Becoming A Runner Helped Me Learn To Appreciate My Body

Becoming a runner helped me learn to appreciate my body.

I’m on the cusp of turning 35.  It’s been a very long road to get me to where I am today, accepting my body and what it’s done for me.  It wasn’t until I started running that I really started to believe in myself and learn the importance of appreciating everything about my body.

It’s a typical story.  The overweight girl who was teased in school and turned to dieting (or not really eating much at all) as a means of coping.  I wasn't taught that food was meant to fuel my body. I developed a bad relationship with food that I've battled my entire life.  

Food is my coping mechanism. It’s my emotional crutch when I’m sad, angry or stressed.

Growing up, I would look in the mirror and hate what I saw.  Things people said back in high school have stuck with me my entire life. At a pivotal age in my teenage years, someone once said to me, “Whales don’t have knees” and pointed to my knees.  What the heck does this even mean? Was she calling me a whale? Was she pointing out the fact that my knees didn't have any definition to make them resemble knees? Was she really just trying to make a joke to gain a laugh, and never really thought about it again? I became embarrassed by my legs and would cover them up.  I didn’t wear shorter length dresses or a regular inseam short (5”? Heck no!) during any time that I wasn’t at my “skinniest” (a solid size 8, which happened during the before mentioned “not eating” phase of my life). This went on for 20 years.

I'd feel sad when the tall boots came into fashion and even the “wide calf” ones wouldn't fit over my “wide calves.”  My legs were a constant embarrassment to me and I was thankful that the boot cut jeans did not phase out because skinny jeans were just not going to be a thing for me. I avoided things like calf raises in my workouts because I didn’t want them to become “bigger” through strength training workouts.

And then I started this running journey in August 2017.  It was an accident. I was with a friend and the plan was for her to run the 5k and for me to walk and see her later at the finish line.  She asked me to wait with her in the crowd, as there were thousands of people and crowds made us both a bit anxious. When the race started and we got across the starting line, I kept her pace for a couple of minutes as she took off jogging.  It didn’t last long because obviously I hadn't trained and was gassed within a couple of minutes. I kept pace with this older gentleman who would walk and then jog, walk and then jog. I hit the finish line somewhere around 44 minutes and went to find my best friend, who was startled that I had “already finished.”  She asked if I ran it and I admitted that I had tried. From there I took off, both literally and figuratively, in my experience with running.

I’ll preface it by saying that I’m not “good” at it, even 9 months later. Running doesn't come naturally to me. I wouldn’t even say that I enjoy the act of running. But what it’s done for me mentally has made all of the difference in the world.

I look at my body differently now.  I stand in front of the mirror and I still see a short girl of 5’2”, but now I see myself with really strong legs.  

My knees still have no true definition. I'm still overweight, or as the doctor’s office would say, “obese” (that’s my favorite word, isn’t it yours?  The different levels for being overweight as defined by the doctor’s office is fascinating). I see someone who’s overcome injuries (overcoming injuries currently as I write this) and really started to learn how her body works and what needs to happen to keep the aches and pains away.  

The ironic thing is the number on the scale hasn’t changed to match this new confidence, which just proves that the scale measures nothing except for your direct relationship with gravity.

My body really hasn’t even changed shape from what I can really see. My pants fit a little bit better and my butt looks a bit stronger.  But what’s happening between my ears is pretty magic. That magic comes with a more positive outlook. A genuine appreciation for a body that suffered a miscarriage and then brought a little life into the world after dealing with a lot of things during that same pregnancy. The same body that’s been on the verge of type two diabetes for the past 4 years, and overcame it through really focusing on healthy eating and exercise and working like a maniac to stay away from all of the things that caused my blood sugars to be off balance.  

The person I did the race with, my RBF Ride of Die BAMR best friend says that the most amazing thing about watching me go through all of this hasn’t been me cutting 9 minutes off of my 5k, but watching my confidence skyrocket.  According to her, I look happier and carry myself differently. My childhood best friend for life has said the same thing, as has my mom. When I don’t see it myself, I have the most amazing tribe around me who helps me see what I still sometimes struggle to see. As I move forward in this journey, it’s incredibly important to me that I am a good role model to my wonderful almost 6-year-old daughter.  When she looks in the mirror, I want her to continue to carry herself with confidence the way she does now. She has not been broken by bullies or negative body image like I was (she has not yet, and I hope she never is). I want her to understand how good food can nourish her body, and to have healthy outlets to let out her emotions. As a mom, like most moms, I want her to be better than I was and am.

To build up my confidence, I surround myself with women who raise me up and make me a better person.  I listen to and read personal development to give me tools and tips to help me be a more well-rounded person.

 I run.

I continue to run because I needed to prove to myself that I can do something that is hard. I continue to run to burn off the stress.

 I continue to run to be a part of a really amazing community of women and to meet so many people both physically and through social media.

I continue to sign up for races because they are FUN.  

I continue to run because my almost 6-year-old is watching me closely.

And I continue to run because my body is strong and my knees are amazing and I think it’s so important to feel comfortable in my own skin.  I’m a badass. And so are you. So continue to do what makes you feel confident in yourself. Maybe it’s running. Maybe it’s something else. If you haven’t found it yet, don’t stop looking, because it is deep within you.