Learning to Love Your “Imperfect” Running Body

Learning to Love Your “Imperfect” Running Body

For the month of June, my Believe journal have been focused on body image – a topic all too familiar with many runners.  It has taken me the entire month to come up with the perfect way to present a blog post about this sensitive topic, and I honestly don’t believe that there is a perfect way to discuss it.  Why?  Because “perfect” doesn’t exist. Instead, we must all focus on accepting our “imperfect perfections”.  There is not a single person in this world that has the “ideal” body type we see on magazines, the “flawless” skin disguised by make-up, the beautifully chiseled muscles of our athletic idols, or the frizz-less hair of celebrities.  Instead, we are made up of many unique body traits that make us individuals – our uniquely shaped extremities, our natural skin, our free-flying hair style, and our uniquely developed muscles.  This is who we are.  This is who YOU are.

As runners, it has been instilled in our mind that the best runners are the thinnest, the ones with just the right amount of muscle, and the ones who still look flawless after a race.  But is that realistic?  If you haven’t been to a 5k in awhile, I ask you to sign up for one now.  Go to this race and look around.  Look at the person you’re standing next to at the starting line.  Then look at the fifth person behind you.  Do you all look the same?  Do you have the same hair?  The same amount of arm muscle?  The same shaped thighs and calves?  Most likely each one of you looks different.  And this is what we need to learn to accept – there is no “perfect” body type for running.  As long as those feet come off the ground, those legs are moving forward, and that heart of yours is beating, your body is perfect for running.

While brainstorming for this post, a particular video, titled “Size 26.2”, I watched a few months ago came into my mind. If you haven’t watched the video before, I encourage you to do so because this woman reminds you of why runners should appreciate their body.  I don’t think I’ve met a runner yet that hasn’t complained about some part of their running body.  The most common complaints are:

  • “My calf muscles are too big and I can’t find a pair of jeans that fit”
  • “I have thunderthighs”
  • “My arms have no muscle”
  • “I still don’t have six-pack abs”
  • “I have a pancake butt”
  • “My boobs are basically non-existent”
  • “My feet are absolutely disgusting”
  • “My hair is always so frizzy after I run”

The list goes on.  But as mentioned in the video, these are all complaints we should be proud of.  Without those calf muscles and thunderthighs, how would you reach the finish line?  Yeah, your arms may look like chopsticks, but how would you pump those arms during the final stretch of a race if they were bulky?  And honestly, six-pack abs rely heavily on diet, not just those ab-workouts you’ve been doing religiously.  That flat butt and those nearly-invisible boobs are just your method of aerodynamics.  Your feet look disgusting because they travel hundreds of miles per year – you can replace tires on your car, but you can’t replace your toes!  If your hair is flawless after a run, you must have some seriously strong hair product keeping those fly-aways from (yup, you guessed it) flying away.

As we critique our “imperfections”, we need to be reminded that without those “imperfections” we wouldn’t be runners.  And not every runner has the same body image “imperfections”.  Some runners have long legs.  Some are short and stocky.  Some have broader shoulders.  Some wear their hair in a ponytail.  Others prefer to keep their hair down. Some runners like to run in sports bras.  Some runners like to run without socks.  Jeez, some runners don’t even run with shoes!  So what are we even comparing ourselves to if every runner looks different?  How can we come up with this image of the “perfect runner” when every runner we pass by looks different?

Lastly, I’d like to comment on one other controversial topic among runners.  Eating.  I’ve met plenty of runners who say they run just so they can eat their dinner at night or drink some beer on the weekends.  They run to prevent weight gain. And this is where we get the common running quote of “I run so I can eat”.  But what if “eat” and “run” were swapped in that sentence?  I eat so I can run.  Read it again slowly:  I eat…so I can run.  I fuel my body so I can cover the mileage in my training plan.  I carbo-load so I have the energy to endure the run that lies before me.  I consume nutrients so I can finish a race with a new PR.  I eat so I can run.

So I ask you to answer this today:  What makes your body strong enough to run?

Respect your strength.

Embrace your imperfect perfections.

Be proud of your body.

Be proud of who you are.

Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you are unique.  You are beautiful.  You are perfect.

