Earlier today, I read this article by Anne Falkowski in Elephant Journal. In it, Falkowski explains that, for much of her life, she was insecure from her body and felt alienated from it, as if it were her enemy. Yoga, however, helped her to appreciate her body and to respect herself.
As someone who has struggled with body image, I enjoyed a similar experience with yoga.
However, running has perhaps had an even greater impact on my ability to appreciate my body.
I began running regularly when I was 13, before I developed body image issues. My father was an avid runner and, as a young girl, I would ride my bike with him when he went on runs. So I always associated running with those positive memories. I did not start running to lose weight. Instead, I ran because I loved it – and the same is true today.
Yes, there have been times in the past when I have probably overdone it with running, striving to be the perfect athlete with the perfect body. But I realize I am falling into destructive patterns anytime I feel I have to force myself to go on a run. If I’m not enjoying it, I know there is a deeper emotional issue I must address. Running is like a litmus test that helps me determine the nature of my current emotional state.
I enjoy many benefits from running. It helps me feel strong and healthy and, ultimately, it helps me to feel gratitude for my body. When I am running, the constant mental chatter stops and I am more embodied than I am the rest of the day. I feel my lungs fill with deep breaths. I feel my legs and my arms pumping. And I feel truly grateful that I have a body that is fit and healthy enough to do that.