I thought I’d have to settle on something to keep me in shape and didn’t hurt my knee TOO bad like biking and crossfit. But in this mindset I still was having a battle with my body, not a severe one or one that I was really aware of, but just enough that to continuously remind me of my short comings and try to work against my injuries.

    In finding yoga I work WITH my injuries and FOR my injuries. I don’t hate my knee anymore, just like I don’t hate my naturally fuller rear-end anymore. If I happen to overindulge on junk food, I no longer feel the need to “punish” myself through purging and overexercise. I now understand how my body is a temple for the Holy Spirit and the means God has given me of experiencing life on earth.

    Anyways, I don’t know you personally, but happened on your blog and wanted to let you know that this resonated with me 🙂

    • Leah Ann,

      Thank you so much for your comment! I’m glad the post resonated with you. Injuries are so mentally and emotionally and physically frustrating—especially when you know what your body “used to” be capable of. I’m so glad you’ve found peace with your body; I feel I’m finally on the road to getting there as well and it is such a blessing. We must take care of the bodies we were given, but also to recognize that we are more than our bodies, and life is too short to fret over the little things!

      Sent from my iPhone

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