Body Love and Body Kindness, Exercise

How I Accidentally Became a Runner

This morning I became a runner. What I mean is that I surprised myself by running a mile without stopping at our local park. And it was a true moment of joy.

To be honest, this feels like a small miracle to me.

Here’s my park I went running at this morning. It’s by a river, which had a thin blanket of fog over it. It was beautiful.

I’ve had the itch to run for many years. And I have run in the past sometimes. In fact, I have run a mile before. But it was a long time ago. Generally, despite wanting to run for a long time, I have found running stressful and uncomfortable since I was in middle school. So, I never get very far with it.

This running stress was not my reality when I was young.

I remember running fast and hard when I was little and loving it. At that time, I didn’t worry about running to impress anyone. Rather, I just ran to play. And I loved it. I also thought I was pretty good at it.

And then in sixth grade gym class, we had a unit on running. Our P.E. teacher told us all to go run around the track. And of course, the kids in track and cross country excelled. I remember being one of the slow ones. And I also remember that P.E. teacher praising the track and cross-country kids and criticizing the rest of us for not being good runners.

(I have written more here about things that can cut us off from our natural love of play, movement, and exercise: How Cultural Messages about Exercise Mess Us Up)

And that was the day that I stopped loving running. Sadly, I started to believe that I wasn’t good at running.

And I held on to that belief throughout the years. I thought I wasn’t a good runner, even though I really wanted to run.

Here is a common pattern I have repeated in the past:

I’ve felt like running, and so I have run.

But it has felt hard, weird, and uncomfortable.

And when it has felt this way, those sixth grade messages have come back to me, and I think, “I guess I’m not a runner.”

And then I stop running.

This is a self-defeating cycle.

And it has happened because 1) I have unfortunately trusted other people’s negative messages about me rather than my own intuition. And 2) in the past I have unfortunately believed that if I felt awkward doing things that it somehow means I am a failure. For some reason, I have believed in the past that to be good at something, it must always feel awesome. A related unfortunate belief I possessed is that struggling is a sign of weakness.

This kind of thinking is a holdover from my old perfectionist days. And it is very unhelpful. In fact, any time I get stuck in these thinking patterns, I inevitably sabotage myself.

So, I have been adopting new thinking patterns, two of which are especially pertinent in this situation.

First, I have adopted an Intrinsic Worth Mindset. An Intrinsic Worth Mindset reminds me that my worth is not something I must prove through my accomplishments. It is something I already possess, like a beautiful seed of potential inside me. And my job is to grow that seed of worth and let it bloom, much like an oak tree grows from an acorn to a gorgeous, full-grown tree. And this means that whenever I am acting with the intention of love for myself and others, I generally know what is best for me. Therefore, if people offer unsolicited criticism about myself (like suggesting I’m a bad runner), and it contradicts my intuition, I go with my intuition. I trust my beliefs about myself.

I have written more about an Intrinsic Worth Mindset here: Why You Have Intrinsic Worth Today No Matter What

And I have written more here about acting with the intention of love and listening to your own intuition: Is Follow Your Heart Good Advice?

Second, I have adopted a Playful Performance Mindset. Even though I don’t have to prove my worth through my accomplishments, aiming for new goals and adventures (“performances”) helps me grow and express the worth I already possess. So, of course I want to try new things. This entails seeking out new performances (adventures), like running. But I have realized that since my worth doesn’t depend on my performance, I can be playful instead of perfectionistic.

You can read more about perfectionism and playful performance here:
Do You Struggle with Perfectionism?

When I am playful, I am present with myself in my process. I try new things and enjoy the experience, rather than fretting about the outcome. 

And in the process, I use failure as feedback. I also listen to my intuition. And I give myself permission to develop my own style of doing things.

So, that’s what I did this morning with running. Over the past year or so, I have experimented with a running gait and speed that feels good to me. And I have practiced running short and long distances. I have also been working on stretching to relax my calf muscles. And I have been working on developing good breathing habits to stay clear-headed and focused.

Here’s me, early in the morning, unusually exuberant and ready to run.

I worked for a whole year on breathing and blogged about it each month. You can read about it here: 12 Cool Things I Learned While Practicing Breathing for a Year

This morning I woke up wanting to run. So, I headed to my local park. And I decided to run whatever speed and distance felt good to me. So, I hit a good stride, and I didn’t really worry about the outcome. If I could run the whole mile, that was great. And if I couldn’t, that was fine. My main goal was to enjoy running, feel comfortable, and enjoy the process.

And I absolutely did all those things.

I developed my own running style, and I felt joy in the process of running. That is why I feel like I became a runner today. I titled this post “I accidentally became a runner” because I wasn’t really trying to become a runner. Rather, I was trying to listen to my intuition and to play.

I came home and saw a wild rabbit in my back yard. Rabbits symbolize new beginnings. And I do feel like I have begun a new awesome stage of my life.

In doing so, I also reconnected with the little girl in me who has always known she is a good runner. And I think she has been waiting inside me all along, hoping that I would trust myself, stop stressing, and remember.

I write this post to celebrate becoming a runner. But I also write it to remind you that you have intrinsic worth, and you were born for adventures. So, act with the intention of love, trust yourself, and go out and play.

By the way, here are two awesome books that have helped me developing my own running philosophy. Maybe you will find them helpful, too:

Chi Running: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running

Born to Run

*****

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