And during your next race tell yourself that your legs are strong enough, fast enough, and powerful enough to bring you to that finish line.

Love your body – you only get one of them.

What Happens When the Power Goes Out?

What Happens When the Power Goes Out?

For nearly 45 hours my family’s house was without continuous electricity and running water.  Today, at around 2:30 PM, our electricity was restored and my family returned to its normalcy.  Unfortunately, the surrounding areas are still without electricity and I’m praying that they get back electricity soon so they don’t have to drive around the neighborhood to charge their phones using their car, or go to the laundromat to do their laundry, or depend on generators for minimal energy.  These are all things we take for granted and I think a lot of us have learned the importance of the little things in our lives.  But let me start from the beginning so this actually becomes a story worth reading!

Tuesday night I had planned to run a 10k with Angela but after checking the weather throughout the day it appeared that storms were going to hit our area hard the same time the race was scheduled to start.  I opted to stay home and run in the heat of the day because I was very anxious to get my run over and done with knowing that the weather would threaten any chance of going for a run later in the afternoon.

My family ate dinner as usual and my parents left soon after to run a few errands.  My brother was at work and so I was home with our two dogs.  At around 5:45 PM, as I sat out on the porch reading a running magazine, I began to notice the sky changing colors and could hear rumbles of thunder in the distance.  I put down the magazine and just watched the clouds roll in (this is something I enjoy doing in the summer because storms are awesome to watch!)  Eventually the wind started to pick up and I could sense I should probably move in the shelter of my home away from Mother Nature’s elements.  So I sat on the couch which overlooked the oncoming storm.  The wind picked up, the rain started, and lightening lit up the sky.

By 6 o’clock, literally 10 minutes into the storm, the power went out.  I texted my mom who said the power outage was wide spread.  I texted my brother and he said the transformer outside of his workplace exploded. This is when all the fun officially began:

  • Cell phone services started acting funny.rainbow
  • I drove a mile down the street in attempt to get a cell phone signal.
  • I saw a rainbow (see picture!)
  • The sky turned orange.
  • I called my granny who told us that the telephone pole in front of her house fell down.
  • My mom and I drove around the block just to look at the sky.
  • We saw a roof that had blown off a building.
  • We heard that there was a tornado at the mall.
  • I called work to make sure the store was still functional – it was.
  • My dad hooked up a generator to our refrigerator.
  • My phone was at 40% battery but draining fast.
  • I set 4 alarms on 2 different phones so I didn’t wake up late to go to work.
  • I went to bed at 9:15 PM (which is early because I didn’t have anything better to do at the time!).
  • I woke up at 5:45 AM.
  • I walked the dog down the street at 6 AM because she was afraid to go in our yard because of the noise of the generator.
  • I ate cereal for breakfast.
  • I worked 7AM-12PM – only two other of my co-workers didn’t have power.  Everyone else did.
  • On my way home from work, I got stuck in construction traffic for 20 minutes was very annoyed.
  • I ate peanut butter and raisins on a whole wheat tortilla for lunch.
  • My dad brought home a second generator so we could have running water (we have a well so when our electric goes out we lose our water too).
  • I worked on homework for my summer class.
  • I re-started our generator about 50 times because it wouldn’t stay on.
  • I went for a 2.7 mile walk wearing a 15lb pack (Appalachian Trail Training) with both dogs.
  • We used the grill to make dinner because nothing else could be used to cook – I had a veggie burger!
  • A rumor started that we weren’t getting power back until Saturday.
  • I opted to turn my phone on airplane mode to save battery and take a mini vacation from the rest of the world.
  • My dad and I went for a 5 mile run – I felt tired.
  • My dad and I saw kids playing outside….they were actually PLAYING OUTSIDE!! – I guess that’s what happens when the power goes out!
  • I attempted to get a shower but since we didn’t have hot water, I couldn’t muster up the courage to get more than my legs and feet wet.
  • We all agreed that we could never live like the Amish do.
  • My dad hooked up the generator to the TV and we watched my brother’s senior memories DVD.
  • I got a case of the sleepy-ha-has.
  • I ate graham crackers.
  • I went to bed and prayed our electric would be restored soon.
  • I woke up at 7:45 AM – still no power.
  • I ate a small amount of cereal and two graham crackers for breakfast.
  • My mom and I worked on a 500 piece puzzle.
  • I got another case of the not-so-sleepy, but sleepy-ha-has.
  • I decided that I was going insane.
  • I thought that it was funny how an hour storm caused more than 36 hours worth of damage.
  • My mom, brother, and I started a game of Monopoly.20150625_181701
  • We took a break to eat lunch.
  • I ate a cupcake my mommom made.
  • We started playing Monopoly again and my brother went bankrupt.
  • My mom and I paused our Monopoly game 3 hours into it because we needed to get other things done.
  • My brother started to mow the lawn.
  • I cut my dog’s hair so she could actually see.
  • I realized the house felt cold and I could smell our air condition.
  • Wait…our air condition wouldn’t be on if we didn’t have electricity.
  • I checked our oven….
  • I turned off our generator – hallelujah!

