I have run my whole life but, never considered myself a runner until recently. I've been running since I was 12 when, my then Step Dad told me I was fat and needed to lose weight. I wasn't fat but, the insensitive comment sent me down the "eating disorder" spiral for a long, long time. It also got me obsessed with work outs that would make me skinny. Running and yoga seemed to fit the bill. And so my journey with with working out began.
When I started running, I was already a soccer player so, it seemed a natural fit. I aimed to run for 3 miles and would walk/run but always give up around mile 2. Running felt like torture! My mind was all over the place and telling me to stop and do something else instead. This cycle would continue for years. I would "run" for months on end, fight myself the whole time and then give it up for 6 months. It was never something I was doing for myself but, against myself. It was punishment for not being skinny enough. I gave up on running entirely when I got deep into yoga at 27 and instead focused solely on asana.
Since then, I've seen a lot of friends run marathons, triathlons and various races of the sort. It always seemed like a lot of fun and a great challenge for body/mind. When I moved to NYC watching my first NYC marathon felt particularly emotional and I vowed I would run it one day, even though deep down I thought I never could. I would mention to various friends that I wanted to run a marathon and they would ask if I ran and I would always respond, "not really!". People would warn me marathons were grueling and I should train for a 1/2, run the 1/2 and see how I felt after. About two years ago, I got more serious about my marathon pipe dream and vowed to run it in 2018. It's been in the back of my head since then but, I felt unmotivated to do anything about it. Until, this summer.
This summer, I started seeing someone who is a very passionate runner. I told him about my marathon dream and then would roll my eyes and say, "I don't run now so, it seems impossible!". He assured me with proper training I could totally do it and offered to start training me himself. Running with someone I liked felt very motivating and I thought would give me the boost I needed to get through all the grueling training I had heard about. The guy and I ended up parting ways and to spite him not training me, I decided I was going to train myself because I'm a woman hear me roar! And I don't need a guy! Anything you can do...etc, etc. And the thing is, it worked.
This time around running wasn't torture! I decided from the get go I would never do walk/runs anymore. I would only run. I needed to not give myself the "off the hook" option because my mind would take it, run (pun intended) with it and remind me at 5 minute intervals that I could just walk already. Taking walking off the table has been a big part of my success. I started off slow with two miles around the McCarren track in early July. I loved being outside on a steamy summer night and hearing my footfalls as I made my way around and around that circle. Running suddenly became meditative and my favorite form of self care. I moved up to 3 miles in two weeks and then 3.5. Two weeks later, I ran 5 miles and it was easy! When I got to 6 miles and I ran it with relative ease, the game changed. Every run was giving me confidence but, getting to 6 miles felt like I was a true runner. I gained so much confidence in myself and for the first time felt like I could and would actually run the marathon.
So, what changed? Not to continually bring every thing back to getting sober but, getting sober feels really relevant to why things changed for me. Due to childhood traumas, I always felt VERY inadequate. I am a perfectionist, as are most children that come from alcoholic homes, and my perfectionism works likes this: I will want to do something new. I will get excited about trying it. Then my mind will stop me from even trying because it will remind me, I am worthless and unable to do anything perfectly so, there is no point. When I was drinking, this was my inner monologue always. Getting sober and doing all the self work, has allowed me to separate myself from thought patterns like that and recognize them for what they are (limiting beliefs) and what they aren't (the truth). I didn't realize how powerful this shift was until I started running. I could clearly see my huge improvement since my last run/walk cycle, my commitment and follow through. Running has shown me I am capable! And I can do anything, even huge physical feats, if I just get out there and do it. Running has truly been the biggest gift I have given myself this year.
Another thing that changed is It's also no longer about being skinny. I mentioned a similar idea on an IG post that I don't fight or hate my body anymore. Even when it's gained weight or is bloated, I don't look at those as failures that need to be fixed immediately or punish myself with workouts. I now see those as symptoms of my body needing extra healing. I love my body exactly the way it is and I now reward it with exercise I love. It's funny that I started yoga and running to "be skinny" as a kid and now as an adult I do both to connect to myself deeper and find peace. I get to run for two and half hours weekly and it is pure joy. It's meditative and time that I am focused solely on myself. I'm not worried about to-do lists, bills or boys. I am in my flow! I am moving in a way that brings every cell inside of me more love.
I am currently running 15 miles and have run my first race! I'm not pushing past 15 yet because, I feel like that's a good distance to do while I travel. I might continue to add milage while in SE Asia or wait until I'm home. I'm staying flexible about it. And even though I'm not an expert on running, I wanted to share tips that have helped me find success and have allowed me to add milage at a pretty good pace:
I used to only do yoga after my runs but, when I started getting up in higher milage my IT band would feel super tight. Now, I do yoga before a long run and after. The difference is huge! I feel warm, lose and in control. I do a 15 minute practice before my run and 15-30 minute practice after. I also love that doing these mini practices on my run days are helping maintain my flexibility-- something I was nervous about losing when I started running longer distances.
Hydration, food and sleep
I've come to realize if I'm going to train like an athlete then I need to be hydrating, eating and sleeping like an athlete as well. I will absolutely feel it on a run if I'm not doing these three things. I already have great practices with each of these things and I think it's what has allowed me to increase my milage so quickly. I aim to drink 2-3 32 oz of water daily. I eat very clean, especially on my adrenal protocol, and now just make sure I eat enough to get me through 15 miles! For example, when I got to 10 miles, I noticed afterward I would feel completely depleted. I wasn't tired like I needed nap, it felt like my body just needed to do anything for an hour or two. I would look at the day before and what I ate and would realize I wasn't eating enough! Now I always look at my runs for the week to make sure I'm getting proper nutrition to fuel me through longer runs. Sleep is 8 hours. Period the end.
When I started running, I thought my cross training would be yoga and that would be good enough. When My IT started bothering me, I spoke with my friend Josie, a fellow yogi/runner (and badass teacher I might add), about what to do to help. I thought she would recommend more stretching but, she told me the tightness/pain was probably due to lack of strength, particularly in my butt. She advised me to add gym workouts in my cross training and build strength. My weekly routine now looks like this: Mon- gym or off day if I need it, Tues- run, Wed- yoga, Thurs- run, Friday- gym and yoga, Sat- long run, Sun- gym and yoga. A strong runner is a non-injured runner!
Foam rolling and yoga balls
My friend Amanda has spoken to me at length about the importance of myofascial release and allowing the body to recover. I regularly foam roll and now, use a yoga ball to target all the areas that feel extra right after runs-- calves, hamstrings and IT bands. These tools are helping my body recover from training and prevent injury. Win, win!
Celebrate your success
After every run, I get so pumped and celebrate myself. I did this after two miles and I do it now at 15. I am always so proud and in awe of my body for being able to run long distance. I recently ran my first race, a 5k, and wanted to run it in 21 minutes. I ran it in 21:52 and though it wasn't my goal, I celebrated anyway! Celebrate every milestone because you deserve it!