A few days ago, I read a blog post titled How Social Media Skewed My Thoughts of Running Fast. Hollie, a fellow fitness blogger, writes about how social media can attribute to the manifestation of many of our fears around accomplishment, and we ultimately end up putting ourselves down by “dumbing” ourselves down. This post really got me thinking…not only about the competitive (yet extremely supportive) nature of the endurance sport community, but more so about how we are often called “crazy” by so many non-runners. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to stave off comments and questions that I immediately go into defense mode about. Things like “you’re running WHAT?” or “really, it’s Christmas morning…you’re going for a jog?!”. Social media definitely does curve our habits when it comes to race reporting…I’ve also found that for me, I have often felt the need to censor my activities and accomplishments from certain family members, friends, and people that just don’t find that same satisfaction from what I do.
Lately (meaning the past few years), I’ve tried to make an effort to dig deep into why I go into defense mode, and how I can just accept why I love doing certain things. Am I really nuts? What inside me is driving this desire to run? What in the world am I thinking when I’m hungover, or even slightly injured, to want to go break a sweat? I think that when it comes down to it, the way I feel about myself and about life POST run are really the driving forces behind those decisions. I use running as a way to feel better, both physically and mentally, and have worked hard to really channel that feeling in hard times. There have actually been a few instances that I’ve been so upset or shocked by something that it physically numbs my entire body, where I couldn’t even imagine throwing on shoes to go for a run. It was as if I needed to deal with the pain RIGHT then and there before I could go reward myself (I know, I know…running is a reward?!). However, in times like this, I’ve realized that forcing myself out the door, throwing my music on extra loud, and mentally giving myself 5 minutes to see how I feel does absolute wonders. I always, always end up staying on the route, and come back feeling better. Running through my pain has since become the best medicine, therapy, and clarity provoking moments of my life. The endorphin rush, the sense of accomplishment, and the confidence all seem to have a very positive effect on my attitude as well.
Of course, body image has a lot to do with it too. When I run, or bike, or do stairs, or TRX, I feel physically amazing. The harder or the longer I go, the more awesome I feel. Seriously, runner’s high DOES exist. This also means I can eat and drink wine with less reserve. I mean, who doesn’t run for wine and chocolate?! Even the See Jane Run 1/ Marathon has coined that phrase! With exercise comes muscle, and while I have my water polo days to thank for my shoulders, I am also learning to actually appreciate my quads and calves. Though they might be larger than other girls, I also get to bask in how strong I am, or how I often times can beat men up a hill on a bike or up a set of stairs. It’s pretty empowering…I actually had a client tell me this morning that I needed to “dumb it down” in front of guys sometimes if I ever want to keep a guy around. I say screw that, let me find someone who can keep up. 🙂 Anyways, I have learned over time to try and take pride in my muscles and my ability to compete in endurance sports. I hope that every female athlete that struggles with the fact that they have ass-kicking muscles can somehow, some way, be able to say the same. Because let’s be honest, it’s pretty awesome.
Over time I know that exercise has become somewhat of an addiction (which is not abnormal, hence the reason I am not too ashamed to say it), because when I go a few days without sweating, I feel it everywhere – I become more paranoid, self-conscious about my body, stress levels rise, and my muscles actually get…sore. The second I am back on the wagon, it’s like a huge weight has been lifted and I feel like myself again.
So, the answer to my question – what do I do when I feel myself going into defense mode? I know the answer, but I am working on the execution. Owning my decisions and my reasoning, showing confidence in and taking pride in what I do, and essentially NOT caring what other people think…those are all elements of the “answer.” I haven’t found so much that I am ashamed of reporting my times, rather my activity log. I don’t have a ton of close friends who are as into this stuff as me, so our basis of comparison is a little off. The exciting part is not only starting to “own it”, but to vulnerably put my lifestyle out into the world. Blasting out the fact that I am a bonified fitness nut in this post is one way. There’s a thrill in the act, and it’s one step closer to full acceptance. So for anyone that struggles with an insecurity related to success and choice…I encourage you to OWN what you do…yes, it’s great that mom and dad like to tell their friends about all of your accomplishments, but I think it’s time we all own up and be proud of ourselves.