I read a post a few weeks ago on A Cup of Jo about how, if asked to describe ourselves in five words at varying phases of life, you might not find any overlap between the words a few years apart. It resonated with me because, just that day Robyn and I were talking about how a year ago, if we'd been asked to describe ourselves, we both would have said "runner" first.
It wouldn't even be in my top five.
A healthy living and fitness enthusiast? Absolutely. Someone who prioritizes exercise? Yes. But for me, right now, long distance running doesn't align with healthy living in my life.
After years of having too many rules around my relationship with running - from a minimum distance required each day for it to "count," to needing to do intervals and stairs and sprints and all sorts of things in between - I have learned that it's healthier for my mind and body to exercise differently. I have learned not to fear weights, not to worship cardio, to take rest days, try new classes for fun and even "count" walks.
I have learned to have a healthier relationship with exercise for the joy it brings me and for the amazing things it does for my mind and body when it isn't abused. Because, just like anything else, exercise is so good, but too much of anything isn't good anymore.
That's a lot to gain. But what about the things I've lost? What about the way I used to be able to run far and fast? And about how my body looked different - to some, maybe better? About how I went out, without training, and won a triathlon? What about how I used to have visions of completing a half Ironman and now I don't even run every day?
If I let myself, I can get a lot of anxiety about losing all of those things. About losing so many of the attributes that once made me feel like me.
But the anxiety is worth pushing through. Because a year ago, I could have described myself as a runner. But two of my other words could have been rigid and fearful. Because I had no room for flexibility in my day - I had to run these miles and exercise this way in order to feel like I'd earned my keep. And I feared what would happen if I didn't.
Today, I might not be winning any events or dreaming of being a sponsored Ironman competitor. Not even close. But I have learned to have balance. I have become less afraid. I have become less rigid and more flexible. I have become someone who is having more fun and who is overall happier. And for right now, that's a lot more important in my life than being able to say I run every day.
1. This is a joint post with Robyn. Read about her journey with running here.
2. Just because my relationship with running has changed does not mean I believe running is bad or wrong. Many people have perfectly healthy relationships with running and I think that's wonderful :)