Screw the "Summer Body", THIS Is What STRENGTH Looks Like

I never thought I’d be a runner.

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As a matter of fact, when I was younger, I hated running so much that in high school I joined the color guard (flag team that performs with the marching band) so I would never have to run in P.E. again. My hatred for running was ingrained in my very being throughout most of my adulthood, and I scoffed at anyone who ever implied that I should try running. For goodness sakes! I already had a love/hate relationship with exercising! Why would I want to run?!

You see, I would join a gym, attend a few group classes, and then never go back. I even spent a ton of money buying those workouts videos from infomercials. I just knew that since I did not like running, the only way I could attempt any exercise and lose weight was to do the group workouts, use gym equipment, and do home videos. Until one fateful day on March, 2 years ago….

It was just a normal day of self-loathing. Summer was approaching, and I was in no way “beach body” ready. Although I had spent hundreds of hours pushing myself to go to those group classes and use those workout videos, I felt that I was still too soft and squishy. There was no way I was going to fit into that bathing suit and be able to look in the mirror and be happy with my reflection. Then, for no apparent reason, I thought to myself, “Maybe I should go for a jog, just to see how I feel about it.” Crazy right? Just out of nowhere, I had this idea that I should go for a jog! So I went. 

There is a bike trail that intersects my street about a ¼ mile from my house. I decided I would jog to the trail and see how it goes. I put on my gym shoes and jogged on the sidewalk. It didn’t seem as bad as I remembered! Sure, it was hard to breathe, but I wasn't dying. As I approached the bike trail, I decided to keep going, even though I had already taken several walk breaks. I turned right onto the trail and noticed the trees lining the trail. I figured I could jog to one tree, then walk to the next tree, and continue this pattern until the trail intersected the next major street. Ya know what? I did it! AND it felt pretty damn good! By the time I got back home, I had jog/walked about 1.5 miles! I was shocked!

After that one short jog/walk, I started to challenge myself more and more as the weeks passed. I would push to see how far I could go without stopping, and if I could withstand jogging farther. I even started researching all I could about running. Pretty soon I got this crazy notion to sign up for a 5K. (ME?!?!? Do a 5K?!?!? CRAZY!!) I mean, I had plenty of time to train. Right? (I had about 2 months to train, lol). 

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I ran my first 5K on July 4, 2016. The Folsom Firecracker in Folsom, CA. It was hot. I felt like I may pass out. But I finished that race! The rest, as they say, is history. I believe I actually fell in love with running during this race. I think this race is where I realized that I was, in fact, a runner and not just someone who jogs. 

Since that first 5K, I have developed an even deeper relationship with running. I have discovered that running has brought forth this badass chick I never knew was inside of me. A woman who can take on anything life throws her way, and kick it in the ass. Maybe it is because when running those longer training runs, I learned how to meditate in order to change the way I think about what is going on around me so I could push through the agony. In turn, I have learned how to cope with life’s trials and tribulations by literally running through them. 

Not only has my mind become the clearest it has ever been in my entire life, the way I view myself has changed as well. You see, previously I viewed any form of exercise as a way to lose weight and get skinny. Why else would I want to push myself so hard? Now, with running, I see exercise as a way to decompress from everyday life. I no longer focus on losing weight, “getting fit”, or needing to have a “summer body”. I simply focus on what I need to do to ensure that I can continue to run through old age. This focus includes different types of cross-training, eating a balanced diet (inclusive of my baked goods of course!), and taking a day to lay on the couch and be a vegetable. If losing weight is a side effect of this perspective, then so be it. 

I also discovered that running creates such a sense of peace, that a person is more likely to be vulnerable. I see this happen during long training runs when you discuss the meaning of life and personal problems with running friends and teammates. This vulnerability is also apparent as a person falls into a sobbing heap when they finish a race, when a runner will stop mid-run to help another runner in need, and when a faster runner will slow down to provide moral support for other runners. You truly see the potential of human nature when you are out on a run, which brings me a great sense of hope in an otherwise screwed up world. 

With my fairly new love affair with running, do I consider myself an athlete? Honestly, I have never really thought about it. I run whenever my body allows me to, which is typically two short runs and one long run a week. And a lot of my spare time is researching everything I can about running, and getting ALL THE RUNNING STUFF. (Because I do not half-ass anything I love.) My family and friends also know that Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays are training days, so my plans revolve around what time I can get my runs done. Does this all make me an athlete? Perhaps. 

Over the past 3 years, I joined a running club and training team (best decision ever!). I have run several 5Ks, a couple 10Ks, three half marathons, one full marathon, and I have three half marathons scheduled for this year. I like scheduling races at the beginning of the year, so I stay motivated to stick to a plan. I would like to add more races this year, but we shall see. 

I want to close by saying something to those who doubt their abilities, and/or struggle with their body: 

YOU CAN. Your body will do what your mind allows it to do. Once you quiet your inner critic, you will accomplish great things: running, and non-running. 

YOUR BODY IS A BADASS MACHINE. Your body knows what it needs to do if you give it the opportunity to do it. Give it the fuel it needs for the body and the mind, and it will kick ass. So when you look in the mirror, remember that all the softness, the lumps, and bumps are what strength looks like. So go kick ass!