Friday, March 15, 2013

What Running Has Taught Me

The time has come! My first half marathon is THIS WEEKEND (T- minus 2 days) in Virginia Beach! I leave today after work for a nice, long weekend:) I am excited and nervous about the race, but mostly I am proud of my running accomplishments thus far. Over the course of training for this race, and since beginning to run consistently about four years ago, I have learned a lot. From not being able to do 1 mile without stopping to running 13.1 miles in a single race, a lot has changed for me.  Here are some of my takeaways from my running journey:

1.  I may regret many things over the course of a day, but I never regret a run. Even a crappy run when I am tried and want to be doing anything else is better than no run at all.

2. Never underestimate your support system. Ever since I was a kid, I had this “I can do it myself” attitude, and while I have always had a big group of friends, I never realized how friends would lead/shape me down this running path. In college my roommates kept telling me I could do it. In grad school when I began running I used them as my motivation. Then more of my friends began running, and I even reconnected with an old classmate who made running her passion to fight cancer. It's true that any goal that’s bigger than you will require help and motivation. The best runs I ever had were with a friend, and when not running with someone, friends were my ultimate motivation. Their encouragement (and sometimes partnership during a long run) made a ten-mile run feel like a walk in the park. Running sometimes became a social hour! It's true that friends are there to help you, because as Maya Angelou wrote, “Nobody, but nobody can make it out here alone.”

3. Food is fuel, not a means to live. What I put into my body affects what I get out of my body. I can no longer eat like crap and feel good the next day, because I don't sleep well and feel sluggish when I eat poorly. My workout and mood suffers. I would rather just eat what I know is good for me than indulge and pay for it later at this point in my life. So if that means drinking less alcohol and eating "cleaner," then so be it. My fitness and health is my top priority and makes me better in all other areas of my life. I am ok being "lame" and saying no to certain things when I am out with friends. They could care less how I eat- the same way I could care less how they eat. We are adults and make our own choices! That being said, I also do not believe in being hungry, so I still eat when my body tells me it needs food (and I drink A LOT of water- 96 ounces a day typically) and a cheat day is always enjoyed!

4. My body is capable of so much more than what it looks like. It is not about a number on the scale or comparing my thighs to someone else's. I am in the best shape of my life, and while I will never be stick thin, I am healthy and strong with all my imperfections. I am built the way I am built...genes do compromise 80% of appearance...and all the time I try to change that is wasted time I could be focusing on something else. Even though my athletic body is not perfect, it is STRONG and HEALTHY.

*For those interested, I only lost 1-2 pounds during my 12 weeks of training, but I also measured the circumference around my thighs, hips, waist and arms every month to see muscle changes. I dropped 2 inches in my waist and gained 1 inch in each thigh! *

5. Getting up when it's dark to workout can be fun! No, waking up during the 5 AM hour isn't ideal, but you just gotta give yourself time to get used to it:) Sometimes running on a dark street (with lights!) is the most peaceful start to a day- no cars, little noise and endless possibilities. Just make sure you get to bed early enough and you'll have enough energy to enjoy that sunrise:). And time changes just suck.

6. When I run, I think and self-talk all the time. It’s true when they say endurance sport is all about mind over body. Call it what you will, but for me, running symbolizes the race in life that is set out for us. There will always be the excuses, obstacles and falls that we encounter in the race, but what matters is you never, ever give up. Just finish the race – it will be worthwhile.

7. You are a runner even if you never run a race. Dealing with pain in my tendons, AWFUL blisters that sidelined me for a week (yes, blisters), and other health nuisances, including knee pain, I quickly realized that running to stay in shape and running to train for races are two different things. It is not normal to run for more than an hour. It is not good for your body and takes so much out of you. I am not saying I will never do another half marathon, but I do not know how I will train. I want to stay enjoying running and that means taking care of myself! We'll see how I actually do in the race, but through this training I have realized I became a runner the second I laced up my sneakers and took my first jog. This half marathon does not make me and it won't break me. Running comes in all distances and times, so just enjoy it.

What have you learned from running?! Or any exercise/health endeavor?

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