In this post I am sharing about my history with running and how mindfulness changed my relationship with running by helping me to truly connect with my body and end the constant injury cycle that I was in. I
HOW I STARTED RUNNING
I started running in college as a way to stay fit and active once I gave up competitive cheerleading. I picked running because we had to run a mile at the start of every cheer practice to warm up. At the time, I wasn’t well-versed in the fitness world or comfortable in a gym so running was the easiest and least intimidating choice for continuing to work out. I ran 3-4 miles 4-5 times a week and it was a positive outlet for dealing with the emotional and physical demands of college life.
(Photos Deeana Kourtney Photogprahy)
GETTING STUCK IN THE INJURY CYCLE
After college I became interested in distance running. I joined a local running group and signed up for my first half marathon. Upon completing that race, I immediately registered for my first full marathon but never made it to the starting line due to injury. This would continue to be the story of my running for the next five years as I battled injury after injury as I tried to train for race after race. I loved running so much and I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me that I couldn’t make it through training programs without getting hurt. It was incredibly frustrating and demotivating.
This injury cycle is what led me to strength training and it’s how I found BodyPump. I went on to become a BodyPump instructor because of the amazing benefits the program had on my body. This injury cycle is also what finally got me on a yoga mat and my yoga practice was the true catalyst for healing my relationship with my body and running.
FINDING MINDFULNESS WAS A GAME CHANGER
What changed for me wasn’t just the strength that I gained from BodyPump or the flexibility that I improved through yoga. The true game changer was the mindfulness that yoga instilled in me, providing me with a deep connection to myself and a strong awareness of how I was feeling.
Mindfulness is a bit of a buzzword these days but let’s talk about what it really means. The Oxford dictionary defines mindfulness as:
- The quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
- A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
Mindfulness taught me how to stop going through the motions and start paying attention to how I felt and what my body needed. I became less attached to things like running a certain number of miles every week, following a training program to the letter or needing to run a race of a certain distance (ahem, the marathon) and more in tune with honoring what my body needed day-to-day and season-to-season. I became more flexible not just in my body but in my mind.
These days I check-in with myself on a daily basis and ask what my body needs that day. I don’t force myself to do something that I don’t feel like doing, and I don’t do too much of any one thing. I have found an intuitive balance of movement that includes running, walking, strength training and yoga. I also take a whole lot more rest days than I ever did in the past.
Mindfulness also paved the way for me to stop placing my worth in how many miles I could run (or not run because I was alway injured) and instead celebrate my body for how healthy and strong it was and all of the amazing things that it could do. Mindfulness gave me a pathway to deepening my relationship with myself and needing less external things or certain identities in order to feel worthy, lovable, accepted, etc.
The best part of all of this is that ever since I have REALLY embraced mindfulness practices, I have never been happier and healthier…both as a person and as a runner! I have been able to break free of the injury cycle that I was in where something was constantly hurt and/or inflamed, often sidelining me from running. Knock on wood, I haven’t been unable to run due to a running injury in over 6-7 years!
What mindfulness means to me is getting off of auto-pilot and making decisions based on how I feel and what’s true and best for me. Mindfulness allows me to calm my mind and be more intentional about all aspects of my life, from how I choose to move my body to the relationships that I engage myself in to how I allocate my work time. It’s been a gift that has impacted my life in so many positive ways.
The most important thing to embrace about mindfulness is that it’s a practice. While I have certainly become more mindful about many things in my life, I also have to do work every day to keep myself in that space. The mindfulness techniques that are most effective for me are meditation, breath work and yoga practice.
Luckily, mindfulness is having a huge moment in the spotlight right now and there are SO many incredible resources like books, apps, online courses and in-person classes for helping you to incorporate more mindfulness into your life.
Do you incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily life? If so, have you noticed a difference in your workouts or workout mentality?
If you’re not currently practicing mindfulness techniques, what are the obstacles that are holding you back?