This morning I did something that I have always wanted to do... I went for a run. I have tried many times in the past to be "a runner" but I never was successful. I would start strong and thirty seconds later I would be doubled over in pain and out of breath. Not to mention, when something is physically uncomfortable for me, I stop. That's why I have to attend exercise classes instead of just hitting the gym on my own. I need that push, the encouragement. Why running? I honestly don't know. I guess in my mind I have always kind of glamorized it. You always see people on tv and movies go for a run when they get stressed. It "clears their mind" or "makes them feel free." My ED cluttered mind always needs cleared, and while I'm not looking to feel "free" per se, I do crave the confidence I feel in my skin after I push my body past what I perceive are it's limits.
So, a few days ago I decided I wanted to try it again. I haven't been able to go to my work out class since the gym has been closed and I missed the feeling of pushing my body's physical limits. I knew I couldn't just lace up and go for it like I had tried in the past. It never worked. This time I would do my research. I googled "running for beginners." I found some articles about taking it slowly. Start at a slow pace and take breaks to walk and then run again. Then I searched for "running apps for beginners." I found a list of about ten, but one stuck out in particular: The Nike Run Club App. What I liked about this app was its featured "guided runs." A coach actually guides you through your run. It also has selected play lists to keep you motivated. I downloaded the app but it rained for like three whole days so I didn't get a chance to actually go. But today I was ready. The temperature was perfect, the sun was peeking out but not blinding, and my attitude was in the right place. So I laced up, put my earbuds in and pressed play on "first run."
I started down my block just walking at a brisk pace, warming up. At the end of my block I started to run and like my past experiences, it wasn't 20 feet and I could feel my body giving out. I remembered the articles I had read and started to walk again. By now the coach of the app was telling me to run at a comfortable pace, a pace so slow that I can breathe deeply and would be able to talk if needed. I stepped up my walking pace a hair and began jogging. Every couple of minutes the coach would come on over the music reminding me to take it slow, if it hurts then I am going too fast. So I would slow down until it felt more comfortable. Let me remind you, I am not a natural runner, nor do I know the correct "form" so I can only imagine how ridiculous I must have looked. I was running through the parking lot of an imaging center and I looked over to see a police car. I just kept thinking to myself "please don't think I am in a medical emergency." In my head, between my poor form and extremely slow pace, I pictured myself looking like a person that on their last breath of life praying someone will pick them up and drive them to get immediate medical care. I shook the image out of my head and told myself "it doesn't matter what you look like right now, it's about how you feel." If I am being honest, in that moment I was feeling a mix of pride, determination, physical pain, and embarrassment. Due to the last one, I kept my run on the back roads.
About half way in my body started to loosen up. It wasn't hurting as bad, still wasn't comfortable, but I felt confident that I could finish. I took a turn to a special spot in my neighborhood, "the speedway," at least that is what my step dad and I called it when I was a kid. It's just a roundabout in our neighborhood that used to have a big tree in the middle. We would stick a branch in the hole in the tree to mark the start/finish line. Then we would rev up our engines and race our bikes around the make believe race track. I made a lap for old time's sake and got the five minute warning from the coach. I kept my "comfortable" pace until the two minute warning, then I pushed my body into overdrive. I wanted to finish off strong. When the coach came on and congratulated me on a great first run (pre-recorded but still felt good to hear) I smiled so bright. I did it. For the first time in my life, I completed a run. I walked the rest of the way home on cloud nine and drenched in sweat.
When I got home I couldn't wait to show my boyfriend my accomplishment. My stats were nothing to show off. My average pace was my sisters walking pace (in my defense she walks super fast) but I didn't care. I didn't run because I want to transform the look of my body. I've learned that with my eating disorder I am always going to have the desire to change my body no matter what shape I am in. I ran because I wanted to prove to myself that I COULD. I ran because I wanted to celebrate my body's strength and ability.
When I finished that run I knew it was a snail's pace, but I was proud of myself. That feeling of pride was like a high for me. Will I be an avid runner now? Probably not. In fact I am fairly positive that tomorrow I will barely be able to walk.
I have to be careful when it comes to exercise of any kind. I have to make sure that I am not doing it to compensate for food or to give myself permission to eat certain foods. I also have to make sure that my eating doesn't change because I choose to exercise or not. In the past when I got in a routine of working out I started to notice on days I didn't go to the gym I would criticize myself by saying "I'm just being lazy" or I would choose to eat very light because I wasn't exercising. I know that is not healthy, so I am VERY careful when it comes to exercising. I take my time analyzing the motivation behind it.
Do I feel I WANT to exercise or do I feel I NEED to exercise? If the answer is NEED to, then I don't. As soon as I feel like I NEED to, it has become compulsory and is not a healthy road for me to travel.
Am I exercising to change my body or my mind? If it is to change my body, the answer is no. That would mean the exercise was ED motivated and I am not letting that drive my decisions. If I want to change my mind, that is another story. When I exercise under healthy circumstances it does change my mind. I feel stronger, more confident, and proud of my body,
Am I exercising in order to grant myself "permission" to indulge in a triggering food later on? If yes, then the answer to exercise is no. Exercise shouldn't be driven by your food choices. I hate the shirts that say "run now, pizza later." Hell, I'm gonna eat the damn pizza even if I haven't lifted a finger all day. I don't have to "earn" my right to eat any kind of food.
It isn't always so black and white to figure out. Sometimes I really don't know if my desire to exercise is ED motivated or not. When in doubt I choose not to, just to be safe. But today the stars were all aligned and I was able to move my body with a healthy mind rooting for it all the way.
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Until next time!
<3 Stay Strong and Beautiful