So what did I learn from this experience?  First, don’t mess with Mother Nature.  A storm that lasted less than an hour caused A LOT of damage in our area – She doesn’t mess around!  Secondly, I am grateful for the things in life I sometimes take for granted.  Electricity is oftentimes overlooked but a lot of things we depend on for cooking and activities of daily living depend on power.  We should be grateful that 98% of the time we do indeed have electricity – because when we don’t people don’t know what to do with themselves! Also, I have come to appreciate the entertainment my family and I provide for each other.  Sure, we can get on each other’s nerves sometimes but at the end of the day we’re a family and we can laugh and make memories together!

So for the rest of you out there who are still without power, I’m praying for you!  I hope that your power is restored soon and that you can return to normalcy in a decent amount of time.  For you though, your list of things you’ve done in the power outage of 2015 can continue to lengthen so you may have many stories to tell when you look back on things and realize that maybe the power outage taught you some very important life lessons as well!

Highest Weekly Mileage of 2015!

Highest Weekly Mileage of 2015!

Due to the fact that last week I ran my highest total weekly mileage of 2015, I decided it deserved a blog post! It was an especially special week because this past Wednesday was National Running Day!  I think I celebrated all week though and my mileage showed it!  😀

weekly goalsMy Believe journal (which is, by the way, the best running journal you could ever invest in), held me accountable for my weekly goals.  I was able to run more than 40 miles.  I went hiking this weekend.  And my dad and I tried dehydrated food for the first time to prepare for our hiking trip.

So here’s how the week went:

Monday – 3 miles fast.  My dad and I had to race a thunderstorm – this is a common occurrence for us in the summer.  We were almost 1.5 miles away from home when we heard a (way too close) boom of thunder.

Tuesday – double day!  3 miles with my friend John who was just coming off his 2 weeks of recovery.  Then just a mere 4 hours later I ran another 6.3 miles with my Dad and our ultrarunning friend and it felt easy!  I was very excited that my first double of 2015 seemed easy!

Wednesday – (AKA NATIONAL RUNNING DAY! – make sure you read my blog post about this wonderful day worth celebrating!)….I ran a mile with my mom, another 2 miles with my dad, and then 4 more miles by myself (total of 7 miles).  I decided to change the pace after mile 5 so I picked it up and my 6th mile ended up being a 7:26….it seemed like an appropriate way to celebrate National Running Day!

Thursday – this was my night run of the week which I also blogged about (check it out here!)  My dad and I ran 4 miles with our headlights on and lightning bugs lighting up the trail.

Friday – another double!  I ran 3 miles in the morning with my dog, Gwin.  And then ran another 5.4 miles with my dad later in the day.  I was feeling a little tired but I knew that I would give myself an easy Saturday to adequately recover.

Saturday – I hiked 4 miles in the morning with my mom, dad, and 2 dogs at a state park in DE with loaded backpacks (mine weighed in at 18 lbs) so that my dad and I can get used to wearing a big pack for our hiking trip in July.  Then in the afternoon I ran an easy (and slow) 3 miles.  I was feeling tired.

