April 27, 2011

Running makes me LOVE MY BODY!

Today I'm linking up with Julia over at Pain, Pride, Perseverance for her Monday FOOT notes about lessons learned from running.  I haven't been running for very long, but trust me when I say I have learned a lot of lessons!  Girls on the Run Chicago has also been doing a series of blog posts asking girls on the run of all ages to share their responses to the statement, "Running makes me _________."  I have been thinking about both of these topics recently and decided to combine them in this post...

 The most important lesson I've learned from running is to love and appreciate my body NO MATTER WHAT.  The story of how I learned this lesson and became a runner actually starts a long time before I ever ran a single step...

Running makes me love my body.

If you were to ask me if I loved my body, the answer would be a resounding YES!  This doesn't mean I think I look perfect or that I am going to throw on a swim suit and ogle at myself in the mirror.  But it does mean that I love and appreciate what my body allows me to do every day.  This wasn't always the case for me, though, and I owe a big part of my change in perspective to running...

For a long time, I hated my body.  I thought it was too slow, too ugly, too weak, too fat, too uncoordinated.  In fact, I decided long ago that my body was NOT that of an athlete.  Eventually, I began to blame a lot of other problems on my body too, for some reason thinking that an imperfect body was responsible for everything that was wrong or hard in my life.  Crazy, I know.  At some point during high school, I decided that the perfect solution to all of my problems was to change my body, and I decided that the best way to do this was by starving myself.  
I thought this would make me like my body better and make things easier in my life, but I of course was wrong.  Even as the pounds melted away, I liked my body and myself less and less.  Thankfully I am one of the people who has a triumphant success story to tell when it comes to their eating disorder.  Still, even as I stopped restricting, learned to eat, and worked on recovery, I didn't love my body and continued to feel uncomfortable in my skin.

I started running in college mostly as a way to lose weight.  I didn't really enjoy running and would vacillate between hitting the treadmill every night one week and not setting foot anywhere NEAR the gym the next.  When I did run, I would fixate on the calorie count on the treadmill or the number of laps I made it through on the track.  If I had to walk, or if the number wasn't as high as the day before, I'd get angry at myself and blame my "useless" body.  Then I'd decide it wasn't even worth the effort because clearly I would never be an athlete.  I didn't really understand that getting angry at my body and myself did NOT make me a good runner.  In fact, it made me a terrible runner, but I didn't see the connection.  

In the past few years, things changed for me.  Actually, that sounds so passive...things didn't change; I changed things.  After years of effort (including some therapy), my eating disorder is finally behind me.  I have 
learned to let go of my vision of a "perfect body" and learned other coping mechanisms for life's problems besides my eating disorder.  And while I can't credit running for my recovery, I can honestly say that few things have helped me learn to love and appreciate my body so much as rediscovering running in the past year.

Running used to make me angry at my body.  You know what?  Just like I needed to let go of some silly vision of the "perfect body" I thought I needed to have, I also needed to let go of the vision of the "perfect runner" I thought I needed to be.  When I did that, everything changed for the better.  Instead of seeing running as something I could do to control my body, I started seeing it as something wonderful my body allowed me to do.  I run because it makes me STRONG and POWERFUL.  I run because it makes me feel BEAUTIFUL.  I run because it makes me see my body as an amazing tool and NOT something I have to just deal with.  I run because I have never felt as INVINCIBLE as I have after a really great run.

When I'm running, I appreciate every step my feet can carry me.  Yeah, it's frustrating when I have an off-day, but an off-day is better than a non-running day!  I look at my body now and see a body that has been through a lot.  I haven't always treated it right, but it does so much for me anyways.  When I was letting my eating disorder tell me how to feel about my body, there was NO WAY it could have carried me through 13.1 miles!  I've learned that loving and appreciating my body actually makes me a BETTER runner!  It means that I fuel my body with good, healthy foods, that I take the time to streeetch my muscles and give them plenty of TLC, and that I take time to listen closely to my body and give it what it needs.

I've learned a lot since I've started running, but the lesson for which I'm most grateful is simply this: My body is amazing and beautiful, and it is capable of anything when I treat it right.  Running makes me love my body.  I never dreamed that I would be able to say something like that, but it's true.


Thanks for letting me share my story with you. :) What does running make YOU?

**If you or someone you know is suffering from an eating disorder, get help.  
There is hope, and there is something better waiting for you.**


  1. thanks so much for participating in FOOTnotes and for sharing your story.

    WOW. I am currently in grad school to become a clinical psychologist and my goal is to work with individuals with eating disorders...so I really liked what you said at the end...there really is hope and it is possible to truly love your body some day!

    your story was moving, inspiring and powerful. I am so grateful you decided to share it with us.

    Running makes me confident, strong and free. I love the feeling it gives me...I just feel freedom from the stress of daily life, strong/healthy and confident in what my body is allowing me to do :)

    have a great night!

  2. WOW! Great post. I love how you're so honest. Thanks for sharing this.
    My Running Shortz


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