Finding peace with running

I must confess – I have a love-hate relationship with running.

I love exercising, moving my body makes it feel good, and it’s truly my therapy. Running had that effect too… until I started pushing myself too hard to become faster, to run longer, to run races and marathons. Naturally I’m a slow runner, 10 min/mile is average, sometimes slower, rarely faster. Somehow I managed to set a personal record by finishing MIAMI marathon in 2015 at 8:53/mile. And then it took me nearly 2 years to bring my health back to normal.

My body is definitely much smarter than me – it tried telling me to stop and slow down when Saturday long runs during training were becoming dreadful and painful, leaving me on the couch for the rest of the day; it tried to warn me by pulling a muscle under my right knee 3 weeks before the race. I didn’t listen and kept on pushing.

Suddenly, days after the marathon, I started to feel fatigued, bloated, swallen all over. My energy was gone, along with healthy digestion, skin and nails. I dreaded getting out of bed. I needed more sleep to function, I started losing hair, gaining weight, which was mostly water retention from chronic inflammation in my exhausted body.

I had to quit running all together and slow the intensity of my workouts. I sought medical care, got the treatment I needed to address some of the issues, but mostly I had to reassess my relationship with running.

Here’s what I came up with:

1. If I wanted to continue running and feel good, I need to slow WAY down and let my body find its own natural pace, I could not force the pace I thought I should have on it.

2. Same with distance – I need to listen to my body and set running distances based on how I feel, not on what others are running. My distance is not there for comparison with anyone else’s.

3. I have to tame my competitive nature and learn to just have fun with running. If I run with others, who are faster, I stay with my own pace, I don’t get discouraged or frustrated, I don’t feel like I’m not good enough or less than, I just run because it’s fun and I choose to have fun!

It’s not like I, all of a sudden, romantic comedy style, turned into a perfect fun-having-easy-going-runner. I still struggle with pushing myself too hard sometimes. I have to have meaningful conversations with myself to get grounded again and again. But I can tell you – it’s working! My new mind-body habits are sticking. The neural connections in my brain are becoming to form and it’s getting easier to remember what I’m out there, in the trail, for – to have fun!

Happy running!

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