Sunday – LONG RUN DAY!!!!  (my all time favorite day for training runs as described in yet another previous blog post)…somewhat last minute long run plans with Angela (aka TheRoadLessRun)…we ran 11 miles and averaged 7:52 pace.  Mile 7 was the fastest (at a 7:41 mile split) due to getting a tad bit carried away with our conversation topic.  We’ve decided this is a common issue because whenever we start ranting about something the pace picks up…oops.  Long runs with friends are always so much more enjoyable and more effective for training purposes than if you do them alone – so next time you do a long run, find a buddy!

Total miles = 45.4.  It was a GREAT week of training spent with numerous different runners of all speeds, styles, and goals. But that’s what makes running amazing – no matter how fast or slow, long or short, runners who train together understand each other, and everyone can make one another the best possible runners they can be!

total mileage

For the Love of Long Runs:

For the Love of Long Runs:

Long Runs:

They build strength in your muscles to outlast pain.

They build strength in your heart to endure long durations of stress.

They make you feel stronger than you’ve ever had before.

But they’ll give you more than just physical strength.

They give you a mental boost.

Going on long runs with friends give you over an hour of uninterrupted time together.

No cell phones, just miles.  And miles.

So you start talking.

Sometimes talks transform to rants.

(And your pace may get unintentionally faster)

Sometimes rants transform to your life concerns and worries.

But in those miles you have someone to talk to,

someone to confide in.

Someone that will tell you what you need to hear.

And before you know it, the long run is over.

Your legs feel tired.

You’re ready to chug some Gatorade.

But you’re happy.

You’re stronger.

And you’re grateful for a running buddy.

And that’s what makes you come back for another long run.

Another 10, 11 or 12 miles.

It doesn’t seem so long when you know that the miles that lie ahead of you are full of life, talking, and friendship.

Deception is running in the dark…

Deception is running in the dark…

Most days I would feel anxious until my run was done for the day.  But today was different because I had so much to do!  I didn’t have an option to run in the morning because my shift at work started at 6:30 AM.  I worked 8 hours and I still had to go find a dress to wear to my brother’s graduation and an upcoming wedding I’m attending.  (Side note:  I ended up buying 3 dresses from Plato’s Closet for a total of $37.  One of these dresses was only $9!!  I forgot how much I loved that store).  I came home and had to check my online class for anything I might’ve missed.  Then I got sidetracked reading the Hunger Games, making myself a veggie stirfry for dinner, and having a long conversation with my family.  Before we realized it, it was already 8 o’clock and my dad and I still didn’t run.  But by 8:20 we were out on the trail.

Out on the trail, with our headlights and trying to race the inevitable darkness, I realized how different running without the sun’s natural light is.  I run the same trail nearly everyday and I can basically memorize every rock and stick on the trail.  I know exactly where the puddles usually set and I know where the random patches of stones intercept the dirt.  This is my home course – a trail that is 200 feet from my driveway and extends for nearly 3 miles one-way in either direction (it’s good for 10 mile runs!)

But this trail is deceptive in the dark.  The trail seems completely different when you can see only 20 feet in front of you instead of 200+ feet.  The tree branches block the light still glowing from the nighttime sky.  There’s more shadows.  The stones and rocks seem 10 times bigger at night than in the day.  Shining eyes can be seen reflecting from our headlights as nocturnal animals come out of hiding for the duration of the night and wander the woods.

But here we were running 4 miles before 9 PM.  It’s hard to focus on the end because you’re focusing so intently on the next step.  Maybe that’s why the run seemed longer than it was.  But then again it felt easy because I could only mentally picture how much further we had left to go.  I couldn’t physically see the finish line because all I could see was the darkness ahead and the bobbing of our headlights shining on the 4 feet ahead of us.  Ask anyone who has ever ran that trail for our hosted nighttime trail runs races.  Welcome to the darkness and the deception – focus only on your next step and run at your own risk of animals and obstacles.  And whatever you do….don’t fear the dark.

It WILL deceive you.

Why I Love Running

Why I Love Running

runnnHappy National Running Day, everyone!  I hope everyone gets to celebrate no matter where you live while reading this blog!  If you already ran today, I hope that you enjoyed your run no matter how fast or slow or hilly or flat or hot or cold or rainy it was.  You ran which means that you celebrated National Running Day!  If you HAVEN’T ran yet, stop reading this post right now.  Turn off your computer or (gently) toss your phone across the room so you can’t look at it for the next 30 minutes (minimum!).  Change into some running clothes.  Lace up your shoes.  Find your GPS signal.  And start running.  Don’t continue reading this blog post until you run at least 3 miles.  It’s probably no more than 30 minutes out of your day – I think you have time to squeeze a run in to celebrate today.

So for those of you who have already celebrated in typical runner’s fashion, I would like to share with you some reasons I love running.  People often ask me “why do you run?  Don’t you get bored?”….BORED?!  I’m the farthest thing from bored when I go for a run.  If you’re bored while you’re running you’re probably doing it wrong…. so here’s some of my reasons I love to run:

  • Running is my stress-reliever.  After a run I feel rejuvenated and ready to conquer the day.  On the days I don’t run, I oftentimes feel more stressed and uptight.  No matter the speed, running always makes me happier!
  • Running has provided me with countless friendships.  The running community is my irreplaceable network of runner friends who all share a common love – a love for running.  I have met so many people through running and my life would be completely different without them.  Some runner friends I have known for years (thanks to long runs and xc/track meets we know A LOT about each other – after all, long runs are meant for rants and gossip!). Other runner friends I met a few months ago.  But we all share a common interest so it’s easy to make new friends and expand each others’ network.  Runners understand each other so we’re not grossed out by sweaty hugs or handshakes and we can encourage each other to become the best runners we can be.
  • Running in earth’s elements makes me a stronger person.  Rain, snow, wind, summer storms, and scorching temperatures?  Bring. It. On.  When you let the things you can’t control control your life, you are setting yourself up for disappointment and maybe even failure.  For instance, say that it’s downpouring on race day and for the past few months of your training every time it rained you opted to run on the treadmill instead.  Are you prepared for running in this weather?  Probably not.  Are you going to do decently in your race?  Probably not.  I’m a stronger person because of my determination to succeed in running and in life.  I’m not going to let something I can’t control stand in my way of my goals.  So next time an obstacle gets in your way, don’t back down.  Be in control.
  • Running keeps me healthy.  I’m always entertained when I go to the doctor’s office and the nurse has to take my blood pressure twice because she thinks she did something wrong.  She didn’t do it wrong.  She just doesn’t realize that I am a runner – I’m healthier than her average patient.  I’m not trying to brag or sound stuck up but running has a way of making people healthier.  Exercise is medicine.  It’s just going to take our country longer than it should to realize it.
  • run camelbakRunning showed me things I never thought I’d see.  I’ve ran on too many trails to count.  I’ve ran on vacations we’ve taken – mountains, islands, small towns.  I’ve seen sunrises on runs.  I’ve seen sunsets on runs.  I’ve ran in the dark. I’ve ran up access roads on ski mountains.  I’ve ran hills that have been named (hills with names are bad news!).  I’ve seen animals cross my path on runs.  I’ve ran in blizzards and came back with ice covering my eyelashes.  I’ve be splashed with a puddle by a passing car.  And there’s far too many other times to list.
  • Running has brought me happiness and sadness.  I would be lying if I said running never made me cry.  I would also be lying if I said running never made me happy.  I am proud to talk about the good and the bad runs. Bad running experiences made me a stronger and more determined runner; therefore, they were life lessons.  Good runs made me appreciate the power of running and how important running is in my life.  Running puts things into perspective.  Without the good and the bad in the running or non-running world, how would we be determined to make things better or to try harder to succeed?  As long as there’s a balance between happiness and sadness (with preferably more happiness), you’re doing it right.
  • Running has inspired me to work hard.  My dad always says that good things come to those who work for it.  I couldn’t agree more.  I’m not a naturally talented runner and never will be.  I work hard to be the best runner I can be.  In life, I work hard to be the best person, friend, daughter, sister, worker, and student I can be.  I can’t just sit around and wait for good things to happen.  I don’t want other people to hand me a job or money or success.  I want to earn all the good things my life has to offer.  I want to be the best person I can be by working hard and achieving my goals.

And so I leave you today, on National Running Day, with those words.  I hope you have celebrated with a run.  Get outside and enjoy what the world has to offer to you today.  And here’s one last quote (one of my personal favorites) to inspire you on this beautiful day:  “Run often and run long.  Just never outrun your joy of running”